This is a page where I post articles related to living with Post Polio Syndrome. I have found Daoist philosophy to be of great help in coping with PPS. And if you want to order my e book "A Balanced Way of Living" go to
http://www.postpolioinfo.com/balanced_way.php
Also see https://www.facebook.com/BALANCEDWAYofLIVING


APRIL 2017

BODY SCANNING

 A friend of mine has recently embarked on a mindfulness meditation course and was explaining to me the benefits of the practise. For her one of the most helpful aspects about this type of meditation is the “body scan”. The body scan teaches how to tune in and focus awareness on bodily sensations such as comfort or discomfort, relaxation or tension and it occurred to me, as I listened to her, that like most polio survivors, I am only too well aware of where my body feels at ease and where it hurts. My limbs are now weaker, my joints and muscles can ache-- like most of us with Post Polio Syndrome I have experienced, in recent years, an increase in these symptoms of PPS.

 But the body scanning aspect of mindfulness meditation is not just about tuning into where you feel physically uncomfortable –essentially it is a perfect aid to help us better handle our discomfort. Often when we are in physical pain or feeling weak we cope by denying these challenging feelings but ultimately this is not  a helpful coping technique.

 It is natural to resist discomfort—who amongst us wants to welcome being in pain? But resistance can come at a cost to our well being. When we deny and resist pain by pushing ourselves through or by taking medication to push through, we risk further overdoing things and thus can create more pain. And if we judge our pain as “bad” and berate ourselves to be more stoical whilst clinging to a hope that one day our pain will vanish all we are doing is in fact increasing our tension and discomfort. So resistance is indeed futile --all it does is create a cycle of further pain and tension.

 Interestingly the aim of the body scan is not to try to let go of your discomfort –instead the goal is to align with non judgemental awareness of where in your body you feel both comfortable and  uncomfortable .  As you become fully aware in the moment of your body without judging your experience as good or bad you will feel a growing sense of relaxation—of letting go but this is  more of a side effect of the practise rather than its goal. The cultivation of non judgemental awareness is the true goal of the body scan is acquired by simply watching and acknowledging your body in a gentle and  kindly way regardless of whatever sensations you are experiencing. Practising non judgemental awareness will leave you feeling calm and centred –better able to handle whatever life presents.

Practise the body scan exercise daily taking 5 to 10 minutes to begin with and gradually build to 20 minutes.

Body Scan Exercise

Sit or lie down in a comfortable position wearing loose comfy clothes. Switch off your phone! Throughout the exercise breathe calmly and gently.

Start with your feet—simply be aware if they are comfortable or is there pain there? Are your feet cool, warm, weak, tense? Do not judge what you are feeling as “good” or “bad”—simply acknowledge the physical sensations that are there. Then move up to your lower legs and once more be aware if there is ease or pain, discomfort, heat, cold, tension there. Moving kindly and gently up to your thighs, buttocks, pelvis, stomach, chest, lower back, upper back, fingers, hands, lower and upper arms, shoulders, neck, head, forehead, eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, jaw –acknowledge all parts of your body and all sensations without judgement -- simply notice and accept whilst breathing calmly.

Now let your awareness float slowly back down your body to settle again at your feet and note as you go any pain, discomfort or sensations of any sort.

You will observe that the mind will try to distract you as you focus on your body – feelings of resistance may arise; “I hate this pain”, critical thoughts can come up; “my thighs are too fat”. Just notice the feelings and thoughts with a kindly acceptance and bring your awareness gently back to focusing, without judgement, on your body. All the while breathe calmly and acknowledge whatever physical sensations are present.  

Finally feel your whole body connecting with awareness –from the top of your head to your toes and from inside to outside. Notice if there is any resistance, any non acceptance to any parts of your body and focus on filling your body with awareness –it is a powerful force of energy flowing through you. Rest in full awareness and appreciation of this wonderful life force. Regular practise of body scanning will leave you feeling calm and centred –better able to handle whatever life presents.

 

 December 2016

WARMING UP TO WINTER

Winter can be a challenging experience for those of us who are not fully mobile. As a polio survivor I experience very poor circulation in the winter -- particularly I know the pain of cold feet as mine turn a delightful shade of purply blue on a very chilly day. Generally we polio survivors will feel the cold of winter intensely but Daoist techniques can be a great help to us at wintertime.

Daoist Five Element theory always suggests treating the root cause of any problem before treating the symptoms. The root cause of our poor circulation lies in the simple fact that our nervous systems have been affected, damaged, by polio and must be preserved and protected. In order to preserve and protect our nervous systems we must avoid exposure to the cold and also ensure that we are resting adequately. If you are over tired you will feel the cold more keenly. In fact in the Daoist view it is very natural and appropriate for everyone, whatever their state of health, to hibernate as much as possible during winter. Daoism is all about conserving energy to promote a balanced state of health and winter is a time to particularly focus on energy conservation.

As we wake up to cold dark mornings of frost, sleet or snow we know that winter is upon us and we feel an inclination to snuggle into the warmth of our cosy beds rather than face getting up and feeling colder! As far as Daoists are concerned to rush about busily expending energy is to go against the energy flow of this time of year and to do so will invite ill health. Create a restful time for yourself in the winter and, as your energy levels remain stable not only will you find yourself less susceptible to picking up infections but also you will find you are less sensitive to the cold .
Daoists know the importance of guarding against energy expenditure at this time as winter is the season of cold yin energy when everything in nature contracts and goes inwards. Thus for us humans this should be an opportunity to cultivate quietness and contemplation. This is the time of year to give yourself permission for a long lie in and to encourage yourself to go to bed early! Allow yourself to stop focusing so much on outer affairs and make your home the centre of your activities –a place to rest and regenerate. Winter is the season for staying warm and rested for in this way we take care of our energy keeping it as Daoists would say “soft and supple” and so find ourselves refreshed when spring arrives. Particularly by resting and pacing we conserve our precious Kidney energy. In Daoist theory it is crucial that the Kidney energy –the deepest resource and wellspring of all our energies, is allowed to rest during the winter.

Cold weather will affect our vital Kidney energy and as this energy decreases so we become fatigued. To preserve our Kidney energy we need to keep resting as outlined above and also we need to avoid exposure to the cold weather. When we are warm, according to Daoist theory, we help the Kidneys to build the fire of alchemical transmutation in the lower abdomen which allows all energetic transformations. This is often depicted as a cauldron in which the liquid and essence of the Kidney yin is heated by the fire of Kidney yang in order to cultivate and circulate our energy throughout our body/mind. Help the Kidneys to do this work by ensuring that your lower abdominal area is always kept warm in the winter. Wear those woolly tights or thermal long johns and practise the following massage and exercise techniques on a daily basis to keep your energy warm and circulating in this area. In this way you will not only feel warmer but less fatigued.

Start and end every wintry day by massaging and visualising in the following manner.

• Sit comfortably. Rub your hands together vigorously until warm and then place over the Kidneys on your lower back. With your warmed palms gently massage for a minute. Repeat 3 times
• Next start to focus on your lower abdominal area --allow your abdomen to expand as your diaphragm moves down in a full breath, then let your abdomen relax as you exhale completely. Breathe slowly, calmly and continuously, with no pauses between the exhalation and the inhalation. With closed eyes focus attention fully on the Dan Tien-the energy centre two-finger widths below the navel below the naval. Remember that the Dan Tien is a cauldron. In the cauldron our Kidney energy can be increased, heated until it spills out of the cauldron and begins to circulate throughout the body
• As thoughts arise simply let them go. As you start to feel warmth in the Dan Tien visualise and feel it spreading to your limbs –warming your legs and feet, arms and hands. Continue relaxing into the pleasant warmth and breathing as described for fifteen minutes or so.

We can also maintain warmth by ensuring that we eat only warm, cooked foods in the winter. Now is definitely not the time for salads or any raw food but instead eat soups and stews, enjoy root vegetables and hot meats such as lamb and chicken. Use root ginger –grated or sliced in as much quantity as you like as it is warming and increases the circulation. Chicken is a warm yang food which can be stir fried with onions and a pinch of cayenne in the winter.

In these ways -- resting, visualising, self massaging and eating only hot cooked food we can stay warm and cosy till spring arrives! Winter is a time to preserve the deepest resources of our being –rest and warmth are essential for this task. Keeping ourselves rested and staying warm—these are not just Daoist tips but plain common sense tips to see us through the winter!

SEPTEMBER 2016
A BALANCED WAY OF LIVING; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome
A DAILY DOSE OF CHI PART 2
Last month I described the simple stretching movements that can help improve the flow of Chi (energy) and blood to increase our range of motion and ensure that we do not stiffen up. This month I am going to describe a set of acupressure points that, if used alongside the stretches, will benefit us further.
The theories behind the practise of acupuncture are fairly complex. Treatment requires an in depth diagnosis which will include looking at the tongue and checking the pulses as well as asking questions of the patient before acupuncture points are selected. There are, however, a number of points that can be safely used by applying acupressure techniques with healing intention –these points, if used gently, will be of benefit to overall health and well being.
Spend at least ten minutes practising the stretches as I described and then apply very gentle pressure to the following acupressure points and meridians (channels where the Chi flows) spending 15/30 seconds putting mild pressure to each point using your thumb and with healing intention. Always stop if feeling uncomfortable and if in any doubt always consult with your health practitioner before using these points. TO SEE THE PHOTOS ILLUSTRATING THESE POINTS PLEASE CLICK ON https://www.facebook.com/BALANCEDWAYofLIVING/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1244616232276906

Bladder Meridian
Before embarking on particular points firstly squeeze, using thumb and forefinger the outside of each foot. Start at the base of the little toe and work up the length of your foot.
Kidney -3
Location: On the inside of the foot, halfway between the Achilles-tendon and the side of the ankle-bone. Press softly and hold for 15/30 seconds with healing intention gently. Now repeat on the other foot.
Liver-3
Location: On the foot, on the line between the big toe and the second toe in the depression the size of a finger tip you can feel there. Press softly in an outward direction away from the body and hold for 15/30 seconds gently with healing intention. This point is very helpful for relaxation, calming anger.
Now repeat on the other foot.
Gall Bladder-34
Location: About an inch anterior and inferior to the head of the fibula. First, find the head of the fibula. This is a knob of bone on the outside of your leg, just below the knee, towards the back. Now slide your finger forward and down into a small dip. Press gently toward the body for 15/30 seconds with healing intention. Now repeat on the other leg.
Stomach-36
Location: On the front of the leg, one hand width (four fingers) below the kneecap, on the outside, in the depression between the shinbone and the leg muscle. Press softly and hold for 15/30 seconds with healing intention gently. Now repeat on the other leg.
Spleen -6
Location: On the inside of the lower leg, one hand width (four fingers) above the tip of the ankle bone, on the back of the shin bone.
Press softly (this is a tender point so go easy!) and hold for 15/30 seconds with healing intention gently. Now repeat on the other leg.
Small Intestine Meridian
Squeeze, using thumb and forefinger the outside of each hand. Start at the base of the little finger and work up the length of your hand.
Heart -7
This point is considered to be the "source point" of the Heart meridian. It is very nourishing to all aspects of the heart. Heart 7 is located on the palm side of your hand, on the wrist crease, directly below your little finger. To find it, locate the bony knob on the outside of your left wrist (the little finger side). Heart 7 can be found just next to that, in a small indentation. Press softly and hold for 15/30 seconds with healing intention gently. Now repeat on the other wrist.
Triple Heater -5
Location: On the lower arm, on the top side, two thumb widths below the crease of the wrist. In the middle, in the depression between the bones and tendons.
Press softly and hold for 15/30 seconds with healing intention gently. Now re-peat on the other hand.
Pericardium -7
Location: On the middle of the palm-side of the wrist, on the wrist crease in the depression between the two ten-dons. Press softly and hold for 15/30 seconds with healing intention gently. Now repeat on the other wrist.
Lung-9
Location: On the palm-side of the wrist, on the wrist crease in the depression beneath the thumb.
Press softly and hold for 15/30 seconds with healing inten-tion gently. Now repeat on the other wrist.
Colon -4
Location: On the top side of the hand, on the web be-tween thumb and index finger. Press softly and hold for 15/30 seconds with healing intention gently. Now repeat on the other hand.

To order my book "A Balanced Way of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with PostPolio Syndrome" see http://balancedway.simplesite.com/
OR http://www.postpolioinfo.com/balanced_way.php

 
August 2016
A DAILY DOSE OF CHI PART 1
Muscles often become weaker when overused by polio survivors and because of all this it makes no sense at all for us to do exercises that result in fatigue and exhaustion. As Dr. Bruno says: “Feeling the burn means that nerves are burning out.” He goes on to say : “pumping iron will not increase the strength of muscles that are becoming weaker, and can actually cause an irreversible loss of strength.” And it is not only polio survivors who can benefit from this advice –people with ME, MS, Parkinsons --most neurological disorders will gain from a more relaxed form of exercising.

The most valuable forms of exercise for us polio survivors and indeed anyone experiencing a neurological disorder, are ones that combine breathing with gentle stretching exercises. Daoist Chi Gung exercises are perfect as they help to increase our range of motion and ensure that we do not stiffen up. And Chi Gung can be practised standing, seated or in a wheelchair. But here I want to describe some very simple and easily practised movements that are designed to stimulate the flow of Chi in the body and so will relax and increase both Chi energy and blood flow.

Chi is an ancient Chinese term, which can be translated as energy. Chi is present in everything in the universe –every atom and molecule is composed of Chi. When Chi flows easily we become relaxed. When Chi is blocked then we feel out of ease - literally dis-eased. Chi flows in channels throughout the body and these have entry and exit points at the tips of fingers and toes and source points around the wrists and ankles. Stimulating these points through these exercises ensures that the energy will not stagnate. To feel your Chi place your hands 6 inches apart with palms facing each other. Move your palms 24 inches away from each other, and then back to the starting point. Visualize the Chi gathering between your hands move at a speed of 1-3 movements per second. Continue this for several minutes until you notice a feeling in your hands -- heat or tingling indicates the gathering of Chi. Now you are aware of your Chi you are ready to embark on these exercises. A daily dose of these exercises will leave you feeling refreshed and energised. All of these exercises are to be performed slowly and gently sitting with legs outstretched infront of you. If you feel any discomfort stop immediately.

Toes
Inhale and curl the toes then exhale and push the toes away. Repeat five times each foot.. Imagine as you inhale, the Chi energy entering and strengthening your feet. Even if your toes do not move easily imagine the Chi flowing. Now massage and gently pull each of the toes in turn. Finally pinch each toe with your finger and thumb around your nail.

Ankles
With legs stretched out and heels on the floor, breathe in and pull the feet towards the body, then breathe out and stretch the feet away from you. Repeat five times each foot. Now rotate each ankle in turn - clockwise five times, anti clockwise five times.

Knees
With legs stretched out in front of you, hold the right leg under the thigh and breathe in gently bending the knee towards you. Do the same with the left leg. Repeat five times each leg.

Hands
Stretch your hands out then pull in the fingers with the thumb inside making a fist. Breathe out stretching the fingers apart and away from you breathe in as you make a fist. Imagine the Chi flowing through the fingertips. Repeat five times each hand. Now massage each hand and pull each of your fingers gently in turn. Finally pinch each finger with your finger and thumb around your nail.

Wrists
With arms stretched out in front pull the hands back towards you as you breathe in and then down and away breathing out. Do this five times each hand. Follow this by rotating each hand five times clockwise and then anticlockwise.

Elbows
With arms out in front of you and palms uppermost bring the hands to the shoulders breathing in and so stretching and flexing the elbows. Extend your arms breathing out. Repeat five times. Imagine as you inhale, the Chi energy flowing and strengthening your arms.

Shoulders
With hands hanging by your side pull your shoulders up to your ears breathing in and then let go breathing out releasing all tension. Repeat five times. Next bring the hands to the shoulders and rotate the arms by bringing the elbows together and then stretching them away to make a large circle. Repeat five times.

In Part 2 next month I will describe the acupressure points that can be used daily to improve the circulation of Chi.

To order my book "A Balanced Way of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with PostPolio Syndrome" see http://balancedway.simplesite.com/
OR http://www.postpolioinfo.com/balanced_way.php
July 2016

TRAIN THE BRAIN; How meditation can help the polio affected brain.
Sometimes in the middle of a conversation if I am very fatigued or stressed, I can totally forget a word I was going to use. The word is on the tip of my tongue but I haven’t a clue how to access it—it’s gone, gone, gone. Concentration is also affected when I am tired or experiencing stress. The simplest of soap opera plots can become difficult to follow as my tired old brain feels as if its slowed down to a stop. All of this--word finding difficulties and poor concentration is due to Post Polio fatigue and is a sign that I need to relax and rest. Dr Bruno has researched PPS fatigue and his findings show a link between the fatigue experienced by polio survivors and “brain brownout”—cognitive difficulties.
Bruno gives an example of these cognitive difficulties in an article entitled ‘Post Polio Brain Fatigue’ -- “researchers at the US Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences asked 65-year old polio survivors to complete computerized neuropsychological tests of attention, thinking or memory once, and then again one hour later. The so called “practice effect” typically improves scores the second time anyone takes neuropsychological tests. However, more than 40 percent of polio survivors had a decrease in performance on the second administration of seven of the eight computerized tests, while 50 percent did more poorly on at least three tests. Subjects didn’t make more mistakes the second time; they were just much slower performing the tests after being fatigued by taking the first set of tests. Slower performance on neuro psychological tests is exactly what our studies found, that polio survivors reporting severe daily fatigue required 23 percent to 67 percent more time to complete tasks requiring attention than did polio survivors with no or mild fatigue.”
Bruno has established that between 70% and 96% of polio survivors with fatigue reported concomitant problems with concentration, memory, attention, word-finding, maintaining wakefulness and thinking clearly, with 77% percent reporting moderate to severe problems with these functions. (Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 1993; 74:1061-1065.THE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY OF POST-POLIO FATIGUE Richard L. Bruno, Thomas Galski, John DeLuca). The crucial word here is fatigue. All of these cognitive symptoms emerge when the polio affected brain is tired out. This being the case we need to nurture our poor old brains by ensuring that we give ourselves plenty of rest and relaxation. Easier said than done as we polio survivors are notorious for rushing through tasks –minds racing, hurrying to get things done in type A fashion.
Daoists have the solution to this speedy behaviour and ask that we look to Nature to teach us how to re establish balance. In Nature nothing is hurried but everything gets accomplished and if we follow this teaching and slow our minds right down we will find we can prevent brain fatigue. One of the best ways to slow the mind down is to learn to meditate –train the mind to let go of its inclination to be hasty, quieten and calm the mind down. Daoists understand that the spirit –the ‘Shen’ resides in the Heart and that when we feel stressed, rushed, pressured it’s a sign that the mind needs to be calmed by aligning it with our centre –the Shen (spirit) in the Heart. By coming back to your Heart you slow the monkey mind down and by training it in this way you will reenergise and revitalise your polio affected brain.
Meditation does not need to be esoteric or complex— eventually through meditating you may, in the traditions of Daoism and Buddhism, become enlightened and at one with the entire universe but before that stage meditation can simply be about resting the mind in its tranquil centre so that you may experience more clarity and energy and, on a deeper level cultivate more tolerance , patience and compassion. It helps to have a teacher –plenty are now available, mindfulness meditation courses abound and there are even phone apps to get you started. Most importantly when preparing to embark on the path of meditation you must be committed to your practise in order for it to benefit you. This means setting aside fifteen to thirty minutes to sit quietly letting go of an over-scheduled, technology stimulated life. Try this Daoist meditation –practise it every day for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30 minutes, and observe how much better, more rested your brain feels.
• • Sit on a comfortable chair and set a timer to let you know once 15/30 minutes have passed. Switch off your phone and ensure all your clothing is loose and unrestricting. Close your eyes and let your breath settle whilst inhaling through your nose and out through your mouth.
• As you inhale feel a movement all the way down to the Dan Tien – the energy centre just below the naval then let your abdomen relax as you exhale com-pletely. Breathe continuously, with no pauses between the exhalation and the inhalation.
• As you breathe smile into your naval and Dan Tien and then bring your awareness into your Heart area.
• Feel the flame of love deep within your Heart—a warm light that is your deepest , most real Self. Smile into your Heart centre (Shen) and feel a healing light radiating out to all the cells of your Heart. Feel your Heart relax and expand with a loving energy.
• Staying aligned with the Heart energy simply witness, accept and be open to-wards all thoughts and sensations. Watch as all your thoughts and feelings arise and fall away by themselves, without engaging with any of them. To begin with you will be aware that your mind is racing –like a monkey it leaps from one thought to the next. Eventually the chatterbox mind starts to quieten down and in this state the Shen in the Heart is deeply accessed, your brain is refreshed as its vital force is replenished.
• After fifteen minutes slowly open your eyes and return to the world knowing you can come back to the stillness of your Heart centre -- that loving non judgemental space at any time or place.
There are many scientific papers explaining how different brain regions are specifically affected by meditation –google to see a ton of research but do we need studies to prove that meditation is good for us? Simply try meditating regularly every day and after a week you will feel far more energised –you will become aware of a brain that is more alert, more able to concentrate.

To order my book "A Balanced Way of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome" see http://www.postpolioinfo.com/balanced_way.php

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June 2016

NATURE’S WAY

Travelling through the country lanes of Provence this summer I was greeted at every turn by cherry trees laden down with their bounty, fields of lavender about to bloom, everything ripe and full and bursting with life. It was a glorious sight and yet one that will be gone by autumn – its Nature’s Way for expansion to be followed by contraction. We see this most clearly when summer, the season when everything  flourishes, gives way to autumn and winter –seasons when growth ceases, when hibernation takes place –a contraction, a conservation and respite before another phase of growth can begin.

 Daoist philosophy is inspired and based on the observation of natural laws and we who are physically challenged can benefit hugely from following Nature’s Way.  Often we have become high achieving, perfectionists who have pushed to expand ourselves beyond our physical and mental limits. This type A behaviour has helped us to cope with often extremely stressful situations but by pushing ourselves too hard - overworking and over exercising we often experience a severe contraction in the shape of symptoms of pain, fatigue and burn out. Aligning instead with Nature’s Way means deciding not to push ourselves to the point of collapse - instead we start to follow the example of the seasons –after a period of activity we take time to rest, reflect and so conserve and preserve energy.

 

Old habits die hard and many of us find it difficult to let go of pushing and achieving --indeed our often challenging circumstances can seemingly force us to rise above our limitations.  But adopting a rigid approach to conserving and preserving energy would be counter productive and so Daoists suggest another way. Instead of forcing ourselves into a regime of resting and pacing we need to simply listen to the wisdom of the body/mind –the inner voice that can tell us when we need to be active and when we need to slow down. 

 The ancient Daoist book the Dao-te Ching says:

                    The five colours can blind,

                    The five tones deafen,

                    The five tastes cloy,

                    The race, the hunt, can drive men mad

                    And their booty leave them no peace. 

                    Therefore the sensible man

                    Prefers the inner to the outer eye.

 

There is nothing particularly mystical or “airy-fairy” about connecting with the ‘inner eye’--one’s innate intelligence.  All living organisms live in accordance with this creative force.  A flower closes on a cloudy day and opens when the sun shines - it obeys its instinctual, intelligent nature. In the same way we need to tune into our innate intelligence and know when to be active and when to rest.  Discoveries in biophysics show the presence of neuropeptides - intelligent hormone like substances that circulate in the blood.  This backs up what the Daoists have maintained for thousands of years - that intelligence is circulated throughout the whole body and is not resident solely in the brain.  Every cell of our being has the wisdom to guide us –we just need to listen to this innate wisdom of the body.

 

Start to listen to your inner promptings, become aware of gut feelings that tell you what is good for you and conversely what will drain your energy. Whether it has to do with work, diet, exercise or any aspect of your life rely on your inner feelings  to guide you in the right direction. To be able to tune into your inner wisdom you need to create a  still calm space within unassailed by the chitter chatter of the busy mind which will so often encourage you to do and be more than you are. In this still calm space you  know that you do not need to be anybody except who you are in this moment, you do not to be anywhere except where you are right now –everything is perfect as it is here and now.

 

Take the phone off the hook and sit or lie down to practise this exercise. Use it daily and whenever you feel stressed.

  • Breathe from your Dan Tien (sea of energy)–the energy centre just below the naval.
  • As you inhale feel a movement all the way down to the Dan Tien .  Allow your abdomen to expand as your diaphragm moves down in a full breath, then let your abdomen relax as you exhale completely. Breathe continuously, with no pauses between the exhalation and the inhalation.
  • As you sit or lie become aware of your mind slowing down and the softness of your breath filling all the cells of your being.
  • Visualise a window opening on the top of your head and light pouring through it from a radiance that is the source of all your wisdom.
  • Affirm “ I will always listen to my inner guidance to conserve and preserve my energy and so live a peaceful and happy life”. 

 

 

 

April 2016

 

Ageing with Disability

 Old age doesn't come alone as those ageing with Post Polio Syndrome know....

"I dread to think what life will be like in my golden years and I really don't want to think of sitting in a wheelchair and unable to do anything for myself. It would drive me crackers if I have to ask others to do everything for me - I don't think I want to live that way."

"The main effect on my life is a fear of being older and unable to express oneself as well as being paralysed -especially when you are in the hands of people who don't understand the special needs of polios. "

"I live alone and do most things for myself and want to be as independent as I can. I do get very tired and frustrated. I used to cycle and walk for miles, which I miss very much as I have to go out in a wheelchair now. I think the medical profession should realise the difficulties of post polio. ”

 Clearly all of these people are understandably apprehensive and frustrated at the thought and reality of ageing with their disability. Its tricky enough coping with the challenges of PPS but as we age we are aware that further changes may well occur. And not only do we fear losing more of our already waning mobility but we also feel anxious at the thought of perhaps having to ask for help from carers and health professionals who do not fully understand the needs of polio survivors.

 Daoism can help calm our apprehensions about old age by giving us a perspective that encourages confidence to handle this phase. Daoists hold the view that life is a cycle of changes and instead of seeing old age as a regrettable state as so many of us do in the 21st century, ageing is seen as an opportunity to accept things as they are, to slow down and cultivate inner strength and wisdom through self knowledge, self discipline and perseverance.  Through acceptance we let go of the frantically busy world of our youthful lives, we let go of pushing ourselves beyond our limits and so preserve our energy.  Letting go of pushing ourselves, preserving our energy –does this sound familiar? These are all lessons that we polio survivors have been studying closely for some time –nothing new here! So be confident that you have prepared well in advance and can accept and handle these up coming changes! But being confident in your ability to accept and handle this stage of your life does not mean denying feelings-- when you feel despairing, grieving, anxious, angry about worsening physical limitations the Daoist view encourages us to accept the mess of all our feelings whilst aligning with our inner strength and wisdom.

 Zhuangzi was a Daoist philosopher who lived around the 4th century BC. His book is an ancient Chinese collection of wonderful anecdotes and fables and in one passage Zhuangzi describes how one character accepts his physical decline: "Why should I resent it?" replied Zi Yu. "If my left arm is transformed into a rooster, I'll just go looking for night's end. If my right arm is transformed into a crossbow, I'll just go looking for owls to roast. And if my butt's transformed into a pair of wheels and my spirit's transformed into a horse, I'll just ride away! I'd never need a cart again!"  Here Zhuangzi humorously suggests we give up fearing changes and instead, by accepting them, we can start to see the opportunities in our changed circumstances.  For example as we age with a disability such as PPS we might need to use a wheelchair or scooter to get about. If we take Zhuangzi’s advice, instead of resenting our changed circumstances we can perhaps see this physical decline as an opportunity to find a way to continue to be mobile.

 Ageing with a disability is an opportunity to go with the flow and work with the changes you are experiencing. Resistance is indeed futile and only leads to further exhaustion. Better to accept our circumstances and the opportunities therein. Now is the time to enhance health in any and every way --clean up our diets, simplify our lives. Take on new hobbies, have fun with your grandchildren, get on your scooter and enjoy the park on a sunny day, learn Chi Gung from a wheelchair –whatever floats your boat!  No longer run yourself ragged looking after everything –see that ageing is an opportunity to really firm up boundaries, learn to say No and prioritise your own needs. And cultivate a daily time to  be still and quiet –twenty minutes meditation twice a day can be transformative in helping you to feel clearer and more energised.

 As we age with disability a great deal of anxiety is generated at the prospect of having to ask for help from carers and health professionals –many of whom often seem not to fully understand the needs of polio survivors. In the past we have sometimes been our own worst enemies by pushing past our limits in denial of our disabilities to prove that we can keep up with or surpass those who are “able bodied”. And then we have perhaps been rewarded by hearing  friends or strangers say “I don’t see you as disabled!” Sometimes those words might have felt like an accolade for all our efforts to keep up. But, eventually, exhausted, although acknowledging that the friend or stranger’s comments are meant kindly, we finally realise that we need to let go of resisting our reality and instead our disability needs to be seen, acknowledged and accepted –especially by ourselves. We cannot expect anyone else to acknowledge our limitations if we ignore them ourselves! Now as we become older it is a time like no other to learn to be kind towards ourselves, admit our limitations and  ask for help.

 Asking for help is even more important as we age. Now especially we may need more help in the house or help getting out and about shopping and socialising.  Do not expect others to anticipate your needs - you need to explain them clearly and firmly.  Allow others to help and give them recognition and thanks for doing so.  Sometimes this is hit and miss –we all have experienced medics or carers who haven’t a clue how to help our particular needs but my advice is to persist and keep looking for the health professionals and carers who do recognise the particular needs of those of us with PPS. Support groups (such as Dr Bruno’s Post Polio Coffee House) on social media are often a great source of good advice with people sharing names of individuals or organisations found to be helpful. And if you are worried that at some time in the future you may lack mental capacity or may no longer wish to make decisions for yourself then give someone you trust the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf via Power of Attorney. Setting this up as you go into older age can give you peace of mind.  

 Let us never romanticise old age. It can be a painful and challenging time especially if you are disabled. But we do not need to suffer through it. See ageing with your disability as an opportunity to accept your limitations (again!), learn to enjoy new activities and use any assistive aids that will help you to stay mobile but rested. And always accept help when it is offered – do not struggle stoically!  Most of all remember that this is a time to find that quiet and calm centre within and enjoy stillness and silence so that you may accept and handle with confidence all the changes that life brings . 

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March 2016

BOOSTING ENERGY

 Feeling Overloaded

After a thoroughly enjoyable day keeping up with my grandchildren and my daughters on my mobility scooter I was happy but exhausted. As a polio survivor I recognized those drained feelings as  symptoms of fatigue from Post Polio Syndrome and as an acupuncturist I knew that this fatigue was a message from my Kidney energy warning me that I had overdone things (again!!) and must take it easy. According to the theory inherent in Chinese medicine neurological illnesses and syndromes such as PPS, Parkinsons, MS and ME all involve imbalance to the Kidney energy. To expend more Kidney energy would be a recipe for further fatigue and exhaustion –instead I needed to stop everything, relax and recharge not only also my scooter batteries but also my physical and mental energy batteries.

 Symptoms of low and depleted Kidney energy can include not only those more serious neurological challenges mentioned above but also symptoms experienced by everyone who has been overdoing things –symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, problems with urination, night sweats, backache, and anxiety. Furthermore, according to Daoist theory a certain aspect of Kidney energy known as Kidney “Jing” is very precious and must be preserved carefully. As we age the Jing of every human being will diminish but it will be used up faster if we rush about getting stressed and doing too much. To overuse and squander it by being overly busy and stressed will result in chronic fatigue and possibly permanent exhaustion. And if you have a central nervous system already damaged from polio virus then your Jing will be at risk of diminishing prematurely and fast.

 To Daoists Kidney Jing is considered to be the vital essence –the oil in the lamp so to speak, that we are born with.  They consider Jing to be  a very precious substance –the foundation of our constitutional energy and because of that all Daoist techniques are aimed at preserving the Jing. We can  value and protect our Jing by ensuring that we do not over do things by working too hard, partying too long, or by over exercising. And there is no “quick fix” approach to restoring depleted any aspect of our Kidney energy. Stimulants such as sugary food or drinks with caffeine will ultimately exhaust the Kidney energy –we might get an energy “high” -- a raise in blood sugar when we drink a glass of cola but the sugar and caffeine buzz only encourages us to exhaust ourselves further –a dramatic slump will follow soon after as the Kidney energy is further depleted and blood sugar hits the floor.

 There is only one way to truly conserve our Kidney Energy and that is to learn to rest and pace our activities. We need to take plenty of time out to rest and relax and only then can we contemplate achieving a boost in energy by using the following techniques of breathing exercises, acupressure, diet and gentle self massage. Once we program into our day plenty of rest and relaxation then we can try these techniques  to give our flagging energy a boost. 

 Dan Tien Breathing

One of the best ways to connect with Kidney energy particularly Kidney Jing and so give ourselves a boost  is by focusing on the Dan Tian  (sea of energy)–the energy centre just below the naval. This will have a calming, balancing, energising and spiritually uplifting influence on your energy field. Try the following exercise on a daily basis and whenever you feel drained. It will connect you with your Kidney Jing and so help to re energise you.

 

  • Sitting or lying comfortable with loose clothing inhale slowly through your nose and gently exhale through your mouth .Do this several times.
  • As you inhale feel a movement all the way down to the Dan Tien – the energy centre just below the naval.  Allow your abdomen to expand as your diaphragm moves down in a full breath, then let your abdomen relax as you exhale completely. Breathe continuously, with no pauses between the exhalation and the inhalation.
  • With closed eyes focus attention fully on the Dan Tien. As thoughts arise simply let them go. You may start to feel a warmth in this area and a deep sense of relaxation. Continue focusing and breathing like this for fifteen minutes or so.

 Acupressure Points

 Massage these points yourself or with help from a friend on a daily basis to help strengthen your Kidney energy and so give yourself a boost. Even if you have little or no movement in your limbs these acupuncture points can still move the energy in those limbs.

  • The acupuncture point Kidney 1 known as “Bubbling Spring” is on the sole of the foot between the second and third metatarsal bones in the crease formed when the toes are flexed. Allow two thumbs to meet at this point and massage outwards for three minutes each foot.
  • Next rub with circular movements the point Kidney 3 known as "Greater Mountain Stream." This is to be found just behind the inner anklebone. Press firmly and rub in a clockwise direction for at least 3 minutes each leg.

 Keeping Warm and Rested

For many of us with paralysed limbs and problems with mobility we can find ourselves cold even at the height of summer! When we are cold our system contracts –blood and energy do not circulate, blood can stagnate  and we become very quickly fatigued. When we are warm, according to Daoist texts, we help the Kidneys to control the fire of alchemical transmutation in the lower abdomen which allows all energetic transformations. This is often depicted as a cauldron in which the liquid and essence of the Kidney yin is heated by the fire of Kidney yang. Keep this picture in mind of water and fire and ensure that your lower abdominal area is always kept warm. Keep that wooly vest on at all times!

You can create warmth and thus energy by practising the following treatment twice a day or whenever you feel fatigued;

Rub your hands together and place your palms  on your back over your kidneys. Repeat 3 times. Massage gently stimulating the circulation in the lower back. Make sure that you are always warm, wearing extra layers if necessary to protect the Kidneys.

 Diet

Low Kidney energy can be helped by sticking to eating warming, cooked foods. Forget your raw food diet –when your energy, particularly Kidney energy is low you will be helped by eating cooked foods. Include soups and stews made with root vegetables and eat plenty of protein in the form of fish and those meats considered in Chinese medicine to be warming -- lamb, and chicken. Chicken is a warm food which can be stir-fried with onions and a pinch of cayenne to give your energy a boost.

 Most of all though it is important to remember that none of these energy boosters will help unless you first decide to stop overdoing and slow down! Live a life of simplicity and include in your routine plenty of rest and relaxation. Take a daily nap and enjoy early nights to feel empowered, strengthened and energised

 

 February 2016

Moving the Chi , Decreasing the Pain.

In online Polio Forums I notice the issue of coping with pain often comes up. Certainly its not just polio survivors facing up to this challenge!  Nearly 50 million American adults have significant chronic pain or severe pain, according to a  study prepared by National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which appeared in 2015  in The Journal of Pain, http://www.jpain.org, published by the American Pain Society, http://www.americanpainsociety.org

 As an acupuncturist I have treated many patients who experience all types of severe pain and as a polio survivor I have personally experienced the painful result of polio weakened muscles going into spasm. Chinese medicine has simple yet effective tools to help anyone cope better with pain of any sort.

 The theory behind Chinese medicine holds that there is a vital force that permeates all life. This energy is known as “Chi” and when it flows within us steadily and calmly then we will feel relaxed, at ease and experience better health. When Chi is blocked, stagnant or weakened then we may experience pain and disease.  When pain affects joints western medicine might use the label  “arthritis”, muscular pain could be classified as “fibromyalgia”, pain that is associated with damage to the nervous system might be called “neuralgia”.  However, in Chinese Medicine theory pain is seen as a symptom of an underlying obstruction to the flow of Chi energy leaving us feeling , literally, dis-eased –out of ease with ourselves.

 Meridian pathways channel the Chi energy around the body and through gentle massage of points on these pathways along with simple stretching exercises and breathing techniques we can induce a feeling of relaxation by encouraging the energy to flow. In this way we will find ourselves at ease and with less pain.  Firstly though it is important to ensure a correct diagnosis from your health practitioner as to the cause of your pain. Once this has been established then try some of the following techniques to treat painful syndromes.

 The tradition of using acupressure points, breathing  and gentle exercise to influence, move and balance the flow of Chi has been in existence in the far east for thousands of years. These are simple and effective self help techniques which will positively impact on your health and well being.  All this brings about a sense of being much more in touch with your body and leads to a sense of deep relaxation. Here are various ways to move the Chi, feel more relaxed and so decrease the pain levels you are experiencing. All these methods need to be practised on a regular, daily basis to see improvement.

 Working with Muscular and Neuropathic Pain

Severe pain can be produced when the nervous system is damaged through for example spinal injury, stroke or viral damage. In this case the nervous system seems to develop a chronic sensitivity –even touching the skin can cause severe pain often described as burning or stabbing. A further factor in this type of pain is that when there are neurological conditions causing muscles to remain contracted, rather than contracting and relaxing, then this constant muscle shortening creates spasm and knotting up of the muscle.

 Muscle shortening produces pain by pulling on tendons , straining them. Tense, tired muscles will be extremely painful leading to further tension , fatigue and more pain. This type of pain is made worse by over activity and over exercise –sometimes even of a mild variety. It is helped by rest and relaxation. Deep massage can also be helpful for this type of pain as it will lengthen and relax the muscles. Warm the muscles with a hot bath or by using a heated pad.

 Stretches are very beneficial –especially if practised first thing in the morning. Here is a simple and gentle Chi Gung stretching exercise  to give a lively start to the day;

Punching

  1. In a comfortable seated or standing position bring hands into loose fists and hold them facing upwards at either side of the waist.
  2. Take a deep breath in, exhale through the mouth with a loud “haa!” as you punch gently with  the left fist turning it over so that it is faced downwards when fully extended. Return the fist to the left side.
  3. Do the same (gently!)with the right fist and return to the right side.

Repeat 5  times.

 Breathing

Incorrect  breathing can contribute to painful muscles as it leads to poor oxygenation and retention of acid wastes. By learning to breathe more fully we oxygenate our tissues and in this way the Chi can be raised, built upon and maintained so relaxing body and mind.  

 In martial arts correct use of the breath is necessary to propel the Chi when it is used to overcome the opponent.  I mention this because it reveals the power and strength behind breathing techniques.  If it can help martial artists with their fighting technique then it can certainly help the rest of us to feel energised and empowered!  As we increase the flow of Chi through correct breathing we realise why all martial artists rely on control of the breath as the fundamental precept to deal with all life’s challenges.  Breathing techniques help us feel much more positive - much more able to take on the pain we may be experiencing.

 Become aware of how you breathe on a day to day basis. Most of us tend to breathe shallowly, as if we are holding onto and restricting our breathing. As you learn to breathe more deeply and fully the Chi will flow and you will find that your pain and tension diminishes.

 Practise “abdominal “ breathing on a daily basis and you will find it becomes second nature to you. With abdominal breathing you breathe from the abdomen rather than the chest. In this way the lower part of the lungs expands and we receive more of that life giving oxygen.

 Abdominal Breathing 

Lie comfortably on the floor or on your bed and place your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your stomach, then breathe out slowly, relaxing completely. Once your lungs are emptied, breathe in making sure that your left hand moves upwards – in other words your abdomen rises- before your chest does. Slowly and calmly breathe out. The crucial point in abdominal breathing is to ensure that as we breathe in the abdomen rises and as you breathe out it falls. Practise this twice a day for ten minutes and it will become  completely natural for you. Practise also during your day to day activities- shopping, doing the housework- any activity is an opportunity to learn abdominal breathing. Do it whenever you feel in pain and your mind will feel clearer, your body more relaxed.

 Working with Joint Pain

Muscle contraction and shortening increases wear and tear on joints and contributes to degenerative changes such as those seen in osteoarthritis. In this case the stretching exercise and abdominal breathing technique described above will be found to be very helpful.   Many of us may have experienced the development of degenerative joint disease after years of stress being put upon unstable and deformed joints. Chinese medicine theory tells us that as a result of this stress the energy that flows around the joint becomes stagnant .   As this is the case we need to keep the Chi energy flowing and thus keep joints mobile and flexible. In this way pain is reduced. Along with stretching and breathing exercises practise the following techniques to move the Chi around the joints.

 Joints that are cold and stiff need to be warmed and gentle pulling and massaging of these painful joints will free up the energy. Joints that are hot and inflamed must not be worked on in this way as they can be made worse by heat and movement. Work on painful joints in the following ways by massaging points on fingertips and toes.

 If your joints are hot and painful stimulate the energy to move through by massaging points on fingertips and toes. For example, if your wrist is inflamed gently massage your fingers- especially around the base of the nails. If your ankle is hot and swollen squeeze points around the base of the toenails. As you do this visualise a cooling stream of water rushing in to soothe the inflamed tissue. Continue to work all the fingers and toes in this way and then spend ten minutes relaxing and practise abdominal breathing as described above.

 If your joints are cold and painful they need to be warmed and gentle pulling and massaging of these painful joints will free up the energy. For painful hands and feet start by rotating your feet clockwise 5 times. Then, very gently holding each of your toes pull them from the base outwards. Next rotate your hands, again 5 times clockwise. Now pull your fingers outwards as you did with your toes.  Use a warmed massage oil with lavender in it to rub gently into hands and feet. Particularly massage acupressure points

  • Colon 4 “Joining the Valleys”; in the webbing between the thumb and index finger find the sensitive spot and press in a downward movement  for several minutes. This point is not advised for pregnant women
  • Liver 3 “Supreme Rushing” Massage in a downward direction for several minutes. This point is found in the angle of your foot between the big toe and second toe.

 If it is hard to do any of these routines because of pain and stiffness then start by visualising the limb. If the joint is hot and inflamed imagine it filled with cooling, soothing water to cleanse and calm. If the joint is cold and achy picture  stretching it filling it with warm, healing energy. Research shows that visualisation can prompt tissue changes to take place. Once you feel more flexible you can try the routines above. Conclude all these sessions with ten minutes of abdominal breathing.

Dietary Changes

Research shows that an alkali diet is essential in the treatment of pain as it has a soothing and anti-inflammatory. Alkali foods include fruits and vegetables along with yogurt, sunflower seeds, fish, wholegrains. Avoid acidic foods such as white flour, pasta, sugar and animal fats.

 Research shows that an alkali diet is essential in the treatment of pain as it has a soothing and anti-inflammatory. Alkali foods include fruits and vegetables along with yogurt, sunflower seeds, fish, wholegrains. Avoid acidic foods such as white flour, pasta, sugar and animal fats.

Some foods contain salicylates --the pain relieving substance found in aspirin. Thus foods such as blueberries, cherries, currants, dates and prunes have anti inflammatory and pain killing properties. Omega 3,6,9 oils have proved to be beneficial for joints. Above all drink lots of water --at least three pints per day.

 All Types of Pain can  also be helped by;

  • Using correct fitting orthotic devices and aids to mobility; Terry, a polio survivor from Scotland reported that for years  she was prescribed pain killers for her back by her doctor until one day another medic suggested that she needed more support in her wheelchair.  This simple idea was the solution to years of discomfort and pain.            
  • Stopping any activity that is causing pain—over exercise, exposure to cold and emotional stress can be the cause of physical pain.
  • Keeping a diary.  Record what you do and see if it ties in with an increase or decrease in pain levels.  Rate levels between 1-10.  In this way you can decide on changes to conserve energy and decrease pain. 

 So start practising abdominal breathing with gentle stretches and massaging of acupressure points on a daily basis along with changes to your diet and you will soon feel the benefit as the Chi moves more easily, flows more steadily. Feeling more relaxed you will be able to tolerate and handle pain better. In this way, even though there may be tissue damage,  pain will decrease and no longer control your life.

Also see

www.facebook.com/BALANCEDWAYofLIVING

http://www.postpolioinfo.com/balanced_way.php

 

JANUARY 2016

LIFE IS WHAT HAPPENS …..

A while back, when I was new to mobility scooters, I had a slight accident on one of them. As I was getting off the scooter on a busy pavement I foolishly failed to turn off the ignition key and caught my sleeve on the reverse lever. This oversight caused the machine to move rapidly backwards tossing me aside and then running over my legs. Fortunately a passer by stopped the runaway vehicle before anyone else got hurt and eventually my husband hauled me back into the saddle with a stiff ticking off.

 But let me rewind --as I lay there looking up at the sky I felt confident of two things –one that I clearly needed to slow down and be more aware of what I was doing and two--this mishap was not what I had planned or chosen! Nonetheless life was happening and was presenting me with a close up view of the kerb. And although I hadn’t chosen to run myself over I now certainly had a choice –accept this situation or resist it. Drawing on the Daoist path that has always offered me good guidance I chose to accept --accept the feelings of physical pain and accept the emotional reactions of acute mortification. Thankfully no bones were broken –just a few bruises and a dollop of wounded pride. But by accepting the feelings of pain and embarrassment, going towards them with non resistance, I came to an awareness of a still point of calm underneath the cacophony of sensations and emotion .

 As I lay on the ground, in no hurry to get up, I simply accepted where I was and how I felt.  Accepting these changes in my circumstances, accepting how I felt about them, encouraged me not to over identify with the situation and my reactions to it-- not to make a drama out of a crisis but instead align with the still calm Centre that was there all along. Lying on the pavement composing myself is only acceptable up to point -- after checking that I had no broken bones and with encouragement from the small crowd that had gathered I knew it was time to move on. Off I went again—wiser in the ways of scooters!

 And then came the day a couple of years later when I comically slipped on a blob of mayonnaise in the kitchen and broke my polio leg. My scooter mishap paled in contrast to this event –a much more challenging scenario but the same Daoist principles applied--when we open to what life has presented to us, accepting whatever it brings and not over identifying with our reactions to the events, we find a still and centred space beneath the turmoil. As I crashed to the floor I found myself in extreme pain and extremely fed up—initially I resisted what was happening but then, as I went towards the pain –yielding rather than tensing I found myself coping better. And I stayed focused on the knowledge that although I had a broken leg I was much more than my broken leg and I could draw on that very real strength.

 Daoists refer to everything in the universe as the “ten thousand things” and tell us that from clouds of star dust to human beings, from a speck of sand to the smallest atomic particle –it all comes from one source -- the Dao. The Dao is the wellspring of power generating constant change in the universe. Good times and challenging times, you, me, broken limbs and whole ones --the ‘‘ten thousand things” with their constant changes are all the Dao. We are all part of this powerful all inclusive web of life and this is a very real source of strength.

 But our minds have a tendency to forget that everything comes from this powerful wellspring that generates constant change! Instead of accepting the “ten thousand things” and going with the ebb and flow of life we tend to see ourselves, our lives, as separate from this ebbing and flowing. Experiencing ourselves as separate we try to control our experiences, impose our will onto situations and become attached to planned, desired outcomes. Then, when things don’t go our way we often get stuck in resentments, become distressed and suffer.

 What immediately went through my mind when I fell off my scooter, and again when I broke my leg testified to this. My initial reaction was “No!” –I resisted what was happening and wanted another, different outcome –one where I was still seated comfortably on my scooter and in the case of my broken leg one where instead of finding myself in an orthopaedic ward with a full length plaster cast  I was sitting comfortably in the living room! This is a natural and very understandable reaction—we want to remain in our comfort zones but denial of reality isn’t going to change that reality. Denial, resistance will only lead to getting further mired in the situation –making a full blown drama out of a crisis and prolonging our physical and emotional pain.

 We always have a choice. We can choose to cling to our preconceived ideas and argue with reality demanding that life should be different than it is and so feel separate from the Dao and sorry for ourselves, or we can choose an attitude of acceptance –opening ourselves to relax towards reality. Through acceptance of what is—yielding towards what is happening in this moment  we  relax and thus align with the still Centre of our being. In this way we  can get back in the driving seat of our lives. In this way we realise that although we can’t control everything that happens to us -- scooter scrapes and mayo mishaps --we can control our attitude towards what is happening. 

 Use times of trouble as opportunities to accept what life brings and so find stillness—it is this that ultimately brings resolutions, solutions, healing and wholeness. If you find yourself in a painful or uncomfortable situation try this exercise...

 Inhale slowly through your nose and gently exhale through your mouth .Do this several times. As you inhale feel a movement all the way down to the Dan Tien – the energy centre just below the naval.  Allow your abdomen to expand as your diaphragm moves down in a full breath, then let your abdomen relax as you exhale completely. Breathe continuously, with no pauses between the exhalation and the inhalation.

 Accept the physical sensations and the thoughts and feelings that arise in you and let any tension dissolve away. Now align with the still serene centre that is your Heart. This is our connection with the Dao –the source of life and health and healing. Imagine your serene quiet Heart opening like a rose to reveal a shining white light. Imagine this light embracing everything that comes up in your life. Feel the difficult and challenging situation that you are in embraced by the Light in your Heart.  Feel the radiance and tranquillity within your Heart and imagine all conflicts healed and whole within that light in your Heart. Feel the shining white light radiating from your Heart and flowing to every cell in your body bringing health and healing. Radiate the powerful beam outwards towards everyone and everything –the ten thousand things!

Also see

www.facebook.com/BALANCEDWAYofLIVING

http://www.postpolioinfo.com/balanced_way.php

 

 

 

 

December 2015

THE TRICK IS TO KEEP SWIMMING


This summer I went swimming,
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around,
I moved my arms around.

Loudon Wainwright 111 “Swimming Song”

 After contracting polio as a baby it was deemed, thankfully, that swimming would be good therapy for me. So I learnt to swim and by the time I was eighteen months old I was splashing freely in pools, rivers and in the sea. It was and is a wonderful thing to feel fully mobile and free of gravity. It feels good to be able to let go of my cumbersome calliper and move swiftly and easily through the water. Ever since childhood I have swum regularly and now in my mid sixties I swim two or three times a week. I taught all four of my daughters to swim and I hope that by learning to swim they also learnt how to cope with the challenges life unfailingly throws at us all! Swimming helps us to stay present and focused in the moment.

 As I make my way through the water I remain very focused on simply moving my limbs and breathing --the trick is to keep swimming-- a helpful metaphor for handling life’s challenges. Lao Tzu the Daoist sage suggests that to “achieve greatness in little things….do great things while they are still small”  (63rd verse of the Dao De Ching). If you concentrate on the end result by focusing on the future or worrying about past performance you will feel overwhelmed. Instead Lao Tzu tells us to stay in the present moment, stay in the small stages of your project–in this way you can effortlessly handle whatever comes up. Too often we obsess with the “bigger picture” analysing past performance and agitating about future outcomes. Instead we need to take life a stroke at a time –we need to just keep swimming, keep breathing, staying effortlessly afloat!

 I no longer have the muscle power or stamina to achieve the number of lengths I swam in days gone by –post polio does not allow for that and as our dear Dr Bruno tells us polio survivors going for the burn means poliodamaged neurons are burning out. Instead of pushing myself I just start to swim freely, in the moment, letting go of any judgements on performance –letting go of the discouraging chatterbox mind. As I breast stroke through the water I soon find I am in the flow –at one with swimming and by becoming aware of nothing else save my movement in the water then there is no swimmer and water --just swimming.

 When faced with life’s challenges the trick is to keep, metaphorically, swimming.  At the time of writing this we are all facing the so called “war on terror“. Many of us are fearful, some are despairing. We can choose not to drain our energy by focusing on the worries of our inner chatterbox - that voice of doom and gloom -  but instead choose to focus on the present moment. As we stay present “cutting wood and drawing water” we slow down and become mindful of what we are experiencing in this moment. We start to notice our surroundings more, we start to relax and in this way energy can be protected. Thus we strengthen to meet whatever challenges come our way.

 If whilst reading this you are feeling unwell, frustrated, sad, worried, fearful and generally discouraged remember to stop trying to hang onto how things were or how you feel things should be. Dropping the past and letting go of future expectations drops you gently into this one moment –the only time there is. As Lao Tzu said “do great things while they are still small.” To resolve challenging times in your life start with the little things that are available to you in the present; breathe out, relax your shoulders, get into the swim affirming “ Right here, right now all is well”.

 Floating, like swimming, is a great way of learning to let go of the chatterbox mind that is always thinking and planning. Whilst floating you are simply being in the water –breathing and letting yourself go with the flow. Try floating next time you are in a pool allowing yourself to totally surrender, let go and trust the water to buoy you up. Feel the serenity that comes from accepting and at the same time disregarding the incessant chatter of your mind whilst relaxing into your own watery space.  Release everything that causes you stress and simply be in the water.

 

 

NOVEMBER 2015

CHOOSING HAPPINESS 

This week I met up with an old friend after a gap of several years. We have kept in touch over a long time by letter but she took me to task over the tone of these . “You always seem so upbeat “ she said, “ you always seem to sound happy even when the going gets tough!” Being accused of sounding like Pollyanna I reassured her that I too had very down days when I was as grumpy and growly as the next person but that I had found it helpful to cultivate an accepting approach to life’s many challenges because ultimately such an approach made me feel happier.  

 Daoists have known for a very long time that being miserable causes our Chi energy –our life force, to contract and that this has an impact on our health and well being. Conversely when we feel happy our energy expands, we feel relaxed and the flow of Chi increases. And of course we always have a choice  as to how we feel. Either I can choose to connect with and accept my reality or I can choose to deny it and wish it wasn’t happening. Lets look at these two very different approaches –two different ways of viewing life.

 When I wake up I can feel my body as stiff and heavy. I can choose to remind myself that these are the late effects of polio and that as I age things will get worse. Looking  out of the window I can see the sky leaden grey with dark rain clouds gathering and  I can wish that the sun was shining. Hobbling into the kitchen I can curse my weak limbs as I try to juggle my stick and my mug of tea on my way back to bed. Now I am angry with my body as I feel it has failed me. I wish I was filled with the vibrancy of my younger days and I imagine the day ahead as one filled with obstacles. I feel disempowered and weak. Living in this way, forever wishing that things were different than they are, I am constantly filing all experiences into two trays –good or bad—particularly seeing the past as good and the present as bad.  How different would I feel if I simply accepted my experience instead of always defining it as good or bad? Would I perhaps feel better, happier?

 Instead of the above scenario I could choose to wake up and decide to go with the flow of my life. I feel and am aware of the stiff, heaviness of my body and I accept and acknowledge its fragility with kindness and understanding.  I am also aware of the way my body sinks comfortably into the softness and comfort of my warm cosy bed. Looking out of the window I see the dark clouds but I accept them rather than labelling them as “bad”—they simply exist. Hobbling into the kitchen I feel the cold linoleum under my feet and know I am connected to reality –I heed the sensation, it is neither good nor bad –it just is. Next I make my tea and savour the warmth of my mug as I hobble back to bed. Spilling a little of the liquid I simply notice that there is a spillage and will clear it up later. Back in bed, looking out the window, drinking tea, I accept my reality without labelling it as “good” or “bad” and I relax and feel content. I am not comparing my lot with anyone else or with the fitter me of yesteryear, I am simply accepting the truth of what is happening right now. Sipping my tea I feel happy, my chi expands and I smile at the day ahead –whatever  challenges it may hold.

 In the way described above I  go with the flow – I accept and am aware fully of my reality with all its challenges and in so doing I  relax, unwind and know contentment –another word for happiness.

 A study undertaken by Robert Biswas-Diener* among the homeless and slum dwellers of Calcutta found that in many spheres of life their satisfaction level was virtually on a par with university students. Sociologists explain this by the fact that these slum dwellers have let go of aspiring to improve their status and are easily satisfied when they obtain the basics in life such as food. In other words they are accepting of their reality and feel content.  On the other hand it is probably true to say that  if the millionaire in his penthouse  is  constantly striving and competing to acquire more then, in his discontent he will be more prone  than the slum dwellers of Calcutta to unhappiness.  Contentment through acceptance of  your status quo  is ultimately therefore the key to happiness.

 Here is a Daoist meditation to encourage contentment and happiness and so help your energy to expand and flourish

 The Inner Smile 

  • Sit on a chair with straightened spine and closed eyes. Inhale slowly through your nose and gently exhale through your mouth .Do this several times.
  • As you inhale feel a movement all the way down to the Dan Tien – the energy centre just below the naval.  Allow your abdomen to expand as your diaphragm moves down in a full breath, then let your abdomen relax as you exhale completely. Breathe continuously, with no pauses between the exhalation and the inhalation.
  • As you breathe smile into your naval and Dan Tien and then bring your awareness into your Heart area.
  • Feel the flame of love deep within your Heart—a  warm light that is your deepest , most real Self. Smile into your Heart centre and feel a healing light  radiating out to all the cells of your Heart.
  • Now turn your awareness to each of your organs in turn –stomach and spleen, lungs and intestines, kidneys and bladder, gall bladder and liver and smile into each organ whilst breathing deeply and feeling calm and peaceful.
  •   Come back to the Heart and rest there feeling the Inner Smile harmonising and balancing your energy and be aware of feeling happy and content.                                  

 If you want to order my e book "A Balanced Way of Living" please go to
http://www.postpolioinfo.com/balanced_way.php

 OCTOBER 2015

FEELING THE BLUES

If you have been experiencing the challenges of neurological symptoms, have had to give up work and a large part of your social life, you are bound to sometimes feel low in your spirits. Take heart though and remind yourself that it is absolutely normal to feel this way.  A syndrome such as  PPS can bring about huge changes to one’s life and can evoke a sense of loss of control in and over your life and therefore a bout of the blues. 

 My perceptions of life and illness have been altered by my experience of Post Polio Syndrome and also by my study of Chinese medicine and its philosophy which is the background to my practise of acupuncture.  The philosophy behind Chinese medicine is full of down to earth wisdom which offers us a new perspective on life and these truths can teach us to cope better with challenges to our health and well being.  Chinese medicine has its origins in the Daoist philosophy that flowered in China thousands of years ago.  The body of knowledge that has come down to us holds that there is a vital force that permeates all life.  This energy is known as “ Chi “ and when it flows within us steadily and calmly then we will feel positive and upbeat –even if we are not feeling a hundred per cent well physically. Conversely if the Chi is insufficient or is blocked ( because of pathogens, physical trauma or suppressed emotional states) we may find ourselves feeling low and depressed. The antidote to feeling blue, according to Daoist theory therefore, is to clear the blockage in the flow of Chi but a first step towards this is to alter one’s view and perspective on life.

The Chinese sage Chuang Tzu said  “Plunging in with the whirl, I came out with the swirl.  I accommodate myself to the water, not the water to me.  And so I am able to deal with it.”  (Chuang Tzu.) What is meant here is that we may not always have control over everything that happens to us but we can choose to take control of our attitude by going with the flow of life, facing and accepting the difficulties it may present.  For many years I met challenges in a confrontational type A manner and always tried to force life to go my way. With a decline in my physical health I began to realise that this approach was unhelpful. In the Chinese view to try to force life to behave as you would wish it to is both futile and stressful for it expends energy. Instead what is needed  is an acceptance of what life brings as this more relaxed attitude will conserve energy. This attitude is known by Daoists as the “way of wu- wei”—flowing with one’s circumstances. 

 Accepting the natural flow of life’s events - to face up to the fact that we are not able to function as we once did, that we feel exhausted, frustrated, saddened and scared by our symptoms, all of this is difficult but ultimately it will allow us to go forward.  When we accept the river of life we begin to let go of struggling against the current and start to go on a new journey.  As we say “yes” to our challenges instead of rejecting ourselves we start to feel more loving and accepting of our selves and our situation. Through acceptance and relaxing towards the difficulties in our lives so we will feel more empowered, more in control  and thus much more positive and upbeat.

Once we have decided to choose an  attitude of acceptance, of “going with the flow” we  start to slow down and yield to life rather than fighting it. As this relaxation and opening takes place so we may start to feel the need to express feelings that have perhaps been buried. This can be an uncomfortable time but ultimately to deny feelings will mean that the Chi remains blocked and we will remain feeling low in our spirits.  Conversely if we are aware of our feelings of grief, fear or anger and can release them then they will be as clouds in the sky - here one minute and gone the next.

 

When you feel low allow yourself to experience all your feelings.  Let yourself cry, feel angry and if possible share your feelings with a friend. Any of the following ways will help us to let go of pent up emotions. Unexpressed feelings can drain us and add to exhaustion - once expressed we can feel revitalised.

  • Share your feelings with a trained councillor or therapist.  Preferably work with one who focuses on how you feel currently rather than one who is over analytical.
  • Write about your feelings in a daily journal.
  • Physically let go of pent up emotions – try this chi gung exercise to let out any angry feelings
  1. Bring hands into loose fists and hold them facing upwards at either side of the waist. If you cannot move hands simply visualise the movements.
  2. Take a deep breath in, exhale through the mouth with a loud “haa!” as you  punch with  the left fist turning it over so that it is faced downwards when fully extended. Return the fist to the left side.
  3. Do the same with the right fist and return to the right side.

Repeat 5  times.

 Always think of seeking help if you suspect you are feeling seriously depressed. If at any time you feel extreme symptoms such as inappropriate feelings of guilt and low self esteem or suicidal feelings then you may be experiencing a major depressive disorder and I would advise you to seek help from a heath professional.

To ensure the free flowing of the Chi and thus resolve the blues it is important to have a healthy Liver and Gall bladder that work easily to eliminate wastes from the body and purify the blood. When the Chi flows easily in these organs we feel positive and upbeat. Conversely if the Chi is stagnant we can feel depressed. To give your mind and body a spring clean I suggest you try the following Liver Flush drink .

  • Drink this in the morning –first thing. Take it for 10 day cycles followed by 3 days off.
  • Mix citrus juices together to make one cup of liquid. Orange and lemon or grapefruit are good.
  • Add 2 cloves of fresh chopped garlic plus a small amount of grated ginger.
  • Mix in 1 tablespoon of cold pressed olive oil. Blend and drink
  • Follow the flush with 2 cups of cleansing herb tea such as fennel or peppermint. Wait an hour before eating.

 Also take the following supplements daily to help maintain a healthy nervous system.

  • Vitamin B complex.
  • Magnesium 300 mgs a day

As the Liver and Gall Bladder are the organs associated particularly with the blockage of Chi giving rise to depression, it would be helpful to massage acupuncture points on the channels of energy (meridians) associated with these organs—perhaps every day.

  • The Gall Bladder has points on its meridian around the eyes so spend time daily with the following movements Rub palms together until hands are hot then place them over the eyes. Repeat 10 times.
  • Put your hands over your ears and with thumbs locate the depression at the side of the base of the skull. Massage gently with circular movements for 3 minutes 2 x daily.
  • Massage in a downward direction Point Liver 3 “Supreme Rushing” found in the angle of your foot between the big toe and second toe for 3 minutes 2x daily.

 Experiencing the blues gives us a chance to look at life afresh and learn to “go with the flow”. Affirm daily;” I take what is open to me in this moment and trust in the flow of life”. Accept your feelings, free up your life and you will find this is truly a time of growth and creativity.

 

SEPTEMBER 2015

CONSERVING ENERGY  

More and more we talk of the need, environmentally, to conserve energy as we realise that the earth’s resources are finite and need to be rested and protected. And it is only by working supportively together that we can make changes, protect our dwindling resources in order to sustain our planet and ensure its(and our) survival.

 Daoists also value conservation rather than expenditure of energy but suggest that rather than just focusing solely on “green” issues we start with our personal, individual environments taking it upon ourselves to simplify our lives and reduce our levels of activity. Furthermore Daoists  understand that no man is an island –we are all connected and as such need to work together and actively support and encourage each other to conserve energy so that we may be refreshed and replenished in body, mind and spirit. As we learn to simplify our lives and care for each other so our changed behaviour will have a positive and “green” impact on the environment of our planet.

 A Simple and Restful Life

Daoists refer to Nature as the best teacher and observe that in the winter everything withdraws and goes into hibernation. When it is winter we all need to accept a reduction in activity and take more rest, as plant life does, than in the summer when everything grows and flourishes.

 When we are physically challenged we may have to encourage ourselves to be more often in “winter mode” and take plenty of rest.  We need to learn to value this time and see purpose in it.  Just as seeds need to be dormant before developing into shoots so our resting time can allow us to develop helpful insights.  In this way we connect with the deep wisdom of our inner selves and build energy so that we can be more active when necessary.  Here are some  ways to create a more simple, restful life and so conserve and replenish energy levels.

 Always plan at least 2 rest periods per day.  I try to practise meditation, chi-gung and breathing exercises in the morning for an hour and have a one hour nap in the afternoon.  Resting must mean a total break from all distraction and noise.  I turn off the phone and tell everyone not to disturb me.  Call me an old grouch if you like but I know what helps me to feel better!

 Alternate periods of activity with breaks.  Break activities up into chunks and do a little at a time.  If I work on my computer for an hour I will then take 15 minutes to recover the energy expended.

 We can conserve energy by simplifying our environment. All it takes is some planning and organising plus a little help from friends and family to make everything easily accessible in your home—shelves at the right height, grab bars where needed and anything else that reduces hassle and strain. And do not bother with energy sapping activities such as ironing or drying dishes unless you really really must! 

  “Have to” and “should” need to be used rarely.  In this way we cut back on tasks involving duty and increase on the level of pleasure!  I now avoid loading myself with situations that I used to push myself through.  If they cannot be avoided then I get on with the task in hand but I focus on the fact that this stressful activity will soon be over and meantime it is an opportunity for growth - a chance to practise going with the flow and breathing techniques!    

  Living a restful life conserving energy does not mean wrapping ourselves in cottonwool! A truly restful life contains variety and a balance of work and play.  Some time needs to be spent in pursuit of hobbies and other leisure activities.  Creative expression can release pent up emotions and through activities such as painting or writing we can let go of our feelings and feel reenergised. 

 Alone time can be very nourishing-- we need to be alone with ourselves to contemplate and regenerate.  Find the time to sit in the garden or local park and absorb the pleasures of nature. This also gives us the opportunity to observe that plants and animals naturally alternate activity with stillness –always conserving their precious energy. 

 Being Supportive of Each Other

As much as we need time alone we also need to know we are part of a greater whole. Daoists see the universe and all therein –the “ten thousand things” - as an energetic web. Life force energy sustains this web and supports all the  “ten thousand things” in order to create a balanced and harmonious whole. As physically challenged survivors we need to feel part of the web of life – nourished, supported and thus energised. Sometimes we can feel alone and excluded and at these times we can feel dis-empowered, weak and low in energy.

 A polio survivor once said to me “It is difficult obtaining help when one is proud and independent”. We need to let go of the kind of pride that leaves us feeling isolated and exhausted and instead feel able to reach out and ask for help so that we may conserve energy, feel re-empowered, and part of the web of life.

 Stressors can be endured more easily when you have a strong supportive network of family and friends.  Research shows that good health depends on a support system.  Ethnic communities often do not have the same stress related diseases that the rest of us do simply because they are composed of close knit groupings –friends and family. 

 As  survivors we need to learn that it is OK to ask for help and accept the support and encouragement that others can give.  So often we have taught ourselves to push on independently of others - we can manage fine on our own. Instead of being ultra brave and strong we need to be realistic.  We need to accept our disability pragmatically and trust others to help us.  Many of us have support networks set up, others need to construct them.  The key to support is communication - we need to be able to clearly express what help we need.  In this way we will not feel that we have lost control of our independence.

 We need to be aware that as much as we need to be supported we are also capable of giving support.  The stress pioneer - Hans Selye found that the best way to be loved was to act lovingly towards others.  He described this as “altruistic egoism” .Whatever we put out is mirrored back to us - when we extend love and care we will receive the same in return. 

 Let us make our lives as simple, restful and relaxed as possible and let us all take good care of each other. This is the Daoists recipe for energy conservation that, when practised with compassion and sincerity can  help us to heal  our lives and heal our planet.

 AUGUST 2015

NATURE'S WAY.
Daoists suggest that we apply the laws of Nature to our personal lives and through observation of these laws we see that expansion is always followed by contraction. We see this most clearly when spring and summer, seasons of growth and flourishing of plant and animal life give way to autumn and winter –times when growth ceases, when hibernation takes place –a contraction, a conservation and respite before another phase of growth can begin.

We who are physically challenged can benefit hugely from this wisdom. Often we have become high achieving, perfectionists who push to achieve and expand ourselves beyond our physical and mental limits. Expanding in this type A way has helped us to cope with often extremely stressful situations but by pushing ourselves too hard - overworking and over exercising we then find ourselves undergoing an extreme contraction in the shape of pain, fatigue and burn out. Working with Nature means deciding not to push ourselves to the point of collapse but instead we follow the example of the seasons –after a period of activity we take time to rest, reflect and so conserve and preserve energy.

But how do we, who have pushed ourselves hard and gone against the grain so often, learn to slow down and pace ourselves? We might think of forcing ourselves into a regime of resting and pacing but this will simply be more Type A behaviour pushing us on. Instead we need to start to quietly listen to the wisdom of the body/mind –the inner promptings of Nature that can tell us when we need to be active and when we need to slow down.

The ancient Chinese book the Dao-te Ching says:
The five colours can blind,
The five tones deafen,
The five tastes cloy,
The race, the hunt, can drive men mad
And their booty leave them no peace.
Therefore the sensible man
Prefers the inner to the outer eye.

There is nothing particularly mystical or “airy-fairy” about connecting with the ‘inner eye’--one’s innate intelligence. All living organisms live in accordance with this creative force. A flower closes on a cloudy day and opens when the sun shines - it obeys its instinctual, intelligent nature. In the same way we need to tune into our innate intelligence and know when to be active and when to rest. Recent discoveries in biophysics show the presence of neuropeptides - intelligent hormone like substances that circulate in the blood. This backs up what the Daoists have maintained for thousands of years - that intelligence is circulated throughout the whole body and is not resident solely in the brain. Every cell of our being has the wisdom to guide us if we stop pushing ourselves and instead relax and listen to our innate wisdom.

Start to listen to your inner promptings, become aware of gut feelings that tell you what is good for you and conversely what will drain your energy. Whether its to do with work, diet, exercise or any aspect of your life rely always on your inner feelings to guide you in the right direction. Experts’ advice is always interesting but ultimately trust only your inner guide who has your best interests at heart.

To be able to tune into your natural inner wisdom you need to create a still calm space within unassailed by the chitter chatter of the busy mind which will always encourage you to do and be more than you are. In this still calm space you know that you do not need to be anybody except who you are in this moment, you do not to be anywhere except where you are right now –everything is perfect as it is here and now.

Listening to the Wisdom of your Body/Mind
Sit or lie down to practise this exercise.
• Breathe from your Dan Tien (sea of energy)–the energy centre just below the naval.
• As you inhale feel a movement all the way down to the Dan Tien . Allow your abdomen to expand as your diaphragm moves down in a full breath, then let your abdomen relax as you exhale completely. Breathe continuously, with no pauses between the exhalation and the inhalation.
• As you sit or lie become aware of your mind slowing down and the softness of your breath filling all the cells of your being.
• Visualise a window opening on the top of your head and light pouring through it from a radiant star that is the source of all your wisdom.
• Ask a question and in the silence be receptive to the answer –it may come as a thought or an image or a feeling .
• Affirm “ I will always have the guidance I need to help me conserve and preserve my energy and so live a peaceful and happy life”.

Please feel free to contact me at balancedwayofliving@gmail.com re comments . Also if you want I can notify you whenever a new article appears.

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