Meditations on Flight

**The following is an account of a transformative experience I had while at the New Year’s Eve Contact Improvisation Jam at Earthdance retreat center in Plainfield, MA. I was there from December 27-Jan 1, 2012/13. Visit www.earthdance.net to read more about this extraordinary place.**

The square barn at Earthdance

The square barn at Earthdance, decorated for the New Year’s Eve festivities

All day my shoulders had been hurting. Not in the place I usually get my knots—under the left scapula—but a bit higher, more towards the spine. Anne worked on them, Elizabeth worked on them. Nothing budged.

At the New Year’s Eve festival, the square barn had been transformed into a beautiful meditation space. Each of the four corners had become an “altar” of sorts, representing and honoring each of the four natural elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water. There were pillows on the floor for meditating, candles lit, fabric draped, and small trinkets and objects around representing the elements (pine cones and small branches for Earth, feathers and dream catchers for Air, candles and orange metallic fabric for Fire, and water, floating flowers, and a fountain for Water. It was extraordinary. Dimly lit, serene, contemplative. But all the while, my shoulders and back hurting in that same, foreign spot.

I am an Aries, a Fire sign. In so many ways I am a very typical Aries—opinionated, enthusiastic, a leader, assertive, a child at heart. Naturally, I started my meditation at the Fire corner. It was comfortable, familiar. I moved to the Air corner, then Water, then Earth. But I kept being called to the Air altar. It was strange to me, feeling truly beckoned by the Air corner, as I don’t think of myself as having the typical characteristics of the Air signs. But I listened to whatever it was, this force that was reaching for me, and spent a great deal of time at the Air altar. With my shoulders and back still aching.

There were also two places set aside where you could write Statements of “Truth” that were going to be burned in the bonfire later that night. The airquotes around “Truth” were because the idea was to write down the negative things we say and hear about ourselves, to recognize the things we tend to believe as truth when, in fact, they are the lies we are told, the ones we tell ourselves, that eat away at us and decay us from the inside out. I found great solace in writing down all those lies (probably used more than my fair share of paper…), knowing that they would blacken, crinkle, and disappear in the bonfire, in good company with the other lies. The rest of the New Year’s Eve celebration continued in a glorious, festive extravaganza. Late into the night, we danced and sang, partied and connected. These people I had only known for a handful of days were now kindred spirits, bound to me by the magic of what Earthdance provides.

umbrella barn

The beautiful Umbrella Barn at Earthdance

The next day was my day of traveling home. Hilary led a Contemplative Dance (also known as Authentic Movement) session at 8 am, so there was only a small group of us (others were still sleeping off the night’s festivities). Contemplative dance is sort of a combination of meditation and improvised movement. From contemplativedance.org, “It feels centering like meditation; intimate like prayer; meaningful and transformative like ritual. It heals the “split” between mind and body, spirit and matter. It brings insight into some of life’s core issues, and provides an opportunity to express and celebrate them.” Hilary led us through a dance meditation and I had what I can only describe as…a vision. An experience.

The thing that first struck me was color. Normally when I close my eyes in a brightly lit room (as the umbrella barn was that morning), there is a warm, orange-red color on the backs of my eyelids. But this particular morning, all I could see were shades of purple and green swirling. It was so different that it was almost alarming. But I stuck with it.

Hilary continued to lead us through the contemplative meditation, focusing on going back into the “real” world after being in the blissful utopia of Earthdance for 5 days. She was leading us through questions like, “How can we hang on to this feeling? How can we take this feeling into our everyday world?”

As I rolled, writhed, spun on the floor, the hot spots on my back that had been hurting felt like they were burning. For some reason I was able to discern that I was in no physical danger, that it had something to do with the movement experience. My arms were wrapped around my torso, slapping, clawing, tearing at my back. I just knew that I needed to free…something. I flipped, somersaulted, rolled…no relief.

And then it hit.

I literally had a VISION. As clear as can be. I had a vision that the pain in my back, the pain that had been plaguing me for two solid days, was because…

There were wings under my skin that were trying to get out. There were WINGS trying to get out.

I was unaware of when exactly I started weeping, but I just allowed myself to swim in the experience. I tried to figure out how to free the wings, how to get them to the surface so they could expand. And they finally did—unfurling in magnificent splendor, brightly colored like the cover of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Perestroika. And as soon as they were fully extended, I burst into an explosion of fire.

The Air sign becoming the Fire sign.

The pain, the burning, the now-undeniable understanding that I needed to free something that had been trapped, had been turned into a blazing fire that engulfed the negativity, the negative self-talk that was decades in the making, the aspects of myself that had been denied and buried for so long.

And as the mythology, the legend goes, I felt…reborn. I felt renewed, relieved, restored. Able to go back to my family as a better wife, a better mother, a better friend and colleague and sister and daughter…a better ME. A phoenix.

snow angel

A sweet person left a snow angel on the ground to greet us on our way to the farmhouse.

Advertisements

GAPS Days 2 and 3: Starting to see the suckage

Okay…so we started to see “die-off” symptoms right away on Day 2. For those who don’t know, when the “tummy baddies” (bad bacteria like the yeast Candida Albicans) die as a result of the diet, they release toxins. The toxins cause a number of complications: headache, irritability, anxiousness, etc.

Tummy buddy vs. tummy baddy

(Image from http://www.childrensprobiotics.co.uk)

Wickett had a really hard time and was bouncing off the walls on Monday afternoon (Day 2). He was chattering away, sometimes gibberish stuff, almost like he was reverting to echolalia. Boba, Tim, and I were better off, but still not great. I have had a WICKED headache since Sunday.

Fixing meals that the kids like has been a real challenge. Unfortunately we sort of have to go with the “if they get hungry enough, they’ll eat” attitude. We’re letting them eat pretty much what they want from the Intro Diet Stage 1 list, so sometimes it’s not particularly balanced. But it’s temporary, so they’ll be okay.

Some foods/dishes from days 2 and 3:
Beef roast with onions, carrots, and cauliflower
Chicken thighs with onions, carrots, and broccoli
More soups (butternut squash, chicken and broccoli, beef and vegetables, etc.)

It’s not easy, folks. But we’re sticking with it.

Namaste.

GAPS Day 1: It has begun…

…cue the ominous music…

We officially started the GAPS diet on Sunday, July 6th. For more information on the diet and why we’re doing it, check out my previous post.

Day 1
Breakfast: Butternut squash soup
Mid-Morning Snack: Chicken and broccoli soup
Lunch-ish: Chicken breast with zucchini, squash, cauliflower, and onions
Dinner: Meatballs, zucchini, squash, onions, and pureed butternut squash

The boys did…*okay*. Not great, but okay. I think Wickett “gets it” more than Boba, because he’s been doing some sort of restricted diet for 2.5 yrs. But Boba? Poor guy kept asking about juice, fruit, cereal, etc. I hear ya, buddy…I hear ya.

We read through the social story I wrote (a little book talking about the diet, why we’re doing it, etc.) before bedtime, and they seemed at least a little interested.

So…day 1? Not a huge deal. I didn’t *love* any of the food we had, and it was certainly a challenge to try and get the boys to eat it, but I am glad for the changes I know will be coming.

Namaste, y’all.

Dun dun DUUUUUNNNNNNNN!

Image

Well, let’s just skip past the fact that I haven’t posted in ages.

*pause to allow you to skip past*

Thanks.


 

Our whole family is soon embarking on a dietary adventure that will no doubt be incredibly challenging. I figure that the opportunity to blog about it will allow me to 1) process the journey through writing and 2) keep friends and family (and total strangers…hi!) up-to-date on what’s going on in our crazy world.

The short version: The GAPS diet. Stands for “Gut And Psychology Syndrome.” Read more about it here.

ImageThe longer version, for those who are still with me:

Essentially, Wicket needs a gut “reset.” He has what is sometimes referred to as “leaky gut” syndrome, meaning that there are microscopic perforations in his intestines that let things out that are supposed to stay in, and let things in that are supposed to stay out. It is often caused by systemic inflammation and dysfunctional immune response, but it brilliantly also *causes* systemic inflammation and dysfunctional immune response. Neat-o! He also has intestinal yeast overgrowth (also neat) and a list-so-long-it-is-vomit-inducing of foods that he has mild to severe intolerances to. Neat thing #3.

So the GAPS diet is a way to help heal his gut and get all of his systems playing nicely together. There is a strong “gut-brain” connection, essentially meaning that we see behavioral manifestations of his GI dysfunction. He doesn’t have traditional food allergies (like peanuts or tree nuts where people immediately get hives and trouble breathing, etc.). Food intolerances or sensitivities have a delayed immune response of anywhere from a few hours to literally days or weeks, which makes it hard to pinpoint what the offending foods are.

The GAPS intro diet is a few weeks of intensely boring yet necessary dietary changes that will lay the foundation for the healing to take place. We’ll make a lot of homemade bone broth, soups from that broth, fermented vegetables, and boiled meat (*sigh*). We add easily-digestible vegetables like butternut squash, cauliflower, broccoli, and onions. The stages following slowly start to add in foods that are harder to digest, introducing them carefully so that offending foods can easily be identified. There’s a very specific list of foods that you can and can’t have on the GAPS diet.

The kicker? We’re ALL doing it. Wicket, Boba, Tim, and I. Part of it is solidarity with Wicket to show him that we love him and support him; part of it is to make it easier on all of us (it seems pretty crappy for us to pig out on pizza, Indian food, etc.while Wicket is eating boiled meat and bone broth…couldn’t blame him if he went Al-Pacino-at-the-end-of-Scarface on us); but part of it is also to give all of us that same “reset.” I have gained weight (a topic that is a billion posts in itself), we all feel sluggish, and we suspect that Boba also has some undiagnosed dietary issues. Heck, maybe Tim and I do, too.

To tell you the truth, I am excited. And scared. Well, excited AND scared (thanks, Sondheim!). This diet is INTENSE, y’all. The prospect of having to get a challenging 4 yo and 6 yo to eat kimchi makes me want to stick a fork in my eye. BUT. But. The stories I’ve read, you guys. The stories of healing, of lightbulbs going off, of relationships being repaired, of progress made…well…I’m excited. And scared.

Thanks to all of you for your support! If you’re not already following the blog, be sure to subscribe and you’ll get an email when I’ve posted.

Cheers,

~Lisa~

Image

Kimchi, y’all! I made it myself!

Desiderata

I am blue tonight. Won’t go into why right now (later post, perhaps), but I just am. When I feel blue, one thing I like to do is to read Max Ehrmann’s 1927 poem “Desiderata.” I have a copy of it on the wall in my office; I try to read it daily. I thought I’d share it with my blog world in case you might find it helpful, too. XOXO

Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.