Archive for December, 2010

PUTTING ROMANCE WHERE IT BELONGS

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Nothing will kill romance like cycle after cycle of ovulation monitoring and timed intercourse. I see loads of BBT charts where the intercourse column is empty all month long, and then around days 10-15, it is crowded with checkmarks. It makes me exhausted remembering those days myself, not that I was the one who had to perform – I was the “controller.” My husband had to try to perform according to the controller’s directives.

Month after month, year after year, libido suffers, virility dwindles, and hearts close. Assisted technology, for many, seems like a relief, or at least a reprieve from the cycle of sex on demand. But then it becomes production on demand, which doesn’t seem to get many any closer to their goal. Virility lessons, despair settles in, and it seems that only great effort can accomplish what once was our greatest desire and release.

Remember when it was the heart’s connection that brought you and your spouse together? Remember when you made love and it opened you up? Remember when there was a freshness to your desires, which didn’t need to be forced? Can you find that again? Intimacy can’t be forced; the heart won’t allow it. The heart opens up when it is honored.

Life seems not to want to abide by our imposed rules. I remember when my daughter Kyra was in grade school; she loved to play games like hide and seek with her friends; yet sometimes she would make up her own rules as they went along, and nobody enjoyed playing with her anymore. She couldn’t understand why they weren’t having as much fun as she was. When we were in China, she missed the known comforts of home, and loved to go to McDonald’s Playplace. I overheard her demanding of one of her young Chinese friends, “Why can’t you just speak English!?”
Her friend, like life, knew, she simply couldn’t play by someone else’s rules, and walked away.

In my own situation, like many others I see, it was only when we stopped forcing it that the heart could open back up, connect to the womb, and let life through. It happened during the months our timing was off, that we were sure we “missed it.” Life never abided by my rules; it always had its own laws, which I couldn’t harness or control. I couldn’t even pray my way around them. I found I could, however, live in accordance with the laws of the universe. I could eat as nature provided, when I was hungry. I could exercise when my body wanted to move, emote when I was full of feelings, and sleep when I was tired. I could follow the energy of my heart instead of my brain. And my physiology seemed to open up and say, “yes” again. Each time, it boggled the mind. Wouldn’t you know, it happened when we weren’t trying; when we thought we missed it.

It was as if every time, life was beckoning me to the recognition that it had its own inviolate laws that I was a part of, if only I would play along instead of making life play by my rules.

Romance belongs to the heart; not the mind. Live in accordance with love.

How Dr Lewis’ Retreats Alleviate the Pain of Infertility

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

The first order of business for those who are having difficulty conceiving is, of course, to remove obstructions to reproductive health and to enhance fertility. When I started the Fertile Soul retreat process, this was, of course, our primary motive.

Over the years, however, it became abundantly clear that there was a secondary issue that could not be separated from the first. The pain of not being able to conceive is intimately intertwined with the fertility difficulty. I have found that when the suffering over the issue is alleviated, the obstructions are easier to rectify.

Imagine that you are having a challenge with your conception efforts, but there is no pain and suffering over it. Life goes on, with the same loves, joys, challenges, and richness. The agonizing sense of failure is not there. You love your life, your partner, and experience the beauty and abundance in all of life. One of the best pain relievers is a drug that helps you “forget” the pain pathway, even while the painful stimulus is present. This isn’t about denial; it’s about the healing strength of our attentive powers.

I remember a woman who came to retreat last year making this recognition. She said, “I have come to accept that I may not be able to have a baby. But what I miss most of all is being able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life again.”

We all have the source of life within us. We haven’t lost it, no matter how far off it may seem. If you can imagine your mind letting go of the “infertility” story, if only for an instant, you may be able to be struck by the awe of witnessing the miracle of a sunset again. Of feeling the chill of the winter air and knowing that it doesn’t mean the warmth of all of life is over, just that there is a chill in the air. Spring will come again.

Imagine looking in the mirror and liking what you see; witnessing hope in your eyes again. Imagine experiencing your body as the most wondrous miracle in existence. Imagine being in awe of the creative power that you embody. The story of “infertility” would be just that – a chapter that you are no longer interested in reading.

You may even be able to enjoy holiday gatherings. You may be able to make new traditions that do not center around the scarcity of your “infertility” story, but instead embrace the creative power as it is still expressing itself. Allow yourself to feel the hurt, anguish and loss. Don’t push any of it away. Only then can you rise above it. Have the courage to stand in the midst of the pain and let it dissolve. Have the courage to cry, and still show up for life.

In the dead of winter, there is a call for life to emerge. That which we resist (infertility), persists. That which we attend to (the Life force) grows stronger. Where is your focus going to be this holiday season? On scarcity or abundance? The choice is yours. As you show up for life, acknowledge your pain as you enjoy the smell of holiday fragrances. Experience gratitude for what you already have, and share in the gift of giving. The lives of those we admire most were not one sided – they did not hide out from their pain. They stood in the midst of the pain, and found in it the greatest gift life has to offer. The gift of life itself. All of it.

With gratitude to our Wellness coach, Michelle Galatoire for inspiring this topic.

The School of Unlearning: The Road to Learning Traditional Chinese Medicine

Monday, December 13th, 2010

I remember when, fresh out of med school and my own fertility challenges, I enrolled in a Masters program in Oriental medicine. Eager to begin my studying early, I asked the academic Dean what I could do to enhance my ability to learn Chinese medicine. Expecting assignments and encouragement for my enthusiasm, she simply said, “Forget everything you’ve learned about Western medicine so you can open your mind.” I was utterly deflated. I had always been praised for my keen intellect and ability to prepare for what was to come. This was not the way to prepare a Type A, Straight A overachiever.

TCM school continued to challenge my overdeveloped mental aptitude. Amazingly enough, so did my fertility challenges. I thought I could think, study, and research my way into better fertility. I thought if I could only find the right doctor, the right exercise, diet, herbs or treatment modality, I would be fixed.

If I could provide the undoing instructions that I found, it would like something like this:

Unlearn your goal-oriented approach.
Stop relying on your BBT charts and timed intercourse.
Leave your labs alone!
Leave the hormonal stimulation alone.
Stop trying to figure this out.

Even in the study of Chinese medicine and more esoteric spiritual healing practices, there is a heavy reliance on learning the lineage. Do what those before you did. The more life wizens me, the more I come to realize that nobody else has my answers. No teacher, no doctor, no healer, no discipline. In every discipline, there was always the first one who came to know. Then everyone tries to emulate him or her. It seems my own personal path is that I have to be the one to find my own way. My direction has only arisen from the direct experience of my own life, as it is, and the answers that have always been found within my heart.

They don’t come like solutions to a problem, though. They come more like an obvious pointing toward a certain direction. They don’t tell me where I will end up, only how to pick up my foot and take the very next step. My body gives me the answers every time. My gut clenches when Life says no. My heart opens when Life says yes.

I remember when my gut clenched in my doctor’s office when he told me the dismal prognosis of my fertility. I remember when my heart opened up in the face of seeming no hope. I remember the shock of my doctor’s face when there was a strong heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. Nobody out there had my answers. Life showed me my own direction through the depth of my own heart.

My heart is opening even though I have no answers right now. I don’t know if I will remain married or not. In the face of this uncertainty, I can see that I’ve never known where life was taking me. I only took credit for it after the fact. I don’t know what tomorrow will look like, what I’ll be doing, or with whom. And the amazing thing is, I no longer even want to know. I want to unlearn all of the false certainties, the silly illusions of security, and live on the front edge of life where I can meet all possibilities in the mysterious unknown.

That is where my children came from – they did not come from my answers or anyone else’s. I didn’t learn them into existence; they showed up right out of the depth of the unknown; the miraculous.

ROMANTIC IDEAS OF LIFE

Monday, December 13th, 2010

This morning I awoke to the soft sound of raindrops hitting the tin roof of my new log cabin, curled up in a quilt, alone. Not so long ago that romantic image alighted the fantasy of living by myself in a log cabin in the mountains. It is now a reality, and not nearly as romantic; especially when I have to get up to load logs into the wood fire so I don’t freeze by morning.

Merriam Webster describes romantic as: having no basis in fact; imaginary. Marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious or idealized.

In Chinese medicine, this visionary characteristic belongs to the element known as wood, which governs the right brain’s ability to create what we would like to see, and implement plans to move toward. It also governs the emotional qualities of longing, yearning, and desire. Physiologically, the wood energies are able to harness our foundational reproductive energies and reroute them toward achievement of whatever goal we have envisioned: a new career, a new home, or perhaps more money. Nature, I have noticed, does not utilize this right brain characteristic to reproduce itself. It simply takes the reproductive energies, alights them, and creates more of itself. When nature moves toward a “goal”, it is in survival mode, and turns off the reproductive energies so it can achieve its directive of staying alive. Human beings are the only creatures who possess romantic ideas that can actually blind them to the harsh realities of life as it is, so we can create what we want. Is this a gift or a curse?

Although all of life hungers to remain alive and can take action to do so, human beings are the only creatures who seem to have opinions about what is, judge it as right or wrong, and move toward its “correction.” Again, we move out of reproductive mode and into survival mode when we alter our world to fit our ideas about it. It is precisely what allows us to take our creative energies and instead of creating babies, we can create art, museums, industrial products, religions and wars. When a goal is created in the mind and we move toward it, our hormonal focus shifts away from supporting the housekeeping functions like digestion and reproduction. The hypothalamus reduces production of gonadotropin releasing hormone, and produces gonadotropin inhibitory hormone instead. And the cascade goes on and on, altering pituitary, ovarian and cellular function to take us out of baby making mode.

In fact, this whole process is generated by our romantic ideas. When a baby is an idealistic goal, it moves out of our reproductive capacity to create it. I remember taking the pure longing for a child, turning it into a goal, and using all I knew to try to make it happen. BBT charts, timed intercourse, doctor visits, lab values, altering diet, and getting treated, as if I would magically come up with the baby recipe. Nope. Babies are not romantic ideas. Mine came on their own when I stopped trying to make them.

Life does what it does. When it is time to be in a cabin alone, the opportunity shows up. When it is time to stoke the fire, I stoke the fire. The more I can let go of my ideas about it, the more Life can live itself through me, beautifully unobstructed by my romantic goals.