What the Body Remembers: Healing Somatic Muscle Memory

It’s important to learn where the pain started. My foot pain started rather suddenly five years ago, and progressed quickly into an acutely debilitating ailment. Not only was the pain sharp, it had no precipitating event that I could discern. That began a long journey into medical care, acupuncture and loss of mobility. Later I learned that part of my pain was psychic, and triggered by profound imminent loss.  After the loss, the gradual return of functionality has been punctuated with frequent pain similar to the early onset. Could it be that my body remembers this pain?

Looking at diagrams of human feet requires lengthy focused sessions, wherein I read the descriptions and try to match what I see in the textbook to my own unique female body. We are not all the same. We must allow for individual genetics, physicality and gender to inform what and how we see. I invite intuition to guide my educated guesses–willing to cross an option off the list. “Don’t get attached to the results,” I tell myself.

The foot has numerous bones, 26 altogether. Ligaments, tendons and muscles bind bone and nerve. The two hold up our entire body. Finally after hours of sifting through information, a story begins to emerge. I see clearly the pathway of the inferior and superior peroneal retinaculum that sheaths the peroneus brevis muscle that pulses red hot like embers during and after a walk. The tibiocalcaneal ligament evokes my sympathy when I see it on the page. I make a note of that. I’m not sure, yet, but this is important. I’m beginning to understand where the pain resides. Understanding will allow me to focus healing attention to the areas in need.

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In between, I’m determined to move, run and walk mindfully as I heal. I know that in the mornings, my pain is the memory of something: When my sister died and was torn from me in a particularly savage way? Is it the familiar signal the body sends like a cue from the bladder? Is my pain a signal broken on the “on” position? For now, I’m holding firm to my intention to heal myself, knowing that part of this experience is somatic, another physical. I pray to release any spent energies from my emotional, physical and spirituals bodies–to let go of whatever I can. I touch the area gently with Reiki and salve, creating new memories for these places within. There is no fix. There is only the journey inward toward wholeness.

 

Healing Begins with Paying Attention: Start by Identifying What You Want to Heal

Where is your pain? What is the shape of it? How long does it last? By interrogating our bodies, we can map out the areas that need attention. This requires quiet time, Quiet time can come in the form of prayer, meditation, even bath time. Once we know where it is and what it does, When we can study the body’s systems using resources developed by professionals, those resources provide a roadmap of what we already know and don’t need to invent. it gives us more power to discern the root of the disease and heal it.

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For my primary focus in this post, I’ll look to provide context for my ear to understand chronic ear infection and now a new sensitivity to cold and precipitation. I’ve had ear infections, throat and tonsil problems from the earliest I can remember until about the time that moved away from NYC. This lifetime, recurring illness seemed to leave me until some recent trips during the winter season and new colder evening weather in the mountainous region in which I live.

Two things are at play: The physicality of my ear and external, environmental factors. My physical ear canal is short and wide, allowing water, air and other airborne particles to enter easily into the inner ear. That’s obvious. This means, I probably get more direct exposure to in my ear region than people whose tragus covers the opening to the ear canal, and also, who may have a longer ear canal. Folks who have bent or long canals may have an advantage. Environmentally, I grew up poor in public housing, which comes with it’s own socioeconomic predispositions. I’ll examine this more for the historical context of my chronic ear condition.

After a lifetime of ear problems, two courses of action become apparent. First, I need to protect my inner and middle ear during winter, travel and bathing. Secondly, I need to investigate and understand what factors impact my susceptibility to ear infection. Healing for me is no more ear infections, because the cure is always harder.  In other words, we must define, identify and name our healing. I want to restore the ailing member to optimum functioning. In this situation, I have to ask myself, What is healing?

 

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Healing Practice:

You will need to choose an area of focus for your attention, healing and study. This requires love and compassion, not judgment. Handle yourself with tenderness. You may need to do these activities regularly to allow the spirit to speak to you. Ask for guidance through prayer.

  • Meditate on your body. This can be in the bath, seated or lying down and during applied Reiki. See what emerges. Document any insights in your journal for this practice.
  • Write about your healing and see what comes up. Explore questions that open as you write.
  • Focus on an area where you already have difficulty, injury or other disease. Use a quiet time to touch the area with your hands, mind or vision. You may also examine medical records and note important points with the area. Make notes of any patterns that arise.

As ever, I’m open for questions, comments and suggestions.

The Reiki Garden

It may be surprising that I love to garden since I have been a city-dweller since birth. Somehow I cultivated this passion on a Canadian farm in Quebec during my teenage years and later as various friends or family members had gardens, I’d throw my heart into the work and get my fingernails caked with dirt. So it shouldn’t be shocking that when we finally found our home in San Francisco, I couldn’t wait to break open the concrete laminating the outdoor space surrounding our house and plant some seeds.

From the start, hours of autumn harvesting the hardy blackberries growing from the cracks in the concrete gave me great pleasure. As blackberries are indigenous to our hillside, they seemed to multiple with every trimming, and we were feeding the neighborhood blackberry cobblers, muffins or baskets of ripe, sweet berries. I soon wanted more vegetation that I could take ownership of and have pride in.  That’s when I learned the limitations of my new micro-climate.

It’s important to mention I live in the fog belt of San Francisco. During the summer months we go weeks without sunshine. In fact, we routinely don’t see the sun between June and September. It tends to be balmy, windy and chilly in the Oceanview. On occasion, the early-morning fog is so thick that we can’t see the houses across the street. It’s no wonder then, that last year my sweet peas didn’t flower, my lavender didn’t root and that my basil rotted on the stem, not to mention my withered broccoli or my stunted peppermint. All of this not withstanding, I remain as of yet, undeterred, especially as I have a new tool in my tote.

Tending to my garden feeds and nurtures my soul. As early spring found me ill and unable to socialize and the long winter began to recede, I was totally ready to get back to my little potted garden. Pulling weeds, planting, beautifying, trimming and cleaning are invigorating. I observed as I repotted that several plants from last year never matured. I spruced, swept and watered. Then, I sat down to give each plant a Reiki treatment. The results have been extraordinary.

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Fog View

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Apple Tree
After my impromptu experiment, I read that one should always give Reiki energy to the roots of the plant first and foremost. My approach lacked balance. Apparently, it is possible to overdo it. I found that the plant that was flowering really couldn’t tolerate that much fruit. It might hurt the tree in the long run.

On the other hand, the tree that was almost dead was able to communicate with me about its needs. I understood that it needed a bigger pot and better soil drainage. The plants are teaching me to be a better gardener.

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Orange Tree

As in all things, we have to let ourselves make mistakes. Even though I felt I had hurt the apple tree with the flood of energy, I could see that with my careful attention and focus on the plant, I could help strengthen the roots and meet her needs by listening carefully. I also sang to the tree, giving her permission to slow down the growth. The leaves have since filled out nicely, growing darker and broader.

The beets that I planted last year are an entirely different challenge. I may need to start over.

A Remembering: Karma Yoga and an Encounter with a Powerful Reiki Master

I was first introduced to Reiki when I was just twenty-two. It was during a visit to Kripalu in the Berkshires of Massachusetts where I had gone to do “karma yoga” or devoted volunteer service. Kripalu has been instrumental in several transformations in my life, and that visit was not exception. I have gone there at various times in my life to heal and renew and have come away with many precious gifts. During the summer month that I spent there, I met people from all over the world who practiced almost everything you could name. I slept in a huge dorm room on a small cot-like bed. The other women around me, who were mostly doing their karma-yoga practices also, were there anywhere from a few days to six months. There was a nice habit amongst the guests to exchange gifts during the quiet hour before bedtime. At that time I only read tarot cards, but that was and is an incredibly popular modality, one which people would exchange almost any other service for. It means that I’ve been fortunate to have tried numerous healing arts in the past 23 years since the first tarot deck picked me.

One evening this older woman, Roslyn, a very quiet and self-possessed person, with a thick British accent, and I set our sights on one another. She was round in the sort of way that said mother to me, but she was not at all the mothering kind, which always fills with delight to recollect having this limiting image of woman-as-mother shattered at that age; it was liberating. She was frank and unobtrusive. Mostly she didn’t talk or chatter like some women did. She was mysterious. It was her aura that attracted my attention. We connected while scrubbing toilet bowls, cleaning mirror and shining faucets in silence. There is a certain level of respect and appreciation one develops for a person who can do those sorts of things, clean for others—yes, our mothers do it for us, but then we all must grow up— with integrity and care, despite that the service is technically “unpaid.” That is, after all, the entire point of karma yoga. One is meant to work off whatever debt is owed to the universe, each other or our past selves through service to one’s community. Karma yoga allows us to pay back or rebalance the flow of energy in our lifetimes through a commitment to doing whatever needs to be done, humbly, without recognition and without monetary compensation. It was while we were teamed up, working in silence that we were able to truly see the other person.

Like many gifted healers, Roslyn had an understanding of the high value of her abilities. I have really come to appreciate this perspective over the years. In fact, in exchange for our karma-yoga service, we slept and ate for free at the ashram. This is the notion that we should be fairly paid for the work we do. When Roslyn and I discovered that we could offer something to each other, we exchanged services. This was to be my first and probably most fantastic Reiki session yet. The word Reiki comes from the Japanese language and is really two compounded characters, Rei and Ki. Rei means spirit, and Ki stands for energy or life force. A Reiki Master is able to channel this energy and teach others how as well. It is said that Reiki is the same healing energy that Jesus Christ used to heal the sick.

What made my first session of Reiki so extraordinary was that Roslyn could see and sense things that had not been verbalized. She began our session by asking me about my wants, feelings and needs. We talked about my life and the things I was working on during my stay at Kripalu; then she asked me to lie down. She explained that she would place her hands on various points on my body, and that I would feel warmth flowing through me. She also asked me a series of questions during the laying on of hands, which I was to answer silently. As she asked me to visualize a powerful color, one that I find healing, she named it aloud. Next, she asked me to send her a mental image of a shape. Again, she announced it when she received the image I had sent. In my astonishment, I could hardly lie still, but I knew even then how rare such an interaction is, and I channeled my excitement into the Reiki. I can still vividly remember the magical images and sensations of that hour.

It was my special gift to get touched by a powerful Reiki Master. When we are given clear visions and can communicate without words, it has profound impact on our higher selves. It allows us to evolve onto higher planes, because we take each other to new levels. Once there, we can always return to those heights. The possibility is there forever, and not just for the individuals involved. That is the nature of evolution, including spirituality-based evolution. Now, some twenty years later, I’m finally coming back to Reiki. Recently I received my First-Degree Reiki transmission and have been practicing being a conduit for the healing energy. Roslyn comes back to my mind repeatedly as I navigate the challenges of learning a new modality. I have so many questions, so many obstacles to get through in order to get to her level. I see now that she possessed tremendous concentration, inner stillness and complete self-confidence. I also know that it is possible, with time and commitment, to attain her ability. For today, it is enough to hold this space within myself, to heal the parts of myself that I can with my gifts and abilities, knowing that everyone has to start somewhere.

by Edissa Nicolas