Words by Megan. Photograph by Shirlene.
Silence can be a beautiful, healing thing. I don’t mean the quiet pleasure of soft background music or of bird’s calls when you go for a walk in the woods. I mean silence – no sound at all. The strange thing is that most of us, in the modern, Western world never encounter total silence; or if we do, it makes us uncomfortable, or even nervous.
In yoga, when we assume savasana pose, we are told to pay attention to the stillness, the silence, between inhalation and exhalation. At first, it’s very difficult because we’re not accustomed to focusing on something that isn’t actively there. The key word there is ‘active’ because anything that exists, even if just as a noun, verb or adjective etc. exists. Even ‘nothing’ becomes something if you name it – it becomes a word if nothing else.
When we actually encounter silence, and are able to relax into it – no foot tapping, finger snapping, talking, coughing, or humming – we can experience a sense of peace that helps our frazzled, stress-afflicted selves to counteract the demands of modern living and to heal, both mentally and physically.
I’ve often recommended to people who suffer from headaches to try massaging their big toes! I know it sounds weird, but it actually makes sense. When it comes to reflexology, your feet are a virtual map of your whole body – they have thousands of tiny nerve endings, or ‘reflexes’ which correspond to every organ and system within the body.
I’m a certified reflexologist, so I have learned a thing or two about all this. It’s really all about the art of stimulating the points in the feet, often using the thumbs, to break up crystalline deposits that may have formed at nerve endings, interfering with the natural flow of the body’s energy. Some people are so sensitive to this that you can put pressure on certain spots on the foot and they actually feel it in the intestines, stomach, shoulder, or whatever it is you’re aiming for. A treatment is often very enjoyable and relaxing, with no unpleasant side effects. In fact, I’ve had people fall asleep half way through a session.
Feet are actually amazing when you think about it. Consider the following:
People take on average 10,000 steps in a day – about 115,000 miles in a lifetime.
Feet are strong enough to support up to four times the body’s weight during high impact activities, yet sensitive enough to detect a grain of sand.
Your feet contain 52 bones, one quarter of all the bones in your body. Your hands and feet together make up on half of the bones in your body.
There are 250,000 sweat glands in a pair of feet – they can excrete as much as half a pint of moisture in a day.
If you’d like to know which areas of the feet correspond with which areas of the body, there is an excellent visual explanation showing you the five power points in reflexology at: www.squidoo.com/5-power-points-in-reflexology
One more tip – if your feet feel tired, just do this. It works wonders!
Place a layer of ordinary glass marbles on the bottom of a bowl large enough to hold your feet. Half-fill the bowl with warm water. Add Epsom salts (they help draw out toxins) – about ¼ cup – and a little sea salt too, if you wish. Run your feet gently over the marbles for at least 10 minutes (to stimulate the acupressure points). Ahhh, bliss!
We don't often think about breathing do we? But, as ‘they’ say, the secret to a long life is to keep breathing! The deep, rhythmic breathing that accompanies the short, easy to learn, Qi Gong routines that we try to follow most days seems to be particularly beneficial. Afterwards, you always feel as if you’ve had a good stretch, and gained some much-needed oxygen.
Most people probably know that ‘Qi’ or ‘chi’ has to do with energy flow. Yoga (prana), tai chi, and qi gong, all promote ‘good breathing’ but the ‘7 Minutes of Magic’* routine that we follow has been the easiest to stick to. That’s the thing – we sometimes don’t have time for an hour-long yoga routine, and learning all 100+ movements of tai chi would be a challenge at this point, but following along for 7 minutes – we can’t come up with a good enough excuse for not doing that!
The history of qi gong dates back more than 4,000 years, to ancient China (some sources say 7,000 years). Imagine that! we're taking part in something that people have been practicing for at least 4,000 years. To have survived that long, the practice must have some benefits. As far as we can see there are absolutely no disadvantages, or negative side-effects, from it. So, ‘bear swimming in the ocean’, ‘tiger returning to mountain’, ‘parting the clouds’ and ‘bamboo in the wind’ – will continue to make us focus on the precious ability to breathe, and be more conscious of it.
*Lee Holden’s ‘7 Minutes of Magic’ – a sample of this routine can be found on YouTube
I love playing Ping-Pong. I go to a local Community Center at least twice a week (6 hours total) where a very dedicated and enthusiastic group of players enjoy the hours spent together knocking a tiny ball as fast as is humanly possible, with as much deadly spin as possible to outwit the opponent. It’s basically a friendly War! It’s my favorite sport. I think it can be compared to the game of life. Why do I say this?
1. If you’re going to succeed, you really do have to keep your eye on the ball, not on the folks around you.
2. Sometimes, for the best shot, it’s better to stand back, and take the longer, wider view. You have more control and choice that way.
3. You have to keep in mind that something unexpected is always likely to happen.
4. Depending on the circumstances, a gentle response might work just as well as an aggressive smash.
5. You have to be adaptable; if the ball is coming at you with a spin on it, it’s not going to land where you expect it to.
6. There is such a thing as too much spin – the ball won’t land on the table.
7. If you’re playing with a partner (doubles) you usually have to take fewer risks.
8. Sometimes when it looks as if you’re definitely winning (or losing) the score will suddenly change; so you should never get too complacent, and you should never give up.
9. Scoring points is fun, but improving the quality of your game is what makes it worthwhile.
10. Any game has the potential to be stressful or fun – it all depends on how you approach it.
11. It takes a lot of work and practice to improve your game. The main thing is to keep at it, keep trying, and above all, keep moving!
12. Know when to quit!
I like the word ‘odd’. It’s one of our most versatile words. It can mean unusual as in: what an odd thing for him to do; or it can mean the thing/person left over after a number of items or people have been divided into two separate groups. “After they chose the teams, there was one person left, so they made the odd man out one the umpire”.
An odd number is one that can’t be divided by two. Odd can also mean strange or peculiar, as in: “She wears very odd outfits sometimes”. In addition odd can be used to denote random or occasional – “I ran into him the odd time in the general store, but I didn’t know him well”.
Odd can also mean eccentric – “She was always a bit odd” or it can mean ‘not easily explained’ as in “It’s odd that he hasn’t called after he said he would”. In other words, ‘odd’ presents many interesting possibilities to a writer. Well, I suppose the odd numbers might present something of a challenge, but perhaps that just reveals my lack of imagination when it comes to mathematics. When I think a little harder, all the so-called magic or lucky numbers are odd – 3, 7, 9. Come to think of it the number 13 is also odd. Odd is definitely a word with potential.
Now – an odd, random thought: from one perspective, we writers are odd. We sit alone for hours to create characters and their stories for (too often) little reward and even less recognition; and we keep on doing it! Bloggers – they’re probably odd too because they have to keep coming up with something new, and can’t be too attached to a theme. Odd huh?
What images automatically come to mind when you hear the word ‘nurse’? Uniformed women, busily trying to keep up with the tasks of caring for their charges?
One of my sons became a nurse, not a male nurse, a nurse. Like the term lady doctor, which (Thank Heavens) used to be much more common than it is now, the term male nurse reveals a (perhaps unconscious) gender prejudice. Have you ever heard anyone called a female nurse, or a male doctor? It’s not likely that you have. Have you ever questioned the term male nurse when you heard it? That’s not likely either. We seem to have the idea that men can’t, or wouldn’t want to be professionals who look after patients on a daily basis rather than seeing patients for approximately 15-20 minutes, writing a prescription and going on to the next patient – you know, a ‘doctor’. Granted surgeons often see us for longer periods of time in the operating room, but that doesn’t count because we don’t see them – we’re unconscious – and besides, surgeons are attended by OR nurses who assist them at all times.
Personally I think it demeans the profession of nursing to see nurses as nurturing ‘mommy’ figures. Nurses are highly educated and trained individuals who, along with paramedics and other health-care workers probably save just as many lives as M.D’s.
And by the way, after my son, the nurse, earned his PhD, and became a university professor, no-one thought of him as a male professor. Thankfully no-one I know talks about female professors either. Oh, and one other little gender prejudice, not all male nurses are gay, or lacking the academic standards to gain entry into medical school, but that’s another can of worms altogether!
The Moth's Song
Before I saw you,
I chose safe, shadowy
Corners for my home.
Unobserved, I lived
Suddenly, you blazed
And I knew
That you would be my All.
As I hurl my grey softness
Into the sweet agony
Of your fire,
I long for your glory
Mirrored in my thousand eyes.
One brief ecstasy that,
In an instant, dies.
Starlight, moonlight, sunlight, or the thousands of shattered diamonds glistening on a lake on a summer day: we in Canada usually associate light with beauty and growth. In December and January, when it gets dark before supper time, we cling to the memory of the long evenings of June and July. Most of us have no experience of a baking desert sun where light is a merciless tormentor promising suffering and death if we don’t shelter from it; nor do most of us know about snow blindness caused by sun-glare on vast pristine snowfields in the far north. Here, light is our friend whose summer presence we delight in and whose absence we mourn on dull winter afternoons.
Except for a few creatures in the depths of the oceans and deep under the earth (and, of course, parasites, saprophytes, viruses, bacteria, and maybe a few others that I don’t know about), the plants and animals that the average person recognizes as such all need light to survive. This is subject to variation – what might kill one species might not be enough for another – but light, either sunlight, or artificial light is necessary for our well-being. Green plants need light to make their food; then we (or the animals that we eat) eat a lot of them.
We humans need sunlight to create vitamin D; I know that we can take this vitamin in liquid or pill form, but it’s not half as much fun as a walk in the sunshine. I guess I should confess that as a Canadian, I feel that light, especially sunlight, is not far behind love and freedom as being essential to my happiness.
When Kali dances,
When Kali smiles,
Skin on skin.
New life begins.
When Kali deems,
Blood runs still,
The corpse decays,
And we try again.