Category Archives: wellness

The Path of the Wounded Healer

Part Three: Crossing the Threshold

by Tonya Madia

“To reteach a thing its loveliness is the nature of metta. Through loving-kindness, everyone & everything can flower again from within.”   Sharon Salzberg

If you were to take a moment to examine some of the life experiences from which you emerged transformed in some way, you would most likely find that the series of events transpired in a similar, if not identical, pattern to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey outline. At the start of each new journey, the hero(ine) must be called away from their ordinary world.

We complete this cycle many times throughout our lifetime. By the time I received this most recent call I had been through enough of these journeys to recognize the Wounded Healer archetype expressing itself through me once again. From the time I was very young I recognized the healing and transformative power of helping others. It was a driving force in my decision to pursue my Reiki, yoga and massage therapy trainings.

Two years ago I began to experience sudden and profound changes in my health. I gained over 40 pounds in a matter of a few months, struggled with increasingly low energy and exhaustion, and I began to have mysterious aches and pains. Most notably, I had monthly struggles with extremely heavy menstrual cycles.

Convinced that my issues were simply the result of the hormonal changes associated with peri-menopause, I tried a variety of natural remedies and lifestyle changes— everything from low carb/no carb diets, exercising, fasting, cleansing, supplements, and essential oils, all to no avail.

I became so obsessed with resolving the issue through lifestyle changes that my ordinary world had become one of constant research, lifestyle adjustments and frequent trips to the gym. None of these efforts proved successful and self-criticism and old beliefs about self-worth based on appearance resurfaced.

After about two years of dwelling in this ordinary world of struggle, the call came and I found myself in the ER. Several tests revealed that I had a large uterine mass and was severely anemic. I brought the results to a noted gynecologist in West Virginia. After discussion with my family, I made the decision to travel 10 hours to be in the care of someone highly recommended at a medical facility that I knew well from my time working at the Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at the university. The gynecologist promptly scheduled a procedure called a hysteroscopy. A few weeks later the procedure was done and my doctor felt confident I would begin to feel better.

I didn’t. The hysteroscopy was an outpatient procedure and I had thought that when I’d agreed to the procedure, I’d answered the latest call to adventure. (After all, I would literally be leaving my ordinary world, as I traveled 10 hours to WV have it done!)

As it turned out the hysteroscopy wasn’t the call—it was only a precursor to the call that would arrive two weeks later, with the onset of my next menstrual cycle.

Another trip to the ER (this one even scarier, as my blood pressure plummeted from blood loss and I had to be hooked up to monitors and given fluids through and IV), another series of tests, and the determination was made by a local doctor that held within a single word my call to adventure. Hysterectomy.

With such a surprisingly large number of women requiring them, the surgery is considered by many to be “no big deal.” It was a big deal to me! I soon became quite anxious about the surgery and all that came with it. Physical trauma, pain, potential complications, the loss of internal organs, sudden hormonal changes, six weeks of recovery time… I wasn’t so sure about answering this call. As hesitant as I was, I knew what I had to do so I resigned myself to the inevitable journey ahead.

Deep down I knew what this journey was about and that it was long overdue. As an energy practitioner and yoga teacher, The Wounded Healer in me had been examining my condition from an energetic standpoint. This was a second chakra issue (see my earlier blog post, or my book Living the Intuitive Life, for a detailed outline of the chakra system). The second, or sacral, chakra resides energetically in the reproductive organs. Physically, it relates to the ovaries in women, the testes in men and the adrenal glands, spleen, uterus, urinary and circulatory systems. The decades-old wounds that I mentioned in Part Two of this series had been forgotten, but they were not gone. As long-ignored wounds do, they began to fester.

It was time to face these issues head on and proceed with the surgery. As nervous as I was when I arrived at the hospital the morning of the surgery, I was at the same time anxious to get on with it, cross the threshold and move into the next phase of my journey. Although I recognized the surgery as the crossing of the threshold in the journey, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, or what it would look like.

Following the surgery, I found out that my uterus was three times its normal size and had a noncancerous mass within it the size of a baseball! There were also many fibroids that had attached themselves throughout my reproductive system, some of which had hemorrhaged.

As I said, long-ignored wounds can fester.

Three weeks later I believe I have a better understanding of what I have gone through. Anyone who’s ever had major surgery knows you awake from the anesthesia feeling somewhat befuddled and vulnerable. I remember feeling confused and afraid when the nurses instructed me to shift from the gurney I was on over to the bed in my hospital room. It seemed an impossible task and I remember thinking in my hazy state that they were being unreasonable. Apparently they weren’t, as I managed to eventually maneuver myself onto the bed. The following morning I remember having a similar feeling when the nurse insisted I get up and walk around. I was sure she had lost her mind. She hadn’t, and I found I was able to get out of the bed and shuffle my way around my little room.

The past few weeks have been an interesting collection of similar milestones and a rising awareness within me that vulnerability isn’t as scary as I once believed. I’m learning with each passing day to extend kindness and patience to myself while at the same time learning to feel comfortable asking others to do things for me that I’m unable to do for myself.

I’m learning just how many of those “simple things” I once took for granted. Things like sitting up in bed on my own, bending down and walking, lifting a pot of soup onto the stove to reheat it, and moving about with ease. All of these will of course return in time, but in the meantime I am allowing myself to learn and practice the art of gratitude along with the ease of acceptance when my loved ones happily offer to assist me. I am learning to treat myself with loving kindness, and even more importantly, that I am deeply deserving of it.

 

 

Meditation Series: Breath Meditation

By Tonya Madia

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 “Meditation means to be constantly extricating yourself from the clinging of mind.”.—Ram Dass

My students and clients frequently ask me for advice on creating a meditation practice, often complaining about their inability to quiet their minds, or to make the thoughts stop all together. Meditation is the process of allowing your thoughts to flow freely without attaching yourself to them, and in this seven-part series I will be exploring several types of meditation practices, beginning with the practice of breath meditation.

The physical benefits of meditation are many, and include lowered blood pressure, decreased tension-related pain, increased serotonin production, and a boost to the immune system. The mental and emotional benefits of meditation include increased mental focus and clarity, decreased anxiety, and increased creativity, to name a few.

With so many observable benefits, it’s easy to see why you might want to start a meditation practice, but perhaps not as easy is deciding how to begin your practice. I have found the most success with my meditation practice when I begin in the morning before I get out of bed.

After waking, I take a few moments to position myself in a comfortable seated position and bring my awareness to my breath, allowing the breath to move in and out through the nose. On the inhale, I allow my lungs to fill fully by relaxing my abdomen, making room for my lungs and ribs to fully expand; as I exhale, I allow the air to move freely from lungs without effort.

Breath meditation is the practice of quieting the mind by bringing awareness to the breath. Breath is the bridge between the body and the mind and it is said that the mind is the king of the body, but the breath is the king of the mind. If you have ever taken a moment to take a deep breath and count to ten, you have experienced the power of the breath to calm the mind. One reason for this is the affect that deep breathing has on the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is the longest of the cranial nerves and controls the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your relaxation response. By taking a deep breath and expanding your diaphragm, the vagus nerve is stimulated, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

Beginning a breath meditation practice can be as simple as finding a few quiet moments throughout your day in which you put everything else aside and bring your awareness to your breath. This practice can be initiated at any time and place, although I recommend setting aside a specific time and place each day, as beginning any new habit takes time and effort and by allocating a scheduled time and place you provide yourself with the best possible chance for success.

By spending a few minutes every morning cultivating this practice you can bring calmness and increased metal clarity to your day. If you are new to meditation, I suggest starting with two to three minutes each day, and adding a minute a day each day.

As you sit quietly with your awareness on your breath you will probably notice that thoughts begin to arise; this is to be expected—thoughts are the natural condition of the mind. Thinking is what the mind does, and meditation is not the process of stopping the thoughts but, rather, allowing the thoughts to flow without becoming attached to them. A wonderful visualization for this is to imagine your thoughts as leaves floating down a river; as the thoughts float by you simply acknowledge their presence and watch them as they pass by.

Another helpful tool is the practice of non-judgment. Judging is the trap that tangles us in our thoughts. It is common for judging thoughts to arise during meditation, thoughts about how our practice is going in relation to ideas we may have about how it should be going, etc. Once the judgments arise, the mind follows them like a lost dog, so when you notice thoughts of judgment or criticism arising, simply notice them, and then let them go.

The process of meditation is not about controlling our thoughts, but instead becoming the master of them so that when the lost dog begins to wander off we simply call it back to the present moment with our breath. To be fully present in each moment is the goal of meditation, and in my next article on meditation, we will explore the practice of Mindfulness.

Meditation, like any disciplined endeavor, takes time to cultivate, which is exactly why we call it a practice; when applied daily the process becomes less challenging and before long we can become the master our thoughts and not allow them to master us.

 

 

Essential Oils Basics

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Essential oils are making the news as a powerful way to take control over our own personal health and wellness especially for everyday concerns. Many people are reporting a host of benefits from less stress, better sleep, increase in positive moods, and happier and healthier children.  As a Massage Therapist, and Reiki practitionerI have used essential oils in my practice for years.

What exactly are essential oils?
Essential oils are naturally occurring, aromatic compounds found in plants that provide plants with protection against environmental threats, and play a role in plant pollination. Because of their intrinsic benefits, essential oils have long been used for beauty treatments, healing and medicinal practices, as well as for food preservation and preparation.

How do you use essential oils?
The therapeutic benefits can be experienced aromatically, meaning that the benefits of essential oils are experienced through inhalation, and through topical application in which the oil is applied directly to the skin. In some cases essential oils can also be taken internally; however, because there is currently no regulation for essential oils, it is important to buy essential oils from certified companies who provide only pure, therapeutic grade oils, and under the supervision of a knowledgeable practitioner.

Where can you buy essential oils?
There are currently only a few essential oil companies in the industry that hold growers to high standards and send the final product to laboratories to be tested for quality and impurities. Of the companies who test, doTERRA, in my opinion, has the most stringent quality protocols, and this is why I only use doTERRA’s Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® (CPTG) essential oils, which can be purchased through me.

Uplifting, protective, calming, and regenerating, essential oils are a unique gift from nature. The very essence of a plant, they are aromatic liquids that have been used for thousands of years to calm, relax and uplift the spirit, detoxify the body, and heal wounds. Today science is discovering that essential oils can accelerate the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, kill bacteria, and battle free radicals.

If you would like to learn more about essential oils, please join me and Wellness Consultant Dawn Hoffmann, Wednesday, November 4th at 6:30pm at 107C Robin Ave. in Atlantic Beach for a relaxing & informational evening when we’ll be exploring some of the many uses of these amazing gifts from nature! We invite you to be here with us as we share valuable, first-hand knowledge of the remarkable effects of these amazing oils.

Refreshments & light fare. Bring a friend and receive a free gift!