Chakras & Chanting

I talk to myself a lot.

Out loud.

I’m sure I’ve received the “side eye” many a time over the years. Thankfully, I don’t care what others think about my doing this anymore.

You see, if I’m talking to myself, I’m either:

  • Problem-solving
  • Giving myself a pep talk or
  • Calming down fears

So, I’ll continue doing so.

I’ve now layered on chanting and healing sounds as a technique to increase well-being and reduce stress and pain, so the “side eyes” will likely increase tenfold!

After my mastectomy, it was hard to sleep comfortably and to lift myself up out of bed when I woke up. You don’t realize it, but your breasts are similar to “kick stands” when you lie on your sides. Without one of the “kick stands”, side sleeping was painful at first. Also, using either arm to prop myself up hurt due to the crisscross nature of the negatively impacted pectoral muscles. That’s where vocalizing through pain was helpful.

I used chanting as an audible lever to help me position myself and also for momentum as I engaged in the Pilates Roll Up to a sitting position. I had been taking Pilates for years and, WOW, did the Roll Up come in handy! I did not have to turn on my side to get up. I just pretended I was a zombie.

As for the chanting, I told my husband not to be alarmed by the volume. It probably sounded worse than it felt, but I had to be loud in order to garner the most effective results.

Good thing he can’t hear very well in one ear.

Embracing Body Wisdom from the Bottom Up

With so much of our time focusing “neck up”, we often miss what our bodies are trying to share with us. We pay attention when things start to go wrong. It’s usually been a long tail to get to that point.

harmony

Strive for harmony – it’s more realistic than balance.

Chanting “up” the chakras can be an enjoyable way to regularly tune in to your body and increase overall awareness. The extended exhale of the chant relaxes your nervous system, harmonizing mind, body and spirit.

Chakra is Sanskrit for “wheel.” These “wheels” layer over major nerve centers of your body. Since your body is your vessel for this lifetime, it only behooves you to get to know it better.

  • Where is it closed off?
  • Where is it strong?
  • Where is it vulnerable?

Chanting can positively impact these areas of energy.

We’ve all experienced heart chakra energy shifts. When you’re surrounded by love, your

heart

LOVE is what it’s all about, people!

chest area (and, in some cases, your entire being), feels open and light. When you are hurting, this area actually pains you. In the past, I have placed my hand over my heart to soothe it and to “hold” it together, “containing” the pain while pressing my hand firmly over my heart.

Your Root chakra is negatively activated when you feel threatened, unsafe – it typically brings elimination problems. I know many of you have been there! Basically, it’s clearing you out to make you lighter to run faster (to get away from that tiger).

Sacral chakra embodies sexuality and creativity – giving birth to enjoyable things that light your fire. Sacral chakra is riding high when you are in a flow state.

Solar plexus work can enhance your confidence and self-esteem. A great example of “leading” through this area is the “Wonder Woman” stance (or, like I have often said, the “car salesman” stance – talk about confidence and resilience!).

Throat chakra represents communication: speaking up, vocalizing your truth and sharing wisdom. It is also about knowing when to stay silent until the timing is most optimal to present a novel idea and having it “land” most effectively.

Third eye (where the base of the nose meets the skull) is all about inner knowing and finding answers when we take time to be still.

Crown chakra is your connection to the AWEsome, which I often encounter in nature, in meditation or prayer and witnessing unconditional acts of love. It represents the mystery from whence we came and where we shall return – the essence of which is so hard to comprehend.

It is believed that chanting can strengthen and realign the chakras. I have heard chakras referred to as energetic “pools”, while meridians are energetic “rivers” that move throughout your body. The art of acupressure and acupuncture harnesses and redirects meridian energies.

When you engage in focused chakra chanting from the base of your spine upward, you give your body a literal “tune” up. By the time you reach the top of your head, you’ll have a nice “buzz” on. This relaxed state can more easily slide you into a meditation session or just enable you to feel a little more zen in whatever activity you feel like engaging. I’ve done it as a nice transition after work, before going out to spend time in my gardens and prior to a peaceful walk in nature.

A Little Dab’ll Do Ya

chakrachartwbijas

Take five and try chanting the Bija mantras up your body right now! LAM, VAM, RAM, YAM, HAM, OM, OM…

“Mantra” translates roughly to “mind vehicle.” A mantra can be your breath, a sound, syllable, word or phrase that can be used as an anchor to return to when your “busy mind” bubbles up. You can bet your bottom dollar that it will! It’s because it’s protecting you. Give thanks! The best approach is to say, “I hear you” and then go back to focusing on your anchor.

I discovered the “Bija” mantras (which are syllables, not phrases) on my first trip to Sedona. Up until that time, I was either chanting the vibration of Om (AUM), corresponding vowel sounds or certain mantras that appealed to me based on what I was moving through at the time. I loved the simplicity of the Bija mantras and their effect. Bija is Sanskrit for “seed,” as a syllable is like a seed of a word.

I also like to do mini chants when I’m feeling stress about something at work or in my personal life. I pick a Bija mantra or Qigong healing sound and use this “vocal” approach as an instrument to restore personal harmony. At the very least, regularly engaging in this type of “sound” work can reduce stress and increase overall relaxation – a key way to enhance your health and well-being. Now, that’s something to make some noise about!

What helped: Chanting the Bija mantra YAM (heart and chest area) helped manage pain and get me out of bed more easily. I also meditated every afternoon and sometimes used the sounds to minimize pain I was experiencing.

What I wish I knew at the time: Qigong healing sounds. I was naturally discovering them, but knowing they existed would have been even more useful.

Some things you can try right now:

  • Be more vocal. Try the simple Qigong Healing Sounds and notice how they make you feel.
  • Take a few moments to give the Bija mantras a whirl! Here is a more descriptive summary of the Bija mantras, plus you can chant along to a fun “beat box” video version!
  • Align accordingly. Here’s a simple way to reset those whirling centers of personal empowerment: Donna Eden’s Daily Energy Routine can help invigorate you “head to toe” in just a few minutes. You’ll feel better right away.
  • Learn more about chakras. Curious to learn more? Consider reading Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing by medical intuitive, teacher and writer Caroline Myss.
  • Tune in and give thanks. Take time to regularly check in with your overall sense of well-being and give gratitude for all your body has been doing for you since your first heartbeat. xox

What are your favorite sounds to make?

Next Up: De-cluttering

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at http://www.FullyPresentwithYou.com

Birdwatching

The songbirds were more vocal, bringing literal “cheer, cheer, cheer…” with the warmer weather. Vermont has to go through sticks, dead leaves and lots of mud to get to spring, but at least our fine feathered friends signal when we are heading in the right direction.

I had taken the day off. With my surgery the next morning, I wanted to tie up loose ends in order to feel grounded and centered by nightfall. Mom and I planned to spend the morning decluttering closets and the afternoon shopping for button-down and zip-up tops. It was recommended that I wear them during recovery, since I wouldn’t be able to get my arms overhead for a while.

As we stepped into my car, I heard the distinct, “Birdie, Birdie, Birdie” call of a male cardinal right above my head. I’ve always loved cardinals. I looked up and said to my mother, “That’s a good sign.” She agreed. We humans are meaning-making beings and I was taking in all the positive signs I could get.

The next morning, he greeted us again. I told my family that he was “cheer-ing me on” as we headed to the hospital. Hey, doses of humor are helpful.

A while later, I arrived in the pre-op bay. I put on my hospital johnny and socks and got onto the bed. On the wall to the right of me was a framed picture of a male cardinal. Was he following me?

The day after surgery, I went downstairs to my living room. I had turned this into my

cardinalfriend

View from my rocker: Mr. Cardinal perching

downstairs “sanctuary space” where I could meditate, read, journal, relax and visit with friends and family.

I sat in my rocking chair (read why rocking is so good for you HERE!) and in less than a minute a male cardinal flew onto the holly bush directly in front of me. I let out a little laugh and smiled. I spent a few moments admiring his beauty until my two indoor cats came into the room. Within moments of their arrival, they headed straight to the window to let out their own unique chirps and chattering.

As days moved into weeks, I enjoyed seeing (and hearing) more birds arriving with the warmer weather. In addition to the cardinals, there were chickadees, yellow-rumped warblers, pine warblers, evening grosbeaks and many more. Buds and blossoms were bursting into being. The season of renewal and new beginnings perfectly aligned with my healing.

In the mornings, the dawn chorus would temporarily wake me, signifying another day

dieselbywindow

Diesel wondering where his scarlet friend went…

had arrived. For the first couple of weeks, I’d drowsily listen and then fall fast back to sleep.

I began walking right away, as per my surgeon’s instructions. I alternated stillness and movement to harmonize optimal healing. Short walks turned into longer jaunts. Hills were added. The birds graced me with their musical serenades, aerial acrobatics and architectural creativity.

I once heard that the most important thing we have in common with all of the creatures of Earth is our breath. We are all breathing right now. We are Life. Try and be a little more present in yours today. I know that I certainly will.

What helped: Watching birds through the window and on my walks. Listening to the dawn chorus and giving thanks for the new day ahead (before falling back asleep!).

What I wish I had at the time: If I had a bird book or guide, I would have been able to identify even more of my visitors. 

Some things you can do or think about right now:

  • Set an “early bird” intention. The next time you wake to the dawn chorus, ask yourself how you are going to choose to move through this new day. If you want to go back to sleep right afterwards, that’s fine, but set an intention. What will you add to make the day ahead better? What will you remove?
  • It’s a busy world. Take time out to be still. Listen to the peepers, crickets, birds and squirrels. Taste the wind and feel the sun’s warmth on your face. Notice and appreciate the different types of beauty in your environment. Remember the movie (but real life!) wisdom of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  • Be curious about what’s going on in your own backyard. Who’s visiting? Who are the day trippers and who are the night owls? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Can you aid them in any way? Click HERE to learn about bird-friendly native plants in your area.
  • Go outside and benefit from the pleasing and stress-reducing effect of nature’s fractals. Really take in what surrounds you through sitting still in your backyard or moving on a mindful walk or jog.
  • Road trip! Visit a local Audubon Center or nature center and learn more about our high flying friends. Here are some educational events (nature walks and workshops) in Vermont.

Next Up: Books

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at http://www.FullyPresentwithYou.com.

 

Arnica Gel & Additional Jottings

For three days after my surgery, the hematoma above the surgical site hadn’t budged. It actually seemed to be slightly bigger. My husband joked that my boob was growing back. Although his comment brought a genuine laugh, by the time I went online at 2 A.M., it was no longer funny. I read references to blood clots, stagnant blood being a breeding ground for additional cancers, and more!

I counted the hours until my surgeon’s office opened. I had remembered using arnica gel years ago and asked her about giving it a whirl. She listened to my fears and worries, suggested patience (ha!) and since I wasn’t pregnant (ahh, nope...), said she was fine with my using it topically, as long as I didn’t put it on any broken skin.

puck

I’m a hockey fan, but come on now…

What helped: Arnica gel! In less than 24 hours the “hockey puck” had a sunken hole in the middle. Within days, it had practically disappeared. It also swiftly cleared the big bruise on my hand from the IV insertion.

What I wish I knew at the time: If I started using topical arnica gel right after surgery, I could have seen progress earlier and avoided the panicked reaction. Yet again, I implore you: DO NOT GO ONLINE AT 2 A.M.!

A couple of things you can do or think about right now:

arnicagel

A little dab’ll do ya!

  • Read about the healing aspects of topical arnica gel. It’s been around as a medicinal plant since the Middle Ages, so there’s a lot out there. You can find some good history here.
  • Consider getting a tube. If you don’t have arnica gel in your medicine cabinet, think about adding it for those unexpected bumps and bruises.
  • Remember: Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding, don’t ingest or put on open wounds and test out a small spot first to ensure you don’t have skin sensitivity. Always read cautions first, of course! It definitely helped me, however, and might help some of you.

Additional Jottings

  • Acupressure points – Acupressure points are great for relaxation, reducing nausea, helping with headaches and more. I like to tap or gently use my middle finger to circle the point on my sternum, which is for emotional well-being. You activate this through yoga’s prayer position (Anjali mudra) when you place your hands together and press the knuckles of your thumbs into your chest. It puts pressure on the thymus gland, which is known as the happiness point. Learn more about the benefits of acupressure here.
  • Acupuncture – I have been a longtime receiver of acupuncture for asthma flares and vertigo-related issues. I found a couple of sessions helpful post-surgery to reduce anxiety and re-balance my system. Acupuncture is now covered by many insurance plans to assist with the many side effects of cancer treatments, most especially chemotherapy-related. Here is a good article on the topic by Hartford HealthCare.
  • Ayurveda – Ayurveda translates to “The Science of Life” in Sanskrit. Its approach of balancing body, mind, spirit and well-being obviously has great appeal for me. I recently read a book by the well-known Ayurvedic physician Vasant Lad. If you’re curious about learning more, he has a lot of good information on his website. And, for those living in Vermont, you may be interested to learn that we have an Ayurvedic center right here in Williston!

Next Up: Biopsy & Breast MRI

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com.

Listen to Your Gut

My first thought when I was diagnosed with breast cancer was, “I finally have my answer.”Lovefillsthehouse!

The haunting had begun two months prior. There was something wrong with my breathing. Having lived with manageable asthma, I knew this was different. I couldn’t explain it sufficiently, but I was off.

As the weeks went by, I ran through a slew of appointments: Primary Care doctor, asthma and allergy doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, and finally, a mental health counselor, because I couldn’t stop thinking of my own death.

Nobody could find anything physically wrong with me. My lungs were fine and the continued breathing difficulty I was describing didn’t quite fit with what happens with classic anxiety or panic attacks. The pain on the right side of my mid-back was viewed as a possible overuse injury or as a result of a massage that was too deep.

From early January through early March, when people would ask how I was doing, I would answer something to the effect of, “I’m okay. I’m trying to figure something out, there’s something going on, but I’m working on it. I just need to figure it out.” I started canceling anything extra on my calendar. I just wanted to be home. Friends were getting increasingly concerned by my behavior change. I was nervous. At times, they could see that there was a frantic or uneasy look in my eyes. They saw my chest heaving in discomfort. Fear had entered my world and had a firm foothold in my psyche.

Upon waking each morning, I hoped I’d magically returned to normal during the night. Instead, the mysterious new way of being remained.

One evening, I was alone in my house and a wave of panic and desperation washed over me. I remember breaking down and pleading to whoever or whatever might be listening, “What is WRONG with me? What is happening? Please, please, help me understand! What do I need to do? Tell me! Help me! Please! I KNOW something is wrong with me!”

A week later, I started my day with a routine mammogram.

When I got back to my office, the phone call came. They found something. In BOTH breasts. The right side was the one that was more concerning. I had to go in for a magnified mammogram and ultrasound.

I told a couple of close friends. They shared their own stories of being called back, trying to allay any fears.

But, I now knew. They’d found the source.

You see, my annual imaging was overdue by three months. I had delayed it because I had been attending the parade of other appointments about the erratic breathing and upsetting thoughts. Since I had previously gone two years in between mammograms and did not have a family history, I was not concerned by waiting 15 months versus 12. I had not connected anything worrisome with the mammogram that morning, because the pain was in my back and the difficulty was in my lungs and head. I was just ticking off the “self-care” box of annual appointments.

Interestingly, the pain was on the part of my back directly behind my right breast.

After additional testing (magnified mammograms, ultrasound, core needle biopsy), my diagnosis was medically confirmed.

I did not get too many details – those would come when I saw the Breast Cancer Surgeon.

My first appointment with her brought additional unexpected, and unwanted, information. I thought they would make an excision, and I would possibly need to have radiation. That wasn’t to be the plan.

I needed a unilateral mastectomy.

I summoned my inner strength, gathered my loved ones close, and looked to something higher.

I thought about death. A lot. This also led me to think about life and living. I learned more about what I didn’t want, so that I could begin to craft a more meaningful life on a variety of levels.

I am lucky. I had it worse than some and a lot better than many others. That said, I understand the fear a cancer diagnosis brings, I have experienced orthorexia, life-changing surgery, intense types of physical and mental pain, feelings of “scan-xiety”, medication side effects, and the ongoing fear of recurrence.

After I was diagnosed, I craved information. Although the broad strokes were given to me, the “detail” recommendations for healing work were lacking. I found the stories of others to be beneficial guides. I got a better idea of what to expect, even though I knew that every experience was unique.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share key lessons I learned. I’ll talk about my own experience, I’ll talk about the role of love (love is what it’s all about, people!). I’ll talk about Qigong, Tarot cards, Yoga, a couple of kooky kitty cats, unique fashion choices for a unilateral gal, sonic bowls, and more. I’ll introduce concepts that you might really like and others that you might think are way too out there.

For those undergoing your own cancer experience, I wish you the highest and best.

My hope is that you can find something that resonates with you, something that brings you or a loved one hope, health or a peaceful moment. When considering what might be a good fit, just listen to your gut.

Part of the reason I’m sharing is because I would have wanted to read something like this… an inside view of a portion of what you might experience, which could help you prepare just a little bit more. A map of the territory. This map only goes so far and others will likely be needed for you, but this will be a way to bring light to some of the shadowy unknown parts that you may move through.

Healing means different things to different people at different stages. Taking time to be still and asking what would most enhance your body, mind and spirit’s healing on a morning, afternoon and evening basis may help you regain a little more control.

May you be able to recognize the blessings that surround you amidst this temporary period of fierce difficulty.

So many will be there for you – allow them in.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com.