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Matt and I were together for 10 wonderful years - met in 1998, married in 2002, until his untimely death on November 15, 2008. We have two beautiful, healthy children - Jacob (born 5/04) and Sydney (born 5/07)... the most precious gifts he could have ever given me. Andrea Remembers Copyright (c) 2020 Andrea Renee Row- All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Layers.

When Jacob was in middle school, his teacher had a couple of classroom pets - two leopard geckos. The teacher allowed students to take turns bringing them home for the weekend to be cared for. Jacob volunteered one of the weekends, much to his and Sydney's delight! Sydney, who is three years younger than Jacob, also loved every minute of having the geckos with us. It was a sad day when they had to go back to school because Sydney wouldn't get to see them at school like her other could for that year. She has often talked about the geckos since, and especially recently with the lack of in-person instruction and lots of other things she's been missing since the pandemic began. She has mentioned getting another pet of some sort just for herself.

"You're Mazie's (our dog) favorite human, Jacob is Penelope's (our cat) favorite human, but I want a pet that I can be its favorite."

Having had experience over the years with dogs, cats, mice, snakes, fish, iguanas, bunnies, and birds, I was able to decide based on those experiences what I would be willing to take on at this point, even though Sydney will be their primary caretaker (ideally, none of the above). We already have a dog, a cat, and three human mouths to feed. What if we get another wave of Covid and everything shuts down again? It was scary enough trying to get what we need as infrequently as we could get away with. When the pandemic is over, what other pets are we willing to continue caring for and that will be easy enough for my cousin (who helps us with our pets on the rare occasions we go on a trip) to be willing to take on?

Leopard geckos!! It just made sense. She adored the ones from Jacob's classroom, they're relatively easy to care for, and she can keep the tanks in her bedroom away from Mazie and Penelope.

Sydney is in love with her two little babies who she named Athena and Aphrodite. She wanted to get two to make sure that one wouldn't be lonely. We're just hoping that either they're both female, or a female and male since two males might fight. They're too young to be able to tell the difference yet, but so far so good. Sydney's maternal instincts have kicked in (those urges were what pushed her to get them in the first place) and she's such a good little mama to her baby geckos. We're even attempting to breed crickets to ensure a steady supply of food in case accessing crickets from a store becomes a challenge at some point.

Today, Athena shed her skin for the second time since we've had them. Sydney read that it can take up to 24 hours for a gecko to completely shed. It just took Athena only 15 minutes from start to finish. It made us think a little about why it would take such a short time to shed when we read that it can take up to 24 hours.

First, she's a baby who is growing pretty fast. I think that would definitely be a factor because her growing body pushed the skin off easier. Which lead us to the thought that adult geckos probably take much longer (which is where the "up to 24 hours" came from). Since adult geckos are not growing anymore, it makes it harder to get the skin off. Plus, if they're like most others in the animal kingdom, you produce less moisture and elasticity as you age. Geckos, in preparing to shed, release moisture in the layer between their old skin and new skin to make it easier to shed. I'm sure as the gecko ages, it produces less of this moisture. Which made my thoughts to go how it's easier for the young to shed layers than it is for the old.

Recently, I have come to understand 'layers' a little differently.

Last year, I did Reiki for a child for the first time, and something struck me as very significant about that experience. I felt like I hardly had any layers to go through to balance and clear her chakras. It felt cleaner, simpler, easier. Before that, I didn't necessarily think of it as going through layers for adults, but now that I had that experience with few layers in a child, it makes sense to me.

In so many ways, we are like trees. Every year that we're alive, growing, learning, experiencing, another layer gets added. With negative experiences, traumas, heartbreaks, I picture it as adding a thicker layer that's a little different than the others.

For a tree trunk, a layer is added for every year of its life, which is why you can count the rings a trunk to determine the tree's age. Some of the rings look different and can tell a story of fire, drought, plague and plenty:

"Count the dark rings, and you know the tree's age. If you study the rings, you can learn much more about the life of that tree. Many things affect the way the tree grows, and thus alter the shape, thickness, color and uniformity of the rings." arborday.org

People are much the same. We are the sum of all of our genetic, experiences, environment, nutrition and community. There are years that add tougher layers on us than others. Naturally, you can't cut a person's trunk and read their rings, but there are other ways to "read the rings." That's where people in the holistic community come in, because they see a person as a whole, and some even have the ability to read those rings.

With animals and plants (basically any other living thing other than humans), they use their instincts and genetically-written instructions to help them adapt and evolve. Things like free will (including jealousy and greed) don't interrupt that process like they do in humans. The very thing that sets the human race apart from the animal/plant kingdom is the very thing that has the potential to cause the most harm. This is one of the reasons I have such a hard time with us interfering with nature and creating "genetically modified" versions of anything. They were created the way they were for a reason, just as we were.

The trick is staying in touch with the innocent, young layers we started out with. Unbias, untainted. Learning to use those additional layers for growth and learning, and not letting them become calloused or diseased by anger and resentment which poisons the whole system (mind, body and spirit). This is why compassion and love (and good nutrition) have such an important role in our lives.

LOVE.

God made each one of us. We all came from him. You can say him/her/it God, Buddha, Allah, the Universe - whatever you choose or nothing at all, but for the sake of simplicity, I usually call him God. We are all a little piece of him. Which means, we are all a piece of each other. (Keep reading - this is all relevant, but it gets better and believe it or not this isn't a religious post - especially since I'm not religious.) Imagine what the world would look like if we deferred to unconditional love and compassion when dealing with each other the way God does for us.

Practice having just a little bit of love for people as if they are an actual part of you, and if you don't love yourself enough to love the people around you like that, then Reiki and meditation can help you find the love inside that's been there all along. There are many other ways, but this is what worked for me. It sounds SO corny, and I almost can't believe these words are coming out of my fingertips, but I finally feel free enough to be able to speak openly.

You might assume that I'm a church-going, God-fearing woman from all this, but I'm not. I don't go to church, and I don't fear God. I'm not religious, but I am spiritual. I believe that doing your best and being a good human, helping instead of hurting, loving instead of hating, is what it's all about.

Reiki is God energy. God's energy flows through every living thing. In essence, it is love. And it is healing. Putting Reiki and meditation into practice on a regular basis has helped me to find the love for myself that I didn't even realize I was not in touch with. I kept looking for it in every person around me my whole life, and in everything I put into my body, and was disappointed over and over and over again. It wasn't until I figured out that the love I was looking for was inside of myself all along. When you find that, you find joy. It totally sounds cliché, but I feel the most happiness and peace than I ever have in my life. The only thing that could make it better is if my husband was still here with me physically, but at least I know he is still with me and our children in spirit because our souls don't die, and neither does love. Those are the truths that I hold very close to my heart, and that give others so much hope, too.

We are all a work in progress - myself included. I have all these amazing ideals about how I'm going to help those who want to be helped and are willing to do the work to find balance in mind, body and spirit, and to find that piece of themselves that's been buried under layers upon layers of life. The issue I'm working on for myself is getting over fear. There's still this injured part of myself that I'm in the process of healing that wants me to believe that I won't be good enough, or that no one will want to learn from me, or that I'm not worthy of this work. Repeatedly, I'm reassuring myself that although I'm not perfect and may never reach Deepak Chopra level, I AM worthy, I AM qualified, and that at least most of the people I will be helping won't hurt me like I think they might. That I don't need to have a guard up that tells me I shouldn't speak and I shouldn't trust. That my story is irrelevant because everyone has had trauma and what makes me so special. I remind myself that it is my story (and I have many kinds) that brought me here and to this work, and that it is relevant to the people I'm helping. That I might not be able to help everyone that comes to me, but that I will do my very best, and understand that the majority of the work is what they do for themselves because I'm just giving them the tools. That after they have had a session with me or took a class, they feel like they have been heard, understood, and loved.

Covid is giving me the isolation I needed to continue healing myself from a lifetime of pain and resentment, and realizing that I created that for myself all along because of unreasonable expectations I had for the people around me. I expected love and kindness from people that aren't even willing to do that for themselves, and the more I see how common this is, the more it gives me compassion for those who hurt me and gives me the drive to help even more. It has showed me where the help is needed the most.

As much as it is my mission to help people find balance in mind, body and spirit, I kept denying that 'spiritual' part thinking it might offend people. I'm not going to be afraid of that anymore, either, because really - if someone is going to get offended, they will be offended whether you try or not, so I might as well just be open. "Spirit" is a big part of the package. When you take care of your body so that you're healthy physically, it helps your mind. When your body is healthy, your mind is more clear and healthy, and that in turn helps your spirit. Your spirit is the divine part of you that allows you to feel joy and love. It's extremely relevant, and I'm not going to downplay it anymore. They all work together for the WHOLE person.

So when you hear me advocate for love of self and showing each other unconditional compassion, that did NOT come easily. I don't think life is all 'rainbows and unicorns.' To the contrary - it's because life has been so challenging that I've learned more than ever the importance of love and compassion. It has taken a lot of inner work and a great deal of strength, and still does. Every day. I'm learning that one of the things that helps heal that injured part of me that still thinks I should shrink back down and stay small is to push through it, speak my truth and trust myself. What also helped is the seed was divinely planted early on in my life about unconditional love- specifically in my late teens. I'll share the details of that someday, but I've shared enough vulnerability for now.

A true healer must be heal themselves before they can do this for others. It's good that I have to wait a little longer to do this work for people in person, because I'm almost there. I'm almost ready to not be afraid anymore.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Black Lives Matter.

I'm learning more and more every day. I understand more now from all that has transpired than I did before. I learned that black lives need to matter before all lives can matter. I learned that we shouldn't be "color blind" and that we need to see everyone's color and honor them. I learned that although my life hasn't been easy, I've had white privilege to make things not as difficult as they could be for us.

I've learned that when the dust settles, these are things we need to continue discussing and improving. All the time. Because we've been failing all these other decades beef and this is the part that has to change. We should be so much further ahead than we are in 2020.

It's okay to change the way you think about certain things. It's ok to be wrong. It means we're human, and learning, and growing, and that's exactly what we're supposed to be doing. Growing, learning, getting better and doing better and HELPING EACH OTHER every step of the way. That is HUMANITY.

This isn't something that should be seen as causing further division among us - it's unifying us more than ever. We are all on this mission together because it takes every single one of us. I don't like the word "fight" because it means conflict. If we are coming from a place of love, then it's a unification of efforts for a common goal. A mission.

Don't assume that just because someone is advocating that "black lives matter" that they also mean "all police are bad." Understand that they can very likely mean that black lives matter AND still respect those many police officers who are doing their duty to protect and serve their community in an honorable way and not beginning harm to anyone. I have black friends and family, and cop friends and family, and I love them all.

There are "good" and "bad" in every race, profession, religion, political party, etc., so STOP putting people into categories of good or bad based on one factor. See the WHOLE person through compassionate eyes.

HOPE.

As scary as our newsfeed is right now with everything going on, I choose to see HOPE. My mother used to always say, 

"It has to get worse before it gets better."

I'd like to think we've reached the point where we now begin to see necessary changes. I'm seeing conversations taking place that have been brushed under the rug for way too long. I'm seeing people taking real steps to support each other in learning how to e better for our brothers and sisters. I'm seeing how the poor leadership we've been under is making it possible to appreciate what true leadership was when we had it, and that we have now hopefully raised our standards even higher for a future that holds a promise of hope. 

Most importantly, I see the pain in my social media newsfeed as a reflection of the LOVE that we have for each other - whether it's in the form of outrage or sadness. They say there's a thin line between love and hate. 

Cross the line. 

Let's make a conscious shift now from anger, fear, sadness and redirect our words, actions and deeds to come from a place of LOVE. Love is at the root of it all. Love for our community, love for our children and our futures. Love for all people, love for our world. We know better, now let's DO better. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

These Four Walls.

I'm in the process of putting all my posts from Blogger into a Word doc to save them just in case something were to happen to my blog, and as I'm entering them into the doc, I'm reading them. I don't know if I've ever read through every post I've written since I started this blog.

All I can say is, I know it's not just my allergies acting up today... I'm so thankful I wrote in such detail - especially about the adorable things my kids did and said. For so many recent years I regretfully haven't been writing. I had been so caught up in everyone else's drama and made it my own for so long that it sucked any energy out of me for writing. I feel like I've missed so much of my kids during this time - things they've said and done that I should remember. I'm so grateful to be able to say now that I'm done with everyone's unnecessary drama. Life brings enough on its own, and boy aren't we getting a big taste of that in 2020.

Something I've learned from Covid that I'm so grateful for is that what matters most in our lives is what happens within our own four walls. This is where it begins for everyone. If you don't like what's happening in the world, start with what's happening within your own four walls.

I'm really happy with what's happening here.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mother's Day.

My children are now 16 and almost 13. They're old enough to get this by now. For years, they've watched me dote on my mother for her birthday, Mother's Day, any day that I think a person should be given special attention to make them feel a little extra loved. My mom passed away three years ago, so I haven't had that opportunity for a while.

My husband hasn't been here to teach them how to treat their mother on days like yesterday, and if I'm completely honest, I'm not sure he'd be winning at that, either. He did have the kids make me a card on one of the four Mother's Days that he was alive since I've been a mom - he had them put their tiny hand prints in it with paint. It meant so much to me and I'll never forget it. That was by far my best Mother's Day ever, other than the very first one I ever had - Jacob was born a month early, and it was just before Mother's Day, so I never expected to be a mom yet on THAT Mother's Day! Matt was learning though, too, and he was beginning to understand the importance of not just acknowledging that day for his mom, but for the woman who was the mother of his children, and that he was also teaching his children how to treat their mother.

I've gently guided my children through example and explanations to help them along with things like this since they don't have anyone else guiding them. I think girls in general are usually a little more receptive to this stuff, at least from what I've seen from my sister's disappointing Mother's Days (that her daughter has usually stepped up for), and my daughter at least wished me a Happy Mother's Day yesterday morning, made me a last-minute gift using the 3D pen I got her for Christmas (a cute little cactus), and cleaned the kitchen, leaving the all the dishes for her brother to do.

My son didn't wish me a Happy Mother's Day until 7:30pm last night (and he didn't do the dishes). I'm not saying this to bash him- I'm bringing it up for a few reasons. First of all, that it hurt me and this blog is where I vent my heart so I can clear my head. Second, this could very well be a "me, too" moment for moms everywhere (or whoever reads this) that feel under appreciated every day of the year but especially on this day, too. Third, I think I handled it gracefully again this year, and I'd like to share it this time to maybe help another mother out.

I'm on Facebook, so I get to see how so many of my mommy friends get pampered by their husbands and children, get breakfast in bed, flowers, didn't have to lift a finger that day and felt love oozing out of every pore. That's how it should be - I love seeing that others are getting that, but it hits me like a punch to the gut and I hate that I have that reaction. I'm sure there are so many others that feel the way I'm left feeling on days like yesterday. I don't expect much - I'm one of the easiest people to please. All I want is to give love and feel loved in return by the people I'm the closest to, and somehow this has seriously been my biggest struggle in life.

I took my son aside today (like I did last year), and explained to him that I understand he hasn't had anyone but me to teach him this stuff, so that's been a disadvantage for him. That he really only hears about these things from me, so it sounds like mom is just talking like the teacher on Snoopy and he doesn't register a word I'm saying, and I get it that it doesn't really mean much somehow coming from me until he hears it from another more credible source that isn't his mother (I understand this dynamic- I put my own mother through this). I also get it that we haven't had regular TV in so long, that he doesn't see the commercials that relentlessly drill these Hallmark Holidays into the public at large to make sure no one forgets (he admits he didn't forget - ouch). But I am his mother. On Mother's Day and every day. That on this one special day, I deserve acknowledgment from my children in the form of a verbal and/or written "Happy Mother's Day!" That I'm shown a little extra love, and maybe that someone other than me makes a meal or does the dishes. I don't need gifts or pedicures - just loved on a little extra to make me feel like I'm a little extra appreciated on this day. Someday his wife will thank me.

Then I remind myself that there are women out there who long more than anything to be a mother, or to have their child back that was taken too soon. They would give anything to have the opportunity to be disappointed by their kids on Mother's Day. I'm grateful that despite this twinge of disappointment, that I'm lucky to have these otherwise pretty amazing kids to give me these challenges and help me to be a better human every day.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Up and down and up again.

I've been having these strange ranges of emotions lately that I'm sure are shared among many others during this crazy time. I'm going to try to describe all of them...

Knowing there is a virus that is easily spread and so potentially deadly that it has caused a worldwide pandemic is scary in itself. The changes it has created in our every day lives is scary. Quarantining, our access to food and toilet paper, and the drastic change to our routines - all really difficult adjustments. Yet some of the changes give me warm, fuzzy feelings. I feel grateful for the perspective this event is giving, reminding us what is truly important: humanity, mental health, and strengthening our immune systems. And the Earth is healing - that has been amazing to witness, and what is also truly amazing is the rate at which it's recovering. Even the ozone is healing! This makes me really happy.

I'm filled with this sense of mourning for my children's school and social lives. When I grew up, it was before 911. It was carefree and fun, even with the dramas of family, friends and the things that everyday life throws at kids. We didn't have to worry about mass shooters, we could greet our loved ones coming through the gate after a flight, I could fly by myself cross country to visit my brother in California when I was just a kid and not have to worry about sex traffickers abducting me. I could innocently kiss a boy and not have to worry about the pressures that social media is putting on kids to record an event or take it to another level that they're not ready for. I was able to be a kid, even though I worked three jobs doing it.

My children, being born after 911, have already had so much of that carefreeness taken away from them before they even got to know what it was like. They had their dad ripped from their lives, and part of their mother as a result. My biggest fear is them losing all of me and leaving them fully orphaned. They've had traumatizing mass shooter drills in school. They can't get away with kissing anyone without the whole world knowing about it. They have seen and heard pretty disturbing things on at least one of thousands of social media channels out there, including the stupid "challenges" that are taking kids' lives. Even though they are limited to only one or two social media outlets on their phones, they still see and hear those disturbing things. They can't even sneak a hit of a joint because it could be laced with fentanyl and be as fatal as its newly synthetic counterpart. (A joint was the only thing I tried back in the day because I was too scared to attempt anything else.) And now, everything has been taken away. They can't even be around other kids in person. I find myself feeling grateful for the technology that brings us social media more than ever because it's now the safest way to socialize.

My widowed friends are suffering - especially the newly widowed ones. Not only have they lost their partner in life and probably the only person they would be socially isolating with, but with all the major social and life changes that kind of loss brings, it is exponentially worse right now. Lonely and isolated. Taking care of everything at home that they shared those duties with. Having to learn how to do the things their partner took care of. The loss of their partner's income, as well as their own in some cases. They can't have someone come over to give them a hand or a much-needed hug without potentially exposing themselves to a deadly virus. If they have young children, it's twice as challenging. Loneliness, solo parenting, interim teacher, working, and widowing all at once. It's too much.

I had to close the office I literally just opened for my new business. At first, that was really depressing. Now, I see it as an opportunity to become better at what I'm doing so that when it's safe to gather, I'll be even more ready. There is more to learn especially in light of all these new changes taking place because some things will not go back to the way they were. When we go back to "normal," it won't be the normal that we knew. People are going to be traumatized by this event, and we are going to have to relearn a lot of things that either we have put out of practice for some time, or never learned at all. As prepared as I already felt with some things, is as unprepared I've felt with many others. I love gardening, but I'm not very good at it. I still have a lot to learn about growing vegetables and fruits, and how to preserve them, and even how to prepare them to eat! I wasn't raised to learn how to do these things - most of us probably weren't. There are many old ways we need to get back to because those methods are tried and true, and we won't have a lot of the conveniences that have kept us spoiled.

Just before this pandemic, I made many very difficult and necessary changes in my life. I realized that what I had been doing for the last decade hadn't been working anymore for a long time. I had outgrown many things without even realizing it and could no longer force myself into my former mold. I had given myself a clean slate. I started building upon that clean slate, and although I feel like some of what I began building has already been ripped away- again, it was probably good timing. It happened before my rebuild really took hold so that I can make necessary tweaks to it to adapt to these changes happening in the world. The timing could have been a gift. I'm choosing to see it that way. It's also giving me the opportunity to finish ghost writing the book for my friend that we've been working on for the past several years (more to come on this soon).

I feel that we are able to gain so much from this stillness. It is allowing us to think and feel and process without so much distraction. Giving us permission to be still and silent, and learn more about what's happening inside of ourselves. Allowing us to heal, like the earth. This is an opportunity for a collective healing to take place (after all, we are connected, and that fact is becoming more and more evident). Just like there are forests that need to experience destructive fires for regeneration and renewal, this is our opportunity.

I'm looking forward to tonight's full Flower moon. For some reason, it is filling me with hope. This is the same moon that our ancestors gazed at during full moons of the past. I'm hoping that when I gaze at it tonight, I'll be able to feel the love, guidance and protection of our ancestors, of our moon, of our universe.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Gratitude.

I find myself being grateful for some of the oddest things lately since we've been quarantined:

1. That I'm able to get out of the lease for my beautiful new office space. My brand new 'just got all set and ready to go, and had to immediately shut it down' office space. As much as it is breathtakingly disappointing to end a lease for an office space where I was excited to spread my wings, catapult my business and fulfill a dream, it's such a relief to not have to spend that money while unable to make up for the expense with paying clients.

2. That I got divorced. Who in their right mind would be grateful for something like that?? But here I am, grateful. I'm relieved that I finally realized how easy it really has been raising two kids by myself instead of raising two kids, a grown man and another whole family by myself. It also makes it seem easier to add on homeschooling to the list of responsibilities.

3. That my mom is already dead. I'm missing her more now than ever because no matter the state of the relationship between mother and adult child, the fact is it's just human nature to "want your mommy" in times like this. My mother was afraid of everything, and COVID would have scared her to death. Literally. She had COPD, heart problems, and recently moved into a nursing home when she passed. My heart aches for those losing their loved ones and aren't able to be by their sides to help them transition to death, and can't even have services to honor the life they lived.

4. That I'm able to get my death benefits back. I didn't want them in the first place (as Matt's widow), and I didn't want to need them in the second place (after my divorce). When I married John, I was so sure it would last forever that I was willing to give up those benefits. I was falsely reassured that we were going to be a team and help each other through life. After my divorce, I didn't try to get the death benefits back because I didn't want to need them. I wanted to make it easier to forgive myself for giving them up by earning it from a business that helps people. I planned to earn enough money to make up for the loss of my death benefits, and to give myself enough time to become established enough to hopefully make up for the anticipated loss of the benefits I currently receive for the kids. Theirs end when they turn 18, mine end when my youngest turns 16, and it's all coming up faster than I thought.

5. That we're stuck in this house. This big, beautiful house that I bought for a blended family of six with two incomes. I've moved too many times - anyone who knows me knows this. I never intended to move so much. I moved into this house thinking once again, "LAST MOVE EVER."  His children wouldn't have had a bedroom in our old place, and I wanted them to feel a part of us as a whole unit - not just weekend add-ons. I was the weekend add-on when I was a kid and I wanted more for them. I went from feeling excitement about moving into this beautiful dream home and the hope it had of a life complete with a partner and blending of families, to resenting it's size with a feeling of dread knowing that in a few years the kids and I will be losing our primary source of income and I won't be able to afford to stay. I was beginning to looking for a smaller home that would cost less to purchase and maintain, but am grateful that didn't happen before COVID. At least we have more space to move around since we can't go anywhere.

6. That I've given up on dating. I guess it's bad that any attempts at dating have been so disappointing that I've lost any desire to pick it back up, but I actually feel relief for the fact that I have zero interest. I don't feel like I'm missing anything, and that would have been one more thing that would have made quarantining more painful.

7. That I already gave up a lot of things to save money: cable, alcohol, getting my hair colored and rarely got my nails done, anyway. Cable is virtually useless with no new filming, I've been letting the glitter strands grow anyway, and alcohol would be one more thing I "think" I need to have to risk exposure to get some in the house. All this has been saving me money and stress because I've already adjusted to going without them. Makes me feel like I'm missing way less right now.

Aside from my occasional WHAT THE F*CK moments- a sentiment that I'm sure is shared around the globe, I'm thankful that my kids and I are healthy, and will feel extra blessed if we make it out of this whole pandemic (however long it lasts) with our lives.










Monday, March 30, 2020

The Power of the Mind.

Fear, anxiety, anger - any strong negative emotion - causes stress and puts tremendous strain on our bodies. Even when we so much as relive a stressful moment in our minds, it has a direct effect on our blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. We go into "fight or flight" mode which results in a cortisol response that pumps potent hormones into our blood and effects every organ. The body even increases its blood-clotting ability in order to prevent excess blood loss in the event of an injury. Stress also lowers the immune system and makes it harder to fight off illness. These are very real physical results that are triggered from both real AND imagined threats. It's a brilliant design for survival in situations where it IS a matter of life and death like if a bear is chasing you, but when it happens as a result of perceived threats or situations that we don't even really need to be in, it is harmful instead of helpful. Grief, and most recently, this global pandemic, cause the same stress response.

For years, without being consciously aware of it, I'd been holding the muscles in my jaw, neck and shoulders so consistently tense that it actually caused the discs in my temporal mandibular joint to be permanently displaced, compression damage to the vertebrae in my cervical spine, bulging/herniated discs, arthritis, bone spurring and nerve damage. Can you imagine all that just from stress?? Now that I'm aware of the effects that stress has had on me all these years, I have made necessary changes to my life. I'm making choices that help me instead of hurt me. I'm making a conscious effort to relax those areas that I've been conditioned to holding tense (it takes a lot of effort!) and have incorporated meditation into my daily life. This is actually helping to heal some of the long-term damage that has been done - mentally and physically, and has given me more control over anxiety which is something I clearly have struggled with most of my life, even when I didn't think it was an issue.

When we focus our minds on something peaceful and calming, a single thought, or even just focus on our breathing, we can lower our blood pressure and heart rates. Meditation is a way to exercise our minds in a healthy way. It takes an effort to stay focused on one thing for a certain amount of time, and the more we exercise this "muscle," the easier it gets, and the more positive results we will see physically, mentally and emotionally. During meditation, we are able to slow down our minds, which in turn, relaxes our bodies. It doesn't just lower blood pressure and heart rates, but it also gives your organs a chance to recover from the stresses that have been placed on them. Breathing exercises during meditation further this recovery by providing adequate oxygen to your organs, muscles, and all parts of your body. When you are in a relaxed state through meditation, your body is actively healing and recovering. Your immune system is strengthened, as well as your mind. To really experience the results of these efforts, this should be put into practice on a consistent basis.

Our minds are extremely powerful. We've all heard things like "mind over matter" and the "power of the mind." There are people that have mastered so much control over their minds that they can withstand extreme cold temperatures by submerging their bodies in ice water and not experience a hypothermic physical response. There are people that can walk on hot coals and broken glass, and not receive one laceration or burn. During World War II, Henry Beecher discovered the placebo effect as a medic when they ran out of morphine. He replaced the morphine with a simple saline solution but continued telling the wounded soldiers it was morphine to calm them, and it worked. You can also look at this as an exercise of faith... Either way, our thoughts create our reality. For instance, instead of thinking about it as being "stuck" at home, we can think of it as being "safe" at home. We have choices. We can use this time as an opportunity to connect more with our loved ones, and just as important, connect with OURSELVES.

Reiki, including Distance Reiki, involves science (an understanding of energy and vibration); it involves a certain amount of faith (or spiritually); and it involves intention (the power of the mind). Mind, Body, Spirit. An attuned Reiki Practitioner can provide this service for you, and you have the choice as to whether you will truly receive the benefits.