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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.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Usui Reiki Ryoho.

Since I've been practicing Reiki (pronounced "Ray Key"), I've realized just how few people really know what it is. Even though it's becoming more mainstream and even practiced in hospitals and Hospices across the country, very often when someone asks me what I do and I tell them I'm a Reiki Practitioner, they are pretty confused- and I admit it isn't the most easy thing to explain!

For those who haven't heard of it before or maybe have heard of it but still don't quite understand it, below is a more detailed explanation. Reiki has scientific and spiritual components to it. It is totally nondenominational. You can practice any religion (or none), and still use and benefit from Reiki.

First, a description of Energy: everything in our Universe is made up of energy, and all energy vibrates at different frequencies. It's science. Even solid objects are made up of vibrational energy fields at the quantum level- including us. We are beings that are made up of different energy levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, and each of these levels has a vibrational frequency which combine to create our overall vibration of being. When our vibration is low, we feel sad, angry, tired, and can become ill. When our vibration is higher, we feel more relaxed, peaceful and healthy. We are able to handle the things life throws at us a little bit easier.

Energy healing has been around since ancient times. Reiki is one form of energy healing which was discovered and developed in Japan by a man named Dr. Mikao Usui, and was brought to the west by a woman named Hawayo Takata where it evolved further.

"Rei" means "universal life" and "Ki" means "vital energy." Reiki is the life energy that flows through all living things. It is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that promotes healing by balancing the body's energy centers. When your body is in a completely relaxed state, it provides the optimal conditions for healing. We have seven main energy centers (called Chakras) in our bodies that are responsible for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It's more evident in times of extreme stress that these are all connected. Stress from work, grief, finances, home life, social situations, heartbreaks, disappointments, environmental factors like pollution and the kinds of foods we eat all have an effect on us and throw our energy centers off balance and create illness. Grief, in particular, takes a significant toll on a person mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, so it makes sense that Reiki is not only beneficial for everyone, but ideal for the grieving person.

An attuned Reiki Practitioner is able to use the flow of Reiki energy to beneficially manipulate the energy within their client to facilitate healing. Reiki is an intelligent energy and knows where to go to provide the most benefits. A practitioner uses specific hand positions to direct universal energy from a client's head to their toes.  Everyone's experience varies slightly, but some of the most common sensations are peacefulness, tingling, heat, and lightness. Reiki is not a massage - in fact, some practitioners don't physically touch their clients. Hovering their hands inches away from their client's body has just as much of an effect as touching them since they are still within their client's auric energy field. Reiki can be given from a great distance. Distance Reiki is also a part of my practice, however I prefer to work on clients in person because I feel that they get the most benefit from the sacred space I've created that, in my opinion, provides an ideal environment to facilitate optimal healing.

Every Reiki practitioner operates a little differently, including complimenting their practice using different modalities. Some practitioners enhance their practice using sound therapy, some use stones and crystals for their different healing properties, some use aromatherapy, and there are even more options. The ones I mentioned are some of the modalities I employ for my clients. I so enjoy learning even more about these as I go along, too!

In our hectic modern world, it's important to get back to basics. Being able to sit in quiet with yourself and your thoughts/feelings. It's not easy to do. Most of us are so over-scheduled and have so little downtime that we don't give ourselves that opportunity. Many of us purposely keep ourselves so busy that we don't allow for this time to happen because sitting with our own thoughts/feelings can be uncomfortable. However, it's this quiet and relaxed state that our bodies are able to heal. Our minds heal. We resolve inner conflict. When we are in a state of relaxation during a Reiki/meditation session, we are allowing ourselves to heal as a whole.

Since I've been practicing Reiki I have learned to make time for this a priority because not only is it necessary for the quality of my practice, but I have gained so much clarity on many different things in my own life. When I completed Level I and II training, I wasn't even sure if I was going to do anything with it other than use it to help myself. I have gotten so much more out of it than I ever expected, that I decided this was the best way for me to be able to help other people. I am #13 in the unbroken Reiki lineage beginning with Dr. Mikao Usui, and I am so excited to become a Reiki Master next month so I can begin to teach this amazing skill to others!

The Principles of Reiki: 
"Just for today...
I will not be angry, 
I will not worry,
I will be grateful, 
I will do my work honestly, 
I will be kind to every living thing."

Words to live by...

www.bridgetobalancellc.com

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Symbiosis.

It's easy to look at what is happening around us in the world and feel overwhelmed and scared. Fires, war, earthquakes, drought, etc.  It feels like things are literally falling apart all around us, but there's hope!

Our planet is in a state of metamorphosis. Just like when a person hits rock bottom, when you feel like everything in you is calling for change because so far, life as you know it isn't resonating with you anymore and simply cannot continue without some fundamental changes.

Having experienced this on a very personal level and also having a deeper understanding of our connection with the Earth and everyone and everything on it and the symbiotic nature of our existence, is truly eye-opening to see what is happening in our world right now.

"Evolution" is the slow, gradual change that happens naturally over a long period of time. This is what our Earth and everything on it has done for the past 4.54 billion years. "Revolution" is a sudden, complete or radical change. The Industrial Revolution began only 260 years ago, and in this extremely short amount of time, the damage that humans have done to our plant has been drastic to say the least. As a result, it just makes sense that Earth has to switch gears from EVOLUTION to REVOLUTION to take back her health. I know how she feels. Buckle your seatbelts, folks.

Our Earth and everything and everyone on it are all interconnected. We are all part of the same Body, working together to sustain ourselves. When the Earth suffers, we suffer. When we are living sustainably, our Earth is healthier, too. Just as the person's mind/body/spirit are interconnected, it is the same for the Earth because WE ARE ALL ONE SYSTEM (I know it sounds far-fetched if you're not used to thinking that way - it's almost strange to hear myself saying it), but I believe it with everything in me. The Earth's body has been depleted and abused by humans, her spirit has been broken with war, and now she's pissed. She is in a transformative state where she is taking back her power, changing and rebuilding to ensure her survival.

There is hope. The sooner we realize how interconnected we all are and start living as such, the more everything will start working in favor of each other instead of against each other. Symbiosis is science. It's spiritual. It is life. We are all in this together whether you want to believe it or not.  Each one of us have the power bring about positive change, even if it's just by changing our minds.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"Do No Harm, But Take No Shit."

With all this talk about kindness, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness, something else needs to be said.

"Do not mistake kindness for weakness."

As a parent, and particularly as an ONLY parent, I am protective of my children. Naturally. My most important job in life is to love, nurture, and protect my children. It is also to correct behavior when necessary. We are their first and most important teachers.

I have taught my children to defend their bodies should someone ever attempt to hurt them physically, and I have also taught them to stand up for their friends. Hopefully their friends would do the same for them. This is one of the main reasons I enrolled my children in Tae Kwon Do. It taught them how to defend themselves, and how to exercise self control. If by chance they ever find themselves in a position to have to defend themselves or someone else and a parent or anyone else has any issue with it, the person with the problem should come to ME directly, and not touch my child or confront them with verbal assault.

These are the kinds of moments that can provide even more teaching opportunities by showing the children how maturely those types of difficult situations can be handled by their parents. If your child is hurting another child either verbally or physically, that behavior needs to be corrected by you - not anyone else. You are doing your child a disservice by excusing bad behavior and blaming everybody else. My kids aren't perfect - I've had lots of opportunities to correct their behavior, and I make them accountable to give apologies when necessary.

I do not condone violence in any form. The thought of it makes my stomach churn. But I think it is important to empower all of our children with the understanding that it is their inherent right to protect their own bodies from harm - within sensible limits, of course, and to not be the reason for someone having to defend themselves. Maybe a kid who is being bullied will be less likely to feel empowered by using a weapon if they know they can use their own voice and hands when it's necessary.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Broken Open.

In my last post, I mentioned that our thoughts can make or break us...

It took some of the hardest work I've ever done to pull myself out of the hell I was in with all the heartbreak and disappointments from the last few years- the hits had just kept coming at me from every direction without any breaks, and I felt I had absolutely no one to talk to about any of it. The people I felt like I should have been able to talk to weren't willing to listen, and that in itself was just another hit. I was pretty fucking broken. I knew I couldn't stay there for too long - I'd never survive in that place. I had to dig deep and find my way out before I couldn't. At that point, I think I got broken OPEN. Somehow, the things I'd learned over the course of - well, possibly my whole life - started finally making sense. The things I really needed to understand to be able to get my mind and heart back to a healthy place began to get pieced together. I started to truly resonate with the understandings of some of the teachings I had read, heard, watched, learned in some way over the years. It all started coming together. It saved my life.

I have given up any expectations from anyone toward me. I can't even tell you how much lighter alone this makes me feel. That's been a lot of responsibility to carry when you think about it. Expectations are something I didn't even realize I was putting on everyone in my life, and those expectations set me up for disappointment every time. I didn't think I was asking for much - just wanting to be loved and understood, but loved and understood the way that I thought I should be - not the way that each individual person has the capacity for. Now that I'm conscious of this, it has helped in so many ways.

One of the things that's helped me stop stressing about what other people think is to just keep in mind that God knows my heart. I can live with myself knowing I always strive to do the right things with everything I do, and if I make a mistake, I own it. I have let go of my need to prove myself to anyone, explain myself to anyone, and even if the people closest in relation misunderstand me, it's ok. I've learned that people understand according to their own perspectives, so it's possible I could be saying one thing and they will come up with a completely different conclusion than what I just said. It's not personal, the way they think is just different than the way I think, and that's ok. Frustrating and disappointing, yes - but still ok. We don't all need to necessarily understand each other, we just need to be tolerant and accepting of each other. It'd be awesome if we could all understand each other, but unfortunately, that's not realistic.

A few years ago, I was seeing a therapist that recommended a book that had such an amazing impact on me: "The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom" by Don Miguel Ruiz. This is one of the teachings that I mentioned above that finally clicked in the nick of time. A brief description of the book states, "The book offers a code of conduct based on ancient Toltec wisdom that advocates freedom from self-limiting beliefs that may cause suffering and limitation in a person's life." The Four Agreements are: Be impeccable with your word. Don't take anything personally, Don't make assumptions. Always do your best.

I got so stinking excited about how much I learned from this remarkable book that I ended up giving to everybody for Christmas that year. I felt like everyone in the whole world should read this! (I still do.) At the time, I understood what it was explaining to me, but I don't think it really sunk in to the point that I could apply it to my own life until I got "broken open."

Reaching the depths that I did and eventually finding my way back to light, I have attained a level of compassion, understanding and forgiveness that I don't think would have otherwise been possible. When my mind goes to a place of pain and resentment, I remind myself of all I've learned and I can pull myself out. It gets a little easier every time, and eventually, I'm looking forward to having this come naturally without reminding and retraining.

One of the toughest lessons when going through a major emotional crisis is to realize that you have to be your own hero. You can't look to anyone to save you - you have to save yourself. You can look to others for knowledge, wisdom, go for energy healing (learning Reiki was pivotal for me), read books,  etc., and if you're really lucky you can get some emotional support from the people you love, but what it comes down to is that YOU have to be the one to seek the knowledge, to actually DO the work, and if you're willing to put in that effort, then you can get through anything.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Introspection. LOTS.

Why has my life been so full of chaos and heartache for the past eleven years? Why am I the way I am, and why do I attract the people and situations into my life that I have? Why do I always feel like I have to fix everything and take care of everybody? How could it be that helping others and wanting to be loved has created the majority of the chaos in my life??

I have done a lot of soul searching recently, and I actually came up with some answers. 

Most adults haven't dealt with their childhood stuff that made them the way they are, and as a result, they carry that stuff into adulthood and it spills over into their entire life and everybody in their lives. Who can blame anyone for not taking that on? It's not pleasant. 

Looking back to childhood can really explain a lot about a person. It can offer good reasoning as to why someone is the way they are; however, it should not to be used as an excuse. I know that's some pretty basic psychological stuff, but it's a whole different ballgame when you really get it as a profound understanding, AND, apply it to your own life.

It was in my desire to understand other people and where they're coming from that has encouraged me to look deeper into my own self to understand myself better. I figured I'd better get on this and see if I can figure out why the past eleven years has been so full of the same shit over and over again so I can have a chance to make it better.

Friday, January 3, 2020

My Mom.

On December 19, 2017, I was at my annual gynecologist appointment, sitting on the table in my paper gown, waiting for my doctor to enter the room. I was mentally preparing to tell her I wanted her to just take everything out, and fix my bladder while she's at it. I had been having horrendous issues long enough and was actually excited to discuss the prospect of a hysterectomy at this appointment. I heard my phone vibrate so I looked at it - it was the number from the nursing home where my mother had been for the last year. I figured I would just call them back after the appointment was over, so I let it go to voice mail. When it rang again immediately after, I knew.

I answered, and all the nurse said to me was, "Honey,"

And I immediately replied, "NO."

She said, "Yes. I am so sorry."

My mother was all ready to go to the local casino using the van service from the nursing home. She had always gone with friends or cousins, so she was a little nervous about taking this form of transportation for the first time. She was sitting in the hall waiting for the van to arrive when she looked up at the nurse standing beside her and said, "I don't think I'm going to the casino today." And then she died.

When our parents get old, we know that someday we'll have to say goodbye, but somehow, it still comes as a shock - even when they're sick. She was about to do the thing she loved most - go to the casino. I feel like this was the best way she could have gone.

We were so fortunate to get another year with her because a little over a year before that in October of 2016, just before our birthday (her and I share the same day), she had a massive heart attack and wasn't expected to survive. The more I'm remembering, the more I'm realizing how much I stopped writing during this time...

Let's rewind further to when I moved back to Buffalo in 2014... As soon as I landed on Buffalo soil, I hit the ground running with my mom. Because my brother lives in California and my sister is on the other side of the state, everything was on me as it always was (they moved away as soon as they were able to when I was young). About a year after I moved back to the area, it became apparent that she was unable to keep up financially with the unending repairs to her home (and neither could I), or with any of the outside maintenance. We decided that it would be best if she sold her home and moved into a senior apartment closer to where I live so I could help her more and our responsibilities and expenses would be lessened. Her COPD was worsening and began to slow her down considerably.

Almost as soon as we got her name on the list for a low income senior apartment and listed her home on the market, she got a full price offer. That would have been amazing news, but there was a possibility that it would take TWO YEARS for her to get into an apartment. She asked me if she could move in with the kids and I so that she could accept the offer... The house I moved into wasn't set up well to accommodate her - she really needed a one level living space with a full bathroom and bedroom, and here all the bedrooms and bathrooms are upstairs. With her COPD and balance issues, there was no way that would have worked. Plus, I had two elementary school kids, and she demanded just as much attention from me as they did. I felt like the absolute worst daughter in the world, but I knew for my sanity, my children, and her health, I had to tell her no.

At some point around a year or so later, my mom told me that the housing people sent her a letter telling her that she was next in line to get a place again, but she just turned it down for the 2nd time because her home still hadn't sold yet (since she had to turn down the initial offer). By now, I was running out of money to keep her home from literally falling apart, and her health was getting worse. I decided that she had to get into the apartment NOW even though her home hadn't sold yet, and we would just have to figure it out somehow. I learned that because she turned the apartment down twice, they bumped her to the end of the list which was another possible two year wait! I BEGGED the lady at the apartment to do whatever she could possibly do to get my mother in there as soon as humanly possible. Amazingly, an apartment became available soon after that and she was in. And even more amazingly, her home sold at virtually the same time. THANK GOD.

Once I got her moved into the apartment, I was better able to help her with grocery shopping, taking her to doctor appointments, and pretty much anything else she needed. It seemed the more I did, the more she needed. I discouraged her from driving as much as I could because her eyesight had deteriorated quite a bit and honestly, she was becoming a hazard on the road. Not just that, but she really couldn't afford to keep up with the insurance and repair costs. It was a big step for her, but eventually she let go of the car. I was so thankful for her cousins and friends who would pick her up and take her to the casino - this was her most favorite thing to do and it brought her so much joy, and this was one thing I would not do for her.

She was living in the apartment for almost two years I think when she had the heart attack. They really didn't expect her to survive. She was in the hospital hooked up to everything, and was unrecognizable between the tubes and wires, and the considerable swelling in her face. The hospital encouraged me to sign a DNR order (Do Not Resuscitate) on her behalf. By some miracle, she pulled through and showed enough improvement that they were talking about releasing her.

The panic I felt at that prospect of her release, I can't even express. I knew she couldn't go home - her health was too poor for her to live on her own anymore, and not only was I not mentally or physically  equipped to handle her needs the way they had become, but I was already completely burned out from years of helping her with virtually everything, and that last year really took its toll. I was spent in every possible way. My sister had to help me advocate that our mother needed to be in a facility where she could get the proper care, and that I was unable to provide this for her as a widowed mom of two young children with no support for even us. She had a social worker assigned to her, and was released to a rehab facility where they were able to eventually help restore some of her strength for her to be able to get around with the assistance of a walker. Once she "graduated" from the rehab part, she was moved to another wing where she could live. During that time, I moved her to three different rooms for various different reasons...

At this point, I needed to distance myself a little from my mother because I was so depleted that my own health was suffering, and my children were getting so little from me. It wasn't fair to them because I'm all they have as it is.

I'm happy to say that several months before her death, I was able to pull myself together and put those feelings behind me, and enjoy my visits with her. I'm so grateful for this time. On the last birthday we were able to share together, I cooked us a lobster dinner and brought it to the nursing home along with birthday cupcakes. It was such a nice surprise to see many of her close cousins visiting her for her birthday, too. I hoped it would be as special as special as possible because I knew we were on borrowed time. The next month, my brother came to town and we brought our mom to my house for a Thanksgiving celebration which included this guy who proposed to me that day in the presence of my mom and brother, his family and all of the kids. One of the last things she told me was that she could die happy now knowing I have him in my life... I don't even know what to say after that one.


I wrote this on the 2nd anniversary of her passing this year on December 19, 2019:
In the 1970's at a time when being a divorced woman was taboo and could hardly get a bank account without a husband (that’s how it was back then), let alone a mortgage, my mom had many challenges while trying to make ends meet and raising three kids. She struggled for everything we had. 
Despite that, she still was able to put a roof over our heads and food on our plates even though we never had paper products (I always gave her a hard time about having to wipe my butt with half a napkin because we constantly ran out of toilet paper but somehow always had napkins.) 
She’s the one who taught me how to paint a house, strip wallpaper, fix holes, make a home beautiful with less, stretch a dollar, and taught me work ethics that began at 11 years old. I also learned from her what not to do in many cases, and I’m grateful for that, too. 
It’s been two years now and I really miss this lady. Love you, Mamacita.
(This picture was from our last birthday together.)

More updates from the last year and a half!

In addition to Reiki and changes to my diet, I also give a lot of credit to CBD oil. A few people I trust swore by it and highly recommended that I give it a try. After doing some research and hearing such wonderful things about it's anti-inflammatory properties, pain relief and anti-anxiety benefits which were ALL the things I needed the most help with, I figured I'd give it a shot. The residual pain I had in my joints from the damage that's been done has virtually been eliminated with it. I never would have believed it if I didn't experience this for myself.

Having made all these changes in my life has made all the difference in my overall well-being. Moving into a new house not far from my old one has made a difference in our health, too. I'm suspecting mold was present in our old place because whenever Jacob would get sick (which was often), it was always upper respiratory infections that turned into croup and scary asthmatic episodes. He's only needed to use the nebulizer once in the two years we've lived here, and even that was short lived. He doesn't get the croupy cough anymore, either, which is such a relief - his entire life was plagued with that cough from the tiniest little cold he would catch. Sydney hardly ever gets sick (knock on wood) but I'm guessing it's because she eats raw garlic by the clove! I don't know how that girl does it, but I won't be the one to tell her to stop... I'm hoping it will help ward off teenage boys, too. ;)

The kids are thriving in their new school system and have made great friends. This has been another awesome benefit to our move - AND, we can have a pool in our back yard!!! We had too many power lines overhead in our other yard to have been able to put a pool in, and even if we could, the machinery would never have made it between the houses to even get into the back yard. Our neighbors here are very sweet, too.

One of the other wonderful things about our home is that I have an area in the basement for a Reiki studio. I've transformed it into a sacred space that's designated for healing, and it has been so amazing for me, that I've decided to help others by starting a small business as a Reiki Practitioner specializing in Grief Reiki. I have fallen into this practice so seamlessly that it feels like everything I've done in my life, everything I've endured, known, believed and learned has lead me to this. I couldn't be more grateful to be able to help others this way.

For almost a year and a half, I have been a Soaring Spirits Regional Leader for the Buffalo, NY area facilitating two gatherings per month for local people who have lost the person they expected to spend the rest of their lives with. I've been involved with Soaring Spirits International since their very first Camp Widow in San Diego (which wasn't called Camp Widow then - it was "The First National Conference on Widowhood"). Having attended ten consecutive Camp Widow events in San Diego, CA I've gained lots of tools and knowledge on how to help not just myself, but other people going through this type of loss, and has been a huge asset to helping my grieving Reiki clients. I finally got to the Camp in Toronto this year for the first time, too! Toronto is only about three hours away from me, so it was a pleasure to be able to drive there and not have to fly.

I had been wanting to start a local group out here for so long, but with my children being so young and not having reliable baby sitters, I just couldn't take the chance on having a sitter bail on me and leave a group of people hanging. Now my children are at the ages that I can leave them alone for a few hours and not have to worry. Our group has two meetings per month, and it has been so wonderful to see the connections everyone has made through these meetings.


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Healthy Changes, Difficult Choices.

Aside from all the chaos, the last year and a half were pivotal for my health.

I had suspected that I had some kind of subtle autoimmune issue going on for years, but didn't have the wherewithal to address it because of the other distressing issues that resulted in finally getting a complete hysterectomy in May of 2018. Once that was behind me, I could address the other symptoms that had become so much worse over the last couple of years. Symptoms which included severe joint pain, daily headaches, rashes, stomach issues, debilitating fatigue, brain fog, and feeling run down like I was getting sick so many times. It became overwhelming and affected my daily life and activities.

I had learned that gluten causes inflammation a long time ago from my cousin, but because I was in denial about having any real issues, and also because I reeeally didn't want to give up bread, pasta, and all the other irresistible foods that as a proper Italian, it would be sacrilegious to forfeit, I continued eating them. Since autoimmune issues involve inflammation, I knew that it was something I needed to seriously consider. It finally got to the point that I had to do whatever I could to ease the pain that was getting worse by the day when I also found myself reaching for ibuprofen on a regular basis. In August of 2018, I went completely gluten free. I started noticing an improvement almost immediately. By the time I finally got in to see a rheumatologist and was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, my inflammation markers were a lot lower than they would have been if I was tested sooner. The doctor told me to continue doing what I'm doing since it seems to be helping, but damage had already been done over the years - I have bone on bone arthritis in many of my joints.

In November of 2018, I had driven to Schenectady two times in one week from Buffalo (about a four hour drive), and by the time I got home from the second round trip after Thanksgiving, I ended up in the hospital with a migraine that kept getting worse instead of better. I was into the second week of it and got to the point that I couldn't see straight. The MRI of my head and neck found that I had degenerative disc disease in my cervical spine, slipped discs, osteoarthritis and bone spurring. The muscle relaxers and high doses of ibuprofen they prescribed got the headache under control. I suspected the trigger was holding my neck and shoulders tense while doing all that driving which aggravated a condition I didn't realize I had. The MRI also showed nodules on my thyroid that I didn't know were there, either.

The autoimmune and degenerative disc conditions run in my family, so it didn't come as that much of a surprise, but I was really hoping that I would be the exception to the family rule. Anxiety is another family trait that I inherited. Considering the fact that my stress levels were increasing along with the increasing chaos in my life at the time, I knew I had to learn healthier coping mechanisms for relaxation to manage the cervicogenic migraines I was having because I didn't want to rely on ibuprofen for that, either, or anything else for that matter.

In March of 2019, I found an opportunity to take a Reiki Level I and II Certification course. This is something that I had been wanting to do for a long time, but just never had the chance. Somehow, this class fell in my lap and the timing was perfect. With all the health issues I was experiencing which were also exaggerated greatly by the stress I was under, I couldn't say no to learning something that I knew could help me so much. I had always known there was an undeniable connection between mind, body and spirit, but with everything going on, I wasn't thinking along those lines - I just knew more things needed to change other than just my diet.

I had no idea at the time just how life changing this class would be for me. I learned about the energy centers in our bodies that control different functions. I had learned about chakras back in high school from a book that Deepak Chopra had just written at the time, but got a good refresher with this class. I learned how to manipulate the energy in our bodies to bring about better balance and flow. I learned how to quiet my mind and get to a place of peace that I didn't even know existed. I realized one of the changes I needed to make for my health and the happiness of my children and myself was to eliminate the causes of chaos in our lives. This was not an easy conclusion to come to, and in doing so, created some stress on its own. However, once peace was restored in our lives and I continued practicing Reiki for myself, I found that I was able to get to a place where I could forgive the people and situations that caused us so much angst - including myself.

My headaches went away, my joint pain is virtually gone, I have increased range of motion, I feel at peace, and am able to manage stress better than I think I ever have at any point in my life. I have occasional autoimmune flares, but even those are more manageable than they ever were. My head is clearer than ever, and I'm making better decisions. One of the difficult decisions I had to make for my health also included letting go of the foundation I was running in honor of Matt.