Monday, November 7, 2016

How were you affected by the book "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers"

Reading the book we zebras don't get ulcers was a very upsetting experience for me.  I work in a very high stress high pressure environment in TV and the more I read the book the deeper trouble I felt I was in life wise.

One huge problem I have when I am stressed and I am stressed most of the time is over-eating.  I am always hungry and I never fear full.  Chapter 5 gave me a lot of insight into this.

"You're a zebra running for your life, don't think about lunch.  That's the reason we lose our appetites when we are stressed. Except for those of us who, when stressed, eat everything in sight, in a mindless mechanical way."

I realize I am what is called "hyperphagic" (eating more).  I always wished I was one of those people who lost their appetite when stressed but it is just not me and I always wondered whu.

"..of there are large amounts of CRH and gulcocorticoids in the bloodstream, you are probably in the middle of a sustained stressor. Also a good time to have appetite suppressed. You can pull this off only if the appetite-suppressing effects of CRH are stronger than the appetite-stimulating effects of glucocorticoids." p.73

"What else separates the stress hyperphagics from the stress hypophagics? Some of it has to do with your attitude toward eating, Lots of people eat not just out of nutritional need, but out of emotional need as well.  These folks tend to be overweight and to be stress-eaters....At evene given point, about two-thirds of us are :restrained" eaters. These people who are actively trying to diet, who would agree with statements like, "In a typical meal, I'm conscious of trying to restrict the amount of food that I consume." ... Restrained eaters are actively restricting their food intake. What the studies consistently show is that during stress, people who are normally restrained eaters are more likely than others to become hyperphagic."

This restrained eater hyperphagic propensity thing sounds like me.

I really got worried about all the talk about chronic stress and disease risk.  My stress is just too long and too frequent.  Also there is an incredible lack of predictability in my work life. I don't ever know when the producers and directors are going to like that sets and when they aren't and I am going to have to make last minute changes. This lack of predictability is the source of much of my anxiety. Also I am a free-lance and have gone from job to job for 22 years. Jobs last from 1 week to 10 months.

I also don't have much control of my life working in TV. My work schedule is changing all the time. I don't know what people want from me most of the time because they have a hard time explaining.  Also where I go every day to work changes.  I don't chose any of these things.  They are all sent to me late at night in the form of a call sheet.

On the positive side, I was encouraged by the idea of outlets for frustration helping the rats to be less likely to get an ulcer. Yoga and Art are my outlets for frustration.  But sometimes I have to work so many hours I let them go and that's when I get in trouble emotionally.

I also have a lot of social support in the form of my husband Tim and my cousin Lucretia. Their love and encouragement have helped me deal with my difficult career,

As to the "perception of things worsening" that's something I am very guilty of. I hear myself and others say all the time "the business (TV and Film) keeps getting worse."

These are the reasons I want to get out of TV and be a yoga therapist. I hope I can pull it off. I need a change for my mental health.

Why is psychological stress stressful?

Physiological Stress

Sapolsky talks about in great detail in the book "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" that "when we sit around and worry about stressful things, we turn on the same physiological responses (as a zebra would if it were being attacked by a lion)-but they ate potentially a disaster when provoked chronically. A large body of evidence suggests that stress-related disease emerges, predominantly, out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological system that has evolved for responding to acute physical emergencies but we turn it on for months on end, worrying about mortgages, relationships and promotions."p.6

"But when we get into a physiological uproar and activate the stress response for no reason at all, or overs something we cannot do anything about, we call it things like "anxiety", "neurosis", "paranoia," and "needless hostility." p,7

"..,the stress-response can be mobilized not only in response to physical or psychological insults, but also in expectation of them...a physiological system activated not only be all sorts of physical disasters but by just thinking about them as well."

So this is what according to the book gets us into so much trouble leading to strokes, ulcers, dwarfish, reproduction issues, immunity issues, insomnia, depression, addiction, etc.  Our body reacts in a physiological way to psychological situations and activates the stress response over and over again. And basically we aren't designed for this, Our stress response was designed to handle short term physical stressors.

There is some good news: Firstly the body is incredibly smart.

"The body not only can sense something stressful, but it also is amazingly accurate at measuring just how far and how fast that stressor is throwing the body out of allostatic balance." p.253

And there are some positive extenuating circumstances.

"An organism is subjected to a painful stimulus, and you are interested in how great a stress-reponse will be triggered. The bioengineers (have mapped) the relationship between the intensity and duration of the stimulus and the response. . . when the painful stimulus can reach out for its mommy and cry in her arms. Under these circumstances, this organism shows less of s stress-response." p.254

"the physiogical stress response can be modulated by psychological factors. Two identical stressros with the same extent of allostatic disruption can be perceived, can be appraised differently, and the whole show canges from there. Suddenly the stress-response could be bigger or smaller depending on spychologcal factors.  In other words, psychological variables could modulate the stress-response."

Journaling Questions - Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

Why do you think Sapolsky chose the title: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers?

I believe Sapolsky chose the title "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" because he is looking at throughout the book how some reactions in our bodies to stress are things that are left over from our evolution. They make complete sense for a mammal like a zebra but for us a humans they don't function as well anymore. Are stresses as humans are chronic and mental without an immediate physical threat l while the stresses of most animals are short term acute physical crises,

"For animals like zebras the most upsetting things in life are acute physical crises. You are that zebra, a lion has just leapt out and ripped your stomach open, you've managed to get away, and now you have to spend the next hour evading the lion as it continues to stalk you. Or, perhaps just as stressfully, you are the lion, half-starved, and you had better be able to sprint across the savanna at top speed and grab something to eat or you won't survive. These are extremely stressful events, and they demand immediate physiological adaptations if you are going to live. Your body's responses are brilliantly adapted for handling this sort of emergency." p. 4

"This is the critical point of this book: if you are that zebra running for your life, or that lion sprinting for your meal, your bodies physiological response mechanisms are superbly adapted for dealing ith short-term physical emergencies. For the vast majority of beasts on this planet, stress is about a short-term crisis, after which it's either over with or you're over with. When we sit around an worry anout stressful things, we turn on the same physiological responses - but they are potentially a disaster when provoked chronically. A large body of evidence suggests that stress-related disease emerges predominantly, out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological system that has evolved from responding to acute physical emergencies but we turn it on for months on end, worrying about mortgages, relationships and promotions." p.6

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Healing is ultimately a quality of the heart - Quotes from - "Healing into Life and Death" by Stephen Levine

“the path of healing is a process of opening our heart to the holdings of the past while maintaining a keen awarenss of the present.  It is acoming home, a return to the living moment.  But becayse there is so much more to us than just bid/body, because our original nature is without boundary, its edgelessness cannot be describnved. It can only be participiated in.”

p. 28
“We saw so many bodies reestablished a certain degree of wellness. We saw so many as they cleared their heart and resolved loose ends, discover a feeling of being “more alive than ever” sometimes with a considerable diminshment of pain and symptoms. Though their body did not reflect this extra wellness something had healed so deeply into life that death was no longer a problem.”

There is the story of the chiropractor who goes to the spiritual teacher and asks how to rid his body of cancer and the teacher says “Just love yourself.”

Tomas Merton “True love and prayer are learned in the moment when prayer has become impossivle and the heart has turned to stone.”


“In taking the path of healing that leads to the heart, previous conflicts are seen as rich and fertile ground for insight into that which causes suffering and that which allows us to go beyond siffering.  Our investigation of the mind, of those qualities that block the heart, become a deeper deconditioning of old holding, a demagnetizing of our incessant and mechanical identification with all that passes through the mind/body In watching the mind we see who we aren’t and enter the new territory of the heart. For it is in the heart that, with a deep sign, conflict comes to peace and the illnesses and pains of a lifetime may be dispersed in the soft receptiveness of unlimited being.”

“Crossing the bridges, having gone beyond the blockages and armoring, the self-hatred and judgement whch have for so long delayed our final healing, we sink into the heart, and the question of “Life or death?” disappears .  All is experienced as life, including death. All dualities are seen as just, overdefinied points in a spiraling process."

“In ancient Chinese calligraphy, the symbol for the mind and the symbol for the heart are the same: hsin.  For when the mind is clouded only the heart is experienced, just as when the heart is exposed there are no obstacles to the mind. The heart and mind only seem separate to the mind.  To the heart all things are one.”

“In sending love to ourselves we send love to all. In sending healing we are healed. In letting go of that which blocks the heart, the confusions and old encrustations of the mind, we open into the heart of the world.  As the sensations and thoughts and feelings that often surround illness become more audible, something within begins to melt in mercy for the pain we cause ourselves and the ways in which we have held so assiduously to our suffering. As the armoring mels, we experience our vastness, and the heart expands to fill the whole body with a sense of balance and wellness.”

“By making room in our heart for the lesser holdings, we cultivate the strength and presence for the greater.”

“When the mind sinks into the heart, we no longer feel so separate but recognize how connected we have always been and always will be.”

Taos Pueblo Shamans concept of “All Same” is when heart and mind our seen as one

Body awareness is the foundation of all other awareness - Journaling - "Healing into Life and Death" - Stephen Levine

When I teach my therapeutic class I feel guilty sometimes about taking the time away from the yoga asana in the beginning of class to do the body scan.  When I teach yoga nidra I completely believe in the body scan and I enjoy doing it and I know it is the most important part of the process.

I wonder what makes me embrace the body scan in Yoga Nidra but shy away from it as a beginning of the therapeutic class?   At Ananda/Expanding Light they do the energization exercises as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda which I feel are an elaborate body scan - joint freeing series combo and I didn't really like them. But at Kripalu I really enjoyed the body scans that Joseph lead.  I guess I need to practice them more and believe in them more as an opening to class.  I feel really comfortable closing with them but not opening,

In therapeutic individual session I feel comfortable opening with the body awareness exercises.  I have to explore what's the difference mentally for me.

Nischala Devi spoke to us about a woman observing a tension in her breast during a body scan that lead her to the doctor where he found cancer.

In the book on p.44 there is the Story of the Vietnam Vet with the leg injuries.  “I was closed down for so long, so afraid to feel, that I guess it took all that pain to get my attention.”

I am intrigued by the idea of on p.122 Softening the belly and
Sending Merciful Awareness and Loving Kindness into the illness – We are not just a body

Here some quotes about Softening the belly
p. 177
“And so most of us need to learn to open the body to healing. And each of us is given the perfect receptor of that openness. Keeping a soft belly is the primary foundation for opening to this level of being. For it is in the belly that we have so long attempted to control the world.”

“Perhaps the worst advice one can be given is to tighten the belly, to appear flat-stomached.  The belly is our center of control and holds much tension… The belly should be allowed its deepest breathing, its greatest sigh.”

p. 178
“But in the soft belly lies the possibility of new mind creating a new boy.”

p. 179
“The softness of the belly is a good indicator if our openness to the moment. When we are at peache, the belly is soft and open.  When we are not, it is tense and held. In the soft belly even the subtlest obstruction to the heart may be noticed. In letting go into soft belly-we open the body and loosen our grasp on the mind to expose the heart of essential healing.”

It also makes sense to me on page 133 that many sexual abused women felt their body’s were unsafe place to be“I’d like an in-the-body experience for a change. I’d like to trust life enough to be avle to stay in my body, to not always be on guard, to not always tense as if someone were going to jump out of a dark hallway and do me injury.” I believe the body scan really brings us back into the body.

I had not heard the body scan before referred to as Sweeping the body but I like that term.

“In the course of this meditation, one may discover unknown pains and joys-areas of tension as well as areas of high receptivity and openness… It may take anywhere from a half and hour to an hour to scan the body adequately.”

So I will continue to use the body scan and try to practice it on myself more.

Awareness is the foundation of healing - Journaling on "Healing into Life and Death" by Stephen Levine

In the book a story is recalled of the woman who went to the Zen master and asked him if she needed to take on a specific spiritual path to be healed. The Zen master answered “you are the path.”

On p.37 the author talks about the woman who says “as I started to say goodbye to life, I was kind of shocked at how little I had ever lived. . . It was only when I saw how much I had put on hold that I was pulled back into life. . . I was so asleep that I guess it took something big as death to wake me up. But I will never make that mistake again.”

I have been that woman.  I feel like I missed all of my 30s working so hard. I don't really remember much about them: getting married, my father dying, a few long trips my husband and I took everything else is a blur.  I have missed a lot.

p.42 “Much of our life is an afterthought, a dreamy mist which obscures the moment just passed.  So much of our life is a reflection of what has occurred rather than a direct participation in the unfolding 

With the Yoga Therapy training I hope my life will change and become more full.  I won;t have to work 80 or 100 hours a week but could pull back to a reasonable 40 and have some time to be alive.

I have suffered from back pain, shoulder pain, foot pain.  Lots of injuries in my adult life. 

p. 71
“Someone once asked, ‘What is the toll for crossing this bridge?’  The toll for crossing to the other shore of wholeness is the relinquishment of our suffering. This crossing over is what is called healing: it costs each of us identification with ‘my pain’ It may even mean that our lives will never be the same.”

The pain I have experienced has made me sad, given me at times a poor me attitude on life. But on the positive side this pain has kept me in yoga and yoga has one of the most beautiful parts of my life.

p. 104
May find correlation between the pain in the body and the holdings in the mind which block entry into the heart.”

I like the idea of Speaking Gently to the Pain.  I gave me knee pain a name: Sophia Rekneeta. I am tell her sometimes - "it will be ok.  it's fine."

p.104-105“So each morning, at whatever time she awoke, she would whisper into her pain, “Good morning, sweetie, how are you today?” She talked to it with loving kindness, recognizing the necessary balance that did not invite it to stay but no longer pushed it awat. She greeted it as one would a colleague at a breakfast table.”

I have often felt like I have been a terrible wife always working too many hours and then running to yoga or running to this lecture or that. Never giving myself and my husband the time we deserve.  

p.115 “Perhaps a greater tragedy than the loss of a child or the death of a dear friend is how often we feel this communion missing from those with whom we share our life. “

P,174 Introduces the concept of the difference between energy and effort.  I need to move out of effort and into energy,

“When we have tasted the crystalline waters of our true nature, our life becomes effortless. There is no need to push the river. But one of the ironies of healing is that it takes effort to become effortless.”

“Indeed, when we start to see energy in the mind, we begin to see process, watching each state of mind dissolve one into the next: the same energy which propels thought moves the stars across the sky. In focusing on the quality of energy in the mind/body, we enter the realms of creation constantly unfolding.”

“If we always met life as a struggle, thinking ourselves as warriors in a battle instead of pilgrims a path, healing will continue to make life an emergency. But when we soften to healing, when we let the mind/body float in the heart, the potential fro reestablishing balance in the body greatly intensifies.”

I have very much identified with being black and jewish calling myself a product of 3,500 years of oppression. I want to now let that go.  I especially like the concept of a soft belly.

Many paths say “Watch breath, soften belly, open heart.”

I always am intrigued by the Concept of Just this much
“If you can see “just this much” you can see everything .. But if “just this much” is not enough, life will be insufficient and old dreams of death will beckon.”


“To discover the true nature of love and the wholeness; the complete spaciousness, of an unhindered awareness, to receive life directly, as it is, with no filters or unfinished business. Just things as they are, just being itself.”

The healing journey and the life journey are one integrated process: Journaling - Healing into Life and Death by Stephen Levine

I realized in the book we are all suffering, feeling pain, feeling pain, experiencing joy, dying and being reborn,  I like the idea of Life and Death being just this much.  I had a client the other day who had a many many physical and emotional problems.  So many and he physically was deformed and I thought what can I do for him.  Maybe I can do a body scan, a little breath work, joint freeing series. And now I can do "Just this Much" or maybe I can just listen. It's all valid.  My conscious mind wanted to come out with elaborate routines and prescriptions by the superconscious will what to see what God-dess has to say and do the little things,

These quotes spoke to me

“This work of opening to ourselves is taken a step at a time.  It is begun with a heartful openness and investigative awareness which gently explores the physical/mental pains and holdings which become so noticeable around illness. It is an ongoing process of meeting our fear with forgiveness and healing awareness, meeting our doubt with a new confidence which develops in each unknown step as the ground comes up to meet and support our progress.”

“Healing, like grace, always takes us toward our true nature. Indeed healing is not somewhere we are going but a discovery of where we already are-a participation in the process unfolding moment to moment.”

“Nothing has to be different for us to be whole. It is not  a mtter of change as much as merciful acceptance. We don’t even have to be less angry or less frightened or less doubtful. We  don’t have to be more loving or more compassionate, or more wise.  To be whole is just to take ourselves within wholeheartedly to meet even our lovelessness, our mercilessness with a deeper “Ahhhhhhhhhh”

I am very interesting in the topic of APPEARING WELL VS. BEING WELL and also the converse

“One fellow with terminal cancer noticed that in trying to heal himself he learned to appear well but never how to be well. He said he had been pretending his whole life that he wasn’t sick. He spoke of notiing an ache in his chest just over the heart, which was becoming more intense as he worked with the grief meditation and he exploration of his stomach tumor. One day, when the pain in his heart was particularly apparent, he decided to address it directly. He spoke to it, asked how long it had been there. To his surprise the ace responded saying, “I have been here all your life.  But this is just the first time you ever noticed me.”

.p. 127
“Most importantly I have come to accept myself exactly as I am.  This is the greatest gift of all… Soon my body will drop away from me like a cocoon and my spirit will fly like a butterfly – beautiful and perfect.”

I love this quote because it relates to me as a Yoga therapist who always wants to take another course and another training.  I need to find self-acceptance of where I am right now.

The healer and the client are not ultimately separate - Journaling about "Healing into Life and Death" by Stephen Levine

I am realizing that the healing is all on us, the one who needs/wants to be healed.  There can be companions on the path whatever their credential is but mainly I think we are responsible for our own Self-Realization.

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
Of eternity. We are pain
And what cures pain, both. We are
The sweet, cold water, and the jar that pours.
- Rumi

“Ramakrishna, the great Indian saint, said there were two things that made God laugh: when a healer says, “I healed them” and when bickering lovers say, “We have nothing in common.”

This idea as the client and healer being the same is talked about in the book in the story of Loud Larry.  When the doctors asked him how on earth did he heal, he replied “I took the best medicine I could find. And I was the only physician who could prepare it. I took me, lock, stock and barrel."

I think we have to trust that we can heal ourselves not matter what it looks like.  I love these quotes from the book.

“When we let go of everything that blocks healing, only the healing remains, only our essential nature. We are all healers who need healing, but it seems so often to be a question of trust. Because letting go means letting be, and few trust what it is.”

p. 161
“We discover the healing which is always present when we aren’t identified solely with this body or mind or any separate aspect whatsoever with any model of who we should be or who we are or even what illness might be. Seeing illness as a teaching instead of a curse, we learn to let go of a lifetime’s denial of pain and confusion, to see the deeper illness, the sickness of separation from ourselves, the nausea and discomfort that leaks into the separation between the heart and the mind.”

“Healing is to press our nose against the lens of perception, to enter our life directly with our eyes and ears and body and mind wide open. Discovering the unimagined spaciousness and clarity in which all distortion floats and heals back into its original nature.”

The book also reminds us to beware of Healer’s Disease when working with others.

p. 149
“The need for someone else to be different as means of bargaining with their own sense of helplessness and unworthiness.”

“And no one is so sensitive to the difference between being touched with love and being touched with need as someone whose mind or body has been abused.”

p. 228
“Before one thinks of “doing good” one must seriously contemplate removing oneself from doing harm.”

Lastly, for me, I realize it's really important to have a daily practice of yoga and meditation and talk with god or goddess like a friend all the time.

“When practice is as light as the breath within the breath, there is a profound element of mercy which shines within a choiceless receptivity. It does not force change but simply allows it. Indeed it watches the tendency to force things, patiently, without alarm or condemnation.”

Don’t be a Buddhist, be a Buddha
Don’t be a Chirstian. Be Christ
Don’t be a Meditator, Mediate

p. 213
“Don’t leave your meditation on the meditation pillow.”

Healing is not always about physical curing - Journaling Questions "Healing Into Life and Death" by Stephen Levine

I am presently trying to develop a spiritual guidance and training program at The Yogi Tree and at the beginning of the week I was meeting with Joseph a pastor who will be part of the program and he said healing and curing are not the same thing.  I replied oh yes I have been reading about that for school.

I wished I had had this information when my father was dying of cancer.  I was so mad at the doctors for convincing to be part of these insane trials.  But I do remember before he became to sick he scanned many family photographs and made some peace with his brother. I realize he was healing the wounds of family.

p.3 “If healing was as it seemed, the harmonizing of the disquieted, a balancing of energies to bring about peace where before there had been war, then healing clearly was not limited to the body, or even the visible.” It includes the possibility of quieting even the deepest, unseen wounds-the discomforts which make death seem respite."

My father spent much of his child being passed from family member to family member. Even spent some years in an orphanage.  I know he was deeply wounded.  My mother thought he may have even been raped.

“healing as it seems (is) the integration of the mind and body into the heart. Healing is the growth that each person seeks. . . Healing is discovery. Healing occurs not in the tiny thoughts of who we think we are and what we known but in the vast undefinable spaciousness of being – of what we essentially are-not whom we imagined we shall become.”

He loved putting all the photographs together in files on the computer.  Maybe he was was revisiting his childhood, his family and making peace with it.

“Our work seems to be an encouragement to focus on the moment. To heal into the present and to allow the future to arise naturally out of that opening.  If the moment holds pain, awareness is bought to pain. If the moment holds grief, then grief is the focus. If the moment holds illness, then illness is the teaching to which awareness is directed.”

My father loved science so it was natural that he would do everything in sciences power to be cured.

“There seemed no bodily healing technique that worked for everyone, no one method held in common by all those who seemed healed.”

But, science in my opinion didn't have cures it had large tortures - itching, nausea, hiccuping, exhaustion, diarrhea, loss of appetite, etc.

He would have continued to do more cancer trials but he died.

I remember one of his last statements was

"way too much"

I thought he was referring to us fussing over him so much.  But now I am not sure if it was deeper than that.

p.6 “. . . our path becomes a letting go of that which blocks the path.”

When I went to take Nischala Joy Devi's Cancer Training - Yoga of the Heart this April was mainly because I knew I was in need of healing from the trauma of watching my father die.  I felt the hospital was too aggressive to violent with their treatments.  But now I realize it was my father's life and my father's death it was all up to him.

p.6 “healing is not forcing the sun to shine but letting go of the personal separatism, the self-images, the resistance to change the fear and anger, the confusion that form the opaque armoring around the heart. This process begins with the dissolution of the dense clouds of our forgetfulness and unkindness. It opens the way to reveal the ever-healed within.”

I was not always at peace with my father. I consider him a difficult man and very troubled and troublesome at times. But I did feel loved by him.  And I miss his very much.  I have no question about the integrity of his heart.

“His healing was no less than any of those we have seen who survive in the body. Though his cancer did not desist, his heart became as light as “the feather of truth.” Indeed, the ancient Egyptians beloved that after death the heart was placed on the scales of truth to be balanced against a feather to conclude if the life just passed was lived in healing or forgetfulness.”

For me healing would have been seeing people, meditating and doing yoga, making beautiful dinners, traveling, planting and tending a garden..  But for my father it of course looked different.

P, 162
“Among the first steps of healing is to let go of our definition of what we imagined healing might be.”

My father's cancer was a teaching for him and I teaching for me.  What I can do now is "Take the teaching."

I see myself as a yoga therapist helping others to find their own healing and helping myself to find mine.  My name means guide in Sanskrit, it doesn't mean teacher, guru, leader . . . I want to be a guide. . but to guide people back to their true self, intuition and inner nature.

“By breaking our addiction to automatic action, a desire of the superficial to be healed from outside itself, we enter into the direct participation in our healing from within.”