It's the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach, this week, which means I'm taking a break from blogging to try to figure out how to make matza taste good enough for my kids to want to eat it. Believe me, I need a miracle...
Happy Pesach, and I'll see you next week.
Outside of alternative therapy circles, most people have never heard of a 'healing crisis'. For those of us used to the 'magic bullet' approach of conventional medicine, where obvious symptoms are magic-ed away, often overnight, by the right drug or pill, 'healing' and 'crisis' just don't seem to go together.
You take your pills as prescribed, and you're healed! End of story.
But that's not always how real, fundamental healing works. When you're treating the root of an issue or problem, whether it's spiritual, emotional or physical, the external problems can often appear to get worse, before they get better.
Why is this?
The main answer is that when you get to the source of the problem, and trigger its release, this can lead to external symptoms worsening, sometimes dramatically. Think of it this way: there's a blockage in your pipe. In order to free the blockage and get things flowing again, you have to get your hands dirty, and pull out whatever is clogging up the system.
Pulling that stuff out is messy, icky, gross - but the only way to really solve the blockage. And once it's gone, the problem has completely disappeared.
It's the same with healing crises. Say, you want to work on anger. As you start to focus your attention on the problem, God usually makes sure that your rage fits multiply exponentially, and go up in intensity and unpleasantness.
On the surface, it looks like things just got a whole lot worse, and this is where a lot of people get demoralised and give up. But really? You're just cleaning your pipe, and seeing what was really stuffing the whole system up. Once all that repressed anger gets unstuck, you'll see that your anger starts to diminish rapidly, afterwards. That's a spiritual healing crisis.
An emotional healing crisis could be when a whole bunch of sadness, or grief, or disappointment, or shame, or guilt starts bubbling out of you, and you find yourself feeling devastated or weepy, for no obvious external reason.
Uhoh - things just got worse.
But really? They didn't. Instead of slowing down your energy and seriously affecting your health and well-being, all those old feelings are now rising to the surface, and making an exit out of your system. The week or two of intense emotion will pass, and you'll start to feel lighter and happier than you ever did before.
It also works this well with physical healing crises. Spots and all sorts of weird stuff can show up in places and quantities never seen before; mucus can increase, and start oozing out of every orifice (sorry - don't read this blog over your breakfast munchies!) Pain of all sorts can sometimes intensify - and it looks like things have just got worse.
But really? All the inflammation in your system that was making you ill is now moving out, and unblocking your system. In a few weeks' time, you'll probably feel like a completely different person.
So how can we tell if things are really getting worse, or whether we're just experiencing a healing crisis? The following tips should hopefully help you get some clarity on what's really going on:
The key thing is to not panic. Healing crises aren't fun, but once you understand that they are healing you, not hurting you, at a fundamental level, that makes them so much easier to cope with.
One of the things I'm very keen on doing when people come for personal consultations, as early as possible, is to set some concrete goals about what they actually want to get out of their sessions.
Do they want to lose weight? To stop feeling depressed? To stop feeling scared, anxious or guilty? Is there a physical issue or problem they want to try to work on?
I like setting tangible goals for a few reasons:
1) Goals provide a clear measure of whether a particular approach is working
This sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be amazed how many people spend an awful lot of their time, money and effort on therapy and other alternative and conventional health stuff, without having a clear measure of whether their investment is actually paying off for them, they way they want it to.
2) Goals provide structure to the work being done
Having a clear goal to work towards provides 'structure' for the sessions: when I know what goal I'm working towards, I think about what mix of Jewish Emotional Healing (JEM) and energy medicine, and energy psychology techniques may get us there the fastest. I also pray on it, and ask God to show me what's the best approach, and what things to try, to help my clients achieve their goals.
3) Goals provide a clear, specific end-point
One of the things that used to scare the pants off me about going to therapists and healers etc, is that I could be signing up for some five year long-haul. As well as promoting unhealthy dependency, long-haul stuff also seriously depletes the bank account. When you have goals, you can measure the progress being achieved in weeks, not months. When the goal is achieved, there's a natural 'end-point' to the process.
The client can then take a breather, and decide, without any pressure, whether or not they want to work towards other goals right now and if yes, whether they even need to do that with someone else.
Goals empower the client. They help them to:
Just in time for Pesach...
It's funny: I often state that I've had about 9 nervous breakdowns the last week, and I usually mean it. But I still didn't realize that 'nervous exhaustion' actually means that your nervous system kind of broke down, and ran out of steam.
But that's exactly what happens: with all the stress we're subjected to, and all the worry, and all the fear that 'something bad' is going to happen any minute, God forbid, and all the stupid news reports we listen to addictively, we're all living on our nerves most of the time - and it's really taking a toll.
Small wonder that stress, anxiety and depression are all at record levels.
So what can we about this? How can we start to fix our nervous system, once it's been shot to pieces? So pleased you asked! I have a few suggestions that have worked wonders for me, so read on.
Every single health issue we have has three aspects to it: the spiritual aspect, the emotional aspect, and the physical aspect.
Let's take nervous breakdowns, and run them through our three part diagnostic system, to see how we can start to strengthen our nervous system.
Spiritual health actions:
When we don't believe in God, or don’t see His hand in the world, or don't believe that He's looking out for us, cares for us, and has our best interests at heart, this puts ENORMOUS amounts of stress on our system. Just think about all the horrible things that could happen to you today (God forbid): you could catch Ebola; you could get fired; your house could burn down - all terrible, horrible things.
But when we work on believing in God a bit more, and trusting Him to take care of us, our spiritual stress starts to reduce, and we feel fundamentally more relaxed.
Emotional health actions:
You can sum it up like this: turn off the news, and stay away from negative, pessimistic people who are always trying to persuade you the end is nigh. Life is actually pretty good! Take a few minutes every day to count the blessings in your life, and say thank you.
Physical health actions:
Bladder is the energy meridian that governs the nervous system, and anything you do to strengthen the bladder meridian will pay big dividends. Things that have worked for me include:
Experiment, and see what works for you, and in the meantime, let me reassure you that nervous breakdowns, or nervous exhaustion, or neurasthenia doesn't have to take you out of action for years: if you follow the three pronged approach outlined above, you can bounce back from your nervous breakdown in a matter of hours, not months.
If you like the stuff you're reading on this blog, and want to learn more about how to actually start applying it, tachlis, to your own life, then I have the class for you…
After Pesach, I'm going to be teaching the basics about what Jewish Emotional Healing (JEM) actually is, and how to start applying it in to your own health and wellbeing. In six weeks, you'll have a solid grasp of how emotional and spiritual issues can actually make us ill, and a lot of really helpful, practical tools and techniques for how to identify them, address them (as quickly and painlessly as possible…) and resolve them, with God's help.
Click here for more details, and email to sign up - I think it'll be a blast!
Duration: 1 hour class every week, for 6 weeks.
Next class begins: Tuesday April 14, 2015, 10.30 am.
What we'll cover:
Cost: 180 nis / $45 for the 6 weeks
This class can also be taken via our distance learning program, and if you're distance learning, the dates and times are completely flexible. Please get in touch for more details.
One of the weirder things I like to do, to myself and others, is stick lentils on some of the body's strategic energy points.
I first learned 'seed therapy' when I was studying Su Jok, a Korean form of acupressure using the hands and feet. One of the books I bought was talking about the healing properties of various seeds, and how the electromagnetic energy in the seed can react with the body's own life-force, to start healing things up.
I know, it sounds like the biggest load or rubbish, right?
But if I can say one thing for myself, it's that I almost never discount things out of hand until I've tested them out for myself, and I have been consistently surprised and amazed at the healing power these seeds contain.
Some concrete examples, for all the sceptics out there: Whenever I get a weak or achey feeling in my back, I go to bed wearing a strip of whole red lentils on the part of my hand that corresponds to the back, and I wake up feeling so, so much better.
Ditto for sore throats; ditto for headaches; ditto for stomachaches.
I like to use whole red lentils, because they crack once all their energetic juice gets used up, and then you can really see how seriously depleted the energy in the back, or the neck, or the stomach, was.
So that's one way you can use lentils.
Another way you can use Seed Therapy is to find out which of the body's 12 main meridians is weak, blocked or depleted, and to get the energy flowing again.
Again, it sounds SO weird, but I have seen this work time again. In fact, I'm going to give you a really easy experiment to do at home, so you can see how it works for yourself.
These days, 99% of us have very weak spleen energy. The acupuncture source points for the spleen meridian are located on the inside of both feet, just under the 'bunion point' (see the diagram.)
Before you go to bed, just stick a lentil on both your spleen source points. Don't worry too much about getting exactly the right spot, just ask God to help you and feel around for where it might feel a bit tender. Stick on your lentil, go to sleep, and then check what happens.
I'm willing to bet that at least one of your lentils cracked.
If it did, keep repeating the experiment until your lentils stop cracking. When this happens, it means your Spleen source point is now in good shape, and you have a lot more juice pumping through your spleen meridian.
When Spleen is in good shape, we feel happy instead of depressed; we metabolise food better, which can lead to rapid and effortless weight-loss; our immune system perks up, so we stop catching every bug going around; and we generally feel like we have a lot more energy and koach.
So happy experimenting! And let me know what happens to your lentils…
Gina* came to me for some help to try to uncover why she felt perpetually 'stuck' in her life. She was a very bright, very attractive, accomplished woman with loads of good ideas and a ton of talent, but everything she tried her hand at, flopped.
She'd been to a few psychologists and coaches, but no-one had any answers for her. Gina was on the cusp of starting yet another big venture, and she was already fearing the worst. What's more, she'd started to develop a whole bunch of physical symptoms that she knew was related to emotional stress: she had a permanently uncomfortable feeling in her stomach; her throat would feel like it was constricting and she'd periodically lose her voice; and her sleep was being regularly disrupted by disturbing dreams.
Even when she was sleeping through the night, she was still waking up exhausted, and she couldn't shake a vague but constant feeling of uneasiness and impending doom.
The key to working out what was going on with Gina was TAT - the Tapas Acupressure Technique.
TAT moves very fast, and can be a highly-effective technique for achieving a much deeper awareness of where a specific problem, or issue, is actually coming from.
Gina held the TAT pose, and concentrated on the fact that she felt she was constantly self-sabotaging her efforts to achieve and succeed in life.
The answers started coming thick and fast: first, she realized that some part of herself felt that success was dangerous, and would come at a high price. When we got to the part of the TAT process where you ask God to heal the origins of the problem, Gina suddenly found herself back in her school assembly, as a precocious seven year old who'd composed a new song. Her class were singing Gina's song, and it should have been a wonderful, life-affirming experience.
But it wasn't.
Straight after the performance, one of the teachers came over to Gina, and accused her of plagiarising parts of the tune from another well-known song (let's remember that Gina was all of seven years' old…) Little Gina was mortified, and a very strong message got imprinted on her subconscious that success = criticism, complaint and shame.
This message was subsequently reinforced at other points in her life, in various ways: the prize poem she wrote was rubbished by a close family member; the science competition she won was completely ignored; any success she had would set off a torrent of nasty comments or behaviours by others, and by the time she'd reached her late teens, the pattern had been set:
Gina would excel at something, and someone else, like clock-work, would go into attack mode and try to take her success away from her by criticising her, ignoring or belittling her achievement, mocking her, or shaming her.
After the TAT session, Gina had a number of big realizations. The first one was that her physical discomfort was anxious anticipation of the 'blow' that would inevitably come, if she succeeded in something. Her second insight was that a lot of people in her life had been very jealous of her unusual abilities and talents, and had been trying to keep her 'small'. Subconsciously, she'd been putting keeping these people happy ahead of her own success every single time - and she didn't want to do it anymore. But how could she stop it from happening again?
The answer to the problem was to get God involved. Gina made a commitment to talk to God about her people-pleasing, and also to do the TAT technique regularly, to help give her clarity on what was blocking her, and to clear them out the way.
It's early days, but Gina's physical discomfort has already drastically reduced, and she's now expecting some big, positive things to happen in her life soon, God-willing.
* Some details in Client Case Files have been changed, to protect the client's anonymity.
A little while ago, I started getting this ache in the back of my head. Then, my stomach started playing up. Then, I started getting this weird feeling that I was running out of energy, and that I was getting pretty weak.
In the past, I'd have completely freaked out and started fearing the worst, but thank God, God's now given me other options for dealing with my periodic bouts of illness.
I stuck some seeds on various energy source points, to see which meridians may be 'out', and it came back with: bladder, spleen and half a lung.
Spleen wasn't a big surprise - everyone's spleen is shot one way or another, and I'll be shocked when I actually get a strong spleen test, for once. But bladder and lung was interesting.
Lung keeps coming up in my diagnostics, even though I don't have any obvious lung issues. After thinking about it, and praying about it, I'm starting to get some insights that lung has to do with renewal, and leaving the past behind.
It's often much easier said than done, because it doesn't just mean changing the externals, which is relatively easy to do; it also means changing your internal belief system, ideas and assumptions about yourself, and your life, which can be really hard work.
I'm about half-way through the process, so far. Lots of stuff is shifting, but I'm still getting a little caught on, and stuck behind, outmoded ways of thinking, and that showed up in my seed diagnostic. The lung meridian runs down both arms, and one arm was 'weak' and one arm was 'strong'. Half-way there.
But bladder has been the real surprise for me. It's been consistently weak for months and months now. I was pondering what it all means, as is my way, and rechecking the chart I've put together, which tells me what emotions and physical issues bladder corresponds to, when it suddenly struck me that I've got nervous exhaustion.
Really, how could I not?
It's been a VERY eventful, stressful, challenging few months, and even though things are currently very calm and quiet (thank God), I live in a neighbourhood that comes quite high up a lot of people's 'dangerous' list.
And then there's the recent elections…and then there's my husband new business he's trying to get off the ground…and my new book and business…and then there's all my daughter's high-school stress…and then there's Pesach…'nuff said.
Nervous exhaustion happens when you've been living on your nerves for so long, you've kind of forgotten there's another, better, way of being.
Now I've got the message, I'm trying to build in a bit more R&R to my life, so I can start to recuperate from all the stress of the last few months. That means I've gone back to my cooked veggies and quinoa; I've stopped postponing breakfast until lunchtime; and I'm going to bed early enough.
I'm also asking God to help me calm down a bit, and that's also making me feel much better.
I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: illnesses come to teach us something, to show us where we need to work, fix or change something. God's been waving a big flag at me for months to slow down, believe more, and eat more kohlrabi. Ironically, I've been so busy setting up JEMI, and writing books about what our illnesses are coming to teach us, I missed my own warning signs.
But He didn't give up on me, and hopefully, I really got the message now. At least, until next time. ☺
When I started to get into all this alternative health stuff, quite a few people raised quite a few eyebrows. They knew how much I hated doctors and conventional medicine; they knew how squeamish I could get about all sorts of 'body' issues (I used to throw up when I had to change a particularly fulsome diaper…); and last but definitely not least, they knew I was a terrible hypochondriac.
The smallest pain, or ache, or 'issue', and I'd immediately be off imagining the worst-case scenarios and secretly panicking myself to death. That's one of the reasons I used to keep myself so busy with work and other things. When you're killing yourself with 18 hour days, you don't really have time to notice, or think about, the weird little pain that showed up in the middle of your chest.
God's been very kind to me the last few years, and He helped me deal with my hypochondria a few different ways:
1) He arranged it that every single doctor's visit I ever had left me swearing I'd never go back again. If the doctors I'd been to had been an iota nicer, or less arrogant and condescending, I'd have been hooked popping into the surgery every two days to check out my latest symptoms, (and probably also to get my regular prescription for Prozac.)
I've seen so many of my fellow hypochondriacs get caught in this vicious circle of desperately needing 'official' reassurance that they're ok, only for that to wear off a day or two later, when the next weird symptom showed up.
2) He helped me to start learning much more about bodies, mine in particular, and health, and the links between emotions and physical issues. I calmed down tremendously once I realized that not every little twinge was a precursor for something awful, and was much more likely to be a small reminder that I was subconsciously worrying about something, or repressing a feeling that needed to be addressed and dealt with.
3) He sent me Rav Arush, and his books. I read something in the Garden of Emuna (I think) that summed it up like this: (paraphrasing): "If you're panicking about having a serious disease every time you get a little muscular twinge, that's a complete lack of emuna and you need to work on it." He was right. Once I realized my hypochondria was a sort of mental illness, I stopped beating around the bush and started asking God for some serious help to sort it out.
4) He clued me in to the fact that if I didn't stop being a hypochondriac, I was going to severely mess up my children. Ahh, my poor children. How many things I seem to have learned at their expense. As I said, I'd secretly panic every time I had an ache, or pain, or spot, but I wouldn't actually tell anyone about it, or act on my panic. But with my kids, it was different - I'd completely and obviously freak-out.
Again, my huge dislike of doctors meant that I wasn't shlepping them off to the GP every few days, thank God, but I would walk around with a huge sense of foreboding and fear that 'something serious' was wrong, and it permeated the whole atmosphere and made us all feel awful.
People make a lot of jokes about hypochondria, but I have to tell you, it's one of the worst ways a person can suffer. It causes so much anxiety, fear, worry, upset and general panic, because there's ALWAYS a strange pain, or a twinge, or an unexplained rash to deal with, and you can be in a constant state of tension.
Hypochondria wears away your nerves like nothing else, especially when you're also a mother.
So what do I suggest, for my fellow hypochondriacs out there?
The first thing is to talk to God regularly, every single day. Hypochondria comes about because we fear the worst; we think the world and God is somehow out to get us; and on a very deep level, we also feel like we don't want to, or deserve to, live.
These aren't simple issues, and without God in the picture, I don't know how you can genuinely and permanently resolve them.
The next thing I'd suggest is to learn some simple energy exercises to calm down the Triple Warmer meridian. Triple Warmer governs the 'flight or fight' syndrome, and it's behind every form of panic and anxiety known to man. If you regularly calm down Triple Warmer, a huge amount of your inner tension will melt away automatically, which means you'll find it easier to stop over-reacting to every little cough.
The last thing I'd suggest is to learn more about your health, and how your body and soul actually work together. Hypochondriacs are usually pretty sensitive people, just the 'pain' they're picking up is normally spiritual and emotional. Once you make those links for yourself, you'll find it much easier to understand what's going on, and what the pain is actually coming to teach you (and no, the message is usually not 'you're dying'.)
If you have hypochondriac tendencies, you should know you're not alone. Most of the world does these days. You should also know that you don't have to continue to suffer. Talk to God, calm down Triple Warmer and continue reading this blog, and you'll see for yourself how sooner or later, the clouds will part, and you'll stop worrying (so much…) about your health.
I'm in the middle of reading this amazing book called: 'The Language of Life: How Cells Communicate in Health and Disease.'
My biology teacher would be so proud of me. The last real science I learned was when I was 14, and we'd just got up to the part where they give you the eyeball of a bull to dissect.
To say I didn't enjoy the experience would be quite the understatement - and now I'm reading books talking about WnT and Sonic Hedgehog and chemotaxis proteins. (Let's be clear that reading is not necessarily the same as understanding what the heck it's talking about…)
But I'm understanding enough to share the following amazing ideas with you:
Even the lowliest single-celled cell 'talks'. The language it uses is chemicals - it squirts out a bit of this stuff for 'turn left' and a bit of that stuff for 'stop here and eat lunch' - but cells, amoebas, micro-organisms all talk.
And when you shift up gears to the incredibly complicated mechanism that is the human body, the conversations get more and more diverse and intellectual. For example, hormones are one of the ways G-d created for the different parts of the human body to 'talk' to other parts.
That's how you can get a bad attack of PMS and instantly go for your husband's jugular. We all take it for granted that we want to yell at them, and a split second later that's what we're doing.
But if not for the chemical 'signalling system' that's been ingeniously set up in our bodies via our hormones, it could take days, weeks, or even months for the order to 'attack your poor spouse' to actually make its way down from our brain to our mouth.
Jews know from our sources that G-d 'spoke' the world into being with His 10 utterances. We also know how crucially powerful and potentially holy or destructive the power of speech actually is. What's amazing to me, is that even at the most basic level of biological life, G-d's conversation is continuing.
This has repercussions for a number of reasons: ill health comes about when a message gets 'misread' or misheard, or misspoken, leading to cells doing something destructive and 'sick-making'.
Good communication is key for life and health to continue, even at this most simple level of being. So imagine, how important good communication becomes when you start to deal with a sentient creation like a human being.
It's not for nothing that our Sages taught that 'Life and death are both in the tongue'.
If one mis-squirted chemical sentence can end in physical illness and even death, imagine what one actual sentence, with real words, can do to build or destroy our relationships, our families or our communities.
It's a scary thought.
But G-d in His wisdom has put a number of checks and balances in place, that means that even the most 'dangerous' conversations can usually be contained and turned around, as soon as the cells involved recognise that they're actually talking gibberish, or saying something bad.
In humans, I guess this equates to teshuva, when we suddenly wake up and realise that bad-mouthing the neighbours, or screaming at the kids, or criticising our spouse is probably not the most helpful thing to be doing with our speech.
G-d gives us, and our cells, so much leeway, to identify our destructive communication patterns, and to replace them with much more wholesome, healthy sentiments.
A final idea from the book: when cells stop communicating - when other cells ignore them, or give them the cold shoulder - they literally commit suicide. Cells are very sociable things.
I think of how all our face-to-face conversations are being replaced by email, or txt messages, or Facebook, and I shudder. Because while all these things look like communication, at least on some level, they're actually monologues, not dialogues.
And monologues really only work in theatre, not in real life.
So let me give us all a blessing, that G-d should continue to talk to Us, and we should try to talk to Him; that we should continue to dialogue with our loved ones, and not just get stuck in beautifully-crafted but energetically dead 'electronic set pieces'; and that our cells should continue to whisper words of good health, happiness and peace to each other.