Keith Jarrett on CFS & music creation

I was saying to the disease: I know you are here and I have accepted your presence, but I am still going ahead with this work. To start it I have to make it as intimate as possible.

As soon as it got complex, I stopped. I wanted to stay close to the song, to sing it. So I was turning my disease into a song.

The disease taught me a lot. The greater the experience, the deeper the simplicity. Time is the most complex part of that simplicity.

– Keith Jarrett from the documentary “The Art of Improvisation”, 2005

In this quote, Keith Jarrett talks about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and how it helped him simplify and become more intimate with the music. He didn’t stop making music, he changed his relationship with making music.

I love what he says here. It mirrors how my relationship with spiritual practice shifted when my CFS dramatically worsened some years ago. I also had to simplify and become more intimate with it.

For instance, basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here. Instead of intentionally noticing and allowing, I shifted into something more simple and intimate. I notice that what’s here in my field of experience is already noticed and allowed. It’s already allowed. (By space, mind, life, existence.) It’s already noticed by consciousness before any conscious noticing. I align with what is already here instead of trying to manufacture anything or achieve something through effort. It may not look like a very big shift, and yet it makes all the difference. And it is more closely aligned with reality.

I was aware of and explored this difference long before this happened, but the CFS motivated me to be more simple and intimate in this noticing, and more diligent in finding the most simple and effortless way to notice.

And that’s happened in other areas of life as well, including in my connections with others. I have had to drop a lot of pretense and facades and be simple and more intimate, especially in my more close relationships.

How I have learned to talk about an invisible and less-understood chronic illness

I have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS, ME) since my teens, although I had a period in my twenties and thirties where I functioned better.

Through experience, I have learned a bit about how to talk about it. If I say I have CFS/ME, it won’t mean much to most people. They think it means I am a bit tired, or – in the worst case, which I have experienced during my education – they will dismiss it or even see it as an excuse for laziness. (In my studies and work, I was anything but lazy.)

So I learned to talk about it in a different way. Now, I say I have a chronic illness, and I add whatever makes sense in the situation. I may say it causes me to need to rest a lot. Or it makes it difficult for me to think and it takes time for me to think through things. Or that it makes it difficult for me to talk coherently. (When I am extra exhausted.)

That makes more sense to people. Most people have a rough understanding of what a chronic illness means, even if there are many types of them. Most take it seriously, respect it, and don’t feel they need to question it. (Or give uninformed advice.) And that makes my life much easier.

As with so much, the way we frame it – to ourselves and others – makes a big difference.

Note: I don’t often call it a disability, even if that’s what it is. In some situations, I would probably use that term as well to bring home a point.

Finding an easier way: chronic illness as a guide

Some years ago, my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) shifted into a more severe phase. That meant I had to find an easier way to do many things in life.

How can I do this in a way that’s more comfortable? Require less energy? Take my situation into consideration? Is kind to me and hopefully others?

Here are some examples.

FINDING MY VALUE

I have explored and found my value independent of my actions and activities in the world. Before this happened, I put at least some of my value on my actions and what I produced. (After all, I am a child of the western culture where this is a feature.) Where is my value if all I can do is rest? If I cannot produce or do much?

One answer is that we see a baby as having value, and they mostly eat, poop, and make sounds. If a baby has value, why is that not the case with me and anyone else independent of age and production?

Another answer is in noticing my nature, and that the world to me happens within and as what I am. Here, nothing is missing. It’s complete as it is.

And yet another answer lies in examining any stressful thoughts around lack and finding what’s genuinely more true for me. (As I did for several years through The Work of Byron Katie.)

ASKING FOR HELP

I learned to ask for help.

Before this, I took pride in not asking much for help and created an identity around it.

After this happened, I had to ask for help. And it helped me soften that identification and see the value and beauty both in receiving and giving and in allowing others to give. (Especially as long as they feel free to say no.)

I am not doing this perfectly, whatever that means, but I am exploring and learning.

FINDING A YES OR NO BY NOTICING MY BODY’S RESPONSE

I have learned to find a more genuine yes and no, not only through inquiry but also by noticing my body’s response.

For instance, if I am wondering whether to do an activity or not, I can say to myself: I can choose to do this or not, and I chose to do it. And then notice my body’s response. Does it relax? Does it sigh in relief? Then I say to myself: I can choose to do this or not, and I choose not to. And again notice my body’s response.

The genuine yes is reflected in my body relaxing, in a sigh of relief. Sometimes it’s a yes to the activity, and sometimes it’s a no to the activity.

(How does this work? It may be because the more unfiltered and honest part of my mind is intimately connected with my physical body. Or more accurately, because any tension in my mind is reflected in tension in my physical body, and tension always happens when we are not completely honest with ourselves.)

FINDING ESSENTIAL NEEDS AND MOTIVATIONS

What are some of my surface wishes and motivations? Taking one of them, what do I hope to get out of it? And what do I hope to get out of that? And that? What’s the most essential wish and motivation behind it? How can I give that to myself? In life? How is it to give it to that part of me here and now, within myself? (From Adyashanti.)

This is another way to simplify my life. On the surface, I have innumerable wishes and motivations. And when I trace them back to their essence, I find just a few and perhaps really just one.

This helps me prioritize and find and give myself what I really wish for and need.

It also helps me differentiate my genuine needs and motivations, and the strategies I use to find and give it to myself. It helps me explore a variety of ways to give it to myself. (NVC.)

For instance, I may have a surface wish for money. When I trace it back, I find it’s more essentially a wish for safety. Can I offer a sense of safety to the part(s) of me that wish for safety? Can I find ways to feel safer in life? (I can also explore ways to be a good steward of my life in terms of finances. What are some ways to have more stable finances? What are some ways to have a little more money in my life?)

I may have a surface wish for ice cream. When I trace it back, I find it’s more essentially a wish for love, comfort, and enjoyment, and even more essentially love. Can I give love to those parts of me wishing for love? Can I give comfort to the parts wishing for comfort? Can I give enjoyment to my inner community? Can I find ways to give this to myself in life? (And I can, of course, still eat ice cream if I wish.)

SIMPLIFYING MY LIFE

I have always loved simple living, and leading simple living groups was part of my actual job for a while. CFS has encouraged me to simplify even more.

What can I prune in my life? What can I say no to? (Which is a yes to me.) What drains energy? What do I really enjoy? What gives me a boost? What’s worth spending energy on, even if it has a cost?

What has life pruned for me? And can I join in with it? Can I find where it’s a genuine gift?

FINDING PEACE WITH SAYING NO

Like many in my culture, I have been programmed to think I should say “no” as little as possible. A part of me wants to please others to avoid discomfort. I should answer calls. I should say “yes” if I am invited somewhere.

So I have had to explore this and find more peace with saying no, and sometimes really enjoy saying no.

As Byron Katie says, a genuine “no” is a yes to me. Right there, I find more peace with it and even joy.

I see the benefits of learning to say no. It helps me take care of myself and my health. It helps me prune away activities (and sometimes people) that don’t feel right to have in my life. It leaves room for what’s more enjoyable, nourishing, and meaningful. I find that the space itself is enjoyable, nourishing, and meaningful (!).

Feeling free to say a genuine yes or no is easier through good communication and some education. I am working on being better at explaining my situation to people in my life. The more they understand, the easier it is for all of us to have our needs met. We can more easily find strategies that work.

FINDING AND GIVING TO MYSELF WHAT’S NOURISHING

What’s deeply nourishing for me?

In my case, I find it’s a wide range of things and activities.

Bone broth (!) is deeply nourishing for my body and thus for all of me. Whole food low on the food chain is typically the same. (I find refined foods draining.) Warm herbal tea, and sometimes spice tea, is often nourishing, along with dark miso broth.

Nature and being in nature is deeply nourishing for me. (It can be just sitting in a garden, enjoying the sun, clouds, wind, chirping birds, the sound of the wind in the trees, and so on.)

Some relationships are deeply nourishing, especially at certain times.

This type of exploration is nourishing to me, when I have the energy.

Some input – podcasts, interviews, articles, videos, movies, and music – is nourishing for me, at the right time.

Breema is deeply nourishing for me, whether it’s receiving, giving (when I have enough energy), or doing Self-Breema.

Receiving Vortex Healing for energizing is deeply nourishing for my system. It especially helps if I feel very drained or in a crash.

MORE EASE IN THE EXPLORATIONS: BASIC MEDITATION AND MORE

I used to put extra effort into my meditation practice, whether it was training a more stable attention, noticing my nature, or something else. In my teens and twenties, I would often meditate or hours at a time. I would go fully into the Tibetan Ngöndro practice. I would practice as if my hair was on fire, as they say in Buddhism. I found I couldn’t do that anymore. I had to find an easier and simpler way.

What was this easier way? I have mostly focused on basic meditation, noticing and allowing what’s here, and noticing that any content of experience is already noticed and allowed. By noticing what’s already here, I scale back the effort to the essentials.

I found that the essence of the Headless experiments is also helpful since that too is about noticing what’s already here.

Also, I kept some simple heart-centered practices like tonglen and ho’oponopono.

And I have, in periods, done simple forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process, and The Work of Byron Katie, the Kiloby/Living inquiries.

INQUIRY AND HEART-CENTERED PRACTICES

Inquiry and heart-centered practices help me find more ease.

Stressful stories are only partially true and my system is spending a lot of energy maintaining them and reacting to them. Identifying and examining these stories, and finding what’s more genuinely true for me, opens up space for more ease and presence. I find The Work of Byron Katie and the Kiloby/Living inquiries most helpful for this.

Heart-centered practices shift how I relate to anything – discomfort, myself, others, situations, life, and more. (And really, my images of all of these.) They help me shift from seeing them as enemies, struggling with them, and so on, to genuinely befriending them and perhaps even finding genuine gratitude for them. This too opens up space and opens up for more ease and peace with what is. The practices I am most familiar with are tonglen, ho’oponopono, and the Jesus/Heart prayer.

FINDING WHAT I AM

Finding what I am helps me find an essential simplicity.

In the world, I am this human self in the world. That’s not wrong.

Is that also what I am in my own first-person experience? I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the word as it appears to me, for any and all content of experience. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

And here, there is an essential simplicity. It’s the simplicity that allows and takes the form of all the richness of experience. It’s what’s free of tension and stress, and is free to take the form of what a thought may label tension and stress.

THE NATURE OF MY EXPERIENCES IS THE SAME AS MY OWN NATURE

This is perhaps a bit obscure and marginal for most but important to me.

When I experience discomfort, the habitual response in my system is to react to it. To try to push it away. Distract myself from it, often by going into compulsions. Make it go away, sometimes by healing and transforming it away. And so on.

My system responds as if it’s “other”. As if it’s a kind of enemy or problem. As if is a foreign element.

In reality, I am capacity for it. It happens within and as what I am.

Noticing this, and resting in that noticing, helps to shift out of this pattern. And that too gives more of a sense of ease and peace. It initially takes a bit of effort, and it really frees up a lot of energy tied up in the struggle from the old habitual response.

How do I do that? The easiest for me is to remind myself of my headlessness, notice my nature directly, and then notice and rest in the noticing of the nature of (what my thoughts label) the discomfort.

INVITED TO BE MORE SINCERE AND THOROUGH

Very little of this was new to me. These were all things I have explored since my teens or twenties. But the more severe phase of the CFS invited me to be more sincere and thorough in the exploration of all of it. Life created a kind of boundary for me and I needed to go deeper within that boundary. I could get away with less. I couldn’t so easily get away with being approximate and sloppy. I needed to be more sincere and precise.

It almost goes without saying, but a part of this sincerity is to find what’s genuinely true for me. Tricking myself doesn’t work since a part of me (all parts, really) know what’s going on. It has to be genuine to have any value.

OFTEN MESSY

By writing it like this, it can look as if I have it all sorted.

The reality is far more messy and human. I am not by any means perfect in any of this, whatever we imagine “perfect” means. I am winging it. I am learning a few things as I go along, often slowly. I forget and then remember again. I have a lot of issues and traumas that sometimes obscure and confuse any clarity that’s here. I don’t have any final or full answers. And as with most of these posts, I am writing this as a reminder to myself. As an invitation to myself to bring it alive here and now and explore it further.

It’s all very much a work in progress. And an adventure.

Note: What I have written here applies to some extent to many forms of chronic illness. This includes different forms of long-covid, some of which are similar to CFS. Long-covid is a post-viral disease and CFS is often a post-viral disease.

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My own experience with supporting my kidneys through climate, diet, and healing

My kidneys have been a focus for my healing over the last few years, and I thought I would share a few things I have noticed.

EPSTEIN-BARR AND CHRONIC FATIGUE

First, something I have been told. I got the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) when I was fourteen, in the form of mono/mononucleosis. That led to full-blown Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) a few months later when I was fifteen. Apparently, this virus stayed in my body since then, especially in my kidneys which weakened dramatically over time.

Long before anyone told me this, I had noticed that my kidneys seemed especially weak. Even without specifically scanning my body, I sensed that my kidneys were cold, weak, dry, and fatigued and that this impacted my system as a whole.

WHAT IMPACTS MY KIDNEYS

Here are some things I have noticed about my kidneys:

My diet impacts my kidneys, and especially sugar and white sugar. If I eat sugar, I notice my kidneys get colder and more (energetically) brittle and fatigued. This is most noticeable for one or two days, but can impact my kidneys over time if I don’t help them with diet (bone broth, etc.) and energizing.

Cold weather does the same, especially if my waist area is exposed to the cold over time, and if I breathe in cold air over time. If I am in a cold climate, this can weaken my kidneys dramatically over weeks and months, and the summer may not be enough for them to recover since my system in general is fatigued.

It seems that fear also impacts my kidneys. For instance, if I work on an issue in the evening that brings up fear, I often notice this fear in my system during the night, and when I wake up in the morning I notice that my kidneys are cold, brittle, and fatigued. This tends to pass during the morning, especially if I help energize them.

HOW DO I SUPPORT MY KIDNEYS?

So how do I support my kidneys?

A warm climate helps avoid the stress on my kidneys from cold weather and cold air. If I am in a colder climate, I often use a haramaki – a wrap around my waist to keep that area warm.

My diet strongly impacts my kidneys. It seems to support my kidneys when I reduce sugars and refined foods, eat more whole and unprocessed foods, eat lower on the food chain, drink lots of liquid (often warm), and have a daily dose of good dark bone broth.

Several herbal remedies help nurture my kidneys, especially some adaptogens.

I am working on my emotional issues. Since fear is behind any emotional issue, this helps reduce the generalized fear in my system and the times fear comes up more strongly, and that reduces the kidney drain that comes from fear.

Using a pendulum has been a helpful tool in pinpointing what drains and nurtures my kidneys, especially when it comes to diet.

Vortex Healing (VH) has also been immensely helpful in working on and supporting my kidneys.

With VH, I can more easily sense what’s happening with my kidneys. I can bring up the different energies related to the kidneys, especially prenatal jing, kidney essence, and the constitutional energy of the kidneys. I can optimize the energy pathways related to the kidneys. And I can optimize the function of the kidneys themselves. This has been invaluable and has helped my kidneys greatly.

When I do healing for my kidneys, I find it’s important to invite the divine within the kidneys (making up the kidneys) to reorganize to help energize and heal the kidneys. An inside-out orientation works better than an outside-in orientation (channeling from the outside-in), perhaps because its closer aligned with reality.

A CAVEAT

There is a big caveat here, and that is that I am by no means a medical expert on anything, let alone kidneys. I am not trained in nutrition, Chinese medicine, herbalism, and so on. And there is probably a lot I am missing. Also, this is just my own experience. It may well be different for you, and there are probably many things I have left out that may be as or more important than what I have mentioned here.

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What happens when I have less energy?

I have Chronic Fatigue (CFS) so I have become quite familiar with how my system functions when it has less energy.

Here are a few things I notice:

LESS ENERGY FOR ACTIVITIES

Predictably, I have less energy to do things. I need to rest more. I need to rest before, during, and after most activities.

I also find that some activities many see as restful take more energy than many seem to suspect. This includes conversations, sitting, watching movies, and listening to words or music. For me, it’s very noticeable how much energy these activities require, and I often cannot do it for very long.

This also happens with physiological stress, for instance when the weather is very hot or cold. I notice how this too takes a lot of energy, and there is less left for anything else.

LESS ENERGY TO REGULATE MIND AND BODY

In general, it seems that my system needs energy to regulate itself well. When my energy level goes down, my system struggles with regulating mind and body. Said another way, it prioritizes survival and energy saving. It goes into low-power mode.

My thoughts don’t work as well. I have trouble thinking, planning, remembering, and making (good) decisions. The executive functions suffer, probably because they – for my system – become less of a priority in these situations. Water, food, and rest are primary. Thinking is less important.

My mind tends to project the current state to the future. When I look at images of the future, I see myself with similar low energy. And joining in and fueling it fuels anxiety, worry, and concern.

I get more irritable. I get more sensitive to sounds and noise. If I need to eat, drink, or rest, I tend to get impatient with anything that’s in the way.

My cravings get stronger, especially for sugar. This is not so surprising since sugar gives a quick energy fix, and in an emergency, sugar does help a bit. (It’s obviously not a long-term solution.)

My vision gets blurry and I start seeing double. It dramatically worsens compared to when my energy level is better.

My body seems to have trouble regulating body temperature. I am often unusually hot, especially at night, and sometimes freezing cold – in a way that’s out of proportion with the ambient temperature.

It’s ironically more difficult to get good quality rest and sleep. The more exhausted my system is, the worse my rest and sleep tend to be. It’s difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, and the sleep I get is not refreshing.

WHAT HELPS

So what’s the remedy?

The short-term remedy is water, food, rest, and staying well within my energy budget.

Doing what feels genuinely right for me helps my system not use too much energy. While going against my guidance drains my energy. Following an honest “yes” or “no” is essential for not crashing. (I sometimes do a quick check. I say to myself “I can do X, and I chose to do it” and notice how my body responds. I then say “I can do X, and I chose not to” and notice how my body responds. One will typically give a sense of relief and peace, and the other tension. And whether that’s the yes or no depends on the situation.)

Asking for help. I ask for help with practical things from family, friends, or paid help. (I trust people to say no if it doesn’t work for them.) And when necessary, I ask for Vortex Healing energizing since that is often quick and effective.

I help myself get out of fueling stressful stories. I recognize unhelpful mental patterns and decide to set it aside. I focus on the physical sensations. I examine the stories and see where they come from. (Learned from family and society, fueled by a sense of lack in myself.) And sometimes, I just find an enjoyable distraction for a while to help me shift out of old patterns.

Some herbal remedies nurture and support the deeper energy levels in my body, especially some adaptogens. Bone broth seems to fill up deep energy reserves in my body. Eating low on the food chain and fresh and seasonal food helps my system in general, as does avoiding or minimizing certain foods. (For me, anything processed, dairy, wheat, and sugar. Although I do eat some of this sometimes, and sometimes it even gives me a boost.)

Breema nourishes, balances, and energizes. I find a sense of wholeness and my relationship to life shifts. This happens whether I do Self-Breema, or receive or give Breema bodywork.

Vortex Healing also balances and energizes, although in a different way. Vortex Healing energization tends to help a lot, although it needs to happen frequently since it seems that my system is unable to hold energy for very long. I find it’s also important to bring up the constitutional energy of my energy channels and organs, especially the kidneys.

And it’s always helpful to examine anything in my psychology that’s an energy drain. I especially pay attention to what issues seem to give me a feeling of weakness, hopelessness, or energy drain when triggered and explore those. In general, the more I can genuinely befriend what’s here, the easier it is. That tends to happen when I examine and get to know the parts of me struggling with what’s here. And also when I examine any stressful stories my system holds as true and find what’s genuinely more true for me.

My recent health crisis

I am just back after a few days at the hospital in Oslo.

I broke a tooth. The infection in the root spread to the face. I felt surprisingly unwell and, without knowing it, had the beginnings of sepsis. And following a dentist appointment, my system went into septic shock. There is about an hour I can’t remember, and I woke up sweating profusely, shaking uncontrollably, and without being able to think much at all. Fortunately, I relatively quickly got sent to the hospital in an ambulance and received critical care, was then under observation for a day, and then spent a couple of days in the infection section of the hospital.

It was a dramatic and scary experience, I am profoundly grateful for modern medicine and for being able to receive such good care so quickly. Without it, I may not have been be here today.

SHIFTING INTO BIG MIND

I also noticed what seems to be a natural tendency in my system. In a crisis, the “center of gravity” shifts into Big Mind. I far more strongly and clearly and unmissably find myself as Big Mind, as what this human self and the wider world happens within and as.

I can see it as a kind of safety valve. Or my system may not have the energy or ability to operate closer to the human side of the equation so this is what’s left. Or it just makes sense. In these types of crises, it’s helpful to function a bit more from and as Big Mind.

In daily life, I always find myself as Big Mind. It’s always there. It’s easy to notice. And yet, the “center of gravity” tends to shift around a bit on that spectrum from the human self to Big Mind. Sometimes, its more over to the human side, sometimes more over on the Big Mind side. It depends on the situation and where attention is and what’s required, and also if anything is triggered in me and how much I get caught up in it.

THE EFFECTS OF BIG MIND

How did I notice the effects of having Big Mind more strongly in the foreground?

The most obvious is that in my immediate experience, what I am is this crystal clarity anything happens within and as. Any ideas of boundaries or time or space or divisions between this human self and the wider world and so on happen within and as this crystal clarity.

I found myself surprisingly OK with the whole situation. At one level, my human self did its best to get the care needed and to tell the nurses and doctors the symptoms and what had happened. At another level, there was just a noticing of it all and a slight curiosity about how it would all unfold. Would he survive? How would it be to die? What’s on the other side of death, if anything? How is that big adventure?

I also noticed that things that normally would annoy this human self, like a nurse talking unnecessarily loudly in the middle of the night or someone making a lot of slime-related sounds, were fine.

And I noticed and experienced the whole situation as love. The words and actions of the nurses and doctors were love. The iv was love. The cardiovascular monitor was love. The ten tubes and cables attached to my body is an expression of love. All the work innumerable people have engaged in for all of this to exist was love. I know that, for them, it may “just” be a job. And, for me, it was love. It’s an expression of care. It’s what helped me survive and get back to health.

CHALLENGES

That said, there are also some challenges at the human level.

For instance, the first night at home was riddled with restless dreams bordering of nightmares, involving imagery from the hospital stay – including wanting to not move too much because of all the tubes and wires connected to my body. I was also generally disoriented.

At the hospital, I spent the last two days in the infection ward. Since they didn’t have enough rooms, they put me in the corridor. The first afternoon and evening, my bed was next to the room of a woman dying. The nurses said it was best to stop treatment so she could die sooner since there was nothing they could do for her.

My bed was moved down the corridor for the night, in between two isolation rooms. The people in both rooms were screaming in agony – or confusion? – through the night. Groups of nurses went in and out of the rooms most of the night, dressing in and out of their protective astronaut outfits.

In spite of having been close to death just a day or two earlier, I was one of the healthier people there. It really felt like one of the first circles of hell – hearing and imagining the agony of some of the patients and seeing the nurses literally running around to try to keep up with everything while somehow and miraculously still being attentive, with a smile, and often a good-hearted joke.

My body and mind function as if I was ninety years old and in bad shape even for that age, although I know it will change. And I imagine I will enjoy the small pleasures of life even a bit more. I already do.

I get even a bit more viscerally that life is change. Nothing that’s here will last. Enjoy it while you can.

Note: After I came back to the house, I have been in bed most of the time. Just now, I went outside in the beautiful summer afternoon and had dinner in the garden. It literally felt like being reborn into this life.

Note 2: I suspect I may have had this infection for a while, and wasn’t able to have it taken care of it because of a confluence of reasons including the pandemic. It may explain why my body has seemed to struggle and has felt especially weighed down for a while now.

Note 3: I have had a couple of infection-related dreams. A day or so after returning from the hospital, I dreamt that some ruthless burglars wanted to break into my car and there was nothing I could do. Last night, July 5, I dreamt a fake male nurse wanted to put poison into my iv to kill me. The first is a typical infection dream, and it’s a good sign it was my car and not my house. (It seems to suggest that my mobility will be impaired, which it was.) The second seems to mirror the poisoning of my blood that did happen, and perhaps that I am not out of the woods yet. I am still on antibiotics and will take another step to remove the source of the infection. (And, of course, I can explore these dreams in a more psychological-mirror way as well.)

Note 4: I noticed my misophonia went away during this experience. Sounds that usually would trigger stress in me were just sounds. Maybe because of the stronger shift into Big Mind?

Note 5: It’s now a week after I returned from the hospital, and I still feel like I have been hit by a truck – with fatigue and brain fog as the strongest symptoms. (On top of what I already have from the CFS.) This means I am not writing so much here, and that may change in time.

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Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) – a brief overview

I thought I would write a bit about Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) again.

A little over a decade ago, a friend introduced me to it and I was instantly hooked, started including it in my daily life, and did the training.

WHAT IS TRE ABOUT?

All mammals naturally shake after stress. It’s a built-in mechanism to help us prevent longer-lasting trauma, and we see it antelopes after being chased by a lion, a cat after waking up from anesthesia, and in many more situations.

We also have this mechanism built into our system, but most of us don’t make use of it. Likely because our culture tells us that shaking and trembling is a sign of weakness or of losing control, or people don’t understand it and scare themselves with their stories about it. Early in our lives, most of us learn that spontaneous shaking & trembling is no good. We learn to hold it back and suppress it.

This spontaneous shaking and tremoring is also called neurogenic tremoring. (Initiated by the nervous system.)

WHAT IS TRE?

TRE is a set of simple exercises that helps us get in contact with this natural trembling mechanism. The first helps warm up the feet, ankles, and legs. The second and third fatigues the calves and thighs. The fourth stretch the legs. And the fifth and sixth invite in the trembling. There is an official TRE app that takes you through these exercises.

That said, it’s best to learn it with a certified facilitator, especially if you have a history of trauma. It can be done in person or over video conferencing if you don’t have a facilitator nearby.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The simple answer is that the trembling initiated by our system helps release tension from our tissues. It’s a kind of natural internal massage. And since our system is a whole that we only in thought can divide into psyche and body, this helps release both physical and psychological tension.

This does not only take the form of trembling and shaking. Our system releases tension in many ways, including crying, laughing, sounds, spontaneous stretching, bouncing, and so on, and all of that can and often does happen in a TRE session.

A CAVEAT FOR US DUMB HUMANS

If we allowed this spontaneous tension-release shaking and trembling from early childhood on, we wouldn’t accumulate nearly as much tension as many of us do over the years and decades.

Since many of us have accumulated a lot of tension, we need to progress with some care when it comes to this neurogenic tremoring. It’s good to have the guidance of someone more experienced, for instance, a certified facilitator. It’s good to do only a very few minutes at first to see how our system responds and we get familiar with it. And if we have trauma in our system, it’s good to work with a therapist as well in this process.

IS IT A MIRACLE CURE?

Yes and no.

It’s effective in releasing tension, whether we think of this tension as primarily psychological or physical.

It’s very simple and natural. We are just making use of the natural trembling mechanism of our bodies.

It’s easy to do in daily life, even if it’s just a few seconds or minutes at a time.

At the same time, it may not be enough to deeply and thoroughly find healing for trauma. Sometimes, we also need a more psychological and social approach.

My personal favorite is a combination of heart-centered approaches (ho’oponopono, tonglen) and different forms of inquiry that focuses on the more basic elements in us creating the trauma. (More basic than the often stressful conventional story level.)

HOW DO I USE IT?

So how do I use neurogenic tremoring?

Since I have done this for a while now, it’s easy for me to initiate the tremoring. I intentionally start tremoring, and my body takes over and does it more spontaneously.

I typically do it for some seconds or a few minutes at different times during the day, whether sitting, standing, or lying down. And through tensing and relaxing different parts of the body, and placing my body in different positions, I can invite the tremoring to go to different parts of my body.

When it comes to the positions, I find that standing helps the trembling move through the whole body. It allows the shaking to move through my skeleton, and it gives me a sense of grounding and strength. Sitting towards the front of a chair with my back free invites shaking and release in the upper body, including the shoulders, arms, neck, and jaw. And lying down in the final exercise position helps the trembling happen in the hip area and it helps with relaxation and letting go.

This doesn’t mean the exercises are not useful and don’t play a role. When I do the exercises, I notice the tremoring goes deeper and into new areas.

In general, I experience it as an enjoyable, natural, and fluid process that’s relatively effortlessly woven into daily life. During a session, the trembling naturally goes in cycles with some periods of rest. And in my life, I notice the same type of cycles. In some periods, I do it more often, and in other periods less often. That too seems to have a natural rhythm.

TRE & CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME

Neurogenic tremoring helps my general health and well-being.

And it also seems to free up more energy for my system to use for healing and daily life.

My system uses energy to maintain tension. Tension binds energy. So releasing this tension frees up energy for other tasks, including healing and daily life living.

That, in itself, is sufficient for explaining why TRE helps with my general health and the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

When it comes to CFS, we know it’s typically initiated by an infection. And there may be more factors at play, for instance, a combination of genetic predisposition and stress.

It’s also possible to speculate beyond this. For instance, is CFS also connected to a kind of chronic freeze or collapse response? It may be a part of the puzzle, but I don’t know. In my case, it does fit since one of my patterns from early in life is to freeze. (In some situations, I would go into a freeze response since flight or fight were not available to me.) One step further than freeze is collapse, and acute CFS does feel like a kind of collapse.

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Bone broth

I have been using bone broth off and on for the last couple of decades after I shifted from a vegetarian to a flexitarian diet.

Bone broth is one of the things I have found that significantly and consistently improves my health and well-being. It helps with my energy level, digestion, cravings, and the CFS.

(Other things that help with my general well-being and energy levels are: good sleep, drinking plenty of water – often in the form of herbal infusions, eating nourishing foods in general, eating and drinking regularly, eating with the seasons, some adaptogenic herbs, Vortex Healing energizing, Breema, and generally learning to understand and follow the signals of my body.)

I started again with bone broth last week, after some months without taking it, and it’s easy to notice how it nourishes my body and fills up deeper layers of my energy system. 

I notice the familiar difference between chicken broth and beef broth. Beef broth fills up deeper layers of my system. (I am sure this is different for different people. I am often drawn to the stronger medicine.) 

Bone broth helps my digestion in an amazing way. My digestive system is much more stable and seems better able to deal with a range of foods.

I notice how I am less drawn to meat when I have bone broth. The ideal diet for my system seems to be bone broth from beef and otherwise eating low on the food chain. Ironically, bone broth makes it easier for me to eat a more vegetarian diet. 

And I notice how cravings – for sugar and other less-than-healthy foods – go away when I have bone broth daily. I even have a slight aversion to those foods, likely because my system is more balanced and nourished. 

I should mention that I have tried bone broth powder. It has some effect but not even close to the bone broth I make myself.

I typically cook beef bones for two or three days on low heat in a slow cooker, with some vinegar to draw out the nutrients. (Update: I now started to use a pressure cooker, and it seems a good time is 15-20 hours to get the nice dark golden color.)

There is another side to this. One of my issues in life is not feeling deeply nourished – both psychologically and physically. So the deep nourishment that comes from bone broth seems especially helpful and important to me. That’s also why I am drawn to practices like Breema that have a deeply nourishing quality. 

Note: The photos above are from beef bone broth cooked 15-20 hours in a pressure cooker. It’s smooth, rich, delicious, and feels deeply nurturing.

Note 2: Gelatin powder has a similar effect to bone broth, although not quite as deeply and richly nourishing. I take neutral (unflavored) gelatin powder in hot water, often in the morning. It doesn’t quite replace bone broth, but it’s a nice emergency measure when traveling or when I run out of bone broth before having made a new batch.

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The importance of energizing

This is another relatively obvious (?) and revisited topic:

One of the most important things for well-being and healing is to keep our system nourished and energized.

It doesn’t matter so much how we do it, we just need to find ways that work for us.

It could be nourishing food. Herbal medicine. Yoga. Tai chi. Chigong. Inner yoga. Being in nature. Rest. Dance. Exercise.

Personally, I find energizing through Vortex Healing the fastest and most effective, although it doesn’t replace the other approaches.

In what ways does it help to have a more energized system?

In my experience, it helps with… Sleep and rest. Processing anything – information, situations, and issues. Dealing with life situations and whatever comes up internally. Finding healing for emotional issues. Enjoyment and contentment. And much more.

The gifts in our life: challenging situations as a laboratory for humanity

I talked with a friend who has long-covid and she mentioned that she doesn’t feel so useful anymore.

We have infinite worth and value independent of what we can do in the world. Just by being, we have that infinite value.

And having a chronic or serious illness can help us learn and see things that can be infinitely valuable to ourselves, those close to us, and society as a whole. We are in a unique position to learn and discover certain things.

WHAT WE MAY DISCOVER FROM LIVING WITH CHRONIC OR SERIOUS ILLNESS

We may discover the importance in asking for help, and asking so others feel free to answer from an authentic yes or no.

We may discover the gift in allowing others to give. By asking for help, we allow others to give, and that can help them feel valuable. (If they do it from an honest yes.)

We may discover our intrinsic interdependence. Our human life wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the lives of innumerable other humans and other beings, living now and in the past.

We may discover our own authentic yes and no, and find freedom in giving our yes or no.

We may find a more honest and authentic way of being with ourselves and living our life.

We may be more honest and vulnerable with those around us.

We may find the value in rest and taking care of ourselves.

We may find the value and richness in a simple life.

We may find a high quality of life within our current limitations.

We may discover that what we thought were our limitations are not.

And then some more….

We can identify and examine old identifies and beliefs that don’t fit anymore. We may have put our worth on what we could do, and when we can’t be as active anymore, where is our worth? Can I find value, worth, and meaning in my life as it is now?

We may turn to something beyond our human self. We may find a sense of belonging with family and friends, and nature and even all of existence. We may engage in different forms of spiritual practice.

We may find a more kind way of relating to ourselves, our experiences, and life. We may shift out of struggle and into befriending our experiences and life. (And that can mean we relate with more kindness to people in our life as well.)

AN INVITATION

None of this is inevitable. A lasting challenging situation can bring us deeper into struggle, grief, anger, resentment, blame, and so on, if that’s the direction we go. And we probably will go into some or all of that at different times in the process. That’s not wrong. It’s understandable and innocent. And through that struggle, we may see the consequences of that approach and that it doesn’t give us what we really want.

We may find there is another way. And if we live with a chronic or serious illness, or another limiting situation, there is an invitation there. An invitation for each of us to discover a more kind way, which may include some of the things listed here.

CHALLENING SITUATIONS AS A LABORATORY FOR HUMANITY

A chronic or serious illness, or other lasting challenging situations, is a laboratory for ourselves, as outlined above.

And it is, in a very real sense, a laboratory for humanity.

When we humans are in these situations, what do we discover? What insights can come from finding ourselves in this unique position? How can these insights help humanity as a whole?

MY OWN EXPERIENCE

I live with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and have had Lyme disease, so life put me in a situation where I was invited to discover this.

I have struggled, still do at times, and I have parts of me ready to engage in struggle at a moments notice.

At the same time, there is another part of me that wants to find a more kind way, and I explore that because it feels better.

Note: I am sharing what I discover on this website, so I am passing on my discoveries to humanity – at least to those who happen to find these articles. And I can also be better at asking for help. This blog costs money to maintain, and I have limited income due to my chronic illness, so if it gives you joy, donations are very welcome and received with gratitude. Use the link or the yellow donation button to the right. Thank you!

Health care practitioners that promise too much

Some health care practitioners promise too much. They speak beyond what they can honestly speak about. 

I haven’t noticed this with mainstream doctors or specialists, but I encounter it relatively often in the alternative world. 

They say: “Do this and you’ll get much better” or “you’ll get completely well again”. 

And my experience, so far, is that I follow their instructions and nothing happens or there is only a slight and temporary change. 

Why do they promise too much?

It may be they see it as “medicine” to encourage a sense of optimism.

In reality, what happens may be that we get our hopes up, get disappointed, and feel tricked or deceived. At least, that’s what happened with me until I got used to this pattern and learned to anticipate it, and also learned to avoid practitioners who use this kind of language. 

I much prefer practitioners who take a sober and honest approach. They may say: “Some people with your condition got better after doing this”. Or even better: “Let’s try and see what happens.”

Personally, I am much more inclined to trust practitioners who take a sober and grounded approach. They show that they are able to stay close to reality. And they don’t engage in trickery encouraging false hope.

 

Dream: Disoriented in London

I have been on a course in London, and after it’s done I feel lost and disoriented. I vaguely remember that I decided to stay a few more days but can’t remember how many days and when my flight is, and I don’t remember where I stayed during the course and don’t know where I will stay for the remaining days. 

This dream reflects the brain fog I had when waking up. I felt very groggy and disoriented and also experiences a lot of numbness in my arms, legs, and face. This is a typical symptom of both Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Lyme, and it may have been especially bad this morning as a result of light physical activity yesterday (PEM).

The dream started after the course and was about me wandering some beautiful old streets trying to remember what was happening. I had food somewhere, talked with a couple of people, and asked if they knew of a bed & breakfast or hotel. (Not AirB&B for some reason, even if that’s what I usually use.) I remember feeling slightly disappointed since I had scheduled extra days to explore London, and it wasn’t very enjoyable since I was so disoriented. 

Have done done several Vortex Healing classes in London, so that may be one seed of the dream.

As mentioned, this dream reflected what was going on with me in real life while sleeping. On some days, I feel completely out of it when I wake up – with very strong brain fog and disorientation. 

Before this dream, I did some processing on how my life took an unexpected turn because of my health, and how this led to shedding several cherished identities and dreams for the future. There is some disorientation here too, which this dream may reflect. 

A part of me is pushing this experience of disorientation and general brain fog away, so perhaps the dream is inviting me to notice that it’s here and befriend it a little more.

The cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: combined viral and other stress?

I just had an online appointment with a doctor who specializes in functional medicine and has worked with many patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

His overall explanation of CFS is very similar to what I have arrived at as a likely explanation, based on my own experience.

It’s a mainly physical illness, triggered or caused by stress. And this stress is often a combination of physical and psychological stress and can come from a variety of sources. Since a viral infection often precedes CFS, I assume this plays a central role as well. Perhaps the body’s reaction to the stress of the viral infection, combined with other stress, triggers the illness.

When I initially got CFS at age fifteen, I suspect the sources of stress were several. I likely had a low-grade chronic Epstein-Barr infection (I had mononucleosis a few months earlier), combined with usual teenage stress (towards the high end of the scale), combined with my first and last party where I drank alcohol. The three together may have been enough to trigger the CFS.

When the CFS worsened a couple of decades later, the sources of stress were serious and long-lasting pneumonia, a marriage that didn’t feel right, perhaps combined with mold in the house.

And when it worsened further some years later, it was immediately following a two-week period where my presence was required daily at a study, and that involved a long travel time.

In general, my condition worsens when the following stressors are present: Physical exertion, psychological exertion, life stress, cold and/or wet weather, and poor diet. I imagine other stressors like pollution, food quality, and so on also play a role.

What’s the remedy? The doctor suggested a combination of healthy oils, adaptogens, probiotics, and vitamins and minerals. This is not so different from what others in the field recommend.

The doctor suggested a pathway as well, involving cortisol, adrenals, etc. Any ideas we currently have about these pathways are, by necessity, simplistic and I mainly leave those explorations to others. I am more interested in the possible causes, what maintains or worsens the illness, and the possible remedies.

A note on mechanisms: There are no agreed-upon mechanisms from CFS. There are some typical patterns in what goes before the illness and what worsens and stabilizes it. There are some findings, usually from single unreplicated studies. There are several suggested mechanisms and biological elements of the illness. And that’s about it, and that’s one reason I hold it all very lightly. Even if or when they get a better idea of the mechanism, it’s important to remember that modern science – including medical science – is in its infancy. They only have small pieces of a much larger and more complex puzzle. And the content of science, by its nature, changes over time. What’s held as (provisional) truth today will be outdated and obsolete in a year, or a decade, or a century. All of it is provisional. It’s the best guess based on what we know today. And it’s all a small piece of a much larger puzzle.

The difference between causes of illness and what helps it turn around

Words are important. And the words a therapist, doctor, or healer use with their clients or patients are especially important.

It seems obvious but most of us are sometimes sloppy, don’t think about how our words may be perceived, and we may even be – knowingly or unknowingly – intellectually dishonest.

This came up for me when I asked a top level energy healer about my chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and specifically a crash following over-exertion (PEM).

His reply was “the tiredness has emotional causes”.

I am very open to work on any emotional issues that may maintain the CFS and prevent healing. After all, the body is a seamless whole, CFS is a complex and chronic condition without a single known cause or remedy, and working on any part of my system and environment can support my body in healing. Emotional issues are already on top of my list of things to address, along with strengthening my energy system, diet, and aiming to live in a warmer and dryer climate.

And yet, his reply seems a bit careless.

First, CFS isn’t just or even primarily about “tiredness”. The symptoms are typically a combination of fatigue, brain fog, digestive problems, sleep problems, post-exertion worsening (PEM), temperature dysregulation, and much more. To reduce it to “tiredness” makes it sound like it’s just a worse or more lasting form of regular tiredness which is far from reality.

Second, CFS has several known non-emotional factors. For instance, it often follows an infection like mononucleosis (as in my case). The Epstein-Barr virus seems to play a role. The tendency to crash following exertion (PEM) is a core symptom and isn’t related to emotions in any obvious way. Diet is an important factor in stabilizing the condition and perhaps the healing. Nutrients the same. And climate often plays a big role for people with CFS. (I get worse in cold and wet climates and sometimes remarkably much better in warm and dry climates.)

Emotional issues definitely plays a role in well-being and in reducing stress (which can support the body in stabilizing and perhaps even healing itself). It may even be one of several factors in the onset and maintenance of the illness – although we don’t know enough about that yet.

But to say that “the tiredness has emotional causes” reveals a lack of understanding of CFS and a lack of humility when faces with a complex and relatively poorly understood illness.

Also, there is a difference between factors that cause, maintain, and support healing from an illness. Sometimes, these are different from each other. And especially when it comes to chronic, complex, and poorly understood conditions, some or all of the healing factors may be different from the initial causes and even the maintaining factors.

It may be the healer had a sense or intuition that it can help me to address some emotional issues and that’s my sense too. If he had that sense and still expressed it as “the tiredness has emotional causes”, then it seems he made a big, unnecessary, and potentially misleading assumption.

If I took what he said seriously and literally, as some would, it would close the door to other approaches. Including approaches that may be equally or more important in supporting my system in its healing process.

For several reasons, it would have been much better for him to say “it may help your system to work on emotional issues – try it and see what happens”. It would be closer to his reality. It would be more intellectually honest. It wouldn’t conflate causes, maintaining factors, and healing factors. And it would support the client – in this case me – to follow his pointer while also staying more open to other possibilities.

In summary: I see there is a grain of truth in what he said and working on emotional issues is already on top of my priorities. (I have been working on it for a while.) And yet, I see his response as careless, potentially misleading, and even intellectually dishonest.

In the worst case, it can close the door on addressing other factors that can support the healing as much or more.

Setting all of this aside, which emotional issues are on my to-do list? I am especially interested in working on any possible issues that may have stressed my system at the onset of the illness when I was fifteen, any fears of staying sick, and even any fears of being healthy and fully involved in the world again.

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Training the eyes

In our culture, we train our body, we train skills, we even train mindfulness and more stable attention.

So why not train our eyes and our visual system? It seems to be – pardon the pun – a blind spot in our culture. And a big opportunity for future business. (Free business idea.)

I got into training my eyes and visual system in my twenties, first through Feldenkrais exercises and then through the Bates Method and especially the Janet Goodrich version.

Here is my journey in a nutshell: I first got glasses in my teens. Took a series of Feldenkrais classes in my mid-twenties. In one class, I was the only student and had done it regularly for a year or so, so my instructor decided to do something for the eyes. At some point during the class, I had a surge of very uncomfortable emotional energy, and it seems clearly connected with the eyes. I assume it was some sort of release.

Within a couple of weeks, I sat on my (antique!) glasses and they broke. I scheduled an appointment with an optometrist to see what eyeglass prescription I needed. She said: “your eyes are fine, you don’t need glasses”. I asked “does it happen that the eyes improve or heal themselves over time” and she said, “no, it can’t happen”. Although, obviously it did happen. I then got into the Bates Method and used that off and on for a while.

I don’t know if I can say much that’s not covered well by others. I find the Janet Goodrich exercises especially appealing and fun, more like playing than exercising. It seems helpful to explore any emotional issues that may be connected with vision problems and invite in healing for these.

And it seems obvious that we can train our eyes and visual system, similar to how we can train our body and mind in general.

Personally, I have just started to work on my vision more systematically with Vortex Healing and Living Inquiries. With Vortex Healing, I energize the visual system, clear conditioning contributing to poor eyesight, and explore and invite in healing for any emotional issues contributing to poor eyesight. I may also explore these issues with Living Inquiries.

My eyes are still pretty good, even if it’s been some years since I did the Bates Method regularly. I don’t need glasses. I see what I need to see. Although my vision is slightly fuzzy at a distance, and I notice that my vision goes a bit blurry when I am more fatigued.

Note: I should mention that it’s mostly the most common forms of blurry vision that can be helped by training our vision or sight. Some eye or sight problems obviously need other approaches, perhaps even surgery.

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