Life pulls us in many different directions. We have job and family demands. We can become slaves to our “to-do” list and be overwhelmed by obligations. We may eat erratically and get too little sleep. We may get bogged down in constant errands that need to be run. We may over commit and feel ourselves being run ragged. We may use caffeine to keep us awake and alcohol to help us relax. We may find ourselves feeling stressed, angry and resentful.
Or, perhaps we have too much time on our hands. We let hours pass by filling with mindless activities. We watch too much television and sit around waiting for the phone to ring. We feel lost, bored with our surroundings and discontented.
Both of these scenarios can take a toll on our health, relationships and work lives. Caught in vicious cycles, we find it easy to feel completely powerless and unable to change. Often we feel that we must simply do more to gain control of our lives. We put ourselves on rigid schedules, diets and self-improvement plans. But these don’t address the core issue at hand – that we are letting our lives run us.
If you have fallen into any of these patterns, I urge you to take a breath, step back, slow down and find your rhythm. Each day we wake up, eat, expend energy and sleep. If we live to be eighty, these days add up to 700,800 hours of life. Start to think about how you want to spend this time. What do you treasure or value you the most in life? What moments do you want more of? What books do you want to read? What tasks do you want to accomplish? What people do you want to meet? What is it that you absolutely want to do before you die?
If I were to tell you that you had $700,800 to spend, my guess is that immediately images of houses, cars, vacations or beautiful new clothes would come to mind. We live in a society that focuses on money and we are inundated with images about how to spend it. We think about money constantly and worry about not having enough of it. There are financial advisors, stockbrokers, banks and accountants to help us figure out how to invest and save. We are told to put money away for retirement and for our children’s education. The more altruistic of us may think about how to help others with our money and may donate to charities. There is even a whole season each year dedicated to figuring out how much money we have earned and how much we have to give to the government. And, we are told there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes.
Conscious management of our finances can be powerful and rewarding. But it seems to me that time is a more valuable resource. It is also a more challenging one. We can’t take out a time loan or store up time. We can’t add extra hours to our busy days. We can, however, develop a healthy rhythm that helps us move through life. Our rhythm can be a guide when our lives gets busy and stressful or when we feel we have too much time on our hands. Rhythm can help us deal with loss and change. We don’t have to constantly be making decisions about what to do next or what is most important to us. But how do we develop and nurture a rhythm that feels comfortable and authentic?
Oriental Medicine offers advice. It describes the way energy moves through our bodies over the course of the day. It describes the changes in seasons and how these changes affect us. It speaks of the life cycle and the changes the body goes through as we develop and age. It describes different personality types and the challenges people of each type face while going through life.
My newsletter series for this year is about the rhythms of our lives. If nothing else, it will get you to think differently about time. It will get you to respect time as your most valuable resource. It will make you think about how to best make use of the natural rhythms of the universe and the daily, weekly and yearly cycles of time.
I have no magic answer about how to make the best use of our days here on planet Earth. But I can offer ideas, suggestions and exercises to practice and different perspectives about viewing life. I’ll talk about how to become in touch with our own individual rhythms and how to bring these rhythms into sync with the rhythms of the universe and the rhythms of those we come into contact with. I’ll talk about how to more fully experience the moments that we have.
The beginning of this exploration starts with connecting with our most basic rhythm, the rhythm of the breath. Take a moment, right now, to breathe in and breathe out. Put aside any worries. Let go of thoughts. Just for a moment, be fully present and feel the rhythm, your rhythm. Just breathe.
Have you found yourself waiting for the perfect moment for life to begin? Are you putting off the things that truly matter to you for the day you lose 10 lbs, you get that new job, you meet the perfect partner? Here’s the secret: we only have this moment.
I learned this over twenty years ago when I was diagnosed with the not-so-well understood illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had a sore throat, low-grade fever, muscle aches and fatigue like nothing I had ever known before. A walk across a room became an exercise in exhaustion. Yet, the illness turned out to be one of the greatest gifts I was ever given.
Let me be clear. This was not the type of gift that you ask for, for Christmas or your birthday. It’s not the type of gift you excitingly rip the wrapping paper off of thrilled that somehow your life – a least for the moment – is complete. It’s not tickets to the theatre or a night out on the town. It’s the type of gift you curse for ever having been given to you. All the same, chronic fatigue syndrome changed my life for the better, in ways I still can’t completely comprehend.
My journey began when an acquaintance suggested that I try acupuncture. I went for treatments and was blown away by this ancient, healing tradition. While it wasn’t a cure, I could feel energy moving in my body. I became more interested in Oriental Medicine and went back to school to get my Masters Degree. At the same time, I tried every treatment that I could get my hands on: herbs, homeopathy, nitroglycerin, shots of vitamin B12, intravenous vitamin C, special diets and nutritional supplements. The illness waxed and waned. Finally, I noticed that the illness had a seasonal component to it. It was worse during the winter. I invested in a 10,000 lux bright light and started taking a supplement called NADH. After using these for several months, the illness subsided and has never returned.
Even before this happy ending, my life had changed. I learned the following lessons, which I want to share with you:
• set limits on your time and energy
• rest when you need to rest
• listen to your body – it is always speaking to you
• ask for and accept help
• eat foods that sustain you
• get an appropriate amount of exercise
• choose the things in life that are important to you
• set simple, achievable goals
The most important lesson is to start living the life you want now. This doesn’t mean running a marathon, traveling to a Greek island or finding your dream job. It means being creative in bringing positive experiences and people into your life. It means finding joy in life. I love to cook and I love to ice-skate. So when all I had the energy to do was to lie on the couch I was sure be watching PBS’s cooking shows and figure skating competitions. The tools that I learned while I was dealing with chronic illness are the tools that I share with my patients and those I meet who are on the path to a healthier life.
Let me know about your positive experiences — the ways that you’ve made this day better for yourself. Be inspired to live the life you want now!
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist
Tuesday & Wednesday & Thursday, 10am-8pm
247 Northampton Street, #27
Easthampton, MA 01027