Sickness is an opportunity

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To be weak is a blessing. I found myself saying that again.

Weakness heightens sensitivity. I believe that there are things one can notice only when weak. It is an opportunity.

When healthy, strong and energetic, we can do anything. We can power through things that are not good for us. That ability is great and it too, is a blessing.

However, the kind of things one can notice when weak is special. The sensitivity we have when weak can guide us to live better through the rest of our lives.

An easy example is our relation to food. When we are strong, we can eat anything. We can live on the crappiest diet on earth, won’t even notice that it’s crappy and still be fine. But when we are weak, we will know immediately what’s good and what’s not. I remember when one bite of the wrong thing would make me wilt, while one bite of the right thing feeling like I got a jolt of light coming through me. It’s that different.

I have learned, and I am still learning, using what I have learned while I was weak myself. I am actually glad I have spent a good chunk of time in sickness.

I hope my dear friend will find this difficult period to be rewarding as well.

Mending – minimum skills

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Here’s an old Icebreaker sweater now with soft elbow patches.

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It makes me happy to have rescued something useless back to life. I wonder sometimes if while mending the objects we also mend our soul. Or it just might be the bit of quiet mindful time.

Here’s another recent embellishment/repair. Aren’t they cute? Chipped mug and teapot repaired and embellished with Sugru, the moldable glue that turns into rubber when dry. This is the first time I’ve bought it, so I don’t know how strong its adhesion is. Maybe they will hold, maybe they won’t. So far it is looking promising. They’ve survived some rounds in the dishwasher.

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Both the sewing project and the Sugru project didn’t require any more skill than what we learn in elementary school. The results are great.

In a world where buying new would be often cheaper and faster, this kind of repair does not save money. It is a luxury and form of entertainment. It is, though, the most inexpensive kind of luxury.

Why I don’t do this more often is a mystery.

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So brief is life

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I came across this quote by Mark Twain at the end of a videoclip I was watching, and would like to share it with you.

“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”

The TED Talk itself by Robert Waldinger was inspiring, too. Let’s all be happy, as much as we can.

https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness

 

A typical session

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Today’s entry should give you an idea of what an hour at Kirin Bodywork is like. No two sessions are going to be the same, though, because everyone is different, and nothing stays the same.

How are you? How are things going?

From the moment I open the door and while we are chatting, I am making mental notes of your posture, the way you walk, your overall impression. Everything is connected, and it all matters.
I will ask you to empty your pockets, take off your watch and accessories, remove your belt and shoes. If you had brought a change of something comfortable like a T-shirt and running shorts, that’d be the best.

First, we’ll take a look at your spine.

Before you get on the massage table, I’m going to ask you to let me take a look at your spine while you are standing up or sitting in a chair. Spine assessment is essential to Japanese bodywork. A few quick moves and you might already feel the difference.

So let’s see what’s going on today…

You are going to be on the table, comfortable and warm. I will continue with my assessment while gradually lessening overall tension. Japanese bodywork does assessment and treatment at the same time. Sometimes I will take your pulses or ask to look at your tongue.

Breathing is important.

If we can’t breathe comfortably, our body will tense back up right away. Pretty much everyone needs a bit of work to ease breathing. I want the lungs to expand and the whole body to gently move with the breath. There are some acupoints and techniques we can use to experience better breath in a matter of seconds. Feel the difference!

The abdomen.

Are there areas of discomfort, pain, is the whole abdomen supple. The ideal is to have the upper abdomen soft and supple, the lower abdomen tighter with a nice bounce,  _ki_ (qi in Chinese) full in the _tanden_ (dantian in Chinese).

Working on discomfort and its related areas.

An area of discomfort always has another place in the body that is related, and when we work on both things shift for the better, often dramatically. Every body is different, but there are patterns. It helps to think along the Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians.
The body works as a whole, and working on the perceived problem areas is not enough. I try to achieve better balance. Newer problems tend to be easier. Older ones often take more time. There are many techniques to choose from, thanks to all the traditional wisdom. I may ask you to change position on the table a couple of times.

Deep relaxation and integration.

Deep relaxation, from head to toe, helps all the manipulation get integrated into the body at this stage. Relaxation works at least as well as any medicine. If you fall asleep, rejoice! I won’t stop working on  you, and you won’t be missing anything.

So, let’s stand up and see how you feel.

See what’s changed. How do you feel? How is the pain, how is the range of movement? Do you feel taller, looser? Are there other things we need to work on?

There’s still a little bit of time…

This is the fun part. I can teach you self-care movements so that you won’t have to come in so often. Women love a quick facial or waistline improvement. You could try cupping (then have an entire cupping session next time if you like) or moxibustion. Or we can talk about all the amazing things the body does, the wisdom passed on to us from cultures around the world.

Have a glass of water.

Cold or hot depending on the weather. If you prefer, I’ll make you an appointment for next time.

Try Everything.

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When we have health problems, people around us, including the expert doctors and dear friends who have zero experience or expertise, introduce all kinds of solutions to us. We tend to search for them ourselves, too, from the Net or from books.

So how do know which one to trust?

My thinking is simple.

I say we don’t need to blindly trust anything. Just try them. It doesn’t matter if you think it seems crazy, or it is recommended by a trusted source. Just try them. Because we don’t know what works. Especially when we are newly ill, we have no idea about the state of our bodies. We need to experiment.

When you find something you like (and you don’t have to be convinced that it is the best way) simply do it again. Of the methods that you didn’t really think was effective, if it felt good or maybe if you had fun, do those again, too. If you didn’t like something, stop.

You might never find out which one worked. But that’s all right. The point is for you to feel better.

Over time, we will gradually develop a sense of what works. That’s when we can properly focus on the few methods we like.

Waiting for some miraculously great method, the one definitive answer that fixes everything in one sweep, is not realistic. I can tell you that even when you think you have found that one thing, it’s elusive. It’s going to be different the second time because the body is constantly changing.

I am speaking from experience.

I have joined the miso elite…

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I just made about 10 kg (22 lb) of miso. That’s Japanese soybean paste, the base for miso soup and countless other excellent dishes. It is an achievement for me, and is immensely satisfying. I have made experimental small batches before, but this is my first real batch!

It was a long process, maybe 6 months of learning curve. First I learned to grow  koji mold (aspergillus oryzae) on steamed white rice to make rice koji. Trial and error, working from information available on the Internet, this alone took me about a dozen tries until I was able to do it well and reliably in my kitchen. It was fun, but it was slow.

Next came trying to do the same on steamed sprouted brown rice.

Then adding soybeans to put it together in the form of miso.

The thing about miso making is that it matters much less what I do than what the mold and the enzymes do to produce the wonderfully complex flavors. Fermentation is cooking done by other creatures, not me. Doesn’t mean that it’s easy, but there’s only so much one can do to control the end result in a home kitchen.

The good news is that in most cases the microorganisms will do an excellent job. All my experimental jars have turned out nicely, despite my being a complete novice and  having no idea what to do.

If you want to learn more about koji rice, this page is a great starter resource in English.
http://www.homegrown.org/forum/topics/koji-rice-101

For those of you who aren’t Japanese, I guess this is like what people might do at the end of summer, canning tomatoes from the yard to use through the winter months. Or people curing their own meat. Or making cheese at home. It’s fundamentally not difficult, but it takes care and some time.

The miso paste that is resting in the 10 quart pot in the photo will be opened at the end of the year. It really is a slow process. A friend likened it to making a baby. It does take 10 months, but the part that I have done is only the sexual intercourse, of putting soy beans, rice koji and salt together. The actual long process of transformation is done by time and the microorganisms in the pot.

Not all Japanese households make their own miso. Like everyone else, I grew up eating mostly mass-produced varieties. I gradually learned that there are much better small-batch commercial miso out there, then later understood that people who make their own are the ones who are eating the best.

So now I have joined the miso elite.