with Guest Blogger Aline Defiglia LCSW
Hearing + suspenseful waiting = Listening
“True human sincerity, true transparency…It is a rare and difficult thing; and so much of it depends on the person who is listening to us!
And when it comes our turn to listen, which of these are we…?”
Effective listening involves three main skills: Paying Attention, Following, and Reflecting.
Attention is giving your physical attention to another person, listening with your whole body. To attend to someone is to have an open posture, lean in, maintain eye contact and remain in relaxed alertness.
85% of communication is non-verbal!
Following means to stay out of the other person’s way so you can discover how they view their situation. Invite someone to speak, encourage them with short, minimal phrases, ask open-ended questions (infrequently!), and practice the value of silence.
Reflecting is when the listener restates the feeling or content of what the speaker has communicated and does so in a way that demonstrates understanding and acceptance.
What You Can Expect
There are four stages in the process of improving communication. First, when a person learns about the roadblocks they have been sending all their life, they feel guilty. Then, when they try these new skills, it seems wooden and artificial, and so the person feels phony. However, after using these new techniques for a few weeks, people often become quite skillful at them. Finally, after using them for a couple of years, it becomes so integrated into the person’s life style that they do it well and without conscious awareness.
The following was excerpted in part from People Skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others, and resolve conflicts by: Robert Bolton, Ph.D. This article is the third in a five part series about clean living through toxin-free communication. To read Part I about Nonviolent Communication, click here. To read Part II about Emotional Liberation, click here.
with Guest Blogger Laura B. Folkes
When it comes to clean living, one aspect to consider is clean eating. It seems like this is a topic around food and diet that has become more prominent in the news and media, which is exciting for someone like me who is a Certified Holistic Health Coach.
It is definitely becoming more mainstream as restaurants such as Panera have cleaned up their menus to only include “clean” foods and ingredients. In case this concept is new to you, here’s the definition of clean eating: “At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or "real" foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.”
Based on this definition, eating clean is not a diet but is more of a way of life. It’s going back to simpler times when there weren’t as many packaged foods available and people relied on fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, good fats and whole, unprocessed grains as their food sources. I realize that eating a perfectly clean diet now a days can prove to be challenging, so here are a few tips and small steps you can take to start eating clean:
Some of the benefits of eating a clean diet could include a more balanced energy level, maintaining a healthy weight, building up your immune system and improved sleep to name a few.
As with everything, you don’t need to strive for perfection when it comes to eating clean. Making small improvements and taking one step at a time will lead to results.
Receive a free "Busy Person's Guide to Eating Healthy on the Go" with tips and snack ideas you can enjoy anytime and anywhere at www.laurabfolkes.com. Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Statistics on Weight Discrimination: A Waste of Talent, The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination, Retrieved July 18, 2011, from (http://www.cswd.org/index.html)
I have been practicing massage therapy and bodywork for over 19 years. I believe in the value of massage and love my work. But over the years I noticed many clients kept returning with the same, or related complaints/injuries, over and over again. And this happened even though they diligently performed PT exercises, stretched, practiced yoga etc. I felt there was something missing, something that could help clients retain the benefits of therapeutic work and maintain their good health. For me that answer came when I learned about the Gokhale Method®, a postural re-education method created by Esther Gokhale, author of the bestseller 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back.
My introduction to the Gokhale Method came through my massage client Susan, a former competitive figure skater and modern dancer who had experience with several forms of bodywork. When she excitedly told me about a wonderful article she had just read in the NY Times about the Gokhale Method, I listened. The whole concept of posture re-education as a means to become free of pain made sense, but with so many different approaches and techniques already out there, I just filed it away to look into later. My “later” came much sooner than I expected. In a few weeks Susan came back for her regular massage and shared with me that she was taking the Gokhale Method Foundations course and how helpful it was. What I noticed right away in our session were the changes in Susan’s body. The most pronounced improvement was in her lower back. Her spine and pelvis were much more balanced and open, and her hamstrings were no longer tight and congested. I literally felt like I was working on a different person. And what was even more impressive, these improvements persisted over the weeks. I signed up for the course to learn more.
My original intention was to simply experience the work to see if this was something I could recommend to my clients. I didn’t anticipate how deeply the work would affect me. First, what I learned in the course turned my “body worker’s world” upside down. It completely changed my understanding of healthy posture. Instead of the popular “S” shape spine, considered normal in our society, Esther teaches something very different. She teaches a shape and body architecture shared by our ancestors, some isolated populations today, and young children the world over. She calls this shape a “J-spine”. And populations with this type of spinal architecture do not experience as much back pain as modern populations do. The lesson is that if individuals get their body parts lined up correctly, they become resistant to injuries and general wear and tear. The Gokhale Method techniques are simple and performed with everyday activities such as standing, bending, sitting, lying down and walking. The beauty of the method is that once you learn how to apply the knowledge, every task can become therapeutic, whether sitting in a chair, or cleaning house, or standing in a check out line.
Another unexpected benefit of taking the course was the improvement of my overall health. I noticed that my tension headaches decreased and my functionally shorter leg evened out. All of the sudden I found myself with extra time on my hands since I didn’t need to lie down to nurse headaches. I had more energy. Also, I no longer needed to trim and hem my “long” pant leg.
Before I was introduced to the Gokhale Method, the concept of good posture was confusing. To sit and stand up straight with shoulders pulled back was tiring and very uncomfortable. Popular guidelines on how to attend to the lumbar and cervical curves, and how to walk did not help me. The Gokhale Method clarified posture for me. I learned that good posture is mainly relaxed, very comfortable, and more important, it taught me how to get there. Now if I feel a headache coming on, it’s a cue to check my head and neck position, and to lengthen the back of my neck. If my pant leg starts to drag on the floor, I know to work my glutes more in glidewalking…
It has been my experience that massage sessions with clients who are working with the Gokhale Method are richer and much more effective.
So yes, healthy posture is an ongoing project for me but having the right tools has made it very empowering and rewarding. Practicing my posture helps me center myself - I feel grounded and find I move more gently and mindfully throughout the day.
-Aurelia Vaicekauskas, LMT and Teacher, The Gokhale Method
*****For information about a free introductory workshop or to sign up for a Foundation Course (six lessons) with Aurelia in Chicago, please visit Aurelia's Gokhale Method page. Next session begins at Tribe on June 22!*****
Aurelia is a practicing massage therapist and Ortho-Bionomy® Associate in Chicago. Her search for ways to help clients maintain good health and retain the benefits of therapeutic work led her to the Gokhale Method. Logical, simple, and effective, the Gokhale Method deeply resonates with Aurelia’s belief in the importance of creating and supporting a harmonious and safe environment in one’s body so that new injuries are avoided and old injuries can heal.
Aurelia, who was born in Lithuania, studied painting and drawing in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA). She has always been drawn to exploring the inner workings of the human body, including its wisdom and ability to heal. These interests led her to massage therapy, Ortho-Bionomy and the Gokhale Method. She is thrilled at how the Gokhale Method can flow into any activity as well as supporting order and balance inside one’s body and out. She loves experiencing this ease in her everyday life and wishes to share it with others.
*All images printed with permission from Aurelia Vaicekauskas and the Gokhale Method Institute.
Tribe's owners recently chatted with one of our classroom affiliates, Chris Cinnamon of Enso Tai Chi Chicago, to discuss his teaching experiences with Tai Chi and Qigong in Chicago. Chris' passion for these ancient Chinese practices is contagious, and most evident in his role as teacher. Chris generously shared with us his knowledge of Tai Chi and Qigong and his journey into teaching....
What are some important things you share with people who have never heard of the practices of Tai Chi and Qigong?
For those who are unfamiliar with Tai Chi and Qigong but are curious about starting a practice, I share three big points:
1. We have a degree of choice over how we want to experience our later years and old age. One choice is to decline. By that I mean increasingly reduced function and mobility, more doctor visits, more prescriptions, more surgeries, and all the associated pain and discomfort. Another choice is not to decline, or at least decline less. By that I mean taking greater control of our health and wellness, healing old injuries, maintaining and increasing function and mobility as we age, and relying less on invasive medicine.
I teach a process through which people can choose not to decline as they age. Tai Chi and Qigong are modalities in that process.
2. Tai Chi and Qigong are not “fast food.” I do not teach how to “get six pack abs in six weeks.” To the contrary, to benefit from these practices requires reasonably diligent study and practice over the long term. That cuts against the grain of our “quick fix,” “I want it now” culture. But every student of mine that has really engaged in these practices has realized the benefits, including increased function and mobility, improved balance, upgraded health and wellness, and in most cases, much more.
3. Find a good teacher. By this I mean find a teacher that combines both the background and authentic knowledge of this ancient Chinese material with the ability to effectively teach it to contemporary Westerners. It also helps that the teacher has a style and personality you are comfortable with. There are lots of choices out there, and “it pays to shop."
Talk about your journey of becoming a teacher of Tai Chi and Qigong.
One way to sum up my adulthood is this: increasingly high performance under increasingly high stress. After graduating from the only high school in a small town in Northern Michigan, I headed east to a top tier college, graduating with honors. I then joined the Navy, completed Aviation Officer Candidate School, entered flight training, and ultimately flew the F-14 Tomcat, a carrier-based fighter jet, accumulating more than 1,000 hours in the jet and over 200 carrier landings. I left the Navy to attend a top tier law school, graduating with honors. Then I dove into private practice, making partner fast at a mid-size law firm, then founding my own firm, and serving as its leader and managing partner for years of growth and success.
So I have intimate knowledge of working under increasingly high pressure and how that can affect the body, mind, and emotions. The typical pattern is that a driven performer like me keeps ratcheting up the stress until something breaks, like the body, important relationships, even one’s sanity.
About the time I recognized I was approaching a breaking point, I encountered by main teacher, Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis. Bruce is an extraordinary individual, having trained in China at a very high level for a decade. He is a rare resource in the West for Tai Chi, Qigong, Taoist Meditation and much more.
I read one of Bruce’s books, then attended a workshop, and concluded that I had to reorganize my life to learn all I could from him.
Over several years, that has led to hundreds of hours of intense training under Bruce, thousands of hours of practice, instructor certification in Tai Chi and multiple Qigong sets, and the shifting of my life from high performing lawyer to teacher. I am now dedicated to guiding a growing community of practitioners through my process so they can take more control over their health and enjoy growing older.
How has Tai Chi and Qigong influenced your life personally?
The influence of Tai Chi, Qigong, and meditation on my life is, in a word, pervasive. I am 55, and many parts of my body function better than when I was 40. I have healed back injuries, improved immune system function, lowered blood pressure, improved leg and hip strength and flexibility. My emotions are steadier, my mind is more still. I am more content, at peace, and grateful. That’s a pretty good place to be.
One recent example is how I used Tai Chi movements and principles for rehab after knee surgery, with pretty amazing results. You can read about that here.
But I am also actively learning and progressing. Tai Chi, Qigong, meditation, and the Taoist internal practices known as Neigong are fascinating to explore, providing many opportunities to delve ever into the body, mind, and spirit at ever deeper levels.
Equally important, Tai Chi and Qigong have led to wonderful relationships with like-minded people in Chicago and around the world. As a certified Energy Arts Instructor, I am part of an international network of teachers, many of whom I have spent months with in training, and they are a wonderful group of people dedicated to spreading these immensely beneficial practices.
Finally, Tai Chi and Qigong have led me to Tribe, where I have taught workshops and recently team-taught with Tribe’s outstanding Qigong Instructor Jeanne Steen. I love the feel of Tribe and, schedules permitting, look forward to offering classes there this fall.
How might others benefit from adding one of these practices for self-care?
As tools for self-care, the material I teach provides a time-tested process for healing the body, improving its function, increasing energy, calming the mind and emotions, and much more. So for people that want greater control over their health as they age, the process I teach is worth considering.
When and where do you offer these classes?
I am the Tai Chi and Qigong Instructor at Enso Martial Arts, 412 S. Wells in the Loop, offering a regular schedule of classes, plus private instruction and workshops. My website, www.chicagotaichi.org, has the details.
I am also working with Cari, Ellen, and Jeanne to bring more of what I teach to Tribe this fall.
[Note from Tribe Owners: Chris recently shared a very kind blog post about Tribe on his site. Of course, we have to share it here! Thanks, Chris!]
Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
One other point that may interest your readers. June 30 is my last day with Cinnamon Mueller, the law firm I founded. I have turned the firm over to my partners, and am moving in a new direction.
My first stop will be back to the university. This fall, I begin a Masters in Science program at the University of Illinois – Chicago. The field of study? Kinesiology/Applied Exercise Physiology. My hunch is the Masters-level study of human movement and exercise science will elevate my ability to help more people enjoy greater mobility and better health as they age. Given an overloaded health care system and an aging population, this could be a big deal.
A related and pleasant surprise - I received an unsolicited offer for a position in the university’s Biomechanics Laboratory. I will be assisting Dr. Kharma Foucher with her research on improving patient outcomes after total hip replacement surgery, a key field of study as our population ages and more joints wear out. I am recruiting subjects for the study, so if you know anyone who has had a hip replaced in the past 5 years, please let me know!
For more from information, including Chris' schedule at Tribe or to participate in the hip replacement study, contact Chris directly at: email@example.com
And feel free to leave comments below. We LOVE to hear from our community-at-large!
I spent the first 19 years of my life living in central London, pretty much oblivious to the fact that I was not living an average childhood. Afternoon outings to the Tower of London, Westminster Cathedral, Big Ben and West End shows weren’t on most Primary (Elementary in the US) schools’ lists of field trip options.
Of all the great things I got to do during my childhood, one of my favorite memories is a school trip to Greenwich. Aside from the excitement of walking through a long dingy tunnel UNDER the river Thames to get there (that could give way at ANY second and flush us out the other end like a water park slide), my friends and I got to stand with ‘one foot in the East and one foot in the West’ straddling the Greenwich meridian. I felt like I’d made it around the world and back before my 10th birthday.
What does this have to do with holistic health?"
Well, that outing 30-something years ago turns out to be a perfect metaphor for my philosophy on healthcare in my adult life.
I didn’t pay much attention to my health or medicine when I was younger, because I really didn’t have to. I grew up with the NHS (National Health Service) having my back. If something hurt I’d see a doctor and pop a pill to make it go away and didn’t really think any more about it. My childhood BFF was Chinese and always had a home made Chinese Medicine remedy or a 10 hour simmered soup for anything that ailed you. My teenage BFF had recently arrived from Australia and was a clean eating, no soda drinking, no pill taking, workout machine. I hated exercise, barely drank any water, ate junk food and stuck my fingers in my ears when my friends tried to get me to change my ways.
But when my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer 12 years ago, I began to pay attention to what happens when conventional medicine goes to work treating a life threatening illness. The drawn out differential diagnosis, the communication between doctor and patient, and the ensuing treatment plan. I saw that any serious decisions, for the most part, are out of the hands of the patient and treatment is performed ON the patient, with very little participation BY the patient. All one can do is wait, and the whole process leaves the patient and their family feeling that they have no control over what is happening. The treatments are so complex that the average person, with limited to no anatomical and physiological education, can’t properly give their informed consent as they can’t comprehend what is actually going to take place, or understand what the risks and benefits of the alternatives are.
Frustrated by my helplessness to do anything about the situation from the other side of the Atlantic with my limited anatomy and physiology understanding from massage school, I began to read everything I could get my hands on about cancer.
After my dad lost his battle with cancer I went down some pretty deep conspiracy theory rabbit holes about the evils of conventional medicine. For several years after I refused to go to a regular doctor and researched every natural treatment I could find information about, blowing my old friends out of the water with my new-found knowledge of self care and home remedies.
I’ve since come back from the brink of strictly ‘alternative’ medicine, but I still maintain a healthy skepticism regarding the influence that money and politics have on our current medical model. I choose conventional medicine as an absolute last case resort, when I can’t fix it myself, or can’t find someone who can either gently intervene or show me how to fix it.
What eventually changed my ‘strictly alternative medicine’ mindset was a talk I attended by a pretty amazing lady named Nancy Turich. She had fallen 40 feet off of a cliff and though battered and bruised and temporarily paralyzed, lived to tell the tale. Had it not been for advanced western medical interventions, she would not have survived. But had it also not been for the holistic aftercare that she sought out on her own, she may never have walked again, or regained the ability to live a full life. Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy had discharged her as there was nothing else they could do for her, so from there she took her recovery into her own hands. During her talk, she stressed the importance of both systems of medicine, that conventional medicine has its place and holistic therapists should not try to fight against it, but that we must figure out how to work together to provide the maximum benefit for patients.
As my (at the time) radical brain digested all this, I realized where the conflict occurs. Our current medical model is unparalleled at treating trauma and catastrophic health conditions, but where it is severely lacking is preventative health and managing chronic conditions. Yes, we can screen and test for disease earlier than ever before, but doctors have no time, or incentive, to teach patients how to prevent illness though lifestyle. Doctors are paid in procedures and prescriptions.
This is where Holistic Healthcare has so much potential. But what is Holistic Healthcare? Most of us can list a bunch of terms and modalities when asked what holistic healthcare is: Massage Therapy, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Reiki, Nutrition (why is this not part of conventional medicine?!), Alternative Medicine, Complementary Therapies. But these are just aspects of it.
This means that the effect of treatment on all aspects of the patient must be considered. Not just the physical body, the emotional state or spiritual health, but all of it. A Holistic practitioner may only specialize in treating one of these aspects of the whole, but they are always aware of what might be going on with the other aspects, and have a good referral system in place for when something presents that is out of their realm of treatment. Conventional Medicine often does a very poor job of considering the emotional and spiritual toll of illness and invasive treatments.
A very wise friend, teacher and mentor of mine, Dr. Evan Osar taught me a long time ago that although we need to consider all 3 aspects when working with patients, there is no set formula for where you need to start. If you practice bodywork, you can enter the system with the physical body and begin to effect change in the mind and spirit. For example by relieving pain you might help someone pick up a hobby again that they have been unable to perform due to pain, which uplifts their spirit; or improve their sleep and have an effect on hormone levels and emotions.
Similarly by beginning with addressing emotional stresses, physical pain can be eliminated by affecting the physiological response to pain or learning how to decrease muscle tension. Sometimes a spiritual blockage may be the primary complaint that needs to be removed to allow the patient to feel their emotions and enjoy movement and physical activities again.
Eastern medicine is historically known for its holistic approach to treatment. Ayurveda, which originates from India several thousand years ago, is a complete and advanced medical system that lays the responsibility for health firmly at the patients’ door. Patients are responsible for daily rituals to maintain their own physical, spiritual and emotional health. A successful Ayurvedic doctor is one who has healthy patients. Ayurveda includes yoga for calming the mind, pranic breathing for the cleansing the spiritual body, and diet, massage, detoxification therapies and lifestyle recommendations for physical health.
Traditional Chinese medicine is also considered a complete medical system. It incorporates Tuina (medical massage), diet and herbs for the physical body, Qigong (moving mediation therapy) for the mind, and Acupuncture to address blockages in the energy system.
Chinese medicine has been researched and studied far more extensively than Ayurveda, so much so that acupuncture is now covered by many health insurance policies. Unfortunately much Ayurvedic wisdom was lost over centuries during the numerous invasions of India, which suppressed Ayurvedic culture, but it is finally making a recovery and garnering much interest in the west.
There are also many less comprehensive forms of natural healthcare, that can work together to assist a patient looking to complement conventional medicine, and create their own approach to holistic health. For example, after a surgery, lavender essential oil could be applied to the incision for its cell regenerative properties to promote healing and prevent scarring, manual lymphatic drainage can help reduce swelling and inflammation, massage can help regain range of motion in affected joints and fascial therapy can assist in creating more functional scar tissue. Psychotherapy, Hypnotherapy or EFT could be added if there is emotional trauma surrounding the surgery, such as an emergency C-section or a car accident. Qigong or Reiki could help to clear out any spiritual or energetic blockages created by physical or emotional trauma.
The only way to make a change to the conventional drugs and surgery approach to healthcare, or as we holistic practitioners like to call it ‘sickness care’, is for patients to take a stand and demand a less invasive and/or more natural and holistic treatment. It’s less traumatic on the body and prevents a lifetime of dependency on an external system when we learn to manage the wellbeing of our own mind, body and spirit.
If we all, patients, MDs, and holistic practitioners, put a foot in the East and a foot in the West (metaphorically, I don’t work for the British Tourism Board), we could make huge strides in improving lives, by preventing illnesses before they begin and breaking free from the chronic conditions and preventable diseases that weigh so heavily on our society.
The true essence of Holistic Health is that it treats the whole person, and by whole person we mean the Mind, Body and Spirit.