Category Archives: repetitive strain injury

Fear/Courage/Creativity

StarStuff 1

I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book on creativity where she talks about fear, courage and their relationship to creativity.

It got me to thinking about fear and courage in my own life.

The most fearful – and the most courageous – step I think I’ve ever taken is when I quit the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) in 1996.  I had been a member for eighteen years and Vice-Chair for eight years.  I knew when I quit that I would lose the respect and friendship of people I valued. I knew people in the Party would consider I’d stepped onto the bourgeois path and been infected with bourgeois ideology, and I would be an outcast.

I also knew that I had a drinking problem, due to the stress of the pressures I was putting on  myself as well as trying to live up to expectations in the Party, and also knew that one person who was aware of this would use that to denigrate me and trash my name.

I still went ahead and quit.

I felt a huge surge of relief – that I’d finally had the courage to be me, and not the political activist straitjacket I’d forced myself into because it was the only way I could see to express my deeply held social justice beliefs.

I stepped right out of the comfort zone communism had occupied in my life but it took a lot of courage to take the path less travelled than stay on the path of least resistance. I’m proud of my decision and actions which led, eventually, to a far richer, creative and inspired life.

Of course, the next scariest thing is to admit that you were once a communist – a real party pooper. Some people may leave my life, I hope they don’t, but I need to be true to myself, not cower behind cold war poison. And what can I say?  I quit the party for a number of reasons: because I’m an individualist, not a team player; because I didn’t like the games people play in politics, even in the Communist Party; I’m an idealist; because I believe – from personal experience – in life after death; because I wasn’t a practical person and trying to pretend to be one was – literally – driving me to drink; and because basically I will not allow my ideas and thoughts to be dictated to by any organisation or political party.

In fact, it was the role of alcohol in my life which started opening doors to a spiritual life and a creative life for someone who had never seen herself as creative in the slightest.

I had to quit my union job in the mid-’80s due to repetitive strain injury and was flailing around a bit trying to decide what direction to take. I came across astrology quite by chance and was drawn to get a reading. I’ve mentioned it previously but the first comment from the astrologer was: “Please don’t get upset, but do you do drugs?”.  I was quite taken aback by this insight from a complete stranger, and said no, I did alcohol!

It sparked an interest in astrology and metaphysical beliefs which, I think, had been quietly brewing and, finally, in 1996 burst through the mental and very logical blocks I’d put up to anything but scientific thinking. In February that year I did a mandala workshop where suddenly my artistic skills emerged, I saw myself as a creative, artistic being and I realised my artistic forte is symbols rather than real life images. Then I connected with the Tarot and crystals.

You would say it was 360 deg. turnaround in my life. But in many senses it wasn’t. I was always interested in people, individuals rather than mass movements. I loved listening to people’s stories and experiences. In art, Tarot and crystals I was able to expand that interest into service through mandala art – by creating healing art for people and teaching mandala art to people, through advising people with Tarot readings, and teaching people how to tune into crystals and work with their healing energies.

I am quite sure that many would expect me to denounce the Communist party and beat my chest in attrition at my life as a commo. But sorry, that’s no going to happen. I learned a lot of skills and developed self-confidence. I met terrific (and yes, less than terrific people) in the Party for whom I have utmost respect. They see a life of service through political activism which is entirely right for them because each of us, as I’ve come to realise over the years, is an individual with personal beliefs unique to each person. It was I who changed direction, who understood – finally – that I am too anarchist, individual and eccentric to fit into an organisation with a structured framework, a scientific approach to society, and a belief that the minority is bound by the majority view.

I don’t see myself as a Pied Piper for the world and it’s a huge relief to dump this self-imposed responsibility. I believe in magic, happenstance, synchronicity and a mystical life. I am more often than not off with the fairies although my husband kindly catches my feet as I waft away and brings me back down to earth. I’m happy now to occupy my niche which is to create art and writing which, I hope, helps lift people’s spirits, inspires their creativity and makes the world a better place in some small way.

I still believe in social justice, in equality of all people, in redistribution of wealth to ensure that billionaire corporations don’t behave with complete immorality in gorging on wealth why they screw good, honest working people into the ground. I do my bit with support for social action groups, donating to activist organisations but knowing that they are the practical people and I’m not. Such a relief!

Returning to astrology: it not only tripped my inner lights, it also offered to me an insight into how we, as creative human beings, live on earth.  In Australia, I came across the Aboriginal concept of songlines.  For European people, this idea is quite puzzling, out of our comfort zone but nevertheless it resonates for me in a quite different way.

Aboriginal people can track Country through songlines – relating earth maps, if you like, through the form of song.  I once watched an elderly Aboriginal artist, in the series “art & soul” by Hetti Perkins, an art curator, writer and activist, look at a painting by another artist and start singing the songlines of the art.  It was quite extraordinary and, of course, quite outside the norms of Western culture.

But it struck me, watching this programme and reading about songlines, that we human beings have astral songlines – soul songlines, if you wish.  We incarnate here on earth, but resonate with the starstuff of the Universe and, by understanding our individual make-up, our heritage, our DNA, we can get a good idea of what our heart and soul yearns for in this life on earth of ours.

One thing I’ve realised is that, by learning to understand my own natal chart, my calling is to explain my beliefs to people through my own personal experiences and to show how you can track your own soul songlines. So in the next few posts I’m going to explain how astrology works, in fairly simple terms, through the main aspects of my own astrological chart and that of my husband, and how that’s worked out in my life until now.

 

Steve JobsBlessed are the nutters

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Reflexology (58)

Glastonbury“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.  It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity.

                          Kahlil Gibran “The Prophet”

I was at home on sick leave with repetitive strain injury when I saw the advertisement for a reflexology course at our local technical college. I felt really drawn for some reason. Now I know that it was my intuition kicking in big-time and telling me that this would be a turning point in my life.

I didn’t know that I’d be able to do much, given the pain I was experiencing in my shoulder and left arm, but I thought I could at least watch what was happening and be out socialising and meeting other people This was something I was sorely missing during my long lonely hours at home on sick leave while my husband worked away from home.

Our teacher was a lady who I shall call Meredith to protect her privacy. She was very efficient, very interesting and got us stripping off our footware pretty soon into the session. We all looked at each other a bit nervously. I mean, we’d be touching someone else’s foot and who knows where that foot had been? I told Meredith I had RSI and didn’t know how much I could do. Usually I didn’t go into detail, just told people it was generally in my neck. She took my foot and poked around, but when I winced, she looked up and said: “It’s not actually in your neck, it’s further out in your shoulder, isn’t it?” Wow – spot on! And so was sparked my interest in this form of alternative therapy. It was a stepping stone not only in learning to manage my RSI but in investigating other complementary therapies and, eventually a decade or so later, dumping my old life and moving onto a life of magic with crystals, healing, art and teaching.

Added to her ability to home in on the location of my pain, Meredith did some foot readings for us. I was curious as to what she would see but acutely embarrassed and a riper shade of red by the time she’d finished. She told me I was someone who lacked self-confidence and self-esteem but hid it well by forcing myself to be outgoing. No-one, but NO-ONE, had ever seen my private self hidden inside and I was quite taken aback. I wasn’t on my own though. Everyone else got a foot reading too and looked just as embarrassed as I had as hidden parts of them were pulled out and held up to everyone’s gaze. Was this woman magic or what?

Despite my earlier reservations, I really enjoyed myself right through the course. We were shown how to start a session with a massage of feet and lower legs. And then we moved on to the soles of the feet, the spine along the inner, bony part of your foot, and then moving on to the top of the feet. In reflexology, points on your feet relate to areas of your body and, as you press on those points in your feet, you are activating a healing response in your body.

I had to go carefully due to the RSI pain but I found that the reflexology was actually going some way to giving me longed-for pain relief and that, with the company of the mid-week course, felt like a huge step forward. But more surprises of the metaphysical kind awaited me when we got towards the end of the reflexology part of the course and Meredith told us that the following week we’d be moving on to metamorphosis.

Metamorphosis

I’m really abbreviating this therapy. Meredith explained that it had been developed in the UK by Robert St John, involved massage along the spinal reflex centres on the feet, hands and head, and worked to release any blocks encountered during one’s time in the uterus as an embryo. What a load of whacko rot and codswallop, I thought (in my really open-minded manner). And I’d begun to think that, despite her involvement in reflexology, Meredith was quite a normal woman. You can see how conservative I was. I really thought she was off her trolley but, again, felt the urge of curiosity pushing me. So I decided to hang on and see what it was all about as it was an alternative to another night at home on my own sitting on the sofa bored witless.

Flight of LightThe week we began the metamorphosis, Meredith decided to demonstrate on my foot. I was extremely cynical and very uptight. Then she got to the midway point along the spinal reflex on my right foot (I remember this clearly and precisely, trust me) and it felt as if my whole insides had lurched, as if they’d broken free from their moorings to my body and were in free fall. It was the weirdest feeling and I felt like my world was turning topsy-turvy. How could a simple, light massage like this provoke such a deep shift inside me?

But something had cleared moved within me. Because, subsequently,  I found, when we went to practise the technique on other people, I’d start yawning when I reached areas of blockage and sensitivity so somehow I was able to tune in to areas of the spinal reflex which needed extra work.

It’s a technique that continues to work for me today. If I’m doing spiritual healing for someone and I start yawning, I’m aware that stuck stuff is shifting and some healing process is taking place, whatever that may be. It’s literally in the hands of the gods because you don’t do healing yourself. You’re a channel for healing energy and I simply follow my intuition, resting my hands where they feel drawn, tuning into my yawning process and going with the flow. If you see yourself as the healer, you’re into your ego big-time and also you’re likely to find you get tired.

How healing works, if you are inclined to head in that direction yourself, is entirely up to you but the key word is “humility”. You are a channel for healing energy, not the actual healer. You need to be aware of what works for you and to trust that your intuition will lead you to be the best way to be of service to someone who needs healing. This, by the way, has come through trial and error. To go more into the “error” bit, I can remember my friend, Yvonne Tait, doing a Tarot reading for me. She picked up The Emperor card, regarded it thoughtfully and then said: “Don’t be offended, Mo, but I get the impression that, when you’re doing healing work on people, you grab them by the ears and snarl in their face: ‘You will get better if it kills you in the process!”. What can I say? She was spot on.

In fact, when I did a past life course, I had the experience of being a monk at Glastonbury Cathedral. I can remember walking through the beautiful gardens, smelling the divine scents of the flowers, and wandering in the herb garden picking whatever herbs I needed for my healing practice. But then I was told by senior monks to stop healing work as I’d grown impatient with an old peasant and abused him for being slow on the uptake. I had to stop healing work for five years to mature and learn patience.

Whether this is true or not or whether this is something my subconscious created is open to debate. I’m uncertain but what I do know is that I pretty much stopped doing Reiki healing and instead was led into teaching work. I did resume teaching Reiki and healing work, but it was five years before I resumed a healing practice.

Kinesiology

After our course ended, Meredith suggested that I get in touch with Sandra (a pseudonym as I wasn’t able to contact me friend for permission to use her name) who practised Touch for Health, also known as muscle balancing or kinesiology, and metamorphosis. More steps along the healing path. My first session with Sandra was excruciating. She seemed to find the most sensitive and painful spots on my body and honed in them with a vengeance. Given she looked a rather slim, gentle-looking person, I nearly fell off the massage table with surprise and shock when she went to work. Over time, she also did a lot of work on me with metamorphosis. I can’t say I felt results straight away but it seemed to be opening me up to a different way of looking at life, one where I was beginning to face up to internal strife which I’d never previously acknowledged.

Over time and with the help of Meredith and then Sandra, the overwhelming pain I was feeling began to abate. But as soon as I returned to work I’d be back at square one. I was working in a one-woman office so the work was waiting for me. And, as happens a lot with illness like RSI, I also faced considerable scepticism about whether the pain was real or whether it was “just in my imagination”. All I knew was that the feeling of rats gnawing my arm was driving me around the twist. Yet I can remember talking with one union member who told me they had arm pain, worked through it and coped okay so, of course, I could too. I can remember looking at her quite incredulously, firstly because I’d tried to bash through the pain and ended up not only at a standstill but in more intense pain, and secondly because she had no idea what sort of pain I was enduring.

Unfortunately, pain is invisible if it’s within the body and not external where it can be seen. All too often, people will dismiss someone’s pain because they can’t see it or quantify it. It’s incredibly frustrating for the person suffering the pain. And, of course, in today’s fast-paced society, people are under pressure to get well fast and be back to normal. Pain is a sign there’s something wrong with your body, and looking back I think my own body was well and truly giving loud signals that it was fed up with the way I was operating and it was out on strike.

 

 

Health HIccups (57)

Feathers.jpgOnce upon a time there lived a rather naive young lady who believed that all the medical profession had to do was wave a magic wand and all would be well.

Hah! Until I got repetitive strain injury in the early 1980s.

RSI started me off on the road less travelled health-wise as I turned to complementary therapies when the medical profession was unable to provide answers to my health problems.

Don’t get me wrong: I have respect for medicos and the huge advances in medical care. I appreciated hospitals when I broke my leg and ankle in 1996. I have appreciated the power of antibiotics when I’ve had a severe sinus infection, bronchitis and kidney infection.  Blood tests, x-rays and so on are a boon.

And just as the general community are incredibly varied, so there are good, bad, indifferent and very conscientious doctors.

I don’t throw the baby out with the   just because conventional medical care can’t provide all the answers. But also, when conventional medicine lead me to a dead-end in recovering from RSI, it also led me to query the power of Big Pharma and the industrialisation of medical care which reduces people to dollar figures and profits for the huge pharmaceutical corporations. I also see doctors too often reduced to pen pushers, overloaded with paperwork, bureaucracy and unrealistic demands on what they are able to offer the general public.

I found myself looking for non-medical treatment in the mid-1980s when I got repetitive strain Justice 1injury. Ironically, at the time I was working in the office of a small union and had been organising publicity about a new work injury, RSI, which was affecting a lot of women working in call centres as, with new computer technology, they could key in input very fast and overuse arm and shoulder muscles.

I simply never believed it could happen to me. I used to keep going on the typewriter long after I felt a pain in my shoulder. I kept expecting the pain to go away but it got worse. It was agonising to move my right shoulder and arm. Then I started getting pins and needles in my left arm and a feeling which I can only describe as rats gnawing away inside me.

At the time my husband, Bryan, was working away from home in Bunbury, south of Perth, and most evenings I would just rest on the sofa and hope the pain would go away. If I tried to do a simple task like washing up, my whole shoulder would seize up and I’d have to stand stock still until the intense pain abated. But as it got worse, so I started getting severe migraines. I’d wake up around 2am with a violent pain starting at the back of my head, working towards the front at the back of my forehead, and for all the world like it was a brass band pounding around at full volume. I’d take headache pills which got stronger and stronger in order to cope. If I was lucky the headache might fade a bit and I could get to work and cope okay. If I was unlucky, I’d wake up vomiting and it was like a vicious cycle – vomiting exacerbated the headache which me throw up more which intensified the headache, and so on.

I had, of course, read all the literature about repetitive strain injury but tried to ignore the fact that it seemed to be happening to me. That was, until one day and I got into the office with my head pounding from another headache and I just sat there crying my eyes out. The union secretary came into the office, took one look at me, and thankfully for me, took charge. I wasn’t capable of thinking straight or taking action of any kind. She made an appointment for me at her doctor’s, got me in early and off I went to see a doctor who not only was incredibly kind, but also very helpful in supporting me through what felt like a nightmare.

She arranged physiotherapy for me but as this was  something new on the medical scene, no-one quite knew how to deal with it. By rights – I found out later – I should have seen a rheumatologist, but I was sent to see an orthopaedic surgeon who was a butcher. He wrenched my head back and forward and side to side with the result that the pain got even worse. He told me he could operate and cut a nerve which might help. That sounded very dodgy to me and even more so when I saw a programme on the ABC about a pain centre in Adelaide dealing with patients, many of whom had had the type of operation the orthopaedic surgeon wanted to carry out on me.  And as any small step forward I’d made with physiotherapy was wiped out by his lousy treatment and I ended up worse than when I’d first started treatment, I declined surgery.

I clearly remember sitting in my doctor’s surgery, tanked to the gills with anti-inflammatory medication and a soft collar around my neck. I hardly dared to move because the pain would flare up and feel like a knife being driven into my shoulder. My left arm felt as if rats were gnawing it inside. My doctor asked: “Are you feeling any better?” And I had to say no. She looked at me and said somewhat reluctantly; “Well, I don’t think there’s anything more we can do for you.”

Which is a bit depressing, folks. I’d always been on the go, active, restless, eager to get on to my next project. And suddenly I was sitting on a sofa all day, frightened to move, terrified about what the future held for me and very lonely because Bryan was still working down south during the week and home only on the weekends. I knew an older lady who said very kindly (but not very helpfully, to be truthful): “You young folk always think that life is a straight line that you can set out in front of you without any deviations. Life isn’t like that. All sorts of side paths, obstacles and cul-de-sacs happen. It’s life.”

But in a nice little piece of synchronicity (although I’d never heard of synchronicity at the time), I happened to see an advertisement for a reflexology course at the local community centre. I will be very honest and say that the first time I’d ever heard of reflexology was when a friend said she was going to get a treatment with this alternative therapy. I asked them what it was as I’d never heard of it before, and was quite revolted when they told me it involved foot massage. Errr, yuk, fancy getting your smelly old feet massaged! But, as the old saying goes, never say never.

 

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