Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for 'lessons from the garden'

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a common and natural part of aging.  If we live long enough, normal wear-and-tear breaks down the shock-absorbing discs between the bones in the spine.  Symptoms of disease are more likely in people who smoke, perform heavy physical labor or are obese. Although it’s not completely avoidable, we can minimize the process by building strong core, abdominal and back muscles, maintaining good posture and avoiding lifting heavy objects.

Ironically, lifting heavy objects is often a central part of weight training. CrossFit is the latest example of a fitness program that relies on heavy lifting to build muscular strength. It’s been called “the world’s fastest growing athletic specialty.” And it’s also been identified by doctors, physical therapists and rival fitness professionals as one of the most potentially debilitating forms of training.

My Dear Spine - Wear & Tear and Mis-alignment

My Dear Spine – Wear & Tear and Mis-alignment

I can’t attribute my DDD to any one training routine. But I’m pretty sure that years of mildly compulsive exercise didn’t help!

My recent ventures into weight training weren’t extreme. I kept my dumbbells light, listened to my body and adjusted poses with support from my trainer. But my DDD (diagnosed 20+ years ago) coupled with an undiagnosed osteoarthritis in my hips, lead to increasingly stiff and sore lower body.

I landed at Optimal Performance Systems – an alternative to traditional physical therapy and training.  Their corrective movement therapy and vitality program has loosened up my hips in ways that yoga and traditional stretching had been exacerbating. And it’s deepened my commitment to helping myself and others focus on holistic health. The OPS motto says it all: “Exercise is optional. Movement is mandatory.”

bike

I love to ride my bike

I got back on my bike this weekend for Ciclavia Pasadena. While I loved it, I also realized I need to get a new set of wheels if I want to do any significant cycling. I’ll be giving up my old faithful road bike and the spine jarring mountain biking my husband and I used to love. But, I hope to find a way to keep enjoying the freedom and joy of riding my bike without further compromising my spine or hips.

When expected changes of aging or unanticipated challenges of injuries and illnesses arrive, we need to adjust. Ultimately, it doesn’t take heavy lifting to maintain functional levels of strength, flexibility and balance. Of course, if I ever need to move a large boulder or lift a car, I’m screwed!

At this point in my journey, heavy lifting is optional. But bending over to harvest zucchini and sweet peas from my garden is essential. I think I’ll choose the veggies and flowers!

 

 

My senses rejoice in the sights and sounds of this dark, wet morning. Raindrops dripping from naked tree branches, birds chirping as they hop through glistening bushes, white ceiling of clouds softening the rumble and clanking of trash trucks rolling up and down the street.

Christmas at our house

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, ‘Stay awhile.’ The light flows from their branches.”

Mary Oliver’s images in “When I am Among the Trees” sank deep into me years ago. Her words resurface frequently–reminding me of the unhurried rhythm of God’s grace I long to embody.

“I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world…”

Trees, bushes and birds instinctively follow their own rhythm. Unlike me, they live in alignment with their natural  pace and entrust their blossoming to their Creator.

Long a significant symbol for me, I’m surprised to notice we have four trees gracing our living space.

Guests at our annual open house a few weeks ago dressed our ThanksLiving tree with gratitude lists.

ThanksLiving Tree 2014

A living Christmas tree and a rosemary “tree” arrived as gifts from guests. And we carried our baby Christmas tree home from our local nursery on Saturday.

As I move through the busyness of the next ten days I don’t want to forget the message of the trees:

“…You too have come into the world to do this, to easy, be filled with light, and to shine.”

May the unhurried rhythm that comes without effort to the trees, bushes and birds grow in those of us who aspire to entrust our lives to the care of the Light of the world who came to enlighten everyone and empower us to go easy, be filled with light and shine.

For the full text of Mary Oliver’s poem, see her anthology Thirst.

Go easy, be filled with light and shine!

I love Mary Oliver’s poem “When I am Among the Trees” so much I committed it to memory. It reminds me of who I am and what I am called to be. Like the trees, I have come into the world “to go easy, to be filled with light and to shine.”

This week has been tough. Personal and professional challenges show up to dampen my days, weigh me down. I practice gratitude, pray for help, do all the things I know to do to be well. But the clouds have hung close anyway.

I found my quiet center and a lightening of my load as I sat at my kitchen island and took a mini-retreat with my colleague Joy Malek’s  Sacred Space Retreat Kit.

when i am among the trees

She introduced me to Wendell Berry’s “I go among the trees” – reminding me that like the trees that shed leaves in the fall, stand naked through winter, and bloom again in spring, my life unfolds one day at a time and nothing lasts forever.

Both the blessings and challenges of life must be worn lightly, not clinging too tightly to the goodness nor resisting the struggles. It’s all part of the cycle of life that enables me to be filled with light and shine, even when I’m naked in the midst of winter clouds.

Joy’s kit is a series of simple reflections to create a pause in your day, go within and find your quiet center. Or, as Joy puts it, a life centered in soul. A wonderful way to pause in your busy or burdened day and “go easy, be filled with light and shine.” Even if you can’t get away to the trees, a few minutes at your kitchen table or before you check your email might be just the thing you need to lighten your load today.

While I was away on vacation a plague of mildew took over my summer squash. Most of the leaves were speckled with white powder and some were turning yellow and dying. But in spite of the attack the squash were still producing–so much so that when I offered my husband some steamed squash one night he replied “Squash again?”

Determination

Saturday morning I went out with my clippers to assess the damage, prepared to tear it all out and begin planting for fall. But buried beneath the sea of mildew I discovered strong new shoots making their way towards the sun, determined to keep producing in spite of obstacles!

I went to work. I thinned out the damaged branches, cut everything back to the vine, tidied up the dead leaves, freed the new growth from potential contamination and opened them up to reach toward the light.

Humans and plants share the same basic growth instinct to fulfill our destiny. All God’s creatures great and small come equipped with everything we need to thrive. But, like the mildew that keeps the squash from flourishing, many life factors inhibit our innate potential to become all we were created to be. We all bump up against both internal barriers (character defects, defenses, limitations) and external obstacles (unhealthy relationships or workplaces, accidents, losses of all sorts that we can’t control).

Even the most determined among us weren’t intended to grow alone. Like gardens, we need the support of loved ones to overcome the many forms of dis-ease and dysfunction that inhibit our growth. We access the support of others within the broader community. We come alongside one another, helping each other prune back the diseased leaves, find the right combination of nutrients and light to make us strong and steady.

The determination of my plants to keep producing in spite of obstacles inspires me! I loved discovering the new life beneath the sad old leaves. And it gave me joy to prune away the old growth so the new could flourish.

Help!

Living from within, following your soul, being true to your deepest calling–whatever you call it it–depends on both personal determination and willingness to let others help. Habitually in the caregiver role, like many of the women I work with, learning to ask for and accept help has been a lifelong lesson.

Yesterday I sent out an email to a group of my soul sisters requesting prayer for wisdom regarding my work. I’m determined to share my unique understanding about health, spirituality and transformation with others. And, I need support in doing so.

How about you? What are you determined to do in this season of your life? Who will you ask for support?