What a lovely week. On July 17th, I went to speak at the Arlington Central Library in Arlington, Virginia. I just wanted to say thank you to all of you wonderful readers who came out despite the record heat. I was so happy to see you.
I loved telling you about why I wrote The Last Best Cure, reading excerpts, and most of all, your wonderful questions and the deep discussion that ensued.
Afterward, I was moved by many of the conversations I had with you one-on-one while signing books. As is so often the case, those of you who shared your stories humbled me. The woman with terminal cancer, who told me she was searching for joy “no matter how much time I have here,” and that the book was helping her — that brought me to tears. The woman who told me that the research in The Last Best Cure made her realize, for the first time, that perhaps there might be a connection between the terrible trauma she experienced in her childhood, when she lost her 12-year-old sister in a house fire, and her current autoimmune struggles — that too, made my throat catch.
The many people who told me of their deep physical and emotional struggles — with rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and so much else — reminded me, again, of how we all struggle and how we owe it to ourselves to search for joy, healing, well-being, in the face of that suffering.
You are, to me, rock stars. So brave in your search for answers that lead to healing.
Meanwhile I’ve continued with my “Last Best Cure Virtual Book Club Tour.” Readers have been asking me for quick tricks, things I do in the here and now to help me return to a sense of equanimity, despite whatever stressful situation I might be in. So I wanted to share with you a short list that appears in The Last Best Cure, on page 136. (A number of readers in my recent online Virtual Book Club Tour told me this list was their favorite page in the book!)
If you’ve read the book up to page 136, then you’ll fully understand every step I refer to in the short excerpt below. Here goes:
When I feel myself becoming overwhelmed I draw upon my newly developed emergency mental repair plan. I do best when I use several of my favorite tricks in sequence to switch my brain from SNS/negative floating brain/Pain Channel to PNS/positive floating brain/Life Channel. It goes something like this:
- Let out three rapid-fire exhales in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Or, three mindful sighs.
- Rock a little, just for a minute or two. I haven’t read this anywhere, I just came to this one day on my own. A slight back and forth, back and forth. I can’t hold a grudge or fear when I’m rocking. Maybe that’s why we rock children in our loaps, or why we rock on the porch as we age. Our fears let go their tentacle hold.
- Roll my eyes just slightly up toward the top of my head as I’m focusing on the breath. I’ve stumbled across this by trial and error as well. When I do a little research on why this brings on a sudden wave of calm what I read makes sense. Rolling our eyes slightly upward triggers relaxation — that’s why when we sleep our eyes roll up toward the top of our head.
- Touch my fingers to my lips, gently, as I might if I were saying shhhhhhhhh to a small, distressed child. Touching our lips stimulates the parasympathetic nerve fibers that line them. That’s why babies love to self-soothe by breastfeeding, and suckling on their fingers, pacifiers, and baby bottle nipples.
- Imagine a golden white column of light streaming into my scalp and crown – traveling all the way down through my chest into my belly, touching every cell of my body, moving into my toes and finally shooting down into the ground.
- If I am not outside, imagine myself in nature.
- If I am very sad, I imagine the faces of the people who have really, really loved me. Surrounding me. Wishing the best for me.
- Focus on the sounds that surround me, whether real, or in my imagined scenery.
- Use word power. Name my habits of mind. Apply balm to the sting.
- 10. Come back to the breath. This in breath, this out breath.
- If necessary, begin at the top and work my way down again.
I use these strategies every day, many, many times a day, to return to who I know I really am. To re-arrive at the certainty that I am not my thoughts.