From Knowing to Knowingness

By Joann Brickley, Owner, Hydration Health and Fitness

Research has shown that the more knowledge a person has on a subject, the more difficult it can be to apply that knowledge to themselves. Across the board, my clients are well educated, successful and self- reflective. And yet, they have their sticking points when it comes to health and exercise. I do not teach them much that they do not already know (in fact some know much more than I do about how the human body functions). The question is not one of knowing, it is one of knowingness.

What has a person continue to smoke, overeat, not take up exercise or indulge in any number of unhealthy activities? We are the best informed consumers in history and we continue to make the same mistakes over and over. We are the least healthy of any generation in history, despite remarkable health discoveries. Health-related products abound, and yet the majority of our population is, at best, overweight.

People, again very intelligent people, fall for the latest craze, the latest gimmick, the latest magic pill that  will “fix” them. And then, when this fails, they blame the product and claim to have tried, but the product did not work.

What does work is to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and drink water. It really is that simple. We all know that. You know that. But, what takes you to knowingness? What takes us to the place where we can actually do the right thing consistently?

Knowingness comes from an internal strength. It cannot be purchased form a vendor; it can only be grown with practice. Knowingness is an inside job. It takes being completely responsible for how our behavior, our choices, impact our lives. Knowingness is an acknowledgment of who we really are at the core of our being.  We cannot know ourselves well and deeply if we live from a place of reactivity, responding to each and every whim and fancy.

The problem can be, when we first stop and reflect, we are sometimes horrified to acknowledge our behavior. It can be embarrassing, shaming and painful to see what we do to ourselves. This keeps the negative behavior locked in place. We rationalize, point to all of the reasons why “you would drink, smoke, eat too if you lived in my shoes.” We point to how hard we have to work, so who has the time and energy to exercise? We point to how very hard we “tried.” And then judge the hell out of ourselves for failing. The judging puts the nail in the coffin. The more we “know,” the more harshly we judge.

While I know a tremendous amount about health, I believe the main reason my clients come to me, and stay with me as long as they do, is because I help them access their knowingness, which allows them to take better care of themselves.

Knowingness has no judgment. Knowingness is freedom to choose powerfully from a place beyond our conditions. Knowingness is a deep well inside of ourselves to which we can go back over and over throughout our day to replenish our souls. Knowingness is a breath of fresh air during a moment of stress.  Knowingness is not bound by any rules, or limited to being in a particular place. All there is to do is to take a deep breath and allow it, and there it is, without fail. The wisdom that we all have to make life-giving decisions lives here, right inside of ourselves, and it only takes one deep breath to access. The cost? Being willing to be with ourselves just as we are, and without judgment. One breath at a time.

10 Keys to Happier Living

Here are the highlights from (Spoiler Alert: exercising in on the list.  Somehow they left out eating well.)


1. GIVING: Do things for others

2. RELATING: Connect with people

3. EXERCISING: Take care of your body

4. APPRECIATING: Notice the world around

5. TRYING OUT: Keep learning new things

6. DIRECTION: Have goals to look forward to

7. RESILIENCE: Find ways to bounce back

8. EMOTION: Take a positive approach

9. ACCEPTANCE: Be comfortable with who you are

10. MEANING: Be part of something bigger

How Exercise Can Change Your DNA

From TIME: Unlike the aberrations and genetic mutations caused by carcinogens and toxins, exercise-induced alterations to DNA are more like tune-ups, helping muscles to work better and more efficiently. What’s more, these changes occur even after a single 20-minute workout.

Read the full article here.

Thanks to Sandy C. for suggesting this article!

Fitness Pays Off – Not Just for Healthy People

GUEST POST –  By: David Haas, Writer for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

You may currently be undergoing treatment for cancer, were just diagnosed or are in remission. Whatever the case may be, do not neglect your fitness level as you move towards healing. It is becoming increasingly obvious through scientific research that exercise can improve the mood, energy levels, pain levels, and ability to sleep of cancer patients- even in difficult cases like mesothelioma.

Humans have evolved the ability to produce certain brain chemicals that help us when times are stressful. One of these is a class of neurotransmitters called endorphins. These important brain chemicals are released when a certain threshold of physical exertion is reached. You may have heard of the phenomena of “runners high.” This feeling of elevated mood is produced by the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s own painkillers.

Many cancer patients have even been able to reduce their reliance on narcotic pain killers from exercise alone. And one great aspect of this form of pain reduction is there is no dependency (except in a good way) or side effects involved. The effect can last for hours and not only helps with pain, but with sleep. Many cancer patients find they sleep much better on days they’ve exercised.

Cancer treatment can also create anxiety through cortisol release. Cortisol is a body chemical associated with high levels of stress. It can be helpful at times, but elevated levels on a continuing basis are not good. By getting enough exercise, you will reduce cortisol levels in your body and experience less stress and anxiety in your life. This alone will lift your spirits and provide you with the motivation to continue increasing your fitness level.

Some scientists feel elevated cortisol levels may be as damaging to health as elevated blood sugar or cholesterol. High cortisol can also lead to low testosterone, which can lead to muscle atrophy and an inability to recover properly from exercise.

Exercise is also known to increase energy levels over time. These benefits may take a few days or weeks to become apparent, but once you feel that energy boost, you won’t want to return to a sedentary lifestyle. And when you have more energy, you are generally in a better mood, easier to be around, and less anxious.

If you feel motivated to try exercise so that you can experience its many benefits for yourself, be sure to start slowly at a pace that your body can handle. You can gradually increase the intensity, pace, and duration of your exercise program as you increase your stamina, energy levels and strength. You don’t need to become an Olympic athlete to quickly begin seeing results that will increase your quality of life.

Seven Habits of Mindful Eating

As life moves faster and faster we have less awareness – less facility with checking in on ourselves. Hence, mindful eating today is more important than ever.

In this delightful three-minute video, Dr. Lillian Cheung explains how honoring and being mindful of the food we eat makes us healthier. She offers seven practices for mindful eating — simple steps that we can take to maintain a healthier weight and live a happier life.

Video from KarmaTube

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

A palliative care nurse shares her experience with patients at the end of their lives.  Here’s the short version:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Read the entire article here.

Energy Healing Accepted in More and More Clinical Settings

Ever since I started doing energy healing a number of years ago, it always seemed like there were two camps, the yay-sayers and the nay-sayers. And perhaps there always will be.  You may be surprised to see articles like this one entitled More Than 50 U.S. Hospitals Use Energy Healing from a review article published in Orthopaedic Nursing (2005; 24 [4], 259–69).

Here’s a great article that talks about different modalities, including Healing Touch. Invoking the Healing Response: Use of ‘energy healing’ grows in Boulder County & nationwide.  Let me close with a great quote from that article.  Enjoy!

‘We have a tendency in Western society to say, “If we can’t see it and measure it, then it doesn’t exist.” But I wonder if fish swimming around in the ocean know they are in an ocean, and that the water that’s flowing through them brings them life. Energy flows through us under normal circumstances, and for our bodies, minds and emotions to function at optimum level, we need that energy flowing through us always.’

— Carol Hiesterman, oncology nurse 

We All Are the 99.9 Percent

Scientists tell us that our DNA is 99.9% identical. “If the genome were a book, every person’s book would contain the same paragraphs and chapters, arranged in the same order. Each book would tell more or less the same story. But my book might contain a typo on page 303 that yours lacks….” [Genome News Network]. Rather than celebrate our alikeness, we all focus on that one typo, that 0.1%. That’s the personality, our ego self. Mostly it’s who we think we are and all we think we are.

We are very attached to this and fail to see that it is only a small part of ourselves; indeed, we experience ourselves and identify ourselves as that personality.  This 0.1% was formulated as we grew up and was locked in at a very young age – so young that we don’t remember ourselves any other way.

The Forming of the Ego

Sadly, a lot of this personality/ego stuff came out of having been wounded by our parents and caretakers. Mostly through no fault of their own, our parents break the fully-alive, open spirit with which we all are born. As small children, we feel these wounds deeply because we are so fresh and pure in spirit. We take this pain on and it becomes who we think we are.

We all (and no one is spared) spend the rest of our lives trying to fix, protect or soften the blow or projecting our pain out onto the world around us. We defend, deny, defy, cry out, numb out and/or inflict pain on others all in an attempt to spare ourselves this original pain. Some of us parade our wounds proudly or angrily as if to say, “Yeah, bring it on.  I can take it.” Other say, “Pain? What pain? I’m a grown person, whatever do you mean?” Either way, our walls of defense stay strong, and who we really are stays hidden.

So, who are we really? And what is this 99.9%? The answer is Life. Universal, natural, vibrating, expanding and contracting, inhaling and exhaling, being born and dying, flashing in and out brightness and darkness. Life. That is who we all are. And that, because of our human condition, is what we have forgotten.

The Way In Is the Way Out

We only need to remember. We only need to be willing to take a peek behind our own walls of defense and there you are. There, without anger and pettiness.  There, without vanity, greed and self-centeredness. There you are, brilliant, blissful, expectant, alive, engaged with all that life brings you – because now you see that what life brings you is not personal. It is no more personal than snow falling, a bird flying or tree uprooted by a tornado.

We are life. What separates us from the natural world is our ability to think, and this is a mixed blessing.  Almost all of our thinking is automatic, much of which is fear-based.  This so called “thinking” that goes on in our heads is not done consciously. We no more think these thoughts consciously than we circulate our blood consciously. It’s just happening. Most of the time thoughts actually think us. That is, we become the result of this automatic thinking.

We Are Not Our Thoughts

The problem is that we believe our thoughts. We don’t even think of it as believing our thoughts, it’s just “who we are” – who we identify ourselves to be.  We don’t even consider that we have control over them. Moreover, we go to great lengths to protect our identity.  If we feel as though our thoughts are challenged, it’s as if we personally are challenged. People get into violent, life-threatening fights over protecting some thought or belief which, if examined, would appear ludicrous. More “peaceful” people war within themselves.

Our identity is the story we made up about ourselves, and we seem to be willing to defend it to the death. We believe with all our hearts and souls that we’ll be annihilated if we stop knowing ourselves as this story.  This is the existential angst of life. It’s what keeps angry people angry, overweight people overweight, depressed people depressed, addicted people addicted, and so on. “It’s just who I am.”

If you see yourself as beautiful and you lose your looks, then what? If you identify with your wealth and you lose your money, then what? It’s enough to cause some people to commit suicide.

From our thoughts come our feelings, our will, our actions and decisions. Our ability to think is what separates us, and, if we do the work that it takes to change our thoughts, our ability to think can be the gift of life.

By bringing consciousness to your thoughts, you can change how you feel, develop a strong will, make life-affirming choices and teach yourself to act in a way that is in alignment with your natural self. This is from where wisdom, art and brilliance come. This is where you access love beyond initial attraction or reason.

The Magic Formula – One Conscious Breath

So what’s the magic formula for bringing consciousness to your thoughts? It lives in a breath. By focusing on a deep breath, you can reduce stress and become more present.

Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth, says we can achieve higher awareness simply by taking two or three deep breaths a few times throughout the day. Even a single deep breath will help. Conscious breathing slows down the mind, allowing you to get into a space of inner peace and awareness.  It allows you to reduce your focus on the ego and feel the life presence within your body and all around you.

For many reasons, it’s preferable to inhale via the nose. Breathing from the nose filters, moisturizes, dehumidifies and warms the air, produces helpful nitric oxide, increases oxygen absorption, slows down breathing and reduces hypertension and stress.

As mentioned earlier, unconscious thinking often leads to negative feelings/emotions. This leads to further unconscious thinking, often creating a viscous cycle of negative thoughts and emotions. We spend most of our days unconsciously victimized by this cycle. The way to interrupt the cycle is with a conscious breath. This also works when you find yourself in a heated argument, for example over something as innocuous as a minor frustrated expectation with your partner. If you find yourself locking horns, try taking a conscious breath. Often this will be enough for you to have the strength to identify your ego in the argument, and its counterproductive intentions, and stop it.

Once you’ve taken a conscious breath, you can take an objective look at your thoughts. For example, suppose you want to lose weight and your mind keeps telling you, It’s really difficult.  I’ll have to deprive myself of foods I love. It will never work anyway, There’s so much mixed information – what am I supposed to believe? I’ve lost weight before and it came back, so what’s the point? If I lose a lot of weight, my friends will be jealous.” And so on. It doesn’t matter where these thoughts come from, they are not facts. They are just your mind telling, and retelling, and retelling the same self-defeating story.

It starts with recognizing that these are just thoughts. They are not real. They are not helpful; in fact, they are counterproductive.  So what other thoughts might you have? For example, “Lots of people have lost weight successfully and kept it off, so can I. If I lose weight, my friends will be thrilled for me.  There’s a tremendous amount of great information out there, and really following just about any of it, is likely have a positive outcome.  I might discover the perfect lifestyle for me, one in which I look and feel great.”

Journaling Exercise

Here’s a great exercise to train your mind to think the kind of thoughts that support you in having a life you love.

  1. Write down your thoughts and feelings regarding a particular issue, e.g., as above.
  2. Write down other, more positive, thoughts you could have.
  3. Imagine a positive result, and write that down.
  4. Write down how you would feel if you achieved that positive result.
  5. At least once a day, return yourself to this feeling. Set a reminder in your calendar, or better yet, have a regular call with a friend who is supporting you.

Notice when the voices take over and take a conscious breath.  Stay conscious of your thoughts and your feelings.

Feeling Our Feelings

Sometimes our feelings are so powerful that we try to sweep them under the carpet. But this encourages their persistence. Again, the way in is the way out. Only by feeling our feelings can we drain them of their power and ultimately give us greater opportunities to breathe and be present.

It’s no wonder that in all Oriental and mystic philosophies, the breath holds the secret to the highest bliss. Each of us can get closer and closer to our natural, loving, open, awe-filled, enthusiastic, connected, spiritual selves simply with attention to feeling our feelings and breathing.

Healing Touch

I’m excited to announce that I’ve become a student of Healing Touch.  Many of you know, I spent three years at the Full Spectrum School for Energy Healing.  Healing Touch is increasing my breadth and depth of skill in bringing energy healing to you.

I’m offering, on a limited basis, complimentary Healing Touch sessions.  You do not need to be a client to take advantage of this, assuming we can find a mutually convenient time.  Please phone me at: (412) 877-0452 to schedule.

Healing Touch is an energy therapy in which practitioners consciously use their hands in a heart-centered and intentional way to support and facilitate physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. Healing Touch is a biofield (magnetic field around the body) therapy that is an energy-based approach to health and healing. Healing Touch uses the gift of touch to influence the human energy system, specifically the energy field that surrounds the body, and the energy centers that control the flow from the energy field to the physical body.

These non-invasive techniques employ the hands to clear, energize, and balance the human and environmental energy fields, thus affecting physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. It is based on a heart-centered, caring relationship in which the practitioner and client come together energetically to facilitate the client’s health and healing.

The goal of Healing Touch is to restore balance and harmonies in the energy system, placing the client in a position to self heal.

Healing Touch Research has been conducted in a wide variety of settings and with a number of different problems and situations including:

  • Cancer
  • Cardio-vascular disease
  • Death and dying
  • Endocrine/Immune function
  • Pain
  • Patient satisfaction and experience
  • Psychotherapy/Psychology
  • Post operative recovery
  • Stress

These studies demonstrate that there is support in favor of considering Healing Touch for providing integrative care and that patients assess it highly. Healing Touch research has been supported and/or funded by hospitals, universities, colleges, professional organizations, private foundations, and the National Institutes of Health, Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Becoming an Activist for “Presence”

More stuff cribbed from Daily Good: News that Inspires.

Read the whole thing here.

A few years ago, in downtown Chicago, 10 of us had decided to try an experiment. To create an excuse to connect with those we walk by all the time, we’d whipped up 150 bagged lunches, split up into groups of three and hit the streets. Beyond just the lunches, the idea was to really explore our own generosity within each interaction. So with everyone who looked like they could use a lunch, we’d start with making our offering and then letting things happen organically. Some would heartily accept, but then quickly move on; others would outright refuse the meal; some didn’t even have the mental faculties to process it; and others would engage with us and even be moved to tears.

But we were the ones learning the lessons. My most vivid memory is of seeing an African-American man waiting to cross the street. He must’ve been in his late 40s, had on a leather jacket and something told me he might appreciate a meal. As we approached each other, before I could even say a word, he’d held his hand out, wanting to shake my hand.

I shook his hand and he gave me a big, heartfelt hug, saying, “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked him. I hadn’t even offered him the lunch yet.

His response rocked me. “For caring. I’ve been out of a job for four months, just scraping by on the streets. And everyone walks by and no one even looks me in the eye. Just the way you looked at me, I could tell you cared.”

I offered him the lunch, but that had already become secondary; he didn’t even take it, and within a minute, we were both on our way. In that short time, he had given me a taste of what is possible when we approach any situation with the simple intention of giving unconditionally of ourselves. I’d learned that the greatest gift we can share is our presence, and that this shining potential exists in all of our relationships. I realized, then, that we could all become presence activists.

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