Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm Coasting

There hasn't been a blog entry in a while, because there is not a lot to report. I am finally getting to "coast." I need a long stretch with some spacious time to myself to just be in my internal unfolding healing process.

I feel awkward saying that, because I have just announced that I'm teaching in April, not exactly a quiet, internal activity. This is a course I have taught about 15 times. In some ways it will be relatively easy (and inspirational) to teach because the material is part of the fabric of who I am. My ability to do hands-on work with peole may be limited right now, causing my identity as a practicing Osteopath to be in limbo, but I am still able to express my creativity through my identity as a teacher. I have all the notes and slides and written materials prepared already. I was ready to go teach last November and again this April in Belgium, Holland, Germany, and France when I was forced to cancel everything. I have 4 prepared courses that I never got to teach. My teaching is a very internal process, as is the work people do when they attend my courses, so I am looking forward to using the time as a catalyst for a deeper dive into my experience of Health. Taking a long lunch break so that I can nap will help! And then. . . I am taking a long break from teaching. I am not scheduling anything new for a while.

I did get accepted into The Cancer Help Program retreat at Commonweal for this April. I already feel the program "working me" as I percolate into deeper layers of meaning in living with cancer. If you are curious, you can check it out at:

I've been blessed with some beloved company. I had friends from Germany visit this week, on their way to the American Academy of Osteopathy's yearly convocation at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. I will miss being there this year. It's one of the best "schmooze-fests" to connect with my extended Osteopathic family. It's also the only place Steve and I have ever stayed that has a room with a 7 foot bathtub in which Steve can stretch out! And of course, there is always something to learn while we're there.

This weekend I have my dear old friend Debra, who I met in 10th grade (in Miami) visiting from New Jersey. She is the only person with whom I'm in contact, besides my brother, who knew both of my parents. She has a fabulous laugh and I feel positively 16 when I'm with her.

I keep listing all the things I'm doing and people who are visiting after I told you that I need a long stretch with some spacious time to myself. Somewhere there is a balance of free time and the presence of supportive people in my life. Even with all this activity, I am finding the time to rest and reflect and care for myself.

I have continued to do a lot of writing, but most of it is personal and not bound for blog entries. As I coast and feel somewhat better, I will be making fewer entries. Please don't stop visiting my blog, but you might not find new entries as frequently as in the past few months.

Several people have asked me about what I'm reading. Although I might blog on some of these books in the future, I thought I'd give you the current list of books on my pile and in my Kindle:
Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber
Cancer As A Turning Point by Lawrence LeShan
Saved By A Poem by Kim Rosen
Just Kids by Patti Smith
The Courage To Teach by Parker Palmer
Coming To Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Kabbalah of Stone by Irene Reti

I hope all of you are caring for yourselves and finding the place in your life where you can coast. Remember, coasting is moving without the use of effort or power. Where in your life do you have the momentum to carry you so that you can let go and enjoy the ride?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Message For My Osteopathic Colleagues

I'm doing so well that I am going ahead and teaching the course that the Cranial Academy scheduled for April. It is in San Mateo, just an hour from my home so I don't have to travel. This is the last course I am going to teach for a while, so if you're waiting for me to return to the east coast or Europe, consider coming now. You can be sure it will be an inspired offering, as I tap into a new place of depth from which to teach. I look forward to sharing this precious time with all of you who are curious and longing to deepen your practice. (This course is only open to Osteopaths, Osteopathic Students, MDs, & Dentists who meet The Cranial Academy’s pre-requisite training standards.)

Deepening Your Osteopathic Perceptual Field:
Experiencing the Phenomena of Primary Respiration
through Continuum Movement

A workshop presented by Bonnie Gintis, DO
April 8-11, 2010 

San Mateo Marriott Hotel
San Mateo, California
 (Free Shuttle available from San Francisco Airport)

As Osteopaths, we are trained to be attentive to other people’s anatomy and physiology, but not to our own. One of the goals of this workshop is to provide this experience, a felt sense of many concepts that are usually only experienced while examining or treating another person. There will be lectures, discussions, and visual presentations to accompany movement, breathing, meditation explorations, and hands-on table sessions. This workshop experience can be valuable both as a form of self-treatment, and as a way to develop and deepen the diagnostic and treatment skills used with patients.

This workshop will utilize the common ground of Continuum Movement and Osteopathy to explore the phenomena of Primary Respiration. Learning to distinguish the “sensory textures” of bone, membrane, nervous system, fluid, and potency, we will experience the relationship between Primary Respiration & secondary respiration, inquire into our Osteopathic sensory and perceptual development, and have the opportunity to express fluidity, vitality, and the potency of our embodied living process.

The goals of this course are:
  • to develop and deepen perceptual, diagnostic, & treatment skills.
  • to explore the phenomena of Primary Respiration experientially.
  • to experience in one’s own body, what is usually only felt while treating another person.
  • to inquire into the possibility of self-treatment.
In this workshop we will explore the creative potential that is available when combining the principles of Osteopathic Treatment and the practice of Continuum Movement. Osteopathy and Continuum are both based on a philosophy that trusts in the deep wisdom of the body to be self-healing when allowed to fully express and freely organize movement. Stepping outside of our preconceived notions and the popular cultural models of what we think of as “the body” we can discover the deep inner world that is an unending resource for healing, adaptability, and change.

Course Fee: $700 Members • $800 Non-members
(for Osteopaths, Osteopathic Students, MDs, & Dentists who meet The Cranial Academy’s pre-requisite training standards.)
22 Hours of 1-A AOA CME Credit is currently pending
For registration contact The Cranial Academy
Register on-line at: www.cranialacademy.org/curriculum.html
Suggested Reading & Course Material
Engaging The Movement of Life:
Exploring Health & Embodiment Through Osteopathy & Continuum

by Bonnie Gintis, D.O.
Book is available through The Cranial Academy, your local bookstore, or Amazon.com)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Unexpected Path (thanks to Geneen)

My friend Geneen says, ". . . you can examine your life by either looking at the way you live or the way you eat. Both are paths to what is underneath and beyond the eating. . ."

Today I'm celebrating the publication of Geneen Roth's newest book, Women, Food, And God: An Unexpected Path To Almost Everything. Please go buy a copy for everyone you know who has a murky relationship to eating. From my observations, this is 99% of women and a good deal of men too. I don't think everyone has an official "eating disorder," but it is impossible to live in this image-obsessed culture and not have some angst around food, eating, and body image. For more information about Geneen's work, books, workshops, and tapes/CDs/MP3s, go to: http://geneenroth.com/

My relationship to food and eating has been turned up-side-down during these past few months and I have found some unexpected treasures and terrors hiding under the places that have been exposed by my new "diet." I'm not eating differently in order to lose weight, although I think it's healthier for me to weigh a few pounds less. Women with breast cancer and lower body mass index values have a longer life, presumably because estrogen can be produced and stored in fat cells. (to calculate yours, go to http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/ )

Meryl Streep, playing the role of Julia Child in "Julie and Julia" declares with gusto, "I love to eat!" So do I. I love to shop for food. I love to cook food. I even love the feeling of the warm water of washing the dishes on which the food was served. I have a great collection of cookbooks, none of which I really follow, but which serve as inspirations. I read them like prayer books. My second day living in California I went to my nearby health food store, held a bunch of kale in my arms like a baby, and burst into tears over the beauty of its fullness. My homesickness for New York was soothed by the magnificence of the locally-grown vegetables. This is the light side of loving to eat.

The dark side of my loving to eat usually involves too much cheese or ice cream. I overshoot the mark at the end of a long hard work day, or space out and eat too much because I'm feeling tired, bored, burned out, sad or frustrated. The sensual appreciation of eating can easily be distorted into a substitute for something else that's unfulfilled. It's no great mystery how eating gets confused with the desire to be nurtured and nourished, or to feel connected to something greater. Filling oneself up with food stands in for all the other things we long for, but can't find in the moment. It seems insane that we all tend to do something that doesn't really work, but we do it for a wide variety of reasons.

The last time I saw my mother was in 1978 when I was 21. She was 53 (which I am now) and had been in a hospital in Miami for 3 months dying from ovarian cancer. I was leading a very exciting life in New York City as a psychology and neuroscience major, working in a hospital managing the admissions office and outpatient billing department, and frequenting places like CBGB, 7th Avenue South, Sweet Basil, Max's Kansas City, and The Bottom Line.  I said goodbye, knowing this would be the last time I'd be with her. As I walked out the door on the way to the airport, she said, "Make sure you get something to eat before you get on the plane." These were her last words to me. I've been trying to get enough to eat for the long ride home since that day.

Living with cancer brought all this into the spotlight for me. I woke up the morning after Thanksgiving with the realization that I had finally had enough to eat. Animal protein and fat felt like they were creating a state of inflammation that encouraged my cancer to grow. For the first time in my life the necessity to stop eating is making itself so clear that I don't need willpower or discipline to stick to a "diet." I just eat what feels right and stay away from what doesn't. The will to live is stronger than the seduction of something that tastes good or makes me feel full.

The signal of hunger is purer now than it used to be. I respond by eating something that deeply nourishes me. My drive to eat for other reasons is way less intense than it has ever been. My old tendency to "sneak a bite" of something is gone. From whom would I be hiding? Before cancer, sneaking a broken cookie or a slice of cheese didn't seem to matter, except for an extra few pounds, but now, sneaking feels life threatening. I can't sneak past a cancer cell. It's just not worth it.

It's not that I'll never eat animal products again, but for now, it feels important to create an internal milieu that discourages inflammation and cancer growth. When it feels okay to do so, I'll have a little scoop of ice cream and celebrate. Along with this new way of being with food comes an unexpected sense of freedom and new pleasures, not to mention that my cancer is shrinking at a fabulously fast pace. I must be doing something right.

Looking for something to eat for the long ride home needs to be redefined in my psycho-spiritual-neuro-immune vocabulary. What nourishment does my soul need that it wasn't getting? Where will this unexpected path take me?