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Thursday, January 23, 2014

** Bath salts, body oils, and abhyanga: soothing the mind and body simultaneously **

I've mentioned my morning and night routines that help me get in and out of bed, respectively, and provide structure for my day. Today, I want to talk just a little bit about a different sort of routine, one that evolved out of need, and was not something I created and placed upon my day. I affectionately call it "my afternoon routine", which is boring and kind of lame. In truth, it's more of an afternoon devotion. It is a ritual dedicated to checking in with myself, enlivening my senses, and putting me on track for finishing my day. Without it, my day will either devolve into me watching America's Next Top Model while knitting mittens (okay, not the worst habit, I guess, but not exactly how I want every day to go), or will escalate into me trying to push myself way too hard to do way too much.

I got tired of getting up in the morning, writing, sketching, and feeling generally productive, only to not find myself doing any of that later in the day. I got fed up with realizing that it was time to make dinner (we eat our main meal at 3:30 most days and we call it lunch or dinner, depending on our whims. Mainly this is because I am too tired to cook at six or seven, partially because we dislike going to bed still digesting, and only just a little bit because I like feeling vaguely European, oh my god this is the longest parenethetical ever), and that I had no wits about me to figure out how to make raw food become cooked food, much less good cooked food. I got tired (I mean really tired) of the continual flare-ups I was having.

I can't really tell you exactly how the afternoon routine got started...there were times when it was just a lazy yoga session or a lazy acupressure session. But everything was always followed by something that I later discovered was in fact...meditation. I would crawl under the sheets, set a timer, and lay there. I thought I was napping, but I wasn't falling asleep. I didn't think of it as meditation because it wasn't very fancy, and I wasn't freaked out by it. But, lo and behold, according to Daoist tradition at least, meditation is just when you sit with yourself and aren't particularly fixated on any of your thoughts. There I was, getting all sage-like, and I didn't even know it! Since I liked that feeling so much, I wanted to emphasize it and work around it.

Enter abhyanga. Abhyanga is a type of warm oil massage in the Ayurvedic tradition. I'm not terribly good at tradition, so I don't really think I do it too Ayurvedically, but the idea once put in my head was impossible to get out. I have been having skin sensitivity issues that have limited my showers to only a couple of times a week (I'm not gross, just in pain. But you can judge me a little for this particular one, it's okay), and using the oil pre-shower or pre-bath eliminated that issue entirely. How did I stumble upon abhyanga? I really do not know. But I know that once or twice a week I would mix olive oil and sugar and use it as a body scrub, and I really liked that. So when I was skimming articles on various things, and abhyanga appeared, it reminded me of something that I already enjoy doing and suggested to me: "Hey, why not do that more?" It turned out to be the perfect thing to check in with my body (and clean myself, hooray!) and relax myself before my meditation.

This afternoon devotion has slowly turned my world on its head. In a good way. What is interesting is that it evolved out of doing something that I enjoy, not out of doing something that I read will make me feel better. I've read a million meditation books, and books on lifestyle and diet changes for CFS/Fibromyalgia, and implementing those things feels distressing and confusing. It truly never occurred to me to see what I actually liked doing, and how that could benefit me. I assumed that anything I enjoyed doing was bad for me, since I somehow got myself into this condition. That's a bad thing to assume! I'm now feeling much better, and have gotten through three weeks without a flare-up lasting more than a single day. That's longer than I've gone...maybe ever. This is not my "cure", but it is definitely a keystone in finding my own balance with my body.

What do you enjoy? Do it. You may be surprised by what helps you become more mindful of yourself.


In all my bath and fibromyalgia related research, I stumbled upon an Etsy store called Bee Natural Fibromyalgia. It's run by Marian Bell who has Fibromyalgia and sells products that she makes to help herself function and feel better. I ordered a trial size of the Deep Tissue Morning Bath Salts and was pleasantly surprised to see that she had included a sample of the Fibromyalgia Relief Massage Oil. What is eerily synchronistic here is that I hadn't begun the abhyanga when I placed my order, but only a day or so before receiving it. I mixed the oil in with my coconut oil, and really, really liked it. It made a difference in soothing the muscles, even diluted. It's all reasonably priced, doesn't promise to cure you magically, is made by someone with Fibromyalgia, and has really excellent customer service! Give them some love if you're interested in bath salts or massage oils, or just want to treat yourself.

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