Hello Dear One!

I shared Ruby’s story with you last week and that was the first time I’ve ever shared it with anyone. After rereading it, I felt that, while a fictionalized and compressed version of my own story, it captured some of the key things I learned during my own experience. I told myself I had to share it with you, even if was scary to put it out in the light of day.

As I reread it, I saw that I had captured some of the most basic things I had learned in responding to pain. With your permission, I’d like to list them here and then, in the next blogs return to my own story, which varies from Ruby’s and which taught me even more.

What Ruby Learned


1. Breathe: Don’t Panic

When we first meet Ruby, she is in a state of panic. She can’t control what is happening in her body and this feeling makes things worse. But she does notice that laying on the floor and breathing does help. She doesn’t know why, but AnnMerle has learned something about why laying on the floor and breathing helps. It’s called “down-regulation” (the yogis call breathing techniques pranayama) and I’ll be talking about it in future blogs.

2. Talk to Your Pain

Out of sheer desperation, Ruby begins to talk to her pain. She remembers a dialogue that a yoga teacher encouraged between her and a wounded inner child. When we experience pain, the process is not only physical, but emotional. Researcher and clinician John Sarno, Ph.D. from Columbia University argues that the pain we feel in our bodies is actually feelings or knowledge that we cannot say out loud and so it emerges as symptoms that grab our attention when we’d rather ignore that topic. While Ruby’s pain was not only unspoken feelings, we can see that she has a lot going on that she’s unsure how to deal with.

3. Visualize the Pain Leaving Your Body

As Ruby extended her inhales and her exhales she moved into an area called visualization. She used used her inhale like a vacuum moving over a filthy Persian rug and gathering up small bugs, dust balls, hair, and crumbs and exhaled them out of her brain. In doing so, she is relying on the brain’s plasticity and creating a repatterning that will help her brain let go of pain rather than memorize a chronic pattern.

4. Own Your Self-Care

In the final words of this monologue, Ruby talks to her “inner child,” who she calls “Little Girl.” She admits her fears and asks herself, through “Little Girl,” how to understand what’s going on in her life and her body. The answer is worth repeating here, “You must take charge of your own life. Find your own purpose. Breathe with your own breath. Feel how your breath can connect you to me. Healing is going to depend on you and no one else.There’s a door waiting for you. Put your hand on the knob, turn it, and walk through it.

Ruby is a graduate student, perhaps, in her late twenties, early thirties. I can hardly remember that time in my own life, but it was definitely a time of change. I do remember, in sharper focus, the lives of the graduate students I taught at UIC and how the turmoil of their lives often far outweighed the trials of doctoral work.

But now, our tribe of Women 50 and Wiser, faces new challenges, our own gauntlets, and we, too, must learn how to own our self-care, often again and again.

As I explained in Part 2, somewhere along year 20 of my 32-year career, my dear assistant, Tom Moss, who could surely see my daily distress, suggested I come with him to a yoga class during our lunch hour. That moment, when I was instructed to breathe, was the beginning of my healing process.

I found my way into a hatha yoga practice with amazing teachers and then proceeded to take the teacher trainings as a way to dive deeper. Certainly, the movement and breathwork helped, but the residual damage from the years of sitting and the constant stress could not be stopped. My shoulder froze up, my low back hurt, and my psoas was always cranky. My headaches were less frequent, but still a regular feature of my week.

During all this time, a period of about 20 years, the tri-geminal neuralgia remained dormant and I pretty much forgot about it – out of sight, out of mind. I had plenty of aches and pains to contend with and they took the front seat for me.

But that was not to last. Sadly, my old friend, tri-geminal neuralgia came back to pay another visit and I would learn even more lessons. In the next few blogs, I return to my healing story to tell you how I learned to own my self-care through all of the lessons above, through my Yoga Tune Up and the Roll Model Method training and through my most recent friend, a hemp oil supplement that became a regular part of my healing routine.

What have you learned about responding to pain? Please share your wisdom below!

Until next time!

Love and Gratitude,


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