Tag Archives: Pain

The Healer: A Review of Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil by Lea Doué book cover. Image on cover shows a young woman wearing a black cloak and touching her Hans as she walks through a deserted forest on a slightly foggy day. TitleSweet Basil – A Firethorn Chronicles Short Story

Author: Lea Doué

Publisher: Butterwing Publishing (Self-Published)

Publication Date: August 30, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 24 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Hiding from sorcerer hunters, Marisol travels in search of those she can help with her dangerous gift of healing. With every life she saves comes the risk of being discovered, but only if her secret doesn’t destroy her first.

Sweet Basil is a stand-alone short story set in the world of The Firethorn Chronicles, a series drawn from The Twelve Dancing Princesses and other fairytales.

Review:

Content Warning: Pain and  life-threatening illnesses. I will not mention them in my review.

Would you continue using your powers for good even if doing so put you in terrible danger?

I’d never read a tale about a magical tattoo, and the idea excited me as soon as it was introduced in one of the very first scenes. The person who had that tattoo knew that it was something incredibly special that not everyone around them would understand, so they had to take measures to prevent others from noticing that their tattoo could do things like move around of its own accord. I’m dancing around this subject a little to avoid spoilers, but I was impressed by how creatively the author explained this portion of the plot. It made me think about tattoos in an entirely new light, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much this item affected the course of the storyline.

It would have been helpful to have more world building. No, I didn’t expect the author to explain everything, especially since it was a prequel that was primarily meant to whet the appetites of new readers for more. With that being said, there were a few scenes I found confusing because of how little time was spent explaining what the rules of magic are in this universe and how someone can reasonably expect a magical object to behave when it is used. I simply didn’t know enough about those matters to tell if items like the tattoo were acting out of the ordinary or not.

One of my favorite things about this story was how it depicted Marisol and Renzo’s friendship. Many storytellers, especially in the fantasy genre,  immediately assume that any two characters who are single and who share compatible sexual orientations must end up in a relationship together no matter how much this may or may not make sense for their individual character arcs or for the plot as a whole. Given this trope, it was refreshing to see how the author handled their friendship and where she took it. Her decisions made sense for for what I know thus far about the characters and the plot. Obviously, I can’t say how the rest of the series will develop from here as I haven’t read it yet, but I appreciated what’s been done with it up until this point.

This is a prequel to a series. It can be read as a standalone work.

Sweet Basil – A Firethorn Chronicles Short Story made me smile. 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Your Favourite Podcast and Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

A pink neon sign that says “On Air.” To be honest with all of you, I rarely listen to podcasts.

Books are such a huge source of entertainment to me that I simply don’t have a lot of time left over for other things, but I am open to changing that under the right circumstances.

One of the few exceptions to this rule is Tell Me About Your Pain. It’s a podcast about living with chronic pain and the latest evidence-based information on how best to treat it and to live with it.

(For anyone who might be new to the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge or to my site in general, I have episodic migraines).

I’m still quite new to this show, but I appreciate the fact that the people who run this podcast are so conscientious about only recommending treatments that have a strong scientific basis for their claims.

One of the things I’ve learned from my illness is that most of us will do anything to find relief and a very small percentage of humans out there will take advantage of that desperation to sell “treatments” that are ineffective or, even worse, might actually cause other health problems or exacerbate your current ones.

Due to this, I’m cautious about who I listen to when I seek out complementary treatments for my migraines that might work well with the new treatment regiment my family doctor put me on a few months ago. I don’t want to upset the delicate balance that can happen when you finally find a routine that helps.

This podcast is an excellent one if you also happen to have a chronic illness that causes pain or if you simply want to get a peek at how some of your friends and loved ones deal with this sort of thing.

if anyone reading this knows a lot about podcasts and would like to make some recommendations, I’d love to hear about anything that’s related to science, books, art, or history! It’s wonderful to learn more about the world.

A Mindful Approach to Headaches

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any medical conditions. Please consult with a medical professional if you need medical advice. I’m simply writing about my own experiences here. 

The first multi-day tension headache I remember experiencing happened at age seven or eight soon after my family moved to Wyoming. Our house was small and comfortable but rarely quiet due to the simple realities of how trailer homes are constructed and the fact that two adults, three young children, and a small assortment of mischievous pets shared that cozy two-bedroom home.

Ordinarily, the overlapping, never-ending conversations, barks from our excitable dog, clangs from the kitchen, and other noises didn’t bother me as a child of that age, but I did wish for quieter corners of the globe when my head pounded for days in a row. What I had instead were cold wash cloths on my forehead and the stillness that comes from lying down and waiting for all of our home remedies to chase that discomfort away.

woman lying in bed with a headache
Are anyone’s headaches actually this photogenic? Mine sure aren’t.

My life has changed in countless ways since then.

I’ve since learned that mild dehydration, caffeine, and stress are among my biggest triggers for these long-lived headaches.

But every once in a while, one of them still sneaks past my best prevention efforts.

This past weekend was my most recent experience with a stubborn headache that lasts multiple days.

Along with drinking extra water, getting more rest, and eating chocolate when taking over-the-counter pain medicine to help amplify their effects, mindfulness is another tool in my headache-busting toolbox.

Headaches can’t always be prevented, but I can have better experiences with them when they show up by remaining in the moment.

Less Tension, Less Pain

Chalkboard with the words stress and relax written on it. The word stres is crossed out with a red x. My headaches often spiral into a negative feedback loop of pain leading to tense muscles that in turn lead to more pain.

The best thing I can do when a new one begins is to relax my muscles as soon and as much as possible.

This is where mindfulness comes in. Whether I’ve undertaken a formal meditation session on that particular day or have simply decided to breathe in and out deeply and slowly, every ounce of relaxation matters.

Sometimes this looks like me lying down and closing my eyes for twenty minutes. While it can lead to a nap, sleeping isn’t the goal. Breaking that cycle is the goal.

A Distracting Walk

Woman walking barefoot on a beach as the tide comes in. Her footprints are straight and even across the sand.I know I talk about my love of long walks a lot on this blog, but this time I’m thinking of them as a type of distraction instead of a form of exercise.

Ideally, the walk would take place in a natural setting like a park or a beach, but it can happen on city streets as well. It’s generally slow and meandering instead of brisk.

The purpose of it is to gently pull my attention away from my discomfort and to anything else happening around me.

It could be the sight of two seagulls fighting over a french fry someone accidentally dropped or the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze.

Maybe a jogger will run by and I’ll take a moment to silently congratulate them on their good running form. The sun’s rays could shine down on my forehead and almost feel like a warm kiss from a loved one.

These sounds and sights wash over me. I acknowledge them but do my best not to dwell on them once they’ve passed. Responding to small moments like these is a nice reminder that headaches, too, will pass and that I shouldn’t spend time thinking about how long they’ve been going on or when they’ll end.

There’s something about this sort of distracting change of scenery that does a body good, especially when you’re in discomfort.

Living in the Moment

person walking in a forest. The forest floor is shaped like a person's hand held up to their mouth in a shushing motion.

Patience is a skill I’ve honed nicely over the years.

While medication dulls the pain of a headache in the short term, this is one of those ailments that needs time to truly fade away. It can’t be rushed.

One of the beautiful things about taking a mindful approach to headaches is that it teaches you to sit with yourself in this exact moment.

There’s something freeing about doing what you can to alleviate the pain of a headache and then stopping and observing everything you’re experiencing in that moment without judging it.

Will mindfulness cure headaches? No, not in my experience, but it can make it easier to handle them when they pop up.

Unguided Meditation Update #2

Last month in this series on my experiments with unguided meditation, I mentioned wanting to try sitting up during my sessions. Meditation is something I’d previously been doing lying down due to a minor injury that made sitting in certain positions uncomfortable. Click on the link above if you want a refresher on why I chose that goal.

Before I jump into today’s post in detail, let’s talk about the chairs in my house and how they’re related to this topic. Technically, both of our chairs are actually meant to be used outdoors. They’re not traditional chairs. Think of camping furniture instead of anything you’d find in a fancy dining room.

My spouse and I chose them because they can be folded up and put away when not in use. Since our apartment is a small one, we use the same areas of it for many different activities throughout the week. Anything that can be folded up and put away when not in use is always folded up and put away when we’re finished with it.

These chairs work well for most of our purposes, but they’re not designed for someone to sit up straight and meditate in them.Their backs are soft and flexible, and they mold to your body as you shift position.  In other words, you’re supposed to sit back and slouch in them.

Sitting Meditation

The reason why I went into so much detail about our tiny home and unconventional chair situation is so you could better imagine what meditating while sitting upright is like for me.

I had three options when I started doing it a few weeks ago: sit on a chair that encourages slouching; sit on our wood floor; sit on the bed.

Due to my sore muscles at the time, I chose option three. It seemed like it would be the least likely one to cause me even more discomfort than I was already feeling.

I’m going to be very honest with all of you here. Not all of my meditation sessions have involved sitting up since my last post in this series. In the beginning, that position was simply too uncomfortable on some days. The only way to do it was to lie down.  On other days, I waited until so late in the evening to meditate that I was too tired to do so sitting up.

The general trend in my life has been towards meditating while sitting up and away from meditating while lying down, though. I expect it to continue in the future as long as I can avoid future injuries.

The Results

In my experience, meditating works much better in the sitting position. It’s easier for me to stay focused on the task at hand when I’m sitting up straight. There have been a few times in the past when I accidentally fell asleep while meditating lying down due to how relaxed I was on my soft bed. This isn’t something I’ve come close to experiencing while sitting up.

There’s also something to be said for creating a routine and sticking to the same environment as much as possible from one session to the next. When I sit in a cross-legged position in my quiet room, I know it’s time to relax and meditate. My body has begun to recognize that this is something I only do during that time of the day since it isn’t how I normally sit.

When I was meditating lying down, there wasn’t as much of a difference between that and lying down to go to sleep or to watch a TV show. I like having a sharper contrast between all of those activities.

While I’m still in the early stages of this adjustment to my routine, I’m pleased with how it’s working in general. As I mentioned in the previous section of this post, I am planning to meditate sitting up even more often in the future. It was definitely the right decision for me, although I am glad that meditating while lying down worked for me when I wasn’t able to do this position.

Next Up: Meditating for Longer Periods of Time

My goal for the next month is to begin meditating for longer periods of time. My sessions are only about five minutes long right now. This was a time limit I originally set due to the pain and muscle stiffness that I’d been dealing with earlier this year. Sometimes it was a stretch to even make it that far, to tell you the truth.

Now that I’m doing better physically, I’d like to double that number at bare minimum. If it’s possible, I may even aim for a longer time period than that. I’ll let you know next month.

If you’re a fellow meditator, how is it going for you?

How Meditation Helped Me Soothe a Pulled Muscle

I woke up feeling stiff and sore one day last week. While I’m not still sure what caused it, it hurt to move my head in certain ways when I got up that morning.

A few years ago I experienced a more painful version of this injury after sleeping in an odd position, so this time I didn’t delay in following the home treatments that had worked so well back then.

It was better to treat it immediately than to do nothing wait for it to slowly get worse like it did last time.

The Cycle of Pain and Muscle Spasms

Here’s the problem with this kind of muscle strain: the pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion feed into each other in a cycle that can be tricky to break.

The pain made my muscles in my neck and shoulder tense up and spasm. This was even more true in the evening when I was tired and feeling more sore than I had when the day began.

My muscles contracting made the strain hurt even more because I didn’t have the full range of motion in that part of my body.  Positions that felt good for my muscles could be uncomfortable for my spine, and vice versa.

Not having the full range of motion in my neck and shoulder also made it difficult to truly relax. It was hard to turn my head in certain ways, for example, and sleeping in some positions was simply impossible.

Consciously trying to relax is also hard to do in this situation because I was so focused on how uncomfortable I was feeling.

The Treatment

One of the first things I did for myself after taking some over-the-counter pain relief medication was to find my microwave-actived heating pad. It’s a piece of cloth that’s filled with magical little beads. I don’t know what the beads are made of, but they warm up beautifully  and can be wrapped around any sore part of a body. I especially enjoy the gentle pressure that this heating pad provides since sitting or lying in certain positions were simply not happening for me at that point.

The medicine and heating pad were temporary fixes, though. What I really needed to do was to break the cycle of tension and pain.

That’s where meditating came in very handy. While the heating pad and medicine were doing their work of temporarily making me feel better, I opened up my meditation app and started using a session in it called “Body Scan.”

“Body Scan” is a guided meditation program that begins with asking you to focus on your breathing. After you’ve done that for a minute or two, it has you methodically relax every single part of your body beginning with your scalp and working your way down your body until even your toes have gotten some attention. If you feel any sensation in a part of your body, you’re supposed to take note of it without labelling it as good or bad.

This is a lot harder to do than you might imagine when the sensation in that area is objectively painful! It is an important part of the process, though.

I’d never thought I’d spend so much time thinking about everything from my ears to my fingers to the small of my back, but it really does work if you focus on the speaker’s voice and follow her instructions.

This wasn’t a quick fix. With that being said, it did help me to relax some tense muscles that really needed to be soothed.

Finding Relief

Time is by far the biggest healer of injuries like this, of course, but I also noticed another feedback loop developing that was much more positive than the first one.

Every time I meditated, my muscled relaxed a little more than they had in the previous session.

As they relaxed, my pain levels dropped even after I cut back or  fully stopped using medication and only relied on heating pads for relief.

As my pain levels dropped, I was able to move my head in ways that had been difficult the day before.

As my range of motion slowly improved again, my muscles spasmed less.

I have no idea how – or even if – this would work for more severe or longterm types of pain. It was a nice bit of relief for a temporary injury, though, and I was very grateful for it once I got into the habit of meditating more than once a day during he duration of this injury.

How has meditating improved your life lately?