My Souvenir Thoughts For You From Italy

In May I went on a ten-day bicycling trip through Puglia, Italy. The area is located on the “heal of the boot” and is considered the undiscovered coast of Italy. I biked on narrow rural roads along the Adriatic Sea past miles of two thousand year old olive trees and Roman ruins. I had forgotten how silence, fresh air, and blue skies can reduce stress and inspire creative thoughts.

I did not plan this vacation to escape from my busy practice of acupuncture for infertility. I love my practice and always feel a renewed commitment to my patients when I return from a break. On my travels, I look for new ideas and thoughts I can share with couples seeking acupuncture for infertility. For example, on my trip to Japan I searched all over Kyoto for a Buddhist Temple with a special “chapel” housing a statue of a fertility goddess that women visit to pray for pregnancy and a baby. When I asked permission to enter (only one person at a time is allowed in) the Buddhist monk looked at me quizzically, no doubt wondering if I really thought I could conceive at my age. I did not try to explain in Japanese that I was there on behalf of my acupuncture for infertility patients. Although I am sure Google Translate could have come to the rescue.

Back to Italy and the souvenir thought I brought back for my acupuncture for infertility patients: There were some tough hills to ride up on some days. Normally I walk my bike up in these situations, unconcerned about fellow riders cruising past me. But I was determined to ride up the last hill of the trip—a 6% grade for one solid mile. Before I got to the hill that day, the young Italian tour guide took me aside and said, “I’ve been watching you ride up hills. You attack them. Don’t attack them. Don’t fight them. Just put your bike in low gear and peddle as easily as you need to”. I truly had been pushing myself so hard that I would arrive at the top of even small hills exhausted and not enjoying the ride. So for this last incline I put the bike in the easiest gear possible, breathed slowly, and focused on the blue sky instead of the hill in front of me. I made it.

And then it came to me. Many women that I have the pleasure of helping have had to push SO hard to try to conceive. They have had to fight to get their body to ovulate, fight with insurance companies to cover costs and attack the many emotional potholes on the road to conception.

My patients have heard me describe how in the United Kingdom, medical practitioners do not use the verbage “get pregnant”. Their obstetrical case histories will read that a woman “fell pregnant after three rounds of Clomid”. In French, the phrase for conceiving is “tromber enciente” from the French verb tromber, which means to fall. The imagery of “Getting” verses “Falling” pregnant illustrates the importance of not fighting and attacking the process of trying to conceive. Eastern medicine and acupuncture for infertility encompasses many strategies but one of them is to reduce tension so that our “Qi” or life force can flow and a woman can “fall” pregnant. Yes, conception is basically about sperm meeting the egg, but because conception does not occur reliably, it seems logical to me that that how we “fall pregnant” still involves an element of mystery.

So this is the souvenir thought I have brought back from Italy for my patients. Try to reduce the noise in your life, walk (or ride) in nature. Experiment with riding in the lowest emotional gear possible. Trust the medical team you have chosen, and above all, keep trusting in yourself and your ability to fall pregnant.

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Jane Gleeson
Acupuncture for Infertility and Lifestyle Coaching for Conception

Mindful Meditation: Why and How

Mindful meditation, or mindful breathing, is a method for inducing the relaxation response. This relaxation response brings balance and healing to our body by putting the brakes on the sympathetic nervous system — which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. In the “fight or flight” response, blood pressure and heart rate go up, muscles tense, breathing becomes rapid, and cortisol, or the “stress hormone,” is released from the adrenal gland. During mindful breathing, the parasympathetic system takes over, resulting in muscle relaxation, slower breathing, lower heart rate and blood pressure. This phenomenon has been documented by researchers using brain MRI technology at major medical centers such as Harvard and the University of Wisconsin. Researchers have also noted that levels of nitric oxide in our blood return to healthy levels during mindful breathing exercises. Healthy levels of nitric oxide are associated with  many important body functions, including maintaining healthy blood vessels.

One of the benefits of mindful breathing for women’s health is that it lowers cortisol levels. When levels of cortisol are too high, the system can block the uptake of estrogen. This can lead to hormonal imbalances.

There are many types of meditation, and they are all good. The type I practice and teach to my patients is summarized below.

1. Find a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes, or leave them in a soft gaze.

2. Breathe in through the nose, then out through the nose. Use a pace and deepness that is comfortable for you.

3. Bring your attention and focus to the breath. Focus on the sound of the breath, and the feel of the breath in your nose. Imagine the air going into your lungs, and then out of your lungs.

4. When you find your mind wandering to other thoughts (as it will), just go back to thinking about the breath. Do this as many times as you need to.

5. Do not judge or criticize yourself if you find yourself off in a thought, just let the thought float out, and then bring it back to the breath.

6. At first, practice this for 10 minutes a day. Try to work up to 20 minutes a day on your own schedule.

Remember, it is called a “meditation practice” because it does indeed take practice to do it well — just like playing a sport or learning an instrument. If you would like to find more information on centers where you can learn more about mindfulness meditation, feel free to contact me at [email protected]

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