You are alive

You are Alive

by Cynthia Allen

Can you recall a time when you felt you were so damaged, so traumatized that you felt you were dead? Let’s add to that experience in a new way. Just as you begin to realize you might be alive and you feel there may be some tiny will to continue, someone very important to you whispers “You are alive. You are whole. All is well.”

When I first heard these words spoken to the fictional character of Roger, I experienced sadness tempered with loving sweetness. What if someone had said those words to me at those times when I felt life was somehow over? What a statement of clarity, of hope, of the future.

I must confess that I have fallen down the rabbit hole of the Outlander book series. I know, I know. This historical, time-travel drama/romance isn’t meant to stimulate deep thinking. Yet, there have been a few passages that I have felt some transmission of healing through these characters of Jamie and Claire as they navigate a constantly unpredictable world. I am currently on a theme of examining words that all of us need to hear or at least deserve to hear. I was raised when “I love you” simply wasn’t said. Or at least not in my family. I vividly remember the day I got up the courage to use these words to my mother over the telephone. Having moved several hundred miles away at the age of 18, I could no longer tolerate the silence created by those unspoken words. My mother, though hesitating, did give me the fresh, pure water I so needed. Some 30 years later, I also remember when my mother was dying. She was sad that she had never heard her own mother use those words. With my encouragement, she too took the risk. And my 80-something old grandmother, who had probably never said I love you in her entire life took only a fraction of seconds to echo them back. My mother was made whole in that moment, I think. What words do you need to hear that have never been spoken? And how can you place these words in your life? For me the experience of the Feldenkrais Method® is one way I can hear over and over: “You are alive. You are whole. All is well.” It awakens in me what Ruthy Alon calls Biological Optimism in her Movement Intelligence work. Back to the book. I felt the emotion that this fictional man, who was truly at death’s veil, who was sure he would never awake again, must have felt when he miraculously found his heart beating. Yes damaged and very disoriented. Yet, within that haze, he finds these phrases flowing through him. Later in the book series, the main character, Jaimie, uses this same word elixir when discovering his own wife has been repeatedly assaulted. No longer new words to me, I again found them life giving. May you sit with these words as I have been and let them dribble into the core of your being. You are alive. You are whole. All is well.

Observations from ‘You in the Cosmos’ Retreat in Greece

We just returned from leading our annual Feldenkrais® and NLP retreat. This year we added acupuncture to the offering. It was our first trip to Greece which made it a special experience. Here are some highlights.

#1 All the islands drink bottled water only although the water is safe to drink. Because of shortage? Doesn’t make sense, but they are adamant. The price is capped for a small bottle at .50 Euro and a large bottle 1 Euro.

#2 The water table on Tinos is only 3 meters
deep. The soil acts like a sponge and sits on a rock ledge. They just siphon it
off for their uses. No wells needed.

#3 Hearing the words “My lady.”
Spoken softly from behind. For a moment Cynthia thought she had fallen through
time in a scene of Outlander. His next words “Will you let me help you
please.” Why yes of course!

#4 Fish soup is often served as broth with a plate of fish and
vegetables that you can add on your own.

#5 When the tour driver in Tinos says
“No” to a request to stop and take a picture of a goat on a roof
because you will see this many times…. he was right.

#6 Dovecotes. Beautiful, ornate small 2-story houses built just
for doves. More than a thousand of these are on Tinos where doves (imported by
the Phoenicians) roost in the 2nd story. They collected the droppings from the
first floor and used or sold them.

#7 Listening to marble sculptor talk about his craft while watching him handling the marble with such care and sensuality was truly moving.

Here is our group picture, (keep scrolling down for more fun observations from Greece)

Left to Right. Back row: Rick Rudd, Mary Rudd, James Walden, Cindy Senefeld, Cynthia Allen, Mackey McNeill
Front Row: Arwa Atwan, Mary Gawle, Kristin Dart, Larry Wells

We all said goodbye to
the ocean side rooms and the 67+ stairs up and down and traveled different
ways. Larry and Cynthia went on to 

#8 The sixty-seven + steps of Tinos was
suddenly nothing at all. Cincinnati truly has some steep hills but here there
are way more of them. Plus, we don’t try to walk Cincinnati hills.
Cincinnatians drive everywhere. Here we walked everywhere. Why does it take a
vacation to make that happen?

#9 While Tinos was quiet and unassuming, Santorini is packed, crowded and very touristy. And it wasn’t even high season yet.

#10 In Santorini, you think you are on the
edge of the cliff, a sheer drop. But then you peak and there are layers upon
layers upon layers of similar scenes below. And they too are thinking the same

#11 Brace for impact when your van driver backs into a cliffside drive and announces, “Madams and Sirs. Do not be afraid! The port is very narrow and no place to turn.” He then hits the gas and zooms backwards down the narrow curvy mountain road very fast. Of course, there are other cars.

 #12 Santorini has only two forms of commerce: Tourism and
wine. The whole island basically lives from income earned in April to October.
This place must be a series of ghost towns in the other months.  

#13 One wonders how they keep everything so white. They repaint
all the buildings each March.  

#14 They say there is more wine than water and more donkeys than
people on Santorini.

We then finished in Athens where climbing took on yet another layer of challenge.

 #15 From the airport our driver was Philip. The arranged
guide’s name Phillip and our hotel? Hotel Phillipos. The young tour guide was
absolutely giddy over this Phillip trifecta.  

#16 The Islands won’t serve breakfast before 8
a.m. In Athens tours begin at 7:30 a.m.

#17 Synchronized swimming has nothing on the
synchronized buses at the Acropolis. It is downright trippy to be on one of the
moving vehicles while they are all trying to turn around each other.

#18 That job where you stand all day and try to convince
tourists to eat at your restaurant…. those people are energizer bunnies and
cannot be destroyed by mere rejection over and over and over.

#19 Do not let that woman in the Plaka put a rose in your hair.
Once she has one rose on you (for free) she will not stop putting roses on you
and your husband and referring to you as sexy woman until you give her
something to get her to leave and stop covering you in roses.

#20 Even using Rick Steve’s map and guide, you can still get
lost and end up climbing some extra hills.

Keep scrolling down for the final few fun observations. 

All over Greece.

#21 They sure do eat a lot of homemade bread. Most of which to
Larry and Cynthia was fairly tasteless so we didn’t get the appeal.    

#22 Marble is everywhere. The cemetery, the entire acropolis,
sidewalks, and even streets. Many islands have their own unique marble.

#23 It is true. The famous Cincinnati chili really was started
by two Greek guys! The tomato sauce used here in most dishes matches up in
taste. (We got this well-crafted sentiment from James Walden)  

#24 These folks work hard 6-7 days a week. Many have no days
off–at least during the long tourist season. They can’t afford to go to the
islands or places we go. Yet no one ever said a single cross word or was
anything but super friendly.  

#25 The Greeks are generous. They want to give and give some
more in food, time and experiences.

#26 There are 100 inhabited Greek Islands. We visited 3 plus the mainland. We might need to go back.  

We also visited Ancient Corinth and the Cave of Lakes.

The many museums along the way blew our minds. Truly we hadn’t grasped how sophisticated live was in the 14 Century BC (time of Moses). Those people had incredible buildings, jewelry, tools, and even bathtubs and highchairs for the kiddos.

A Letter about Professor Allen

This past week, I became aware of some of his writings submitted to the local newspaper back in 1919. I knew many of these details but the way they are so artfully written really touched me. And I think it will touch you too.

It was only as I reached my 30’s and I began my exploration into holistic areas that I saw some of the original letters. John Henry wrote my grandpa when he was just a young boy when he had broken his leg. It was a serious break and he gave suggestions on how to think about the break and what he could do. When I became a Feldenkrais practitioner my Grandpa Henry said “You take after your great, great grandpa. He too used mind over matter.” He talked about people coming for miles to see him. How he would just lay his hand on a head for a long time and horrible headaches went away. I wondered what he actually did, and eventually I realized he had studied early osteopathy and yoga (all by correspondence course) among other things. He also taught music (although he didn’t play) and he would travel town to town and people would come for music lessons with Professor Allen.


Osage County Republican Mar. 20, 1919

The battle of Iuka, Miss. occurred Sept. 19, 1862 (history has it the 20th) when a 1½ ounce ball, fired from a Belgian musket in the hands of a Mississippi rebel passed through both my thighs, lower third, just behind femurs, cutting or tearing off lower third of biceps, and severing three fourths of ligaments – split ligaments into threads from wounds to knees and eight inches above wounds.

I lay on the field till 10 o’clock the following day, and was reported dead, but when the detail to bury came around I objected. It would take too much space to tell one half of my experience while my wounds were healing. After they healed, I returned home the following March, but was unable to board a passenger car without help.

My thighs and legs were greatly reduced in size, and my legs and feet were always cold for the lack of blood, my knees were flexed so that my limbs were 2 ½ inches short and could not have been straightened without breaking the ligaments.

I did some manual labor during the next 20 years, tho always at disadvantage. Got rheumatism and was told I must quit work or I’d find myself all drawed up into a knot and all the doctors in the state could not straighten me out. I took the suggestion and began to draw up alright. I passed many a weary week when I couldn’t put on my coat without help, and knots would form in my arm pits and other parts of my body as large as an orange and last for days, and I wore a cane for twenty years. In 1898 I began to study Psycho Therapeutics, suggestive Therapeutics, Osteopathy and several other scientific studies. From these I learned that the body is being worn out and renewed every little while, and that the kind of material built in depends entirely on the mental attitude.

In 1899-1900-01 I received several diplomas. Well, I was my first patient, with the result that in April 1902 I threw away my cane, and in May took hold of the plow handles and have made a hand on the farm ever since. Last fall I did the major part of the work of preparing land and sowing 52 acres of wheat, and sowed some wheat for a neighbor. My knees are as straight as a baby’s – have not felt a pain in wounded parts for 16 years. I will be 75 years young March 19, 1919… I used to weigh 115 pounds in winter and 125 in summer. Now I weigh 140.

Yours for health,

J. H. Allen, D.S.T,
Chamois, MO, Route 2

John H. Allen was seventeen years old when he enlisted in Co. B. of the Osage County Home Guards. As soon as the Home Guards were disbanded he enlisted under Capt. John F. F. Koops of Company H, 26th Missouri Volunteer Infantry.

Source: A letter to the Osage County Republican in 1919

I’m doing well, Thank You

Recently, I had knee replacement surgery (4 weeks ago, as I write this) and many friends and colleagues have commented that they are amazed at my recovery. All initial physical therapy goals have been reached ahead of schedule; and, of course, I walk better than I did prior to surgery.

Every day has yielded improvements and surprises. As those of you who have recovered from this kind of surgery know, the day you can stand to put your pants on is a celebration. Yesterday, I was able to put my foot up on my knee to put my sock on. Big deal! And then today (and my Feldenkrais wife is freaking out over this) I was able to kneel on a wood floor without pain.

I am not surprised, nor do I think my recovery is anything special. We (my wife, my health care team and I) took steps to make it possible. Let me tell you what we did.

Preparation Work:

We learned that one thing I could do prior to surgery is exercises to strengthen the thigh muscles in the leg. My health care provider suggested specific exercises, and I did them. We also got some good advice from a colleague of my wife. He is an experienced Feldenkrais teacher and has had the surgery himself.

We talked to people who have had knee replacement surgery and asked questions, especially questions about the doctor and how well the procedure went. How happy were you with the follow up physical therapy? We asked non-orthopedic physicians which orthopedist they might recommend. We talked with local physical therapists about their recommendations. We then interviewed two orthopedic surgeons and scheduled surgery with the one in which we had the most confidence.

We investigated what equipment we would need once I got home. A friend loaned us a commode with the frame of which would fit over our toilet and an icing machine – a canister that is filled with ice water. Icing on a regular basis is important and the machine was so much more convenient than using ice packs, especially through the night during which it could be turned on and off. And we picked up a few other items I would need at home. We arranged to take physical therapy near our home at a place and with a therapist in whom we had confidence. (It was a good choice. We have recommended her to others.)

The hospital offered a class in what to expect following surgery and I went. It included some of the exercises the physical therapist would have us do and how to use a walker, how to stand from sitting and how to sit from standing. In addition, since there are a couple of steps to negotiate in order to get into the house, my wife learned how to help me to go up and down steps.

Mentally or emotionally, I hold the belief that I recover quickly and held to that expectation. In addition to that, I believe that I am in charge of my healing. Doctors do not heal. They create internal and external environments in which the body heals itself. I am a part of the healing team and, ultimately, I’m in charge.

Having done these things, I went to the hospital in good spirits, with no discernible anxiety or nervousness. I was taken to surgery around 10:30 AM (2.5 hours ahead of schedule, which I liked). The surgery took about 35 minutes and closing another 10 minutes. I was taken to recovery for a couple of hours but only because they couldn’t find a room for me.

Before the day was over, I was using the walker to go to the bathroom. The next morning, I received some physical therapy and testing to make sure I was ready to be discharged. They taught me how to get in and out of a car. By afternoon, I was home.

Recovery and Physical Therapy:

At home the first day and night, I took the pain meds I had been given as prescribed. We wanted to stay ahead of the pain. However,within a couple of days, I cut the dosage in half. I experienced no excruciating pain. I used the walker to get around the house and walked sometimes just to keep the leg and knee moving.

Surgery had been done on Monday. Our first trip to physical therapy was on Wednesday. The therapist tested to see how capable I was and what were my limitations, which were many. She gave me some exercises to do at home while sitting or lying. I did them. I had physical therapy three times a week. On the other days, I did the exercises at home. And I walked using the walker. I did not walk long distances, but I walked a little bite very hour or so during the day. Of course, those first few days I also slept a lot. By the 4th day, my wife was going to work and I was able to be by myself.

Two other things I took advantage of that are not a part of normal protocol are my wife’s Feldenkrais work and my powers of mental processing and imagining. Feldenkrais is a method of learning to move with less effort and more comfort. It does not shortcut or lessen the physical therapy I was doing. Every day, getting up and down and moving around the house became easier and easier.

When I was facilitating a cancer support group,participants used their imagination to strengthen their immune systems, and weaken the unwanted effects of chemo and radiation therapies. In the early days after surgery, I had time on my hands so I imagined my knee healing – as if knitting or cementing itself back together. I imagined what that feels like on the inside. I saw my thigh muscles becoming stronger and learning to take over the job of those tendons that no longer exist.

We have likely heard stories of PT torture after knee replacement. And I had one session of that but then decided I was going to continue to be in charge of my recovery. So next time the physical therapist needed to push my leg into an extremely painful position to measure my flexion, I said something to the effect of, “We’re not doing that again?” She said, “Well you have to push yourself.” I said, “I agree, but I don’t have to scream to do it.We have the same goals. We’re going find a better way to get there.” She gave me a strap to wrap around my leg and to pull it into position. I was in charge.The flexion increased significantly and rapidly after that. It actually gained 10 degrees over one night.

I didn’t leave the house except for physical therapy for the first 10 days or so. By then I was no longer using the walker in the house but only for going to and from the car. Shortly thereafter I started using crutches and found myself going to the movies. I will say, I hadn’t remembered those theater hallways being that many miles long! Soon, the crutches just got in the way. On the 20th day, I drove myself to church in a stick shift car, (using my affected left leg) and negotiated steps though it was one step at a time; lead with good leg going up and healing leg going down.

My message: First not everyone needs knee replacement and I recommend you do Physical Therapy, Feldenkrais and work in your imagination to be sure you can’t bring yourself to a place of healing without surgery. But if you do need it:

  • Prepare.
  • Have confidence in your healing team, believe in yourself (including your body).
  • Pay attention to your body; push it but not too hard.
  • Gather all the resources available to you and do the work.
  • It doesn’t have to be too difficult or painful.Physical therapy, whether at home or at the facility, can be taxing and tiring,but it’s good.
  • A good balance of work and rest is required.
  • Get out and about as quickly as possible.
  • The keys are attitude and doing what’s best for you.

Art Exhibit Star/Flower: Patterns of Nature by Suzanne Fisher

Join us on Friday, November 2nd at 6:00 to 8:00 pm

at Future Life Now and meet artist Suzanne Fisher

Several of her artworks will be on display. Guitar music by Todd Juengling.
Meet Suzanne and connect with new and old friends alike. 
Light refreshment will be served. We hope to see you!

Purchases from this show can be picked up the week before Christmas!


Future Life Now is located at 4138 Hamilton Ave, Suite B, Northside, 45223. Free parking will be available in the lot behind our building and on the street. The entrance is on the Knowlton St. side of our building. Come up to the second floor for our suite.

Artist Statement

This exhibition includes both mosaics and mixed media resin paintings. The resin paintings are all initially based on floral forms.

I have been fascinated with flowers since I was a child. In our garden, I remember looking down into the center of a red tulip and being intrigued by the elegant and stark geometry inside, velvety black and orangery yellow. I was also particularly taken by black eyed Susan’s, with their unbelievably dark centers in stark contrast to the orange petals. Each flower seemed to be turning its dark face to stare at you. I also have vivid memories of paper flat daisies on wires we bought from Pier 1. They were flat but could be twisted to become more dimensional. In these resin pieces, my flowers evoke some of these different childhood memories.

I combine several elements, acrylic paint, collage papers, and bits of plastic and metal and submerge them all in resin to get a compelling depth and gloss, like amber. The mosaics are created as a variation on Monet’s stars in The Starry Night Painting. They are made primarily of colored glass. Some of their geometric forms are reminiscent of parts of a flower. And some of the flowers look like starbursts.

About Suzanne Fisher

Since I was a child, I have been endlessly fascinated with the magic of creating something wonderful out of colorful scraps and a little bit of glue. Initially I used pieces of scrap felt; now I use shards of colored glass, broken china, and many other discarded items such as broken windshield glass and incorporate them with traditional glass and ceramic tile, stone, smalti and marble to create mosaic murals of all sizes. In addition, I combine mosaic elements with acrylic paint, resin, and collage materials to create mixed media pieces I call resin paintings. I am currently interested in abstracting elements from nature in my artwork. I also work with community groups to create large-scale mosaic murals and create separate mosaic panels in glass as well.

I received my BFA in painting from Miami University and my MFA in painting from the University of Cincinnati. I was awarded a 6-month residency at PS 1 in Queens in 1987, which hosted artists from all over the world. In 1997, I spent 3 weeks at another international residency, at the American Academy in Rome. In addition, I have received numerous grants from the Ohio Arts Council, Summerfair, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women for my artwork in various media.


Beyond Monkey Mind

That the more one fights against, the body, the more powerfully the body fights back.

If this is true, then how can one effectively move away from sleepless nights?

Have you ever thought or said to yourself, “I’m bone tired, so why can’t I get to sleep?” Those who have difficulty getting to sleep know that the reason they can’t sleep is not because their body is up and running around.

Sometimes it is because of what some call their monkey mind. Many of the practices that are described in our Sounder Sleep sessions address the issue of monkey mindedness. Numerous people have found those practices to be very useful in getting to sleep or returning to sleep. The practices are, use the body to calm and to quiet the mind which allows sleep to come naturally and easily.  

However, there may be some occasions in which the mind is not necessarily focused on a specific issue or even flitting here and there as a bee or butterfly flying from one blossom to another. I once had a client who was almost perpetually tired and exhausted.

Her experience was that she would go to bed and drift off to sleep. However, she would awaken after an hour to hour-and-a-half and would be wide awake and would be awake for an extended period of time. When asked what she did during that time, she replied, “I say to myself, ‘I have to get back to sleep. I know I can’t, but I have to get back to sleep.” It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize that those words increased anxiety and the more she said them and the more intensely she expressed those thoughts, the more anxious she would become. The levels of stress hormones would increase dramatically. The “fight, flight, or freeze” response took over. As the degree of danger increases the ability to relax and allow sleep to come decreases. What helped her was to change that internal dialogue. She learned to say to herself, “Wow! I’ve been asleep for an hour and it seems like only ten minutes. I wonder how much sleep I can get in the next hour-and-a-half.”

Einstein has been credited with having said, in part, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” In Neuro-Linguistic Programming, we can help clients develop their imaginary control center. In that control center there are switches, levers and buttons that manage many physical and mental systems. And the use of imagination can impact no only sleep but other significant challenges. I know of people who “go inside” and turn up the metabolism rate while they sleep. A result is fewer blankets in the winter and for some it’s an effective assist to weight loss programs. One client who had undergone a heart transplant but sometimes felt as if the heart was not his was able to lower the degree of rejection and immunosuppression drugs by “going inside and having all his organs thank the heart for the great work it was doing and by imagining a large plaque on his heart that read “Jerry’s Heart.”

There is incredible power in internal dialogue. What you say to yourself matters. Even if changing internal dialogue does not help you get back to sleep, having positive and hope filled thoughts is much more enjoyable than having negative anxiety producing thoughts.

Video: Feldenkrais Method and Chronic Pain

Since the recent article by Jane Brody in the New York Times on how the Feldenkrais Method helps with chronic pain, people have been asking but how? Based on my experience, research and the work of Dr. Norman Doidge, I lay out what I think at least a couple of the mechanisms are that reduce chronic pain. And I give you several things you can do right now to make a difference for yourself.