Jane Arie Baldwin

Personal Tools for Living at the Highest Levels of Health

What I Learned about Punishment from the Silkworm Farmer

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The modern silkworm farmer on the TV screen caught my eye. The simplistic perfection of his black t-shirt and jeans looked nothing like any farmer I knew. He fed mulberry branches to his silkworms with methodical intention explaining in Japanese, “Silkworms aren’t as strong as people. And you can’t give them medicine. We do all we can to give them the best environment so they don’t get weak.”

My head exploded as I thought about his words. The compassion that poured from this man for his silkworms and their care seemed alien in a world where Every Man For Himself (sorry, women!) rules the day. The idea that a healthy environment strengthens the organisms living in that environment is refreshing.

The silkworm farmer reminded me in the most subtle way the importance of a strong and healthy environment as a means of support and protection. Whether it’s the gut microbe that digests our food or the soil microbe that grows it, whether it’s our home environment or our work environment, when the environment is healthy the organism can grow strong. Where there is empathy (understanding) and compassion (feeling sympathy and genuine concern) there is safety, protection and security supporting an organism’s fundamental right to be and to thrive.

There’s an underlying paradigm that seems to work it’s hardest at keeping our caring and care-giving instincts at bay — The Punishment Paradigm.

The Punishment Paradigm focuses on the importance of punishment as a controlling force in environmental changes. The paradigm operates under the system of right and wrong — good is right, bad is wrong — and it is perpetuated by generating feelings of guilt and shame.

Someone famously said a few years ago,“You’re either with us or against us.”

The “Are you with us or against us?” mentality draws a specific and rigid line between You and Me and creates separation. This paradigm pervades every area of society from the micro level (home and school) to macro (national and international).

Here in Texas the environment is very supportive of gun rights and not at all supportive of the rights of women concerning general health care. A study in the September 2016 journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows that the maternal mortality rate has nearly doubled in the state since the Texas legislature slashed family planning budgets in recent years. The budget cuts caused many family health care facilities, especially in rural areas to close. Although the journal doesn’t make the correlation between the deaths and the budgets it’s not hard to make that connection when you listen to women’s stories about being denied care.

Texas is a big state. As legendary singer-songwriter Butch Hancock once famously said, “You can drive all day and never leave Texas.” This fact does not bode well for women who live outside of a major city, where most of the family health care facilities in Texas are now located.

Women in south Texas often must drive many hours to their closest facility, so if there is a problem with the pregnancy there is a greater chance of risk and death. They might not have the means to travel such far distances to get the care they need or they might need immediate emergency care and not have the time to get to a facility.

Another example is the college town of Lubbock, located in the panhandle. There, college students who want birth control have to drive five hours to Fort Worth for their prescriptions.

Women’s health is one of many examples of how and where The Punishment Paradigm thrives. Whether it’s a woman in south Texas “guilty” of being an impoverished migrant or a college student “guilty” for having sex out of wedlock there is a general deficit at the fundamental human level for creating a strong environment that supports women.

The guns here have a supportive environment. Why don’t the vaginas?

All of this went through my head in about two seconds as I watched the farmer smiling down into the loving and supportive environment he had cultivated. The silkworms gently digesting the branches, preparing to weave exquisite silk threads enjoyed and valued throughout the world.

 

 

When Your Superpower is Movement Life’s A Dance

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In the first of a series of profiles on women living at the highest levels of health I sat down with Jule Aguirre, mind-body psychotherapist and Nia Trainer. Jule exudes an infectious combination of nurturing energy, raw power and sensuality. Jule’s superpower is movement. As a dance instructor she has a keen sense of how to move the energy in a room, to keep the emotions flowing and the mind clear.

JANE: Your website describes you as: “Your personal ‘guru’ to move”. How did your wisdom of movement develop?

 JULE: I have been a mover my whole life, excelling in sports was my thing. After high school I didn’t want a job, job. I wanted to have fun. So I got a job at a women’s only fitness place called Figure World. It was 1985 in the small east Texas town of Lufkin. The first couple of weeks I showed women how to use the vibrating belts and rollers, the workout equipment of the day. Then the owner gave me a record album with Jane Fonda’s workout. I learned to teach my first class using that album. It was leg warmers and headbands and “feel the burn!” – all of that. Kick butt – that was my reputation in the fitness world. “If you want to kick butt, go to Jule’s class.”

JANE: How has movement helped you believe in yourself?

JULE: I was busy teaching my own fitness classes and had just gotten my first professional job in hospice when I met another social worker who taught Nia. She kept saying, “You should come to my class!” And I kept saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah – someday.”

To be honest, when I looked in the window at her class. I thought, “You can’t do this. You’re not a dancer.” Lots of judgment and zero self love.

Then my body began to hurt. I was 27 or 28, the stress of my job had finally caught up with me. My personality said, “I can handle this. I can take care of it. I can do it all, all the time.” I had no idea the work load I had taken on until one day my jaw, neck and shoulder hurt so bad that I couldn’t even pull on my blazer over my shoulders. That’s when I knew I needed to do something different.

The next morning I woke up early to go to the 6am Nia class, early so no one would see how ridiculous I looked dancing. Ten minutes later I had forgotten I cared what people thought. I was overcome with the sensation of, Ahhhh…I’m dancing!

JANE: When did you realize that teaching movement for you meant not only moving the body but also moving the emotions?

 JULE: It was in that very first class. It happened almost instantly. The movement and music gave me a way to discharge the emotion and stress that had been building up inside. It was like an awakening. I recall feeling grief, this feeling of “Where have I been? I have not been in my body. I’ve been in my head. My body’s been a tool for me to achieve and excel and kick butt.” And then I literally said to myself, “Body I am sorry. I am sorry that I haven’t been here.” At that moment I knew I would never go back. I had found the heart and soul of my practice.

JANE: You spend many hours a day leading people in movement. How do you manage to go in and do your thing on the dance floor and help others move emotion at times when you’re not up for it?

 JULE: The most important thing is self-love, being where I’m at in each moment.

I’ve been through tough times when I’ve been teaching a Nia class and feel like I want to cry and wonder how am I going to do it. Then I think, “Am I going to put on a happy face and pretend to be the happy Nia teacher?” — “No! I just show up raw with everything, physically moving with joy, and emotionally I move it out.”

When I’m in a challenging position, real and raw in the moment and the students sense it, that’s an amazing moment. I love this work because it’s best when I’m just being authentic and thank goodness because I’m really terrible at faking it!

Find out more about Jule at juleinthelotus.com

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