I asked Ariana Vincent to create a Guest Blog for our site for several reasons – she has a hearing loss and wears hearing aids, so she’s her own expert in that arena and she’s also an expert in the massage realm.
I met Ariana in 2011 at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center 7th Annual Oncology Training Conference for Acupuncturists, Massage Therapists and Yoga Teachers/Mind-Body Practitioners. MD Anderson provided a CART captioner for me at that conference so I heard every single word – how cool is that!
I call Ariana when I need a reference for a good massage practitioner. By my own experience of it, having our bodies touched and cared for by a professional who knows what they are doing, understands about chronic and critical illness and how not to hurt people (educated in Contraindications), is essential to the healing process. I believe that relaxing and theraputic massage has profound benefits on so many levels – mental, physical, energetic and spiritual.
…herein, I introduce this precious lady to you:
The Beauty of Connection
The spirals of life are so precious and sacred.
Imagine going from a serene and meditative life in Austin to the core of the Medical Center in the bustling metropolis of Houston, Texas, thinking that your primary purpose was to attend an oncology conference after the passing of a dear friend.
Life is like that, full of illusion.
The conference was enlightening and elevating; it was all I hoped it would be, and more. It gave me tools to better assist kindred spirits in their passing from the earthly plane, as well as insights regarding supporting those dear ones who survive.
In the midst of this spiritual and cognitive focus on healing, I met the most amazing woman. We instantly recognized one another as travelers on parallel paths. One thing that drew us together was, believe it or not, our hearing aids. We are both kind of youngish, and one would not expect either of us to need these devices, but, we do, and they are Godsends.
Before I got my hearing aids, I noticed that I was feeling disoriented and disconnected because I could not clearly hear what was going on around me. I found my usually pretty extraverted self becoming more introverted and isolated. It was stressful to go to restaurants and try to hear the conversation among friends at the dinner table. In conference environments like this one, I was grateful for overheads, handouts, microphones, front row seats, and speakers who projected their voices. We in the community of people with diminished hearing find ways to compensate for our loss, or we don’t. When I first started losing my hearing, it was a temptation to withdraw and watch videos with subtitles and avoid social outings in noisy places.
I guess the worst part of losing part of my range of hearing was annoying my friends by constantly saying, “What? What? What?” or by just tuning out because I couldn’t understand them well enough to hold a conversation. Unfortunately, one of those sweet, soft-spoken people in my life is my husband; however, he is very spiritual and very conscientious and he has lovingly learned, over time, to look at me when he talks to me so I can see his mouth moving, to speak up and amplify his voice (he’s a long-time bodyworker and is used to speaking in what we call a “spa voice,” i.e., very soothing and quiet, which is comforting, but hard to hear). I love the sound of his voice and we have worked together to make this facet of our relationship work well for both of us. He’s conscious of the importance of getting my attention before he starts telling me his long, wonderful stories of the days he lived and worked at the Esalen Institute in California, and at other times too. It is kind of him to be sure that we are in the same room when he starts talking instead of trying to communicate upstairs/downstairs with someone who is hard of hearing. Being in a car and talking can be a challenge for someone who has lost some hearing; the road noise and the car radio can quickly drown a conversation. So, my husband and I usually drive without the radio on when we are together, unless we are on a long road trip and then we put in some good tunes and enjoy the music together.
Back to the conference…. One of the most profound and inspiring people I met at that oncology conference in Houston many years ago was my dear friend Guruatma. We met, connected rights away, and I took some pictures of her with her friends at the conference. She and I talked about her friend who was there to take notes for her so she could absorb the details of the conference. She told me how she lost her hearing and how she made the best of that situation. Her story is remarkable. I was in total awe of this magnificent woman. I knew that SHE was the reason I was at the conference. God had guided me into her path for a reason. One of the things I remember most is that she told me about a FM System with a microphone that I could get and put in the center of the table at a restaurant or on the podium at a workshop that would help amplify the sounds. It connected to the blue tooth in my hearing aid. Restaurants are hard for people who suffered a hearing loss because hearing aids amplify ALL of the sounds, including those of the clanging dishes and the conversations around the room. I found Guruatma’s cheerful and spiritual approach to life, and to hearing (and not hearing) inspiring.
When I first began losing my hearing, I explored many different avenues attempting to get help, and was frustrated with the lack of support I found in Texas and nationally. I was deeply disappointed to discover that Medicare does not cover hearing aids and many insurance companies do not cover hearing aids. It seems all wrong to me that Medicare does not support the aging population in their desire to hear as well as possible into their golden years. Just when we need support the most, it seemed to be unavailable.
Then a very close friend of mine, Rasa, told me about DARS. She had received benefits from DARS for retraining in the workforce and found their services very beneficial and she said the people were very kind, understanding and supportive. DARS is an an acronym the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services in Texas. I poked around through the bureaucracy for a couple of weeks and discovered a delightful woman named Kursten, who is the DARS representative for people who need hearing aids. She is wonderful. Her office was warm and inviting and she made eye contact when she talked to me and, most of all, she understood. I remember feeling that it was such a blessing to be treated with respect and dignity. She said that the role of DARS is to help people stay in the workplace and that since I am an educator and I need to be able to hear my students and converse with them, then I would qualify for the DARS hearing aid program. I was thrilled.
The next angel of light along my path to better hearing was Sangeeta, my audiologist. I really lucked out with her! She was working on her Ph.D. in audiology at the University of Texas and teaching there too. She and I clicked. The doctor she works with is very nice too and he patiently explained how hearing loss occurs and he provided information about tinnitus. Sangeeta ran a battery of tests and talked to me about various choices in hearing devices (and there are a mind boggling array of choices) and fitted me with some Oticon hearing aids. She showed me how to use them, adjusted them for me, and gave me instructors about their upkeep. I was on top of the world. I could actually hear well again. Sangeeta and I still stay in touch. She has her doctorate now and she is still teaching at UT. What a great stroke of luck to meet someone who was so in tune with the latest and greatest in the hearing aid world. I couldn’t have felt more fortunate!
My hearing loss is not as profound as my dear friend Guruatma’s. I only have a partial loss of hearing; I can actually hear without my hearing aids, but many times the voices are muffled or unclear. It is also hard for me to judge the volume of my own voice when I can’t hear myself talking, so the hearing aids help in that respect too.
When Guruatma told me about her cochlear implant, I jumped for joy! I did a major happy dance in my living room. If I could have turned triple summersaults, I would have! In my own small way, I could relate to her radiant delight in being able to hear. What a true blessing that is – to be able to hear the gurgling brook, the sounds of the birds, the murmur of the breeze, the lovely music, and the sounds of my loved ones speaking – all blessings to be sure!
Imagine a world without sound, or with muffled sounds, and then, through the grace of God and the love of the divine, to be able recover the great pleasure of being able to hear.
I read one day that being able to hear increases cognitive function and reduces stress, so if you can benefit from hearing aids, wear them. I really wanted to jump on that band wagon. I thought about the article that I read and it does make sense that if the brain is distracted by trying to constantly decipher what is being said and what is going on in the world, that it would be stress provoking. That motivates me to wear my hearing aids as much as possible and also to protect my hearing when I go to the gym and the instructors turn the music up full volume. You will recognize me at the gym, I’m the one with the ear plugs in as far away from the speakers as possible! Mostly, though, I do quiet work, sitting at my home on Grace Lane, where I interface with my online students via e-mail, write books, assemble my photographs, and walk in the woods behind my house. I love to travel and that experience is much more pleasant now that I have my hearing aids. I can enjoy the sounds of nature and the sounds of new friends along the path as I travel. It is a beautiful life, and I am truly blessed.
Another thing that I love very much is the sound of the gong. That is a musical instrument that I can hear very well without my hearing aids. Guruatma is a vital part of the kundalini yoga community that utilizes gong yoga for meditative practices and we share the passion for and bliss of the gong. For me, the vibratory patterns of the gong offer deep level healing and restoration. The gongs offer an opportunity to go deep within to that still, small place at the very core of our being to a place of bliss and peace. I love the variety of rhythms, tones, patterns, and power created through the dynamic energy of a gong being stroked by a mallet. It was kind of humorous for me going to a gong yoga workshop. I had to turn my hearing aids up to hear the teacher talk and then turn my hearing aids down when we played the gongs. Thank God my hearing aids are adjustable! That’s a blessing too. There is a dial on the right side to turn the hearing aids up and a dial on the left side to turn the volume down. Clever, these devices. More than clever, really, they are created by geniuses. Hearing aids that are this technology advanced have not really been available to previous generations. I am fortunate to be alive during this period of great technological advancement and grateful to be connected directly and indirectly to people who make it possible for someone like me who experiences diminished hearing to be able to hear well again. It is nothing short of miraculous.
Being able to hear without straining has been a huge blessing in my life. My husband and my friends and I enjoy our conversations, I stay connected to the universe, and I feel more of a part of all that is around me in the hearing world. It is like living inside of a prayer and I am very grateful and I am grateful for my dear friend Guruatma who inspires me every day with her strength, her preservance, her resilience, and her dedication to the spiritual path. She is my role model and my spiritual sister and I thank God every day for her presence in my life. The beauty of our connection shines brightly in my heart.
Ariana Vincent, LMT, MTI, NCTMB is the CEO and Founder of Ariana Institute. She is a Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Continuing Education Provider (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork) in Austin, Texas. She is an approved continuing education provider throughout the United States. Ariana has been a Massage Therapy Instructor and a Continuing Education Provider for 13 years. She has been a Licensed Massage Therapist for 31 years. As a Certified Massage Therapy Instructor and Continuing Education Provider, Ariana offers a wide variety of seminars and workshops.
Guruatma serves as a mentor for those who suffer from chronic or critical illness, as well as their family members. To inquire about or schedule a one-on-one session, click here: http://yogic-tools.com/services/contact-us/.