21 July, 2014
02 June, 2014
Welcome to June, dear readers! I hope this glorious Spring is treating you well: filling your hearts, lifting your spirits and warming your cockles. Here in the American South we’ve been having a beautifully drawn-out sweet and temperate Springtime. What good fortune we are having!
The month of May found me cultivating my meditation practice, as you may recall. This resolution – while perennially difficult for me – has proven to be much more attainable than expected. I have managed to sit for my practice most days this month. And I’ve not really felt guilty about the days I didn’t sit, but I did, strangely, miss the experience on those days. I have discovered that evening meditations work best for me right now. In the past, I always tried to practice meditation in the mornings after waking, and with mixed results. However, meditating just before bed is proving a welcomed addition to my nighttime routine. It allows me to soften my mind and body in preparation for sleep.
In an effort to keep myself from getting too “thinky” about the practice, I have only been asking myself to sit down and count out 50 breaths. I have a pretty slow breathing pace, so this allows me a decent amount of time ‘on the cushion’ for my practice. I do hope to eventually add more breaths/time, but for now, this seems to be sufficient for me to feel benefits and to still feel like I can sustain the practice without too much effort.
I have noticed that I am drifting into sleep much more easily and comfortably. (However, my sleep, once I’m in it, is still fraught with physical discomfort and crazy dreaming. Will have to figure out how to address that at some point, but that will have to be left for another blog entry.) I have also been experiencing some pretty auspicious emotional shifts happening. I don’t attribute these solely to the meditation practice, but I think the practice is definitely playing an important role. I will talk more on that later. I’m also feeling like I have a much calmer internal sea; much more equanimity. There may be some emotional debris bubbling to my surface, but deep underneath all that is a new stillness and serenity. It sounds a little hokey when I type it out here, but I don’t know any other way to describe it. I believe those moments I’m spending in mediation are directly contributing to the well of contentment, and that is motivation enough to keep up the practice.
June’s resolution is one that I feel would be well applied to the lives of most modern Americans: Give myself days off of work and don’t work on those days. Sounds simple enough, sure. But, in practice, this can be a nearly impossible feat for many of us. In fact, the timing couldn’t be better on this resolution. Just last month I made the decision to add an extra day of work to my schedule. I was already scheduled to what I believed to be my maximum number of client hours in a week, but I was feeling concerned about money (thank you, IRS), so thought I’d try working a little more. Surely I’d be able to do that – work one more day a week … just for a few hours … no problem! Well, as it turns out, it is a problem. So, a few days ago, I changed my schedule back to the old one. The moment I did that I felt a weight lift from my heart and from my shoulder girdle. Whew! Just adding that one day a week to work had increased my stress levels, dramatically decreased the quality of my sleep, affected my ability to make the best food choices for myself, roused an old muscular injury (which is still not ironed out), and made me feel so exhausted and overwhelmed that I found myself just wanting to crawl into a hole to get away from it all. No good! And … No more! I’m back on a schedule that my body, mind and spirit can handle. And, in the spirit of June’s resolution, I am not going to plan too much drudgery on the days when I’m not at my job. Instead, I’m going to do things that make me feel good. Brilliant plan! I encourage you to try it, too! I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
Well, that’s it for now, superstars! Today’s a day off for me, so I’m going to wrap this up and go enjoy the rest of this beautiful Sunday afternoon. I hope you do, too!
07 May, 2014
09 April, 2014
If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that I have spent the last two months working a fairly restrictive elimination diet. (You can find more information on the specifics of that journey here, here, here and here.) My goal in doing so was to actively foster an improved state of health. It has been such an informative, inspiring and surprising journey. My body has gone through numerous cycles of detoxifying healings, and is continuing to do so. You can read (or re-read) about some of that here. I have been experiencing a renewed and stronger connection to my body since instating these changes in my life. In fact, I am much more able to receive – and to honour - the messages that my body is sending me. The surprising piece of this process is learning what my body is asking of me.
I first began to take notice of a real shift in my mind-body conversation when I realized that the longer I abstained physically from certain foods, the less powerful my emotional bonds to those foods became. Prime examples: Coffee, booze, ice cream. These things have long held a strong Romantic association for me.
The sweetness of a quiet morning curled up with a rich, bitter cup of coffee. Coffee became symbolic of the luxury of simple, uninterrupted downtime with my Self.
Communal imbibing of wine or cocktails with friends. This experience validated my sense of community and belonging, the deep need for connection with others.
The rich, delicious comfort of a thick spoonful of gelato on a balmy, wistful evening. Ice cream has often provided feelings of comfort during moments of melancholy, or reward for some kind of accomplishment. These are just some of the food associations that have long driven my dietary choices.
This is how my relationship with food has been as long as I can remember it: emotionally driven. Suddenly removing these emotionally linked foods from my diet has helped to break the enchantments of the psychological connections as well. Suddenly, my body is less swayed by my mind. Instead of feeding my emotional hunger, I am finding it much more enjoyable to feed my physical hunger. And feeding my physical hunger makes me feel better. It gives me more energy in the morning, so that I am much more likely to enjoy my quiet morning in meditation or exercising or even enjoying a hot cup of herbal tea which gives my body natural healing medicine making my time with my Self much more fulfilling and luxurious. It allows me to be less brain fuzzy and more present in my interactions with friends so that I am able to spend more quality time having real exchanges with people rather than forging superficial relationships around food and drink. It allows me to find comfort in the elemental sensations of the balmy evening – the breeze on my skin, the scent on the breeze, the way the moonlight caresses the blossoms on the branch – without the awful after-effects of digestive discomfort. And, as a result, I am finding new, healthier ways of rewarding myself for accomplishments. (I plan to post more about that in future.) Plus … it’s a heckuva lot easier on the old pocketbook! Maintaining coffee, booze, and ice cream habits can be expensive!
The second time I became aware that big changes were afoot in my body was one unassuming day at work. I ate a handful of dry roasted mixed nuts only to find my taste for them had completely diminished. Anyone in my family can tell you that I have long been a fan of dry roasted mixed nuts. My dad and I used to gobble them by the handful and would sometimes polish off a couple large canisters in one sitting. So, you might imagine my surprise when I discovered my taste buds were breaking up with roasted nuts. Suddenly, eating these cooked and salted nuts ceased tasting like warm delicious treats, and now tasted like edible death. Strange, but true. It was like each nut was a little decaying carcass with no life, no energy, and I was using it to try to nourish my body. What used to seem so natural and delicious and even healthy, suddenly seemed completely absurd. How could I expect to have this deadened, cooked and salt-laden food provide living energy for my body? I had never really considered the implications of using dead organic matter to fuel my living body. And, strangely, I am still only wrapping my head around the notion. I am someone who spends many, many hours pondering food and health and natural living, and I have never once before now even considered that eating dead things might not be the best way to keep my living body functioning optimally. Food for thought, most definitely.
Even after that singular realization, I stayed true to the diet I’d laid out for myself for the month. During that time, as is often the case, I was doing a fair bit of general internet searching on health/wellness and natural living. I found myself drawn to more and more sites powered by proponents of a low fat, high carbohydrate, raw vegan lifestyle. I was not searching specifically for this kind of information, nor was diet the primary focus of these sites. But as I kept reading and researching, some of the dietary information was making good sense to me. What was even more interesting, was that I could feel my body responding to the information at the cellular level. (Yep, I know that’s a really New Age-y thing to say, but it’s the only way I know how to describe what I felt.)
As my body seemed to be responding to these ideas, I began to actively seek out more information on this way of eating. My brain was continuing to resist the notion of limiting fats and restricting meats, but my body seemed to be almost yearning for it. So, I decided to bridge the gap and commit to a compromise: I will be transitioning to a one month experiment on a low fat, high carb, raw vegan diet, and I’ll see how my body responds to it.
I am currently practicing a “raw until 4” regimen, where I eat mostly or only fruits until 4pm. After 4pm, I allow myself to have cooked foods, but opt for lighter cooking methods like steaming or light sautéing or gentle baking, along with big leafy vegetable-rich salads. My goal is to ease myself to a completely raw situation by April 15, and to maintain it for one month. Then, I’ll reassess at the end of the month and see how I feel.
While I’ve only been doing this for about a week, so far I’m feeling great. My body is continuing to detoxify itself, and I’m feeling lighter and clearer already. I finally purchased a Vitamix blender, which should help exponentially in making juices, smoothies, soups and sauces. It should be arriving in a couple days. (Special thanks to my mom and dad for their birthday generosity, which allowed me to make that purchase!)
There are many different ways of eating raw and vegan. I am choosing to follow the 80/10/10 version pioneered by Dr. Douglas Graham. I find Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram’s website, fullyraw.com, lays everything out in a way that really makes sense to me and makes the information accessible and non-threatening for newbies like myself. The FAQ page, especially, has been really useful for me. If you would like more information on what this way of eating actually is, I would suggest spending some time perusing her site.
I would love to know if any of you have experimented with this style of raw vegan eating. Please feel encouraged to share your experiences in the comments section below. Also, if any of you are interested in joining me for this experiment, comment or message me. Experiments are more fun with more people!
I hope you are all enjoying your own journeys to health and vitality. May this gorgeous Spring season rejuvenate and invigorate you!
26 March, 2014
Today I’d like to share how my elimination diet experience is going, as well as what I am doing to support the overall healing of my Self during this process. I should first probably mention that this experiment, which just began as a simple elimination diet to reset my digestive system, is becoming something so much bigger and more profound as I continue to experience new sensations and awakenings, and to learn more about the many different ways to heal and support healing in my body, mind and spirit. What began as unpleasant drudgery is more and more becoming exciting revitalization and restoration. And no one could be more surprised about this shift in the experiment than I am.
Despite being a longtime student and proponent of holistic healing, it seems I am only now “showing up” and really walking my talk rather than sputtering so much rhetoric. My past is filled with examples of this unintentional hypocrisy. I smoked cigarettes for years – even while I was practicing yoga and massage therapy. (Gasp! Yes, it’s true. I admit it begrudgingly to make a point.) I started fitness plans that I never completed. (Can anyone identify?) I offered loads of simplified, healing wisdom to my clients, but often fell short of incorporating that wisdom into my own life. (Naughty, naughty!) Oh sure, I had my toes in the waters, but I never had the courage or the self respect to just dive in and swim. But, now, it seems, I’ve finally taken the plunge. And it's delicious!
In my last post I mentioned that I was going to continue the elimination diet through the month of March as I felt I still had healing to do. And I was right. Soon after that posting I underwent a second wave of detox symptoms. This round was slightly less intense than the first, but no less real. As this round of symptoms started to die down, I made the decision [finally!] to kick the elimination diet up a notch by eliminating all fruits. Yikes! I knew all along that I really should eliminate fruits from my diet as I am consistently plagued by candida overgrowth*, but I really, really didn’t want to do it. But ... I did it anyway. I’ve been fruit free since Monday, 17 March, and, so far, it’s not so bad. Don’t get me wrong: I miss fruit. I miss it a lot. But I’m managing okay without it ... for now. And that’s how I’m supporting myself when I feel like tackling the fruit vendor in the market for just one little berry: I’m reminding myself that this is a temporary gig. I will have fruit again. And when I do, I will be healthier, and the fruit will be even sweeter … and it will be better for my body. It’s win-win!
When the fruit left my diet it was replaced with another round of detox symptoms. (Further proof that I made the right decision.) These are slowly starting to lessen in intensity and number, and I’m feeling even better than ever. I’m only asking myself to be fruit free through the rest of the month of March, so only one more week to go. I can certainly do that!
In support of my transition during this experiment, I’ve also been experimenting with various healing home practices and supplements. I’m starting small, implementing a few things at a time, and hoping to build these practices into an actual holistic vitality-inducing lifestyle that will support me indefinitely. Below I’ve written about some of the things I’ve already started adding in to my daily routine, but others I’ll post about as I incorporate them, so stay tuned. I’d also love to hear about the things you do to support your Self in everyday life. Just leave a comment with your favorite practices and/or supplements below.
|image via wkdg.com|
SLEEP: First of all, I’m trying to get more of it. Generally, I have always been a person who does best with around 9 hours of sleep. However, that may be relative to the state of candida in my body, so we’ll see if that changes. My goal right now is to try to reset my schedule in such a way that I am pretty regularly going to sleep and waking at the same time everyday. My work schedule doesn’t change until April, and even then it’s going to be a bit of a challenge on certain days, but I’m going for overall consistency, not militant regimentation. I’m also trying to prepare my body-mind-spirit for sleep by creating some evening rituals like stretching/yoga asanas, anointing my Self with essential oils, and giving my Self a Reiki treatment while listening to soothing music and burning incense. So far, it’s working pretty well. While I don’t get to do all these rituals every night, I try to do at least something – even if it’s one small thing, like breathing in some essential oil before hitting the pillow - to cue my Self that it’s time for sleep. These evening rituals just feel so luxurious, and remind me that I am divinity in human form. I have an obligation to care for my Self in a way that reflects that.
|image via essentialsurvival.org|
ORAL CARE: Okay, I am going to have to make a confession here. While I always brush my teeth, I have, my whole life, been horrible at flossing. In fact, I rarely give much thought to oral care. I’m lucky that I am predisposed to healthy teeth and gums, but I am learning more and more about the importance of oral care, and how it relates to the whole body’s health, so I’m trying to make holistic oral care a priority. I’ve been making my own dentifrice for a long while now, so that’s taken care of. I am now implementing an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse following brushing. It’s kind of fun as the collision of acid from the vinegar and alkalinity from the baking soda [of the tooth powder] create a fizzing action in the mouth. It helps to remove plaque and freshens the mouth beautifully. This is a great video from Living Libations that explains the process. (You can ignore the pitch for their products if you like, but, as an aside, they have some really great quality products available.)
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Then, in the morning, I scrape my tongue to remove toxins released during sleep. In the evening, I am, you guessed it, flossing. *sigh* I don’t enjoy doing it, but it’s necessary, and my teeth and gums feel better when I do it. That’s going to have to be motivation enough for now. To give the flossing an extra boost of healing oomph, I am coating the floss in [safe for consumption] essential oils. I’m also rubbing this essential oil blend over my gums morning and night. I’m lucky that a local shop here in Durham carries locally made Thieves style essential oil blends that are safe for consumption. This product is a great comparable option, too, though, if you’d rather.
|image via youngandraw.com|
BODY SKIN: Three words: Dry. Skin. Brushing. I’ve been a fan of this practice for years and years, but I often get busy and forget to actually do it. No more excuses! I’m brushing my body regularly! Sometimes I’ll do a wet brushing in place of the dry, but I’m focusing more on the dry brushing to stimulate my lymph system as well as exfoliate my skin. I’m also taking regular hydrotherapy in the form of aromatherapy baths, milk baths and salt baths, and am trying to be better about moisturizing my body skin with natural oils.
|image via myyogaonline.com|
MISCELLANEOUS HEALING PRACTICES: I’m working a couple of the following practices into each day. I listen to my body and let it tell me which practices it needs on any given day.
My sinuses have been a little cranky what with all this crazy fluctuating weather, the first signs of spring pollen and grasses, not to mention the clearing reactions from the healing work, so I’ve been trying to use my neti pot more regularly. I’m currently just doing a classical sea salt nasal douching, but I may move on to some more specific rinses if the impetus arises, using either milk or herbal teas.
I’m trying to spend a little time every day or at least most every day practicing some pranayama. Pranayama is essentially a practice of breathing exercises. I’m keeping it simple here at the start, as pranayama is one of those things that I believe in, but find very difficult to commit to practicing regularly, so I don’t want to make it a big deal. Let’s just keep it easy and relaxed and maybe it won’t seem like drudgery. I’m working with alternate nostril breathing, kapalabhati breath, and 1-4-2 breathing, though not all at the same sitting. I’ll try to write more about these breathing techniques in an upcoming blog post.
This past weekend, my friend and colleague, Caroline, and I went to Asheville for Level 1 and Level 2 Reiki attunements. It was a wonderful experience. I’ve been interested in Reiki since even before my massage therapy training, but it never seemed the right time to do the training. Thankfully, the stars finally aligned, and now I’m an official Reiki practitioner. As a way to both practice my new craft and to support my healing journey, I’m performing Reiki on my Self every day.
And then there’s nauli kriya. Nauli is a yoga kriya, which is basically a practice used to strengthen and cleanse the body to make it ready for spiritual work. Nauli kriya is also known as abdominal churning. Having a long history of abdominal dysfunction and inefficiency, I have also had a fascination with, and resistance toward, nauli practice lasting me a decade and a half. It’s finally time I jump on that horse’s back and take to riding. So, I’m starting a nauli practice with teeny tiny baby steps and am looking forward to a tortoise’s journey of victories with it. I’ll try to post more about nauli again in future, but here’s a great video about it if you’re interested.
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|image via biosanctuary.com|
SUPPLEMENTS: I’m taking Vitamin C in relatively high doses – a heaping teaspoon before every meal and at bedtime, cut with a ½ t. of baking soda. I’m also continuing to take my probiotics and triphala for digestive health, and the Chinese herbs my acupuncturist gave me for my nasal issues. (Once these herbs are finished, I’ll be switching over to some Chinese herbs more specifically for candida control.) I drink Chlorophyll every morning and every evening. I’ve also just introduced maca root and raw cacao powder into the mix. Maca is a superfood that helps support energy levels. Raw cacao has a host of benefits, chief among them are its high antioxidant and mineral levels, mood-enhancing effects, and energy boosting qualities. Please note that I am talking about raw unprocessed cacao here, not processed cocoa. I'm sneaking bentonite clay into my diet in small amounts to act as a chelator for heavy metals and other toxins. Lastly, I’m drinking daily shots of aloe vera juice to support healthy digestion and to help heal and repair the inflammation of my gut linings.
There are several other supplements that I will be introducing as soon as I can afford to add them in. Unfortunately, these healing foods and supplements aren’t cheap. But, my health is worth it, so I’ll add them in as I can. I’ll write more about these as I start using them, but you can expect to see things like medicinal mushrooms, velvet antler, pine pollen, high antioxidant berries like camu and goji (when I’m doing fruit again), chlorella, and other such healing superfoods.
|image via news.brown.edu|
MOVEMENT: I’m still doing the Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis matwork 5 days a week with my friend, Katy, and have added 30 minutes of rebounder cardio work on those days. Plus, I have the added benefit of walking everywhere I go. (Reason #21 to get rid of your car: It’s great for your body-mind-spirit – built in exercise, sunshine and fresh air! Actually, that’s three reasons.) There’s the evening stretching, too, which I intend to turn into a more formal yoga practice as my schedule becomes a little more integrated.
So, there you have it. The next phase of this journey is taking shape and I’m feeling really good about it. I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever tried any of these practices or supplements? Do you have any favorites that weren’t mentioned here? Leave a comment, let’s discuss! It really does take a village to live a full and productive life, and you are part of my village. I welcome your wisdom.
Hoping you are all having a beautiful transition to Spring!
|image via richardpeters.co.uk|
*Note: The article linked here was chosen for its universality in language, meaning it uses terms and practices that most Americans understand, and that fit in with our current health care paradigm here in the United States. I actually believe that the treatments suggested here are much too lenient to actually heal a candida overgrowth that has been present in any body for any significant length of time, so I do not necessarily condone this treatment. However, if it feels appropriate for you at this time, then please feel free to explore it, and let me know how it works for you.