Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Picking Up the Pieces

Hurricane Sandy has left quite a mess in her wake. Some areas have less damage than others, and some are still struggling with the storm itself as this is being written. 

Once the storm has passed, there is always some clean-up. In the case of a hurricane, personal lives meet Mother Nature...people may have lost loved ones, have damaged homes and communities, or have lost animals to the storm. Things have changed. Change is really the only constant we can count on here in this life.

What matters now is how we move forward. Whether we survived intact or had great loss, we can get through this together. Natural disasters have a way of helping us to open our hearts and feel compassion for one another. We check on neighbors, help our communities clean up, and make donations for others in need. We step up and really become the best we can be, caring for one another openly, no matter who they are.

Then typically, our lives return to "normal" and we resume our activities as before the storm. 

I offer a post-Sandy challenge: to remember what was most important to us when we were concerned about our survival. What was critical to take care of? Who were we worried about? Who did we offer prayers and positive thoughts for? 

I would challenge us all to allow our hearts to remain open so that we can continue to be aware of what is really important in life and see those in need as we move forward in time. I would challenge us to release what we don't need anymore...we've had the chance to see what's really important over the past couple days. We have work to do, not just in our physical spaces, but in our hearts and heads too. I'd bet that most of us have been carrying around feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that don't really serve us, and in some cases, may have gotten in our way, hampering our ability to be the loving beings that we are.

I would further challenge us to choose leaders in the upcoming election who have open and compassionate hearts and work to meet the needs of all people. We've gotten to see our current leaders in action over the past few days. How did they do? Are the candidates who are up for election living heart-centered lives? Or are they making empty promises? We need to look at how they live, not just the words they offer us. If they weren't open-hearted, caring people who served others in meaningful ways before being elected, they're not going to do it when they get in office. 

Back to my own clean-up, then on to the community. Love and light to all affected by this storm. May our hearts remain open and everyone receive the support they need as we pick up the pieces.

And for the highest and greatest good, may we elect leaders who allow compassion and love to guide them in all things.

The skies are clearing, feel the light returning...


Monday, October 29, 2012

Weathering the Storm

Natural disasters have a way of getting our attention. If we're lucky enough to have a warning, we get to prepare, and it usually has us running around chaotically trying to organize what we need in anticipation of the event and fearing the worst.

It also brings an opportunity that we might not otherwise take time to do. We are forced to decide what is truly important to us in an impending disaster scenario. We get brought back to our core. We remember that people and our animals are what counts the most and what we need to take care of. We remember that water, food, shelter, and clothing are the critical needs. We get back to basics and leave the rest behind.

We begin to reach out to one another as we recognize that no one can weather a large storm alone, whether it's an event of Mother Nature's doing, or something difficult in our own lives. We need one another. The storms in our lives remind us of that, helping us open our hearts once again to compassion and the truth of what we really need to survive.

May this storm give you the space you need to see the amazing gifts you have in your life. Be grateful, hold your family and pets close, reach out to a neighbor, and work together. 

 Whatever the weather, we'll weather it together.  

Love and light to all,

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Treasure of the Past, Gift of the Moment, and the Wisdom of Grandmothers

I was cleaning out an old box today, and came across a graduation card my beloved grandmother gave me for my high school graduation 26 years ago. My grandmother passed away within a few months of my graduation, so seeing her signature there on the card today caught my breath. And then I read the words of the poem, and tears flowed freely.

I don't know that I truly grasped those words as a bright-eyed and naive young woman, but I do believe that the meaning was captured in my heart. My grandmother planted a seed, unbeknownst to me, perhaps as a last gift before her passing. Isn't it just like a grandmother to give you a treasure that gets buried deeply somewhere, only to be unearthed much later when you're ready to understand it in a whole new way? 

These words are as relevant now as they were then. What a gift to find this again today, and be able to share it with other women in my life. I honor the wisdom of my grandmother, the author of that beautiful poem, and all women, everywhere. May we all shine our light and love with the world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Art of Self-Care

 "Self-love, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting." ~William Shakespeare

 As the autumn moves along and the cooler weather saunters in, we start our journeys inside. This is the perfect time of year to start doing some extra self-care so that we can avoid the intrepid viruses and flu that come banging at our door as the holiday season approaches.

Our lives are so busy that we often neglect taking good care of ourselves. 

I don't know about anyone else, but my head tends to get full at this time of year from the return of school to the flurry of holidays on their way. I find myself running in circles at times, trying to tackle the stuff on my task list, but it feels like a juggling act where I'm never really quite sure which things are in the air until I've dropped one. I get forgetful, distracted, and very much like a squirrel trying to figure out where to hide her nuts. And somehow at the end of the day, I look at the task list that has nothing checked off, but I know I've been truly busy. It leaves me scratching my head and wondering what I did all day.

Then I start to get the fall sinus congestion, which is in part due to allergies, but it's a reminder for me to step back and anchor my self-care routine. I've come to realize over the years that sinus congestion for me means that my head is full of too much junk, and I need to empty it.

A brief daily routine is just the trick to return me to balance, and it's MEGA important: Meditation, Exercise, and Gratitude for All. It anchors me in every way that I need it. It doesn't have to be complicated or long, but these few moments are critical. When I allow myself to do this simple care routine, everything else falls in place naturally. There's no struggle with anything, because my mind is at peace and able to handle any challenges that come my way. My life is full of more joy when I've cared for myself.

Meditation is how I start and end my day. It can be a few moments or an hour. I start the day with gratitude for the blessings and lessons that have come my way and are continuing to come. Then I sit quietly, maybe playing some light music. As thoughts come, I acknowledge each one and then let them pass. I have a notebook handy in case I remember something critical or need to journal. As I acknowledge and release the thoughts, my head and heart clear, and I feel more at peace to meet my day. At the end of the day, I do the same routine. These few moments of self-care help me find my center, be at peace after a long day, and make a good transition for sleep.

Exercise helps keep me flowing. I hesitate to call it exercise, because for me that word conjures up visions of trying to keep up with Joanie Greggain's oldies workout when I was a teenager, always feeling completely inadequate and awkward. What I really mean is movement. Moving my body in some way each day, even if it's only a few moments of yoga or stretching, releases tension and helps the lymph system do it's job to keep my immune system in top shape. We are not designed to sit all the time. Muscles that are not used become weak and stagnant, and stagnation leads to illness. No thanks! I'd rather give myself 15-30 minutes a day of some self-care than several days in bed with the flu.

Gratitude for All...I make an effort to be thankful throughout my day for everything. Yes, even the things that go wrong. There is a lesson in every challenge, and there is so much amazing goodness on this planet - people, wildlife, beauty - if we just take a moment to see it. Being grateful helps me change my perspective when I get stuck in anger, fatigue, frustration, etc., allowing me to regain my center and choose to do something more effective with the situation in front of me than be upset.

I find a few other things also help at this time of year. Soups and stews with root vegetables and dark leafy greens support our bodies, warming and nourishing us from the inside-out. And plenty of water! It helps moisten our organs to keep things flowing and helps our skin from getting dried out. And if we can end our days and head for bed a little earlier, it would be beneficial to try and get a little more sleep. Our bodies crave it as we head into late fall and winter.

Self-care is how we nourish and strengthen ourselves so we can be at our best and able to do what we want in our lives. If we don't take the time to do it on a regular basis, our bodies will give us the time-out we need. Self-care is not selfish; it's self-sustaining. If we want to do things for others, we need to care for ourselves respectfully first. If we don't respect ourselves and our own needs, we can't give that same respect to others, and our words and actions will come from a place of disarray and disappointment. 

There are too many people and things out there to enjoy and love. If we're stuck in a place of dis-contentedness, then that's what life will serve up to us. A little self-care goes a long way to keeping us centered and choosing from a calm and conscious perspective.

Here's to an autumn filled with splendor and to a self-care routine that gives you the space to enjoy it!

And please see The Apothecary page if you're looking for some herbal support this season. :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Branching Out

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." ~Henry David Thoreau

Yeah, that. Wise words. Wonderful words. And scary.

I'm on the precipice, ready to jump, but not sure where I'll land. So many thoughts and feelings as I stand on the edge, ready to fly, knowing I've spent my life working to get to this time. 20 years in the making to follow my dream of a becoming a holistic wellness practitioner and writer.

But will I hit the cliff instead of flying? Will I get blown off-course by a shear wind? Or will my wings open gracefully, catching the current, sun glistening off my shimmering feathers?

Well, I won't know till I jump. So I'm jumping... 

Please check out "The Apothecary" page where I just posted some tidbits for Fall and Winter. This is just the beginning, I still have lots to do "officially", but wanted to start sharing some goodies as I hear people coughing and sneezing around me. *Bless you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Blame Game, the Ugly Truth, and Ascent from the Pit

A bit of a rant, but please stick around to the end. It gets better. :)

The American culture is in a state of transition, and there is plenty of blame to go around for everything that is out of balance, from the economy to education to energy resources, etc.

Guess what? We're all to blame for what's not working. Every single one of us. If we didn't do it, we allowed stuff to happen. We all played a role here - we co-created the culture we now have.

And what do we have? 

A broken economy. Debt from war we had no place in. We're raping the earth for finite resources that will not sustain us. We're sick from stress-related diseases. We have a broken education system where the teachers are blamed for its failure. We have endeared a culture where both parents now have to work in order to make ends meet, so keeping up with family life and having the energy and time to love and care for our children in the way we want and should is nearly impossible. Our children are falling through the cracks. Parents are overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, and heartbroken. Teachers are as well. We created this culture. 

We have no one to blame but ourselves. We've been asleep. We've given our power to individuals and groups who instead of serving the greater good have served themselves. We bought what they were selling - lock, stock, and barrel. We stopped holding those accountable in positions of power. We somehow believed we didn't have the power to make change happen...it wasn't worth the cost. We began to fear speaking out against things we knew weren't right. 

Somehow, money became our god, and our lives began to revolve around it, creating fear of leaving a job where we were treated abysmally. Fear of taking time off because we or our kids were ill. Money has been held above us as a carrot to keep us motivated to work hard and long hours at jobs we don't like at the expense of our families and personal health. 

I don't know about anyone else, but this is not my version of the American dream.

I would venture a guess that most of us want balance with our families, dependable jobs that we like and where we're treated with respect, an education system that is flexible and can meet the needs of all our children, the opportunity for religious and spiritual practices that do not harm others, and a government that serves all the people.

We need to unify. We need to come together, set our egos aside, and find a better way. We have gotten to a place where I don't think anyone is truly happy. The people at the "top" are in fear of losing all they have. The people at the "bottom" have nothing to lose. Those in the middle are stuck in the muck, trying to find balance for all.

The way we get out of this is by starting to live by making heart-centered choices, which stem from LOVE. I truly believe this is how we can save ourselves, because this is the only thing I've seen work over and over again. When we make decisions from the standpoint of Love, no one gets hurt. We all can have what we need, and then some. Heart-centered choices have us aligning with things we love, allowing compassion to guide our decisions so that everyone gets what we need. A simple answer for a complex problem.

But Love is not easy. It's way harder than fighting. Loving others means we have to set aside our egos and selfish desires. And that right there, is some hard work. But we humans are amazing creatures, and we Americans can do the hard work - we've always done it. We are better than we have been behaving. We can turn this around. 

It starts with each one of us. You don't have the change the world, just start with yourself. We start by making loving choices in our lives...shifting our thoughts and words and actions. We need to work together and seek out what we have in common rather than focusing on our differences. 

What do we have in common? We all love our children and want the best for them. We all want the means to feed, clothe, and shelter our families. We all want reliable energy sources that are sustainable. We all want freedom. We need to be free to express ourselves in every way and not feel oppressed by anyone else. If your choice results in hurting another or making someone feel separate, it's not from the heart and it's not Love.

I'm talking about an overhaul here...we need to shift. We can do this. I know it, I feel it. 

We're pretty much at the bottom of the pit from my perspective. And that's a good thing, because it means we have to be creative to get ourselves out of it. The old ways stopped working, so now we have an opportunity to try new things. And if they fail? We get back up and try again. That's the American dream.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Heart-Centered Healing

My attention has been drawn lately to those who are living with debilitating chronic health conditions. The pain and immense change to their lives has been nothing short of disturbing, and ailments like auto-immune disorders leave us at a loss for answers. Some symptoms can be controlled, but there seems to be very little healing going on. My heart goes out to those who suffer in this manner, and I'm wondering how we can begin to approach healing in our culture a little differently. I think we're missing something. 

We are complex beings and everything in our lives and bodies is integrated. When we compartmentalize and try to separate out our health from our job, family, friends, environment, etc., we do a disservice to ourselves, and we are incomplete. We are related to everything in our world...our health, our family, our jobs, our planet. All are connected. 

If we are to be well, we need to address all our needs: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. And by spiritual, I don’t necessarily mean religion – I mean our beliefs and how we see ourselves fitting into the whole. Our beliefs give our life structure, governing our perceptions, and it is from this point where we choose our life.

When we are ill, injured, heartbroken, or stressed, we tend to want a magic pill to fix things so we can just keep on doing what we were doing and get back to our lives.  We’ve lost the ability to recognize that our body is telling us we’re out of balance somewhere and that we need to honor the time-out. Sometimes our body forces us to step back and do self-care because we won't stop otherwise. The time-out is for us to retreat, reflect, and recover. An illness is an opportunity, and a lesson I've repeated more than a few times myself.

So thus we turn to “medicine”, which can be very powerful if we connect with the right remedy. Medicine is more than something we take or have done to us - medicine comes to us in many ways. Sometimes it’s the neighbor who takes a few minutes to check in on us when they haven’t seen us lately, sometimes it’s the friend who stands by us when our world is falling apart, and other times it’s the sunny sky and fresh air that provide the needed balm. Medicine comes in many forms, and we all need something different at different times. We are each unique, and therefore, our “medicine” must be unique as well.

Medicine is that which helps us to heal. It may be a person, an herb, a drug, a procedure, a walk outside, a wholesome meal, music, or a host of other things that nourish and rejuvenate us on several levels. What we need to realize is that we are whole beings, and medicine is not just about what we ingest to clear an infection, it is also about the support (or lack of it) we receive during illness and how we care for ourselves. Sometimes part of the medicine is realizing that we don’t have a good support structure in our lives or we’re in a job or activities that don't provide balance for our family and we need to make some changes. Other times, we get to see the gifts of wonderful family, friends, and colleagues who help us recover. Our time-out is an opportunity to reflect...what have we not been paying attention to and what do we need to change?

The right medicine is transformational. It helps us transform that which was out of balance physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. There are gifts within the retreat of illness, whether the symptoms lie in our body, mind, or heart.  Reflection gives us the chance to check in with our spirit – our belief system – and see if we need to make any updates. Sometimes we structure our beliefs in such a way that we’ve placed ourselves right into a corner. That doesn’t give us very much room to grow, and stagnation leads to sickness.

The journey to wellness can be a long and arduous one at times. Healing requires us to change in some way. And far too often, we view the change that we need to make as more painful than the symptoms we're experiencing. That kind of thinking keeps us trapped and we'll find ourselves right back where we started. We keep ourselves in the corner.

The people who I’ve seen recover over the years are the ones who recognize that they are their own healer. They seek out those who can help them recover physically and mentally with western medicine, alternative medicine, or a combination. But they also re-evaluate their beliefs and learn who the people are in their lives that they can count on. They release relationships, jobs, activities, homes, or habits that no longer serve them or have been harmful. They have discovered that they are multi-faceted beings, and becoming well and balanced requires adjustments on many levels, not just one. They change their perceptions and they change their lives, letting their hearts lead. That is powerful medicine. I've watched people move from a very structured, inflexible and painful life to one of complete freedom and joy, even with physical disabilities. They might have been at the bottom of the pit before they realized what needed to change, but when they made that discovery, they lit up with a flame of passion and moved forward towards a better life.

We are each our own healer and have the power within us to be well and whole. When we choose our thoughts, words, and actions from our very center - our heart - we find the healer inside. When we choose healing practices and practitioners who feel right to us and listen to our concerns (whether they be from a medical or alternative model), we can truly begin the healing process. There are some of us who may never be "cured" on recover completely from disease, but we can come to a place where we accept ourselves as we are and recognize that we are more than a physical body. Our worth as humans is not in just our physical form.

Medicine is all around us...it’s the people who love us without any conditions. Nature, laughter, and gratitude are all healing partners. When we need outside support, we should seek someone who will help us, not a set of symptoms. We are sooo much more than that. The right medicine is integrated...it helps us heal our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits. There are many phenomenal practitioners out there who can help us. Doctors, chiropractors, dentists, counselors, herbalists, Reiki practitioners, massage therapists, and so many others are serving their communities from their hearts. 

If we take time to reflect on our lives and be truly honest with ourselves about what is out of balance, we can begin our healing journey. Being honest with ourselves is the hardest part. Making changes has it's challenges, but by following our hearts - what we feel and know to be right for us - is how we regain our health and wholeness. And that process will be different for each one of us, in a series of steps and often missteps along the way.

If we allow our hearts to lead and let our minds serve our hearts, we would find the healing we need, not only for us, but for our whole world. If something in our life doesn't feel right, it isn't. I've been fooled many times by my own logic, but I've yet to be failed by my heart and intuition.