Though we (your average liberals of various races and backgrounds) support taking down Confederate monuments, made donations to Standing Rock last year, and are in this slow but angry transition from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, on a city-by-city basis, most of us still choose to celebrate Thanksgiving even though we know the real history of it.Read More
A number of people I follow online, in both the healing arts and in entrepreneurship, have gone through substantial cycles of personal growth where they have been called to question everything. Where they have wondered, “What the f*** am I doing with my life?!” and they have shared their process publicly as they went through it.
When they share their unfolding process with some grace and with personal responsibility - which is admittedly, not always easy or even doable, in the moment - it is a precious thing, a thing of great value, for those who are reading their blogs, instagram posts, listening to their interview, etc.
It can seem like other people have it all together in a way that you don’t - because you know your own messy bullshit - and you probably don’t know their messy bullshit much, if at all. So when people share vulnerably about their process, especially while it is still in process, it shatters that illusion. It rips off the veil. And we see our own humanness in them, and that we are all in this thing together.
So...without further ado, let me share my recent messy bullshit with you, hopefully with some grace and personal responsibility:
To cut to the chase, Ayurveda is not what I thought it was. And if I knew then what I knew now, I would never, ever (ever) have gone to school to study it or shared it with others in the way that I have.
In a nutshell, I was under the impression that Ayurveda was a traditional healing system with universal application, which was shared in unbroken lineage from antiquity, and that it is and was being actively shared by the Indian people who stewarded that lineage and was some sort of ‘gift to humanity’. And that by studying and practicing it, I would be spreading the love and the light, I would be in integrity.
These things are not true.
The truth, as I understand it now, is that Ayurveda was an indigenous, pluralistic medicine from India which has a history about as long and convoluted as India itself, deeply tied up with the land and the people, deeply affected by British colonization and now, globalization and spiritual / medical tourism. Ayurveda became popular in the West (Europe, Australia, the US, Costa Rica, Brazil, and also Indonesia) among yoga aficionados and those seeking holistic health care that treats the whole person, seeking medicine which feels spiritual, seeking answers.
It’s a long story. One I don’t fully know but which I’m trying to learn. The upshot though, as I can see it, is that the Ayurveda being taught here in the West is the result of an attempt to turn an indigenous, land-based, pluralistic medicine into a system that can be picked up and placed anywhere on the Earth - and made to fit in with the beliefs and lifestyles of modern, new age-y white people like myself.
Scholars I am reading call it “Western New Age Ayurveda”, and it is really not much a part of that unbroken lineage in India, which actually does exist. I am learning that the lineage-holding Ayurvedic doctors in India receive little to no benefit from the global popularity of Ayurveda, and this “Western New Age Ayurveda” has been re-imported and sold to Indian people as their own medicine. So, to describe this situation, you could use that turn of phrase which I hear a lot these days: Ayurveda, as we know it, is pure cultural appropriation.
Its proponents claim to be a part of a lineage which they really aren’t a part of. They took a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a little bit of Ayurveda, and created their own thing - which is fine, I think, really - if they said that openly. But they don’t say that openly. They claim to be a part of a lineage they are not really in.
I’m going to write and speak about this more - I’m offering a free online class / conversation on Thursday, to start with - but I need to take a detour first and tell you why I came to Ayurveda, because none of this really makes sense until you know that piece:
I leapt whole-heartedly into Ayurveda to escape my own cultural wounding and lack of connection to a healing lineage.
It was a ten year detour in some ways. It didn’t work, could never work, because Ayurveda (and anything else from India) wasn’t mine. It wasn’t the thing which was missing. This wonderful medicine from India has graciously helped me with my digestion, my skin, my sleep, lots of things, and I feel quite grateful for all of that. BUT because it was not of my own culture, it never quite fit, and I came to know that more and more as I went deeper into its study and practice. Ayurveda could not heal the gaping wound in my heart from the loss of my own indigeneity. It could not help me recover from the very real loss of my own deep, land-based culture.
As a woman living on the land we now call America (on Otoe territory specifically, for much of my life), with ancestry primarily from Scotland and the surrounding island countries, my ancestors lives for a long time, back to the Roman Empire at least, were stories of forced migrations off of ancestral lands and out of tribal and village life, stories of the loss of our own medicine traditions, of language, of ceremony, of a reciprocal relationship with the Earth, and assimilation into capitalism and whiteness, of shifting identities of oppressed and oppressor.
My land and my culture gets stolen from me, so I steal your land and do what I want with your culture. A kill-or-be-killed land grab. Intergenerational trauma which has left us absolutely ravaged, to the point that I have heard people say, “But I don’t have a culture...I’m just white.”
That statement is so sad and weird and makes no sense at all, but I so get it. I have felt that lost and empty too. I write this knowing that some people reading this know a lot of this European and American history already. Many of the people closest to me always have been people of color, and since I have been having these conversations with you lately, you’ve been like, “Yes. Thank you for your awareness. I love you.” I am very humbled by this, by the knowledge that others close to me knew things about me which I did not know about myself, and you loved me anyway.
I realized why I had fallen in love with Ayurveda, and that it could never do for me what I wanted and needed, last Christmas. (So, 10 months ago as of this writing.) I realized it as I was sleeplessly writing one night, a lot on my heart and mind.
That night, I felt my heart break open. I let it happen. I felt like I split down the middle - like the pain of death, the pain of birth, or maybe the sensation of a sprout breaking through what was, a few days earlier, a dry bean.
With the heartbreak came the crystal clarity that I needed to put my energies into connecting with the land where I live, with her medicine plants and her waters (and stop importing herbs from India) and also beginning to learn my own ancestral medicine, history, and culture. So I have been. There are lots of resources for this actually. Many other people are doing this work, and I haven’t been alone at all. It hasn’t been all heaviness and sadness. Some of this has been a joyful reconnection and rebirth.
Until a couple months ago though, I still had the mistaken belief that Ayurveda was not appropriative and not systemically unjust. The way I learned I was mistaken was through my administrative assistant Alla.
Alla is a medical anthropology student and activist who knew all this all along. She tried to get me to read books on the history of Ayurveda, on modern and global Ayurveda, but the truth is, they looked kinda boring. I do not consider myself a scholar. I barely got through school in many ways. She didn’t tell me, “These books are really important and if you care at all about social justice and truth-telling, they will change your whole life and your business.” (It’s not her job to say that, I know, but if she would have done so, I would have read the books earlier!) Well anyway, I trust the timing of the Universe.
After two years of her working for me, I finally asked her for more information, and she told me. She was perhaps tired and worn-out from school and working several jobs, and she didn’t sugarcoat anything, she just gave it to me straight-up. Which is how I usually take my medicine anyway.
So I let my heart break open again. I did not push away any of the pain, shame, guilt, sorrow, or rage which I felt. I made myself a channel and I felt it all, again. And what I found inside this time was compassion for myself and others who, in our confusion and our wounding, steal from others in an attempt to make ourselves whole. From the most egregious examples of this, such as white people wearing Native American headdresses at festivals, to more nuanced or confusing situations such as the state of Ayurveda (and Chinese Medicine) in the West, which really are so complex and so filled with lies, that’s it’s hard to even know what is going on, this is a really pervasive, widespread issue.
I also found a rage I hadn’t felt in awhile, a rage that pushes me to action. In my life, I have tended more towards incapacitating sorrow, but not now. Now all I feel is this mix of compassion and rage.
I do not have all the answers. I’m willing to make mistakes.
I do not know what I am doing. I’m willing to do it anyway.
I want to change the narrative about Ayurveda in this country. I feel that, as someone in the profession, I am in a unique and actually rather powerful position to get people talking and thinking about this. This is what I’m planning:
First, a Free Class & Conversation: Decolonizing Ayurveda & Ourselves This Thursday, October 19 2:00 - 3:30 pmcentral / 12:00 - 1:30 pacific. (Click the link to register.) I will tell more of the history of Ayurveda as I understand it now (knowing my understanding is a work in progress) and then open it up for a facilitated discussion. I will likely share this as a recording later, but it depends on the content of what people bring forward and the way the conversation evolves. If you want to be a part of this conversation live, this week, please come. Everyone is welcome, and I think it will be really valuable for people in the healing arts and who are Ayurveda aficionados.
A Class. Alla and I are going to collaborate and create a class on the above topic, with a thoroughly-researched curriculum we can stand behind. You can imagine this is a bigger project, so that’s why I want to simply share what I am learning and begin the conversation this week. It will help us in creating the class too, to know where folks are at, what comes up for you and what you want to learn.
A Zine. A dear friend and I are collaborating to create a zine which will be a collection of personal essays from people about their cultural wounding, reconnecting with their culture and the Earth. We are in the beginning phases of this, and you’ll hear more when there is more to share. We are thinking of doing a crowd-sourced funding campaign to fund the initial costs and pay contributors. I will also send out a call for contributions when we are ready!
Writing. I’m working on a piece about some of this deeper history of Ayurveda relating to colonization, globalization, and where we are now, where I actually, you know, cite my sources and stuff.
Perhaps most importantly, I want to connect with, and help expand the platform for, Indian people who are doing decolonization work themselves and/or who are Ayurvedic lineage holders. Who are not pandering to tourists, and doing the deep medicine work they do. I want to do my part to help amplify their voices here in the West. This is inherently collaborative, so I do not know what this will look like. (This is the most important piece, because otherwise I am actually not doing anything different. I'd be simply continuing white supremacy culture in a slightly modified way.)
The final piece, which is vague and blurry still, is essentially to build on the work we are wanting to do with the zine, the work of cultural re-membering. I am reading and taking classes to educate myself on my own history. I’ve been doing this for 10 months now. I don’t know what will come of it, because as yet I feel I still know almost nothing! I feel 18 again in some ways. But things WILL come of it, whatever they are, and I know I’ll be sharing them all and inviting others into it, because that’s what I do.
If you made it this far, wow! Thank you. I appreciate it.
If you want to reach out to me about any of this, please feel free. My email is email@example.com. I know this is an emotionally heated topic, so I do invite you to write whatever you want, let it flow, but then if it feels really raw or you are pissed off at me for any reason, don’t send it right away. Let your writing sit until you feel more settled, then re-read and edit accordingly, then send, so that we can be in deeper dialogue. I am willing to offend or upset people, no way around it, AND I have experienced a lot of verbal abuse in my life, and it feels really bad, so I do invite you to modulate your response and meet me with the compassion you would like to be met with.
Share this with anyone and everyone you think might be interested, and once again, if you would like to join me in conversation and learn more, please sign up for the online class here.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by life generally, and right now, with so much tension and upheaval, overwhelm is almost inevitable for many of us. I am getting more comfortable with discomfort, and humbling myself and forgiving myself every day for ways in which I see I have been ignorant, have pushed certain uncomfortable or threatening (to my ego) situations and realities away, for times I have insulated myself with spiritual bypassing.
I humble myself and I forgive myself as I welcome all the ways that I am being stripped of my identities, insulation, and superficial comfort. There is a certain thrill to that, to metaphorically standing naked in the wind and the burning sun.
I welcome the ways in which the collective and personal Shadow are showing up to be witnessed and potentially, to be healed.
(Do you feel how, in order to move forward and show up with integrity, you must forgive yourself? How you must be both fierce and gentle??!)
This is deep work. This is soul work.
+ + +
I wanted to put together a short list for you of some resources that feel meaningful and supportive right now, so I asked my (super brainy, reads all the really smart books) assistant Alla to help me. Some of these recommendations are from her, some are from me. Here you go:
Roots Deeper than Whiteness is an online workshop series I recently registered for which starts Sept. 10. It is a workshop series for white people who want to deal with the guilt, shame, and fragility they feel when dismantling their privilege and transform those feelings into productive allyship to people of color (instead of, you know, just telling themselves, “I’m a good white person” and pushing this hard stuff away.) I am excited about it because this is inner work I’ve been engaged in for a long time, but kinda quietly, and I want to explore it more fully and in a more outward way. And because we are in intense times which I feel are asking us to collectively step up in many different ways.
Healing from Marginalization through Love and Justice by Everyday Feminism
As individuals, we bear the traumatic weight of being personally targeted by systemic oppression and the impact of our internalized oppression and our unconscious privilege. This often means the trauma from our personal life and professional work build on each other, leading to burnout, depression, fatigue, and at times, even suicide.
To address this pervasive issue of burnout and unsustainability in our social movements, the course supports people in healing from their experiences with systemic oppression and building their capacity to respond to everyday situations of injustice from a sense of peace and relatedness. Instead of reinforcing our traumas, our activism becomes a vehicle for our own healing and reconnection to those who unconsciously perpetuate systemic oppression.
Healing From Toxic Whiteness by Everyday Feminism is an online class series influenced by Buddhist mindfulness practices that teaches: The underlying reasons for the emotional resistance many white people have to addressing white supremacy and get the tools to begin releasing it; Why it is of the utmost importance that white people acknowledge the racism in themselves before they will be able to fight the forces of racism around them; A framework to understand how white supremacy has actually harmed white people while also materially and socially benefiting them; A powerful tool for getting in touch with the pain of having internalized racism so that you don't unnecessarily prolong feeling that pain or put the burden of that pain on others, particularly on people of color.
The Daughters of Copper Woman by Anne Cameron. Okay, so hardly anyone knows this book. I stumbled across it at a used book store years ago and by now have read it three or four times, and it remains one of the most meaningful books for me personally. Each time I read it, it hits me differently. The last time I read it, I saw that it is a guidebook of sorts, and a candle in the dark, for the person who feels culturally orphaned. What it is literally, is a collection of stories from the Nootka people of Western Canada - a mix of mythology, history, and personal stories which are presented all as fiction. I turn to this book for a weird kind of comfort - not the comfort of easy answers, but for a sense of beauty in the struggle, and depth and universality of experience.
Living in the Tension by Shelly Tochluk:
For many, spiritual and racial justice principles go hand in hand. Yet, although seemingly compatible, tensions often arise when people try to live out their associated values and strategies. Further, there are those who sit solidly on one side of either spirituality or advocacy and fail to see the connection between the two. Spiritually-oriented people often say, “People focused on politics and social justice activism are angry, wounded, unhealthy individuals who sabotage their own efforts by using antagonistic and divisive language, including terms like oppression, privilege, and supremacy.”
On the other hand, racial justice advocates often say, “People focused on their spirituality as part of their personal growth are trying to escape into transcendence or a false "kumbaya" experience and deny their ongoing role in continuing personal and institutional racism, privilege, and the reinforcement of an unjust status quo that operates through interlocking systems of oppression.”
Why do these tensions matter?
There is a vast potential of untapped transformative power waiting to be released if activists and spiritual people of various racial backgrounds build and strengthen bridges between their differing principles and expectations.
How can this book help?
Each chapter tackles one tension-filled theme and asks: What happens if one side of the tension is ignored? How can a both/and approach allow spirituality and racial justice efforts to support one another?
Decolonizing Yoga, in their own words: “Was created to provide news, resources and support following the efforts to protest the 2013 Yoga Journal Conference held at the Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco. Hotel Workers, community organizations and unions had been participating in an ongoing boycott against Hyatt to protest working conditions. [...] After the Yoga Journal Conference the Decolonizing Yoga Facebook Page and website has highlighted the voices of queer people, people of color, disability activists and more in relationship to yoga, spirituality and social justice.”
It’s true, I really don’t love all the articles on their website, but if you are seeking a different and more critical perspective on yoga, spirituality, and other things in that realm, which are often not looked at critically, this is a good place to look and learn more. My assistant Alla adores this website!
White Awake: Waking ourselves for the benefit of all is a website tailored for spiritual people socialized and identified as racially “white” who wish to merge their spiritual awakening with critical thinking, feeling, and action towards the real and actualized liberation of all beings through intersectional justice work.
Spark! For Humanity is the passion project of Rachel Rosen, a client/friend of mine. Her blog is a goldmine of timely resources and compassionate and insightful writing on how to have conversations across difference and be a changemaker and support for racial justice. I love reading what she shares and I always learn a lot. You can sign up for her newsletter too, which I highly recommend. She also hosts leadership courses, created a card game to facilitate deep conversations across difference, holds community events, and has a Facebook page and group virtual community space!
Note: Many (not all) of these social justice-focused resources are for white people who want to show up in a more real way for racial and social justice. This is because I'm white - Duh - and so is my assistant Alla, who helped me put this together. In terms of resources specifically for POC, there is a lot out there and I am not in a position to make strong recommendations or be the best resource in this way
...Because looking at and getting support with our own stuff helps us SHOW UP fully and authentically in every other area of our life.
If you want holistic support with your health, especially around healing your gut and your relationship with food and your body, I have two main ways you can dive into doing that work with me right now.
For folks local to SE Nebraska, I am now available to see in-person clients at Lincoln Yoga Center on most Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is a really lovely and community-oriented yoga studio and I am honored to be a part of what they are creating here. To kick this off, I am offering a generous Wild Wellness Package, which includes:
- 1 80-min Healthy Life Deep Dive Session +
- 2 50-min Integration Sessions (at your own pace) with email support in between.
We can work with nutrition, custom herbal medicine, and the deeper lifestyle and emotional work which can support your wellness now.
Until November 30, this package is available for a special rate of $320 ($100 off regular price).
I have online scheduling, but please email me to confirm your spot. (just respond to this email; firstname.lastname@example.org) I’m also happy to answer any questions over email or the phone.
For folks near, far, and everywhere in between, I am available either in-person or over the phone for customized healing packages as well as my Heal Your Belly, Love Your Body Program. This is a 4-month 1:1 coaching + mentorship program for folks who want to do the deeper work of creating a satisfying and happy relationship with food and their bodies as well as address any physical imbalance/challenges with their gut. These two challenges are so so interrelated. I rarely meet someone who struggles with one but not the other. These have been some of my big health challenges too, and I kid you not, I’ve spent the last 19 years working with, unpacking, and healing this stuff for myself. It feels so good to help shorten the learning curve for others and to provide support in ways that are so needed and appreciated.
You can find all the details of this program on my website. Do consider sharing this with a friend or loved one who you think would be interested.
Love and Strength,
I had a different blog post created and scheduled for today. We put it together before the recent tragedy in Virginia, and now it feels irrelevant.
Yes let's still focus on self-care, on good food and meals with loved ones, on gardening, on meditation (we need all that good stuff more than ever), but...we've clearly got some other work to do.
A few days ago, a friend of mine shared an article called "White Supremacy Culture" by Tema Okun from http://collectiveliberation.org. I read it immediately, and haven't stopped thinking about it ever since. The author identifies, explains, and offers antidotes to certain characteristics which she sees as creating "white supremacy culture" - and they are not what you might think. They are things like "perfectionism", "defensiveness" and "only one right way."
As I read and reflected on this, I felt how clearly these different characteristics showed up in my education at all levels, many jobs I have had, and inside myself just as much. Indeed, I've spent the past five years since starting my own business, observing, unraveling and healing my own tendencies for overwork, perfectionism, and all the rest.
Because how we do one thing is how we do most other things in our lives, it feels really important to introspect and spend time feeling into and healing these insidious, subtle and not so subtle ways that we support the top-down power structure that is in place in our society that allows genocide and racism (and all the other -isms) to exist at all.
My advice: Please do any activism you do, or are wanting to start doing, and do this inner work at the same time.
You can read the article here:
White Supremacy Culture
by Tema Okun
And please consider taking time to:
1.) Reflect how this plays out in your own life and in your own tendencies
2.) Share the article and share your stories
3.) Tell me your thoughts also. Let this be a conversation.
Aaaaand one more thing: I don't really agree with the name "white supremacy culture" because these characteristics show up in cultures and societies which are not white (I mean....been to Asia much?) I would be more apt to call it "Toxic Masculinity Culture", but the article itself is pretty brilliant.
Alright. Blessings to you and the sacred work you are doing now.
May 19, 2017. Rock Springs, Wyoming
As of this writing, I am waiting out a snowstorm in a motel 6 in a small town in western Wyoming. Interstate 80 Eastbound is closed across the entire state of Wyoming due to the blizzard. I did not know they had weather like this in Wyoming in late May, but according to a local I met, snowstorms are common in May and even June.
The ironic part is that I’ve made this drive twice before, once in November and once in January, with clear skies and no weather to speak of. Both times, I breezed right through the state without stopping except for gas, and once, to pick up a hitchhiker who kept me company for the day. (He was very kind, loved Jesus Christ, and turned out to be nearly totally crazy, but in what felt like a harmless way.)
Cait and I encountered snow first on Donner Pass, on our first day of driving. We were skittish and unprepared, driving a moving van on that winding highway in less than ideal conditions, but we persevered, believing the snow would soon be behind us. We made it to Winnemucca, NV where we began our tour of Motel 6s (“The original pet friendly motel”) across the western United States, with our 11-year old tabby cat in tow. The next day took us to Salt Lake City, surely one of my favorite places to visit, due to my love of mountains and salt flats, and a particular fondness I have for the Great Salt Lake.
When I came here the first time and visited the Great Salt Lake, it was weird and desolate with a thick fog hanging over it. From the road, I couldn’t distinguish between salt, snow, sand, and fog. They all blended together in an indistinct white blur. I pulled over at the lake itself, and walked out to the shore where salt flats met the briny lake, where flies buzzed and the air smelled like low tide. There were no other people there besides myself and my travel companion, who was taking a phone call. As I walked along the shore, on the snow-dusted salt crust, I said hello to the lake.
My mom had died only two months earlier and the veils were extra thin for me then. It was not uncommon for me to have full conversations with trees, with ancestors, with deities. Not one-sided conversations either, but actual two-sided conversations, sometimes with words, but often without.
Anyway, I introduced myself to the Great Salt Lake, and I told her how impressed I was with her ancient majesty, with how she had once been a great ocean and was now a mineral-rich, briny lake in the desert.
I felt an immediate sense of being welcomed. It was so palpable, this sense of being welcomed. What followed is hard to explain, but I’ll try: The Great Salt Lake asked me if I wanted to be friends.
No, not in words. I haven’t found that any beings other than humans communicate in words. Think of how dogs welcome their people when they come in the door, and how palpable their happiness is, and how their people feel it. It was kind of like that. I just felt it in my heart, that the lake reached out to me in friendship, and what she wanted was simply that, no strings attached. Also that we were different but kindred somehow, and that a person and a lake could be friends, something I had never thought of before.
Definitely I wanted to be friends with the Great Salt Lake.
So we hung out together for a just a while longer that day, both of us just happy to be together.
It came time for me to leave, but I was back just two months later for another visit, doing the same drive (from Nebraska to California) in reverse. This time, I went to the marina instead of just the shallow, salty shore where I was the first time. The feeling I felt was the same, the joy of being with a friend.
I met an old Native man who lived on his boat there, and he invited me aboard and gave me a cup of Swiss Miss to drink. He loved the lake too, and though he referred to himself as a “crazy old Indian”, he was not crazy. Or we both were, bobbing gently on the salty lake, happy to just sit together.
I wanted to come back again and again. It felt so possible then. Anything felt possible. I was 23 and moving to California. But years passed and I did not visit. I did not think the lake minded much, if at all, but I missed her.
Two days ago I finally made it back for a brief visit. Cait was stressed-out, driving our moving van through salt lake city traffic, gripping the steering wheel with sweaty hands. We had just stopped at a rest stop in Bonneville Salt Flats, where we were surprised by a sudden hail storm, then snow. It had been clear and cold up to then. When we pulled into Great Salt Lake State Park the sky looked like pure fire and brimstone. I could see why this place was settled by a bunch of religious fanatics. There were several wild, dark cloud formations to one side with what looked like snow pouring out of them. It was easy to see where the snow storm started and where it ended. To the other side, there was beautiful blue sky with puffy clouds shot through with streaming sunlight. High in the sky, from one of the storm clouds, what looked like a small funnel cloud slowly swirled.
The water had receded greatly since the last time I was there seven years ago, and the salt flats had spread. There were several small groups of foreign tourists taking photos and walking on the flats, some adventurous souls trekking down to the water, which was far off. There was a large, abandoned building there that looks like a temple of some kind. It loomed over the whole scene ominously.
It was a strange apocolyptic-looking sight, with the storm clouds, the weird sunlight, a Chinese family taking photos and laughing, the seemingly endless salt flats, and the abandoned temple. Snow-capped peaks in the opposite direction.
I was there in a red sundress, rubber flip-flops, and two sweaters, doing my best to keep out the bitter cold and wind, with all my warm clothes packed away and hard to reach in the bowels of the moving van. I was cold and a little nervous about the weather, but oddly I felt a sense of deep peace as soon as my feet touched the salt flats.
I never made it to the water. It was so ominous, I could not bring myself to make the trek down there. But I walked on the flats, feeling happy to be with my friend again, before I got too chilled and went back to the truck. I felt a sense of heavy sadness to be leaving so soon, but almost as soon as i climbed in, there was a clap of thunder, followed by rain and snow in alternation.
An accident on the 15 sent us north of the city where we stayed for the night. The next morning when we headed out, it was clear and beautiful. We drove through country of breathtaking beauty, following a winding river and old railroad tracks nestled between rocky cliffs and grassy hills and lowlands dotted with grazing cattle and horses.
Then the snow started, slowly and dryly at first, and then in earnest. Soon it was nearly a white out, and the 18 wheelers headed from the opposite direction were coated in snow and looked to me like old men walking in cloaks, leaning into a powerful headwind as they made their slow way through the storm.
I was getting continuous text message updates from Whitney about the blizzard in Fort Collins. Somehow I just thought it would clear, and we’d make it through Wyoming that day, but Rock Springs was as far East as we have gotten.
So I’m reflecting on Place, and Weather, and Water, and how some of my dear friends have not been human or animal, but instead have been water sources, trees, and plants. My friendship with the Great Salt Lake opened my awareness to a new kind of friendship. Since then, I have been good friends with a creek, a buckeye tree, and a eucalyptus. Looking back on my life even before then, a certain bush of Red Russian kale was a sweet friend to me one summer (I still feel all warm and fuzzy when I think of that kale bush) and I had what could only be called a crush on a certain lily.
May 28, 2017. Lincoln, Nebraska.
I sobbed in my dream early this morning. My heart felt like it was cracking down the middle.
In my dream I saw a Manzanita with its slender, red branches. I felt how far away I was from any Manzanitas at all, and I felt indescribable sadness at the separation, and how as a human I am mobile or even migratory, but as a tree, a Manzanita spends most or all of her life in one spot. I sobbed and sobbed.
Then, still dreaming, I saw the tall, slender third-growth Redwoods I knew so well in Oakland, and then the beautiful Buckeye with her spreading canopy.
When I woke, my eyes were wet but no tears flowed. I felt a leaden feeling in my chest. Other than a particular Buckeye and a particular Eucalyptus, I hadn’t realized how close I felt to the trees.
I brushed off my dreaming state. There is nothing to be done, I told myself, except to get to know the trees here. Linden is blooming now, and the air is filled with her intoxicating sweetness. I’ll get to know Linden now.
June 26, 2017. Lincoln, Nebraska.
Rain today, and thunder. I remember now how thunderstorms are so common here, but I had forgotten. Nebraska feels like a playground for weather spirits of all kinds. They tear around freely and the weather is always changing.
I’m reflecting that perhaps I have appeared to create a stylish, mobile lifestyle for myself, seeing clients on my laptop from different locations. I want to set the record straight that it isn’t really like that. I see many people online (coaches, consultants, and various people who can work remotely) presenting a sleek image of themselves doing their work from anywhere, and saying how great it is to do so.
The truth is that this journey of moving and re-rooting has been a SHIT TON of work, has been expensive, has involved gas station food and other strange culinary choices, and that when it comes down to it, I really don’t even like to travel. There was one oppressively hot day that I felt the heaviness of all the miles and all the furniture I had moved, and I stayed in bed resting and reading for the entire day.
It isn’t stylish, or picturesque, or sustainable, though parts have been heart-warming, and rich in soul - and staying with my dad for a month had a sweetness to it beyond anything I could have imagined. And most days I still feel sorrow and a stab of longing when I think of the trees, waters, land, and people of California which I left behind.
I’ve been very happy to continue seeing some regular clients during this life transition of mine, but I couldn’t possibly accept a new client until I am rooted again. I don’t have the capacity.
I still have not fully unpacked my apothecary!
We just got the oven working and hot water heater turned on!
I haven't even hooked up internet in our house!
I wander around from room to room, searching for my keys or my glasses, because I don’t yet have a specific place where I keep them and they could be in 17 different spots!
I feel myself rooting slowly, developing new routines, and totally accepting that I might spend an entire day getting one part of one room in our new house put together, functional, looking how I want it to look. (This is progress.) It feels like all the hard work and the sorrow I have felt are an inevitable part of being engaged in life and not skating by on the surface.
I want to be in Place like I am in Time. Fully and totally embedded in this sacred Earth in this holy moment. Sometimes there is sorrow in there, sometimes joy.
Here I am back in my personal homeland.
May I be fully here.
May I be fully here.
*All photos were taken by me on my recent travels
I mostly love hot weather...but my partner Cait isn’t quite used to it. Last week she had a wicked case of what we think was heat exhaustion and electrolyte depletion. For two days, she was too exhausted and weak to even spend much time out of bed, and nearly passed out when she tried.
This was surprising and scary, and it got me really interested in learning about hydration and electrolytes. What I am learning is a lot different than I expected - and a little scary. There is so much I did not know, and I want to share it with you, as well as ALL my best recipes for cooling summer drinks to help you stay nourished and hydrated, and keep your pitta in check this summer.
Healthy, homemade, hydrating drinks are something I am serious about for my own self-care - even in the Bay Area summer - because otherwise, by October, I get really dried out - my skin, my hair, even my mind feels dried out. I find these drinks work much better than plain water and have none of the artificial ingredients of commercial sports drinks. In this post, I'll share:
How to REALLY Hydrate
About Filtered Water + The Scary Truth About Reverse Osmosis Water
My 7 Best Homemade Hydration Drinks
<< All About Hydration >>
People talk a lot about hydration, but most of what is said could be summed up as: “The more water you drink, the better, and the more purified your water is, the better.”
Yet in my experience, neither of these statements are true.
Your body has to digest water to integrate it into your tissues (to hydrate your cells and flush waste products), so drinking when you are not thirsty is not only unhelpful, it is akin to eating when you are not hungry. Drinking when you are not thirsty ignores your body’s wisdom and causes harm. The excess water will either simply be excreted through the urinary system without circulating through your body, which puts a strain on your kidneys, or it will accumulate, undigested, as water retention.
So, how much water should I drink?
It depends on your body size, activity level, and how much you are sweating, as well as your food choices today and what else is happening in your body. There is no set amount of water you should drink, but if you pay attention to your body’s cues, it will tell you when when it is thirsty just like it tells you when it is hungry. Do not concern yourself with drinking a certain amount of water, but instead with paying attention to your body's cues.
Do I have to drink plain water?
No! Absolutely not! Most beverages are hydrating - just not those containing caffeine or alcohol, though I find small amounts of either of those substances fine in terms of hydration/dehydration.
Additionally, many different herbs can be steeped in water to make a weak infusion that actually helps your body digest the water (two of my favorite recipes are available below). Adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of maple syrup provides beneficial electrolytes and nourishment. The truth is, I find that my body processes water much better as a weak herbal tea than when the water is plain.
What’s the deal with purified water?
This has always been a confusing subject for me. There is a lot of conflicting information out there - much of it sales-driven. Normally, I have used a basic water filter, mostly to remove chlorine, which I find extremely drying to my tissues if I’m drinking too much of it. I had not tried reverse osmosis water, except by coincidence at others’ homes perhaps, but in my mind I thought reverse osmosis was a good thing because it is said to remove more unwanted chemicals than other processes, including flouride. My partner Cait gets a stomach ache from drinking tap water unless it’s been filtered, so she was drinking reverse osmosis water from the food coop, since our water filter is still packed.
When Cait was in bed recovering from heat exhaustion (and sipping gatorade and reverse osmosis water alternately), I met up with a friend, and we had a lengthy discussion on water. She has done a lot of research on drinking water generally and reverse osmosis water specifically. She told me that, yes, RO water has none of the harmful chlorine or flouride, but it also has none of the dissolved minerals found in natural water. Our bodies depend on those dissolved minerals for even basic functioning, and drinking water that’s been stripped of those needed minerals messes up our blood chemistry pretty damn quick and can cause an array of health problems, including muscle cramping, fatigue, bone fractures, problems in childbirth, and heart problems.
I started doing my own research, and I quickly learned that the World Health Organization has a pretty strong stance against “demineralized water”, which includes reverse osmosis water, distilled water, and also just water that is naturally very low in minerals like magnesium and calcium.
Get this: RO water actually pulls minerals from our bones, contributing to bone loss over time and cannot be used in pipes because it pulls minerals from the pipes, causing the pipes to crack and crumble.
Purity Above All Else?
Water in nature is NEVER pure, right? It always has other substances dissolved in it, even rain water and other lower-mineral waters are not PURE.
The focus on purity is interesting. The common belief is, "If something is Pure then it must be the best. It must be healthy. Purity at all costs!" I can see why some people have not even questioned this belief, and why I didn’t question it regarding water until now.
We can see that purifying water to the extent that it becomes harmful to the body is not different than “purifying” sugar cane so that it becomes white sugar, or coca leaves so they become cocaine, or poppy resin so it becomes heroine.
It isn’t different than isolating one constituent out of hundreds in a medicinal herb and then using that one constituent as a drug - like curcumin from turmeric, or salicin from willow (as the active ingredient in aspirin) - and losing much of the medicinal benefits of the plant in the process. (Aspirin doesn't even begin to compare to willow bark in terms of range of effectiveness, safety, or sustainability!)
We live in a world that seeks purity and bumps into purity’s shadow side at every turn. So, we are figuring it out, together.
To learn more, read HEALTH RISKS FROM DRINKING DEMINERALISED WATER by Frantisek Kozisek. This is a great scholarly article, the best I was able to find. And this is cool: The author even mentions what Ayurveda says about which sort of water to drink!
I also found a company called AquaLiv that claims to have a water filtration system which removes chlorine, flouride, and other harmful chemicals, but doesn’t strip the water of minerals and instead adds some. I haven’t tried their system or even tasted their water so I cannot vouch for it, but if you have I’d love to hear about it! Please drop me a line and tell me about it. They have a lot of educational writing on their site, and I read a lot of it. Consider reading Reverse Osmosis Water Exposed because it is clear and well-written, but keep it mind it is marketing related.
Conclusion (In Progress)
I am in a place now where the tap water comes from the Ogallala Aquaphor and is fabulous. Cait started drinking the tap water and started feeling better quickly. As of yet, I haven’t figured out what sort of filter we will end up using to remove the added chlorine without removing the minerals, but in the mean time tap water definitely seems to be the way to go! If you live in a place where you must filter your water to drink it at all, I highly recommend looking into the type of filter you are using and find one which does not remove significant mineral content from your water. Additionally, consider looking into natural springs in your area as a source of drinking water.
Now. On to the fun part...because you should only have to drink Gatorade in weird circumstances:
<< My 7 Best Homemade Hydration Drinks (in no particular order) >>
Chrysanthemum Nectar. Steep dried chrysanthemum blossoms 10-20 minutes in just-boiled water, adding sugar (rapadura or sucanat are my favorites) or maple syrup to taste. You don’t need much, but a little bit is necessary to bring out the flavor. Let it cool and drink room temperature or slightly chilled. (I usually make the day ahead.)
Cucumber Water. Slice some cucumber in some water. Easy Peasy. The flavor and nutrition will begin to seep into the water almost immediately.
Summer Herbal Tonic. Use Red clover, lemon balm, skullcap, nettles, oatstraw, fennel and chrysanthemum. Any combination of these herbs, or all of them, steeped overnight, or at least 20 minutes. Drink room temperature. Add some water if it is too strong for your taste, and consider adding a blob of food grade aloe gel once the infusion has cooled. Give it a good shake. I often make a half gallon of this in the evening for use the following day. This is a drink that is helpful for hydration and electrolytes, but also helps prevent rashes or any other skin problem, and generally pacifies pitta dosha. I drink it all day in place of plain water.
Linden, Violet leaf, and Raspberry Leaf Infusion. This is a recipe from my friend Alex Svoboda of Arise Botanicals, and it is as DELICIOUS at it is nourishing. Use equal parts of these herbs and follow steeping instructions above. Serve room temp or slightly chilled.
Homemade Lemonade. So fun and simple if you have a lemon tree! Squeeze a bunch of lemons, and add water and maple syrup to taste. Alternately, you can use rapadura or similar minimally-processed sugar and make a simple syrup and use that as your sweetener. Serve chilled.
Green Veggie Juice or Puree. ‘Tis the season for this cooling and energizing treat. Green juice doesn’t work for everyone’s tummy though - so if it makes you super gassy, just don’t even go there. But otherwise, you can make either a puree with a vitamix/other high-powered blender, or a juice with a juicer, depending on what you desire and what equipment you have. Use leafy greens and cucumber, and add a little bit of ginger for digestion. Many other veggies are fine to add, like carrot, beet, and celery, but I would avoid crucifers (broccoli and cabbage) and most fruits (citrus is fine). Keep it simple for easiest digestion.
Hibiscus Elixir. Steep hibiscus flowers and a little minced fresh ginger in just-boiled water for 10-20 minutes. Add maple syrup or sugar to taste. Serve room temp or slightly chilled, and consider adding a squeeze of lemon before serving.
Now...I'd love to hear from you. Do you know something I don't on the topic of water filtration? Do you have a recipe for a hydrating summer drink you'd like to share?
And if you try any of these recipes, I'd love to hear your experience with it! Consider posting a photo and tagging me in it (@molliemoorheadwellness on IG) so others can benefit as well. These recipes have enriched my life and health so much and I hope they do the same for you and your loved ones.
What does it mean to be behind?
For many years I lived by the To-Do List, which I never seemed to finish, so I often felt behind. You know what I’m talking about. (Make the soup, call the bank, do my notes, pay the car insurance, call the guy about the thing….) So imagine my bewilderment one winter evening as I sat talking with some friends by the fire, and one of my friends relayed this anecdote. She said, “When I first moved here to the Bay Area, it seemed like everyone was rushing around from place to place, thing to thing, all the time. It really stood out. So I started asking people, ‘Do you feel like you are behind?’ And most people said, ‘Yes, all the time.’” [Read whole post on Positively Positive]
I sent this out as a newsletter yesterday and I wanted to share it here as well:
Last night I watched a documentary about Peace Pilgrim, the American woman renowned for walking over 25,000 miles for world peace, with no money and only the clothes on her back. (She didn't even carry a water bottle, or a bag of any kind.)
She walked as a pilgrim, not a missionary. She was cultivating her own inner peace as she walked, and her message was that creating world peace depended on people creating peace within themselves.
She said “In order to help usher in the golden age we must see the good in people. We must know it is there, no matter how deeply it may be buried. Yes, apathy is there and selfishness is there – but good is there also. It is not through judgment that the good can be reached, but through love and faith.”
Watching this documentary, I was brought to tears many times by the humility and wisdom of this great woman. If you are yet unfamiliar with her story, you can watch it on YouTube here.
Connecting with the messages and indeed, the living energies, of luminaries like Peace Pilgrim feels so nourishing and relevant right now, so I offer this to you in that spirit.
What does “Resistance” mean to you personally? Right now, we know #resist is being used as a unifying term to describe any activities or beliefs around not accepting Donald Trump and his administration. I see the practical value of the term “resistance” for this purpose, but I don’t love it.
Someone told me, “I am trying to find a way to feel truly peaceful while resisting” and I said, “It’s not going to happen.”
“Peace” in its true sense, and “Resistance” in its true sense, do not go together. When we resist, we push something away, and can never be peaceful while doing so. We push something away, saying, I do not accept this thing, I have no love for this thing. The act of resistance is exhausting, but more importantly it is futile, because it defines itself by the thing it does not want. Andodea Judith states, "Resistance to control is not the same as freedom from it. As long as we resist, we remain shaped and determined by the force we oppose."*
To resist is better than to comply. But there is something beyond resistance. I don’t know if I can sum it up in a single word, but for me it is a feeling of:
I accept all that is. There is space in my heart for all that is. And I take action from a place of love. I push nothing and no one away. I define myself and my actions on my own terms.
There is also a direct correlation between how you view and treat the not-beautiful parts of yourself with how you view and treat the not-beautiful people in the world. A number of times I've encountered parts of myself in ordinary life and in shamanic journeying that are completely hideous. So hideous that I thought, this cannot be a part of me, it's too awful. But it was a part of me. No denying and no resisting would change that. It was through witnessing, loving, and creating space for these hideous parts of myself that they transformed - sometimes very quickly - and became my allies. Each time I have done this, I haven't simply lost an enemy (an internal saboteur), I have gained vitality and wisdom.
I don't think this so different within one person as within a country. My challenge for you, should you choose to accept, is:
Love the unlovable.
Love the unlovable in yourself and in the Other.
What can you do today to begin to love more than you ever thought possible?
EARLY SPRING SELF-CARE
Caring for ourselves is the foundation of caring for the collective
February 2nd (Imbolc/Candlemas) marks the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and in Chinese medicine, the beginning of spring. Here in the Bay, I feel that so strongly every year. (In colder climates, maybe not so much.) It’s still rainy and cool out, but not cold, and the early spring flowers are starting.
In early February, there is a sense of energy rising up and needing to move. It is the time to begin to emerge from our winter cocoon, our winter hibernation, and move our bodies. Do you feel it?! Many people do. I discontinued my gym membership and instead have been dancing my ass off at home almost every morning. I couldn’t be still if I tried. Dancing is a powerful way to move energy that is ready to move, connect with the body and a sense of being held by the Earth, and cultivate love and joy in the heart.
Maybe for you dancing feels right too, or maybe jogging or biking down these drizzly streets is what’s needed, or maybe you’d enjoy joining a gym. Movement that honors your body is the key.
This is the time of year to avoid desserts and sweets, as well as milk and other dairy products, cold foods, and other rich creamy foods, in order emerge from winter in tune with the seasons, feeling light and energized, not having seasonal allergies and sluggishness.
You may find that your appetite on rainy days is a little low. Do your best to honor this and don’t force yourself to eat, and do not eat only out of habit or for comfort. This is a great time to enjoy hot, brothy soups, hot lemon water in the morning, and ginger tea.
If you feel melancholy, low-energy, or have a dull headache on overcast days, green tea can be really helpful. I’m currently experimenting with cacao for this purpose too: A heaping tablespoon of raw organic cacao powder mixed with just-boiled water, a pinch of cinnamon, a teaspoon or so of ghee (or butter or coconut oil) and once it has cooled a bit, a touch of honey. A stimulant for sure, but still not on the level of coffee.
Additionally, one Ayurvedic treatment for this melancholy~low energy~dull headache situation is nasya: Herbalized oil dripped in the nose. In this case, medicated with stimulating herbs (calamus is my favorite) and/or herbs that promote mental clarity (like gotu kola). Warm the oil bottle in a dish of hot water, then tilt your head back and drop a couple drops in each nostril, then massage your sinuses and head as you receive the oil. Excess will drip out when you tilt your head back to neutral, and you can dab off the excess with some tissue. Do this in the morning for more mental alertness and clarity.
I don’t have a strong recommendation for sources to buy nasya oil. One tiny bottle lasts forever, and I used to make it, so I haven’t explored much to see what’s out there or which local stores offer it. They have some for sale at LifeSpa here and it looks really good, but I haven’t tried it.
I'll just be over here dancing.
All my love,
Are your rituals honoring your body’s innate wisdom? Or are your habits overriding the body’s calls for rest?
Caffeinated tea was the one thing I never gave up, even when I did a cleanse. I justified it many different ways, and all the justifications seemed true. Justifications like these: “Tea has so many health benefits,” or “as far as stimulants go, tea is a mild one... and I love the little boost it gives me” and “well, I don’t drink coffee and I can go long periods of time without alcohol or sugar and not mind. Tea is my one thing so I’m holding onto it.” [Read More]
Health food starves the soul. It can starve the body too, depending on what it is, but that’s another conversation. If you want to feel truly alive, nourished and satisfied, you must take care of the needs of your soul as well as those of your body. If you don’t, you’ll begin to feel brittle and hollow, and wonder what’s missing. [Read More]
Having tea with friends the other day, I shared that I felt like I’d been hammering away at the same challenge for too long. Every week or so, I would have a new breakthrough about it, which felt real and good, and I would see progress, but the basic situation still hadn’t changed that much. I wasn’t gaining momentum.
One friend responded, very kindly but directly: So you’ve been attacking this problem with everything you’ve got? You’ve been taking it on as a challenge? I get it because I do that too. But at a certain point, you have to just sit back (She relaxed back in her chair and spread her arms) and RECEIVE it.
This is true for anything, any problem. For the woman who wants to get pregnant. For the woman who wants to find the love of her life and settle down. For the woman who is trying to heal her skin from acne. For the money to show up. For the Dream Job to show up.
Two things are needed: Action and Receptivity. You have to ask for what you want and often take some actions to get it.
Then you have to sit back and let it come to you.
Stop trying so hard and hammering away at it. Let it come to you. This is the missing piece.
Feel the softening in your heart and
It’s easier to see this when it’s someone else’s problem, not your own. I needed a friend to hold up the mirror for me. Maybe that was my weekly breakthrough and maybe it was the Big Breakthrough. I can’t know yet, and at the moment I really don’t care because I feel greater ease and trust. I feel lighter. I feel aligned.
Is there a situation you have been trying desperately to fix and getting nowhere?
What does receptivity feel like to you?
Are you now willing to shed some sense of your identity in order to truly receive?