December 16, 2009

Mercury Retrograde December 26 - January 15

To many people, Mercury Retrograde is a curiosity - a mysterious occurrence that fouls up computers, derails plans, causes delays, and generally confuses communications. And, this is partly true. But there need not be worry around the concept of this planet "turning retrograde." Once you understand what this implies, you can begin to use the energy in your favor.

Mercury, when moving forward in its orbit, helps us plan, begin anew, and communicate effectively. It's associated with the mind. The retrograde period, which lasts around 21 days and occurs 3-4 times every year, doesn't really mean that the planet turns backward in its orbit. It just appears to do so from our vantage point here on Earth. It appears to initially slow down, then stop, then go backwards. It's not actually happening. Nonetheless, we Earthlings are affected by this apparent retrograde motion.

The important thing to remember about these 3-week periods of time is they are meant to contrast being and doing. Most people's lives in our society are overscheduled, too busy, outwardly focused, mundane, and filled with distractions. Three times every year (sometimes four) Mercury turns retrograde and asks us this question: "Does your overscheduled, too busy, outwardly focused, mundane, and distracted life bring you happiness?" It asks us to shift our focus, just for a very brief period in time, to the sacred. To the inner world of reflection, meaning, wisdom, and natural rhythms.

Those of us who ignore Mercury's plea to slow down, turn inward, and reflect will find ourselves delayed, frustrated, misunderstood, and drifting in a world of confusion. This is partly why we are admonished not to buy new things during Mercury retrograde, or sign contracts, or make major decisions, or begin new projects. Because when we do, things often turn out confused, misunderstood, and just plain wrong. They frequently need to be redone, after Mercury has turned direct and is moving forward again.

Another thing to remember during Mercury retrograde which will benefit you greatly: it is a time of renewal. Rest, restore, reflect, or at least, if you must continue to press forward during this time then use it to review, revise, rewrite, and recollect your thoughts. If you don't, you are going against nature's own rhythm, going against the grain, you might as well swim upstream. If you know what part of your birth chart Mercury retrograde falls in, you will also gain some insight into what part of your life is being most affected.

Mercury retrograde is a blessed time for a course correction in life. The car breaks down, your computer stops working, your emails get mysteriously lost, communications of all sorts become foggy. What to do? Stop, rest, renew, reflect, and meditate. We must, for our own well-being, have a few moments in our lives when we stop and turn inward, when we allow the mundane to turn to the sacred, when we give our busy lives a rest.

How is this possible you might ask? How do I slow down my life when I've got bills to pay and babies to feed and so on and so forth? I do not think we can afford to continue the fast paced push forward without some quiet, introspective, reconnection to the core of our own being. To avoid turning within creates insanity, masked by our popular use of painkillers, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety remedies and a general absentmindedness to the beauty and sanctity of life.

The time is coming. It will be officially "retro" December 26th through January 15th, 2010, but keep in mind that a few days prior to December 26th are tricky because Mercury is very slow or actually stationary.

So, we have three weeks coming up to give it a try. As for taking vacations? I think Mercury retrograde is a perfect time, as long as your vacation plans were made well in advance of the actual retrograde period. And once on the trip, take it slow, expect delays, relax, renew, reflect. Especially with the holiday celebrations, wherever you are, practice taking some nice deep breaths. Practice patience. And trust it. It is on your side.

November 25, 2009

The Healing Power of Connecting with Others

As you gather with your families and friends this week some of you will look forward to a beautiful treat while others will see it as an event that adds more stress to an already stressful life. We could love the idea of meeting our loved ones, while the reality of it could mean we are annoyed at seeing some of the same old issues crop up that we wish would just go away.

For all of us, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in during this holiday week, we can use the experiences for gaining wisdom. I realize that wisdom is not everyone's goal. But if you're like me, it trumps just about everything else. I like to use life circumstances as opportunities to expand my own well of wisdom. Gatherings of many people are good sources of these "circumstances."

Let's talk about an approach to maintain a calm, neutral disposition so you can experience these holidays with less stress and more fun.

Real human contact, face to face relationships, have the ability to keep us in balance. We need to be with others and feel a sense of belonging. Knowing this, you can use your time with the people you'll be with this week to help you feel good.

Stress levels in our society have increased partly because people are isolated from one another. Families and friends live at a distance while electronic devices, computers, and cell phones offer the illusion of connecting us with humanity.

With this in mind, invite others to be with you and accept invitations of others. Allow yourself to come together with real, warm human beings. Even if you head into a situation that triggers annoyances and other uncomfortable emotions, you can use this time with others to heal on many levels.

Your energetic body gets balanced by the shared energy of a group. Where you have deficiencies or excesses in your energy field, the group energy helps bring them into balance. I believe this is one reason the "tribe" was and still is important. It gives a sense of security in part because it helps balance one's energy.

You can use your gatherings with others to benefit you in many ways. Of course, though most of us won't want to admit it, when we have emotional upsets around family and friends it's all about our own inner world, and has nothing to do with that pesky sister-in-law.

This provides each of us with a golden opportunity to grow in wisdom. Did you ever see the wise old sage getting upset because Aunt Jane said or did something out of line? No, because the sage would remain aware of his or her own energy and be non-reactive. The wise old sage has the courage to allow Aunt Jane to be who she is without putting judgment on it.

Becoming the Wise Sage

There is one clear step toward becoming a wise sage yourself, and that is learning to manage your reactivity to the things other people do and say.

We must accept, once and for all, that we are not responsible for how another person behaves, thinks, or expresses. This is true even if their behavior is directed at us. Everything another person thinks or believes has to do with them and only them. Not you. Even if they blame you. It's not you. You are only responsible for how you think and behave and express.

Since the normal person is quite reactionary in their relationships with others, we can see how the wise sage stands apart. The sage has no reason to react. The sage remains neutral.

If you want to practice your own sagehood this holiday week, then here is a way to practice. No matter what happens or what anyone says, simply notice your automatic reflex to defend yourself.

Notice it, notice it, notice it, don't act on it. Tune your attention to your breathing, to the temperature of the air outside, to the smells in the room, to the cute dog or cat, to the earrings grandma is wearing, anything to keep yourself neutral. And tell yourself this, "It is not my job to fix this. I am here to expand my wisdom and enjoy myself."

You'll find many interesting patterns of your own if you do nothing more than pay attention to your automatic reactions to what others say or do. Make it fun without making yourself wrong. Let me know how it works out! In the meantime, I get to work a few hours today and then head into the kitchen to create some new dishes.

Blessings and Thanks for your willingness to be on a wisdom journey along with me.

November 11, 2009

Rami, Frisbee, Bird, Ocean, Joy

Fortuitous Encounters

Rami has been my constant companion for the past 2 ½ years. He’s my loyal friend and confidant, never far from my thoughts. Enthusiastic, brave, a connoisseur of life, he loves sports, especially Frisbee. One recent Saturday morning we walked the beautiful curve of California coastline called Carmel Beach. I would throw the Frisbee. Rami would run, leap, or dive for it. We meandered and played this way, making our way in misty grey fog toward pristine Pebble Beach before others had picked up their first morning coffee.

On our return, we noticed a young man walking onto the beach, professional looking camera in hand, presumably to shoot a remarkable scene where a large shaft of sunlight illumined the links at Pebble Beach. But instead of walking past Rami and me, he kneeled on the sand and took what appeared to be shots of my guy playing Frisbee.

Rami and I continued along, me throwing, him running and leaping, when the young man sidled over and showed me one of the images he’d taken. Amazing! Rami in a forward balletic arch, suspended in mid-air, Frisbee not yet in his mouth, but soon to be. Immediately I thought, “Let’s take more!” but our cameraman was already on it. “One of my favorite subjects to photograph is dogs,” he said. My boy seemed to know he was on stage and ran, leaped, dove, swam, and in general, showed off. Instructed to sit, stay, run into the light in just a certain way, jump, catch the Frisbee, Rami glorified the fun of being alive.

Occasional glimpses at some of the photos our cameraman took made me realize this was no ordinary photographer. Perhaps he knew what he was doing – maybe even an artist, but why was he taking photos of us? What was his gig? Because by now, I want these photos. Was he going to keep them? Would he show them all to me? So, I asked him. “How can I get copies of these?”

“I’ll send them to you,” he said. “By the way, my name is John Hudson. I’m a professional photographer and artist. I love dogs. I’m traveling all over the west by motorcycle raising money for Homes for Our Troops. If you’d like to contribute, you can go onto my website and read all about it. I’ve raised $1700 so far and met some wonderful people along the way. I feel really good about helping our veterans get what they need when they return home.”

By now, many people and more dogs had joined us on the beach. The fog had lifted, the sun was higher in the sky, Rami showed little sign of slowing down, but John and I were ready to depart. He said he was keeping a blog about his travels and we could see his professional photo gallery at I gave him my email address and said I’d look forward to seeing the series he took of Rami. As he left he said, “Remember, John Hudson Photography. That’s my website!”

I was so inspired by John’s artistry and his good nature, I went straight back and looked up I learned it is a national non-profit organization established in 2004 that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans. I donated a small sum, feeling good for being able to help out, even in a miniscule way. Then, I awaited my photos by email from John. It wasn’t long before these sensational photos of Rami came through, many of which had been touched up with an artist’s eye to make them multi-toned or to eliminate background distractions.

I passed along this story to my friend Gina, keeper of a gorgeous Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and she said, “Why do I never come across professional photographers when I’m out with DaVinci?” I didn’t know the answer, but Rami and I, we got lucky. We met a sincere person with talent and style, received priceless photos, and got a great bonus gift too – that of one person meeting another at random and sharing joy. Thanks John, from our hearts to yours. We wish you a safe journey.

November 3, 2009

Turning 80 - It Looks Like a Good Thing

Just when I think there isn’t anything new going on, I get to awaken to a fresh perspective. I spent last weekend with a group of 80-somethings. Well, not the entire weekend, but a good portion of it. My mother-in-law, Sue, turned 80 and we surprised her Friday night with a party attended by a group of about 50 people. “Amazing an 80-year-old has so many friends!" I heard someone quip. Most of the attendees were indeed her friends, the others were family and her sons’ friends who she knew since they were in grade school.

I got to meet many of  Sue’s friends, a couple of whom had difficulty navigating the few stairs leading up to the party venue, but all of whom were as mentally spry and fun-loving as teenagers. Dollie, one of Sue’s Stanford friends, lives in San Francisco and was hip, fashionable, and smart. “You know what I did last April when I turned 80 to avoid a surprise event like this?” she asked me. “I ran off to Egypt.” Egypt? At 80? Later, I told a friend, “I wasn’t aware of the prejudice I’ve had. I bought into the assumption that we all get decrepit and senile, presumably around age 75.”

But Sue, Dollie, and the others taught me otherwise. Wise and loving, sparkling eyes standing out in wrinkled, knowing skin, I learned some things from my elders this weekend. I learned that life can be fun and interesting and engaging well beyond middle age. Maybe more fun than it is right now. That friendships can last forever. I learned that it isn’t unusual for an 80-year-old woman to be beautiful, stylish, engaging, smart, interesting, funny, and in-the-know. And I had been concerned about entering my mid-40s.

On Saturday night we hosted a smaller dinner party at our house in Sue’s honor. Guests included her 84-year-old sister Claire, here from Geneva nimbly traveling the States visiting friends and family, and 80-year-old Trudy, another one of Sue’s best friends. Nothing about these women was any different than the rest of us except they are calm, patient, and wise. Nothing got past them, either. There is something reassuring about being with these capable, aged women. If they haven’t seen it all, they’ve at least heard about it. As the evening wound down, I was sad to see them go, Claire promising we’d meet again soon.

Many times I’ve considered writing about honoring our elders, because it is something our society doesn’t do. Instead, we ignore them, toss them aside; they are the invisible ones in our worship-the-youth culture. Is this practice we have of valuing youth over wisdom enlightened? We need our elders to teach us, to fill the great void of depth and meaning our culture faces, to be our stability just as they are in indigenous cultures. When will we let them?

I had the great good fortune this past weekend of spending time with folks who grew up during the Great Depression, lived through World War II, educated themselves, then experienced decades of interesting events and change while keeping hopeful and engaged in life. If only I could see them on a regular basis, perhaps I’d never think that there isn’t anything different going on in life. No, Dollie would have Egyptian adventures to tell while knowing the best plays and museum exhibits in the city, Sue would know why Stanford beat Cal and why Obama has to send a few more troops to Afghanistan, Claire would demonstrate how at 84 one can keep her mind as spry as a college student, and Trudy would exemplify how to remain calm through anything while preparing crab (“do you have a hammer?”) for a friend’s birthday dinner.

October 22, 2009

Use Food to Build Your Body's Immunity

It’s good to get a basic refresher course in self-care, so let's spend some time talking about boosting your immune system so you can help yourself get healthy and remain healthy through this winter flu season. I already went over the subject of rest and how in our keep-doing-more society we rarely allow our bodies and minds to get the rest and rejuvenation they truly need. But ample sleep and making time for rest is vital in maintaining a strong immune system. It is during sleep and rest that the body restores itself.

There are several other factors to creating and maintaining a strong defense from viruses and disease. One that I’d like to discuss today is food. Don’t we hear so much about food these days? There is a lot of talk about the proper diet. Experts advise us on what is best. From vegetarianism, veganism, and raw food diets, to high protein, low carb, gluten-free or ten fruits and vegetables a day, how are you to know what is best for you?

I think it's simple. Eat foods that are found in nature and include some fermented vegetables, which are eaten in various forms in many cultures. Sauerkraut is one form, kimchi is another. Fermented vegetables add to the resilience and wellness of the people who have made them part of their regular diet. Partly this is because they create healthy intestinal flora, something the Standard American Diet (SAD) does not do.

Most Americans are not eating for nourishment because they are eating packaged and processed foods. Anything that comes in a box, can, or package that has been pre-made likely has very few nutrients. I consider these foods to be dead. Void of life. I believe this is the cause of obesity in America. Packaged and processed foods are eaten as a matter of course. They give the body few nutrients while robbing it of others. The “I’m hungry” signal continues to glow and the person is never satisfied.

Also, we have shunned healthy, even saturated, fats found in nature. These are missing from the SAD diet. In their place are processed oils – remember margarine and how it was supposed to be better for you than butter? That is incorrect (for those of you still eating margarine). For centuries many of our ancestors ate butter and didn’t have the rates of obesity and heart disease that we now have. Healthy fats serve many desirable functions within us, including helping keep our hormones balanced. Our ancestors ate foods found in nature and survived in a world with no antibiotics or other pharmaceutical drugs or vaccines. They remained strong enough to spawn the next generation, of which we are descendants, so I think there is something to eating what nature intended for us. You can leave that skin on the chicken.

What does this mean in terms of you maintaining a strong immunity against the flu and other bugs this winter? If you’d like to be well, I recommend eating foods found in nature only. Avoid all processed and pre-packaged foods. This means you won't touch that canned food. No canned soups, chili, or other such substances that can be kept for years in the cupboard. (That means they have no life force.) Same with dry, boxed stuff. It has no life force, so your body won’t receive the nutrients it needs to maintain its vitality over time.

Most packaged products are laden with chemicals that preserve, color, or make them palatable. Many of those chemicals contribute to cancer, among other diseases. Such convenience foods contain sugar in one form or another, the most insidious and life-taking seeming to be high fructose corn syrup, used to sweeten dead food because of its cheap price tag. Sugar, in all its forms, will drain the nutrients from you and deplete your immune system. We have entered the season of sweets. Notice how you feel after you’ve indulged too much. Those who eat a whole foods diet and get plenty of rest will feel fine. Those who don’t will likely feel horrible at some point this winter.

So what is a whole foods diet exactly and how do you make it more prominent in your life? When you arrive at the market, notice that the living food is on the perimeter of the store where it is kept cold or moist. Notice all the dead food is in the center aisles. This makes your shopping quick and easy. If something has come straight from nature, it’s a go, a green light, a yes. If it has been processed by man and has added ingredients, it’s a stop, don't touch.

This way of eating has now begun to sound extreme in our modern, fast-food lifestyle. But it wasn't extreme to your grandmother, your great grandmother, or all the ancestors who ever came before them. It’s only extreme to obese, tired, anxious, and depressed folks with rising rates of heart disease, cancer, and all sorts of other ailments that great grandma didn’t have.

Throughout this winter flu season, one important and powerful step you can take to maintain your health is to consume foods that are alive. Cook them if you wish, stew them, make soups, roast, bake, or however you like. I’m not an advocate of having it all raw. But do be sure to make your choices wisely and give your body food that nourishes instead of food that depletes. You’ll notice some people sniffing and sneezing, taking pharma drugs as they microwave their next processed meal, while you will feel a whole lot better. Besides that, people will start asking you why you look so good.

October 14, 2009

Breast Health Awareness

October is widely known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons as the symbol, we are encouraged to take notice, to contribute money for a cure, to walk, race, or otherwise focus our attention on Breast Cancer.

As a holistic healer who has quite a bit of background in the power of the mind on mass consciousness, I think the health of all women (and men too) would be better served by focusing on Breast Health Awareness. It is not just an idea that our thoughts generate reality. Our thoughts actually do generate form. What we choose to focus our attention on becomes manifest.

For the past 45 years, money has been pumped into breast cancer research, and to this day, no cure has been found. In fact, over these past many years, survival rates from the disease have changed very little. Women are subjected yearly to exams that actually have been shown to cause cancer. That would be the very popular mammogram, which sends radiation right into sensitive breast tissue. My own doctor told me it was no more radiation than what we get from flying in an airplane. Well, that just might be too much when concentrated solely in sensitive breast tissue. Studies are indicating this is so.

Rates of breast cancer have steadily risen during this same time period. There are several theories for this. In the 1950's we began eating processed food, we were exposed to nuclear reactors and testing like never before, plastics came into vogue, and by the early 1970's the role of women was clearly changing, sending many out to work in the world in addition to caring for children and a home. This increased stress levels. Now, with rates of cancer still on the rise, we live in a toxic environment, lit and scented artificially, our soul needs are neglected, stress levels are off the charts, and we are bombarded daily with the world's fears and problems, something our healthier great grandmothers didn't experience.

Because of the multitude of situations and elements of our modern lives that contribute to the high rates of cancer, I don't believe in sitting back and waiting for modern research to find a cure. It's been 50 years, after all, and nothing yet. Instead, I encourage all women to take a proactive approach to preventing breast cancer. There are so many things you can do to this end. I personally have an endless list which I have written about extensively.

Further, for women (and men too) who already have the disease, there are numerous things that can be done to either reverse it, slow the growth, or heal and enhance the lifestyle. I advise women on this and have written extensively about it as well. So please do not let any woman in your life get a cancer diagnosis and sit in fear wondering what to do. Have them set up a telephone appointment with me. I can be contacted through my website:

There are so many things one can do to help the situation I can't even explain it all in 300 pages. But you won't hear about them during Breast Cancer Awareness Month because it is pushed by organizations wanting to raise money, not necessarily help you heal. If they wanted to help you prevent or heal, they would be telling you how to do so. And eating more soy isn't the answer.

Because breast health has been an interest of mine for the past 11 years, I have a wealth of information about it. I am in the final stages of a book I've been compiling, on and off, for the past 4 years. In the meantime, until this book is published, I'll be posting information on how to stay healthy or help yourself if you have cancer. I'll post on Facebook too, so if you've got a sister, mother, daughter, girlfriend, wife, or grandmother who is concerned about their own breast health, introduce them to me. My heart is with them. You can also get short messages from me about a holistic approach to wellness on Twitter by following me @DrGrantHolistic.

No woman or man need go through the fear of breast cancer alone, nor should she or he have to wonder what to do to prevent it or deal with it once it has occurred. It is time we focus on health, healing, wholeness, and hope instead of the fear and paralysis that come with the words "breast cancer." Those words provide an opportunity to heal on many levels and a large portion of my work as a healer and writer has been devoted to this opportunity.

Blessings and love for Breast HEALTH Awareness month.

October 11, 2009

Stay Healthy Through the Flu Season: Part 1

Last weekend I watched a segment of the Today show where an internist from the NYU Medical Center advised us to have two flu shots this year. In fact, he gave one of the shots to the reporter on the air to prove how quick and easy it is.

Although the discussion was about how safe the shots are, we actually don't know about the safety of these vaccinations. Any time chemicals are injected into the body, there is a reaction on some level.

In 1974 under the advice of medical experts, President Ford ordered a nationwide vaccination program to prevent a swine flu epidemic. 25% of the population was vaccinated. That year one person died from the swine flu while over 500 contracted a nerve disease called Guillain-Barre. This nerve disease was a side-effect from the vaccine and over 30 people died from it.

If you are concerned about this upcoming flu season, but you are also uncertain about what to do, my recommendation is that you build your own immunity either way, so it can do what it was designed to do: protect you from viruses and disease.

The very first thing to note in your life when you decide to give your immune system a helping hand is whether you get enough rest. Your body cannot run on empty continually and also work efficiently to keep you free from disease. We seem to have lost the fine art of resting, believing instead that we must keep going, produce something, look busy. But how productive is this in the long run when it keeps stress levels high among the general population? We are all aware that stress releases disease-friendly chemicals into the body, but up to this point, we seem incapable of making the necessary adjustments. Even when we do think we are resting, the television is on, or the computer, or some other gadget.

In my work I speak with many people who say they feel more anxiety when they slow down and actually take breaks from their overcommitted lives. Somehow we've bought into the notion that when we are doing something we are being successful (and valuable). I also believe that we have discomfort with what we find and feel when we finally stop the madness and just settle in with nothing else but our own stillness. What if we have no value if we are aren't doing something? It's a common question. But allowing the body to heal, rest, and renew is doing something important, and necessary.

We live in a society whose lack of health is out of control. Rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, arthritis, general aches and pains, chronic fatigue, even the now-common acid reflux are off the charts. Instead of only wishing more people had insurance so they could get drugs to mask the symptoms of these diseases, perhaps an additional sensible approach would be to educate people on how to take care of themselves from the beginning so many of these diseases could be prevented.

Sleep and rest are vital to maintain and build a strong immune system. How many of you rest, literally lay down and put your feet up, when you are tired? Very few of you, I'm certain, but the body's anti-stress mechanisms, including the adrenals, get to breathe a sigh of relief when the body is prone and the head and feet are at rest. Apparently in this position the tiger is no longer nipping at your heels and the whole being knows it. Regeneration and restoration can occur.

When you feel tired it is your signal that your body (and mind) need to recharge. It's that simple, however, many of us have become so caught up in our doing-more lifestyles that we ignore this basic sign. As you think about this most essential human need and its role in your life, you'll have the opportunity to face the ways you avoid it. If you are lucky, you'll get to address why you avoid it. The answer is a diamond of self-awareness and knowledge.

As you become someone who can successfully rest, you might find yourself addressing your own drive and desire to be someone, to be accepted, to be important. The process can reveal to you the ways you try to prevent that nagging anxiety that comes each time you truly get quiet with yourself and allow yourself to be still. These days true rest is a bit more than just saying, "Hey, lay down and put your feet up." Underlying compulsions driven by an overscheduled society tend to keep people moving to the point of exhaustion and depletion. So there is an opportunity here to heal on several levels.

If you truly got quiet and allowed your entire being to just completely rest I think you would feel really, truly good afterward. And your immune system would be in a better position to protect you from this season's bugs. Perhaps you'll give it a try. Let your body heal and repair itself so it has the means to protect you from disease as it was meant to do.

September 1, 2009

Vaccines: Think For Yourself

As a holistic healer and adviser to people who want to achieve greater wellbeing, inner balance, harmonious relationships, and prosperity, I keep an eye on those things in our lifestyles that prevent us from attaining these goals. I observe how the public is manipulated into poor health, negative attitudes, and mass hysteria through hype and fear tactics. On the one hand it is fascinating. On the other, it’s simply frustrating.

When I was about to enter university, my brother said to me, “The most important thing you can get from your education is the ability to think.” I already know how to think, I said to myself. But as I continued with my education I realized he was right. I was learning how to think critically, and think about things separately and independently from mass thought forms. I believe we all have the ability to do this, and I think it is an important goal lest we become (or remain) mere sheep routinely rounded up by the shepherding dog.

Americans pride themselves on independent thought, but from what I can see, we are generally unaware of how manipulated our thinking is. Let’s take vaccinations as an example. Do you, as a parent (of a child or animal) consider whether all the mandated vaccines are necessary? If you ask your doctor, you will be sent to join the flock of sheep because doctors and veterinarians, unless they are holistic, will convince you that numerous vaccines are required and necessary. We have placed doctors up on high pedestals and made them our gods, but can they be impartial when their Mercedes Benz is partly funded by your agreement to support the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to which they are wed?

It’s a controversial subject to be sure. Therefore, many of us don’t question it. We just follow along, believing what we are told. But in the case of vaccinations, we are not told the truth as to whether companies that produce the vaccines are protected against lawsuits stemming from negative reactions to childhood vaccines. We are not told that some new vaccines are not adequately researched before tried out on the public. This is one way for drug companies to avoid being accused of wrongdoing. If they didn’t know the negative effects of a vaccine, how can they be held responsible? Further, we are typically not informed that companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline which is frantically developing a vaccine against swine flu, have the potential to earn billions of dollars each year through mass vaccination programs. And we aren’t told that mandatory vaccinations are best because that insures their continued profitability.

Both animals and humans are over-vaccinated. Reported side effects range from immune system dysfunction to brain complications to behavioral issues. So how do we know which vaccines to agree to and which to avoid? By using common sense. For example, do we need to continue the polio vaccination? At one time it might have served a great purpose. Is it necessary now? Do we need a flu vaccine when the flu can be prevented by natural and ordinary means? Do our dogs and cats need continual boosters when their blood shows they already carry the antibodies against a particular disease? Do we need any vaccine that prevents a disease that we can prevent ourselves? And furthermore, do we want to agree to be given an injection with known side-effects because a few people who get the ailment die every year from it? If so, then would we also vaccinate ourselves against driving a car? More people die from that every year than we can count.

I am not advocating you avoid vaccines for yourself, your children, or your animals. I recommend you educate yourself first and use sound judgment. Educating yourself means you listen to and weigh the pros and cons of both arguments - for and against vaccinating. Since most people believe vaccines are good for all of us, I leave you with a website that offers another perspective on them, including the upcoming Swine Flu vaccine and the newly popular Guardasil promoted to young girls. Visit the website of the National Vaccine Information Center at

August 13, 2009

Sacred Responsibility

I’m preparing for a long overdue vacation. In the days leading up to leaving, my thoughts are less on the actual journey and more on how my animals will fare while I’m away. I am the caretaker of three cats and a dog who rely on me daily for their safety and wellbeing. To this end, I am committed. It is a responsibility to which I’m devoted. And this is why my mind is on them until I get things arranged for their care while I’m away.

As I work out these details, I received in the mail the newsletter from the Animal Friends Rescue Project. This led me to think about the thousands upon thousands of neglected companion animals, particularly dogs and cats, who don’t get the care and attention my four four-leggeds do.

I am deeply saddened when I hear of animal neglect and abandonment. Once we domesticate an animal, removing it from its natural habitat, it becomes dependent on us. It is our obligation to be stewards of this earth as well as its inhabitants. It is our collective sacred responsibility, but we have shunned it, instead allowing self-serving interests to run amok.

Those of us that participate in the continual damage of our planet and its occupants live detached from one of life’s most profound experiences: the ability to touch one’s own well of compassion, grace, and humanity. This inability, or we could say unwillingness, to feel into our own heart center becomes the ignorance and apathy that leads to the neglect of our environment, fellow humans, and animals.

No matter what your own participation has been in the past around this sacred responsibility, both you and I can improve our roles. There are a few simple ways to help stem the abuse and suffering of companion animals. I offer two suggestions here which you have undoubtedly heard before, yet might or might not have taken seriously.

If you are thinking of getting a companion animal, a dog or a cat, get one from a shelter or from an “oops” litter. “Oops” litters are comprised of unwanted and unexpected animals who can end up in shelters and often do. I adopted two of my own cats as adults. Mimi was homeless and Draven was soon-to-be abandoned by neighbors. Calypso came to me at six weeks old from a family so desperate to get rid of the kittens they had given his mother away before I got there to pick him up. We sometimes joke that if word gets out there will be busloads of homeless felines with little knapsacks unloading in front of the house.

Rami, my Labrador/German Shepherd, was one of eleven solid black puppies. From another “oops” litter, Rami’s mother and father were neighbors. His intact father had a penchant for roaming. Neither of their guardians had gotten around to “fixing” them yet. From just this one litter, there were eleven new unexpected and unwanted puppies needing to find homes.

This leads me to the second suggestion: take the time to neuter your companion animals. I think this might involve, for some, dealing with the desire to have macho intact dogs. Also, we must elevate our consciousness so that the wellbeing of our dependents is ahead of our hankering for a few more dollars (which can come through breeding).

We are the stewards of our neighborhoods and its residents, both human and animal, whether we choose to participate or not. This is our sacred responsibility. Our wisdom is relied upon. From my perspective, right now is a good time to foster and exercise it.

July 19, 2009

A Healing Solar Eclipse on July 21st

On July 21st at 5:35pm (ish) Pacific the earth will experience the only total eclipse of the sun in 2009. It won’t be visible to us here, but can be seen in China, Tibet, parts of India, and partially from North Korea. Solar eclipses occur during a new moon when the moon is dark. This moon is considered a “super” new moon because the eclipse lasts longer than average.

In the old days, eclipses were seen as harbingers of trauma and difficult events. In our more expansive world view we now recognize them as bringers of change, intensifying areas they influence. This intensity can be seen as good or bad, but need not be judged in this way. It is simply change. I view the amount of difficulty one experiences to be in direct proportion to his or her attachments to things or circumstances that are, by their very nature, temporary and transitory.

During a total solar eclipse what we have kept hidden, either as an individual or as a group, cannot as easily be ignored or avoided. From this angle, we can take a proactive approach to the upcoming eclipse on July 21st, which is the second eclipse of three in a row this summer.

First, consider that we are in a very “cosmic” time. The ways we operate on mental and emotional levels are changing. Our minds don’t seem to work the way they once did. Have you noticed this? We are less able to will things into being, by force or otherwise. Instead, we have been steadily encouraged to think in more flexible, flowing, cooperative ways. Those who refuse this are finding themselves exceedingly frustrated and blocked. Those who flow with it are sometimes experiencing foggy thinking or confusion as the mind adapts to greater flexibility.

We can harness the forces of this powerful time for our own benefit. Your heart’s desire is being highlighted this summer, but it must blend with social consciousness. The individual ego must find a balance with the needs of the entire group. If your ego is overly constructed or inflexible, you will feel the pull to let go, to allow an adjustment. The new path is about refining priorities, softening the heart, and engaging in emotional self-empowerment.

You can begin by looking at what is ending in your life and what needs to end. Areas highlighted during this eclipse have to do with home, family, security, feminine energy, and the emotions. It is about balancing the divine feminine energy in your home and workplace. It is a time to wipe away old outdated patterns and habits of relating and emotionally reacting and begin anew with a more mature, self-possessed approach. It’s a time of emotional closure – letting go of old hurts and resentments – beginning again with emotional freedom.

So think about what you want to see more of in your life. Ask yourself what are you experiencing now that doesn’t feel good, and what would you be willing to allow into your life so that you do feel good. There is no better time than now to do this. We have the whole solar system working on our behalf to help us build a stronger inner foundation based on emotional balance.

July 13, 2009

Guilt: Minding the Gap

Guilt has been utilized for centuries to get the masses to cooperate. On a more personal level, mothers, fathers, teachers, children, clergy, friends, employers, and partners use the powerful tool to control one another. But guilt forces people to depart from their true, authentic natures and adopt a falsehood. If you participate in this inauthentic way of being, it likely eats away at your healthy sense of self - a constant reminder of your being “less than.” You’ve done something wrong. You are not ok.

In order to assuage the discomfort of the feelings that go along with having misbehaved or displeased someone, including God, what people typically do is change their behavior in order to regain approval. This change is usually a mask, an act of sorts, designed to make you appear to be more acceptable by whoever or whatever it was that originally placed judgment on you.

Sometimes these masks and acts (which I see as inauthentic ways of being) are donned at a very early age. I am reminded of a time in kindergarten when I casually tossed my uneaten sandwich into the girls’ bathroom trash. The teacher saw it, discovered it was mine, and proceeded to speak to me in such a way that I felt humiliation. To avoid future episodes of being shamed by teachers, I quickly learned to be more sneaky and secretive. I’d be sure to get rid of future kindergarten grub in a way as to not draw attention to myself. I would simply appear to abide by the rules, but would go on rejecting any lunch I deemed unsuitable for my 5-year-old taste buds. As a result, I would do things my way but feel guilty about it because I knew I was behaving falsely. My appearance belied the truth.

This is a mild example, but in a basic way it shows how inauthentic ways of behaving are linked to guilt. When someone comes to me asking for assistance with feelings of guilt, I look for the gap between what is true for the person and what is their “act.” When this gap is bridged, guilt begins to fade away. Guilt is the gap between our true selves and that which is false.

It can be humbling to face where we have been inauthentic. In the example I gave about my sandwich episode, in order to feel no guilt I could have owned up to a few things about myself.

1. I didn’t want to do what I was told. I had a defiant streak.
2. I wanted to “do lunch” my way.
3. I wanted to be seen by those in authority as “good” so I could avoid the discomfort that goes along with humiliation, shame, and judgment.
4. I didn’t always fit the model of “good” even though I thought I should.

I did eventually own these truths about myself and realized they were not the end of the world. I found I didn’t feel guilt anymore (because these same four points related to many things in life, not just the sandwich).

It’s a liberating process to free yourself from guilt. Facing the truth of what is, of what is the truth about you, is like unlocking the door of your own self-imposed prison. Then, learning that the truth is what it is, that you behaved in ways that are deemed undesirable by the standards you accepted for yourself, and that you felt ashamed of it, this is what is truly freeing. It is a heavy burden to hide your authenticity from others.

When you begin to recognize your gap and your own truth emerges you get to trade the old burden for something more empowering: personal responsibility and integrity. Nowadays when I don’t want to eat something for lunch I just say it. I’ve got a “picky” reputation. My mother has a hard time with it. People sometimes roll their eyes. I’m not easy to travel with. And that’s ok.

June 7, 2009

Healing a Poison Oak Rash

I didn’t know what poison oak looked like before I lived on the central coast, nor was I aware of the misery it could inflict. My realtor pointed out the three distinct leaves and said simply, “Don’t touch it.” A year later after a series of small rashes on my wrists and ankles (presumably from the cats) I recognized that the widespread “bushes” on my hillside, which were turning a beautiful red color, were actually poison oak.

For the next several years I tried to have the ominous leaves and roots removed by any willing person, including my young industrious neighbor who quickly became covered in the invasive rash from head to toe. Finally, I hired an official “poison oak removal” company who told me the reason they are so costly is because sometimes their workers have to go to the emergency room.

The brave young men who came to do the clearing left me with an open hillside, free from poison oak. Or was it? I ambitiously set out, rake in hand, to level the dirt and clear away small sticks, branches, and debris left behind. It was a hot day. Sweating, I wiped my face several times as I happily pondered the possibilities for new planting.

Within a few hours I felt the invasion. An itchy rash spread rapidly over my left arm, turning to unsightly and even itchier red blisters that looked like a bad burn. Before long my right arm, both legs, lower back, belly, and my face joined in. Over the next two weeks, new spots seemed to randomly emerge though I went nowhere near the scene of the crime. I was trapped in a shell of hot misery with flu-like symptoms. The muscles in my neck, shoulders, and right hip began to spasm.

In the midst of this grand-scale invasion, I heard many stories of what others have done with their own nasty rashes. (I think everyone has a story.) I heard numerous remedies – everything from going to the hospital and getting injections (which one person said made them sicker) to “just scratch it ‘til it doesn’t itch anymore” which made me think of scarring. Now I have my own story and my own remedies, which I get to pass along to you. After several weeks of new rashes showing up, I had lots of time to experiment with different anti-itch techniques. Here is what I came up with, and I think it’s pretty good. My plan requires no doctor visits, no toxic chemicals to apply or ingest, and it eases the misery of it all with natural products.

1. Once you know you’ve been exposed, or even if you have an inkling you might have been exposed, immediately put all of your clothes (and shoes) in the washer, not in your hamper or on the floor. Walk directly to the shower.
2. Take a shower using Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap - which lately you can buy at Trader Joe’s. Continue using this soap while the rash is present. Peppermint is anti-inflammatory and relieves itchy skin.
3. Wear loose clothing that doesn’t rub against the rash area. Anything touching the rash will cause it to itch.
4. When tempted to touch the rash, instead apply essential oils immediately. The most effective essential oils for me were lemongrass, peppermint, and lavender with either Purification or RC (both are blends made by Young Living). Purification contains an effective blend of citronella, lemongrass, lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, and myrtle essential oils. RC contains a blend of eucalyptus, myrtle, marjoram, pine, lavender, cypress, spruce, and peppermint essential oils. These stopped the itching and inflammation. Someone had said that for poison oak the Young Living lavender is superior to others, and I tend to agree.
5. If possible, take a nightly hot bath to which you add 1-2 cups Epsom salts, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1 cup baking soda. This will stop the itch, make it at least seem like you are healing, and help you sleep soundly.
6. Avoid sugar and alcohol. For a couple of days I was feeling really good, the itching was under control, and I thought I was out of the woods. Then I had a piece of cake at a birthday party and immediately every portion of the rash from head to toe flared up. It took two days to get it to calm down again. I also had this experience after a glass of wine, although it wasn’t as intense as with the cake. My best days were when I was treating myself as if I had a cold or flu - eating really well, no sugar, only supportive healing foods.
7. Drink a lot of water with optional juice from a fresh lemon. This helps cleanse the body.
8. Finally, if you find yourself with an all-over rash coinciding with muscle spasms like I did, go ahead and use the mantra I used to keep my sanity, “This too shall pass.”

Indeed, it did finally pass. Muscles relaxed again, skin returned to normal. I am left with an entirely new respect for those little leaves of three, and for nature herself, who apparently won’t be trifled with.

Getting Grounded

Have you heard someone say they feel “ungrounded?” Or, that they believe someone else is not very grounded? You probably have, but what does this really mean? In this context it isn’t like an airplane unable to take off, or a teenager being punished. Being grounded in this day and age has to do with being stable, balanced, calm, and focused. Let’s talk a little bit about this concept, because it is relevant to our wellbeing, especially in times of uncertainty or change.

I’ll start by giving you the contrast: an ungrounded person. This person will be fuzzy-headed, forgetful, anxious, wired, excitable, and distracted. Their energy drifts like a balloon disconnected from a child's hand, a bit lost and forlorn. I see it as being energetically disconnected.

Our lifestyles contribute to this state of disconnectedness. Driving in cars, flying in airplanes and traveling in general, being on a computer, watching television, working and living in artificial environments with concrete, fluorescent lights, and electricity, being in crowds of people, and even feeling pressured, worried, or stressed. All of these take us away from our natural balance –they interfere with our natural connection to the earth - literally, the ground.

In a state of ungroundedness you can be more easily influenced by others, the life you live might not feel wholly your own, you might experience injuries and accidents, feel anxiety, panic, irritability, foggy thinking, and be a compulsive overeater. These are all instances where we are not centered or stable and they indicate why it is important to be aware of our groundedness – of being centered, focused, and calm. Just the act of coming back into a state of groundedness can shift our entire perception of life from one of negativity to one of hope and optimism.

So what can you do to become more grounded? The first step is to pay closer attention to your surroundings while noticing your own physical body. How does the chair feel that you are sitting in? What do your feet feel like? What physical signs or symptoms are you trying to ignore? For example, are you thirsty? Do you have any pain or tightness in your body? Are you thinking about the future while you are also reading this?

Simple awareness of your breathing will help bring you into a more grounded state. Spending a few moments a day in nature will help. Connect with the earth in some way - sit or stand on the ground. Notice the weather. What is happening in your natural environment? Feel the breeze, smell the earth’s scents, take note of how the sun feels. I also use visualization. One easy technique is to see or feel yourself as a huge, beautiful tree with deep roots going into the earth.

Understanding the value of being grounded is essential to being stable, balanced, focused, and calm. The awareness at any given moment of how grounded you are can be a tool for personal mastery, fulfillment, and self-empowerment. Although there is more to it, here are a few quick ideas to help you with your own state of groundedness.

Quick Tips on Getting Grounded

  1. Breathe with awareness
  2. Sit in nature
  3. Watch the sun rise or set
  4. Place your feet or hands on the earth
  5. Eat food from the earth
  6. Be aware of your surroundings
  7. Notice physical symptoms or signs
  8. Stop, Look, and Listen
  9. Visualize yourself rooted into the earth