December 28, 2010

A Twist on Your New Year’s Resolution

At this time of year why do we make resolutions to do and be better when we know they typically crash and burn around January 2nd?

Perhaps Edith Lovejoy Price explained our New Year’s quest for a fresh slate when she said, “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.”

As the old year ends, we look to what changes we can make for a better new year. We resolve to begin this change January 1st on a clean slate. But as January gets underway, declarations begin to fade. Whether to exercise more, stop smoking, drink less, eat better, stop buying lattes, save money, recycle, conserve gas, or be more attentive with family, they leave a mild sense of defeat in their wake.

Oprah Winfrey said, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” This “getting it right” links to a desire to feel good, both about yourself and your life.

So it’s interesting to note that New Year’s resolutions often involve giving up something you like (smoking, alcohol, lattes, shopping) or adding into your life something not wanted (more salads, regular visits to the gym, phone calls to mom every Sunday). No wonder it’s said a “New Year’s resolution goes in one year and out the other.”

After all, we are meant to follow our bliss, find our joy, be creative, live with a sense of purpose. When we don’t, we find ourselves on the psychiatrist’s couch or in the doctor’s office, unfulfilled.

The premise of the typical New Year’s resolution is to do something new that improves life, but in fact, it often is destined for failure because it is in conflict with what you truly want. One way to be more successful is to focus on how you want to feel.

Let’s assume you want to feel energetic, healthy, happy, and safe. You want to feel loved by others while having compassion toward them. Alter your idea that you have to do something significant in order to get there.

Focus more on the “what” rather than the “how.” It’s likely counter to what you’ve been taught. Most of us are taught to go out and make things happen, often when we aren’t clear on what underlies the desire to make them happen in the first place.

Many people are living lives they think they want, yet they are unhappy. They haven’t stopped to ask themselves how they want to feel each day. This is why resolutions get dropped like hot potatoes. They don’t feel good.

If you resolve to lose weight, first determine how you want to feel. Simply wanting to lose weight isn’t enough. Do you want to feel more energy? Do you want to feel more loved and accepted by society? Do you want to feel happy? Are you afraid your health is suffering and you want to feel more secure that your weight is just fine? Get clear on your intention around losing weight then focus on that intention. Make how you want to feel in the coming year the focus of your New Year’s resolution, rather than simply losing weight.

If you want to save money, go to how you want to feel first. What is it about saving money that feels good? A sense of security? Excitement? An inspiring challenge?

If you want to quit smoking, how do you want to feel every day? Peaceful? Calm? More loved?

Determine the underlying feeling you want to experience. Turn this into your resolution. This clarity will help make it happen. It’s not something you can drop that easily because you truly want it. It’s always there, beckoning you.

December 2, 2010

Preparing for Mercury Retrograde December 10th through 30th

You’ve likely heard someone mention Mercury retrograde.

Wherever you stand on whether the ancient issue of astrology has value, this planetary event has become quite popular in the mainstream. Let’s find out why.

Mercury’s domain is the mind, perception, education, and transportation. When going along as normal, it helps us think and communicate. The retrograde period, which lasts around 21 days and occurs 3-4 times every year, doesn't mean the planet reverses its orbit, but it seems to from our vantage point. Mercury appears to initially slow down, stop, then go backwards.

With awareness, we can see how this apparent retrograde motion affects our lives.

Mercury retrograde is blamed for malfunctioning computers, derailed plans, delays, and confused communications. Invariably, you’ll find people mixing up appointments, arriving late or early, or forgetting things altogether.

Weird things can happen during the retrograde, and Mercury is already known as the “Trickster.” He seems to enjoy watching people slip on his banana peels. For instance, you buy a home but someone else’s name ends up on the title and it takes a year to correct. That happened - to me. It’s best not to sign permanent documents or make large purchases while the Trickster is retrograde.

Another example: it’s pointed out once you’ve flown to your vacation destination that your driver’s license will expire in two days, therefore, the car rental agency cannot give you a car nor can you get through security to get back home. You’ll spend hours of your time talking to the wrong people about getting an extension faxed to the hotel, but it will take inordinate effort to explain why it must be faxed and why you were not responsible enough to renew your license in the first place. That happened, also to me. 

Remember when President Obama had to re-do the oath of office? Mercury was retrograde. And the health bill that needs revising again and again? It was introduced during Mercury retrograde. Astrologers were shaking their heads. It’s ancient wisdom to wait on final agreements until Mercury turns direct.

Ideally, a retrograde period is for review. It’s the perfect time to ponder or research a major purchase or document, or revise something you’ve been working on. The mind wants to rest from its normal push forward and take time to reflect. Otherwise, we can experience frustration, misunderstandings, and confusion.

If in the flow, we would be more introspective and meditative during this time. However, in our modern society, we are generally out of touch with these natural rhythms and most of us will soon be busy with the holiday swirl.

Mercury is slowing down now and will officially be retrograde on December 10. This will last until December 30, right through the holidays. How to handle this period with little or no upset? Take it slow and be more patient than usual. This isn’t a time for doing things at the last minute. Double check travel plans. Allow extra time to get places, to complete projects, and make preparations. Know that everyone needs a mental rest, but is not necessarily getting one, so give people your understanding.

At the same time, be sure what you say is understood. Don’t assume. And, back up your computer files, as things have a way of disappearing in a flash. If possible, take some breaks from the electronic world until we are well into January when the “Trickster” turns back to normal.

Feel free to write and tell me about his antics in your life over these next few weeks. He’s sure to be busy, giggling all the while.

November 19, 2010

Turkey Talk: Go Organic This Thanksgiving

As a graduate student in the mid-1990s, I worked for a generous businessman who handed out fresh, free-range, organic turkeys to his employees for Thanksgiving. It caught me by surprise
the first time he proudly handed me a large box with a raw turkey inside. That hadn’t happened before.

I didn’t plan to cook a meal at home that year, I wasn’t sure if the bird would fit into my refrigerator, and I wondered why he went to the trouble of ordering this particular type of turkey for all of us. How’s that for gratitude? But after my initial adjustment to the idea of it, and once I’d figured out when and how to cook it, I began to understand the importance of his gesture.

My employer had just introduced me to something far superior to what I’d usually bought on sale with a coupon at the grocery store. Better tasting, moist, no fuss about thawing since it’s fresh, nicely shaped, more compact - this turkey actually appeared to have more vitality than all the previously frozen, conventionally grown ones I’d seen before. Since then, I’ve insisted on the same. Who could go back?

In addition, I became aware of something I’d not paid much attention to up to that point: the unsettling treatment of poultry in conventional farming practices. The majority of turkeys eaten on Thanksgiving have been raised in crowded indoor conditions under heat lamps and fed genetically-modified (GMO) corn, soybeans, and fillers. This feed is laced with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics (to try to reduce the number of birds getting sick from an uncomfortable life in extremely crowded conditions).

Some of the turkeys are fattened to the point they can’t walk. “Broad Breasted Whites” are huge breasted turkeys bred to satisfy the American love of white meat, but many of them die on the floor of their crowded coop, unable to survive the inhumane treatment.

After an unthinkable slaughter, dry industrial turkeys are often injected with a saline solution in an attempt to get them to be more moist and taste better. But they truly don’t taste that well, which is why there are so many recipes for helping a turkey taste better: brining, basting, barbecuing, deep-frying, and all sorts of marinades, seasonings, and gravies. Put it in a paper bag, put it in a plastic bag, stuff it with onions and apples, start it in a hot oven then turn down the oven while basting every half hour. Who wants to do all that in the midst of setting the table, keeping the house cleaned up, managing side dishes, and welcoming friends and family with a smiling face?

With a fresh, organic, free-range, humanely-raised turkey, none of that is necessary. You can add a few seasonings if you want, but even with just a little salt you’re good to go. Put it in the oven and it’s going to taste great. I butter the skin and add garlic, sometimes putting a rosemary sprig and onion in the cavity, or even good old stuffing, which is less of a concern because organic turkeys don’t have the same risk of salmonella poisoning as conventionally grown birds.

An added bonus is you’ll know your bird had a good life roaming around in fresh air, eating bugs and grass and things turkeys eat in nature. The drawback? A higher price tag. If more people supported organic farming methods, the prices would come down. In the meantime, I’d prefer to pay a bit more and support an organic farmer who has our health and the wellbeing of the earth in mind.

November 13, 2010

Zero VOC, Non Toxic, Healthier Painting

For several years my home office has been the color of sea foam green. This particular room is always cold, even in summer, and needs an extra heater to bring it to a comfortable temperature.

A few weeks ago as the weather began to turn chilly, in a moment of do-it-yourself enthusiasm I decided I was done with the sea foam green, a shade that can in fact make the room feel colder than it is. I wanted a color that would make the room warmer.

Have you tried to decide on a paint color lately? It’s daunting. Standing in the middle of an enormous home improvement warehouse, I actually began to consult the names of the colors, as a way to help me decide. Who has the job of thinking up these names? I selected “Moroccan Sky,” an earth tone resembling terra cotta. Perfect.

I wanted my Moroccan Sky to be zero-VOC to limit my toxic exposure. VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds found in a variety of products such as furniture, carpeting, adhesives, and paints. The compounds release into the air and can cause ailments from allergies to cancer to ozone layer depletion.

Nowadays you can take in a swatch of color that can be matched in almost any brand of paint. But getting my exotically named orange-brown paint without VOCs apparently meant complications for the paint department employee, who seemed more interested in stocking shelves than mixing paint. So he said, “It’s a lot more expensive and really doesn’t matter. Today’s paints are all very low in VOCs. It’s not like the old days. These are all incredibly low, so just get what you want in any brand and you’ll be fine.”

I doubted this, truly, but I was on a DIY enthusiasm roll which doesn’t come around often. I went ahead with Moroccan Sky and its “low” VOCs. Once back home in full paint mode, it was clear there were plenty of toxins coming out of the can, into the air, and onto my wall. The smell was so strong I took frequent breaks even though a good breeze blew through the windows. I began to wonder about cancer. I painted one wall, got out quickly, and let the room air out overnight with an air filter running on turbo.

The next day I went to my small local hardware store and inquired about a paint color that is a few notches down the scale. It was a bit too ambitious after all, to have four “Moroccan” walls. I wanted warmth, not a cave. This paint department employee was very agreeable that zero-VOC, non-toxic paint is the way to go. He gave me literature supporting the reasons why it’s better for our health, which I knew but had lost sight of in my eagerness to get started. I settled on “Spiced Cider” and even the employee said it sounded wonderful.

Let me spare you the further details of my painting adventures and get to the point, which is to say, if you are up for a change and would like to paint your home or office, spend the extra $10 per gallon to get paint that is safe for you, your pets, and the environment. Here are more reasons why:

•    There are little or no noxious fumes.
•    There isn’t toxic off gassing, which can occur for years with ordinary paint.
•    You can use the room right away without having to wait for the smell to dissipate.
•    You’ll be exposed to zero carcinogens. Be sure to verify this in the brand you purchase.
•    There will be no risk of toxicity to your kidneys, liver, and nervous system.
•    You’ll avoid sinus inflammation and allergies.
•    You won’t harm the ozone layer.
•    A zero-VOC, non-toxic paint won’t add more caustic chemicals to landfills.
•    You’ll protect your pets from breathing toxic indoor air, which in many cases is much more polluted than outdoor air. Ordinary paint fumes can kill birds, and you'll not have to worry about this at all.

Once I brought home my new gallon of Spiced Cider, I opened the lid and swiped a bit of it on the walls. Breathing easy, it felt like the best extra $10 ever spent.

October 29, 2010

Sports Players as Healers? And Are They Worth the High Salaries?

I once mentioned to a dear old friend, who was also a healer, that school teachers should be paid what sports players make and the guys who run around with a little ball should be paid a teacher’s wage. She replied, “We need sports as an outlet for frustration and aggression. Instead of invading neighboring tribes and villages, that energy is channeled into organized play. The team is the tribe. The games themselves are the attack. It’s valuable to our society.”

Hmmm, you mean it might be a worthwhile thing to pay millions of dollars to guys in little matching uniforms so they can use a wooden stick, tackle each other to the ground, or run back and forth on a little rectangle while bouncing a ball? Interesting concept.

Perhaps the reason why school teachers aren’t making more money is because they aren’t preventing village attacks. But sports-as-healer? I wanted to consider this.

It does prevent violence among our youth. It does offer society an outlet for pent up emotions. We know putting young boys in sports keeps them active, physically fit, focused, and out of trouble. For all involved there are natural lessons in cooperation, group contribution, patience, winning and losing. At its best, it inspires confidence, enthusiasm, and camaraderie.

What about statistics that show domestic violence increases the day of the Super Bowl? Apparently the “healer” theory has a few holes. Still, it has validity, and maybe the players don’t earn too much money, unless they’re abusing dogs, or sending photos of their private parts to young women. Let’s not go there, because that just puts more holes in the theory.

This topic has been on my mind since the San Francisco Giants began their journey into the World Series. Living in Giants territory, it’s mania around here. Giants paraphernalia cannot be escaped in my own house. My black dog, who hasn’t missed a game, sets out on his morning walk donning a bright orange collar. The cat sits in front of the wide screen, apparently a discriminating Bochy follower. My husband, a 50+ years Giants fan, wants a “Let Timmy Smoke” t-shirt. Lord.

My habitual reaction in the past decade has been to ignore competitive sports. After all, don’t they promote fighting and conflict? Aren’t they the cause of some nasty human behavior? Isn’t it unspiritual? Folks spitting on each other, throwing things, screaming obscenities, actually hitting each other. Granted, the latter was something I witnessed at a Red Sox-Yankees game in Boston where I spent more time watching police round up unruly fans than I spent watching the game. Uncivilized!

But these days I see the softening of my formerly held beliefs on how life should be. Now I watch a group of what I call “sweet boys” (all of whom I’ve grown to love) work together for a common goal, support and encourage each other, and say only wonderful things about opposing teams and players (ok, there was that one thing between Jonathan Sanchez and Utley…).

So are they worth the money? I can only speak from my experience. Sometimes appearing as a scrappy bunch of street kids, the guys give it all they’ve got. “Misfits and cast-offs,” an unconventional bunch of underdogs have quickly come together to form a cohesive group with a desire to succeed. Hailing from varied backgrounds, revealing their quirks for all to see, they demonstrate how cultures, idiosyncrasies, and differences can be integrated into a heartfelt, valiant group endeavor.

It’s said they are perhaps the most endearing team in Giants history. And I get it. They’ve shown millions of people how to prevail, to get up again as if it’s a brand new day, offer your best, and have fun while doing it. They’ve shown us the spirit of courage and love. Yes, it’s true! Not uncivilized at all, and quite worthwhile.

As of this writing, I don’t know yet who wins or loses this World Series. Either way, Northern Californians and scattered fans around the country will be happy. We not only channeled our emotions and lost our voices, we’ve been inspired. We’ve run the gamut from hope to despair and back again, many times.

Sports players as healers? I think so, and worth the high salaries if not all of the time, then much of the time, especially in days like these.

October 27, 2010

How to Clear the Energy of Your Home or Office

Illness, violence, arguments, drug-use, thoughts, and moods influence the energy of a place. When you enter someone’s home or office, part of you automatically notes how it feels. Conscious or not, this awareness seems to be a survival mechanism, keeping you alert for protection and safety.

Sometimes I meander through our neighborhood “open houses” to satisfy a curiosity about what type of home is selling for what price. These homes all speak to me about their dwellers. In some of the homes, the energy is such that it’s hard to breathe. If realtors were aware of how this energy affects the unconscious of potential buyers, they would clear the home energy first, before putting it on the market.

Clearing a place serves to reset the energy. Just as you would clean dirty floors in a new home, it’s important to clean the energy. If you can’t see this energy, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Before you bring anything into your new home or office, clear the space. Otherwise, you’re living in someone else’s energetic dirt, which can affect you.

I once toured a famous historic home near Boston. Our small group was told about the home’s original owners – folks who lived there when the first shot “heard ‘round the world” occurred. It was one of those places I had trouble breathing in, which was one sign the energy was stagnant. When we entered an upstairs bedroom, I could not only feel illness in the air, I could smell it. I said, “Someone had a long illness, probably died in this room.” The tour guide and the others looked at me as if I’d grown a second head. The guide then confirmed that an older woman had died there. I knew part of her was still hanging around.

The energy of folks doesn’t go out the door when they leave. It clings to walls, drapery, furniture, carpet, and the air. When I have moved, I’ve tried to find out what was going on with the former tenants. How was their relationship? Their finances? Their mood?

This coincides with the ancient practice of Feng Shui, which advises us to know the history of the home and its inhabitants before moving in. For example, if someone was ill, or if they fell upon desperate times, financially or otherwise, it’s unadvisable to move in behind them because the same thing can touch you. This can work positively as well. In one home I lived in, a two-story duplex, each of the tenants downstairs began as a single woman and moved out newly-wed.

We aren’t always going to know what happened in a place before we move in. This is why I would clear any home or building as a rule. Clean thoroughly, wipe down walls, shampoo carpets and floors, and let fresh air blow through each and every room. Bring in as much natural light as possible. Sounds, chanting, singing, living plants, fresh flowers, and certain crystals are also helpful in moving and transforming energy.

In tougher cases where something seems strange or you know there was negativity or death, use additional clearing techniques. The main one I use comes from the Native American tradition. This technique was explained to me years ago by a Native American medicine man in the hills near Lake Arrowhead. A friend had just bought a fixer nearby which had a dreadful energy, to the point we didn’t want to enter one of the rooms at all. We wanted the medicine man to come to the house, but he said it wasn’t a good day for him and we could do it ourselves.

Of course, he said to use the Native American herb white sage, wrapped into a tight bundle (sometimes called a smudge stick or sage wand). Open all the windows or just crack them if it’s windy. Open cabinets and closet doors. Light the tips of the sage with a match and extinguish the flame so the wand lightly smokes. Walk counterclockwise around the home, into each room. Allow each corner, cupboard, and closet to receive the smoke. When finished, pass by again in a clockwise direction.

Sage alone creates a void, so it’s advisable to use another herb blended with it such as lavender or sweet grass. This pulls in a more positive energy as the older, stagnant energy exits. If you just have straight sage, use your intention to bring in higher, more positive energy. Our medicine man also advised us to throw sea salt in the corners of the house for good measure and leave white candles burning (with supervision).

There are many different variations on how to clear a space. I’ve found a thorough cleaning combined with the simple use of sage is usually enough. Ongoing, sage can be used to reset the energy of a place after there has been any sort of upset.

Anger & Hatred in Politics: A Trend Reflecting Individual Fear

I have never quite seen the likes of the mudslinging and finger pointing that has become the tornado of American politics. I can hardly keep up with the opinions of various factions: who has disappointed who and why, or who will simply not do what needs to be done in the way it should be done.

There is ongoing political conversation over whose beliefs and ideas are archaic, while on the other hand whose are too progressive. We hear accusations about who is corrupt, dishonest, philandering, pandering, inexperienced, overly entrenched, too conservative, or too liberal. Who supports corporate domination, who’s a hypocrite. It’s gone far beyond respectful, responsible analysis that’s helpful to the public, revealing instead conflicts and fears within each individual.

Each criticism we speak exposes something about ourselves. For example, do you have anyone in your life who seems to bring out the worst in you? Or at least brings out a side of yourself you aren’t comfortable with? Your answer is yes, unless you’ve been living as a hermit. We all have people in our lives who trigger so-called negative parts of us we’d rather not acknowledge.

Typically, however, we don’t recognize this discomfort as something that comes from within ourselves. Rather, we point the finger and spend our time figuring out what they are doing wrong, even better if we can get them to see the error of their ways. The bigger we make our case to prove ourselves right seems to correlate to the size of the can of worms we won’t admit is ours. 

In keeping with the political theme, remember when Bill Clinton was in deep with his lady troubles? Of course… but think back to whether you harshly criticized him or whether you thought, “What’s all the hoopla about?” I noted at the time that some of those who screamed loudest about how awful he was were the very ones who had done or could have done a dirty deed themselves, but had not come to terms with it. Others who were at peace with their own integrity around cheating were more likely to let Bill off the hook, even those who opposed him politically. The chastising occurs inside first, and this made the whole finger pointing circus fascinating to watch, to see who was saying what.

If passionate condescension emerges from an individual or group, it stems from fear. This is what makes our system appear unstable and chaotic at the moment. Lots of fears, masked as anger, coming to the surface to interject themselves into what could otherwise be a reasonable, effective process. Now we’ve got the most incredible nastiness flying around in our political atmosphere, which is divisive, serving to further break down cooperation that might actually serve people.

I like to have a sense of balance, so if someone is critiquing the left, I’ll often try to see the point of view of the right, and vice versa. If someone is bashing a woman candidate, even if I disagree with her position, I’ll tend to look deeper into the reason the woman is being so severely disparaged. The way I see it, women in politics get bashed more readily than the old guard. And there’s my next example. I am sensitive to the injustices women face and I want them to succeed, not be publicly insulted. Therefore, I don’t want to see women of either party vilified. I defend them all, to an extent. My opinions and passions stem from inside myself first, perhaps from fears that women have been relatively powerless.

So if you want to do an interesting experiment in psychology, either on yourself or in your observations and relationships with others, notice what you and others say about people. It isn’t necessarily the truth being spoken, rather verification of the pains and fears within the person speaking.

Within one’s own self is the answer. If you take a moment to consider our current political climate, who or what comes to mind? Do you come up with a criticism immediately about a situation, a person, or group? If so, ask yourself, “What about me is reflected back to me in what I’m saying? What within me fears this?” If you are honest with yourself, invariably you’ll find that what you dislike or find abhorrent in another has its root within you.

Awareness of what you say is a step toward greater effectiveness. Maybe look at the mud in your own hand before you sling it, asking first if there is something about you that could be looked at from a fresh angle. I think taking responsibility for our own individual fuss and muss is the best way to contribute to a cooperative world.

October 14, 2010

Witch’s Brew to Beat the Flu

The old wicked witch is making headlines between Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell and Halloween’s approach. It was interesting to see the responses to O’Donnell’s admission that she’d dabbled in a little witchery in her youth. When I first heard about it I thought, “Considering how things have been going, what’s the harm with having a little magic in Washington?” It looks like it could use some to me.

Then I got to thinking a little more about witches and how they’re viewed with fright and disdain. They aren’t that scary, and I’ll explain why.

The true definition of the word “witch” is “Wise One.” She was the natural healer and midwife for centuries, using herbs and skills passed down through many generations to help peasant populations. She birthed the babies, assisted the dying, and helped heal the sick. The witches were often the only practitioners of medicine for entire villages. Many of her remedies are still used today. Did you ever drink mint tea?
Hundreds of years ago, European ruling classes began training men at the university level to become physicians. This brought on the medical profession as we know it today, which is based on science. This fascinating history is well-researched and reported in a book called Medicine Women: A Pictorial History of Women Healers by Elisabeth Brooke.

Women had been deeply involved in the healing arts for centuries. In the midst of the new practice of medicine based on science, they continued their own healing practices, using extensive knowledge of plants, herbs, and roots. To their ultimate detriment, they also relied heavily on what could be called intuition, a 6th sense. For the new ruling class, this was too mysterious, and against God’s law.

Along with the cultural change that the new European ruling classes inspired came the notion that healers were not following a proper code of conduct. Indeed, some of their practices were so strange (rituals, nighttime celebrations, and so forth) they could very well be assisted by the devil himself. Healings that occurred in ways that didn’t make sense were deemed too magical, unnatural, and opposed to God.

During this time, woman-as-healer was turned into the wicked witch she is caricatured as today, complete with evil intentions, scary spells, a big crook nose, dark draped clothing, a broomstick, and a loud cackle. In a Google search to define the word witch, a variety of definitions come up, including a woman who practices black magic, an ugly, ill-tempered old woman,  a woman having a compact with the devil, even “a woman who is not submissive to her husband.”

Because the mysteries and misunderstandings of old-fashioned herbal healing became mixed up in this confusion, women healers (and a large number of male healers, too) were eliminated. They were silenced through fear or violently killed. But the practice lived on. Even some of the common rituals and celebrations have been incorporated into our modern holidays.

Plants that sprout from the earth have healing qualities, and this simple fact isn’t easy to ignore. Why not use some of them? It’s that time of year when we find ourselves or loved ones catching a bug. I think you’ll find this special brew to be a welcome “magical potion,” helping you feel fine throughout the flu season. You can use it when you’re coming down with something or when you are already in the midst of a cold or flu.

Witch's Brew to Heal the Flu

3 quarts water
8-10 pieces of fresh ginger (cut into ½” pieces)
½ tsp cayenne
The juice of two organic lemons
2 TBS crushed organic garlic (don’t be afraid of garlic – better to smell like it than spread germs to others!)

Put all ingredients into a stainless steel, ceramic, or glass pot. Simmer 8-10 minutes. Drink as warm as possible. This can be left on the back burner of your stove for a few days to be reheated as you go along. Drink 3-4 cups a day, as needed.

September 29, 2010

From Guinea Pigs to Power: No to GMO Foods and Manipulation

In my tiny area of the globe, I am a gardener, keeper of animals, feeder of birds - someone who is concerned about the protection of the earth, land, soil, waterways, air, and all living beings. Increasingly, I am aware of the myriad ways we have become detached from nature, and the natural ways of living on the planet. One of the main issues of concern is our lack of knowledge about where our food comes from.

Two weeks ago, the Corn Refiners Association applied to the FDA to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar.” Apparently, more and more consumers have been reading labels and they don’t want the syrupy stuff in their food. Now, an attempt to put another blindfold over the eyes of the American public has been made, to lead us to believe that their product, implicated in the nation’s obesity epidemic, is nothing more than sugar from corn.

I can detect high fructose corn syrup in any product. It cheapens the taste and has a sickly sweet flavor. “Corn sugar” will do the same. It isn’t like regular sugar and doesn’t taste like it even though the argument laid out by the Corn Refiners Association is that high fructose corn syrup has the same nutritional value as sugar. Well, for Pete’s sake, who eats sugar for its nutritional value, which is nil? Let’s not forget the real issue is that we, as a nation, consume too much sugar in any form.

Even if you are a fan of eating products that contain high fructose corn syrup, I think it’s still wise to know the source of what you are putting into your mouth. Anything derived from corn (and soy) carries the potential to be genetically modified (GMO) so it can withstand a few solid drenchings of pesticides and herbicides, including Monsanto’s Roundup. The corn can also be modified by changing its DNA so that it “naturally” wards off bugs and increase crop yields.

Currently in the United States, the FDA has not required genetically engineered products to be labeled as such, while many other countries have demanded the labeling, including the European Union. A number of people work in the government, including the FDA, who stand to gain through their association with corporations like Monsanto, thus the labeling law has gotten bogged down in red tape. 

Labeling all products with GMO ingredients is a vitally important issue that we as consumers must insist upon. The FDA hasn’t required labeling, indicating it’s too complicated. They say the evidence against GMO food isn’t clear enough, they don’t want consumers like me and you to look down on GMO ingredients in our food, and, what they don’t say, is that there are powerful people with corporate interests whose personal wealth will be negatively affected when we stop spending our money on their products. 

We do know that there are adverse health effects from this form of biotechnology, that it was not and hasn’t been studied properly before it was used in the food supply, and that the use of GMO seed in crops contaminates other fields, including those that are organic. We also know that in many cases, more pesticides and herbicides have to be used on these crops. If you would like to learn more about this, read Dr. Joseph Mercola’s article entitled “10 Reasons to Avoid Genetically Modified Foods” at At the end of this article are numerous references for those of you interested in further research.

Whenever I write about these concerns, and when colleagues have done the same, someone (often working in Washington, DC) responds with a scathing letter, an attempt not to state facts, but rather disqualify the author and further confuse the public. The responses are personal attacks instead of rational disputes. This is spin, and it’s done because big money is involved, they know the facts are building against them, and they’re afraid the American public won’t remain in the dark for long. 

But the American consumer is king and all we need is knowledge. We are the ones with the money who buy the products, and there is power in that. We could change the system at any time, with the dollar. By buying whole organic food, preferably from local farmers, and shunning the processed food world or at least demanding proper labeling, each of us declares that we support foods (including corn) to be grown the way nature intended, not modified by scientists, however well-meaning they might be. Keep in mind, all non-organic foods you pay for that contain corn (and soy) derivatives are likely to in some way support the GMO practice, while allowing chemical companies like Monsanto to control our food supply. This includes conventionally grown beef and chicken, since they are subjected to the GMO food in their daily feed.

October 2010 will be the first official “Non-GMO month” involving more than 580 natural food stores nationwide. This will be to promote awareness and celebrate your right to choose food that is not genetically modified. You can learn more about the event by reading a press release from the executive director of the Non-GMO Project:

If you want to watch two good movies, see The Future of Food and Food, Inc. They help clarify these issues, and at the very least, make us more aware of the necessity to have a GMO labeling law. This law might be complicated to enforce, but no more so than the prospect of an entire food supply being contaminated.

If you’re interest is piqued, read Jeffrey Smith’s book Seeds of Deception. For more on the American food industry read Marion Nestle’s Food Politics and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation.

A descendant of Midwest farmers who came to California to work in the fertile Central Valley, I’ll continue to be an advocate for organic farmers and local farmers’ markets. I hope you will do the same, or we run the very real risk of being fed solely by a chemical giant who doesn’t have our best interests at heart.

September 16, 2010

Turn Your Cast-Off Food Into Gold by Composting

Made from your table scraps (except meats and seeds) and yard waste, compost is the key to sustainability and organic gardening. Composting reduces your trash and the amount of junk that ends up in landfills - that is, if you aren't a big fast food fan and eat fresh, whole food.

There is little to no actual trash in my garbage bin. I recycle any paper products or glass, and all vegetable, fruit and table scraps go into the compost bucket under my kitchen sink. Once full, I take the bucket out to the far corner of the yard where I dump it into a big pile. I toss in a few leaves, and the pile turns itself into the most amazing, dark, rich soil I've ever seen.

I was quite truly astonished when I first witnessed food and leaves turn into healthy soil. I had no idea of the method by which nature quickly breaks down organic matter, turning it into a lush product. Those of you who garden will understand my use of "lush" when referring to soil. Those of you who don't tend to the earth and grow a few things, you must start, even if it's a small pot of something near a window.

The soil you create yourself can be used as mulch around trees and bushes. It can go into flower pots and, of course, can be mixed into soil in your garden. It enriches and feeds the earth while repelling the bugs that destroy your beloved plants.

Yes, strong, healthy soil makes the use of caustic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides on our precious earth all the more ridiculous, since these chemicals deplete the soil. This weakens the plants, strips them of nutrients and brings on even more pests.

Composting is an amazing, wonderful way to help heal this precious earth. It is one way to give back to this planet which has provided us with all we need. And once you start, you won't want to see another banana peel or broccoli stalk go into the trash because you'll know what it's capable of becoming.

My friend Rosanne (an earthy Taurus, naturally) taught me how to make a compost pile. I was finding it all mysterious and complicated, but she changed this. Her method?

Use a bucket under the sink for your kitchen scraps. Outside, dig a hole about two feet deep and two to three feet wide. Put your cast-off food scraps in it with some leaves. Cover these with some dirt. Every few days, turn the pile a bit with a shovel or pitchfork to aerate it. If it's dry, add some water so it becomes like a wrung out sponge.

Keep adding to the pile. When it’s fairly large, dig another hole next to it and begin adding fresh scraps to this new pile, allowing the older one to cook and do its thing.

Out of the few methods I've tried, Rosanne's is the best and easiest. I've heard people say you have to do it in layers, adding food, then leaves, then dirt and so on. But that's too complicated. All you need do is toss your scraps in and cover them with dirt. Add a few leaves and cuttings from plants or grass, mix once in awhile and add some water occasionally. In very cold climates, you'll need alternatives. In this case, check with your local waste management company to see if they offer compost bins.

For the past couple of years, I have used a black compost bin instead of making my pile on the ground. This has served to keep Rami, my Labrador-German Shepherd foodie, from eating everything in the pile. But it doesn't work as well for composting. It's not as fast or efficient. My next step will be to put a little enclosure around the pile, so it keeps the critters out.

If you live in an apartment or a place where an outdoor pile isn't possible, there are now counter top compost makers. To find out more about them, you can do an internet search of counter top composters. You’ll see there are many styles and a wide price range to choose from.

Even if you aren't a gardener or don’t have a green thumb, just spreading your homemade compost onto the earth - perhaps around a few trees in your neighborhood - will help repair this place we have for so long treated with disregard.

September 9, 2010

Mercury Retrogrades while Mars and Venus Dance

Appearing to go backward in the sky, Mercury is now on its retrograde path until the 12th of September. Most of you will remember that I encourage you to take a rest during Mercury retrograde. It is a time when the mind wants to meditate, renew, relax, refresh, recuperate, rejuvenate.

The mind of everyone is ruled by Mercury, thus everyone's mind is affected by the energy of its apparent backward motion. Continuing on the same forward push as usual during this time period will often result in frustration and delays.

And what about those of us born with Mercury retro? This group thinks a little differently, sees things from a different perspective, the mind not working in the usual manner. Things are learned and communicated in ways not always understood by the larger group. What if school teachers and parents knew these things about their children? Do you know where your own Mercury is in your chart? It reveals a lot about your learning and communication style.

I like to check where Mercury is retrograde in the birth chart to see what area of your life is under review. I know many of you have seen my blog post from last year on Mercury retrograde, but if you are new to my muse-letter, you can read it here:

In a not-so-common occurrence, Mars and Venus have been paired together in the sky, moving in tandem, at times being seen plainly by the naked eye.

I believe they came together at the perfect moment this summer, as feminine and masculine energies strive to become balanced within ourselves and on the planet.

Venus moved into Scorpio yesterday morning, and Mars follows her next week. Perhaps it is only right that this goddess lead the way into Scorpio's dark underworld.

And of significance as well, Venus will turn retrograde in Scorpio on October 8th. Wherever this occurs in your chart will indicate a place of review, perhaps something new coming in. You'll find another piece to a puzzle you've worked on during your lifetime going back in 8 year blocks.

Until November 18th, Venus will ask you to look more closely at yourself, how you associate with others in relationship to your own values. The theme of this last came up in 2002, 1994, 1986, 1978...

September New Moon in Virgo

We are still in the energy of the dark moon, which was perfectly dark in Virgo yesterday morning, Wednesday, September 8th.

If we notice our own internal rhythm, we might notice ourselves feeling more inward and quiet when the moon is dark. It isn't a time to push full speed ahead, especially with Mercury retrograde right now. This is a time to be introspective.

It is also the ideal time to put your manifestation list together, to write down what you want so it can more easily come to you. Each new moon is an opportunity to focus your thoughts on what you'd like to see more of in your life. It is a time of renewal, of new beginnings.

Write these down: how do you want to feel in relationships? How do you want to feel each morning when you wake up and think about the day ahead? What is the feeling you most want to embrace in your life? How do you want to feel about yourself and your role in this world? This new moon is a time to align with more of what feeds your soul.

Once you have your list written (alternatively, you can draw or paint it) do whatever you want with it, but do not fret over it. Release it, knowing you are now in closer alignment with how you want to feel each day, and that this will increase as the moon grows brighter.

August 20, 2010

The Dilemma with Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency warned that drinking water pollution is one of the top environmental threats to our health. Contaminants are routinely measured in municipal drinking water including lead, cadmium, mercury, metals, pesticides, fertilizers, and chlorine. These can enter your body not only by drinking the water, but through bathing in it.

Our blood is 90% water and our muscle tissue is 75% water. We need to drink clean water to deliver nutrients and oxygen, discharge metabolic wastes, and clear out toxins. Our ultimate goal is to relieve the body from daily environmental stressors, but what do we do when one of these stressors is our own water? Although water from our faucets and city water supplies is ordinarily safe from bacteria and harmful organisms, undesirable contaminants in the water are an ongoing concern.

One of these contaminants is fluoride. As an additive to public water supplies, fluoride has been banned as unsafe for public health in many countries, yet it is added to many municipal water supplies in the United States with assurances that it is a “proven health measure.” Michael Barbee, author of Politically Incorrect Nutrition says, “Fluoride improperly mineralizes many tissues, including bones, joints, and teeth. It also disarms the immune system and calcifies the pineal gland.”

Despite the urgings of dentists, fluoride may not be necessary to protect teeth. Tooth decay appears to result from a poor diet and lack of basic hygiene. You can read more about this theory at And if you’re interested in how fluoride became so widespread, read The Fluoride Deception, written by Christopher Bryson, which details how public opinion has been molded to believe fluoridation is a good thing. See a review of Bryson’s book at

Fluoride and other contaminants aside, we still must find a way to have healthy drinking water. Coffee, sodas, and other commercial drinks don’t adequately hydrate the body like pure water does. Lack of water in the body weakens immunity and increases susceptibility to disease because water actually protects cells from diseases and viruses. When your cells lack water, it is easier for foreign invaders to enter them. Adequate water holds the cells in a structure that allows for optimal functioning.

In regard to healthy water, Mu Shik Jhon, Ph.D., author of The Water Puzzle and The Hexagonal Key tells us, “What was once only theory is being confirmed. Water has a specific structure which varies with environmental conditions.” He tells us that water around cancer cells is less structured than water around normal cells. His research has shown that cancer has a common feature: the destruction of the water structure at a cellular level. Dr. Mu Shik Jhon says when hexagonal structure of water near cells is compromised, cells are more vulnerable to external stimuli. Cells surrounded by less structured water are weaker and more prone to malfunction and genetic mutation. “The failure to consider water’s impact during disease may be a glaring oversight,” he says, and goes on to say that water is especially critical for cancer patients, protecting cells from environmental damage. Through this research, some have suggested the possibility of returning cancer cells to a normal state by improving the water environment at a cellular level.

The road to good health involves being adequately hydrated with healthy water. Bottled water is not optimal unless you know the source is pure and it comes in glass, as plastic is an environmental pollutant that can leach toxic chemicals into your water.

What to do? Filter your own drinking, shower, and bath water with high quality filters. Look for filters for your drinking water that eliminate contaminants found in your municipal water. To learn more about the tap water in your community, see the Drinking Water website for the United States Environmental Protection Agency at

August 16, 2010

Is Insomnia Harming Your Immune System?

I recently heard a celebrity doctor say seven hours of sleep per night is ideal and if we get more than that we are shortening our life spans. Then, this week I read an article in a health journal advising eight hours of sleep for optimal health. Obviously there are conflicting viewpoints about how much sleep will help us heal, remain healthy, and perhaps extend our lives.

Some people can get six to seven hours of sleep, apparently function well all day, and continue on without fatigue, while others feel tired, looked tired, are foggy-minded, and generally irritable after the same amount. It is the latter group that needs to be aware of their own well-being, because these are the ones who will first come down with a cold or flu, their body unable to fully recuperate through sleep.

By knowing and honoring our own ideal sleep rhythm, we are better equipped to remain healthy and avoid not only infections that might be going around, but more serious diseases. Stanford University psychiatrist David Spiegel, MD, reviewed studies and noted a correlation between sleep-regulated hormones melatonin and cortisol, and cancer. Cortisol helps regulate the immune system response, while melatonin may have an antioxidant effect on cells, which can prevent the damage that can lead to cancer.

There are several other links between sleep deprivation and immunity, so what are we to do if we know we aren’t getting the sleep we need? It’s helpful to begin with a few basic questions about your own true “sleep nature.”

Think back to when you were a child and remind yourself of your own sleep cycle. On weekends, would you stay up late and sleep in the next day? Or were you falling asleep in front of the television by 9:00 and waking early the following morning? Many of us have had to change our true sleep rhythm in order to get along in life, and it’s worth getting in touch with it again.
Are you at your best during the day if you go to bed by 10:00pm, or, can you stay up past midnight and feel great the next day?
If given a choice, would you rise with the sun or sleep late into the morning?
Is your energy highest in the morning? Or does it increase in the evening? 
How sensitive are you to judgment around sleep patterns? For example, do you hear criticism from a society that says you should not be ready for bed as early as 9:00pm, but you shouldn’t stay in bed very late in the morning either?
Do you like to take naps?
Do you like to be up doing things in the middle of the night?
At what time during the day do you get a lull in your energy?

Becoming more familiar with your personal sleep nature can help you accept the way your own body wants to rest. And it does want to rest, very deeply, because this is when it heals itself, rejuvenates and recharges, and mends what needs mending. I believe the best, most renewing sleep happens when you are in sync and mindful of your natural sleep traits, the ones that truly suits you. Perhaps it is easy to lose sight of what they are because of the structured work and school day. But if you’ve had lowered immunity, it’s completely allowable to adjust your schedule to honor yourself and your rhythm.

There are many holistic ways to get to sleep without the use of drugs and other artificial methods. The following suggestions have worked for many people, even during times of intense stress.

  • Be sure to get adequate magnesium and calcium, in proper balance, through a source or supplement that is food-based, not synthetic. This will help calm your nervous system.
  • L-theanine is an amino acid that calms the mind. Studies have shown it to help people sleep better, if not necessary longer. 
  • Adaptogens such as ashwaganda help reduce cortisol levels to lessen stress and help you sleep. I would get this through a licensed practitioner so the right dose can be determined for you.
  • Calms Forte is a homeopathic remedy that can help calm the nerves and induce sleep without the heavy feeling of sleeping pills. It can be found in any natural food store.
  • Drink chamomile tea in the evening. 
  • Walk daily, if only for 20-minutes.
  • Avoid caffeine during the day, or drink green tea, but only in the mornings.  
  • Calm your mind and spirit in the evenings by turning off the computer, telephone, and television at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • At the end of the day, write down your thoughts, feelings, worries, and concerns to get them out of your head and down on paper.
  • Clear your bedroom of clutter, including computers and electronics.
  • Remove papers and extra books from your nightstand.
  • Stop answering the phone or having animated conversations in the evenings if it activates your mind too much. 
  • Meditate before bed or read a novel to relax and clear your mind from the day.

If you still don’t sleep well through the night after you have tried these, see an acupuncturist, herbalist, naturopath, homeopath, or holistic practitioner to assist you so you can come back into balance, sleep soundly, and keep your immunity strong.

Why Create an Acid-Alkaline Balance in Your Body?

In the field of holistic and natural health, we often hear that a body in an alkaline state is better than one that is too acidic. What we actually want is a balance between the two.

This issue has been one of controversy, with some medical doctors saying it is nonsense - that foods and pollution and so forth cannot cause acidic changes in the body. Whether or not one side or the other is “right,” it’s an interesting health topic and I do think there is something here worth looking into.

Your body can be considered too acidic if its pH, or potential Hydrogen, is acid forming. When we measure pH, we measure the degree to which negative ions and positive ions push against each other. Negative ions are alkaline-forming. Positive ions are acid-forming. What does this mean and why would it matter?

Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity, says, “When cells live too long in an acidic condition, they adapt to it by mutating and becoming malignant. Long-term acidic conditions in our bodies provide perfect environments for cancer and auto-immune diseases like AIDS to flourish. Most people with these disorders also have candidiasis.”

Likewise, Dr. Theodore Baroody, Jr., author of Alkalize or Die, tells us to be aware of creating a balanced internal pH because disease thrives in an acidic environment.

You can have your body’s acidity tested, or you can get special strips, which are usually found in natural food markets, to test your levels at home. With these strips, your pH level is measured from a sample of your saliva or urine first thing in the morning. (A balanced urine pH is approximately 6.4.) It’s interesting to see what the strips indicate, but it isn’t always an accurate reading. A blood test would be more accurate, but not necessary.

Your best approach is to begin to address your lifestyle and whether or not it is alkaline or acid producing. A healthy balance between the two is the goal. Since the majority of food eaten by the typical American is considered acid producing, altering food choices is a major step in creating a balance.

Most people eat the Standard American Diet (SAD – an appropriate acronym) and consume primarily processed food. Items that come in boxes, packages, or cans, plus fried food, fast food, alcohol, sugars, white flour, and meat are all acid forming. But it isn’t only food and the SAD that creates an acidic condition. Noise, air pollution, and toxins in our environment can cause it, as can general stress, worry, anxiety, anger, and fear.

As you might imagine, a healthier lifestyle contributes alkalinity and can help maintain the acid-alkaline balance. For alkalizing, we simply add what we know we need more of in our lives: relaxation, fresh vegetables, oxygenated clean water, fresh air, laughter, and positive connections with others. We reduce those foods and experiences that create too much acid.

Whether or not you know your pH levels, it might be a good thing to take some simple steps to encourage a healthy acid-alkaline balance in your body. Many of these suggestions come from Dr. Baroody’s book, and they are common knowledge among holistic practitioners who see a person’s health considerably improve when they make these lifestyle changes.

  • Spend adequate time outdoors in sunlight - twenty to thirty minutes per day – even if it’s cloudy.
  • Have a regular pattern of sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
  • Use an 80/20 ratio of alkaline-forming foods to acid-forming foods. In just doing a basic online search, I found over 300,000 pages referring to these foods.
  • Rest and reduce stress.
  • Walk by water or by the sea to be in the midst of negative ions.
  • Eat fresh foods found in nature, including an abundance of vegetables.
  • First thing in the morning drink the juice of ½ lemon water in a tall glass of warm water. Although citrus is acidic, your digestion uses the acidic parts and leaves an alkaline residue.
  • Utilize natural healing such as acupuncture, energy work, reflexology, color and music therapy, yoga, chiropractic, and spiritual healing, all of which have alkaline forming reactions in the body.

July 28, 2010

It's Time to Think for Ourselves About Artificial Sweeteners

I'm at the stage in my book where I talk about sugar and all its derivatives. I just have to put a bit about artificial sweeteners in my blog right now because it's so insidious and we are so misled. I don't think there is another section of my book where I get so riled up!

I continue to hear that the latest newfangled artificial sweetener in yellow packets is safe even though this is nonsense. “I talked with my pharmacist about it and he said it's fine,” one person said. Now Hear This… artificial sweeteners in any form, no matter how they are advertised to us, are not healthy alternatives. You can’t afford to be ignorant about what you put into your body, and your pharmacist is a legal drug dealer. Pharmacists, bless them, distribute synthetic drugs to a nation that is becoming sicker by the minute. They are not knowledgeable about holistic healing. Although I must say, European pharmacists, bless them too, have much awareness about herbs and natural remedies.

The truth about artificial sweeteners has been difficult to come by. We are told to stay away from sugar to avoid obesity and lose weight. But the nation turned to chemical substitutes and became fatter than ever. It’s not sugar that made Americans obese. We’ve had that all along. What we didn’t always have was processed foods, many of which contain artificial sweeteners that are suspected of causing cancer.

I offer you an overview in my book (I'm on the final edits!) of some of the most popular sweeteners because I believe it’s time we step into our own power, take our brains back from the all-pervasive advertisement culture we live in, and know what we are putting into our own bodies.

Here is some background on just one of the insidious little things: Aspartame.

Manufactured by Monsanto Chemical Corporation, the same company responsible for pesticides that kill not only pests in your yard, but the earth itself, you’ll recognize aspartame as "Nutrasweet" and "Equal."

Despite this common knowledge, I still find these poisons on restaurant tables everywhere.

Aspartame is a neurotoxin and excitotoxin sometimes seen on labels listed as “Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine.” It can be found in over-the-counter and prescription drugs often listed under “inactive ingredients.” It is also responsible for the majority of adverse reactions, such as headaches and allergies, reported to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A common additive in processed food, aspartame breaks down into methanol that converts to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has been shown to denature and mutate DNA. Classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, formaldehyde is deemed a probable cause of cancer by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This information was put out by the National Cancer Institute on their formaldehyde fact sheet.

This is but one more reason to convert your diet to whole foods that are found in nature, and to eliminate processed, packaged products. 

July 22, 2010

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

~ John O'Donohue ~

Scar Therapy for Women Who Have Undergone Breast Surgery

If you have undergone breast surgery or a mastectomy, you might consider specialized scar massage therapy to help your body heal from the trauma. This type of massage targets scar tissue, which is an ongoing source of pain and discomfort for many women.

Lymph drainage will also be addressed as part of your treatment. Scar tissue can become hard, behaving like a solid wall and preventing the proper flow of lymph. Since your lymphatic system plays such an important role in helping your body eliminate toxins, it is vital to your health that your lymph flows well without obstruction. 

Scar therapy massage creates motion around traumatized tissue and enhances the normal flow in lymph capillaries just under the skin. By softening and dissolving scar tissue, it helps release tissue congestion. This improves circulation in surrounding areas, including the arms where many women have continual aching after breast surgeries.

When the circulation and movement is increased - not only in breast tissue, but in your shoulders, chest, back, and neck - it can alleviate swelling, discomfort, and other post-surgery symptoms, such as pain or pulling around the surgery site. For women who have cysts as well, it can decrease the fluid in them.

Breasts are a touchy subject for Americans, despite the apparent fetish with them. Having another person, even a specialist who is well-trained and experienced, touching one’s breasts can be cause for alarm. Many women are self-conscious and uncomfortable with the idea of breast therapy, but scar massage therapists are generally very supportive and are there to help.

I have two colleagues who specialize in techniques to heal scar tissue. They love to help women healing from breast surgery. Both of them have wonderful attitudes toward their work. They are dedicated to helping women live better lives post-surgery. As an added bonus, these therapists know when scar tissue has softened, whether cysts have decreased in size, or even if there are unusual lumps in breast tissue that ought to be checked by your doctor.

Many massage therapists find that working on the breasts is too intimate. Breasts are loaded with emotional, sexual, and societal concerns. Being the therapist who enters this territory can be daunting, but fortunately there are those who know its healing power, who feel very comfortable with it, and are dedicated to helping women in this way.

If you are interested in having scar therapy and breast massage, seek out a female practitioner well educated in breast anatomy and lymphatic massage. The American Massage Therapy Association website at is one place to start. Once you are on this site, click on “Find a Massage Therapist.” Currently breast massage isn’t listed as a modality, but lymphatic drainage is, so once you find a list of therapists in your area you can then narrow your search to one that also specializes in scar therapy.

July 21, 2010

What You Might Not Hear from Your Doctor About Calcifications in Breast Tissue

There are various causes of calcifications in the breasts including injury, inflammation, and radiation therapy. Improper assimilation of calcium can also lead to clustering in tissue. Calcium is an abundant mineral found almost entirely in bones and teeth. Only a tiny amount should be in cellular fluid, blood, or muscles.

Calcium deposits in breast tissue can be detected with mammography. Appearing as little white dots, macrocalcifications are usually considered harmless. But microcalcifications, appearing irregular and clustered, are often found in areas of rapidly dividing cells. Because of this they are checked more closely for cancer.

Some women have calcifications surgically removed, but if the underlying cause of the problem isn’t addressed, they can return. Therefore, calcifications in the breasts are your opportunity to become more aware of an imbalance in your body.

In general, we are encouraged to increase our calcium, drink plenty of milk, and take supplements. But according to research conducted by German doctors Paul Gerhardt Seeger and Johanna Budwig, unless this is balanced with magnesium, calcium levels become too high and magnesium levels can remain low in the extra-cellular fluid. Your cells are then challenged to pump the calcium back out. When they can’t do this efficiently, the mitochondria in each cell can calcify.

Many calcium supplements aren’t easily assimilated. If you take too much or the wrong type for your needs, it can upset the mineral balance in your body.

Too much calcium can cause magnesium deficiency. Low magnesium has been linked to cancer, while higher levels have been shown to prevent cancer and heal precancerous conditions. When magnesium levels are low, calcium migrates out of your bones and into your body’s tissue. When levels are high, calcium moves out of the tissue and back into the bones. Healthy cells have high magnesium and low calcium levels.

If improper assimilation of calcium can cause it to cluster in tissue, it makes sense to consume absorbable calcium and magnesium to maintain balance between the two. Some of the best sources of absorbable calcium are kale, swiss chard, collard, mustard, dandelion, and turnip greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and bok choy.

Most people are not eating these vegetables in abundance, if at all. They are turning to other sources for calcium, such as dairy products. I don’t believe this is the best source, despite what we’ve been told, since Americans have a particularly high rate of osteoporosis and also a very high consumption of dairy.

If you’ve been told you have calcifications in your breast tissue, your doctor might recommend that you wait six months and have them checked again. This means you will return for another mammogram, or x-ray of your breasts, which in itself is a problem. 

Instead of waiting passively, there are a few things you can do to help yourself heal. Have your magnesium levels checked. On a side note, it’s interesting that chocolate cravings can be correlated to low levels of magnesium. Higher levels of magnesium reduce these cravings.

Get movement through your breast tissue with self-breast massage, the use of castor oil packs, exercise, and making sure your bras are not limiting your circulation. I recommend you discontinue the use of popular deodorants and antiperspirants, as it is theorized that the chemicals in these contribute to breast calcifications.

If you take a supplement, find one that is not synthetic, but made from whole foods, and be sure it is correctly balanced with magnesium.

Finally, nature has provided what we need. Eat lots of calcium rich vegetables, which your body already knows how to assimilate.

July 12, 2010

15 Simple Ways to Support Your Digestion for Better Health

I recently heard a famous doctor telling people that it is normal to have a bowel movement every couple of days. While this might be the norm in our society, it is definitely not normal. It's not healthy either. It's constipation.

A healthy digestive system is top priority for health, especially if you want to heal from or prevent life-threatening diseases. With good digestion, toxins are carried out of your body and the nutrients from food can nourish you.

To do this, your bowels need to move regularly. Twice per day is ideal, but for some people, even once per day is rare. If this is the case for you, food and toxins alike are staying in your body too long, where they can fester.

When your digestive system isn’t like clockwork, all of your organs work less effectively. Your body can’t absorb the nutrients it needs. Your body wants to eliminate what is not useful to its optimum functioning while utilizing each and every nutrient it can from your food. That is part of its job. But the modern lifestyle prevents it. The average diet leads to increased cases of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, skin conditions, aches and pains, indigestion, acid reflux, autoimmune disorders, and more.

To be well, we need to eat well, and top quality food is not pre-packaged. It's not found in a box, can, wrapper, or drive-thru. It’s found in your own kitchen or one in which fresh, real, live food is valued. Processed food is heavy in additives, light in nutrients and quality. Some of it is just plain dead. Your body can’t use it for nourishment and has to use energy to get it out of you.

With a little discipline and patience, you can heal or considerably improve long-standing digestive problems which are at the root of poor health. Here are 15 inexpensive things you can do to get you well on your way to digestive bliss, no matter what your current state of health.

1.    If constipation is the norm for you, drink a large glass of warm water with one teaspoon to one tablespoon of fiber first thing in the morning. Use a fiber supplement based on fruits and vegetables.
2.    Drink purified water throughout the day.
3.    Drink a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a little warm water before each meal, or add it to salad dressings or vegetables.
4.    Avoid sugar, white flour products, excess meat, food with chemical additives, fast food, caffeine in any form, fried foods, oranges and their juice, alcohol, and foods that can upset your stomach, such as spicy ones. Once your digestion is healthy again, you can occasionally indulge.
5.    Eat a fresh room-temperature salad every day. However, this is not a good idea if you tend toward diarrhea. In that case, steamed vegetables and broths will be better for you.
6.    Each morning, drink a warm glass of water with the juice of ½ an organic lemon.
7.    Eat a bit of sauerkraut with every meal to create healthy gut flora. Once your digestion is healthy again, eat it regularly. You can also do this by supplementing your diet with a high quality probiotic.
8.    Eat room temperature or slightly warm food, and avoid cold foods and drinks. Cold products cause your stomach to work harder to digest your food.
9.    Eat homemade broths and stocks made from meat, chicken, or fish to gain their healing properties. These have been used by traditional cultures for centuries. Gelatin - which occurs naturally from simmering bones and cartilage - is a powerful aid for digestion.
10.    If constipated, snack on a few raw walnuts that have been soaked in water for several hours. Soaking nuts helps you digest them better.
11.    Drink fennel, ginger, peppermint, or chamomile tea instead of coffee or sodas.
12.    Do an intestinal cleanse, preferably guided by a natural health practitioner. Follow up with a cleanse every year in the springtime.
13.    Get tested for parasites and Candida so you can begin to eliminate vitality-sapping parasites and fungus.
14.    Supplement your diet with digestive enzymes which can assist your body detoxify and absorb nutrients. You can also eat more pineapple and papaya, both of which contain helpful digestive enzymes.
15.    Sit down for meals. Eat slowly in a comforting environment with your attention on your meal, not on the computer or television, and especially not on the news. Rest for a moment after you eat.

July 11, 2010

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass,
how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

...Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver

July 6, 2010

A Hopi Elder Speaks

"You have been telling people that this is the eleventh hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the hour. And there are things to be considered.

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader."

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, "This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. they will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.

"Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water.

"And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

"The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!

"Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

"We are the ones we have been waiting for."

Oraibi, Arizona
Hopi Nation

Calm Amongst the Storm

When things are going well in your life do you feel something might happen to disturb and disrupt your state of calm? Like a playing child who is suddenly very quiet, it is common in our busy society for people to feel mild anxiety when everything feels quiet and peaceful. Is there really a calm before the storm? Is that old adage correct? Sometimes.

Upsets come in all forms. They ask us, "Can you hold the center of your being while a storm rages?" We can become overwhelmed and shattered by the death of a loved one, illness, betrayal, abandonment, physical, emotional, and psychological pain. We can become despairing over the actions taken by those we love, allowing the choices they make to affect and hurt us deeply. How can we make it through some of life's circumstances with greater awareness, compassion, and wisdom?

Something will come to disturb the calm. It always does. That is part of the human experience - a common one - you can feel great one moment and in the very next moment can receive a phone call or experience a shock that triggers a state of suffering.

I used to believe that much of one’s ability to handle the storms of life has to do with an ability to grieve and heal. I thought, well, we are not taught how to grieve and then to be free from that grief. In many cases we are taught to get over it quickly, go back to work, move on, and certainly don't show so many feelings. As a result, people carry around so much old grief that as soon as a new circumstance arises that creates more suffering, it cannot be managed. It is like the last drop of water that overflows a bucket, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

I do believe it is vital to grieve fully for past losses and suffering in order to effectively manage life’s storms, but more importantly I think the majority of us can use an attitude adjustment. Instead of complaining (and holding onto the notion) that life has done us wrong, we can accept the ebb and flow of difficult circumstances in life. Simply accept that life is this full, sometimes joyous, sometimes painful and continually soften our heart centers as we move through life.

Why do we resist this so? Perhaps it is because we, our own private worlds, have not acknowledged our unique strengths, power, and ability to endure. So we keep trying to get this recognition outside ourselves: look at what happened to me. And then this happened, and this, and he said this, and she did that, and I was innocent to it all.

To cultivate a practice of remaining centered in the face of storms, try the following:

Breathe. Be aware of your breath in every moment.
Consciously feel any sensations in your body, even discomfort. Energy moves through you and it needs to move through and out. When sensations are avoided and ignored, they tend to bury themselves, percolate, and fester.

Accept life! It's full of events both pleasant and not so pleasant.
Remember and repeat, “This too shall pass.”
Each evening before you sleep, look inward and ask, “Am I holding onto suffering? Am I wanting attention for my pain? Am I willing to change and face life with greater joy?

Hold the conscious, deliberate intention that you will go forward knowing that whatever you encounter, you will be conscious of your attitude and how easy it is to let it drop into negativity. Focus on what you have and the gifts your life has brought you. See the beauty all around you. Force your mind into a higher perspective. Insist on it, and it will happen.

July 5, 2010

A Drug-free Way to Manage Overwhelm, Stress, and Uncertainty

Lately more people tell me they are overwhelmed. We witness and hear about more things now than any human beings before us. There is an onslaught of information which on its own can be overwhelming. But we are also in a time of rapid change, causing many people to transform their ideas and even their values. This requires letting go of old concepts that once provided a sense of stability. It also causes feelings of uncertainty and fear.

How can you get comfortable with uncertainty in these quickly changing times? This is the key to alleviating stress in your life. One excellent way is to meditate. Westerners resist meditation, being oriented toward a more outward focus. But if you truly want to feel calm and become more peaceful within without drugging yourself, find that spot of comfort and ease with uncertainty by becoming quiet within every day. Sit down, close your eyes, be still and quiet, focus your attention inward, and notice the feelings wanting your attention.

All good meditation practitioners know that once you begin to do this, you will discover that no thought or feeling remains with you for long. Each and every thought, emotion, or sensation - such as overwhelm - just gets the opportunity to be noticed. It will arise and pass away. It will not stay. And it will stop chasing you.

On a different note, here is something you probably haven’t considered. If you are overwhelmed or feeling fear, are you trying to force things to conform to your will? Changes are taking place in our world in the realm of "will and power," making way for group cooperation. If you are still trying to will things to your liking, you are probably feeling frustrated. We are moving toward operating at a more heart-centered level now. The old ways, those of I-twist-your-arm-and-you-do-what-I-want, are gradually dissolving. We are entering a new era of co-operation.

In our individual lives, this means we will learn to compromise - our ideals, values, wants, needs, and desires. On a global scale, same thing. We can just turn on the news and read between the lines how these changes are subtly occurring. It is becoming difficult for anyone to be out of integrity without everyone knowing about it. As further interesting and perhaps unexpected or unusual things emerge in our world, we'll see it is increasingly difficult for singular entities to be in control. Life will demand that people cooperate with one another.

We are each in charge of the way we experience this life. We create our own drama and tears, our own joys. If you have found yourself in more drama than you care to admit, you can change course to something less stressful at any moment. This requires you to relinquish "victimhood." This "victim" thing is powerful and we tend to wallow in it, until one day something clicks and we decide we've had enough of it. Is now a good time to decide you’ve had enough?

You can benefit yourself even further by turning your thoughts to more of what you would like to see in your life. It is time to understand how powerful your thoughts are. For example, think more about consideration, harmony, love and belonging, integrity, cooperation, fulfillment at work, community, greater abundance, peace, eco-harmony, clean water, clean air, conscious people, kindness. Never discount the power of your own mind to create positive change for yourself.

Finally, turn your worries around. Remember your every thought is powerful, like a prayer or a plead to the Universe. Now is the time for you to gain authority over your thoughts and direct them mindfully. If you find yourself pondering your worries, reverse direction. Focus on what you want to see, not on what is wrong. This is a powerful way to manage overwhelm, stress, and uncertainty. Stop blaming, worrying, and commiserating with others. No more excuses, just you taking responsibility for how you choose to be in the world.

My suggestions here require no drugs or synthetic substances to help you avoid yourself. Instead, they encourage you to grow, expand, become more wise and aware, and live life in a more balanced way. There is no doubt that is why you are here and I’ve no doubt you are capable of stepping into a more conscious and evolved future. As you do this, you’ll find the overwhelm dissipates, stress diminishes, and uncertainty, though it remains, is just fine.

June 23, 2010

Healing Breast Pain: A Holistic Approach

Do you ignore physical problems such as pain while plodding through life? Nagging symptoms come with messages to be aware of what is happening within and around you, but in our fast-paced culture, few take the time to hear them. Breast pain is one of these messages that many women ignore, believing little can be done about it.

If you have achy, sore breasts a week or more out of every month, you’re not alone. This is a frequent complaint heard by doctors. Many women have bothersome, persistent pain and heaviness daily. Often they suffer in silence, assuming it goes with territory of being a woman. Fluctuating estrogen levels, emotions, and stress contribute to breast pain as does food the body doesn’t process well such as chocolate, sugar, dairy products, and caffeine. Along with these contributing factors, breast pain is a signal to slow down, relax your lifestyle, and adopt a more supportive way of life for yourself.

I am certain you won’t find a woman with breast pain who lounges around making sure she is properly nourished and nurtured. No, those women would not have breast pain. This discomfort belongs to women who do too much. Nowadays, this seems to be every woman.

I, myself, had constant breast pain for several years. I wasn’t a coffee drinker or chocolate eater, but I did live on stress. In those days as soon as I woke up in the morning I was off and running. My days were filled with self-made busy work. I had an oh-so important endless to-do list. I was under the assumption that being busy was part of being successful.

Later, as I learned about the true causes of breast dis-ease and began to unravel this “busy addiction” I discovered that busy-ness wasn’t a factor in my success at all. It was a hindrance I call “the hamster wheel.” Like many of us, I had an overdeveloped sense of doing and a vague sense of anxiety when not occupied. As I pried my fingers (and ego) off the to-do list, I began reconciling doing with being. As I deepened a practice of cultivating inner quiet and slowness the anxiety around downshifting began to subside – along with the breast pain. I began to understand that this drive to go-go-go was not natural for me. In fact it bordered on self-abuse. My years of breast pain tried to get me to see this.

Breast pain - like all pain - is a holistic issue. It affects the physical body, emotions, mind, and spirit. Conversely, the body, emotions, mind, and spirit affect the pain. On a deeper level, it is a valuable clue that you aren’t paying attention to your needs. Are you running amok, taking care of everyone else? Then you are given an opportunity to harmonize your life before it’s too late and something more serious comes along with an even louder message.

According to ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain indicates stagnation which can then lead to more serious disease. Stagnation can occur when the normal flow of fluid, including blood and lymph, slows down and becomes sluggish. Given our high rates of breast cancer, it makes sense to get plenty of movement through your breast tissue. Take steps to prevent your clothing or bras from cutting off your natural circulation while adding exercise, yoga, massage, qi gong, or even the application of castor oil packs to help bring movement to your breast tissue. All of these can help decrease breast pain.

The following steps will help you to reduce or eliminate breast pain. In some cases pain can indicate a deeper health issue, including cancer, so it is wise to see your health practitioner to be sure. While you take steps to heal the root cause of breast pain, you will be taking valuable steps toward cancer prevention.

• Experiment with different food and beverage choices to reduce caffeine.

• Be certain your hormones are balanced. Hormones gone wild can contribute to breast pain. See my article “Feel Better and Be Healthier by Balancing Your Hormones.”

• Wear properly fitted bras and avoid tight clothing that put pressure on your breasts. Go without a bra when you can. Ill-fitted bras and constrictive clothing can compress your lymphatic system and cut off healthy circulation. A poorly-fitted bra or top leaves marks on your skin, indicating poor circulation.

• Process your emotions in healthy ways. Research indicates a strong link between emotions and breast dis-ease.

• Become more self-nurturing. Look at your own “hamster wheel” and see what it would take to step off.