Springtime is here! What are you ready to let go of?
Dive into that question here, on my new post on Thrive, Kripalu’s blog.
A Deeper Detoxification Experience
Enjoy the day!
Springtime is here! What are you ready to let go of?
I have a frozen shoulder that I thought I could stretch and oil my way out of this month, but no luck. As I re-read one of my favorite articles by one of my favorite writers, Sally Kempton, on the process of recapitulation (check it out – it’s a good one), I wonder which of the emotions in my sometimes stormy ride got lodged there and wiggled its way in. I need help for this one and am finally going to get it. I’ve fallen in therapist-love with Erin, my new PT who is teaching me how to heal – reminding me that pain is a message and teaching me how to heede the message rather than push through it.
Perhaps I need to recapitulate – interesting word. I would call what Ms. Kempton describes as integrating. The process involves thinking back to the emotionally charged events of the year – both the highs and the lows- and digesting them by describing them to others and thinking about how these events guide your path. So, you resonate with the highs – often when you acted from your higher self, and you forgive others and yourself for the lows which usually involve being human- and in the lows that involve yourself, mindfully teasing out the lessons. I’m planning to do this with Craig (my beautiful husband) this year, but haven’t told him yet. He’s been studying ceremony, so I’d better get my idea in!
At Kripalu, one of the exercises we often use in the final session of a program, when our guests have been in retreat for 5 days and are preparing to head home, is to name what they are leaving (or ready to let go of) and what they are taking home with them. It’s always a wonderfully powerful exercise, and my oh my we have a pile of things they are ready to set to metaphorical flame when we’re done! It really does set people on the path of moving into their lives renewed and clear.
Letting go, forgiving, releasing the past is a universal practice of clearing that sets us up to have space to let in the new. Just like cleaning out your closet or your office, when you release things that no longer serve you, you seem to have more room and the things that are still in there just look lovelier and more functional. The same principle is at work inside and out – our emotional states, mental states, even our energy field. I’ll write more on energy hygiene this year- something I learned a lot more about from my beloved Plant Spirit Healing teacher, Pam Montgomery.
There are many gifted teachers who can help you with clearing and integrating the past – I still haven’t found anyone I like more than the divine mother of affirmations herself, Louise Hay. I still use her book, You Can Heal Your Life regularly. Back when Craig and I spent 4 mos/year on Kauai (seems a lifetime ago) we ran into the fascinating Howard Wills, who is a combination of NC preacher and new age psychic (and just all-round lovely guy). He has a set of prayers on his website that make up a beautiful chanting practice – they are prayers of self- and other forgiveness and a plead to the divine for healing and love. Just print them off, choose the divine (God, lord, universal life force) that fits for you, and pray out loud. He says that spending the 20 minutes or so daily in this type of prayer – when you are humble and asking and open – rewires you on the energetic level and I wholeheartedly agree. I think they are beautiful prayers, and have found them helpful for many years now (I’ve used them after yoga practice and by the time I’m done my heart is as light as a feather – especially when my practice takes place on my beloved Kauai!). The other great teacher is sound healer Tom Kenyon. Wow – his work is amazing, and he inspires me – really stretches my brain – for just what a human can aspire to and realize.
Thanksgiving – a time of breathing into what we are grateful for, ties in nicely with integrating the year that was.
Here is a simple practice you can do this week (or next if this week is too about preparing the feast and feasting), either on your own or with someone you love. You’ll need – pen and paper, place to sit in meditation, bowl and matches. It is a modification of what Ms. Kempton describes in her recapitulation piece.
1. Take a few moments to sit and find your center, find the center of your heart and sit, relaxing in the cave of your heart for a few breaths.
2. Think back over the year, to the emotionally-charged highs and lows for you. Pick one high and one low, and write them down on the paper.
3. If you are working with someone else, you might read your items out loud – or maybe one low, one high. For the low, describe the trigger, emotions, responses, and the lesson of the event. Take your time to honor, feel and then release the emotion (thank you Dharani!). When you are complete, place the paper in the bowl.
4. Once everyone has gone around, you can all chant a prayer like this one I’ve modified from one Pam Montgomery taught me:
In the presence of all that is,
I honor you my lessons, life and teacher,
And I trust with all my heart,
That you will make these lessons ones of healing,
For me and for all beings.
5. Time to get out those matches! Burn the papers, and pray pray pray.
Peace and blessings to you on this beautiful week of thanks.
If you need further evidence that environmental toxicity has serious health consequences, the NYTimes reported last weekend on a study that linked high levels of air pollution with lower birth weight babies.
Low birth weight is a powerful negative indicator – it is associated with an array of health problems later in life – from higher rates of disease to less lifelong achievement.
This is a story that I really can’t see the bright side of – except that perhaps to contribute to the growing awareness that we are all connected. No one gets out of this. Environmental activism is really the sane response to this story.
I’ve been reading shamanic writer/teacher Sandra Ingerman’s Medicine for the Earth over the past few months as part of my apprenticeship in Plant Spirit Healing. Ms. Ingerman says we can transmute toxicity in the earth through a process that begins with cleaning up our own internal dialogue. My apprenticeship with herbalist/plant spokesperson Pam Montgomery introduced me to the shamanic paradigm, and I have to say, as a yogini, one of the things that I love about the shamanic tradition is this aspect of coming into a unitive state as the first step in being a force for healing in the world. That unitive state is a version of yoga! I’ve noticed that my plant spirit healing work has helped me deepen my yoga practice – I’m more connected, as I dive inside with my contemplative work, to the living world around me – my internal landscape is broader and feels more deeply woven into the fabric of this magnificent earth.
So as I flounder myself with what to do in response to this story – how do I get more active – I’m thinking the first steps are to continue to slow up for my own internal dialogue, which can get pretty grim at times, clean that out, and practice the energy hygiene my teacher Pam taught me, as well as yogic clearing. Then for now my job is to speak. To do my best to amplify this warning that shows up in our own very bodies, that we are out of balance.
I believe that we can heal the earth, and ourselves, through waking up, honing our intention, and following our intention into the action that is our lifestyles.
Here’s my post on the food-mood connection on the Kripalu blog, thrive.
As an integrative dietitian for the past 25 years or so, I’ve had a front row seat to the rise of the toxic food environment and the physical and emotional damage it has wrought.
I often say to guests at Kripalu after the first part of a talk on detoxification, when we’ve waded through just how toxic our food and our lives can be. The ramification are sinking in (horror-stricken is the dominant expression). At this moment of despair I remind myself to think of the Kripalu volunteers. Every 6 months, we have a new flight of (usually) young, (often) optimistic volunteers who come to help keep the amazing place that is Kripalu operating.
Now I grew up in farm country – Western New York State. My grandfather was a farmer, and my father sold fertilizer (ugh) to farmers for a while. I picked apples and raspberries, planted Brussels sprouts off the back of a tracker (very dusty), and sorted tomatoes, again behind a tractor (can you say exhaust?) to earn spending money when I was in high school. But when I went off to Cornell, there was no way that I was going to move back to Lyndonville and the farm. But the young Kripalu volunteers all want to be organic farmers, or at least part of a local sustainable food movement. They get it, and are active about it. So when I feel overwhelmed I think of them – they are our future, and it helps me back away from the ledge and breathe.
I just got back from my first visit of the season to the farmer’s market in Great Barrington. And who should I run into Maddie Elling of Hosta Hill – a former member of the young Kripalu community. But now she is making fermented foods. Beautiful fermented foods. So I don’t have to! Fermentation is a bacterial process used in many culinary traditions for millennia – think sauerkraut, temple, beer, and yogurt. Fermentation is a growing food trend due in part to better understanding – and a growing number of great research studies – on the benefit of probiotics. People like Maddie are the solution to the toxic food environment. The opposite, actually, of the toxic food environment. Maddie is making beautiful clean nutritious food by hand. And when you can have a chat with her about how cool fermentation is and have a taste of her delicious goods (I got a beautiful tangy jar of Crimson Kraut), then you get the full dose of what local food is all about – nutrition, clean and sustainability, community, fun.
Sometime the worst (Twinkles? Lean Cuisine? Diet Coke? BPA?) are the energetic impetus or precursor for the best (home made sauerkraut made with love by a sweet local gal). I wonder if it had to get this bad to make space for something this good. It’s like the best thing George Bush did was be so bad that Barak Obama could become President. It happens just like that. It’s energy. Opposites do attract.
T”is the season. Get to your local farmer’s market – it about more than fresh greens (though that’s reason enough too).
Find your local farmer’s market here
Check out the 2013 farmer’s markets in the Berkshires and CT where you can find Hosta Hill here.
I’ve been in recipe mode this spring, I have just a few posted, but you can keep track of my recipe collection progress. Comments, please!
Now is the time to begin a relationship with dandelion. They’re everywhere, and are still tender (not so bitter) now. The raw greens taste a bit like the skin of a tart apple, but as the season progresses, they’ll become more bitter. The flowers have a nice sweetness. So, head outside, find one and say hello, admire it for a breath or two, then (if you don’t use chemicals on your lawn) have a taste. Once you convince yourself that it’s really quite delicious, bring a few leaves in to top your salad or throw into your morning smoothie.
Dandelion is a nutrient dense liver and gall bladder tonic – a natural detoxifier perfect for internal spring cleaning. It’s often used to treat upset stomach, gas or constipation, and prevent UTIs (urinary tract infections), though the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database notes insufficient evidence for any of these uses. It may affect the P450 detox pathway in the liver, so if you are on any drugs that clear through that route then don’t overdo dandelion (though if you time it right I bet dandelion would be supportive for you – again, be wise and know yourself, your health conditions and your medications). Otherwise, it’s a safe, healthy and economical (being free for most of us) herb to add to your spring table.
A cup of raw dandelion greens will give you the classic dark green leafy nutrient density – well over your daily needs of vitamins A and K, and about 10% of your calcium needs. They are also rich in iron, vitamins E, C and have a little omega 3 to boot.
Here are a couple of dandelion recipes from around the web to try:
Dandelion Greens with Hot Olive Oil Dressing from epicurious
Pink Dandelion Wine from The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Some nutritionists say that wild food speaks to us in a cellular pre-genetic language, suggesting we heal. While I can’t say if that’s true, I can tell you that when I’m eating greens that until recently I’ve thought of as weeds and they are delicious, my life is clearly better. As I get to know dandelion I’m glad he’s around (and he is everywhere). If dandelion can teach me to be a survivor in my life – a joyfully resilient survivor who doesn’t care if I’m considered weed or gourmet green – just offer my gift and practice non-attachment to who gets it – my life is clearly better.
Enjoy dandelion time.