Opportunity knocks.

People who work the front desks of medical offices are like gatekeepers. They are ambassadors. They are the first voice or face a person encounters when they are seeking care. And the energy of that first interaction can be important.

Sometimes the person who is seeking that appointment  hasn’t always done the best job of self-care. Perhaps they were unwilling or unable to keep up on their medical care. Perhaps they are a little outside of normal, or have in some way not “measured up” to the American standard in terms of class, gender, sexuality, appearance, ability, religious or other self- expression.

This is an opportunity.

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As a gatekeeper, you have the opportunity, almost a sacred duty, to help bring this person into the fold of access. To welcome this person who may have obvious or hidden baggage around seeking some type of care into a safe space.

This person has reached out, has made an attempt to do the right thing, to access this care.

And this first interaction can truly make it or break it.

If a person who is trying to make an appointment, trying to ask a question or is in need of care feels judgement, feels pushed away or unwanted, feels uncomfortable, this can potentially reinforce the worldview that they don’t belong.

Or…this interaction could be a turning point.

If they walk into a gym, ready to make the leap of beginning fitness. If they walk into a farmer’s market, ready to add more vegetables. If they walk into an herbalist’s office, a massage studio, yoga class, health food store, running-shoe store, feminist sex shop….making this shift could change their freakin life.

They have taken a step.

What may be just another day to you could be a moment someone else has built up the courage to do for, like, ever.

Many people carry a lifetime of baggage, of judgement, of abuse, of discomfort, of self-loathing around like a big heavy stupid backpack,  and it’s just enough to hold them back.

Maybe they already know they aren’t from around here. Maybe they drink too much, don’t take enough walks, rely excessively on quick fixes.. Maybe they already know the pain of rejection. Maybe they already know what that damn raised eyebrow means.

There may be a reason that someone has avoided seeking needed care. There may be a history that you can’t see. Neither the mainstream nor the alternative healthcare systems have always been kind to everyone.   It is noone’s fault, it just “is”.

And, to those on the front lines of healthcare, I honor you, Physical care, mental care, fitness, alternative and mainstream– I don’t heap with you blame or anger for being human. Many of you are doing GREAT. And…Perhaps you have your own baggage. Perhaps you are just having a tough day. I thank you for the work you do.

But if you are able to keep this in mind, if you are able to welcome all the freaks into your space, actively welcome, to remember that it may feel foreign to some, dangerous even, to be accessing your services, perhaps you can see yourself as THE ANSWER. Or at least AN answer. This outreach position has the potential to literally shift someone’s feelings about the entire system. This interaction can be THE pivotal moment for a marginalized person. Or this moment can just reinforce the beliefs a person already holds.

“This is not for me.” “I am an outsider.”

They might bring vulnerability, shame, misunderstanding. You can be a bridge.

And around 90% of people are not seeking the lecture that you could deliver–even if, technically, you are “right”.

Maybe there will always be a douchebag who feels the need to yell at less-fit persons who finally worked up the courage to start running. Maybe there will always be a person who rolls their eyes when you say you have never had a primary care doctor. Maybe there will always be an herbalist who insists your colon isn’t clean enough. Maybe some people need to feel superior to those dorks who drag themselves out of bed, try their best, don’t fit in but do it anyway.

Maybe.

But don’t let that douchebag be you.

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Parasite panic.

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Did you know that everyone is FULL of parasites? 90% of us have “Candida”, nearly everyone is constipated “whether they know it or not” and an undiagnosed virus is sapping your vital force right now! You are toxic and every single problem you have is due to this fact. Unless it’s due to planetary mis-alignment, of course.
At least, that is what the internet says.
And it is very easy to debunk these claims. Because we are actually full of bacteria, yeasts, viruses and IT IS FINE. We are participating in a lifelong dance of waste elimination, our body usually has this under control and we are actually co-existing with most of our critters. In fact, a lack of symbionts can be as bad as an excess.
“Viruses are the most abundant obligate intercellular entities in our body.”-Pubmed.gov
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And it is easy to make fun of this stuff too.There seems to be a confusion between living with our natural symbionts and suffering from antagonistic parasitic or viral imbalances–which do happen but are not common and are not the source of all evil, and can usually be corrected.
There are some truly extreme claims being made in the world of parasite panic:
You get parasites from a handshake?
Parasites slowly eat away at your internal organs and poop toxic waste into your system?
ALL cancer is caused by an intestinal parasite?
THEY don’t want you to know!!!
Yeast overgrowth is keeping you drunk!
A dirty colon poisons the body from the inside out and makes us all… walking zombies?
Some of this stuff is literally just made up.

But here is the thing. There is a reason why this stuff resonates with so many people. The cleansing, detox and parasite-a-noia products are selling, at least some of them. And if we do not change the conversation, shed some light, open this issue up and air it out the rhetoric of Original Sin will continue to drive people to strive towards a delusional ideal of intestinal purity. Just like a parasite, health delusion thrives in silence and darkness.
So let’s observe the way our body is commonly framed in discussions about alternative healthcare.
Often the context is based on the idea that there is something WRONG with the body. The body is broken. You have fallen from health-grace. You are a victim.
The paradigm is based on the idea that you need to take something. Are you tired? “Sluggish”? Have a little gas? Do you have an itch or indigestion? Imperfect skin that doesn’t glow enough? Feel a tad grumpy? Take this!
These are not necessarily pathologies. These are normal reactions to having a body.
But often the entire business plan is built on promoting a fear and loathing of the body and its functions.
The people who wish to sell us these harsh cleanse products use our deepest fears, our discomforts and our individual and cultural misunderstanding of Science, Anatomy, Bacteria, the process of elimination and the way our body achieves homeostasis and balance to manipulate us into buying their products or clicking fearfully on their links. They promote a fragility mindset in which we must constantly be guarding against evil entities that are trying got destroy us.
It is exhausting.
The blog writers and Senna salespeople seem to know more about Psychology than basic Anatomy and use their knowledge of human behavior to induce PARASITE PANIC!!! and bring you into the CLEANSE CULT!!! “It’s God’s medicine! It’s health freedom! The medical system doesn’t want you to be well. “They” are covering this up. They will tell you this is wrong but I know it, only I have the truth!”
(But I have absolutely zero citations for my allegations!)
And unfortunately there are some real examples of the medical system causing harm or seeking to make money over caring for individuals, but to imply that no alternative healthcare practitioner would ever do that is just bizarre. Business exists, no shit.
And the fact is, their cleanse products and protocols suck.
A Super Tonic that you have to take every 15 minutes for several weeks?
Purgatives to get all the feces out with 3-5 bowel movements every day?
Oil of Oregano daily as a preventive?
A month-long juice cleanse?
Avoiding ALL carbs to starve parasites?
“mysterious Ancient Chinese herbal formulas”?
These products show a fundamental misunderstanding of the body and how it works as well as a shocking lack of basic problem-solving skills and a laundry-list of logical fallacies.

“But these products are natural!” Listen, I am a fan of natural. I love nature. But the definition of natural is very much open to interpretation. Not everything natural is good, and not everything “unnatural” is bad, this is a false binary that we shout about when it feels convenient and there is NOT always agreement on what is natural. For example,  “YOU’RE NOT AN ANIMAL SO DON’T HAVE SEX LIKE ONE!” Sometimes our ideas of what is natural and unnatural are a direct reflection of our personal or political hang-ups.

(And why are we so darn obsessed with poop anyway?)

Abusing natural herbs to fix non-problems which are allegedly caused by nature, which viruses and parasites certainly are, nature that is, feels like a huge red flag to me.
And natural products can absolutely do harm, induce side-effects, and damage the beneficial bacteria and intestinal lining.
Oh, and we can’t alkalize our way out of a prison of self-loathing.
If needed, a few doses of standardized medicine may take care of a problem that would take a month of high doses of herbal medicines–herbs are not always the best solution for every issue, and certainly not without a downside. Herbs can be abused, too.
So let’s talk about what is really going on here.
Your body is always eliminating waste. Occasionally a little support is needed and that is fine. Eat some fiber, great. Movement and hydration are the 2 easiest ways to keep things moving and flowing. Trust the process while gently moving stagnation. Sleep.

But if 85 or 90 percent of a given population “HAS” something, such as parasites or cellulite or wrinkles, it is NOT an epidemic. It is normal. I’d be more concerned with the freaks who don’t have it. What’s their deal?
You are not broken. Sticky feces are not currently destroying your life. These people say they promote health freedom, but you cannot be free if you are chained to self-loathing. You cannot be free if you fear your own butt.
This is not a battle between good and evil, my friends. You don’t win points with God or some mysterious forces for your intestinal purity. We don’t need to project fantasies of sparkly cleanliness onto the places that depend on moist darkness to work properly. We can’t purge and punish our way out of reality.
So let’s put aside the desire for an easy answer and get real.
Let’s admit that we are full of wonderful, delicious bacteria and viruses and symbionts and yeast and it is totally  normal.
And maybe instead of dissing those who are joining the cult of cleanse we can all examine how people are sometimes dismissed by standardized medicine, and how that feels. Let’s look at what drives people to seek out alternatives, for better or worse, and let’s note that Parasite Panic fills an emotional hole that is real.  Like joining a cult, people often seek answers out of a sense of desperation, out of disconnection, fear, confusion.
Let’s note that many of the symptoms that marketers attribute to parasitic attack are extremely similar to the symptoms of poorly managed stress and fear. Is it possible that we are inducing our own indigestion by dwelling in a fear state, constantly looking for signs that our colon is under attack?
Is it possible that our confirmation bias helps us feel GREAT that we are finally doing something–anything–about all the “toxic poison” collecting in our duodenum and ruining our “purity”?
Are we seeking a sense of identity, of belonging, or trying to correct greater cultural ills by exerting control over something in our own life? Are we trying to prove a point about health or behavior or conspiracy theories?
Ideologies can create realities. But true self-love means loving all of ourselves, inside and out, including the less shiny bits. We do not truly accept our body if we cannot accept that the colon stores feces.
And to me, a lot of these blogs and articles and ads have a terrifying lack of a sense of humor. Our body and its processes are fun and funny! Our symbionts are delightful and interesting and heck if we can’t see humor in poop then we really can’t see humor anywhere.
And parasite fear (for example) may point to a deep inner discomfort with our animal nature, an evolutionary fear of certain frightening insects or antagonists, an ancient obsession with belonging and “the other” and a misunderstanding of our basic intimate processes and desires.
There is no battle between good and evil being fought in your colon, but there just may be a marketing battle preying upon our ancient brains.
Some marketers claim that their cleanse will help you lose weight–even as much as 10 pounds overnight! But the best weight loss you might ever achieve is losing the weight of eons of shame over having a fabulous dirty body…and losing the fear of the symbiotic flora and fauna you live with.
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Get Boundless Energy with Herbs!

IMG_1915There seems to be a dearth of energy in the world today. At least you would think so if you spend 5 minutes on the internet or browsing “health” magazines at the bookstore. There appears to be an unlimited amount of products that claim to give us energy. How can we make sense of this? Is it really possible to create more energy by taking a pill or drink?
Let’s see what we can find…
“Insanely healthy energy!”
“Fat just falls off!” (WTF)
“7 Top herbs for an energy boost!”
“Nettles can give you as much energy as a cup of coffee!”
“Heavier foods use up more of our ‘digestive fire’, leaving us a little lethargic!”
“The culprit may well be a virus lurking, unidentified inside our body!” (They then suggest oil of oregano to destroy it.)
“Parasites are a hidden cause of fatigue!” (According to a ‘master herbalist’)
There are some creative products out there like:
Diet aid and energizer capsules
Peptime stimulant 357 magnum caplets (Hey, kids, what time is it? Pep time!)
Extreme power plus dreamlike weightless diet pill energy lose weight product (thanks, ebay)
Herbal energy plus (plus what?)
Fat burner 4x plus energy (“effortlessly melt away belly fat!”)
Thermogenix fat burner
Isogenix President’s Pak
And then we have chile peppers, grapefruit, nuts, green tea, adaptogens, juicing, bee pollen…
Ugh. First of all, any product can claim that it increases energy. This is one of the most vague, unmeasurable claims in the known universe. (Note that my claim is also unproveable.) But seriously, any person can say it. It’s like a creepy code. How can it be disproven? This vagueness is so perfect for marketers who prey upon our schlubby misery.

Just use testimonials:
“Oh, I never knew I could have so much energy!”
“Oh, my energy levels are through the roof now that I finally found the right combo of grapefruit and Chiles and Garcinia!”
This energy could come from the fact that you just blew 50 bucks on that bottle of pills and your confirmation bias insists that you feel great because you don’t want to feel like an idiot who just wasted 50 bucks.
Or from the way that humans respond to novelty. Every time you start something new it feels energizing because new things excite our ancient brains.
So, what is energy anyway? Where does it come from? What is wrong with just having a regular ol’ amount of energy? Why do we feel like we must constantly be bursting out of our blouses with this mysterious energy stuff?
And what are they REALLY saying?
In my opinion, gaining solid healthy energy is more about taking away what is not working than adding products to produce more. Stop wasting the energy you do have with worry and bullshit. Sleep like your life depends on it. Nourish the hell out of yourself, deeply, and if you are out and hungry but can’t find kale and marrow bones, just eat what’s there and move on–because worrying that you ate a donut takes energy!
It takes a lot of energy to repair our body, consider how your body mechanics, posture and fitness level are giving you energy or taking it away.
Oh, and it takes energy to hold onto years of trauma and anger, it takes energy to repress unresolved emotions. So let something go.
Avoid any expensive product that is “as good as coffee” when coffee is cheap, tasty and widely available.
And avoid EXTREME energy plus 5,000 type products like the plague. Why?
-Insomnia. Not much produces a cycle of true exhaustion like relying on energy products.
-Pyramid schemes. Some of these products want you to go on and on about how great you feel, then sell it to your friends.
-Fat-Shaming. Losing 2 pounds will not magically make you happy. Looking at these shaming ads will just make you feel like you’re not good enough. And they often suggest extremely restrictive diets combined with caffeine pills. Great idea. Not.
-Side effects. What else is in there? Do you really need one million milligrams of every mineral every single day?
No. But clearly absurd claims of endless extreme energy sell products and move magazines.
Can we explore our feelings about energy a little more deeply before we attempt to fix it by shopping? Can we take note of our desire for a quick and easy solution to a part of life that is just a reflection of deeper issues? Can we accept that levels of energy do ebb and flow, naturally, not just through the day or week but through the seasons and the years? Can we see that we cannot Ginseng our way out of a hole that needs our attention, that anything that sounds too good to be true is probably NOT true, that the vague hyped-up claims are ethically questionable and actively obnoxious? Can we grasp that different people have different speeds to operate on and most, unless causing serious life problems, are not “bad” or “good”? Can we insert some critical thinking into our lives, and ask questions and look a little further beyond the label or advertisement? Can we create a conversation around this issue, and shed a little light on a system that attempts to push us too far, into a system that makes us feel like we aren’t good enough as we are?
I like to keep my energy slow and steady with a movement practice, active release of body and emotions, engaging in a creative pursuit, spending time outdoors, eating mostly nourishing foods, using occasional vitamins if needed, using caffeine sparingly (i.e. not all day every day), limiting soul-sucking energy stealing interactions when possible and adjusting my expectations according to season, wellness level and need. And ultimately I draw my energy from a sense of inner resilience. From not being knocked down by every little thing. From building strength in body and mind, slow strength, quiet strength. It is not flashy and it is not glamourous. It is real.
A little dose of reality can go a long way in speaking back to this marketing-created delusion.

"Someone bring me a Cappucino, stat!"
“Someone bring me a Cappucino, stat!”

10 Cheap or Free Self-Care Ideas to Stop Feeling Like Crap

I am working on a class called “How to stop feeling like crap” about sharing the joys of self-care and as a little taste, here are 10 ways to get started on that endeavor. These may be cheap/free and fairly straightforward, but I won’t say they are easy because an object at rest stays at rest, and you might have to expend some effort to get the flow moving again.
But what the hell, a little effort in exchange for a lifetime of less crappiness is probably worth it, my dears.
So here are a few suggestions, and as I continue on this project I’d love to hear how YOU support self-care. Please note that while I do believe self-care will help support us, both short-term and long, none of these will induce a magical state of pure positivity, and I’m not going for that anyway–life is partly dark and that is OK. Sometimes the darker moments should be explored. And, as with any random advice from a stranger, it does not replace medical care–please know that if you are truly suffering you can ask for help, maybe from a professional if needed.
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1. Get something off your chest. Secrets can be very heavy. Repression and festering anger or sadness can lead to a lifetime of simmering pain. You might not get a resolution when you express your feelings, but you definitely will not get a resolution from silence.

2.Take some Vitamin D! I love making my own Vitamin D but realistically speaking, it is -10 this morning and if I go outside nude I’ll quickly die. So I bolster myself with taking vitamin D, and I’ll be darned if I don’t feel less wintery doldrums. Don’t take my word for it though, there are tons of studies on D–and it is widely available.
http://www.examine.com/supplements/vitamin+D/

3. Go for a walk. Walking to me supports thinking and processing physically, mentally and emotionally. Walking is available to most people, (other movement options may replace it for those who can’t) and is the main piece of my meditation practice. I can’t say enough about walking-it’s weight-bearing, building bones, moving lymph and promoting circulation. But beyond the health benefits, it is a way of participating in the world.
http://www.katysays.com/caution-kids-not-walking/

4. Support your lymphatic system. I am delighted to hear about more people feeling the lymphatic love. I believe the lymphatic system is super important to overall health. It is a vital part of your immunity! When I am feeling a cold coming on, I don’t reach for a bottle of Echinacea-Goldenseal extract, I go for a walk! The lymphatic channels don’t have their own separate pump, we move the fluids by our own actions, or lack thereof. This can be supported in part by engaging in various types of movement, taking lymphatic herbs such as Cleavers, Calendula, Alder, Mullein, Ocotillo and gentle body massage-ideally all of these combined.
http://www.kahnacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/organ-systems/lymphatic-system/v/lymphatic-system-immunity

5. Enjoy an orgasm. It’s not a sin, you’re not dirty, you have the right to enjoy living in your body–and it can be a great way to release tension, move through pent-up emotions and sleep better now. I am not going to tell you how, but I can assure you that it can be looked up on the internet if needed.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/secrets-longetivy/201102/orgasms-health-and-longevity-does-sex-promote-health
Sorry that article is so heteronormative…
UPDATE: OK, another piece of advice, maybe don’t search the internet for links on masturbation.
6.Eat fat. Healthy fats, that is–don’t chug the fry oil at Taco Bell. Think grass-fed butter, Coconut oil, pastured animal fats, duck fat, Olive oil. Free-range eggs, cream, avocados. Fat helps us to absorb and use some of our vitamins better, lubes up the joints and plumps up our eyeballs. (unsubstantiated claim, but it’s funny) Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. It is satiating and delightful. Avoiding fat might make you cold, shriveled, bored of another skinless boneless chicken breast and squeaky-jointed.
http://www.chriskresser.com/have-some-butter-with-your-veggies

7. Find your nervine. Essentially, I believe in having a plant ally or two to call upon in times of duress. Try a few nervines, or speak with an herbalist familiar with nervine differentials who can help match you with the right simple or blend. Nervines help support our entire nervous system and restore function, help us manage stress and help us relax. My very very favorites are (tinctures) Milky Oats, Scullcap, Hawthorne, Blue Vervain and Passionflower-but don’t limit yourself to my list. I love many…Explore!
http://www.bearmedicineherbals.com/relax-already-selected-nervine-differentials.html

8. Hydrate. One of the cheapest fixes I can think of, after “Take a deep breath” perhaps, is to be sure you are drinking enough water. Please don’t ask me if it can be herbal tea or lemon water…if you can’t decide or yourself, dehydration is not your main problem.

9. Address your micro-biome. Ok, so you’re basically a big ball of bacteria. With a little fungi and virii thrown in. (It’s viruses, but who’s checking?) It seems like a lot is unknown about the micro-biome, but one thing is clear: it’s kinda important. So examining your usage of antibiotics, internally and externally plus supporting your biome with everything from hanging out near soil, snuggling farm animals, eating ferments, possibly using a probiotic–(though be wary of the current marketing of probiotic everything from nose to tail, ass to entrails) basically just let go of the idea that a bacteria free bubble is better or even possible. Cause it ain’t.

ww.fourhourworkweek.com/2015/01/10/microbiome/

10. Bodywork! Ok, this one may require a little cash outlay. I suggest seeing a massage therapist at least occasionally as well as doing some self-massage at home, trying a bumpy massage ball and/or muscle roller, exchanging basic massage with a partner and walking on varied surfaces, which stimulates different parts of your foot than walking on a treadmill.
http://www.westsidewell.com for great accessible massage therapy and affordable classes too.

And remember, the idea is not achieving some delusional state of perfect happiness but acquiring the support, connection and strength to move through the ups and downs of life. Neither judging others for their chosen self-care choices (or lack thereof) nor forcing walks and herbs on ourselves or others will solve much without the work of letting go, letting ourselves be good and bad, dark and light, happy and crappy and everything in between. There is a lot of greyscale in the human life and that is just fine. It’s not all about shine, glow and heart. Sometimes it’s about git-R-done. But if there are ways to feel the best you can without a huge outlay of cash or time, why not give it a try?

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Barrels of Narratives!

In the poem ‘To a Young Girl in Washington Square Park’ George Green says “Your beauty is the barrel you’ll go over the falls in.” And for some of us, it is. But my barrel is my narrative. My story, that which I believe about myself and my world is the barrel that takes me through the rapids and over the freefall.
My narrative cannot protect me from everything but it does keep the sharks out.
And what does it mean to have a story?
Importantly, it keeps the millions of messages that come at us from all angles at bay. The world is full of people telling you that you are not good enough, and offering to make you better. For a fee. (Or that you are SO a-mazing!)  And at times, self-improvement is a very good thing–I would never argue against striving towards greatness.
But.
Sometimes what truly needs to be great is our perspective.
It seems like we always believe something is missing, that if only we could get the numbers right, take the right combination of herbs or lose an inch off our thighs everything would shift for us. It feels to me like a distraction from the maybe more important work of shifting our own attitudes.
Maybe you don’t really need to add a product?
Maybe you are actually fine.
For example, maybe if you are cold you could go outside for a few minutes, and you’ll realize that you really were not.
Maybe noone gives a shit about your neck wrinkles.
Maybe you are actually kinda awesome.
And maybe-just maybe-every single detail of our health and fitness doesn’t really need to be picked apart and examined under the highest resolution microscope every single freakin day.

What would your story look like if you were to just accept that you are strong, able, powerful? That you are not broken? That you are a do-er, just going around doing things and hey, that’s cool?
What would your narrative feel like if you let go of “My body is this and my body is that” and realized I AM my body?
It is not about creating our own delusional reality, ignoring the negative side of life and manifesting magical muscles with our minds. Not at all. It is about re-framing our views of who we are– from someone who needs to be “fixed” to someone who is on a lifelong journey of adding to and taking away, of balancing and building.
Sometimes the whole IS greater than its parts.
So what I see happening is people talking back to those sharks who try to gnaw at us, people disproving our culture’s narratives that only certain types of people can run, jump, dance, lift, climb. I see people using their own bodies and lives to show that there are many ways to be. I see people shifting and changing the world of fitness, beauty, health by their own actions. I see people healing their relationship with their bodies, and supporting each other in doing so.
Any one of us can go over the falls alone, but I have a vision of a world where so many of us make the leap that those who abuse their power in the world of health, beauty and fitness are left all alone in their manipulative little viewing tower, wondering what the hell happened!IMG_3263

Make me Now a Shovel of Your Peace: a poem of sorts

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“A detective is forced to say it.
To ask about the feelings of people.”
-Hercule Poirot
They say “keep digging.
But when I do, they say “Don’t go there.”
Secrets abound.
This lineage and this life are more complicated than I’d expected.
But if we wall ourselves off into bitter, brittle compartments we will never break our cycles.
“Won’t someone think of the children?”
If we don’t face who we are, who our people are, how can we put any faith in our narratives at all?
And without a narrative, are we not just floating through time and space?
This is not a coherent piece, but a meditation on being a human shovel.
This is just my thoughts on the destruction of digging into our lives, and the possibilities it opens up.
Perhaps some things should be destroyed.
This is my hope and trust: that in the end, all will be revealed. Or at least enough, enough to understand…
Mother tongues.
Big beautiful noses.
What they carried.
7 am shots of Gin.
Doorstop Bibles, Xs on the line, good loves and bad loves, 13 kids and some turn out saner than others.
Humans built one cell at a time, forged in the fires of deportation and shipwreck and feasts and famines, pillaging and exploration. 14 sheep and a gun.
Exploring roots, belonging, community, belonging.
And the fact is, some wanted to flee.
The fact is, some countries were founded by orphans, criminals and warriors.
Some connections were broken on purpose.
The fact is, some of us can’t really ever outrun our Catholicism.
We can’t outrun our voices, our baggage, our ticking time-bombs.
Affiliations are all multi-faceted, slippery.
But I am finding this new context freeing.
The huntress rebel returns, reconnects, and fixes shit up.
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Body Resolution 2015

Well, a year ago I resolved to chuck my pajamas and spend more time with nothing on.

I have to report it has made an astounding difference in how I see myself. We don’t know how much comfort we’ve taken in hiding until we stop.

I have been on a life-long body journey, with the goal being total acceptance of all that I am–which is imperfect yet compelling.

"Screw it. I'm fine"
“Screw it. I’m fine”

Funny story: in my quest for information-gathering I bought my first-ever scale and decided to weigh myself regularly. It worked for  a few months, if giving me a number can be said to “work”…then it started to give me 280. Hmm. It then switched to weighing me in at 10. As in 10 pounds.
So I tossed that out and I now get out of bed each morning, check myself out in the mirror and say “Lookin gooood”
Whatever, it works for me.
I have NO “ideal weight” in mind. I just don’t care. I have an ideal number of logs I can chop in one day. I have an ideal amount of time I can run, weight I can lift. I have a movement practice.
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So, as the year turns, I am deepening my nudie resolve. I am continuing to re-inhabit my body, the only one I have and the only one I want. I don’t regret any past version of my body, whether it was “better” or “worse”. I have faith in my body. I consider my body image in the context of culture, family, DNA, history. My body is part of the history of the world–and the future of the world too.

stupid euphemisms!
stupid euphemisms!

Yes yes yes I will work on my weaknesses. Yes I will run up a hill or lift a heavy weight…because I LOVE it, not as punishment. Yes I will squat but I do it because I want to be mobile for 100 years, not because I feel “bad” about my rear end.
And while I’m at it…I love you and your flaws too. Cause when we judge others’ bodies we are really expressing how we feel about our own.
Sometimes the real weight we need to lose is the weight of never being good enough.
Of never being worthy.
The weight of our own repression, shame, fear and layers upon layers of dread.
So this year, I resolve to give less of a shit what anyone else thinks of my body, slowly but surely, becoming more and more of myself with every wrinkle and grey hair that comes along.
It's the journey
It’s the journey

Play with your Herbs!

When we think of the tools of an herbalist, we may think of Felcos, or a first aid kit. An intake form or a Ball jar. We definitely think of the analyzing brain, sitting in a serious chair and paging through stacks of books. All of these tools are indeed helpful in providing herbal support to people. However, I propose that another important tool to explore is PLAY. Sometimes we forget how much a playful spirit can give to us! On many levels there are benefits to recommending and incorporating both physical and mental play into our lives and our practice. 

Healing can be a serious business. Ailing folks come to us every day in need of our help. Listening to the stories, providing support and solutions is good work. But it IS work–and play can help us to navigate burnout.

Play helps us to build a dynamic type of herbalism, a living and breathing force, an art– instead of a dusty historical practice. Play can make herbalism and healing more holistic and can contribute to a re-vitalization of all involved. (plants too!) At its most basic level play is an outlet, and energy needs outlets.  I would argue that many who come to an herbalist or other healer present with a stuck-ness or a stagnation. I do recommend herbs here for both emotional and physical movement. But to stop there feels very limited to me. I may then suggest play to:

-help us process feelings and input.

-uncover hidden aspects/roots of the problem.

-generate ideas towards a  resolution.

-tap into deeper states of knowing.

-move lymphatics and promote circulation.

Play can help us to stop over-identifying as a patient or as a diagnosis, help us get out of our cyclical thinking and into a different state of being. Do you remember time just floating by while doodling or playing house, riding bikes with no destination or making out for hours? Have you ever just let go of your life and worries and embodied a mythical figure or an animal? Climbed trees or rocks all day with no plans or floated in the ocean like a seabird? It is a way of feeling integrated. Integrated into a storyline or a group of people, integrated into a piece of land or body of water….integrated into time and space. Basically the opposite of day-to-day life.

**Note that I am not promoting a disconnected state of being. Living in a fantasy world is not the same as embodied play–I am talking about grounded play which incorporates movement and has a beginning and an end.**

Play can also be a way to practice movement. For those who avoid structured exercise, play can be the solution to get moving and enjoy it. Insomnia and poor sleep quality are very common complaints–try play! Physically and mentally, the outlet supports healthy rest. Sexual dysfunction? Try play. Mild depression and anxiety? At the risk of sounding repetitive, have you played lately?

Outdoor play can help ground us and support us with fresh air and a delightfully uneven surface to navigate. (Important! Get off the concrete !) We also can practice “working play” such as foraging, tracking and gathering-a way to lose ourselves in a task that is primal and fulfilling. In a sense we lose ourselves to find ourselves–losing the 2014-responsible-wired-matching-outfit-upright-linear-worried self and finding the soiled human-animal interactive parts, the connected ancestral wild parts. Cause we are both, and more.

And ultimately play can help us to build resilience, to express ourselves more fully and to interact more with our environment and community. To grasp that we win some and we lose some, and life goes on. To see that we can take turns as “the leader”. Play is an innate drive and can be cultivated. You can’t do it “wrong”. It helps us to overcome fears and reclaim our nature, to restore ourselves and our power. 

So far I have been referring mainly to practitioners suggesting play to our clients but how can we as practitioners use play to become better? Other than using play to improve our own selves, we can use it as a practice for  problem-solving. How do humans gain new perspectives? Play. Have you ever needed to look at a problem differently, as a healer? Logic is great, truly, but there are times when it makes sense to get outside of that to find creative solutions. 
Ultimately, play is an important problem-solving tool. It can be used in many different ways, and we can find out which way works for us. We can bridge our different levels, and bridge the separations between ourselves and others, ourselves and the earth, plants, animals-if only for a moment. Hell, don’t knock moments of bliss–they can be a moment we didn’t even know was possible…Play can help us to lose ourselves and, in so doing, to find ourselves.

Play can help us accept ourselves, help us to manage our anger, burnout and stagnation too~we can push ourselves into new levels of practice, challenge our ingrained patterns and rote ways of thinking, bust out of cycles that no longer serve us.

And, most importantly, play can bring us pleasure. A simple pleasure of feeling the sun on our backs while we lose ourselves in examining river stones or the joyful pleasure of watching our basket fill up with wild blueberries…the pleasure of touch and sensuality or sounds. The underlying pleasure and self-acceptance can be an anchor in life’s storms and ground us on our journey. Health and healing are serious undertakings, we hold other people’s lives and trust and stories with respect and compassion. But it is not THAT serious–almost nothing exists which cannot give us a moment of humor, insight or creativity if we know how to look at it through the lens of play.

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The foundation.

What has been proven, in studies, to build bones, to support mental health, to support recovery from addiction, and to be “as effective as” some medications such as statins in treating chronic disease? Exercise. Yet many of us don’t do it. Why not? I’d like to suggest that we don’t believe in it. Sure, we may believe the statistics about exercise. We may know, in our heads, that exercise is “good” for us. But we don’t all believe in it with our core, with the place where our truths reside. I would like to suggest that exercise itself is part of the problem. Culturally, it is seen as a chore and a punishment. Get through it, and move on to “real” life. Rehabilitation is seen as something to check off the to-do list–temporary–not a life-long practice of self-care. A guilt-inducing series of movements we perform under duress to help us stop hating ourselves–hating our bodies and our lives. How’s that working out for ya, America?

May I suggest we drop that whole line of bull and get on board with movement? Movement is NOT just exercise. It is locomotion. It is art. You can’t really do it wrong. Even if your body is non-conforming, your mind is atypical, your soul is really weird, some kind of movement is right for you.

Have we let beautiful people steal exercise from us? Have we let corporations hand sports over to professionals and schoolkids only? Have we bought in to the idea that we don’t have the right body type or equipment or outfit, not enough space or time or support? Have we lost the drive to get our asses up that tree or that mountain and see what it all looks like from another angle? 

I know I did. Yes, it happened to me. I saw exercise as a chore, a duty, something to “get through”. I’ll do it tomorrow.  I was not putting my love into it, nor my pelvis. I was in a state of separation and I allowed fear to keep me from moving in certain ways. One day I wondered–What the heck am I doing?

Where do our movements come from? Why do we walk, sit, dance in certain ways? Or not–Why do we hold back from moving in other ways? How much does our culture, our history, our social circle, our furniture, our clunky shoes and our intimate desire affect our own movements, our own idea of what is OK? 

For example, have we learned to stop jumping off things because it is not proper? Have we learned to sit down and be quiet? Have we learned to take up less space, be very careful, stop arousing certain feelings? Don’t lift heavy stuff lest you”get big” whatever the hell that means? Minimize. What movements are we suppressing to fit in?

 

What are we suppressing when we walk on a treadmill, going on and on to nowhere, or lift a 3-pound dumbbell over and over 100 times hoping to tone our triceps for beach season? What about training for beach season really supports our humanity, our self-love, our re-integration? I think it just re-inforces our fears. 

I had my own fears, and most of them were realized when I started throwing myself into movement. My pants fell down in Zumba class. I threw up. My glutes hurt and I didn’t really know how to shake my booty. I started lifting a tiny kettlebell. But I just kept doing it until I fell in love with myself all over again. I woke up one day and remembered what it feels like to have a body–and why I should care. I don’t give a rat’s ass if I have cellulite or jiggly arms. I don’t care if I “glow” or if I have a thigh gap. I am fast. I am strong. I move to rebel and I move to get hungry and tired and sweaty. I move to participate and I move because I have to. 

We are in a place, as a culture, where I believe movement is what will help save us. Movement will help us to get free, to unlearn all the baggage that keeps us sitting down all day.To bring back the joy, and maybe some endo-cannibinoids too.  Movement will help us to let go, to say “this is who I am!” and to play again. Movement will help us to re-connect to each other and ourselves and help us manage our anger and confusion. One day we will see movement for what it is–just a practice, with no right or wrong ways to be. Movement is self-care which we can scale to our level and  empowerment which we can tuck away for a rainy day. Movement is the foundation we can build ourselves upon, and that is the meaning for me.

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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3276339/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22442371
http://journal.crossfit.com/2014/03/sweat-and-sobriety.tpl

Meditations on doubt

“It was okay to be wrong, as long as it was funny.”-Lewis Black

Lately I have been working on writing–a LOT- and I have finally created a list of 10 classes I would like to bring into the world. This doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Lots of people teach classes and write stuff. But I am not interested in teaching herbalism 101 right now. I am proposing classes such as: finding your movement practice, play therapy, exploring the mind-body connection, the healing power of humor, critical thinking for herbalists and obstacle courses as a metaphor for life. It is not always what others are looking for–or, to be more specific-they don’t YET know they are looking for it! And the proposal process is hard for me, the need to sell myself, to make myself into a brief bio, to convince others that i CAN do it, that I will show up and kick ass…even though I am in many ways self-educated, loud, working class and still a little rough around the edges.
Presenting these classes and this writing feels personal, to me, and though I value constructive criticism very highly it can be hard to hear-and I can be my own worst critic. I can be cheerfully walking along and BAM! in comes a moment of doubt. Am I doing the right thing? Can I pull this off? Should I stay in a “safer” zone? And why am I so driven to push my own and others’ boundaries anyway?!? Wouldn’t it be easier to just teach how to make a salve, or write about love and hugs, or just get a nice hairdo and take a job at the mall?
And this is doubt, which can be both a blessing and a curse. As a person who thinks a lot, and I love to think, it sometimes gets to be a little bit too much steam and rolls my ass over. All gifts, paths and talents have a darker side. Thinking is a tool and I can use it as such-to build a piece of writing or a great class. But, like a hammer which can build a home or build a protective wall, knock down barriers or destroy a work of art–my doubt can either push me into a new level of effort or send me back to my cave of worry.
I do believe that most of us have some fear, some self-doubt inside and it is very easy to let that rule us, to be an excuse for not pushing ourselves further, for not getting up in front of a group of strangers and spilling our guts. I wonder how we can use this doubt, to accept our imperfections and rejoice in them, and to avoid getting stuck in circular thinking like quicksand? When I get stuck in the depths I look around, I open up and I hear an amazing song, I read a mind-altering piece of writing or watch someone else succeed despite their struggles and challenges. I look to my friends, to nature and to my heroes and examples to show me the way.
Because doubt does speak, and it says to me that maybe I am pushing some of my boundaries. It says I am going somewhere and that has a risk, as putting oneself “out there” is opening oneself up to others’ opinions and criticisms. It says shit or get off the pot. It says stop being so self-indulgent and that noone else is as worried about my pants falling down mid-class as I am! And it says own it, commit, use that doubt like a judo move and turn it around, see the humor, see the lineage of doubt and use that sharp edge to rip up the chrysalis and emerge! Moments of great discomfort can precede moments of great breakthrough and genius emerges best for me in dark moments rather than cheerful times.
I will be a good example and not a cautionary tale, I will take a moment of self-care for the little girl inside of me who still holds onto my fears and I may not succeed at this new endeavor but it sure as hell won’t be from lack of trying.
note: Muchlove to those who ARE teaching herbalism 101 and/or how to make a salve. You are doing important work. It is just not my path.
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