Nurturing Whole Health
When looking at your life; your health and wellness, it is essential to see that everything is truly everything. Among The Five Aspects of Health, Spirituality is a potent piece of how we stay whole and navigate this complicated existence. The beauty for each of us is that inner experience and connection to the natural world, is unique to all. I have connected with some very holy spirit animals over the years. Frog is my newest friend.
Spring is here. Easter and Passover arrive in nature's season of rebirth. At Passover, the Jewish people retell the story of leaving the bondage of slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means, "constriction" or "narrow place." Many use the ancient story and rituals of Passover to look inside and find where they are experiencing limitation and stress; using this time to set intention for needed change.
Friday I gathered with five women at The Jackson Wellspring's Mikvah, set in a secluded area, under a magnificent steep, tree-covered hillside. A mikvah is a bath for ritual immersion and must have fresh water running into the pool and water steadily flowing out. The mikvah at Jackson Wellsprings is a magical, holy place for ritual and spiritual cleansing. "For centuries Native Americans honored the warm springs on the banks of Bear Creek as a sacred ceremonial site. Out of respect for the sanctity of the land and water spirits, First Nation elders tell us that warring nations put down their weapons in the vicinity of the hot springs. Moreover, the warm springs were revered by a number of Pacific Northwest tribes as a birthing sanctuary. Indigenous populations traveled hundreds of miles to birth in the springs, a custom that was later adopted by early settlers."
I had been longing to dip into the mikvah since February when I experienced some emotionally powerful and extremely stressful internal processing. Friday was cool and beautiful, following a violent rain and wind storm the previous night. The clouds wove their way through the sky as rain showers and chilly wind-gusts blew. Four of us undressed on the cold, wet stones; covered our piles of clothing from the rain and walked down the slippery stone stairs; quickly getting neck-deep in the tepid water. Our facilitator, Cyrise, sat fully clothed next to the sweet little pool with her frame drum and guided us with story, chant and prayer through the three ritual immersions. I find the mikvah to be a powerful place through ceremony and the elements, to let go, pray for the help I need and set specific intention to move forward in my life.
Our intimate gathering of women was very sweet. With the Iight rain and cool breeze, I felt chilled and quickly found myself sinking up to just below my nostrils to stay warm. I was close to the large stones in the back of the pool where warm spring waters were flowing from a little stone cave at eye level. Once I completed my immersions, I cozied-up to the large, milky-white, out-cropping of rock below the cave, from which the waters flowed. Water dripping from the crest of the little cave resembled a mix of raindrops and elongated tears. I pressed my belly up against the warm stones and merged my own tears of release with the watery drips from the the cave. As my vision cleared, I looked into the magical little cave opening, about the size of a tiny window and saw what looked like an emerald heart the size of my fist. The radiant green was direct from the fairy world. Instantly, I saw two massive yellow and black eyes sticking out and the green emerald became a brilliant, fat bullfrog. It was sitting to the right side of the little cave entrance, submerged except for its head. The frog was perfectly still and fully present, observing our ritual. I quietly motioned the other women to come closer and take a look. Someone said, "I don't think it's real." In answer, the frog immediately backed up and out of sight for a moment, only to quickly return to its former spot, perfectly still.
In the mikvah, face to face with this brilliantly beautiful frog, I understood how one could be lured into a magical kiss. It's magnificent, shining beauty and stillness was mesmerizing.
I was raised on princess and frog stories and images of "Fractured Fairy Tales" from my childhood, whooshed through my mind, as well as visions from summer days spent in the Iowa woods, picking up big, cool, bumpy toads. In the mikvah, face to face with this brilliantly beautiful frog, I understood how one could be lured into a magical kiss. It's magnificent, shining beauty and stillness was mesmerizing. The mikvah is about transformation. Waters flow, move and allow for the release of stagnant energies. Passover is about doing the work and having the courage to leave what is enslaving you. In these past several years as I have been going through a deep sense of awakening and transformation, I have been blessed with many teachers and loving guides-seen and unseen- often in the form of spirit animals.
As Passover begins this Monday evening, we will drip red wine onto our plates, remembering the Ten Plagues rained down upon The Egyptians by God. Frogs, the second plague, have been interpreted as being connected to The Egyptian's stubbornness and unwillingness to change; being "stuck in the mud." Rabbis in medieval times spoke of the frog plague as a teaching to remind us that there is peril in resisting change. I met Frog in the mikvah, following my ritual immersion and setting of intention to let go of the many stones I have been tripping over- the main one being fear of the unknown. Frog is the symbol of metamorphosis, rebirth, renewal, cleansing, abundance, fertility and ancient wisdom. On Friday, Frog became for me a symbol of freedom and leaving my self-imposed "Mitzrayim."
What are you willing to let go of in order to be free?
Many Blessings, Sari
Do you feel yourself dragging and fatigued even though you work-out, eat healthy and try stay in balance? Perhaps your energy body needs a jump-start.
The Energy Body
An NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) article, written in 2005, titled, "The Scientific Basis of Integrative Medicine", states, "According to Eastern medical systems, the body contains channels through which flows an invisible but nutritive energy called chi (or Qi), loosely translated to mean vital energy or life force. Furthermore, there is a purported energy surrounding the body, referred to as subtle energy. Subtle energy both informs and transcends the faculties of the five senses. It is taken into the body via openings, called chakras, and translated into a form of energy that the body can use, literally use, at the cellular level. Just as the pineal (gland) is the energy transducer for environmental information, the chakras are the energy transducers for subtle energy and are integrally connected to the body's endocrine system. Subtle energy is a healing energy that anyone can learn to perceive and utilize. It is a crucial, but often missing, component in health care."
Furthermore, the article refers to subtle energy as, "The foundation of integral physiology" which supported by evidence-based research, "steps beyond the so-called body-mind connection to recognize the importance of experiences traditionally called intuitive or spiritual." Combining the important contributions of Western medicine with the knowledge of ancient energy systems, such as chakra and meridian systems, used for centuries in Classical Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, the theory of integral physiology is a forerunner to the solid science beginning to emerge around the human energy system. Basically, science is now researching the "non-physical" aspects of healing, which seems to be the next frontier in medical research.
As a Reiki Practitioner, I have first-hand experience working with the energy body which we each live with 24/7. Reiki can be done on yourself or given to you by a practitioner. Besides Reiki and several other forms of hands-on energy healing work, there are many simple practices available to us all to help awaken, balance and move stuck or stagnant energy. Could energetic practices for those who have been dealing with years of fatigue and health issues with no resolution, potentially be the missing link?
Spring is here and many use this time to clean out the old stagnant glup and schmutz on many levels. There are several simple, yet powerful practices I use in my daily practice of "Energy Hygiene". In this blog, I offer the beginnings of a long list of practices and will share more in upcoming blogs.
1. Dry Skin Brushing
Your skin is your largest organ and works to protect your body from environmental exposure, including many toxins. Dry skin brushing done daily, before showering, energizes, awakens and stimulates the body, increases circulation, removes dead skin cells, softens and cleans the skin and stimulates the lymphatic system to remove cellular waste. As well as promoting lymph drainage, dry skin brushing also stimulates the production of collagen, helping to tighten skin and decrease formation of cellulite.
The Tools: Long-handled natural bristle brushes are available in the body care section of natural food stores, spas or online. There are special brushes and loofah sponges specifically for the tender skin on your face. Check out these brands- Earth Therapeutics loofah facial exfoliating pads and long-handled brushes and Yerba Prima Tampico brushes. Yerba Prima bristles are harder than the softer Earth Therapeutic bristles.
The Technique: This can be done while standing in the tub before your shower. Using the brush, always begin at the feet, moving up the body toward the heart (be gentle around tender skin, such as breasts, nipples and face). Use circular motions as you move up the body. When brushing the arms, begin at the fingertips and brush up toward the shoulders. Facial skin is tender, so it can be gently brushed or loofah'd a few of times a week. After brushing, during your shower, make sure to only use natural, chemical-free soaps. Though our skin, our body's largest organ, serves to protect us, it can absorb toxic chemicals, so best to use gentle, organic soaps.
2. Contrast Showers (Alternating Hot & Cold Shower)
Follow your skin brushing with an invigorating Contrast Shower. I was prescribed this practice 3 years ago by a physician who was treating me for adrenal fatigue.
This routine is simple, invigorating and addicting. Even on cold winter days, early in the morning in my chilly bathroom, I am driven to do it. What exactly am I doing? I do my ritual shampooing, soaping up and rinsing in hot water and then I bring on the contrast.
The Method: I turn the water as hot as I can safely take it and alternate, letting the hot water hit different parts of my body for 50 seconds. Next, I adjust the water to as cold as I can take it for another 50 seconds, allowing the water to hit several different parts of my body. Repeat this for a total of 3 sets, ending with cold. The key is not to torture yourself with water so cold that you will never do this again. Try to go a little colder with each successive set. I often begin the first set with cool cold vs. cold cold and I never go ice cold. For many, cool cold may do the trick. Each body knows it's own capacity. You may find as you adjust to the practice, you choose to go colder and colder. This practice is a beautiful time to get your throat chakra open and sing, scream and shout out during the colds sets. This practice wakes up your body from the inside out, in the most invigorating way.
Health Benefits of Contrast Showers Include:
Improved Blood Circulation
Moves Stagnant Energy
Activates Brown Fat, resulting in an increase in energy and calories burned to keep your body warm.
Improved Endocrine and Lymphatic Function
Promotes Deep Breathing
Stimulates Vagus Nerve
When drying off, use the towel to deeply massage your skin. If desired, follow with gentle, organic oils or lotions. Some of my favorites include, Andalou, Alaffia or Acure Brands. You can also blend your own body oils with some added essential oils. My go to homemade blends are argan oil with essential rose and lavender for my face and neck and coconut oil for my body.
3. Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Stimulating The Vagus Nerve plays an essential role in reducing inflammation in the body. Inflammation can lead to many chronic health conditions, including fatigue, anxiety, depression, digestive disorders, loss of appetite, pain, sleep issues, low energy, and poor concentration. When the vagus nerve is not functioning properly health issues may result. The word vagus means “wanderer." The vagus nerve wanders throughout the body, connecting from the brain to neck, ears, tongue, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus. It connects to the stomach, intestines, lungs, heart, gallbladder, spleen, liver, pancreas, kidney, ureters and female reproductive organs.
Use your contrast shower to stimulate your vagus nerve, by letting the cold water splash on your face. Any exposure to sudden cold increases vagus nerve activation. Studies show that when your body adjusts to sudden cold, your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) calms down. This response is mediated by the vagus nerve. When this nerve is stimulated, it helps your whole system calm down and come into balance.
More Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve:
Contrast Showers (cold water on face and body)
Slow Deep Breathing- The 4-7-8 Breathing Practice
The above practices make for a doable and powerful entrance into the world of nurturing your energy body, which in turn supports your Physical, Emotional, Nutritional, Environmental and Spiritual wellness.
Stayed tuned (up) for more energy tune-up practices.
Many Blessings, Sari