Nurturing Whole Health
I moved to Boise last winter and after an incredible journey, returned to my former home in Oregon, eight months later. Many have asked me what happened. This is the story of my journey.
Last January, before I relocated to Boise, my friend, Judy, pulled out a beautiful wooden box; opened it and began looking through several teeny, tiny cardboard boxes for a parting gift. "This one is for you.", she said, as she handed me a tiny box. Inside were two tightly rolled woven cloth strips rolled together and calligraphed with the following: "Every Journey Brings Blessings.", and, "Blessings Abound; Blessings All Around."
When I left my home in Oregon last winter, I thought of it as a move, not a journey. It seems that Judy knew otherwise. Sometimes I wonder how limited my life experience would be without the awareness to follow my inner compass and listen to the guidance coming through. I so appreciate the love and support I have received from my family and friends over the years. It has taken much courage and strength for me to listen and follow what my heart is telling me, especially over the past 13 years since my divorce. At times it has felt terrifying. When I left the security of what I thought would be a life-long marriage, in order to help save all of us from what had become deeply broken, it was terrifying. It's not a simple matter and it can take years or decades to learn to follow one's inner voice when life feels out of balance, stagnant or when you feel your spirit is being sucked out of you. The work it takes to catalyze change can be excruciating. I was the person who put safety and security above all else. Right up until the point where the awesome job I loved and planned to retire from 20 years down the road- with generous benefits and people I considered family, abruptly ended following a health crisis, 5 years ago.
Sometimes the only way we gain the awareness and freedom to find our true path is through sudden unexpected loss or crisis. In my case it was losing my ability to work, let alone, stand, walk or eat most foods without a violent vertigo attack. Fluorescent and LED lights, triggered sharp pain in my eyeballs and the feeling that someone was blowing up a giant balloon in my right ear. Being in crowds was almost impossible as the sound filtered into my ear as loud, unrecognizable static. The worst of these symptoms lasted for close to two years. I'd spent my life up until that point, being strong, and independent, with the ability to do almost anything I put my mind to. My mind was sharp and my body strong, fit and agile. I'd had no reason to doubt that I would have many years at my job and I had just signed away my spousal support, 6 months earlier. Suddenly, I could barely leave my home, let alone work and support myself. I was flung into the world of unemployment, Medicaid and Food Stamps, terrified of what would happen when my savings ran out. One of the biggest journeys of my life had begun; in the process, catalyzing massive inner and outer transformation, offering me a challenging doorway to self discovery.
Without this crisis, I can't imagine my former self making such a jump into the unknown. I was comfortable and felt in control of my life before I abruptly was thrown into a full-on metamorphosis; a shattering process where everything I thought I was and knew suddenly disappeared with lightning speed. In retrospect, I see it was the only way for me to cross a threshold to now.
Time and the process of finding wholeness have helped me see a bigger perspective. Looking back, I can see a map of my life's journey up to now. I traveled some during my youth, on my own; and then with my husband and children during our marriage, and in the past decade, with my adult children. The last big trip I took while still married, was with my husband and 14 year-old son, to Turkey. Turkey was beautiful; exotic and evoked a deep sense of having passed through this land previously. We visited tombs of Sufi Saints, including Jelaluddin Rumi. We took part in Sufi Zhikr (Whirling Dervish experiences) as caravansari's. We experienced Turkish /Sufi music with our musician guide, Latif Bolat. It felt like much more of an inner journey as compared to our past travels. Upon returning home, our marriage rapidly began to fall apart. It seemed the stressors and deeply buried dysfunction that had been building for years were catalyzed in Turkey and brought to the surface by the depth of that journey. Less than a year later, after a 25 year marriage, we were divorced.
Though I loved traveling, after Turkey, except for traveling to be with my adult kids, who live abroad, I was pulled toward experiences that took me within. At The 9-Day School for The Work, with Byron Katie, I discovered that facilitated inquiry into my stressful stories and thinking, with a group of others drawn to this form of inquiry, was the deepest experience I had up until then. Working through the knotted thoughts about what triggered the end of my marriage was liberating and healing. I began craving quiet places and nature. Instead of planning travel abroad, I was pulled to the forests and hot springs of Oregon, longing for quiet retreats and training's in nature. I studied Qigong and began a daily practice. The following year I attended a Level I Reiki training (energy healing). Soon thereafter, I trained in Reiki Level II & III, becoming a Reiki Master and Teacher. It's almost 6 years since my initial training and I cherish this healing work with clients, as well as my daily "Self-Reiki " sessions for my own self-care. Before my studies, I was not quite sure why I was pulled to Reiki, but quickly discovered my gift. Since early childhood, I always felt electrical tingling throughout my body. I assumed that everyone felt it. After my first Reiki attunement, that "electricity" became quite pronounced and I discovered and owned one of the gifts I came here with, that lay dormant for more than half my life.
Those training's I was called to in the forest at Breitenbush Hot Springs, created a foundation for what came next. Qigong in my back meadow transformed me. Nature came alive as I moved energy through Qigong. Wild animals began showing up where ever I went, peering in my windows and visiting me at the creek; my former, somewhat limited ability to communicate with animals became pronounced. The empty nest box under my bedroom window was suddenly inhabited by a family of Western Screech Owls. My deepening connection to nature was already growing before the health crisis struck and once it hit, one of the only places I could be, other than the sanctuary of my home, was beside the creek in my meadow, practicing qigong with my bare feet on the ground. I feel the time I spent in nature was an essential piece in recovering my balance and discovering a new way to be in the natural world and embodied in my life.
With time, as I healed, I slowly developed my Reiki practice and became credentialed as a Whole Health Educator™. I took groups of clients into the forest for a practice called, "Shinrin Yoku/Forest Bathing." With the first experience, I knew I had returned home. I felt relief, and understood that this too is another gift I have to offer. Two months later I was on a journey to Costa Rica for a week-long training and 6 months later, I had become certified as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, through The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.
When I went to Boise last winter, following two previous visits, I was searching for a home where I might escape the summers of thick, wildfire smoke that Southern Oregon has lived with for several years. I felt called to the land in Boise-the high desert and The Boise River flowing through the middle of the city. Though I was afraid to leave my home of 40 years in Oregon, I followed a calling that felt very alive in me. I experienced severe stress and upheaval that comes with such a huge move, alone. I developed collaborations and launched my practice as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide in a new city. I made new acquaintances as my guided forest therapy walks began at The Idaho Botanical Garden and at The Foot Hills Learning Center. I spent much time hiking and forest bathing in The Boise Foothills and along the river; biking The Boise River Greenbelt; sitting under the tall Pines at The Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. I was often at The Idaho Botanical Garden, either guiding forest therapy walks, assessing trails or practicing qigong under a magnificent Catalpa Tree.
I started a qigong practice group and met a friend there who invited me to a Wim Hof practice group, immersing in the icy waters of The Boise River, 3 mornings a week. I fell in love with the river and its life- its web of inter-being. I experienced much synchronicity in Boise, often revolving around the river. My delightful new "river dipper" friend, Tyler and his wife, Jade, had close connections to people in Oregon, at The Hai Shan Center, who are like family to my son, who currently lives in Asia. Being with our Wim Hof group, immersing in the life-giving waters, was being with family. So even when a morning was a chilly 55 degrees outside, I made it to the river. Mostly, I spent my time in Boise alone, immersed in nature. This move was the first time in my adult life, since before my marriage, that I journeyed out alone, leaving my loving people and the land I knew. I longed for the deep human connections I had left in Oregon and felt painfully isolated. At the same time, immersing in the solitude and quiet of nature was affecting me at a deep soul level.
"I wanted a move, but my soul needed a journey. I answered the call to look inside and be present with myself, in a way that could only happen in a foreign place. It seems I had a karmic contract to go through the isolation- to understand there is so much more to life than the human world. In Boise, I met myself through meeting The More than Human World."
I wanted a move, but my soul needed a journey. I answered the call to look inside and be present with myself, in a way that could only happen in a foreign place. It seems I had a karmic contract to go through the isolation- to understand there is so much more to life than the human world. In Boise, I met myself through meeting The More than Human World-through giant puffy white clouds against the clear blue Idaho sky; an apple tree named, "Whomping Willow"; sudden, violent whirlwinds; a Muskrat who popped out of the river one morning in great curiosity; Mallards who included me as one of their flock as I sat in the cold Boise River; the flock of Canadian Geese, flying over and gracing me with their big, soft bodies, within arm's reach, as I lay along the river's edge. I still hear their honking and see their soft white bellies. I met my first Bobcat while practicing qigong, one evening in The Boise Foothills- Bobcat-sleek, knowing, spotted beauty, passing by as I stood in "Universe" pose under an Oak Tree. In one knowing glance, we agreed that all was well before she continued on her way. The Red Squirrel's of Boise, warmly welcomed and assured me they had my back; knew I was there on a "mission" and offered me a place on their land. They talked to me and danced on branches above my head. A male and female, doing a love dance on a low branch, stopped a foot away from me, to mate as they peeked their heads my way.
Riding my bike down The Boise River Greenbelt one late afternoon, a branch unexpectedly dropped, with a squirrel dangling from its tip. I was moving fast on my bike, but the squirrel managed to jump onto my shoulder, as if it had been waiting at the bus stop. It bounced off me to the ground, with a splat-like sound; and ran off. When I told my son, Noah, in Taiwan, the story, he was in disbelief and shared his own squirrel experience. Noah said at what would have been the approximate same time in Taiwan as the squirrel event in Boise, that he was on a train and a wild squirrel came running through the train car and leaped onto his shoulder on its way through. I had tapped into the, SWW, "The Squirrel Wide Web." Five days before my return to Oregon, following a walk with a friend, a squirrel approached us near the river. She walked up to the toes of our boots; sat up on her haunches with her little paws together and her 6 little nipples in view. My friend, Lindsay, said, "Oh my God, I've never had this happen before!" I said, "Really, don't all the squirrels in Boise do this? I've had several experiences like this with the squirrels here." Lindsay, who was born and raised in Boise said, "No, this is not normal. It's because I'm with you."
The Bobcat taught me about solitude; the geese and the ducks shared their stories of migration, flight and navigating the river; the squirrels introduced me to their vast social network and adopted me for a time. And, the land, sky, trees and river introduced me to the vast web of life they support. I am so very grateful for all the beautiful people who I found and who reached out to me during my journey in Boise. I'm grateful for new friendships that were written in the stars and to all who joined forest therapy walks with Wild Wellness Guide. Boise taught me how to stretch farther than I ever have; to be with myself and understand that every journey has potential to lead one home.
How does one stay healthy and balanced during extended travel over several time zones?
I am on day 11 of three weeks of travel in Asia, visiting my two children between their homes in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Below is a look at Travel Wellness based on The Five Aspects of Health- Physical, Nutritional, Emotional, Environmental and Spiritual. Keep in mind that all five aspects overlap as each affects the other.
Physical well being begins a few days before travel. Are you getting good sleep as you prepare for your journey? It can be quite helpful to book itinerary that allows you to rise at your usual wake-up time. Early morning flights are a double-whammy to sleep rhythm, added on to the not sleeping on overseas flights and jet-lag. Bring a good inflatable neck pillow, ear plugs, eye mask and wear comfortable loose clothing to assist with sleep and comfort during the flight. If you are flying Coach, you will be confined to an extremely tight space, potentially for up to 15 hours at a time, or more, with little opportunity to move. To arrive at your destination feeling whole, spend as much time as you can walking and stretching in the aisles and areas of the flight cabin. Yoga poses such as front, back and side lunges are very helpful. While sitting, use a small pillow for low-back support and circle your ankles every hour or so to help leg circulation. Ankle circles are extremely helpful in preventing blood clots which people are susceptible to on long flights.
Reiki is an awesome tool to have during travel. Your hands become a gift as you simply place them on any part of your body and fall into a state of deep relaxation. I have found for flying, Reiki allows me to drop into a place of deep rest and sleep, making the hours of flight quickly pass. Each night, Reiki drops me into deep sleep and has been an awesome healing tool to nurse my legs and feet after walking many miles each day.
If you want to eat well or have specific dietary needs, make sure you bring a good amount of nutritious snacks for the journey- enough to last the trip, depending on what is available at your destination. Bring your own food for flight meals or pre-order a special meal if you have specific requirements.
Flying can be a good time to fast if the food you are offered looks pathetically processed and sugared. The flight offerings of high fructose corn syrup, sugary drinks and alcohol can be quite depleting. Alcohol is extremely dehydrating and the sugary drinks are inflammatory, potentially leading to lowered immunity, affecting your ability to fend off the recycled bugs and germs floating through the airplane. Water is an essential key for staying balanced- drink lots of it on the flight and throughout your entire journey. In many destinations be sure to drink bottled water only, even when brushing your teeth. Dehydration can contribute to exhaustion, headache, illness and inflammation.
When passing through several time zones, it is extremely helpful to take 1 mg. of melatonin when ready to sleep on the plane. Following up with a melatonin each night before bed for the first 2-3 nights after arrival, can help re-set your sleep clock and lessen the effects of jet-lag. Throughout the flight, use a good herbal throat spray, such as Gaia Herbs Goldenseal Propolis or Herb Pharm Soothing Throat Spray; Xlear, Xylitol Nasal Spray or Ocean Nasal Spray. Dosing up with some extra vitamin D-3 and whole foods vitamin C can assist with immune support. A strong daily probiotic is essential for gut and immune support. N.A.C., N-Acetyl Cysteine, is a great anti-oxidant which boosts the immune system, helps detox the liver and works as a powerful mucolytic. I take it every day, whether at home or traveling. I always prepare for emergencies when traveling as I have experienced the painful results of picking up bad bacteria in third world countries. Activated Charcoal and Zeolite clay is always in my emergency kit in case of food poisoning. Food poisoning can often be prevented by either preparing your own food or making sure you only buy food from restaurants and vendors who have clean cooking facilities and bathrooms with running water and soap.
When at home, we have a daily rhythm and routines. Traveling throws us into another reality and each day is uniquely filled with new adventures. Though many of us travel to get out of our daily routines and step into the excitement of the unknown, it can take some initial adjustment. While transitioning, it is important to be gentle with yourself, especially while still settling in and getting through the jet lag. If you you feel emotionally overwhelmed, take the time to step back and rest, nap and not push too hard. This is the time to allow yourself to be present and accept what is. Be prepared for bugs, dirt, snakes, giant cockroaches and bathrooms that are not up to Western standards. (And teeny little ants in your bed). In Taiwan, everyone carries toilet paper with them at all times. Most restaurants offer no napkins or some the texture and size of one square of toilet paper. It becomes quite noticeable while splattering hot broth and noodles all over your face. This is the time to simply notice, breathe, be and let go of any should's, expectations and consumption habits. This is why we travel- to step into a new reality and experience how others live.
Each destination is unique regarding environment. Some choose to travel in luxury while others choose to live like locals or find a balance between the two. While in Hong Kong I sweltered in high heat and humidity with frequent exposures to frigid air conditioning on ferries and inside buildings. Sleeping with an air conditioner unit blowing, called for constant adjustment of temperature all night long to get it just right. Mosquitoes have been ever-present in Hong Kong and Taiwan. I have been treating the bites with lavender essential oil. Living in Oregon, I barely am exposed to smoking. In Asia, it is constant on village and city streets. This afternoon my son showed me around Kaohsiung, Taiwan on his motor scooter. He usually wears a face mask for the exhaust fumes but forgot the masks. We rode through packs of scooters and the exhaust fumes were intense. There are numerous aspects of the environment that affect our health when traveling and all can contribute to a lack of balance and potential illness. Other aspects of the environment can be staying in very small spaces with no privacy, difficult lighting, or unexpected construction noise. Today was my first day in Taiwan and I awoke to torrential rains that were bordering on typhoon conditions. Instead of traveling to a river, I stayed in and wrote this blog. By afternoon, the rain had stopped and there was time for local exploring. When we travel, our biggest tools in dealing with the environment are flexibility and good problem-solving skills. And, sunscreen, effective bug repellent, anti-itch salve, ear plugs, face masks, rain ponchos are just a few of the tools we can use to help. Environmental conditions bring us great experiences and learning- all an essential part of the travel experience.
In the realm of spirituality, I always come back to the practice of gratitude. At, home I meditate daily. In the past 11 days, I have had the time and space to meditate twice and I am grateful for that. What I have been able to do is offer gratitude throughout each day for all that has come to me. This practice began the moment I was dropped off at the airport and hugged and thanked my parents for getting me there, and continued as I said a prayer of thanks for each safe take-off and landing; for my bag arriving in Hong Kong; for a day of low humidity; for holding my daughter and son in my arms and feeling their love; for the rain coming in Hong Kong to break a heat wave; for the rain stopping today, and for safely making it through the crowded crazy streets of Kaohsiung on the back of my son's motorbike. When there is gratitude, there is no room for complaint and one is presented with a beautiful invitation to rest in the present moment.
Many Blessings on your way, Dear Traveler's, Sari