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
When was the last time you cried? Have you ever cried in public? When you feel the urge to cry, do you allow yourself the release or do you stuff your feelings?
For almost five years I have been doing a daily verbal gratitude practice. During my practice as I express what I am thankful for, I also ask for help where it is needed for myself, my family, friends, the planet, situations around the world and more. I typically do this practice in the privacy of my home, sitting at my meditation alter. On many days, as I speak my thank-you's, emotion wells up from deep within and tears and sobbing flow forth with wild abandon. These are not tears of sadness, but tears of emotional release accompanied by a deep sense of relief and joy. As a highly sensitive empath, tears offer me a way to let go of the energies, feelings and thoughts I pick up each day when my own energy boundaries are down or in a weakened place. Moving the fluid of the tears out of my body is a powerful cleansing; a detoxifying of what is not mine to hold. I love this practice and so value the resulting sense of balance, wholeness, happiness and the residing presence of deep connection with something much greater than myself.
Moving the fluid of the tears out of my body is a powerful cleansing; a detoxifying of what is not mine to hold. I love this practice and so value the resulting sense of balance, wholeness, happiness and the residing presence of deep connection with something much greater than myself.
This morning, I was near Lithia Park and decided to take a walk between rain showers. As I walked below the upper duck pond, I came to a curvy, moss-covered oak tree and decided to do my qigong practice under the tree's tangled branches. Once highly energized by my practice, I walked back up the trail along the rushing creek, and noticed as my daily gratitude began to pour from my lips. I felt the pulse of the forest; its root systems; heard the birds and rushing waters; saw the deep, dark mossy green and brown hues of the plants and trees and smelled the damp mustiness of the wet earth mixed with decomposing bark mulch. Gratitude continued to flow, and I asked for help where needed. Tears ran down my face and I felt their urgency as they washed away what needed to flush out of my system. I stepped onto an isolated bridge where two branches of the creek crossed with great roaring power. I cried full-on and let my tears blend with the creek. After a few minutes, my tears stopped and more gratitude poured from my lips. I soon felt full and whole in my prayer and letting go and headed down the trail.
When I cry, my eyes get puffy and my nose turns red like Rudolph's. I walked down the trail feeling quite uplifted and knew my face was still red and puffy. I usually make a point to say hello as I pass other's, especially when I am walking solo and not distracted by conversation with a friend. As I passed some walkers, I noticed they instantly looked down or away when they saw my red face. I'm guessing they either felt a need to give me respectful privacy or felt uncomfortable seeing a stranger who had obviously been crying. This happened with about 6 people I passed, but one elderly couple immediately made a point to smile, look me in the eyes and say hello. It was a lovely connection.
According to an article in The Medical Daily from May 2015, crying releases toxins, kills bacteria, improves vision and mood, relieves stress and boosts communication. Our society does not encourage this form of expression. Often those who cry are considered weak, depressed or unstable. In reality, healthy tears can help keep us strong, happy and balanced.
According to an article in The Medical Daily from May 2015, crying releases toxins, kills bacteria, improves vision and mood, relieves stress and boosts communication. Our society does not encourage this form of expression. Often those who cry are considered weak, depressed or unstable. In reality, healthy tears can help keep us strong, happy and balanced.
I invite you to make friends with your feelings; shedding your tears when called to do so, and holding loving space for others who have discovered this powerful modality for physical and mental health.
Many Blessings, Sari
The essence of Whole Health Education is self-care. The true foundation of health is to know oneself and from that center, the desire for self-care is cultivated. Whole Health Coaching allows you to see and understand the aspects of your life which work together in either creating health and vitality or contributing to chronic illness and lack of energy. The Five Aspects of Health™, Physical, Emotional, Nutritional, Environmental and Spiritual, overlap. Awareness of how these aspects contribute to your wellness is the first step towards self-care.
Some good questions to ask yourself to see your picture more clearly:
"The true foundation of health is to know oneself and from that center, the desire for self-care is cultivated."
To know ourselves and see our own big picture, it is essential to develop practices to quiet our over-active minds. In my coaching practice, in addition to evidence-based health education, I facilitate you in centering, grounding, focusing and quieting your mind, to become present with yourself and deeply relax. Techniques include, Relaxation Breathing, Gratitude Practice, Guided Imagery, Mantra/Positive Affirmation, Meditation, Mind-Body Medicine techniques, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and energetic practices.
All the above practices are simple, yet powerful. Following initial facilitation, they easily integrate into your daily life. Through practice, you discover which technique(s) are a natural fit for your lifestyle. Another option I offer and have found to be a powerful tool for self-care is Self-Reiki. Imagine being able to use your hands wherever you are, to calm, de-stress and put yourself in a blissful state of relaxation. I originally became a Reiki practitioner with the intention of using this healing modality on others. I learned immediately, when practicing daily Self-Reiki, that I was soothing my over-activated Fight or Flight Response; giving my body deeply calming, healing energy. Self-Reiki allows you to center in the healing warmth of your own hands. As well, many of the other relaxation practices I use, such as gratitude, meditation, mantra and guided imagery tend to flow directly into and work synergystically with Self-Reiki. A simple 20-30 minutes upon waking or before bed, offer the gift of deep connection with self. In this "Reiki" time, I have been gifted with seeing a bigger picture of my life and have come to powerful realizations; finding the creative solutions I've been searching for.
As well as Reiki Healing Sessions and certification classes, I now offer half-day, "Reiki for Self-Healing" classes, with the focus on self-care, rather than treating clients. Additional benefits of Reiki include, immune, pain and sleep support; blood pressure regulation, easing medication side-effects, assisting in surgery recovery and healing; removing blocked energy and increased vitality.
Call me and check out my website to learn more about my Coaching Sessions, Reiki Healing Sessions and Reiki Classes.
Many Blessings for a beautiful, balanced and healthy 2017, Sari
New Class Offerings: First and Second Degree, One-Day, Reiki Certification Classes and Reiki for Selfcare
I am doing it- after hearing from several of you who want Reiki Certification training, but don't have the time for my 2-day workshops, I am now offering First and Second Degree Reiki Classes as a one-day immersion for 1-2 students. As well, I am offering, "Reiki for Self-Healing". This half-day class is for those whose goal is to become attuned to Reiki for their own self-healing. Not everyone is looking to work on others as a practitioner. This class is a gentle introduction to Reiki healing energy. You will learn about Reiki energy; become attuned to Reiki and learn hand positions to practice daily self-healing. Self-Reiki is a powerful tool for blissful relaxation, stress-reduction and sleep support. Used as a daily practice, Reiki is balancing, meditative and supports well-being on many levels. This half-day class is offered for 1-2 students.
Yesterday, I taught a Second Degree Class, with two awesome students/healers. We focused on the mental/emotional aspects of Reiki; worked on eachother, as well as learning Reiki Distance Healing. Second Degree Reiki training goes into more depth and specifics as to the chakras, the body organs, and their emotional counterparts. Further practice is offered with scanning, how to apply the symbols for personal healing, Distance Healing, and for manifesting, and even for creating your future. This knowledge enables the practitioner to address a vast array of conditions- physical, emotional, and mental for one’s self care, and for others.
Call me to schedule First or Second Degree Certification Training or to schedule a Reiki for Self-Care Class.
Many Blessings, Sari
P.S. Gift Certificates are now available. Call for more information, to gift family or friends with Reiki Sessions, Reiki Classes or Whole Health Coaching and Stress Reduction Sessions.
The holidays are upon us and the cold weather has arrived. Many of us are over-stressed and weary. We have just come through the most intense election season some have ever experienced. Holiday gatherings are scheduled and December can be a wonderful time of friends, family and warm connecting. It also may come with excess in terms of energy output; over indulgence with food and drink and often, a decrease in immune function. High stress levels are shown to contribute to daily and long-term health issues. Now is the perfect time to nourish and treat yourself with kindness, which in turn reduces stress and calms the sympathetic nervous system.
Reiki offers a bliss-filled way to melt your stress away and clear blocked energy which can result in illness. It supports deep relaxation, reduces anxiety, supports the immune system, restful sleep, increased vitality, pain relief; regulates blood pressure and helps to balance body, mind and spirit.
For the month of December, I am offering single, One-Hour Reiki sessions, for $55 (normally $65). As well, "Reiki Bliss-3" and "Reiki Bliss-6" Series, session bundled packages are available on an ongoing basis.
Gift certificates for the holidays are now available. Reiki, offers blissful, deep, healing relaxation and is a lovely offering to friends and family. Call me for details.
Happy Holidays and Many Blessings to All,
It's Thanksgiving and I am feeling grateful. In fact, I'm often feeling and voicing my gratitude. Did you know that gratitude practice is a powerful path to happiness? I also believe gratitude leads to a profound sense of trust in life. I say a blessing over my food at every meal as well as "Reiki" my food. My most recent version is this: "I take you in, as a blessing and in gratitude and allow you to come into my body and do the good work you are going to do." Five years ago I began a daily vocal practice of gratitude combined with asking for help in the places where I need it for myself or help for others, and specific situations. This practice has taken on a powerful life of its own and is a daily gift. In thinking of what I am thankful for, my gratitude practice is what stands out the most as it connects and opens me to the depth of love and healing connection with others and all creation. It allows me to see what is good in the world. In my daily practice, I feel and voice gratitude in great detail for more than it's even possible to name-my loving family; friends; the sanctuary of my home; my ability to care for my needs and others. I say gratitude for our planet; all people; the elements of earth, water, fire, air; the flowers, trees, birds, sky, animals, sea creatures, insects, reptiles, birth, breath, life, death, rushing waters; mountains, rain, snow, warm breezes; rainbows; ocean waves breaking; rushing waters; still clear pools; rocks; the soft earth between my toes. I voice gratitude for loving connection, communication, joy, gentle kisses and sweet cuddling, smiles, laughter, tears and deep emotion. And, I cry and feel my feelings. My gratitude is never-ending.
When I experience difficult people or frustrating situations, I step into my place of "grateful heart-mind". This is when I open my heart and stretch deeply as my mind speaks, "I am so grateful you are here, on the planet; you have so much to teach me."
Throughout the day, the practice takes on a life of its own; showing up in every situation, conversation and interaction. When I experience difficult people or frustrating situations, I step into my place of "grateful heart-mind". This is when I open my heart and stretch deeply as my mind speaks, "I am so grateful you are here, on the planet; you have so much to teach me." When I do this, I can breathe; my Sympathetic Nervous System calms and imagined separation dissolves; my "grateful heart-mind" guides me to connection, understanding and acceptance of what is, as I let go of judgment- no matter how challenging the person or the situation. It is a holy gift to be able to step into this place of peace and do the work that is also required to heal and repair what is broken.
I have so very much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, 2016. What comes to mind, in this moment- my son, back in the U.S. for a 3-month stretch, filling my small cottage with his shoes, skateboard, keyboard, Mandarin language books, his beautiful music and love; connection to my beautiful daughter and her loving partner-living, growing and thriving in Asia; my parents, a few miles up the road-in their ninth decade; aging with vitality and grace; the screech owl in the nest box, outside my bedroom loft; right livelihood as I continue to grow through a powerful gift of healing transformation; dear friends and some of the deepest, loving connection I have ever experienced; food in my belly; a warm safe place to sleep, live, love, meditate, pray and do my healing work; Qigong; the waterfall on the nearby trail; clean air to breathe and the clarity and vitality to treat my life as a work in progress; creating, adapting, growing, intuiting and letting go when I am called to do so.
We each play a significant role in this life; every being on the planet. I am so grateful you are here.
The Autumn chill has arrived in The Valley of The Rogue with heavy rains tempered by some days of honey-warm sunshine. The trees are shining Autumn jewels of red, orange, yellow, green and brown. Early today, I practiced Morning Medical Qigong with my Ashland Mogadao community. A few of us were barefoot in wet, cold grass. It turns out that a community of worms was invited by our warm feet and squeezed up for some morning toe Qi-cuddling. The worms were exceptionally long and fat. I know by now you may be very concerned and wondering, "What do worms have to do with a curry recipe?" It is about the connection of energy, heat and digestion. The worms rushed to the heat of our feet and to our moving bodies, as we created heat and moved energy through our Qigong forms. When our 60 minute practice was complete, I was energized, grounded (like a worm) and deeply connected to our beautiful circle. I arrived home and gave my feet a lovely, hot soak and felt a burning desire to make a large pot of warming red curry.
Now is the time to be eating deeply warming foods, especially for those of us living in cooler climates. Our body's need heat. Alex Tan , a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner and educator, states it very well in this description taken from his piece about cooked vs. raw food-"The Chinese believe the catalyst for digestive transformation is heat and warmth. We are indeed warm-blooded creatures and optimal digestion occurs at a slightly higher temperature than body temperature 36.7°C. For this reason, most of the people, most of the time should eat mostly cooked and warming foods. This is also partly due to ‘civilized life’ where we do far less physical activity and more mental processing than our body was designed for – the energy is in our head rather than our digestive organs – the fire rises upwards, rather than staying down below where it should be fueling the furnace under the pot, down in the kidneys. If excessive amounts of cold or raw foods are eaten, the body has to waste valuable energy raising the temperature of the food to allow the digestive processes to work. Prolonged or excessive use of chilled or raw food weakens the ‘digestive fire’. In the West, nutritional information (about protein, fat, minerals, vitamins etc) is obtained in a laboratory by analyzing foods, separating them into their basic ingredients in a test tube, before they enter the body. In the East, food is described as acting on the body in a certain way (warming, cooling, salty, sour etc), by observing the energetic action inside the human body and the behavior of the body after a food has been consumed. The Chinese way of seeing the process of digestion is seen not so much in terms of gross revenue (raw nutrients) but much more about net profit (Qi and Blood)."
Feeling the chill of the morning, I was reminded of the solid nutritional advice from my acupuncturist, to eat warming foods as much as possible in cold weather. I needed to answer the call to make a big, steaming pot of warming curry and stoke my digestive fire. This curry is absolutely delightful and leaves one with a warm after-glow.
Warming Coconut Shitake, Red Chicken Curry
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large Yukon gold potato, sliced into small chunks
1 large carrot, sliced
1 # fresh green beans- cut into pieces
1 large red pepper- small pieces
2 heaping tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (Use any fresh basil if you don't have Thai basil)
2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste (more curry paste as desired)
2 Cans Coconut Milk (full fat)
2 Organic boneless chicken breasts- halved length-wise and thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons Coconut Sugar - or to taste
Himalayan Sea Salt to taste
2 1/2 cups filtered water
Cooked Rice or Rice Stick Noodles- optional
In a large pot add shitake slices and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes while prepping the remaining veggies.
Next, add potato chunks to the pot as soon as they are cut, in order to cook well.
Add the coconut milk, ginger, basil and curry paste about 20 minutes from when water first came to a boil. Blend in the curry paste well with a fork or a small whisk. Continue simmering on low heat. When potatoes and shiitakes are nice and tender, add the carrots green beans, red pepper pieces and coconut sugar. When all veggies are tender and still colorful (do not overcook), add the sliced chicken and stir while simmering. The chicken will cook very fast. Once chicken is fully cooked, but still tender, salt to taste.
Serve either as a soup or with hot rice or rice stick noodles.
Serve steamy and hot in a bowls- slurp it up with a soup spoon in one hand and chop sticks in the other.
Makes 6 servings
It's pickle time. The Rogue Valley Grower's and Crafter's Market and The Ashland Food Co-op produce aisle is spilling over with cute little pickling cukes. Yesterday I bought some great picklers at The Grower's Market. I found an abundance of perfect picklers at Happy Dirt Veggie Patch, operated by my favorite farmer (and former farming partner), Matt Suhr. Right next to Happy Dirt was Wandering Roots Farm, run by farmers Jeff and Anna Boesch. They had several bunches of fresh dill, ready and waiting to join my pickling cukes. So often at this time of summer, the pickling cucumbers arrive but there is no dill available. Wandering Roots has had both dill and pickling cukes for weeks.
"The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota."
Lacto-fermented pickles are so simple to make and such a wonderful way to get a powerful hit of healthy probiotics for daily gut health. When I'm eating pickles and raw kraut, I feel my gut and immune system are getting the essential coverage they need for optimal good gut bacteria balance. This is very good news as so much evidence-based research is now connecting healthy gut bacteria to a healthy brain, body and immune system.
"Properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, the ultimate value of which may be associated with mental health; furthermore, we also argue that the microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways."
According to a 2014 study in The Journal of Physiological Anthropology, "The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota." The article states, "It is our contention that properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, the ultimate value of which may be associated with mental health; furthermore, we also argue that the microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways." A great read on the gut-brain connection is the book, "Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain- for Life", by David Perlmutter, M.D.
So, enjoy these fabulous lacto-fermented, garlic dills. Here's the recipe and method.
Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles
Makes 6-8 quart wide mouth canning jars
Brine for about 8 quarts- 9 Tablespoons sea salt or celtic salt to 4 quarts filtered water (mix together very well and remix just before pouring into filled jars- I use a blender)
2 large, folded *Grape Leaves per jar (tannins help keep pickles crisp)
Fresh flowering dill (buy a large bunch and divide between jars)
6 large cloves garlic per jar
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
5-7 small pickling cucumbers- or however many you need to fill canning jar.
Fold grape leaves into bottom of jars.
Place half the dill and some garlic on top of grape leaves.
Pack pickles into jars and add remaining dill and garlic as you pack.
After re-stirring brine, pour into filled jars, all the way to top.
Seal full jar with canning lid ( leave about 3/4 -1 inch to prevent explosion).
Place jar in a low-sided pan, tub or water proof container.
Cover jars with a large dish towel and place in dark cabinet. (55-75 degrees is good)
Let ferment for about 1-3 weeks at room temperature. If your space is warm, you may want to transfer the jars to fridge after only 1-2 weeks. Sample a pickle after one week. They will still continue to ferment in the fridge so judge by the climate of your home. The original method calls for leaving the jars to ferment at room temperature for several weeks but that can be too long unless you have a nice root cellar. Above 75 degrees will require refrigeration sooner than later. If you notice bubbles in the jar, get them into the fridge.
Be careful in opening the jars as they can be wildly fizzy.
* Note on grape leaves- tannins in grape leaves get extra concentrated with fermentation. If you are someone who gets migraine from tannins, simply do not use grape leaves.
Yummy Happy Tummy
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