self-care; well being
and becoming whole
self-care; well being
and becoming whole
I have been mostly silent during this past year of pandemic life. Throughout 2020 I had much to say while at the same time was often speechless and unable to write. Life changed so rapidly from day to day that by the time I completed a piece of writing, it was irrelevant.
Way back In mid-October of 2019, I gently began settling back in Southern Oregon after a life-changing nine-month journey in Idaho. By late fall, I was once again guiding forest therapy experiences and was actively forging new collaborations for my nature-based wellness practice, locally in Southern Oregon as well as other areas of the state. 2020 was off to an active start.
In early January I signed a contract to guide a Memorial Day forest bathing retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs Resort, in collaboration with sound healer and forest therapy guide, Joy Evans, from The Bay Area. I began planting seeds for the retreat 2 years earlier and was incredibly grateful for this hard-earned spot at Breitenbush. As well, Trout Creek Wilderness Lodge reached out in early 2020 with an invitation to facilitate a forest bathing retreat at their healing center in an old growth forest, later in the summer. I was actively mentoring forest therapy guides in training for The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and cultivating partnerships between Wild Wellness Guide and others.
Much was in the works by mid-March when my elderly parents relocated back to Southern Oregon after nearly two years of living in Montana, near my sister. They were set to arrive on March 19th to a retirement community in Medford. Little did any of us know what was about to hit. It was quite a shock for me and my parents when they arrived at their new community and went immediately into lock-down following a newly issued state order in response to Covid. I was unable to enter their apartment for over 6 months and my parents didn't see any of their friends for 3 months. I instantly donned my health advocate hat to remotely help my parents navigate Covid life, suddenly filled with communication/technology issues, medical crises and hospital visits.
With the sudden lock-down, my work halted. A forest therapy guide training I was scheduled to assist at in early April was cancelled and the training program came to an abrupt standstill. All trainings were postponed and staff put on furlough while A.N.F.T. began re-inventing itself. After many months of unknowing and waiting, my mentoring work came to an end.
At the same time, I received regular updates from Breitenbush Hot Springs, temporarily closed due to Covid, regarding my retreat scheduled for late May. At this point, when Oregon was beginning to slowly open up in early May, most of us were still clueless about what would follow as a world-wide pandemic unfolded. Breitenbush suggested they might reopen by the end of May, just in time for my retreat. I waited for their update, but it seemed clear that a large venue offering communal dining, hot spring soaking, workshops and shared lodging would be one of the last places to re-open during Covid. I received notice in early May that Breitenbush would remain closed until further notice. By August, the retreat was rescheduled for 2021. Then, in early September, when wildfires raged throughout Oregon, Breitenbush tragically burned down and will be rebuilding through 2022. The discussions for the other forest bathing retreat near Portland didn't even have a chance to move forward. I rapidly discovered that making plans during Covid was an exercise in futility. I was getting a serious lesson about living in the moment.
The world coming to an abrupt stop was a shock to my habit of expecting life to show up to meet my plans. Most of the world was in disbelief, and adjusting in unison to the new normal of lock-down, isolation, Covid deaths, loss of physical touch, covered faces and deserted offices and streets. Suddenly, grocery shelves were empty; we scrambled for toilet paper and Googled recipes for hand sanitizer. My daughter who had already been on lock-down in Hong Kong for 6 weeks, composed a Covid song and warned me to buy toilet paper. Up until Covid's arrival, life was easier than any of us had realized. Though I've had a daily gratitude practice for years, in 2020 I learned the meaning of "taking something for granted." Early into Covid, here, in The West, we got a miniscule peek into how people in third world countries and, in many of our own cities, scramble daily for the very basics. I realized what a privileged existence I've lived.
With no work and the sudden isolation, even though I am a quiet introvert, I felt seriously cut off from my local community. I was in stress mode with my sympathetic nervous system triggered daily by the fear of Covid. At the time, I was living with housemates who worked with the public. Initially, I became fixated on door handles, dish towels, hand towels and kitchen surfaces (which later proved to not be the route of choice for Covid's spread). When one housemate brought home a smashed box of sanitizing wipes that weren't saturated with toxic chemicals, it was like found treasure.
Considering "nothing" was happening, everything was happening on multiple levels. We were early into Covid and the overload switch had been flipped on. With the sudden shock of losing my work and income; the isolation; my initial felt fear of Covid and my parents need for much help, health advocacy and communication and tech support, along with the rest of the world, I had entered pandemic reality.
Other than taking care of the basics and helping my parents, I did the untypical for me- I stopped. All of my doing and creating came to a halt, replaced by being. My daily self-care practices became more important than ever. Mornings began with a set of Self-Reiki, Wim Hof Breathing, a shower ending with 2 minutes of ice water (or on some days, an icy dip in the creek); skin brushing, including lymph brushing; a glass of fresh squeezed celery juice and a set of Jinjing Qigong. Finally came breakfast. I'm still doing all the practices and have recently added in Nidra Yoga and EcoNIDRA. What if we organized our work around our self-care routine, rather than our self-care around work?
Early into Covid, my previous life morphed into a world of liminality as we call it in forest therapy- an experience of dropping out of one's typical mental mind and stepping into the present moment. Though it was still quite cold, wet and wintery, I spent much time in the woods, immersing in nature, dropping into my senses through forest bathing. Last winter and early spring, the streets were deserted and the park trails mostly empty. I often found ducks and squirrels using the paths and bridges which they typically stayed clear of when humans were previously present. After 40 years of walking these trails, I spied my first Jackrabbit at Lithia Park. As the animals reclaimed their forest for a brief time, they seemed to quickly adapt to very few humans on their land. At that time I had several experiences meeting small creatures on the trails who suddenly startled at finding a human in their space. More than ever, I understood whose home this forest was.
As Covid brought life to a standstill, I was stuck on a repeating loop, telling myself I should be creating, making and producing, even though I was being called to stop. The Pandemic brought with it the gift of a re-set on a worldwide scale, not something that comes along in a typical lifetime. Though I felt blocked and frozen, initially I pressured myself to offer guided virtual forest therapy walks or create a nature-based coaching offering through Zoom. But even with my strong passion and love for my work and always feeling driven to keep it moving forward, I couldn't make plans. During my trips to the forest, almost daily, I did take photos and nature videos to share through social media for those with no access to nature and the outdoors. That felt like exactly what I needed to do. After months of this feeling of "stuck" I finally was at peace, allowing my heart and inner compass to lead. I stopped grasping for the "next" thing; gratefully accepted the support of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and allowed myself the needed space to reorient while continuing to assist my parents. Instead of being in what felt like a sinking boat, wondering where land was, I realized the boat was my life raft where I could find safety through this challenging time. As the year progressed, I noticed more and more people looking for relief in nature, leaving gifts for all along the trails.
This time last year, I walked miles in nature and along the eerily quiet empty streets with darkened storefronts. I walked through the deserted campus of The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and felt the massive loss of Ashland's main economic base. I knew that without Shakespeare many local businesses would never reopen once the lock-down was over. My home of over 3 decades was a new world. The silent, deep blue skies and billowing clouds, minus the air traffic became bluer and more stunning each day as I walked the trails, worked in my garden or practiced qigong in the grass. I wondered where all the people were and what they were doing? All the world together had stepped into the same story, called, "Pandemic"-vividly real and surreal all at once. In this story, I was astonished and bewildered and unable to tap into my previous clarity. Devoid of my former routine and mostly isolated, I entered into quiet, I could feel the shocked state of the world and was reminded of the pain I felt when my marriage ended-when ways of relating, unconsciously established over decades, suddenly shattered into disorientation while accompanied by vivid clarity, and the relief that comes with truth.
The challenges and journey of the past year have been powerful and for millions of people, painful catalysts for growth. My own experience was like navigating class 5 rapids in a raging river with no paddle; doing my best to stay afloat. All the death, loss, isolation, separation and pain on the planet has changed me forever. Just before the winter holidays, I lost three friends to different causes within a period of 6 weeks; each of them, gone in an instant from their vibrant lives. 2020 offered a challenging bridge into my next stage of life. I've finally come to accept and honor the beautiful and unique life I've lived. I am grateful for what is and continue to challenge myself to stay spacious, present and aware as I cultivate how to authentically best live, love, serve and remain whole. It took a pandemic for me to fully recognize my essential need to rest; slow down; make friends with the unknown; meet my shadow and practice kindness toward myself as well as others. Onward.
Many Blessings, Sari
Today I bought some great pickling cukes and fresh dill at Ashland Food Co-op, having tried first at The Saturday Rogue Valley Grower's and Crafter's Market, where I am guessing farmer's will have their makings for pickles soon. The most difficult thing to find is fresh dill. Often there are piles of pickling cukes but no dill to be found. Gratefully, today I found both. With Covid still running rampant, it's a perfect time to get some immune-boosting lacto-fermented dill pickles or other veggies put up in your pantry.
"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 and immune health. When I'm eating pickles and raw fermented kraut, I feel my gut and immune system are getting the essential coverage they need for optimal good gut bacteria balance. The word out from my peeps in the field of Nutrition and Chinese Medicine is that, eating fermented food with each meal offers important support for our spleen, digestive and immune system. Though it is always essential to keep our immune system strong, during this time of Covid, it is especially important. I make raw fermented kraut throughout the year and am now so excited to have just put up 3 quarts of lacto-fermented dill pickles. Adding some lacto-fermented foods with each meal is an important self-care practice for not only nutritional/physical health, but also for emotional wellness. There is much evidence-based research correlating 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
*I like to cut down the recipe and make 2-3 quart batches. This way you get fresher batches that don't over-ferment due to waiting months to eat them.
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 and your pickles will still be awesome..
Yummy Happy Tummy,
At age 6, my niece, Jennie, who is now a grown woman, used to flip her stuffed "Little Foot" dinosaur into the air while chanting, "Feet, feet; they make your heart beat; when you don't have feet, your heart won't beat; feet; feet; they make your heart beat."
Our feet are essential to our wellness. They can even give us clues to serious health conditions. Being way down low and opposite our head, feet can get lost on our list of self-care. Healthy, whole feet are essential to living a vital, active life. If you have been neglecting or abusing your feet, you may want to think again. Feet need to be fully functional, decade after decade to carry us into an active old age.
"Feet need to be fully functional, decade after decade to carry us into an active old age."
With feet come shoes. Shoes are essential. They allow us to walk and run for miles and stand for a long-day's work. They help cushion our joints and spine and serve as protection from hot pavement, broken glass and other sharp objects that can injure the feet. For many, shoes are also a fun fashion statement which can make or break your look.
Are you relieved to arrive home; slip off your shoes and relax into the freedom of bare feet or cozy, soft slippers? Feet were made to be walked on, bare. Bare feet are designed for supporting our bodies in movement and while standing still.
Many foot maladies are a result of wearing shoes designed for style, not function. Wearing the wrong shoes can result in bunions, calluses, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis, fungus, infections and other debilitating foot conditions. If you have ever had a foot problem with chronic pain or sudden loss of your ability to walk, you may understand from experience how we take out feet for granted.
Walking barefoot is an essential counterbalance to a day spent in shoes. We each know our own bodies, which means, if you have a back condition or are dealing with foot problems, make sure you consult with a doctor or chiropractor if you find barefoot walking to be painful.
There are areas on the soles of the feet, that when stimulated, have a powerful affect on the health of our internal organs. There is a form of therapy for the feet, called Reflexology, based on an ancient reflex map of the feet and hands which connect to the internal organs and other parts of the body. This form of foot and hand therapy has been practiced in China for thousands of years. When specific foot points are stimulated, the result can be very therapeutic for numerous areas of the body. As well, wearing the wrong shoes, can injure the feet and cause problems for other areas of the body, due to the wrong types of pressure and constriction for long periods of time.
Walking barefoot outside, connects us to the magnetic field of the planet. It is a powerful practice called, "Earthing" and is also known as "Grounding." Living in our modern world, we have disconnected from our electrical roots. According to research, this disconnection may be a cause of the increase of chronic illness worldwide. Evidence-based research shows that being grounded supports the health of the body in many ways. Evidence points to our need for the earth’s electrons, for health and well-being. Through the practice of "Earthing", free electrons from the earth’s surface spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects. These electrons represent an essential form of “nutrient” that if missing, results in health problems similar to a deficiency of a vitamin or mineral. Humans suffer a deficit of "Vitamin N" (Nature) and "Vitamin G" (Grounding).
"These electrons represent an essential form of “nutrient” that if missing, results in health problems similar to a deficiency of a vitamin or mineral. Humans suffer a deficit of "Vitamin N" (Nature) and "Vitamin G" (Grounding)."
Bare Feet Techniques for Whole Body Health:
1) Pamper your Feet: When you first remove your shoes and socks, stretch your feet; wiggle your toes; stand and stretch onto your toes if you can. Next, sit and spend some time squeezing, pressing and massaging your feet and toes. You may notice that this alone helps your whole body feel more relaxed, loose and tightness, aches and pain may lessen.
2) Elevate your legs and feet. Following Step 1, find a comfortable spot on the floor to lie on your back and rest your calves and feet at a higher level like a couch or an ottoman. Elevating your legs and feet increases circulation in the feet and legs, reduces swelling and helps prevent varicose veins. Try this for ten to fifteen minutes after a long day.
3) "Earthing" research demonstrates that connecting the body to the earth allows free electrons from the Earth’s surface to spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects. Earthing, also known as Grounding, has been shown to improve sleep, normalize the day–night cortisol rhythm, reduce pain, reduce stress, shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic toward parasympathetic activation, increase heart rate variability, speed wound healing, and reduce blood viscosity, blood pressure regulation and calms anxiety. Those are some very powerful effects from spending time doing some barefoot walking. It is easily done-walk outside barefoot, to a soft area of grass or dirt and stand or slowly walk for a minimum of 5-10 minutes. Even in the cold and wet- do it! It is a powerful daily practice. Earthing is therapeutic and energizing. It helps you reconnect and ground to the magnetic field of the Earth. We humans spend so much time indoors and in shoes; we rarely connect directly with The Earth in the way that is natural for all mammals. We come from The Earth and connecting in this way is strong Earth medicine.
"We humans spend so much time indoors and in shoes; we rarely connect directly with The Earth in the way that is natural for all mammals. We come from The Earth and connecting in this way is strong Earth medicine."
4) Strengthen Foot Muscles, Joints and Tendons as well as The Body: Spend time, either walking barefoot inside or on the grass. When feet spend most of the day in shoes, muscles and joints don't get a chance to strengthen as the shoe takes over that function. Walking barefoot helps to strengthen your feet and can improve balance. Any barefoot walking you do, will help stimulate pressure points used in Reflexology, which in turn helps to regulate and support corresponding parts of your body. There is an ancient Chinese practice of walking barefoot on river stones. Research demonstrates this practice of walking barefoot on cobblestones can improve functioning in older adults. Results show improved balance and mobility and reduced blood pressure, more so that with regular walking.
5) Increased Blood Flow: Stimulation to the feet equals increased blood flow through feet, legs and into heart. Good circulation improves your ability to heal, stay well and prevents lower extremity problems which can result from poor blood flow.
6) Improve Balance and Posture: Walking barefoot helps to improve balance, posture and prevent common foot injuries, according to researcher, Patrick McKeon, a professor at Ithaca College's School of Health Sciences and Human Performance in New York. He states that "the more people go barefoot at home, in the office or outside, the healthier their feet will be. McKeon believes that the small, often overlooked muscles in the foot play a critical but underestimated role in movement and stability, similar to the core muscles in the abdomen. His research looks at the connection between the large "extrinsic" muscles in the legs and feet and the smaller "intrinsic" muscles in the feet, and the neural connections that send information from them to the brain.
6) Allow for Air Circulation: Shoes make for sweaty, stinky feet- a cauldron for brewing fungus and even infection. Being barefoot allows your feet to get air and dry out, which in turn can help decrease bacteria, foot fungus and odor. A great practice is to relax with your bare foot in the sunshine. The air and warmth feel wonderful and at the same time, toes and feet get a healing treatment from fresh air and sunlight.
All of the above practices are powerful ways to stay balanced, grounded and contribute to the wellness of your whole self.
I highly recommend experimenting with Earthing. I have found direct contact with the earth, to be a potent tool for staying balanced, energized and grounded. Grounding is an important practice as I begin my day, as well as the perfect way to settle and regulate stress levels after an intense work day. The tactile stimulation to my feet, especially cold, wet grass, helps me wake-up, energize and and ground. I gain a heightened awareness of my body, surroundings and my connection to the natural world.
Experiment with your bare feet, in the warm safety of your home and outside in the energizing healing, natural elements. You may discover a wonderful way to promote balance and wellness in your life. Loving and caring for your feet is loving and caring for yourself.
Many Blessings as you walk your path to wholeness, 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
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,
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
What if an incredibly simple practice involving acupressure, movement and breathing could balance mental function, reduce stress, increase intelligence and provide psychological stability? Some doctors and School Occupational Therapists are testing out Super Brain Yoga and getting awesome results.
For several years I worked with developmentally disabled and emotionally disturbed school children, in the field of Occupational Therapy. I've applied therapies which help balance the neurological system, such as Brain Gym, Sensory Integration, which is now called, "Sensory Processing Disorder" and The H.A.N.D.L.E. Method . Super Brain Yoga appears to offer a simple, awesome way to integrate the body's neurological and energy chakra system, helping to balance many levels of mental function.
This video link describing and demonstrating "Super Brain Yoga" is fascinating. The "The Super Brain Yoga" website includes details of what forms the basis of Super Brain Yoga, as well as in depth explanation of the workings of the human energy body and chakra system. Super Brain Yoga combines a specific acupressure technique, with breathing and movement and is based on the connection between the ears, the head and the body. Healers, teachers, parents, therapists and healthcare practitioners may find this this simple, yet what looks to be a powerful practice, worth trying.
The nutritional aspect of health plays an integral role in our physical and emotional health. New research is confirming the relationship between what we eat and the health of our Mind-Body. An essential piece of this connection is the relationship between gut microbes and almost every chronic disease humans are dealing with. In recent years, the results from several studies demonstrate the connection between good gut bacteria and improved immune function and decreased anxiety and depression. The gut-brain connection is showing up as an essential piece of our big picture of health.
A recent study done by William and Mary College Psychology Professors, Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell and University of Maryland School of Social Work Assistant Professor, Jordan DeVylder, investigated the connection between fermented foods, which contain probiotics, and social anxiety. The results demonstrated that young adults who eat more fermented foods have fewer social anxiety symptoms. They found the strongest effect was among those subjects who had a genetic predisposition for social anxiety disorder as measured by neuroticism. The journal Psychiatry Research published the study in August 2015.
The above study is exciting as it looks at not only using isolated probiotics, but at the use of naturally fermented foods. Fermented foods, such as kefir, yogurt, tempeh and miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, sourdoughs and traditional bean dishes such as acaraje, and so many more. Fermented foods have been part of the human diet for centuries, though lost to many during the 20th Century with the introduction of refrigeration and processed foods. This is a cutting edge study regarding the mind-body connection, since previously, similar research was limited to the fields of microbiology and alternative medicine. Validating the mind-body connection through research in the area of psychology, has potential to bring the relationship between nutrition and mental health out of the closet and to the general population, which is grasping for the missing links to their chronic health issues. According to Matthew Hilimire, the above study is the first in a series planned to continue exploring the mind-gut connection. One area of planned research will include further examination of the original study data, to see if a correlation exists between fermented food consumption and autism symptoms.
What can you do on a daily basis to up the good bacteria in your gut? Fermentation is a creative, fun and delicious way to establish healthy gut bacteria.
There are some awesome fermentation educators who are sharing this long, lost art through wonderful books, blogs and workshops. My favorite book is, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. My son bought me the book a few years back and it is one of the best gifts I've ever received. Summer Bock, founder of OlyKraut in Olympia, WA. is a passionate fermentation educator. I participated in a 2-day fermentation workshop Summer taught four years ago, at The annual Breitenbush Herbal Conference at Breitenbush Hot Springs. I learned from Summer how to make amazingly delicious kraut and garlic dill pickles. Surf the web, find a book store or check out local classes on fermentation. Many cities now have their own fermented kraut businesses.
Yummy Happy Tummy Ginger-Garlic Kraut
Ingredients and Tools
1 large, dense cabbage or 2 smaller dense cabbages. (about 5 pounds)
1 large bulb garlic- mince all the cloves
2 large roots of fresh ginger- peeled and grated
Himalayan Sea Salt (about 2 teaspoons)
Fat, flat-ended wood rolling pin- the end of this should fit into a wide-mouthed canning jar with ease.
Wash, core and remove any outer funky cabbage leaves. Set aside a nice leaf to use in packing process. Slice cabbage into quarters or smaller. Next, slice cabbage thin as for a slaw.
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, grated ginger, minced garlic. Gradually add salt and stop when it tastes great to you. In her class, Summer Bock described this step by saying, "It's so good that you just can't eat one bite, you need to keep tasting and eating it (like potato chips)."
Next, massage the cabbage mixture with your hands until it begins to soften and break down and its mass reduces. When you have massaged it until soft and broken-down, you pack the kraut.
Cabbage varies in size. A very large cabbage usually fills a 3 liter jar plus an extra pint or a quart jar. A couple of medium size cabbages fill my 3 liter jar. Be prepared with a variety of jar sizes before you begin to pack the kraut.
Pack the kraut into either one large wide-mouthed 3 liter glass jar or into two wide-mouthed quart jars. Or, adjust jar size as needed, based on how much kraut you have. I love my Le Parfait 3 liter glass canning jar, with its detachable glass lid and it seems like the perfect size for a batch of kraut.
Begin scooping kraut with a half cup measure into jar. After about 3 scoops of kraut, pack it down with your flat-ended rolling pin. Continue this process until you are about a 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Make sure you are firmly pressing/pounding as needed to compact the kraut and remove air pockets inside the jar. When jar is fully packed and you press down with the rolling pin, you will notice liquid seeping to the top. That is good. Next, take the cabbage leaf you set aside earlier and cut it into circular pieces, a littler larger than the diameter of the mouth of jar. Place the cabbage on top to cover the diameter of jar opening and create a seal. Press it down over the packed cabbage and place the lid onto jar.
Place sealed jar(s) of kraut into a container with sides to prevent any messy leakage. Cover the jar(s) with a clean dish towel. Open and check the kraut in one week. You may notice bubbling or that the jar has leaked. That is fine. If there is any sign of mold on top of the kraut, do not panic. Scrape it off with a spoon and close jar, placing it back in pantry. In the summertime, I often put the jar in the fridge after 2-3 weeks. In the winter when my home is cooler, I let the kraut ferment for about 3 -4 weeks before refrigerating it. Check jars each week until refrigerated. In tropical climates, you may need to refrigerate the kraut within a week of making it. Kraut continues fermenting in the fridge.
I enjoy my kraut every day, whether it's my morning forkful of probiotic yum, topping my lunch salad or as a condiment to any meal.
Many Blessings, Sari
In Whole Health Education® we refer to "The Five Aspects of Health™"- Physical, Emotional, Nutritional, Environmental and Spiritual. These encompass "The Big Picture of Health". All five of these aspects contribute to our wellness or illness. This week, I experienced my first case of the flu in almost 20 years. In the thick of it, I felt every one of these aspects in a sense of slow feverish motion. Physically, the fever was raging, my joints and bones hurt, my head was pounding, it felt like someone had put a winch on my neck, I was too weak to stand at one point and felt like I was drowning in my own sweat. Emotionally, I felt trapped, isolated, dis-connected from all my friends nearby and an urgent sense of missing my kids who are thousands of miles away. I was barely able to care for myself and found myself suddenly questioning my ability to do anything at all in my life- now or in the future. The glass suddenly became half empty and I was drowning in the full half. Nutritionally, I felt intense hunger and pushed myself through the fever to forage for flu compatible food in my fridge and freezer. Due to my usual planning and cooking almost 100% of my meals at home, I had food in my fridge and my freezer stocked with bone broth and veggie soup I had recently prepared. I was in good shape nutritionally with the food, but was so weak physically that it took a good couple of hours to actually get out of bed, once I realized that I needed to refill my water, warm broth or make tea. Regarding other nutritional aspects, I was in great shape with cabinets full of the perfect herbs and supplements for dealing the the flu- throat & gland spray, sinus spray, Neti pot, N.A.C. bronchial tonics, Vitamin D, olive leaf extract, homeopathics and probiotics - all of these left over from my former position as a wellness buyer at Ashland Food Co-op. Environmentally, my set-up for dealing with the flu on my own was not the best. I was sleeping in a loft on the second level with a need to negotiate the stairs under feverish/weak conditions to get to the bathroom or the kitchen. On the other hand, the loft was a lovely place to be confined in with the beauty of the large windows, vaulted ceiling and view of the sky and my friend, the old oak tree. At the same time, in my loft, kitchen and bathroom, it looked like someone had dropped a "supplement bomb" and I had lost track of where to find what I needed. I was grateful for warmth, comforters, hot and cold running water and steamy showers. I was incredibly grateful for wireless internet, texting, Facebook Messenger and Wechat. Though, when the fever finally broke, I didn't even want to look at Facebook. Music was another thing that brought healing to my environment. Spiritually, I was grateful for the beauty of the crystals on my meditation alter at the foot of my bed. And, I was incredibly grateful for my gratitude practice. I guess that's a double gratitude when put that way. Reiki energy coming through my hands, along with the presence of my Reiki Guides, gifted me with deep, warm penetrating energy, and love. The Reiki served both spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
The Five Aspects of Health are such basic aspects of our daily lives that we don't typically hold them in a sense of awareness as something to focus on as a unit of sorts. Through awareness of these 5 aspects and taking action accordingly, we learn to keep our unique picture in balance. Whole Health Education® allows us to create an attentiveness around these aspects and with facilitation, to set short and long-term realistic goals in each area, to keep ourselves in balance.
It is helpful to have an awareness of The Five Aspects of Health™ and strive for balance before becoming ill or having other aspects of your life fall apart resulting from stress. The importance of balance is based on "The Biological Reaction to Stress", a theory by researcher, Hans Selye. According to Selye, when the human is stressed, we develop Short Term Stress which can move into Prolonged Stress, which can lead to serious disease and chronic health conditions. Stressors - events which require adaptation by the body, can come from things like, poor nutrition, strong emotions, lack of good sleep, temperature, weather and many more factors. Integrally connected to stress is the brains limbic system and something called, " The Reticular Activating System" which overlap in the brain's processing of emotion. The "R.A.S." communicates to the whole body through the hormonal and nervous systems. Through this system, when a person is stressed, the hypothalamus/pituitary gland, communicate with the adrenal glands triggering release of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. This is often referred to as "The Fight or Flight Response". This cascade of stress hormones in a long term situation can contribute to compromised immune function and numerous acute or chronic health conditions. Consciously creating balance in one's life is the key to preventing an out of control avalanche of stress hormones.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Physical: How does my body feel? Do I need to step back and rest? Does my body need some vigorous movement or stretching? Have I walked aerobically today? Do I feel well rested? Am I getting enough sleep? Have I had a hug today?
Emotional: How am I feeling? What am I feeling? What stories am I believing that may or may not be true? What caused my mood to suddenly darken (make a list)? Have I given/had any hugs today or experienced touch? Whose mental business am I in? Am I staying connected with those I care about? Am I making myself sick with negative thoughts or using my mind to create positive mind/body connection?
Nutritional: Is my plate spilling over with fresh, whole, colorful nutritious food? How much water have I had today? Do I include healthy fats in my diet daily? Am I beginning my day with breakfast and good protein? Am I snacking throughout the day on good protein and keeping my blood sugar balanced? Am I taking the time to chew my food and eat slowly and mindfully? Am I moderate in my use of alcohol?
Environmental: Am I allowing for quiet time in peaceful surroundings? Is my work/home space clean, uncluttered and functional? What is the mental state of the people I live and work with- healthy or toxic? Is my work nurturing me or causing depletion? Is the environment (air, water, noise ) of my city healthy? Do I feel nourished or depleted by space and people in my life?
Spiritual: My values in relationship to self and others- Am I doing any practices to bring myself to center? Am I connecting with like-minded people and community? Do I have a regular practice of Yoga, meditation, breathing practices, gratitude practice, prayer, spiritual community, dance forms, music? From where and what do I find meaning?
My life became unbalanced with the arrival of the holidays. First came festive eating (sweets, gluten, dairy allergens) with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah latkes and now Christmas and New Year's parties back to back. Additionally, the days have been cold, extremely wet and dark. I've found myself doing less hiking due to the torrential rains and have been involved in an emotionally demanding school project for close to two months. As my teacher Geogianna Donadio from The National Institute of Whole Health says, "Everything is Everything" - each aspect affects the other. My work to get myself into balance is to stay aware of and integrate The Five Aspects of Health™ into my life, even when there are holidays, stress, weather obstacles, nasty viruses and big projects- especially when there are holidays, stress, weather obstacles, nasty viruses and big projects. It's time for my Winter Take Action Plan.
Information on Hans Selye from his book, "The Stress of Life"
"The Five Aspects of Health™" is an integral part of The National Institute of Whole Health,
3 in 1, Whole Health Educator Program™
Headwaters, Sacramento River, Mount Shasta, Ca.
Experiencing chronic pain on a daily basis, can trigger a powerful fear reaction. As the expectation of pain settles in as a presence in one's consciousness, fear can become a daily, silent, unwelcome companion.
"Bodymind" science of the brain and brain hormone activity, explain the close connection between thought, physical symptoms and immune dysfunction. According to evidence-based research, by Dr. Candace Pert, PhD., every thought sends out neuropeptides (brain proteins) to receptor cites throughout the body. Dr. Pert explains, “A feeling sparked in our mind-or body-will translate as a peptide being released somewhere. [Organs, tissues, skin, muscle and endocrine glands], they all have peptide receptors on them and can access and store emotional information. This means the emotional memory is stored in many places in the body, not primarily in the brain. You can access emotional memory anywhere in the peptide/receptor network, in any number of ways. I think unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body. The real true emotions that need to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed". Dr. Pert's research demonstrated the body's information system has two major elements, neuropeptides (made of amino acids which grow from DNA and are made from hormones) and receptors which they fit into. The neuropeptides are produced by nerve cells in the brain. They lock into their receptor cites throughout the body and cause either something to take place or prevent a reaction. In her book, "The Molecules of Emotion", Candace Pert states, "the body is having a conversation which appears to be remarkably flexible, varied and subtle. For example, all the immune cells carry all the receptors identified so far, which means, presumably, that they can be affected by a wide range of messages." Dr. Pert concludes that "The mind and body are bound together in a conversation of neuropeptides, and can be considered an integrated entity called, "bodymind". We, our body, our mind, are in essence one unit, one fully integrated, wise operating system."
So, how does this relate to Reiki and pain? When one takes into consideration the bodymind connection, the missing puzzle pieces are discovered. Consider the pain of a chronic condition or pain resulting from an accident or injury. Every time we feel the pain, there is an associated fear with it which is paired with associated thoughts about the pain. Here are some sample thoughts: "This is so painful", "It keeps getting worse", "Will I be like this for the rest of my life?", "I can't go on like this", "No one has been able to help me". What if we took into consideration how every thought affects every other part of our body; our organs, immune system, joints, bones and muscles? According to the science of bodymind medicine, this is exactly what is happening- the mind is causing a bodily reaction. What if during the pain, one would recite, like a mantra, "I'm safe, I'm safe, I'm safe", over and over and over. It's an experiment worth trying.
In my Reiki practice, I work with several clients who have been dealing with long-term chronic pain issues which have seriously affected every part of their lives- everyday. They arrive with stories from their many physicians and therapists, such as, "This is chronic", "You'll just have to live with it", or "We can't find anything wrong and the pain may be in your head". The pain may have begun in the body through some sort of inflammatory condition or injury or in the mind as a result of stressful thinking. There is never only one factor. As the pain continues, fear and frightening thoughts about the pain feed the bodymind neuropeptide receptor loop. As well, there may likely be physical, nutritional, emotional, environmental and spiritual issues that need attention-all of which can affect the bodymind connection.
Reiki research demonstrates that Reiki energy puts the recipient into an incredibly deep state of relaxation. During a Reiki session, the recipient is able to sink deeply into a condition which allows the Reiki energy to move through the entire bodymind. The deep relaxation combines with the Reiki energy, moving through the entire body. The mind leaves overload mode and drops into a place of deep quiet. This deep mental quiet and letting go of stressful thoughts, combines with the deep physical experience of relaxation during a Reiki treatment. This allows The Reiki to pour through one, moving energy blocks along the way. What if some of these blocks are actually emotions stuck throughout the body which were originally created or exacerbated by our thoughts- all part of the neurotransmitter/ receptor system?
In a Reiki session, many fall into a profoundly blissful state. Some recipients may be in a deep state and when my hands get to a certain point, they are aroused, noticing a sense of intensity or heightened emotion- either good feelings or very complex feelings. I talk them through these areas and teach relaxation breathing when needed. It is in these places where the recipient is feeling energy blockages moving, and working their way out. And most often, the blocked energy moves while the recipient is deeply lost in their blissful "Reiki Sleep".
Many clients who have been struggling with chronic pain, low vitality and various health conditions, have returned after one or two sessions with incredible breakthroughs, much gratitude and glowing smiles on their faces. Helping others regain their functionality is a joy. I am so grateful for bodymind science, Usui Holy Fire Reiki, and the ability to share it with those in need.