Mermaid Days

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This is a picture of me from when I lived in Hawaii.

Today, I look out my window at another cold and rainy Pacific Northwest day. This has been like the rainiest winter in history up here. Even though the first day of Spring was officially yesterday (yay!), the weather pays no heed up here. It still looks and feels like winter – and I am over winter already.

After living in Hawaii for almost ten years, my husband Josh and I moved out here because we thought it would be better to raise our kids here – that there is more to offer them here. We have lived in Washington state for almost three years and we have weighed the two against each other and have come to a realization that there is no one place that is better to raise our kids. Where we belong is where it is best to raise our kids. The islands are like a part of us. The ocean is the closest thing to heaven on earth I have ever experienced. Josh surfs and is eager to teach our kids. I swim like a mermaid.

And so, we return to Hawaii soon (hallelujah).

I have learned so much through this journey, though. Josh and I have grown much closer – and we have grown so close as a family with our kids. The specific bond between us resulting from this adventure could not have been built any other way.

And the Pacific Northwest is a truly beautiful place. The mountains, the Sound, the pure air, the abundant water – the list goes on. It rocks up here.

Also on this journey I discovered my sensitivity to gluten, which has been life-changing. I understand my body more than I ever have, AND I learned how to make soup, and have since created some amazing recipes, which I will continue to share.

I will also post soon about the fiction books I published based on my mermaid days of living in Hawaii.

These pictures are of me on a boat in the ocean, setting out on a mermaid adventure. It has been a while since I have had a mermaid day, and I can’t wait to have another.

For now, we continue to hope for spring, even though we can’t see it yet. We focus on getting the kids though the last months of the school year – go kids! And I do yoga to light an inner fire to warm these CD days.Maybe I will go make a soup now. Wishing you a good first week of spring!

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Halting the Inflammation Train

It is my two year anniversary of being hive-free. Yes, a strange event to have an anniversary for, but if you’ve ever had a health issue that took months or longer to resolve, you can relate. I had hive flair-ups all over my body, every single day, for one year, and then one day they went away, never to return.

During the year when I experienced the hives, I felt tired and groggy constantly, even when I first awoke in the morning. Life was an uphill battle – just the little things took extreme amounts of will to accomplish. I remember looking at the clock at 9:30 am and thinking I am way too tired to make it through this day. Even though I was only thirty-eight, I felt very old, like the best part of life was behind me. Not a fun, or productive, way to live.

Today, while still aware of the underlying condition that caused the hives, I feel vibrant and alive. The here and now is fulfilling. Exhaustion doesn’t hit me until 10 p.m. when I happily crawl under the covers feeling that a rest has been well earned. I’m actually excited about life – I know that while I have already lead a full life with many awesome memories and experiences, the best is yet to come.

What I now know is that an autoimmune disease was part of the underlying cause of the chronic hives. But I believe that at the root of my problem was chronic inflammation – the inflammation was a precursor to the auto-immunity. Our bodies use inflammation as a mechanism of defense against unwanted intruders or pathogens, but if the wrong factors are present (like poor diet and excessive stress) and the inflammation train gets going, it can accelerate to destructive levels. Once this train is going out of control, it is not easy to calm it down. Inflammation is only meant to be turned on when the body is in real danger, not chronically.

Two years ago I did what is called an ‘elimination diet’. For thirty-one days, I ate only organic bone broth soups with vegetables, cooked vegetables, simple 3-ingredient, blueberry smoothies, and an Indian dish called Kitcharee. On day seventeen of this month, the hives did not show up, and I have not seen them since (celebrate).

After the elimination diet, I slowly added foods in, one at a time and only one every three days – it can take three days for the body to adversely react to a food. My body was fine with all the foods I added – granted, I have stayed with a whole-food, gluten and dairy free diet this entire two years. As hard as this sometimes is, I feel so much better without the inflammation, I refuse to get that train going again.

A lot of us live with low levels of chronic inflammation. This presents as sluggishness, a little extra weight on the body, aches and pains, low libido, bloating, and a general lack of passion. It is interesting to consider ways to calm the inflammation, to care for ourselves in such a way that illnesses such as autoimmunity and other chronic yuckiness do not develop in the first place, or to keep the symptoms calm and dormant if they already have.

One simple practice is deep breathing. Christopher Bergland, author of The Athletes’ way: The Biology of Bliss, writes about deep breathing in his article, The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure. This article is about the Vagus Nerve, a very interesting subject. This nerve wanders from the base of the brain down through the body, touching several key organs along the way – including the heart. He writes, “A higher vagal tone index is linked to physical and psychological well-being. A low vagal tone index is linked to inflammation, negative moods, loneliness, and heart attacks.”

He also discusses how diaphragmatic breathing increases vagal tone.

So, pull up a cushion, silence the cellphone, and treat yourself to some deep breathing. Even five or ten minutes a day will give results. First simply observe the current rhythm of your breath without judgement. Due to the hectic pace of modern life, most of us function on a jagged breathing rhythm. After noticing this for a minute or two, begin guiding the inhales and the exhales to a smooth, even rhythm. Counting the length of the inhales and the exhales and nudging them to even is one method. Sometimes it is nice to have the exhales be slightly longer and to envision stress being expelled from the body with the breath out.

This simple exercise will tone the vagus nerve, signalling to the brain and heart that all is well. Practicing regularly has huge impacts on soothing inflammation and promoting well-being – I know from experience.

This is a picture  our family out hiking in August. I am grateful to feel well again, so that I can live my life in the fullest way possible!

 

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The Healing Power of Yoga

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I have been practicing yoga for over twenty years. Teaching for the past two has been an amazing experience. Going into the yoga room is like pressing the pause button on time – as we settle into the breath, synchronizing its rhythm with the movements, our worries fall away and stress melts. We stretch, twist and bend. We push our personal boundaries as we expand into the poses.

Lying still for five to ten minutes at the end of class allows the benefits of the practice to sink in, body, mind, and spirit. We leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to enter back into daily life with a whole new perspective.

If you’ve never tried yoga, I recommend finding a studio and giving it a try. This is an excellent way to manage stress, that thief of health and wellness. It may not be possible right at this moment to eliminate daily stress, but it is possible to control our reaction to it. The breath awareness and coordinated poses that yoga offers will give you a new way of dealing with life. It transforms us from the inside out.

To Live Joyfully

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When we feel joyous, we feel connected. Being engulfed in joy is like swimming in a crystal clear ocean on a sunny day – we are supported, uplifted, weightless. Remember a moment when you were truly joyful; it may be a simple memory, like dancing to good music, or having a meaningful conversation with a friend; or it may be a big life moment, like kissing your husband for the first time, holding your little baby, or attaining a hard to reach goal.

Sometimes joy seems elusive, slippery and hard to grasp. Day to day life can lose its luster, and joy feels distant, attached to a memory or a future plan.  Joy and health are interrelated; the more joyous we feel, the less stressed, inflamed, depressed and heavy. Daily joy leads to better health. How can we bring more joy into our lives, attaining it regularly?

I have found many nuggets that have helped me move into a state of joy more often, in the ancient science of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a body of knowledge that can be applied in our lives in conjunction with our current medical plan, religion, or system of belief. If one chooses to apply aspects of Ayurveda, one does not need to forsake modern medicine. It is not an invitation to throw all your medicines or doctor’s advice out the window. Rather, it is an extremely useful treasure trove of wisdom that can complement your current beliefs, while deepening your health.

Ayurveda was born in India thousands of years ago. It is the ‘Science of Life’ derived by sages who devoted their lives to discovering this way of viewing the natural world and our relationship to it. It is timeless wisdom, as the basic human needs, such as nutrition and rest, are the same as they were five thousand years ago.

Maya Tiwari, a contemporary author and practitioner of Ayurveda, was able to heal herself from cancer utilizing a combination of western medicine and Ayurveda. She writes, “Our vital tissues are created from the same five elements that created the seasons and their rhythms; we share a symbiotic nature with the earth, created as we are from the same cosmic blueprint of memory, energy and rhythm.”

And so, we as human beings have been created from the same elements that we see all around us in the natural world. 75% of our body is water. Our enzymes are like fire, metabolizing matter into usable ash. Our lungs draw in air, and the motion of air circulates throughout us. Much of our body is simply empty space; in each atom is a bit of matter, and a lot of space. Our flesh and bones are like the rocky earth of the body. The five elements in nature are earth, water, fire, air and space; according to Ayurveda, we are made of these same elements, and they comprise our bodies in unique combinations.

How does all of this relate to joy? In future posts, I will refer back to this concept as I offer practices and foods that contribute to well-being and the capacity to live joyfully.

For now, if we allow the concept  of the five elements to sink in, we realize that we are totally connected to the environment around us. When we live life from this connected place, the world begins to open up in a new and exciting way. The change of the seasons is a wonder to witness, especially when we understand that our bodies also morph and change seasonally. As we harness the natural rhythms, we access greater health and joy.

Like the energetic pull of the moon affecting the ocean tides,  the rhythms of nature affect the elements within our own bodies. As we learn to live in balance, we attain a state of wholeness. When we are whole, we see the world clearly and joy is right at our fingertips.

Although there is much suffering in this world, there is also much beauty. When our vantage point shifts into one of true health, we not only see this beauty, we add to it.