Category Archives: nature

Words that Mean Nothing

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There are so many words that get tossed around in the alternate universe that is called “wellness” that really stick in my craw.  I find that when I share my annoyances, they dissipate a little and I don’t have to obsess over them….as much.  So, join me in the aggravation shall you?

natural: as in “natural foods”, ‘natural flavors”, etc.  This is the most seductive of them right now.  You want stuff to be natural, I’m sure.  However, the dictionary delineates between things we find in their raw state as natural and something manmade as not natural.  So how can any boxed/packaged food claim to be natural?  They can’t.  Not by definition.  Of course, neither can a good chicken soup be considered natural because it’s been processed by your dear sweet grandmother.  On the other side of things, this also seems to imply that whatever man does is not natural.  Why is a beehive natural and a skyscraper not?  Why is a dog snarling when cornered natural and a woman screaming in rage when abused not?  The constructed delineation between what is natural and what is not allows for the madness that a boxed, sugar coated, puffed cereal grain can be marketed as “natural”.  This word means nothing, is what I’m trying unsuccessfully to point out.  Next time you’re walking through the grocery store, just notice what is marketed as natural food.  It’s not the meat and produce and grass-fed butter.  It’s the chips, energy bars, whey powders….in short, it’s just a marketing tool to steer you away from the things that are authentic to your species and to spending more money on a myth.

organic: Ugh, something is organic because it is a carbon-based life form.  Do I need to say more?  Everything you eat is organic.  Every fruit, leaf, slice of steak…a carbon-based life form.  They get you because by saying something is organic, the theory is that its not been sprayed or treated with anything inorganic (not a carbon-based life form).  Which is of course WONDERFUL!  LIfe forms eat other life forms in general until you work your way down the web and something is just absorbing sunlight.  (Thank you chlorophyll!  We love you!)  The problem is this.  A cow eating organic (unsprayed, untreated) grain and not receiving hormones or antibiotics is of greater quality than one that isn’t treated this way is still not getting to be a cow.  What I mean is this.  Cows eat grass.  They want to eat grass.  When they get to eat grass and be out in the sunlight and walk around, they get to be cows.  (This also goes for plants.  Plants do well when they grow with other kinds of plants and not so well when they are mono-cropped, so you vegetarians aren’t in the clear.)  Organic is certainly a higher rung on the ladder but organic in its common usage still doesn’t mean that the animal or plant gets to be itself.

chemical: Everything is chemical.  When you see something advertise itself as chemical free what does that even mean?  It would be a box or bottle of nothing if it were true.  What they mean to say, I’m assuming, is no added chemicals.  You are a chemical being.  So, chemical free doesn’t mean anything at all.  You need to read and find out what chemicals are authentic to us and can be absorbed or come into contact with no harm and what can’t.

spiritual: Here it comes.  Spiritual means something sanctioned by a religion or church.  Yeah, surprising, right?  Contrary to what you’ve been spoon-fed since birth, you do not need a spiritual component to your life in order to be healthy.  What a lot of people call their spiritual practice is just otherwise known as being authentically human.  What I mean by that is that:

We need to go outside.

We need to eat things that are authentic to us and that get to live lives that are authentic to them.

We need quiet time to not think about much of anything.

We need time with others.  We are a primarily social species.

We need to play.

We need to learn new things.

We need to move.

We need to express ourselves and be heard.

We need to sleep in safety.

These are some of our needs.  The different ways that we meet those needs that our culture sanctifies and codifies become what we call “spirituality”.  But, you don’t have to.  It’s…funny?…to me that we are taught to be so afraid of the body’s needs that we can only allow ourselves to meet them by labeling them spiritual.  It’s not.  It’s physical and authentic and not at all mystical.

purity:  On the heels of that last rant.  Purity and “pure” make my bile rise and burns the back of my throat.  Pure water has no nutrition.  Pure oxygen will kill you.  Pure environments will starve your immune system.  Purity of the body is an impossible, deluded fantasy that can easily become an obsession so dangerous that it will kill you.  Purity of the blood is at the heart of every genocide.  This word also means nothing…well, nothing good.  It always gives me the heebie-jeebies.  Purity of thought leads to stasis and lack of creativity.  Pure also means that something else is dirty.  This is also dangerous.  Pure emotions are compassion and happiness and joy.  Dirty is anger and fear?  Except of course, anger is a really good way to know that something has violated you and fear will keep you alive.

These are a couple of things that keep me up at night.  And, because language is important.

Reader Question: Toxins

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What toxins are in our bodies and how to get rid of them? -Victoria

This is another great question from Victoria.

This entire concept of toxins has really spawned an entire industry based on cleansing the body.  Cleanse.  Clean.  Pure.

“Toxin” is one of those words that I’d like to see eradicated for a while.  It has created so much fear and a certain attitude of war against the body.

I’m not denying that we live in something of a cesspool of our own creation, most definitely.  However, we focus our energy on cleansing the body of the individual instead of stopping the toxic things at their source.  For example, a large part of the toxins that we ingest are in our water.  Instead of us getting really angry about that, we’ve allowed corporations to charge us money for “clean water” in bottles (plastic of course which are toxic).

Okay, reining myself back in.  That wasn’t really the question.

We are contextual beings.  What that means is that our body cannot be separated from its environment.  If you’ve ever looked at single celled organisms through a microscope, you now that they are “swimming’ through a solution of something.  There’s not just empty space between them.  It’s the same idea with us.  The “empty space” that you see between yourself and the person next to you or the tree a few feet away is not empty at all.  It’s swirling with life, dust, pollen, and all sorts of other things.  So, we are only as “non-toxic”  as our environment.

Our bodies co-evolved with everything else in our environment.  This means that we evolved all sorts of “cleansing” mechanisms naturally and within ourselves.  We have several organs who do that: the skin, the liver, the kidneys, the intestines, the lungs, etc.  A well nourished healthy body cleanses itself naturally.

However, we as a species have been very busy creating new toxins to fill that “empty space” between things.  The body may need a little additional help.

The things that we now have to deal with are pesticides in our food, radiation in the air and water, sugar, vegetable oils, genetically modified foods and strange chemical combinations created by industry.  These are the biggies.

Some of these are pretty easy to control.  Stop eating sugar and vegetable oils and GMO foods.  Source your water from a spring or use a filter for the tap.  Get angry about industry and see what you can do about your local area.  (This is hard.  Very, very hard.  Money and politics are strong forces in this day and age.)

Here are the other things that you can do:

1.  Eat well.  You eat to very literally create yourself.  What you eat is broken down and used by your body to repair and make more of you on a cellular level.

2.  Nourish your organs.  Your organs regenerate.  Your skin, your liver….you basically get new ones every few weeks to months.  So, give your body the best nutrients to build organs that are capable of cleansing the body, not just limp along trying to survive.

3.  Eat clay.  Find some edible clay and take a little bit in each day.  Just a bit.  I make toothpaste with mine.  Other times, I dissolve a little bit in my water.  This really helps with radioactivity, but it also helps with other poisons and is full of minerals.  Other mammals do this and its a traditional practice in nearly all cultures.

4.  Sweat.  A sauna is such a nice passive way to do this.  Moving intensely and with purpose is also really nice.  I’m not a big fan of gyms.  I find it far more satisfying to sweat doing something really productive.  Carry the groceries up the 5 flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator.  Scrub the kitchen floor with a brush.  Really allow your body to live in your life.

5.  Look into herbs.  There are herbs that correspond with particular organs.  I prefer to use herbs that nourish my liver or my skin instead of stronger, really medicinal ones that have an actual cleansing effect on the body.  I’d rather that my body know it has allies that are working with it instead of substances that are nearly as toxic as the substances that it is trying to detoxify itself from.

Cleansing when the body is compromised in any way can be harsh and further break down the body’s vitality.  Instead, find ways to nourish the body in little ways daily.  Keep your environment authentic.

And, remember that dirty and toxic are not the same thing.  Going outside and rolling around in the mud or playing in the dirt is actually really good for you.

Disclaimer: Everything here is my opinion and for information purposes only.  What you do with that information is your responsibility alone.

Reader question: Water?

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Larissa writes:  Water.  “don’t drink tap water.  don’t drink water from plastic bottles. use a filter. not all filters are ok., etc. etc.” are things that we hear all the time.  How is water essential to our health ? What minerals are there in water ? Is A lemon carbonated Perrier only pleasurable but also a healthy nourishing nutrient ? Salt and lemon in water to rehydrate ?

Full disclosure: Larissa is one my very best friends and she very humbly allows me to think I always know what I’m talking about.  The woman is smart as a whip, however, and keeps me on my toes!  We’re going to have to get her to do a guest post here.

There are a lot of questions in this request for an answer.  Let’s try and take them one by one.

1.  How is water essential to our health?

Well, we are, on average, 60% water.  Babies are like 80%.  (That’s why they are so plump and delicious!)  The water that we drink becomes our blood.  We use water for these processes in the body: 

a.) gets oxygen to our cells

b.) between our joints, there is something called synovial fluid, the efficacy and “cushiness” of our joints depends on the amount of hydration we take in

c.) our cells communicate with each other-water make this communication more effective/efficient

d.) water maintains normal electrical properties of cells (yep, I saw the Matrix, too and yep, we probably could be used as batteries and that’s why we are in pods of fluid in those movies)

e.) our lymphatic system’s function depends on two things: 1. movement-it’s a kinetic system that requires movement to flow and 2. water-our lymphatic fluid’s viscosity is directly influenced by our water intake

f.) we are better able to regulate our body temperature when we are well hydrated (when you  consider the incredibly narrow range of healthy body temperature that we have and the incredibly broad range of environments in which humans live, you start to understand how crucial this is.)

g.) water removes waste from the body’s metabolic processes

There’s more, but I think you’re getting the picture.  The short answer is “water is important”.

2.  What minerals are in water?

This is a deceptively simple question to answer.  Water, on a molecular level, is hydrogen and oxygen (dihydrogen monoxide for my geeks out there.  holla!)  However, the hydrogen and oxygen molecules act as a matrix (little m) for other things.  The minerals in water are incredibly variable according to the water source.  (My go-to guy for all anything water related is Daniel Vitalis, for those of you interested in a vastly more in-depth study of this.)  What that means is that the minerals in Perrier are going to be different than the minerals in San Pellegrino.  Are you still with me?

Now, once you understand that, you’ll see that water from different sources really is not the same thing.  We drink water to hydrate, yes, but it is also a valuable source of nutrition.  It is not just “wet”.  I was lucky enough to grow up drinking water that came from a spring not far from my house.  We never drank milk in my house, except on rare occasions when the farmer came by with his cow.  (You’d tell him how many jars of milk you wanted-that you’d provide-and he’d milk the cow right there in your yard.  True story.)  Why do I mention this?  Because, the water I grew up on fed through limestone rock.  I can remember waiting until the end of my meal to drink my water (as is my culture) and there would be limestone sediment at the bottom of the glass, so rich in minerals was that water!  Also, no fear of calcium deficiency, either.

So, the minerals in water are location dependent and source dependent.  

3. Is a lemon carbonated Perrier only pleasurable but also a healthy nourishing nutrient?

Yes.  It is both.  For people who live in cities and source their water (actually “tap liquid”, according to Daniel Vitalis) from the tap, mineral waters are a wonderful addition to the diet.  I love to have sparkling water on a regular basis.  I tend to brand hop.  Appolinaris is a personal favorite, but I don’t do it frequently because of the whole “I love the earth and I’m paying for jet fuel and pollution by buying this.” thing.  Water is incredibly heavy!!  So, bottled water is not my favorite way to destroy the earth.  

4.  Salt and lemon in water to rehydrate?

Yes, to both.  Of course, I’m not talking about table salt, which you should probably get rid of A.S.A.P.  Table salt is pretty much strictly sodium chloride and iodine.  It will create an imbalance in the body on a mineral level, so please, sea salt.  I vary my salt intake from different sources and every single time I go home to Haiti, I bring back a quart or so of local sea salt.  True salt is also rich in minerals.  Adding salt to denatured water helps remineralize it.  As far as lemon and vinegar in water goes, I can remember reading that it helps with the availability of the water to the cells but can’t find the reference anymore, so take that with a grain of (sea) salt.  Adding lemon and vinegar does do other things that are more frequently and commonly documented, like aiding with digestion and “stronger” blood.

5.  This wasn’t asked outright but was implied at the beginning of the question.  Water sources:

Worst: Plastic bottles.  Absolute worst.  Don’t do it.  We are becoming plastic people.  Literally.  Water is the more powerful solvent.  When you drink water from plastic, you are also drinking plastic.  

Less worse but not by much: Tap water.  Most of the water is flouridated (carcinogen), chlorinated (carcinogen) and completely ‘purified’-denatured and demineralized.  At least you’re not drinking plastic?  Well, maybe, but whatever anyone is flushing down their toilet, it’s eventually getting back to you.  I’m not talking about sewage, because that’s properly taken out of the flow, but prescription medications, etc.  Those chemicals are finding their way into the water source regardless.

Even less worse: Filtered tap water.  This is a good solution for most people.  Personally, I would filter it through a really good filter, the best that you can afford, and I would add a little vinegar and some salt to it.  Maybe a half a Tablespoon of each to a gallon.  (I’m spitballing here and saying what I would do.)

The good stuff:  Find a spring.  Spring water is where it’s at.  When I was living in the cabin, I would drive an hour every two-three weeks to fill glass carboys with spring water.  Since I’ve moved, I haven’t yet found an easy to get to source.  My old spring is two hours away.  It’s becoming more and more worth it to make the trek.  I’ve been drinking the tap water here and it is not the same.  At.  All.  It doesn’t taste right nor is it hydrating me.  I just have to get a couple more carboys to make the trek less frequently, but I will probably be doing the trip this weekend.  It.  Is.  That.  Important.  And.  That.  Different.

Thanks Larissa for a great question!  I hope the information provided was useful.

*Disclaimer:  Everything I say on this blog is my opinion and just provided for information purposes only.  What you choose to do with that information is your responsibility.  

 

Reader Question: Small Habits

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Victoria asks:

Hi jenny! … am very excited to follow your tips and articles on living life freely.
(Could you talk about)….small lifestyle changes or habits that can make a big difference. Perhaps your top 8 or something… little routines, rituals or habits you have that make a big difference.

Oh, Victoria, I love you so much I’ll give you ten.  And, since this really is about living freely you can do all ten, just one, or NONE.  🙂

This took quite a bit of thought actually because once something is routine, it falls under the radar as an actual practice and just becomes “life”.  Some of these are probably as basic as it gets, some may seem a little strange, and I hope some are at least fun.

1.  I eat a substantial (in comparison to the S.A.D.-that’s Standard American Diet) amount of saturated fat.  Most of it is from animals as saturated fat tends to be found there, but I also love coconut oil and coconut milk.  (It’s one of two canned foods that I consume on the regular because coconut milk in a carton is such a no-go.  Read the label.  It’s mostly stuff other than coconut milk.  They have to put stuff in it to keep if from going solid in your fridge.)

Why?  Saturated fat is the most stable of all the fats.  It is the one that has been consumed forever by our species.  We make our cell membranes and create our nervous systems from it.  It is a really great source of energy.  It makes our fat-soluble vitamins actually usable by the body.  Our modern low fat diets have led to us having about 1/10 of the levels of our grandparents of these vitamins.  Remember, you can eat as many carrots as you want but without the fat, you can’t use any of the vitamin A they provide.  And still crisp boiled carrots quickly sauteed in butter with garlic and parsley?  Delicious!

2. I am in bed before 10:30 as a general rule.  Often, before 9:30 so I can be asleep by 10.

Why?  The body heals itself between the hours of 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.  The brain processes the day’s information, traumas, and events to make sense of them between the hours of 2 a.m. – 6 a.m.  If you lose out on that sleep, that healing can not take place.  Being a shift worker that works nights is one of the worst things that you can do for your health.  Shift work is recognized as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.  Robb Wolf likes to say that you should get as much sleep as you can without getting divorced or fired.

3. I eat clay.  On purpose.  I used to drink it mixed in water but now I make an herbal toothpaste with clay as the base that I use daily.

Why?  Clay is cationic and helps bond with radioactivity in the body and helping it exit.  With the amount of computer exposure, radioactive exposure that we are all (mostly unknowingly) subjected to, this is a really great health practice.  In Haiti, there was the myth that Haitians ate dirt to ward off starvation during the embargo years.  Actually, the clay tablets, not dirt, have always been and are still sold in the markets and just make a pretty regular part of the traditional diet.

4.  I have a dog.

Why? This may not be a small habit, but it doesn’t have to be a dog that you choose to adopt.  It can be a plant, a parakeet, a cat, or a monitor lizard.  Knowing that a living thing depends on me grounds me to the natural world.  Being witness to the way that life REALLY works, like the time my dog decimated my chicken flock in 5 minutes, keeps me from falling prey to a lot of wishful thinking and sentimentality about the way I wish things work.  Also, having living species other than humans around reminds me that I have needs based on my being a human being that are wholly natural.  To acknowledge and meet those needs is wisdom and the gateway to freedom.

5.  I don’t wear underwire bras.  And frequently none at all.  

Why?  There are certainly studies on both sides of this issue.  Since I happen to think my boobs are pretty cool, I’ve decided to minimize the risks.  Some studies do say that the lymphatic tissue, dependent on movement, is healthier when the natural flow if uninterrupted by such hardcore “support”.  Also, I feel vhary ze francais when I go au naturel.

6.  I installed f.lux on to my computer.

Why?  Blue light can interfere with our melatonin production.  F.lux is an application that can be programmed to your time zone and starts to remove blue light from your monitor as blue light is being naturally removed from the outdoors as sunset approaches.  Melatonin is the hormone that is largely responsible for sleep.  As melatonin rises, cortisol (known as the “stress hormone”) lowers and you can sleep.  So, part of the issue with being on the computer past sunset (just part…there are others) is the issue of blue light interfering with the rise in melatonin necessary for a good night’s sleep.

7. I do the booty dance.

Why?  In this Western culture we tend to move forward.  Really think about how often your body moves within all the dimensions available to it.  Even our fitness model works within the back and forth and very rarely to the side to side and hardly ever in the all around.  Just the act of releasing the hips and letting them rotate all the way around helps with blood flow, helps keep certain muscles toned, and is a really good reminder that we move in tunnel vision.  It can really help with creativity as well.

**The booty dance is a dance so named by my son when he was five.  It looks something like this:  With legs hip distance apart, bend knees so that they are soft.  Rotate hips, pelvis, and well, booty, in a full circle.  Go in both directions and go as fast or as slow as feels good to you.  It’s a great thing to try every hour on the hour throughout the day.  

8.  I hug my son and anyone else who’ll let me.

Why?  When the fetus is developing, the same layer of tissue that forms the brain forms the skin.  Yeah, I’ll wait while you let that sink in.

I know, right?  Touch, loving and appropriate, is one of the things that I find most lacking in this adopted culture of mine.  We need touch as much as we need food.  We are primates.  When you spend any time watching primates, either on Animal Planet or in real life, just observe how much of their time they spend touching each other.  It’s a lot.  And, in their world, just like in ours, the animals that are touched less are not as healthy as those who are touched more.

9.  I drink herbal infusions.  I learned this from the one and only Susun Weed and she calls if one of her three best ideas.  It is.

Why?  Well, first, what?  An infusion differs from a tea because the herb is “steeped” for four hours minimum.  I don’t recommend that just any herb be used for this, but instead use the class of herbs that are called “nourishing” herbs.  My favorite ones are stinging nettle, oatstraw, comfrey leaf, linden, red rasberry and red clover.  There are a few more, but that’s my short list.

Now, why?  One of the things that we most lack in our diet is not vitamins necessarily but minerals.  There are wonderful minerals in plants.  We often can’t access them because of the cell wall that plants have and we don’t.  Taking dried plant material and pouring boiling water over it and letting it sit breaks apart that cell wall and releases the minerals to us in a way that we can really use them.  The ritual of boiling my water at night and setting the herbs to sit in it in my mason jar, then, straining the water through a sieve, squeezing the herbs to get the very last drops of nutrition and drinking throughout the day….it grounds my day.  It is a concrete reminder of my nourishment as priority AND as something simple and ancient.

10.  I don’t use soap.  

Why?  Why?  Why?  Okay, not never and not nowhere.  I use soap on my pits and my bum and my feet.  For the rest of me, I dry brush before I jump in the shower and then use oil, right now it’s sesame, while I’m still wet.  Our skin’s acid mantle is our first line of defense and soap strips it.  Dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system, really exfoliates the dead skin off, and also increases blood flow to the skin.  Special note to my ladies:  Using soap on your lady part is a HUMONGOUS no-no.  That flower cleans itself.  Soap really disrupts the pH balance.  It is supposed to be acidic to keep itself safe.  It will bloom when rinsed well.  If you feel that that’s not enough (it is, I promise!) you can add a little vinegar or lime juice to the rinse water.  And, I don’t know if this is still something anyone does, but do NOT douche!  Pas une bonne idee!

Victoria, thanks for this great question!  As I was writing, about 5 other habits came to mind.  Maybe there will be a part two to this if you all find this useful!  I will know that you find it useful by you commenting below.  🙂

Also, Nourishing Freedom is on le livre du visage, where you are free to habitually like us.

Let’s talk about stress, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. (Part One)

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Let’s talk about all the good things and that bad things it may be.  Let’s talk about stress.

Thank you Salt n’ Peppah.

How tired are you of thinking about stress?  Hearing about it?  Managing it?  Eliminating it?  Yada yada, blah blah.

One of the most difficult aspects of our modern, technologically driven life is that we tend to believe that everything functions the way our devices do.  Binary code.  Something is either one thing or it’s the other.  

So, the story you’ve probably heard is that stress bad.  No stress good.

The truth of the universe in which we are gloriously enmeshed is that it is a both/and place.  Stress is both good and bad.  

It’s been years since massage school.  More than a decade in human years and I haven’t thought about the actual Hans Selye created word of “eustress” since then.  But, the concept has been on my mind quite a bit.  When I created Nourishing Freedom’s basic aspects of health, I deliberately designated one of them to the “appropriate level of stress” for the individual.  

“Eu-” is the prefix used in Science to designate “true or good”.  Your cells are eukaryotic because they have a nucleus.  So, they’re “true” cells.  Sorry, prokaryotes.  You’re such posers.  (JK!  You’re awesome and my mitochondria remembers when we used to chill together in the primordial soup!)  With that little tangent, “eustress” is the good stress that we experience.  

Whoa. Good stress?  Of course.  When you get back to the actual understanding that stress is pretty much anything that requires a response from the body, you see that you are constantly experiencing stressors.  A drop in temperature is a stressor, having to get out of bed in the morning is a stressor, exercise is a stressor (yeah, I said it!), someone saying your name in a crowd is a stressor, ad infinitum.  “Stress” is the conversation, constant and uninterrupted, that you are having with your environment.

For clarity, I hope that you understand that EVERYTHING is your environment.  We have tossed the word around so much that with environment we tend to think of trees and dying rivers and little animals that our grandchildren won’t know.  Your environment, though, is everything from the shampoo that you use (or don’t…go no ‘poo, go no ‘poo, GO!) to the paint colors that you choose to cover your walls in to that unfortunate bag of Doritos that  you scarfed last night at midnight after one too many Big Bang Theory downloads on YouTube.  It’s the humming of your refrigerator and the howling of the wind through the pine trees.  It is the uncertainty of a moon-less night and the amount of sunlight you bathe in during the day.  It’s the feeling of the wool sweater on your skin to the loud neighbors that just can’t seem to get along.  Your environment is the people you touch or walk past during your day and the animals that share the park with you on your lunch break.  It is the pace at which you run or the sway with which you dance.  All of these things are your environment and the dialogue between you and it is so intimate that it really should be called by its 19th century name for talking intently: intercourse.

That conversation, for our purposes, is what stress actually is.  If the environment is the call, we are the response.  Since we have the capacity (as does every other living thing) to impact its environment) we are the call and the environment is the response.  And that communion is stress.  

How do you feel about stress now?

Hopefully a little differently.  It doesn’t seem to be quite so….nefarious, does it?

Good.  Because you know what the MAJOR difference between stress (the bad stuff) and eustress (the good stuff)?  Our perception.  That’s it.  

I will grant you this.  The amount of stressors and demands for response that we often have in an average day are inhuman and inhumane.  Our bodies DO struggle to keep up with the constancy of the permeating barrage.  It does overwhelm.  Or, we allow it to. 

There is a lovely path to walk with stress when we take a playful approach to it.  It’s invigorating to find the right thread of conversation with our environment.  As any conversation, it does take two, but all it takes is one person to alter the tone of the conversation, or the topic, and the conversation is now different.  You CAN have a screaming match with your environment.  Of course, you can.  You have that authority.  You also accept the responsibility of the fallout of that.  Some of them might be chronic exhaustion, horrible digestive pain and issues, hair loss, migraines, body pain.  You are also able to speak tenderly with your environment, find mutually beneficial solutions to things.  So, this street is particularly congested at 5:30 so I can take the back road.  Or I really enjoy the buzz I get from working hard on a project or a couple weeks and the decadence that comes with doing nothing for a whole week.  

You may find that some amazing solutions can be found when you stop arguing with your environment.  When you stop and listen, you may hear some things you didn’t even know.  

 

 

Power vs Authority

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TThere has been a lot going on in the Nourishing Freedom world.  A lot of things that I’m getting more and more excited about.  (Excited and terrified often feel similar in the body, by the way, so I’m choosing to label it excitement.  Is anything scarier than having dreams become reality?)

One of those things has been doing some interviews, very casually right now as practice for the formal “real” ones that are coming quickly my way.  Listening back to them, I have noticed that I use the word authority like Madonna used to use trashy lace in the 80s.  I don’t use the word power.

I was born and raised under a dictatorship.  I grew up in that same dictatorship until I was 13 years old. (It’s no coincidence to me that we use the word regime to describe a dictatorship and it is the french word for diet.) After that, the country’s leadership changed as frequently as the aforementioned Diva.  Power is easily gained through manipulation, intimidation, bullying, money changing hands, bulk, strength, and so many other avenues.  I am sensitive to using power as a decent health model.

I am a post-wellness coach.  Wellness and the current health model is all about power.  Power over the body.  Trick it.  Hack it.  Bully it.  Buy it out.  Intimidate it.  Make it do what you want it to do through whatever means necessary.  Impose standards of perfection upon it that it can’t meet and then punish it when it can’t (and it can’t) meet those standards.  Purify it.  Clean it out.  Cleanse it.  Cleanse it.  Cleanse it.  It becomes a microcosm of the atrocities of ethnic cleansing.  Exert the power of an idealized, impossible purity onto the body and cleanse it of all hints of filth.

In short, we are living in an age where “health” is something of a totalitarian regime inflicted onto the body.  Health is a power that we try to control that winds up controlling us.

Authority, however, has always rung a little different to my ears.  I have known many, many people with very little power but with great authority.  I grant someone authority because they have earned my respect.  I acknowledge someone’s authority on a subject because they’ve done the work.  Authority is grounded in knowledge and in admiration.

When someone speaks from a position of authority, I listen and learn.  When someone speaks from their power, I listen but don’t trust a word.  With authority comes a knowing, deep and steady, that recognizes humility as valuable.  With power also comes a knowing: that power is fragile and can disappear in an instant and must be gripped through any means necessary.

There is a shift that happens when you start nourishing yourself, start nourishing your body.  It is a recognition of fragility.  It is the acceptance that our minds change, our thoughts flitter, that ideas are malleable.  These are the playthings of power.

The shift from power over the body to the recognition of the authority OF the body is one of the most radical paradigm shifts that one can undertake in their lifetime.  You will not have authority OVER the body.  This is difficult for us to accept, this humility before the body.  It is not comfortable to know that when my body says something loud and clear, it KNOWS.  It has the knowledge.  Your thoughts and perceptions about your body have been used to exert power over you by getting you to impose that power over it yourself.  The transformation that can be experienced by rebelling against this power structure and returning the authority to your body is something I could write pages and pages about but unless you go through it, it’s nearly impossible to get you to understand the depth, height, width of it.

In practical terms, health is sleeping when your body is tired.  It is eating in the way your body needs.  It is moving when your muscles beg for it and being still when you need to rest.  But, this is not on a schedule that someone decides on molding you to, it is by learning to respect the authority of your body.  What this means is that each of us will have a life that is unique to us but also just the same as everyone else that has a human body.  The details will glitter.  The particulars will dance in a one of a kind light but we will share all the joy and abundance that it really means to be a human animal.

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Depression Dance Trois

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This is the last entry for this particular series.  However, rest assured that I will revisit this theme quite a bit.  It is important to me.  So many of us suffer with depression.  It is painfully common (I will be sharing my theories as to why that is) and too often fatal.

I promised that this time, I would be super practical and tell you the ways in which I keep the lead in my dance with depression.

In no particular order:

1. I don’t write in a journal when I feel sad.  This was the most counter-productive practice that I had.  When I would flip through old journals and diaries, they would always start the same way, almost verbatim: “I’m feeling so depressed and worthless again…”  Then, I would fill pages with just how horrible life was and how horrible I was.  I haven’t written about my depressive episodes anymore.  I don’t write while I’m in a depressive episode anymore.  It it so much easier for me to release and move through it without dwelling.

2. I eat a lot of fat.  Yep, I said it.  Olive oil, yes, but mostly coconut oil, palm oil, pork fat, beef lard, egg yolks, coconut milk, avocado, macadamia nuts and I see you over there, butter!  I eat fat at every meal.  Since I shifted to eating this way, my mood has been incredibly even.  Fat = happiness to me.

3.   I don’t eat sugar.  I am mostly consistent with this.  I will have days where I have more fruit than others, and every once in a while, I’ll have a slice of flourless chocolate torte, but in general, I don’t eat sugar.  I can’t pat myself on the back enough for taking this decision and changing my behavior.  For years, I was stuck on the feel low-eat sugar-feel high-crash lower-eat more sugar-feel not quite as high-crash even lower cycle.  It takes a while to break the cycle, but the steadiness I feel in myself is so worth it!

4.  I go outside.  Every day.  As much as I can.  I am a heliophile.  I, in a weird paradox, don’t like the heat, but bright sunlight?  Yes, please.  The light is important to my mood, certainly, but it’s so much more than that.  The corners and flatness of inside affect my mood.  I crave curving tree branches and the kisses of the breeze.  I need to smell grass and pines and other things that I can’t quite identify.  All of it.  There is something so ‘internal’ about staying inside that pushes me deeper inside my brain.  This is not a good thing for me.  I need to be reminded that life is going on all around me and that I am part of the world as a fleshy, sensory creature engaged in the beauty that is.

5.  I have learned to distinguish between listening to my depression and obeying my depression.  My depression and I no longer pretend the other doesn’t exist.  We discuss things.  This sounds a little cuckoo, but what I mean by this is that my depression is one part of me and the healthy adult that I now give the most permission to run the show, is another part of me.  When my depression rises up in any way, no matter how small, that is a sign that in some way, I’m not taking the best care of myself.  (This is how depression becomes an ally, by the way.  It signals that deeper, more comprehensive self-care is needed.)  But, I do not OBEY my depression.  Often, my depression will rise and tell me to isolate myself.  This usually means that I have not been caring for my relationships well enough and that that part of my life needs some nurturing.

6.  I express my anger.  One of my pet peeves is the delineation between “negative” emotions and “positive” emotions.  This is a horrible disservice that we do to ourselves.  You don’t have good emotions and bad emotions.  You just feel things.  Some are uncomfortable sometimes, but that’s okay.  (The discomfort comes more from what society deems appropriate for the occasion then the actual emotion, by the way.  Laughing at a funeral is just as uncomfortable as crying bitterly at a wedding.)  Anger is a wonderful emotion!  Here are the rules of anger: a) express it without hurting yourself and b) express it without hurting others.  The best way that I’ve found to express my anger is to say: “I’m angry.”  And, then, try to figure out why.  Nearly always, it is because a boundary of mine has been crossed somehow.  It is valuable information to deepen relationships, both with myself and with others.  Then, I use the energy  that anger gives me to do something about what made me angry.

7.  I have one religion and my god is sleep.  My dad always used to say, “Sleep is sacred.”  I inherited that belief.  It has taken me a long time to find the right amount of sleep.  When I don’t sleep enough, I am priming the pump for all sorts of depressing hormones to flush through me.  When I sleep too much, I disengage from life and the melatonin never gets a chance to get out of my system and all sorts of depressing hormones flush through me.  Right now that it is winter, I need a solid 9 hours to 9 1/2.  During the summer, I scale it down to 7 1/2 or 8.  That is where the goodness lives.

8. (How awkward…a list of eight things.  Why does that feel funny?)  I move.  Nothing has ever been as effective as a daily pick me up as movement has been for me. I don’t call it exercise because it doesn’t have to be structured training, I just need to move.  I usually combine the going outside and moving thing.  I’m efficient that way.  I walk or run or dance or do push ups or yoga or just pose like an elephant.  It doesn’t matter as long as its dynamic.  Again, this takes me out of the labyrinth of my brain and brings me back to the rest of me….the part that knows how to take the lead in the dance.

These are my methods of managing my depression.  If you are depressed, I would suggest that you go see a therapist or psychiatrist to make sure that you don’t need medication.  There’s NO shame in that.  It happens to the very best of us.  If you’ve found ways of your own to dance with your depression or your (fill in the blank with whatever your challenge is), I’d LOVE to hear about it and about you!

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Nourishing ourselves into freedom!