Celebration Oatmeal

When it comes to oatmeal, I don’t believe there are a lot of fence-sitters: folks seem to either like it a lot or not at all. I was never a fan, but decided I should find a way to enjoy it after reading Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power, by Lisa Mosconi, PhD. (https://www.lisamosconi.com/brainfood) Dr. Mosconi is an expert in neuroscience and nutrition, and her book is most insightful. Oats, she writes, are high in phenylalanine, an amino acid that is crucial for dopamine production, among other healthy brain needs.

This dish, with its beautiful, celebratory presentation, combines brain-healthy oats with lots of other nutrient-dense foods to benefit not only the gray matter, but the whole body. It’s chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fatty acids. And it’s really tasty!

Within 15 minutes, you’ll go from measuring out the oats to sitting down to eat, or scooping it into a container before rushing out the door. It’s a quick, healthy, and delicious way to show gratitude to your body, mind, and spirit for all you’ve endured this year!

Thank you, Jeanine Donofrio, of LoveandLemons.com, for inspiring me to be bold with my choice of toppings.

Please leave me a comment if you give this a try!

Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients (use organic and/or non-GMO ingredients if possible)
1 cup water
big pinch of salt
1/2 cup regular or thick-cut whole grain rolled oats (I use gluten-free)
1 small or medium Fuji or Pink Lady apple (or any variety of ripe pear)
2-3 whole dates, pitted
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1-2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 tablespoon hemp or chia seeds
1 tablespoon raw, shelled sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons walnut pieces
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder (optional, but oh, so good!)
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

Directions
Bring water and salt to a boil. Add oats, return to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed.

While the oats are cooking, prepare the celebration topping. Chop the apple & dates, and place in a bowl with all other ingredients. Stir until combined.

Allow oats to sit for 2 minutes after cooking. Scoop into bowls and add a big mound of toppings. Enjoy your hearty, celebratory breakfast (or brunch or lunch)!

*Note – Feel free to skip an ingredient or two if you don’t have them or want smaller servings!

Unity Rising

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s been a tough week. Stories of protests, violence and rioting in the U.S. have dominated headlines. The tone of sadness mixed with outrage has been palpable, bringing to mind the 1992 riots following the Rodney King trial in Los Angeles. Black lives do matter, and it is my prayer that this civil unrest will be closely followed by policy changes that bring equality to our populations of color, resulting in an unprecedented unity in this country.

The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. ~ Gandhi

The city of Flint, Michigan, is already implementing such changes. In an article entitled “Flint Emerges as Symbol of Peace and Unity Amid Protests and Turmoil,” (https://www.mlive.com/news/flint/2020/06/flint-emerges-as-symbol-of-peace-and-unity-amid-protests-and-turmoil.html) it was reported that Mayor Sheldon Neeley announced the creation of a coalition to address systemic racism in the state. Further, the Flint Police Chief is instituting a training program for the police department that will focus on diversity and healing. Former President Barack Obama praised the city and its residents in a recent essay, stating that these actions could spur “real change.”

Change is often the outcome of a new understanding. To that end, I want to share a Facebook page called Sustainable Human. Recently, a video clip was posted on the page called How to Understand a Human Being. The video is short and succinct, but most valuable. The big takeaway is this: All human behavior is either an attempt to meet a need, or a reaction to a need not being met. That really resonates with me. What about you?

Attempting to understand others can create much-needed unity. We share a common existence with the entire human race and all of nature. Quantum physics shows that we are all made of the same elements within the same conscious Universal Fabric. Therefore, all of our actions, feelings, thoughts, and intentions affect not only our own lives, but everyone and everything in the entire Fabric, for better or for worse.

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men. ~ Herman Melville

In the spirit of unity, I want to share some music with you. A big thanks to my friend Darlene, who “introduced” me to the super-talented international group Playing for Change. I’ve watched this video clip & listened to the song repeatedly over the past few days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hGSqqhhokE. (It makes my heart happy to see & hear these talented musicians performing this uplifting song from various countries, often using traditional instruments. And the kids in this clip are ebullient!) This is the group’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground, from an album entitled Songs Around the World that includes the collaboration of 100 musicians from 21 countries. If you are old enough to remember the powerful lyrics and funky bass in Stevie’s version, you’re not going to want to miss this one. (And if you don’t remember, having a listen will stir your soul!)

Valarie Kaur is a unity-promoting author, lawyer, civil rights activist, and creator of The Revolutionary Love Project, designed “to champion love as a force for justice and wellspring for social action.” Her Ted Talk, 3 Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage (https://www.revolutionarylove.net/ted/), is a beautiful and poignant presentation that couldn’t be more relevant to our current reality. Each time I watch this 22-minute clip, I gain more insight and appreciation of her strong desire for unity and love.

Love as a force: I really like that. Thinking of love as a force causes me to draw parallels with the reliability of gravity and the aggressive nature of the forces of hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornados. May the reliable, aggressive force of love permeate your every thought and steel your resolve of gratitude for all of life. May it envelop the hearts and minds of your local police officers and policymakers. And may the beautiful force of love awaken in us all a sense of unity at this precarious time when big change seems imminent and absolutely anything is possible.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. ~ 1 Peter 3:8

Blessings for Unity,

Lisa

Arizona: A Love Letter

A tree bloom on Sedona’s West Fork hiking trail

The first time I spent a little time in Northern Arizona, it stole my heart. It was early springtime, and the trees were budding and blooming and smelling more beautiful than any trees I had ever known. The hiking trails were numerous, and lined with boulders, multi-colored sandstone, red cliffs, huge ponderosa pine trees, alligator junipers, small cactus shrubs, and aspen groves. Some trails featured Native American cliff dwellings, mud-walled structures, and petroglyphs. Other trails crossed creeks or lead to lakes, big and small. The most interesting trail I hiked, Cathedral Wash (a workout for both the body and mind due to the trail dropping between 5 and 30 feet in areas, leaving you to figure out how to descend) ends at the Colorado River, just outside the Grand Canyon.

Cathedral Wash Trail. Look closely and you will see me (dwarfed, but waving!)

I find that a great number of people are unaware of Arizona’s elevation changes, the presence of trees, and the dramatic climate differences in the state. If you think of a featureless, sandy, flat state with no water, trees, flowers, or beauty when you hear someone speak of Arizona, this post is for you.

“Whales” in Oak Creek, Sedona

You may have heard of Sedona (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qHjLngt7OI) and its lovely red rocks. Before my big road-trip adventure, a few people suggested I visit Sedona due to its natural beauty and reputation as a spiritual hub. I took that advice, and they were right: its beauty is extraordinary, and with a guide, I was able to access a remote area that felt very sacred. But, did you know that Sedona is located 4000 feet above sea level? And have you heard of Oak Creek? It’s a big, beautiful stream that runs through the little town, much of it recreation-accessible. During the late fall and winter, trees along the creek turn spectacular reds, oranges, and yellows. When snow falls on the red rocks, the sight is nothing short of glorious.

Hiking trail among Sedona’s red rocks

Speaking of snow, the highest point in the state, Humphreys Peak, topping out at 12,633 feet in elevation, sits among The San Francisco Peaks to the north of the small town of Flagstaff (https://www.flagstaffarizona.org). At about 7000 feet above sea level, Flagstaff is one of the snowiest areas in the country, getting an average of 100 inches annually. Each of the seasons could not be more beautiful in “Flag,” as the locals call it. After winter covers Humphreys Peak with a bright white blanket, a lovely springtime arrives, bringing with it happy meadowlarks, ravens, blue jays, hummingbirds, ground squirrels, and white-tailed deer. When summer takes over, there are a couple weeks of 90+ degree temps, but most days are cooler. It is possible during July and August to need a jacket at night, as high desert summer temps can drop into the 40s. Beginning around the first week in July, the area gets super-saturated with rain as a result of monsoon season, which lasts through September. The heavy precipitation encourages a myriad of wildflowers to pop up in meadows, canyons, alongside roads, and on hiking trails, once again transforming the beauty of the little mountain town. And then, fall arrives, causing local leaves to sing with vibrant colors.

Spring tree blooms in Flagstaff
The San Francisco Peaks overlooking a field of wildflowers in Flagstaff. Humphreys Peak is the pointy one on the far left.

The drive north from Flagstaff reveals an other-worldly topography. Most of the land in the northeast corner of the state belongs to Navajo Nation and is largely undeveloped. About 90 minutes north of Flagstaff, you will see the turn-off to the Grand Canyon (https://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm), which of course is a must-see. Carved by the Colorado River over millions of years, the Canyon is immense, sporting an elevation change of 8000 feet between its highest point and the mighty Colorado.

View of the Grand Canyon

About an hour farther north, you will discover Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell (https://www.nps.gov/glca/index.htm), and Antelope Canyon (https://www.antelopecanyon.com). A boat tour on Lake Powell (located in both Arizona and Utah) offers spectacular views of the red, orange and white sandstone cliffs surrounding the water. With a Navajo guide, a walk through the narrow, beautifully formed Antelope Canyon will amaze you. The slot canyons are the happy result of flash floods causing erosion of the soft sandstone.

Horseshoe Bend, part of the Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon
Antelope Canyon’s unique beauty

As for the rest of the state, points farther south are uniquely interesting as well. A drive south on I-17 just north of Phoenix yields a plethora of saguaro cactus plants at a certain point, and although I’ve never witnessed it, I’m told their beauty is astounding when they’re all in bloom. Tombstone (https://tombstoneweb.com), made famous by outlaws like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, is a cool little town where gunfight reenactments are performed in the unpaved streets. It has been designated one of the best-preserved rugged frontier towns of the late 1800s. And Tucson (https://www.visittucson.org) offers an extensive Botanical Gardens network, Saguaro National Park, and Mt. Lemmon, a jewel that rises over 7000 feet out of the Sonoran Desert.

Part of the set from the gunslinger performance, Tombstone
At the butterfly garden in Tucson’s Botanical Gardens

If you have always pictured the entire state of Arizona as hot, sandy, and drab, I hope this essay has forever changed that image. Its diverse and unique terrain is explorer-friendly, and the state is reopening, with restrictions, of course. Experience its unique beauty and natural history, and let me know how much you love it, too.

Blessings for Love & Beauty,

Lisa

Escaping Normal

Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled . . . And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

The road to Taos & the Chama River

With the many hardships of the pandemic still looming, I think I’d be right in saying a great many of us would like to escape our new normal. Would you agree?

I recently watched the film Into the Wild (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WydJ1w31OEI), which is based on a true story. I had never seen a preview or read the book, but fell in love with a few songs from the soundtrack (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIajEyhwUdE), sung by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. A Rolling Stone journalist wrote that the songs temper the romance of absolute freedom with an eerie foreboding. Such a perfect description.

Another view of the Rio Chama

The movie, written and directed by Sean Penn, documents the cross-country journey of a young Emory University graduate, Christopher McCandless, after having given up most of his savings, credit cards, and other worldly possessions. Along the way, his heart is flung wide open by the beauty, freedom, and some of the colorful characters he meets. Spoiler alert – the movie does not have a happy ending. But if you have ever escaped, or longed to escape, what society considers normal, the spirit of the movie will move you.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion with one’s courage. – Anaïs Nin

Before I left my home in South Florida, I was lost and desperately wanting to escape. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, but I knew it was something and somewhere else. I had lost the job that was my primary source of income. My 5-year romantic relationship had ended. My best friend (of over 15 years) and I had stopped talking, and other friendships seemed to evaporate. My favorite (husband & wife) ministers were moving over a thousand miles away. I shared with a Buddhist monk energy healer that I felt the cornerstones of my life had collapsed. He suggested that these painful changes were preparing me for a huge shift in my life’s trajectory. He couldn’t have been more accurate.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, just north of Taos

There is a universal, intelligent life force that exists within . . . as a deep wisdom, an inner knowing. We can access . . . (it) through our intuition, an inner sense that tells us what feels right and true for us at any given moment. – Shakti Gawain

Because the idea of traveling had always appealed to me, (and frankly, I didn’t know what else to do) I decided to sell my home and almost everything I owned and hit the road. Once I made that decision, however, I was terrified. I couldn’t even talk about it without crying. I knew in my heart that it was right, but I wrestled with fearful thoughts most days and nights until I left. Thankfully, once I embarked, a sense of freedom and happiness came over me almost immediately. The spirit of travel was revealed to me, and love started to ooze back into my life.

The untamed beauty of Northern New Mexico

On this path let the heart be your guide
for the body is hesitant and full of fear
. – Rumi

My first extended stay was in Taos, New Mexico (https://taos.org). I had read about the wild beauty of Taos Mountain, sagebrush, buttes, and canyons, and I longed to see them for myself. Staying at a hostel, I met a group of people of various ages and backgrounds who felt like family after just a couple weeks. That group included a Vietnam Vet from New York who was a big Grateful Dead fan. There was a young girl from Oregon who was taking a break from college. I met a middle-aged guy who lived in a tipi nearby and rode a bicycle everywhere. I shared a dorm room with a beautiful lady from Texas who, like me, was taking a much-needed break from life in general. (I’m happy to say we are still friends today.) And, there was an Asian gal who had fled San Diego after learning her boyfriend had cheated & smashing his car windows. Like a family, we all shared food, rides, ideas, stories, and music. During the day, we explored Taos Ski Valley, the Rio Grande Gorge & the Mesa, drove the Turquoise Trail, visited Durango, and checked out art galleries, unique shops, & the farmers market. In the evening, after sharing meals, we would sit around a fire pit, staring into the mesmerizing flames, smelling the sweet smoke, and listening to songs played on guitars. It was a soothing balm for my sad, weary soul.

The Mesa, thick with delightfully-scented sagebrush

For three years, I would continue my journey on the road, staying in community, with friends & family, in hostels, and in my tent. I drove great distances all over the country and hiked hundreds of miles. I fell in love with Nature and shot thousands of pictures. I saw animals in their natural habitat, some of them up close. I learned to love the ascent of a mountain, and appreciate geography and topography. I met lovely people. I learned to cook and enjoy new foods. And when my big road trip was over, I felt wholly rehabilitated from society’s normal. It was the best thing I could have ever done. I am so grateful for my escape.

The Mother Road

Blessings for Escaping Normal,

Lisa

Peace, In Images and Verse

It seems as though we might be making progress with some of our coronavirus problems. A few states are starting to reopen. I am cautiously optimistic. But a bigger part of me, for various reasons, is seeking peace.

Again this week, I attempted to produce a meatier blog. (Does that sound strange, coming from a vegan?) But, again, the gentler aspects of my being would not have it. After putting up an extended fight for the same reason last week, (with this result: https://microofthemacro.com/2020/05/08/awed-by-beauty-a-collage/), I didn’t try to oppose it this time. So, in an effort to evoke a calming peace for myself and for you, I’d like to share more images and inspirational words on Nature.

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.
I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche.
I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens,
and get as near the heart of the world as I can.

– John Muir

Colorado vista

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

– Henry David Thoreau

Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.

– Lao Tzu

View from a hiking trail inside Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat
match the beat of the universe,
to match your nature with Nature.

– Joseph Campbell

Beartooth Highway, Montana

The earth does not belong to man;
man belongs to the earth.
This we know.
All things are connected
like the blood which unites one family.
All things are connected.

– Chief Seattle

Blessings for Peace,

Lisa

Awed by Beauty: a Collage

Words are failing me this week. Or, to be more precise, ideas are failing me. I researched 5 different topics for today’s post, but none of them felt right. After spending days in the beautiful outdoors and warm sunshine, I believe my soul might be blocking all cerebral efforts as if to say, “I’ll have more awe, please.”

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines awe as a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. I’m now in a pretty consistent state of awe, being back in my beloved Southwest. Even in these trying times.

The images, poetry, and quotes I share in this post are awe-inspiring to me. Which is your favorite? I would appreciate your letting me know in a comment below!

I beheld this beauty, Hanging Lake, after hiking over a mile up Glenwood Canyon in Colorado.

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
Of eternity. We are pain
And what cures pain, both. We are
The sweet cold water and the jar that pours.

– Rumi

This dramatic view was just outside Taos, New Mexico.

People from a planet without flowers would think
We must be mad with joy . . . to have such things about us.

– Iris Murdoch

An example of northern Wyoming’s stunning topography.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride
Married to amazement.
– Mary Oliver

A lovely drive in the southern part of Utah.

Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas,
Dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new
Self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience
That shall explain and overlook the old.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

This sublime scene can be found in King’s Canyon National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada.

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds
Long to play with your hair.
– Khalil Gibran

Blessings for Awe,

Lisa

Immune-Boosting Elderberry Tea Recipe

Elderberry has been used medicinally for thousands of years. There is record of its use by ancient Egyptians as well as Native Americans. History also shows its popularity in folk remedies. The appearance of elderberry products in stores speaks to its continued popularity.

Near the outset of covid-19, my holistic chiropractor recommended that I start drinking elderberry tea. I had read about its many benefits over the years, and bought elderberry syrups, but never tried the tea. He gave me a fine explanation of how it works, but all I remember is the idea that it inhibits rogue viruses inside the body from summoning cells, thereby limiting replication and ill effects.

According to a November, 2018 article on the Cleveland Clinic website, (https://health.clevelandclinic.org/elderberry-a-natural-way-to-boost-immunity-during-cold-and-flu-season/) some studies show that elderberry extract may help with flu symptoms. After checking with your doctor, of course, the article suggests that adding elderberry to your health regimen for flu season “likely wouldn’t hurt.”

I really like the flavor of this tea. I was doubtful at first, after having made an elderberry syrup in my kitchen that smelled and tasted just awful! This tea, I’m happy to say, is quite tasty. (And it makes the house smell good while it’s simmering.:)

If you want to try making your own, my recipe is below. Adapted from Kelly’s recipe at Tasting Page (tastingpage.com).

I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

Makes about 3/4 gallon

Ingredients
12 cups water
6 tbsp dried elderberries
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole peppercorns
8 green cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
3 whole star anise
2 inches of sliced ginger

Instructions
Place all ingredients in a large covered pot & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for one hour. Strain. Enjoy a large mug of this delicious tea once or twice a day. Keep extra in a glass container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Pope Francis, I Disagree: A Tribute to Earth Day

Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ever since his election, Pope Francis has been my favorite Pope. I’m not Catholic, but I admire the fact that he’s not afraid to regularly speak out against corruption, specifically the neglect and exploitation of our natural environment for profit, as is common on a grand scale in this market economy. He is a world leader in the truest sense, wouldn’t you agree?

Recently, the Pope expressed his belief that the coronavirus could be Nature’s response to climate change. He was quoted in a UK periodical saying, “There is an expression in Spanish: God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the last part of that statement.

In honor of Earth Day, I present my defense of Nature, and therefore, my disagreement with the Pope.

I concur with the idea that the virus devastation could be Nature’s response to prolonged abuse and neglect. It’s unfathomable to me just how poorly the Earth has been treated throughout history, especially the last few decades. But I don’t agree with the words Nature never forgives.

In my opinion, our external natural environment must attempt an ongoing balance of sorts, similar to our internal nature’s constant drive for homeostasis. For example, when we get too cold or too hot, we may shiver or sweat, which reestablishes our normal body temperature set point. Or, when our intracellular fluid becomes too acidic, minerals can be leached from our bones to buffer the acidity and reestablish pH balance. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566456/#!po=1.21951). So, although the natural world presents us with occasional events that result in death and destruction, I believe those events are more related to rebalancing on some level than Nature’s unwillingness to forgive. What do you think?

In the podcast Food Independence and Planetary Evolution, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3aOQ0N74PI) Rich Roll, author of Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself, talks with triple board certified Zach Bush, MD, about the wretched state of our food supply. In large part, the conversation centers around the soil-decimating and gut-destroying glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer which is used extensively in non-organic commercial farming.) Dr. Bush, after speaking more than an hour on the sad and unjust consequences of current practices, shared the concept of biological grace, which he defines as the ability (of an entity) to heal faster than (it is) injured.

His first example of this idea is related to human experience. He talks about some of his clinic’s patients who, after a lifetime of damaging disregard for their health, can make a few simple changes and see health problems reverse in a matter of weeks or months. These changes, such as short-term fasting and (largely) ridding their lives of chemicals, give a much-needed break to their biological systems, allowing the healing response to begin.

Dr. Bush goes on to address soil health within the same paradigm. Decades of using genetically modified seeds, applying glyphosate, mono-cropping, and tilling are killing the life in our soils, resulting in, among other disasters, smaller yields of crops with greatly reduced nutrient content. His estimates show that about 98% of the earth’s soils are now depleted in a similar manner. According to Dr. Bush, if the harmful measures are halted, biodiversity can return to the soil within a single growing season. His team has partnered with the Soil Health Academy, (https://soilhealthacademy.org) and together, they have witnessed this renewal in over a million acres. In my mind, this epitomizes Nature’s forgiveness.

I want to thank you, Pope Francis, for calling the world’s attention to our ailing planet during this unprecedented time of darkness. But science backed by experience disproves your statement Nature never forgives. And although the pandemic continues to rage, regardless of its root cause, I choose to trust in the goodness of biological grace.

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. – Anne Lamott

Blessings for Grace,

Lisa

Put the Talk on Pause: A Photo Essay

I happened upon this Mom and baby (I’m assuming it’s Mom!) during a hike in King’s Canyon National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada.

I don’t know about you, but I’m in a definite time warp. I can’t keep up with the date or the day of the week. On the one hand, this year is flying, much like last year. On the other hand, the stifling control of pandemic and its unyielding, pervasive gloom talk of the past 6 weeks seems to have been with us for ages. There’s nothing I would love more than to wave a magic wand, making the next couple months a part of our collective past.

This guy was a bit territorial, but nice enough to pose for me on the coast of northern California.

But until I come across that magic wand, I’ll make do with (and share) smaller mundane acts that get me from one day to the next while help keeping me sane. One of those acts is turning off the tv. Listening to ongoing bad news, from reporters, government officials, and even the overtones of recent commercials, causes feelings of impatience and anger to surface in my normally peaceful mindset. So it’s high time, as my grandmother used to say, to put the talk on pause.

This little guy was so friendly, I wanted to keep him! I didn’t know what kind of animal he was (a marmot) until weeks later.

So, in that pause, what can I count on to transform my troubled thoughts and feelings? Today, I’ll utilize the healing balm of animals. According to 69 scientific studies on human-animal interaction reviewed by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/#__sec3title) interacting with animals can be quite therapeutic. Some of the benefits shown in these studies include improved mood & behavior; reduced stress, fear & anxiety; improved heart health & immune function; and reduced aggression. Doesn’t your pet make you feel better in these dark days?

“Can you read the sign, lady?” These traffic enforcers made an appearance in northern New Mexico.

Even though we cannot interact with animals in pictures, it is my belief that simply viewing them must have positive effects as well. According to Statista (https://www.statista.com/topics/1161/hunting-and-wildlife-viewing/#dossierSummary__chapter3, viewing wildlife in its natural state (while hiking, mountain biking, diving, etc.) is extremely popular in this country, with about 20 million folks participating annually.

This big Wyoming dude obviously didn’t finish shaving before his morning stroll.

The animal pics included in this post are a few personal favorites, taken during my travels around the American West & California. It is my hope that you’ll enjoy them while taking a well-deserved pause from all the talk.

Apparently, bears enjoy swimming as much as humans! I wish I could have snapped a pic of her diving!

Blessings for Animal Healing,

Lisa

Six Quick Fixes for Cabin Fever

For the past month, I have worked hard on staying in the present moment. I haven’t allowed myself to dwell on how long coronavirus may continue, how much worse things might get, or what consequences the shut-down of the country could have on life as we knew it. I have fallen into a new, comfortable (or as comfortable as possible) routine. Even so, weeks of staying at home has resulted in a restlessness and longing for what was. Specifically, the freedom to go and do. No doubt, this is true for the majority of us.

Due to this onset of cabin fever, I started thinking about quick and simple practices that can help me “escape” by redirecting my attention, reducing stress, and infusing my current experience with more peace and joy. (This article was written not only for your benefit, but also for mine.)

Christiane Northrup, MD, (drnorthrup.com) author of The Power of Joy – How the Deliberate Pursuit of Pleasure Can Heal Your Life, (among many other books), says, “We are pleasure-seeking creatures by nature.” She goes on to say that the experience of joy makes you healthier, smarter, and even younger. (Younger, you say? Yes, younger!)

I’m sure you’ve seen recent news stories of folks hanging over their balconies singing, for themselves, their neighbors, and medical workers on the streets below. (Did those stories put a great big smile on your face? They did mine.) Music, whether you’re listening to it, singing, or playing it, is uplifting and medicinal. Psychologists from McGill University in Montreal studied music’s effects on the brain. Turns out, dopamine, a primary “feel-good chemical,” can be released both in response to music and in anticipation of it. (https://www.nature.com/articles/nn.2726)

Marci Shimoff, co-author of six Chicken Soup for the Soul books (happyfornoreason.com), says that laughing creates chemicals in the body that induce happiness. Dig out your all-time favorite funny movie (Moonstruck is one of my faves. What’s yours?), listen to some stand-up comedy, or play a silly game with those sharing your space. During the times you set aside for laughing, don’t let any talk of the pandemic interrupt.

Another quick way to redirect your attention is through guided meditation. Even if you don’t consider yourself a meditator, these can work for you. I find that taking myself somewhere beautiful, even if it’s only in my mind, provides a nice respite. There are meditations on letting go of fear, helping with sleep, and reducing anxiety, among others. You can find short ones of 5 or 10 minutes, or longer ones up to an hour in length. Check out YouTube for a large selection of guided meditations. Try this super-short & really beautiful one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QT5w5rBUaxw&list=PL9A333FE227FF8599&index=8&t=0s&app=desktop.

Being creative is another good way to focus your energies into a more positive state. I’m a cook, so I enjoy creating new dishes a couple times a week. (Unfortunately, I never write down the recipes, so if I’m asked to repeat a dish, I’m a bit lost . . .) Do some baking, building, writing, sewing, painting, drawing, gardening, beading, knitting, scrapbooking, or any other creative project that lights you up. An internet search yields an abundance of ideas if you need help getting started. Also, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (juliacameronlive.com) is an inspiring read to get you into the habit of thinking more creatively.

Razi Berry, founder and publisher of NaturalPath (thenatpath.com) and host of The Love is Medicine Project (loveismedicineproject.com) says that listening to live nature sounds reduces stress 30% more than silence. She says the 3 most effective sounds are birdsong, rustling leaves, and a rushing stream. You already know that getting outside is good for you. Now you have another reason to do it! And if you can’t get outside right now, can you open a window?

Finally, we come to my favorite way to combat cabin fever: foot massage. Yup, you read it right. According to the ancient art of Chinese Reflexology, the entire body’s wellness rests on the foundation of foot health. Rolling your foot around on a tennis ball helps in a pinch. For more relief, The Center for Intuitive Movement Healing, Sparhawk Pilates, offers a video series on their Facebook page called Happy, Yummy Feet. Each short video gives instruction on massaging your feet to help make their 100+ muscles, ligaments, and tendons healthier & happier.

In our current environment, it’s imperative to regularly distract ourselves from bad news, redirect our energies, and take the best possible care of ourselves in every way. The next time you find yourself ruminating on what was and cabin fever kicks in, give one of these ideas a try.

There now. I feel better already.

Blessings for Peace & Joy in Quarantine,

Lisa

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