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!
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
People from a planet without flowers would think We must be mad with joy . . . to have such things about us. – Iris Murdoch
When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride Married to amazement. – Mary Oliver
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
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds Long to play with your hair. – Khalil Gibran
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 whatwas and cabin fever kicks in, give one of these ideas a try.
It’s amazing how much things can change in a few short weeks. A month ago, we lived a “normal” existence, and now life is anything but normal. With the many reports we’re hearing of deaths, disease, medical insufficiency, and an expectation of this trajectory to continue, the idea of gratitude might not be hitting the radar. In the frighteningly grim existence that we now find ourselves, should we be giving thanks, as the Bible verse suggests?
A few weeks ago, before the world changed, I went for a hike on a beautiful trail in northern Arizona. The sun was warm, the trees were majestic, and the giant boulders seemed contemplative. The longer I hiked, the more profound my thoughts became, until finally, I arrived at a deep sense of gratitude. I found myself expressing love and appreciation for every tree and boulder I touched. This went on for a while until my heart seemed to overflow, and an intense feeling of tenderness overtook me. Have you ever been overwhelmed with joy by a simple experience?
“. . . One who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness.” – John Robbins
According to a very long list of studies done on gratitude and assembled and reported by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu), the expression of gratitude has many benefits. These studies show that an individual expressing gratitude can benefit from lower blood pressure, better cholesterol levels, feeling more socially connected, experiencing less anger & anxiety, and better sleep. Bonus: some studies show that more gratitude also results in less materialism. Have you experienced benes from expressing gratitude?
In the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know?, you may recall the water experiments done by Dr. Emoto’s team. Water from a single source was encapsulated in different vessels & “given” messages. The water that received messages of hate & other negativity resulted in crystals that were ugly, but the water that was exposed to messages of love and gratitude were absolutely beautiful. Makes me think about the response of the water in our cells to expressions of appreciation from both ourselves and others.
“Everything in life is vibration.” – Albert Einstein
You may have heard the idea that whatever you focus on increases. According to cell biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD, author of Biology of Belief, “Quantum physics acknowledges that the observer is a participant in the creation of (her/his) world.” Worrying or focusing on negativity reduces our personal vibration, which then infuses our creations with low vibes, resulting in unhappiness and unhealthy experiences. Researchers at the HeartMath Institute (https://www.heartmath.org) have proven that the regular practice of expressing sincere gratitude raises our personal vibration. Which is followed by a much more desired outcome of higher vibrational creations and experiences.
Although it can be tough to switch into gratitude mode right now, maybe the verse “In all things give thanks” was given not as a religious edict, but as a practical way to bring light and hope into dark and difficult times. Express gratitude for the personal benefits. For your family. For your community. For the good vibes you can bring into our suffering reality. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
I would like to divert your attention from the Coronavirus craziness for a short while to share a few travel photos with you. Please comment below if you recognize – or can guess – the locations. (Posted at the end of the article.)
Blessings for Beauty, Inspiration, and Motivation,
As promised, below are the image destinations:
IMAGE 1 – Big Sur, California
IMAGE 2 – High Country of Yosemite National Park, California
IMAGE 3 – Montmartre, a district of Paris, France, with many stairwells
I’ve heard a lot about hand washing and social distancing over the past few weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. I have also heard about immunocompromised people dying from the virus. But I haven’t heard the first newscaster discuss the concept of boosting immune function. Have you? Doesn’t it make sense that we should all work to strengthen our immune systems right now?
If you share my conviction, you will find below a list of 10 ideas that may help you accomplish that. (Please review my disclaimer page & discuss with your healthcare provider before acting on any of them.)
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of mineralized water. (Not the same as mineral water.) Add Himalayan salt and/or fresh lemon or lime juice to your water to mineralize it. Also, eat lots of (home-cooked & organic, if possible) soups. Thank you Gina Bria, co-author of Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration, for these tips.
Drink daily green smoothies with (organic if possible) fruits and veggies. Think apples, oranges, pears, mangoes, cherries, blueberries, celery, cucumbers, sprouts, cilantro, Italian parsley, spinach, red leaf kale, cinnamon, cardamom, fresh ginger, chia seeds, and turmeric with fresh-ground pepper. Any combination is tasty, nutrient-rich, and deeply hydrating. Dr. Gerald Pollack, Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, Seattle, (Pollacklab.org) studies structured water, a special form of water found in plants, that the human body uses to function optimally.
Consume natural probiotic food & drinks such as (organic & raw, if possible) kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso soup. Stanford University of Medicine researchers Justin & Erica Sonnenburg, PhDs, (sonnenburglab.stanford.edu) say they feed their family a different natural probiotic food or drink each day to diversify the population in their microbiomes as well as those of their kids. Studies show that diversity in the gut is a major key to health across the board.
Eat fewer pre-processed foods, including fast foods and junk foods, and more high-fiber whole vegetables, including beans and lentils, as well as prebiotic foods such as onions, garlic, dandelion greens, and asparagus. Again, all in service of the microbiome.
One more tip for the microbiome, from the triple board certified Dr. Zach Bush (http://zachbushmd.com). A healthy microbiome, according to Dr. Bush, consists of between 20,000 and 40,000 species of bacteria. (Which explains why you should not eat the same foods all the time.) Spending time outside and in multiple ecosystems (for example, your backyard, a rainforest, a beach, a desert, a waterfall, a lake, or a river) can diversify your good bacteria.
Diffuse essential oils inside your home, which is the next best thing to being outside. Dr. Josh Axe (http://draxe.com) says that many essential oils are antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic. He suggests eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano, lemon, and cinnamon for immune function. Add some or all of them to your diffuser, vaporizer, or humidifier, if it offers that function, to purify the air that you breathe.
Even though you are practicing social distancing, make emotional connections. Make phone calls, send texts, or email friends and family to let them know they are in your thoughts and remind them we’re all in this together. According to Dr. Dean Ornish (http://ornish.com), those societies and cultures over the past several hundred thousand years who learned to take care of each other were more likely to survive than those who did not. Our species has a basic need for a caring community.
Practice expressing gratitude for your life and your blessings. Your feelings and beliefs have a strong impact on your biology, according to Gregg Braden (http://greggbraden.com), whom Dr. Deepak Chopra describes as “a rare blend of scientist, visionary, and scholar . . .” Your cells are always listening in on your thoughts, Gregg says.
Take a break from watching or reading the news. Feeling fear on top of fear on top of fear creates a perpetual fight-or-flight mode in our bodies. This results in biological conditions that inhibit optimal function. Check in on the news only once or twice a day, or maybe even skip a day (unless you feel more anxiety as a result.) Instead of spending so much time sitting on the sofa watching or reading the news, do some yoga, stretching, take a walk, or some other enjoyable activity. (Movement is also good for immunity, so a twofer!)
And finally, get enough sleep to make you feel rested. When our immune systems are fighting to keep us well, more sleep may be required. You know this from personal experience, right? Listen to your body.
So, there you have it. I hope this list of immune function boosters empowers you to become healthier, therefore diminishing your fears of the virus.
According to the Universal Guideline for Human and Planetary Health, (WFPB.ORG),
Human and environmental health are dependent on one another. What we consume greatly influences our personal health, the economic health of our countries, and the health of the planet we all share.
Only a low-fat, whole food, plant-based dietary pattern has been clearly demonstrated to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases for decades and has been associated with improved wellbeing in all aspects of human health . . .
In the wake of Coronavirus, this idea becomes even more urgent. Folks who get the virus on top of some existing conditions are getting very sick and/or dying. Boosting immune function by eating more whole plant foods (for example, eating a sweet potato rather than sweet potato chips) and by hydrating, means you are being proactive, which I believe is just as important as washing your hands. And being proactive is a much better approach than panicking or worrying about a vaccine, wouldn’t you agree?
One cup of bok choy has about 75% of the RDA of Vitamin C, which, although you may have heard reports to the contrary, has been shown to help people who have the virus. Remember the info on propaganda in my Hydration –No, Really post? It applies here.
Bok Choy Soup is one of my easiest go-to recipes. It doesn’t require much time in the kitchen, and it’s amazingly delicious. I have shared it with friends, some of whom weren’t previously familiar with the vegetable, and they love it too. With the addition of a few chopped Yukon gold or baby red potatoes, it can be made heartier for chilly nights.
1-2 tbsp olive oil 1 yellow onion, chopped 1/2 bunch celery, sliced 4 cloves garlic, minced 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper Himalayan salt to taste 15 oz cannellini beans, drained *3 bouillon cubes *6 cups water 1 large bunch of bok choy, chopped into 1” pieces (or 4-6 baby bok choys)
(*or sub 6 cups of your favorite broth)
Sauté the onions and celery in the olive oil over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, until the onions start becoming translucent. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring, for another minute. Add crushed red pepper and sprinkle with salt. Add beans and stir for another minute or two. Break up the bouillon cubes over the beans and add the water. Increase the heat to high. Once it is almost boiling, whisk the soup so that the bouillon cubes dissolve completely. Add the bok choy and reduce to a simmer for 8-10 minutes, or longer if you prefer the greens softer. Add salt to taste. Enjoy!
Good morning. It’s a glorious, sunny winter day here in Arizona. But it’s dry. Always dry. As much as I dislike the humidity of the East Coast, the dry cold (and heat) is a challenge for me as well. So here I sit, writing and drinking my huge breakfast smoothie with lots of fruits, veggies, & coconut water.
Over the past 8 months, I have learned more about hydration than all the rest of my years combined. During college, I read Dr. F. Batmanghelidj’s Your Body’s Many Cries for Water (watercure.com), and it made an impression, with information of how chronic dehydration can result in disease, eye problems, chronic pain, asthma, allergies, etc., etc. However, since I hadn’t heard anything in the media or read other books supporting this idea, I thought, ok, interesting, but hydration couldn’t possibly be that critical. Otherwise, we’d all know about it. Right? Wrong! The past 20 years have taught me that much of the health information that we as humans most need is not very publicized or, if it does happen to make a media appearance, a campaign of propaganda is often initiated to cause us to believe otherwise. Many times this is done in the name of profit on behalf of the mega-wealthy, and usually to the detriment of the health of the individual and our environment. Or, the propaganda has been around for a lifetime and it’s really difficult to get folks to believe anything different. Prime examples include the myth that a high protein diet is optimal for everyone, as well as the idea that dairy is essential for healthy teeth and bones. (Funny, I remember learning the meaning of propaganda as a youngster and thinking, wow, we’re lucky there’s none of that going on in the U.S.! Were you ever that naive?)
Dr. Zach Bush (zachbushmd.com), a triple board-certified physician, (whose vast, intricate knowledge of biological systems, coupled with his compassion & spirituality, gives him an approach to health like none I’ve ever witnessed) says that virtually all of us are chronically dehydrated. Pretty strong assertion, huh? At his clinic in Virginia, he offers a device called a Phase Angle that measures the ability of cells to hold an electrical charge, which translates into an individual’s hydration level. Dr. Bush says typically, a patient’s results fall between 3.5 and 7, (even those considered “healthy”) although the scale tops out at 10. His cancer patients have a tendency to show a result of 4.5 or less, and death can occur at about the 3.5 mark. And, apparently, improving your score on this test is not something that happens quickly. Several months of committed lifestyle changes may increase your score by only 1/2 point. In my mind, this brings the importance of proper daily hydration to the forefront! Does this Phase Angle test info change your thinking?
I’ve begun listening to The Hydration Solution Summit from the Hydration Foundation (hydrationfoundation.org) and reading the book Quench, coauthored by the podcast host, Gina Bria, & one of the presenting physicians. Interestingly, Gina is an anthropologist who has studied desert dwellers to learn their hydration secrets. What I’m learning is most practical, like why foods such as celery & cucumbers are more hydrating than plain water, the reason adding fresh lemon juice and/or Himalayan salt to your water is helpful, and the fact that placing your water in a glass in direct sunlight supercharges it & helps hydrate you even more. (Eight glasses of plain water a day is no longer the best recommendation, due to decades of heavy chemical exposure and tap water being forced through less than ideal city water systems & pipes.)
Speaking of sunlight’s effect on water, don’t forget our body composition is more than 2/3 water. Spending time outside can benefit us profoundly. And of course, the more time we spend in Nature, the more appreciation of Her we have, & the more we might want to protect and preserve Her for future generations.
Staying on top of your hydration needs is one of the best things you can do to assist in optimal body function. If you have health problems, you may find that they are improved by simply eating more celery and drinking more fresh lemon water. You can’t always believe what you see on tv or in magazines. Don’t sell your health short: hydrate and thrive!