Spring is here- time to lighten the load!

Part 1- Simple holistic ways to reduce toxin exposure and improve overall health.

Welcome Spring! I’ve found that focusing my energy on strengthening my body and detoxing has been a beautiful spiritual practice and want to share with you what I’ve learned on this path (so far).

The new life energy coming forth from the earth creates an inspiring time of year to purge our bodies of its heavy toxic load.  The toxic load we carry comes from both what we absorb from our environment every day and what has been passed down to us through our parents and those before them.  These toxins can build up in our system and cause chronic health conditions such as anxiety, headaches, dizziness, weight gain etc.

If you are interested in improving your health and state of wellness, this is a great place to begin.  Nothing harsh, just a few simple changes that when combined, can have a tremendous impact. It’s also a good practice in changing routines, nourishing your body and truly listening to what it is telling you.  I found that in the beginning, some of the changes in diet and lifestyle brought up all kinds of emotions and resistance inside me.  It felt challenging to follow this path when society was telling me to eat, drink and be merry because I “deserved” it.  So this is a very different perspective, eat well, avoid things that can increase your toxic load, and be kind and gracious to yourself- because my dear ones, this is what we deserve.

Things to avoid or eliminate from your routines:

  1. Plastics– We have been wrapping ourselves in plastic since the 70’s and it has leached into everything;our food, our water supply, and our bodies.  Plastics are particularly harmful to our reproductive systems, they may contain  the chemicals bisphenol A (BPA) and phythalates.
    1. plastic wrap & baggies- avoid wrapping your food in plastic at all costs, use reusable containers when possible.
    2. plastic containers-  I find that glass containers such as pyrex work great!  Never reheat food in plastic.
    3. shower curtain liner ( these contain phythalates which can damage sperm)
  2. EMF’s– Electromagnetic frequencies are everywhere. They are emitted from anything electronic ( computers, cell phones, cars, airplanes, appliances etc).  The problem with EMFs is that they interfere with our body’s own electrical frequencies which can prevent our body from letting go off toxic heavy metals and can cause adverse health conditions, both neurological and otherwise (i.e. cancer, insomnia, anxiety, headaches). Since EMFs are everywhere, you may want to take precautions. One product I use is made by Memon. I wear a memonizerBody on my wrist and have a memorizerMobile  on my cell phone. I also have organite throughout each room in my home and on my desk at work where I sit with my computer throughout the day. You can also remove electronics from your bedroom, run appliances such as the dishwasher or dryer when you are out of the room, and turn off your wifi at night. For all men out there, never carry your cell phone in your front pants pocket.
  3. Chemicals– This is a fairly broad category.  As a guideline, I only buy products that are cruelty free, plant based, environmentally friendly, and free of dyes, fragrances and preservatives.  The fewer ingredients, the better.
    1. Household- Think of your home environment as a sacred space. We need to take extra care not to pollute this space with toxins. Nothing works better than good old vinegar, lemons, baking soda and peroxide and there are many websites devoted to cleaning with these items. If you can’t part with the convenience of a bottled cleaner,  I like Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and my newest fave,  Ecos.
    2. Beauty products & nail polish- This is a tough one for a lot of people, but we really need to be looking at what we are putting on our body. Many products out there are laden with harsh ingredients, parabens, toxic fumes and dyes.  If possible, opt for using food grade products on your body.  Some that I love include Lux shea butter for my face, and coconut oil for my body.  I am also loving this oil based facial cleanser.
  4. Toxic/Heavy Metal Exposure– These metals include lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and  aluminum.  They can be found everywhere, but especially in fish and processed cheese, vaccines, nasal sprays, fertilizers, plastics and antiperspirants. A great first step to reduce toxic metal exposure is to ditch the antiperspirant! It took me quite a while to find a really good deodorant that I love, but you will not be disappointed in  Primal Pit Paste.
  5. Pesticides/ Herbicides– I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but eating organic dramatically reduces your exposure to toxins.  If you can’t afford or find organic produce in your area, try to avid the dirty dozen as much as possible.  When I first started out, I would keep a list on my phone and reference it whenever I went to the grocery store.  The dirty dozen includes the following foods listed from most to least contaminated:
    1. Strawberries
    2. Spinach
    3. Nectarines
    4. Apples
    5. Peaches
    6. Pears
    7. Cherries
    8. Grapes
    9. Celery
    10. Tomatoes
    11. Sweet Bell Peppers
    12. Potatoes
  6. Meat and Dairy Products– This list could not be complete without mentioning meat and dairy products.  From a toxicity standpoint, the fat and protein compounds in these products clog the liver causing it to be sluggish and reducing its ability to do it’s job of filtering the blood and removing toxins from the body.  Simply said, if your liver is sluggish (or fatty), the toxins stay put!  in addition, meat and dairy contain high amounts of  growth hormones (there is no such thing as hormone free, all animals in the industry have been exposed), antibiotics and adrenal compounds (from the slaughtering process).  Increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption will improve overall liver function and go a long way in detoxing your body.
  7. Added Sugar– Yes, it’s really bad for us. It’s corrosive to our system and damaging to our organs (and dairy is liquid sugar meant to grow a baby calf/goat/lamb).  If you feel a sweet craving coming on, grab a piece of fruit or use some maple syrup or dates in your baking- you won’t be disappointed. The glucose from fruit is extremely important for brain health and body functioning, so indulge as often as possible.  For more information on the healing powers of fruit (and vegetables) check out Anthony William’s latest book, Life Changing Foods.

 

 

Meditation, Chanting & Cats Oh My!

How a daily spiritual practice helped heal both me and my cat.

Like many other people, I love animals and find comfort in their presence in my household.  That said, I have 3 cats who are each special in their own way.  When I decided to create my meditation/yoga room, I converted an unused space adjacent to a room inhabited by my oldest and most skittish feline friend.  My intention for this space was to begin a daily sadhana (spiritual practice) which would consist of chanting, prayer, meditation, and kriyas (specific movements in Kundalini yoga).  I was committed and ready to begin.

It’s been over 2 years now since I began my first sadhana and my husband now joins me most mornings when he isn’t up earlier for his own personal sadhana. It’s become a beautiful practice that creates a sacred stillness to the start of my day.  We both feel the changes within us and the connection to our true, higher Self. For me, I also have witnessed a decrease in physical pain that, at times in the past, had been intolerable.  There is wisdom in the body but there is also residual emotional pain that lives on as well and can become lodged and create physical discomfort.  When the pain is healed, relief  can truly come.

So, I am a believer.  I have faith that devoting to a spiritual practice can calm the mind and heal the body.  You know what else I’ve come to realize? It helps heal those in the space around us as well, even pets.  Remember that skittish cat I mentioned? Since being part of my practice, he has become calmer, more relaxed and his episodes of nerves that would have him running in circles and climbing the walls dramatically decreased.  He felt the healing energy too- what a gift!

Every morning, I am encouraged that my sadhana feeds my soul, heals my body and calms my mind.  And every morning, there’s a little cat eagerly waiting to join me, who instinctively knows that he is experiencing something sacred, divine, and healing as well.

 Sat Nam!

 

 

Passive Agression: the subtle ways our words and actions hurt ourselves and one another.

Bearing witness to anger while honoring our needs.

Most of us have experienced passive aggressive behavior, we may be the one affected by it or the one dishing it out.  Passive aggressive behavior, the act of saying or doing something indirectly in order to send a message of criticism, anger or disapproval to someone else, is anything but harmless.  Like many of you, I am part of a social and family circle where passive aggressive behavior is tolerated.  Sarcasm and humor are used to mask a judgmental slight and under-handed compliments are spouted as routinely as empty social niceties.  But, they feel bad- really bad.

In my personal healing work, I am realizing just how much passive aggressive behavior hurts me. Its affect is very real, and because it is normalized by society, it is often overlooked.  Passive aggression at its most basic level, is an act of defense from someone who has difficulty letting down their guard enough to be vulnerable and speak their truth without fear. In an effort to protect themselves (and their position), without being clear and sure of themselves, they opt for a passive (yet aggressive) work around.  Case in point, I had a neighbor recently have her visitor park in our parking spot.  When I asked if her visitor could park in a visitor spot next time, my neighbor agreed but then went on to say that she, herself, is not particular and doesn’t mind where she parks (implying that my request was petty).  She was clearly hurt or angered, but unable to verbalize that to me comfortably.  Instead she belittled and nullified my viewpoint.  That’s the thing about passive aggression, it is an act of violence against yourself as well as others. She wasn’t able to speak her truth or release her defenses and so acted that out on me. I was left questioning if I had done something wrong.

Where there is aggression of any kind, there is victimization.  It is important to realize this and put it into context and not to blame yourself.  Again, passive aggressive behavior feels bad…because it’s designed to feel that way.  In any life situation, my goal is to listen carefully to my inner voice and needs, share my concerns (in a kind and sensitive way), set boundaries where they are appropriate, and give myself the care I require to maintain a loving relationship with the Self.

Below are some of the ways that I’ve learned to address passive aggression as it comes up in my own life.

  1. Recognize the comment for what it is- a form of aggression.  Don’t react or take the bait. Breathe.
  2. Listen and feel deeply into how the comment or action makes you feel.  Is there an additional “charge” to it? This could be a triggering of other experiences you’ve had in your life which are amplified by the comment.
  3. Don’t judge and criticize yourself (or the other person).  We all have our own wounding, some of us are taking an active role in healing it, others are not there yet. All of us are deserving of compassion and love.
  4. Speak the truth and say what you mean.  Ideally, this should be from your highest self as often as possible.  Be kind, but be direct.  It should be at a later point in time when the negative charge of the particular situation has dissipated.
  5. If you can only do one thing- pray for them.  An act of aggression is rooted in fear, insecurity and unsafety. Pray that they can receive your love and can heal.

Using ahimsa as a guiding principle calls us to act from a place of clarity, from our highest self, and to feel safe enough that we can share our position with someone else in a healthy way. This takes courage and a strong sense of self love.  It is a practice…and it takes time. In our current culture, there are plenty of opportunities for us to practice this skill.  Don’t get discouraged and keep practicing until passive aggression no longer has an impact on your life and is no longer used as a tool to hurt each another.

When confronted with those blinded by their own wounding and suffering, I am reminded of this quote from Yogi Bhajan, “If you can’t see love in all, you can’t see love at all.”

Sat Nam

 

Ahimsa: an introduction

I’m starting to learn a few things about myself and this life.  I’m learning that life’s mysteries need not be so scary; that when I become still and listen, I can tune in to a stillness inside myself that guides and comforts me and I now know that my sensitive spirit needs space to nurture itself and feed my soul. I’ve also learned that this term Ahimsa, one I started intimately knowing many years ago- means way more than I ever knew possible and is more relevant now than ever. I’m not sure how I first stumbled upon the term Ahimsa;  it feels like it’s been a part of me my whole life, but growing up in an Irish/Italian Catholic family, I know Ahimsa somehow found its way to me, and it stuck.

In its simplest sense, ahimsa is a yogic term meaning to live your life causing the least amount of harm to others as possible.  As a vegan, I relate to the concept of ahimsa in a very intimate and profound way. Ahimsa is the foundational concept of living a compassionate life, to seeing the inherent worth in all beings and believing that all beings are sacred and divine. Ahimsa influences what I eat, how I spend my free time, how I treat both friends and strangers, and what I buy.

I was called to create this space to share how this thread of ahimsa inspires me each day and connects me to you and all of us together as one. In a world that sometimes feels like divisiveness and insults are becoming the norm, the warmth and love from living a life guided by Ahimsa is a call back to my own heart.

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