Friday, March 27, 2015

Health and Wellness: Regaining Health after a Brief Hiatus

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to make unhealthy decisions away from home.  This past weekend I went with my mom to visit my brother six hours away.  Due to a series of unfortunate events (I love using that phrase), we ended up having to wake up at 2:00 AM to be there by 8:00 AM.   After a long drive, mom and I had exhaustion overload about mid afternoon.  Even though we tried to make smart food choices by choosing high veggie meals, the junk food was right there, and after that drive, we deserved it.  Right?

THIS was the winner of the night for me.
So, needless to say, after two rainy days and no walking, and a weekend of lots of car-time and no walking, I was feeling overwhelmingly icky.  It is hard to maintain health during difficult and exhausting times.  It was more than the amazing desert.  It was a conglomeration between that, lack of sleep, too much time in the car, lack of exercise, and a break of my routine.  (My home is my sanctuary and too much time away makes me one unbalanced lady.)

When I returned home, my main goal for the next day was to begin to regain balance.  First of all, I mixed up a detox drink that I discovered on Pinterest.  I can't find the original pin, so I am going to relate the recipe here.  (You can follow me on Pinterest to see all things eclectic peanut.)

Detox Drink

2 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp raw honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 or 2 slices of fresh ginger root

I like to put the ginger and cinnamon into an infuser glass, add the ACV and honey and just enough hot water to dissolve the honey to the bottom of the container.  Fill the rest of the glass with water, adding ice if desired.  I like to use this one for a large wide mouth mason or ball canning jar.  I will sip on it until it's gone and refill the glass, using the same cinnamon and ginger.  This drink helps your body get rid of inflammation and "bloat" caused by too many unhealthy carbs and the wrong fats.

The next thing I do to help myself physically and spiritually is to get back on my activity schedule.  I went for my 1.5 mile walk and spent quality time in my yard interacting with nature.  I also cleaned my entire house.  I think this was an activity that helped my state-of-mind most.  When I eat too many sugars, bad carbs, and wrong fats, I get brain-fog and major sinus pressure build up in my head.  I am still learning how to counteract this when I make bad decisions, but one of the things I do is to cut back severely on breads.  I make our bread products, so they are healthier than store-bought, but cutting them out and reintroducing a smaller amount is how I rebalance my diet.  I generally only use honey and don't keep a store of sweets, and we use healthy oils and fats, so this rebalances itself over time.  I also use some essential oils from DoTerra to alleviate the pain and pressure.   I put one drop of peppermint, 2 drops of lavender, and a drop of lemon into my palm and massage onto the base of my skull, behind my ears, and on my temples.  The lavender is a natural antihistamine so it will fight any allergy reactions, peppermint has the same burning-cooling you get from something like BenGay or Icy-Hot (only it comes from nature!), and the lemon adds scent that I find appealing.  The effect on headaches and sinus pressure is immediate.  The effect on my mood is immediate as well.

Bright orange-golden poppies bringing life to the desert.
I've had a week where my focus has been more contemplative than on outward sharing.  When I take time away, I always have to do serious contemplation and recuperation.  This week has been that for me.  It has taken me all week to finish this one post (although I've started another!).  I am feeling appreciative about the new life coming from Spring.  If you follow me on Instagram, you will be able to see all of the beautiful things I appreciate about Spring.  I like to experience the awakening of the birds and the bees, and the blooming of trees and flowers.  We have grass returning to our yard and the cauliflower, radish, lettuce, and spinach have sprouted in the garden.  We are going to grow birdseed this year and have a wide variety of other fruit and vegetables planned.  Spring is a tonic to the soul, it allows us to get out and interact with nature in a way that we haven't since the end of Autumn.  If you have to take long weekends or other types of trips, I encourage you to take time out when you return to look around you and appreciate your living space.  Take part in nature and breathe in her healing.  In all things, work to regain balance and serenity in your home and life to promote your best level of health and wellness.

Light and Love,


Friday, March 20, 2015

Health and Wellness: An Intro to Essential Oils

It rained for about three days.  In New Mexico, we don't regularly have rain in March.  Our monsoon season starts around mid June-July and can last until August-September.  The rain we had for the past three days was just a slow, steady drizzle.  We love getting spring rains at our house.  We get to let nature work her way in our garden.  I noticed something about people in the Southwest.  We love to get rain, almost always claim we are in a drought and need it.  But, if you give us the type of persistent rain that other parts of the country sees, by day three, many people walk around with full-blown depression written all over their faces.  I do it too!  Its as if the rain has determined our state of mind.  This differs from Seasonal Affective Disorder, this is just a serious case of the doldrums.  Do people in other parts of the country experience this phenomenon?  What if a majority of depressive symptoms and Depression were a direct result of humans not understanding nature and how to be more in tune with her?  I believe this can be the case in many instances, but I don't know if there is research to support it.  I do know that there are ways for us to help ourselves in becoming more in tune with the natural world around us.  For this post I want to focus on essential oils.

I started a post about a week ago that was supposed to be an introduction to health and wellness.  I was going to begin focusing on mental health, but I just couldn't figure out how to introduce it to my satisfaction.  After I learned about selling essential oils and began my journey of discovery, I decided that would be my avenue.  I am relatively new to them myself.  About a year ago I bought my first introductory kit and have learned all manner of uses for lemon, peppermint, and lavender oil.   Since I signed up to begin selling essential oils, I have learned some new areas that they can help.

Before I begin, (Disclaimer!I would like to make sure that everyone reading knows that there are serious mental health concerns that can be helped with essential oils and other natural means; however, seeking a professional is often the best course of action.  I am here to provide information so that you can have the knowledge to best help you in consulting others.  Professionals who deal with mental health include psychologists, counselors, some social workers, and some nutritionists and herbalists.   Nutritionists and herbalists may not have professional education for mental health, but they can offer you more detailed information on natural ways to deal with mental health.  If you have questions for me that are private, my email is in my profile on this blog.  I am not a licensed counselor or social worker; I have a lot of good information that can help in seeking one.  I have an understanding of mental health, so I can give advice and information.  I am neither a certified nutritionist nor herbalist (yet), but I have information that can help on your path to gaining help from others.  I am also not a medical doctor or midwife, so nothing I share should be taken as medical advice.  I also would like to encourage everyone to seek out a spiritual advisor or friend.  I believe in the mind-body-spirit connection and find it healthy to maintain positive spirituality (whatever that path may be for you).  Seek your religious or spiritual leaders or friends who hold the same belief, or email me if you want someone to talk to about spiritual matters.

I wrote another post about my vision for my blog/business.  I would also like to take this time to briefly describe my degrees.  My Bachelor of Science in Psychology with minors in Philosophy and History basically means that I like psychology, considered becoming a psychologist, but found a new focus later on.  I learned a lot about psychology for my BS, but I also love philosophy and history.  My Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with focuses in Counseling and Social Work was created because I loved differing characteristics in both fields.  I like the aspect of counseling where I learned about working with people one on one to help them reach the best health possible.  I learned a lot of techniques in helping others and how to provide information.  This provision of information is partially what led me to Social Work.  Social workers are unparalleled in helping people find the information they need.  They can work with small groups, large groups, communities, cities, and individuals.  They have a broad vision for equality and believe that every individual has a story that matters.  I liked both areas, but didn't want to function solely in either area so I focused on both to create my own definition of helping people in conjunction with natural and conventional methods of treating health and wellness.  This means that part of my future is to get certificates in nutrition and herbalism.

As I shared before my commercial, part of my continued learning is my newest passion for essential oils.  You can email me from this blog with questions or from my blog's Facebook page.  Essential oils are oils extracted from nature.  Every plant has an oil base that can be extracted under the right conditions.  Many plants have some sort of medicinal property.  With the company I signed on with, you can get these oils in various blends or products, or individually.  All of DoTerra's oils are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade, and beyond 100% organic.  This means that they are of the highest quality.  If you are interested in exploring essential oils,  you can follow the link and see what types of products are offered on the website.  If you want a basic beginner's pack, I suggest purchasing the Introduction to Essential Oils Kit.  If you are looking for something specific, you can ask me for advice and I can point you in the right direction.  There are also other packs available like Family Physician, Emergency Preparedness, and AromaTouch Technique.

I have had family and friends recently make references to some ailments they are facing.  A couple of them deal with high anxiety and stress.  I have begun to research some essential oils to help them with their high anxiety moments, panic attacks, and stressful situations.  In the AromaTouch Technique Kit, there are two oils that work to manage stress.  The first is the basic Lavender blend, the second in Balance.  Balance is a blend of Spruce, Ho Wood, Frankincense, Blue Tansy, and Blue Chamomile oils.  These have been put together by DoTerra for the specific purpose of helping individuals release stress and feel grounded.  (Remember, my post on Walking Spirituality has other grounding techniques).  Balance helps to promote whole body relaxation and evoke feelings of tranquility and balance.  The best place to rub essential oils is on the soles of the feet, but other areas for stress can be on the wrists and back of the neck.  You may do the same with lavender, or you can purchase an atomizer or diffuser that works to spread the scent into the room.  Even opening the bottle to simply smell the oils can help create a relaxing effect within your system.  AromaTouch can help in relieving tension as well.  It is created to work with the muscles in our bodies to promote relaxation.  AromaTouch combines Basil, Grapefruit, Cypress, Marjoram, Peppermint, and Lavender oils.

Another use for AromaTouch blend is to improve circulation and soothe joints.  I have family members who suffer from chronic joint and leg pain.  With what I have begun to learn about these oils, I am going to begin recommending AromaTouch and Deep Blue blends.  Deep Blue contains Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Blue Tansy, German Chamomile, and others to help soothe sore muscles and achy joints and support healthy circulation.  Deep Blue can also be purchased as a rub.  Both of these can be used to help sooth pain and promote restful sleep.

There are so many other things I could address, but I think these are some of the most basic to begin with.  So many of us suffer from stress and anxiety.  So many of us have some kind of persistent pain.  Taking a minute to use an essential oil or two to help with these things can help us in our journey to better health and wellness.  Remember, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me from my blog or leave a message for me on Eclectic Peanut's Facebook page.

Light and Love,


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On Bullies

I use the National Geographic Bird Identification App
It's a grey overcast day.  The birds are still out, serenading everyone who will listen.  The goldfish and our one Koi are out, even the tiny babies.  They swim lazily through the chilly water.  Our apple trees are almost in bloom, the little dark pink buds are peeking out, promising the bees of sweetness to come.  I love watching the birds swoop in and out for seed.  We have identified a couple of new ones, the Dark-Eyed Junco is the most frequent visitor.  When we first started feeding the birds, we loved that fact that we could draw in up to 20 doves at a time, in addition to all the smaller song birds.  The most prominent dove is the White Winged Dove, but we have also had Eurasian Collared Doves and the tiny Inca doves.  The Eurasian Collared and Inca Doves are docile, just hanging out getting food.  But the White Winged Doves are bullies.  We have bullies in our playground!  All the birds have quarrels with one another, usually it is the females squabbling at the males, but the White Winged Doves actually attack one another, the other doves, and even the little sparrows and finches.  They take all the food and attack anyone else that comes near.  They will go so far as to charge down the fence at any other bird that perches there.  Everyone else in our bird playground shares.  Last year we had a Lovebird that would come around.  Someone's pet had gotten loose.  I'm not sure what happened to him, and I hope he found a warm place to hibernate for the winter.  But, even this odd-one-out didn't have a problem with most of the others.  Almost everything in our backyard lives in peace.  Our fish don't fight, the bees and yellow jackets won't bother you if you don't bother them.

Isn't it typical that in a place of serenity and calm you get at least one individual who is ready to cause problems for everyone else.  For no reason other than the desire (or instinct) to survive.  It is odd how so many can live in perfect harmony, without sickness and disease, all death is part of the normal way of things, not premature, but one group or individual feels as though it isn't enough.  I wonder if the doves think through this in their own way.  The Canyon Towhee just showed up for the first time this Spring.  I was a bully once.  From junior high through high school, though less in later high school.  I was also bullied in 6th grade.  It is a large contrast.

In 6th grade, I was kind of smart and made sure to do all my homework.  There were a couple of girls that were mean, they liked to do things to humiliate me like pull my pants down in front of everyone. They would also hit me and threaten to beat me if I didn't do their homework.  Sometime after 6th grade and before 7th grade where I would be attending the junior high, a shift occurred.  I don't remember having reasoned out that if I became mean I wouldn't be beat up anymore, but I think even then I knew that I was afraid and I hated it so I became intimidating.  It's a horrible feeling, fear.  It is even worse when you know that you are making others feel the same way.  I went through this cycle of hating myself and pretending to think I was better than everyone else.  It was horrible.  In looking back, I realize that I felt like I had to survive.  Just like the doves.  But, I think that if I could go back and teach myself something it would be that kindness can deflate even the worst of bullies.  I think that if I would have known then that consistent kindness and acceptance can touch the hurting part of a bully, and diffuse the anger and fear.

At some point between high school, young adulthood, and now (I'm 34), I came to this realization.  I quit feeling the need to defend myself (most of the time) and I learned how to love.  I learned that by showing love and loving even the unloveliest of individuals, there could be hope for a brighter future for him or her.  Bullies aren't that different from those who establish self-destructive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, cutting, etc.  The pain is the same.  Words like "useless" and "worthless" are still heard over and over again in the brain.  The difference is the reaction to the pain.  One destroys the pain within the self and the other seeks to make others feel and recognize the pain.  So, when I hear of bullying and how extensive it has become in society, I do feel for those being bullied.  I get it.  I understand being ostracized because I was different from everyone else.  I understand being so afraid to go to school or work because of what could happen.  I understand being afraid to walk down the street because you've had strangers mock and grab at you.

I also feel for the bully.  I understand the anger and hatred for everyone because of how horrible it feels to be "the bully".  I understand feeling lost and alone and not having any way to control anything in life except to take it out on others.  I understand being tired of the ridicule and judgment to the point that, "I won't just stand up for myself, I will make sure you don't even get the chance to think things toward me." Bullies make me sad, has there been no one to show that person real love and kindness?  The kind of love and kindness that looks beyond the differences.  The kind of love and kindness that creates light within the individual and gives him or her something to stand on.  The kind of love that repeatedly tells the individual, "Hey, you don't have to be angry all the time.  You don't have to fight.  I see you and you matter."  The kind of love that shows the individual that some types of behavior are unacceptable, but the worth of the individual is not diminished.  I am grateful that I had some people in my life that could show these things to me that I could learn to be strong and kind, an individual and loving and compassionate.  It is these people who have made me want to see other bullies for who they are and show them the things that were shown to me.

Have you ever seen Ender's Game (or read the book)?  There is a part in the movie where Ender describes how he can look at the aggressor and see his vulnerability.  He says that it is at that moment where you know you can destroy someone, but you also come to understand him.  Have you ever had someone look at you and just know that they can see through the exterior you have put up into your very soul?  I have.  It's unsettling and comforting.  In my last post I spoke about becoming someone who sees.  This is the same.  If we continue to fight the aggressor with the same methods they fight, we will get nowhere, we will just destroy one another.  If we stop, see the aggressor, and understand him or her, we can then have compassion and disarm him or her.  We can teach them to love and show kindness.   We can love with the kind of love that says, "Your behavior is unacceptable, but you are valued."

I didn't know I was going to write about this.  I honestly started off just jotting down my observations about my yard and nature around me.  I think about this often though because I see a lot of judgment toward people who are hurting within just as much as those they hurt.  Even if they don't realize or acknowledge their hurt, it is there.  It comes in the guise of hatred, violence, and ignorance.  Some bullies act out of ignorance because they have never been shown or taught love that sees beyond difference.  This ignorance is a hurt that resides within, invisible to the carrier, until it explodes and harms others.  Ignorance can be the worst hurt because nobody wants to admit that they are ignorant of something, that they have been wrong about a lifetime of actions.  Admitting bad behavior and acknowledging the hurt of ignorance means we have to gain empathy for all those we've hurt.  When I first started recognizing how much I had hurt others, I went through a new cycle of self-condemnation and hatred.  I had to forgive myself, and for those I could reach, I had to apologize.  Feeling the hurt that we cause others is not a fun experience.  But it is necessary if we are going to properly heal and forgive.  It is necessary if we are going to ensure that we are going to change bad behavior.

I wish there were some way I could apply this to the bully doves in my yard. I wish I could show them that we are establishing a balanced ecosystem here and there is no need for unkindness.  I wish some people weren't as hard to reach as the doves.  

Light and Love,


Monday, March 16, 2015

On Finding Yourself and Accepting Others

I was going to start a new series on natural ways to help with mental health concerns, but I just wasn't feeling the flow.  I have to have flow to write, I cannot force it.  I saw a couple of posts on Facebook that made me pause. I love the things this author posts on her various pages on Facebook. (All of the pictures I find on Facebook contain a link in the caption.  If there is no link, the picture is my own).
Picture found on Sue Fitzmaurice, Author
On the same morning that I read this post, I read some others about "being yourself".  It seems to be a common thread in society.  It is sad that we have to struggle to be accepted as ourselves.  It is even sadder that many of us don't truly know who we are at our cores because we have striven for so long to be someone we are not.  When does it all end, this ceaseless harboring of false expectations on others?  We all place expectations on others, at the same time that we bemoan living up to the expectations put on us.  The author Terry Goodkind wrote in several of his books, "Each of us can only be who we are."  (Here is his author page on Amazon).

I am sitting outside this morning, listening to the fountain in our small goldfish pond and the singing of the birds.  They are all twitterpated, swooping in and out of the yard to snag bits of birdseed.  We have made it a hobby to watch the birds in our yard, and have gone as far as identifying them.  I am reminded of the Bible verse that talks about the birds, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6: 25-26)  It goes on to discuss the beauty or "splendor" of the lilies of the field.  I also like that Chapter 7 starts with, "Do not judge..."  We can learn valuable things from nature, that is why I adore it so much, find my inspiration and spirituality there.  We can see from the verses I shared that one of the greatest spiritual leaders of all time knew this; he retreated to the wilderness and he used nature and the natural order of things to teach.
Our goldfish pond.  All done up by husband. 

In all of nature, humans are the only beings that worry and judge over things that are meaningless.  We create in others the needless drive to "measure up".  Humanity is exhausted by the work to make more, have more, and be more.  It is this endless striving to be better than the other that causes war.  My husband, who is a war veteran, stated the other night, "Ending war is simple.  All we have to do is love one another and share our resources instead of hating and fighting." Is it really that simple?  How can we "love our neighbor as ourselves"  when we don't even know who we are?

Who are you?  I'm not asking what your name is, whether you are a parent or spouse, daughter/son, sister/brother.  I'm not referring to your job title or how much money you make.  I don't need to know where you live, the condition of your home or vehicle.  I am not talking about how you look, the color of your hair, eyes, skin.  I am asking you, who are you?  Take away everything you have and own; disregard your position in the family.  What is left?  Can you get a sense of who you are at your core?  This is difficult because we have learned to define ourselves by external things.  Many of us cannot get a sense of who we are.  Remember, at your core, you are NOT your bad habits, you are NOT your addiction.  You are NOT the negative things that people have said or thought about you.  You are lovely.  You are valuable.  When we take the time to survey our inner selves and begin to discover who we are, we often find that we are unhappy too.  This is because we have been taught that who we are isn't enough.  We almost always feel as though there is something we should change.  But that's not correct.

I believe that if we each did one small thing a day that helped us to live in acceptance of ourselves, we would in turn accept others as who they are.  Every individual has this deep desire to have someone see them, not as they appear on the outside, but who they are in their inner self.  We desire to hear, "I see you.  And you matter."  If we each become that person that sees, the world will become a better place.  If we stop worrying about all the expectations others have, and we quit judging others because of our false expectations, what would society look like then?  Would everyone be so exhausted at striving to become?  Maybe it is as simple as my husband said.  We cannot change everyone, but we can find ourselves and accept others.  We can spread an attitude of acceptance and love.  We can quit striving to be someone different and learn to love ourselves and recognize that the best we can be is who we are at our core.

May you find acceptance for yourself and learn to see others.  I see you.  You are valuable and you are loved.

Light and Love,


Friday, March 13, 2015

Self-Care, Healing, & Forgiveness Pt. 3

I had a busy day yesterday taking care of things at home and starting our garden, but I was also thinking about how I want to talk about forgiveness.  It used to be that I would chew on a topic before writing about it and I would sit and have enormous brain waves once 9:00 PM hit.  Somewhere along my education road that changed and now I'm writing before 8:00 AM.  This isn't an easy subject for me because, quite frankly, I'm not good at forgiveness.  It has caused me to do a lot of soul-searching the past few months.  This is a topic that is a little hard for many people because, like me, they have been under the wrong impression about forgiveness.  So, let me first talk about what forgiveness is not.  Forgiveness is not a miracle cure.  It is not a one time thing.  Forgiveness in no way excuses the bad behavior of others.

Picture found on Rebel Thriver
What is forgiveness then?  It is simply choosing to NOT allow hurtful things to continue to have a place in your soul.  Forgiveness says, "I acknowledge my worth and I know I deserve better, so I won't allow this to affect me any longer."  This statement about forgiveness can make things a little difficult because first you have to acknowledge your worth, and you have to continue acknowledging your worth on a daily basis to keep in the attitude of forgiveness.  That was a problem for me for a long time.  I felt like I didn't measure up to the rules and ideologies that were put on me by religion and religious people.  I felt like I could never do enough, therefore, I wasn't enough.  It took years to break that mindset and if I slacken at all, I will fall back into it.  I had to realize that not only was I allowing others to treat me badly and allowing them to negatively affect my soul, I was treating myself badly.

In my experience there are three types of forgiveness that we have to go through to replenish soul health.  The first is the forgiveness of others.  This is the one that most people talk about, allowing the expectations and bad behavior of others to influence our lives.  The second one is forgiveness of ourselves.  I haven't heard many people talk about this.  Many of us have self-deprecating behaviors and attitudes.  We feel like we aren't good enough for one reason or another and live in guilt and shame.  The third type of forgiveness is the forgiveness of The Other (God, Spirit).  To my recollection, I have never heard anyone talk about this type of forgiveness.  But in my experience, it can be a vital part of the healing process.  The same ceremonies and tangible things we do to open ourselves up to healing can be done to forgive others.  They provide reminders of the new life we are embracing.

Sometimes when we hold unforgiveness toward others, it comes in the guise of "I'm better than how you treated me, so I'm going to hold it against you," when in reality, at its core, unforgiveness keeps us in a trap of perpetual hurt and despair.  It seems to say the opposite of what it appears.  If we truly believed that we were valuable enough to NOT be mistreated, we wouldn't continue to harm our emotional and spiritual health by not forgiving.  It's a trap that uses confusion and lack of knowledge to ensnare us.  However, when we sincerely value ourselves, we begin to see that the only way to provide soul-health is to let go of the things that people have done to harm us.  By holding on to those things, we allow the hurt to deepen instead of heal.

We all do things that we either know we shouldn't and later regret, or realize we shouldn't have done after the fact and live in guilt.  Regardless of how we come to the knowledge of our own poor choices, the key is to allow ourselves to move on and not live in shame and guilt.  I used to live in guilt and shame because I never felt like I measured up to religious expectations.  First, I had to realize the fault wasn't with me, I had to accept myself for not being perfect and forgive myself for holding too high of expectations.  Once I realized those things, I learned to evaluate the expectations of others, and I had to forgive them for expecting me to be a model of their creation and for saying hurtful things when I didn't measure up.  Then I had to forgive myself for being almost 30-years-old and not recognizing the trap I was in.  We have to forgive ourselves for our own short-comings and poor choices because the reality is, what's done is done and none of us is perfect.  You or I cannot change the past.  We can only choose to do better with our present decisions.  And our present decisions can come from the root of forgiving ourselves so that we can be free to be the lovely individuals we are at our cores.

Thirdly, forgiveness of The Other.  For some, this is going to be a difficult concept to grasp, for others it is going to be something that they have never had to encounter.  For others still, there is no belief in The Other.  For those who need to hear this, your soul will latch on to it and you will move into it as your path is laid out for you.  All in due time.  Here is my belief and experience.  I was raised in a specific belief system, I refrain from naming it because I DO NOT want this to turn into me speaking against any specific belief system.  We each have to find our own path and each path is valid as long as love and light are at its core.  In the aforementioned system, I was taught that it is the relationship between The Other (God) and the individual that matters, but then I proceeded to receive teaching that I had to listen to "spiritual authorities" to really know what that relationship should be.  (A bit of an oxymoron, right?)  While I do not continue to claim that specific belief system, I continue to hold core values that align with it, and I also embrace core values from other belief systems (I'm eclectic that way).  I believe there are two universal truths: Love is the Light, and The Other (God, Spirit) is Love; I try to have these two things dictate my life and my spirituality.  I still believe that each of us has a relationship with The Other, but it is up to the individual what that relationship looks like.  Each of us knows our souls better than any "authority" can.  When I received the hurts and betrayal from those within my religious sphere, I also began to be angry at The Other.  For a long time I harbored bitterness against The Other because of how "his" people acted toward me.  I hadn't seen the light and love from anyone, at that moment I felt alone and in the dark and God was to blame.

Here are some things I learned about that experience.  First of all, The Other can handle your anger and bitterness.  It isn't a sin to feel emotion, to hurt.  If you're angry at The Other, express it.  Get alone (I prefer in the wilderness), and yell at the top of your lungs, or be quiet and express it in the solitude of your heart and mind, or write it.  Just, don't keep it in.  Next, you may not receive an audible answer, but the release of emotions and hurt is an answer within itself.  For me, being able to look around me and see beauty in flowers again was an answer.  Listening to birdsong and hearing its serenity was an answer.  My answer was that life goes on.  I could let go because life would continue and I am surrounded by beautiful things, I could be part of it or continue in anger and bitterness.  Your answer will be specific to you, but you have to be open to receive, you have to have truly let go of the anger and bitterness.

Finally, I had to forgive The Other.  Here's the thing, as an infinite energy/being above our finite understanding, The Other doesn't need our forgiveness.  But, WE need to forgive.  If for any other reason to be able to look around and receive the beautiful things in life.  Regardless of what beauty is to you, you have to make room for it.  For me, nature is beautiful, goodness and kindness are beautiful, life at its center is beautiful.  I wasn't able to receive any of these things as long as I held unforgiveness.  I would look around me and see death and destruction and negativity.  Then, I learned to forgive.  I learned to realize that The Other created me to be more and receive more than I was allowing.  When I opened myself up to the fact that unforgiveness only harmed myself and that in many cases I had to choose to forgive began to feel the connection again with the Other that fuels my existence.

Life isn't easy.  Everyone has hardships.  Everyone has hurt and pain.  The only person any of us has any power over, the only life we can dictate, is our own.  If we choose the things that are lovely and beautiful, the things that spread light and love within ourselves, our lives reflect that.  Life won't be easier, but we will be healthier in our souls.  Forgiveness is hard, but life is better when we embrace it.  I am going to provide some links below to share some books that have helped me in my journey.

Light and Love.

In no particular order:
The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
To Walk a Pagan Path by Alaric Albertsson
Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist by Sharman Apt Russell
Mahabharata retold by William Buck
Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of the Woman's Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge
The Teaching of Buddha by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Self-Care, Healing, and Forgiveness Pt. 2

I'm writing this blog in the mid afternoon, sipping some Tiesta tea, Energizer blend.  I received a box yesterday from a friend (let's talk about care packages as promoting self-care!) that included all types of lovely things, the above linked tea was included.  Teas are among my favorites for self-care.
Hot tea is good for the soul!
Another part of self-care is to open ourselves up to healing.  I'm not speaking about physical healing, (although tea is good for that too!) I am referring to emotional healing.  I think this type of healing is perhaps the most difficult to go through.  Many times the only way we can sufficiently heal is to seek profession help.  Other times we can take small steps on our own to work through hurts.

As I was thinking about what, exactly, I would write about in regards to emotional healing, I was confronted by some things within myself that I need to heal from.  It is hard to be open to healing because we often use our hurts like a blanket, holding on tightly in hopes to protect ourselves from further harm.  The only thing is, this particular blanket is ugly, coarse, and will never cover us sufficiently enough.  Forgiveness is one way to move toward healing, I will talk about that in my next post, but there is more.

I think that my favorite way of moving past hurts is to do symbolic rituals of "letting go".   (Cue Frozen theme song!) This isn't an act of forgiveness, it is an act of acknowledging your hurt.  The most simple way to do this is to write out, "I feel hurt because..." Fill in the rest, focusing on the hurt.  For example, "I feel hurt because I want to be noticed for my work instead of being looked over by my boss."  No other explanation is needed.  Just acknowledge your hurt, acknowledge the reason for it, take that piece of paper, and burn it as a symbol of freeing yourself from that hurt.  Please understand that by releasing the hurt, you are NOT under any circumstances excusing bad behavior on the part of another.  Choosing to "be above such things" is solely for your own health, and acknowledging our emotions is a very healthy practice.  Male or female, you have emotions.  The way you feel about any given thing is a natural response to a stressor.  NEVER feel ashamed for your emotions, and NEVER beat yourself up over them.  The way you feel is valid.  Acknowledge your validity, and acknowledge your emotions, then release them.  When we release our own hurt, we can in turn find compassion and kindness towards others.  I know that when I am holding on to some hurtful things, I tend to become negative and bitter.  My negativity and bitterness helps me to feel more "thick-skinned" when in reality it is only hurting me more.  It is a vicious cycle.  Releasing the hurt that we have received helps us to become more balanced, understanding, and lovely individuals. It allows us to grow into who we are at our core instead of who society and others dictate we should be.  When we partake in a symbolic act of releasing hurt, it helps to give us something tangible to hold on to as a remembrance that we are no longer allowing emotional pain to dictate who we are.  You can use something from your ritual that will remind you of what you've done.  I like pocket rocks.  You can use a crystal or any other rock and keep it with you as a symbol of positive emotions.  Or pick a flower and press it in a journal as a symbol of the new life you are embracing.  Whatever it is, it should serve in remembrance of letting go.  Now you can continue to practice letting go every time that hurt tries to seep back into your soul.
Picture found on She Who Is

On March 20th there is a new moon, solar eclipse, and the vernal equinox.  This is a good time to practice healing and releasing rituals.  You can incorporate it into any type of belief system you have. There is no specific prayer to pray that works better than any other, and if you don't believe in prayer, you can believe in symbolism.  I will have my husband build the fire in the fire ring in the yard instead of on the patio.  I'm going to write down some things that have hurt me, acknowledge my feelings, the hurt, and then I'm going to choose to let it go by burning the papers under the new moon.  With the vernal equinox, I will accept new life and beauty into my sphere and try to focus on the positive things, the non-hurtful, that surround me.  I will also journal, not about the hurt, but about my ceremony, my letting go and what new and positive things I expect.  Spring is a perfect time for this because it is the time of year when we see new life, new beauty emerging from the depths of the cold harshness of winter.   (Here is a link to other moon rituals).  There is a silent grace and beauty about the moon.  She brings me peace and acceptance when I struggle to find some.  May you find your path to healing and continue to grow into the beautiful individual you are at your core.

Light and Love.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Self-Care, Healing, & Forgiveness Pt. 1

I have the kettle on for my second cuppa joe and I'm mentally bemoaning the time change. Every time Spring comes around and we have to spring forward, I am reminded that time change works directly against taking care of ourselves. For those of us who try to become more balanced and aligned with the natural rhythms of nature, the illogical, human-mandated change of time wreaks havoc in our systems. How are we supposed to live in harmony with ourselves, nature, AND societal standards and edicts? I mean, we can't ALL move to Arizona and live it up in a non-time-changing zone.   ;)

This is to say that self-care has been pushing its way to the front of my mind. A big part of self-care has to do with eating habits, exercise, and spirituality. I already touched on exercise and spirituality, although I might do so again. But, I haven't talked about eating habits. I might do that at a later post, but that topic has become so prevalent that, quite honestly, I don't want to become part of the debate.  I believe in a few basic rules when it comes to the foods we consume.  Number one: Try to eat organic foods, or the closest thing to it (chemicals and hormones are bad).  Number two: listen to your body.  If you eat something and you feel icky afterward (gas, stomach/intestinal pain, headaches, etc.), try eliminating it.  Number three: If you cook it yourself, it is more likely to be healthy.   I may do one post about my various trials and tribulations with what I've done with my eating habits, but not today.  Today I am going to touch on self-care.  I did a presentation on this in one of my graduate counseling classes, but since then, my understanding and passion has grown.  I am a huge proponent of taking care of ourselves.  Each of us has to, at some point, become a little selfish.  We each have to think about our own well being.  Even the kindest, most giving individual will begin to feel horrible physically, emotionally, and spiritually if he or she doesn't take care of him or herself.

With time change, one of the best ways to combat imbalance is to try to go to sleep earlier.  Ideally, this would be an hour earlier, but starting with 15-30 minutes is still a good idea.  Maybe you can allow yourself to go to bed 15-30 minutes early and wake up 15-30 minutes late.  That way you aren't throwing yourself off by too much.  I know that our bodies will eventually reset themselves and we will grow accustomed to the time, but I love to find ways to help my body NOT suffer. Here are some things we do every night to help us sleep.  My husband is on medication for insomnia associated with nightmares because of PTSD.  Even with his medication, he can wake up at night and have a difficult time getting back to sleep right away.  His doctor recommended using white noise as a way to lull him to sleep.  We started off with using a fan, but graduated to nature sounds using Sleep Pillow on the iPad.  (Here is a website that lists sleep apps for Android).  We found that when we go camping, husband sleeps better.   With that realization, we decided to create our own mix of his favorite nature sounds.  He likes wind, crickets, and rain.  I've found that now I can't sleep without it.  I have a problem sleeping sometimes for two reasons, my mind won't shut down and sinus issues.  When I need my mind to quiet, I make a cup of a blend of sleep-aid tea I've created (one day I will be able to offer this tea for sale) and I either sit in the dark until I'm falling asleep and have finished my tea, or I sit in bed and read a "bedside" book.  The books I read in bed aren't spellbinding.  Usually they have to deal with spirituality.  (My bedside list right now consists of: Women Who Run with the WolvesGaia SpeaksA Calendar of Wisdom, and Standing in the Light). If I have things going through my mind that won't leave, I journal my thoughts and do a grounding exercise similar to the ones I described in my last post.  I am still researching the best natural ways to deal with my sinuses.  For a long time I took Claritin-D.  I couldn't sleep without it, but then i started having dizzy spells and vertigo feelings.  I quit taking the medication and it went away.  Now I'm using this organic breathe easy rub from  I rub it on the bottom of my feet, chest, and nose.  I also use doTerra lavender and peppermint essential oils.  I massage them into the base of my skull, temples, and eyebrows.

The last one I made
So, what if you go to sleep early and still feel like you are way too drained the next day?  Grafanaki and colleagues (2005) describe "leisure" as being a way to help us de-stress.  Leisure is defined as, "the ability to experience timelessness, letting go of the need for structure and boundaries, a melding of the sacred and secular" (Grafanaki et al., 2005, p. 31).  Roland (2009) expounds on leisure, "Find what helps, embrace a stress-free zone now and then (whatever that is for you), and then allow the time and attention to use that help" (p. 66).  Leisure and stress-free zones differ from one to another.  For one, it might be exercise, for another it may be reading or watching a movie.  Whatever it is, take time out to do it.  My mom is a business woman, oversees several different bank branches, often requiring a lot of travel.  Her way of decompressing after work is to play games on her phone or kindle, games like Candy Crush.  They help distract her mind from work and allow her to relax physically.  For me, I enjoy making things.  I recently started a new crochet rag rug, this one will be rectangular.  I also enjoy listening to books, they help me escape mentally.

So, ways of taking care of yourself include: eating healthy, making time for exercise (and spending time outdoors), pay attention to your soul-health,  sleep well, and schedule leisure.  Finally, be open to emotional healing by practicing forgiveness.  In my next post (or two), I will go more in depth about healing and forgiveness.  For now, focus on your sleep, your body needs it, your brain needs it, your spirit needs it.  Focus on your leisure time; do things you love, even if it is for five minutes.  Focus on what your body naturally wants for nutrition (not addictions like sugar!), and happy health to you all!  If you have something specific that works for you in taking care of yourself, share it in the comments.

Light and Love!

Grafanaki, pearson, Cini, Godula, McKenzie, Nason, & Anderegg. (2005). Sources of renewal: A qualitative study on the experience and role of leisure in the life of counselors and psychologists, Counseling Psychology Quarterly, 18(1), 31-40.

Roland, Catherine B. (2009). Wellness: A review of theory and measurement for counselors, Journal of Counseling & Development, 87, 216-226.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Walking Spirituality

There are two things that are close to my heart right now.  Walking and Spirituality.  The two have become intertwined for me.  A large part of that is because a friend gave me a book called Walking Meditation by Nguyen Anh-Huong and Thich Nhat Hanh.  Another reason why walking and spirituality are woven together for me is because I have witnessed healing to my husband's heart and soul with his nature walks.  He found a connection to The Other (God, Spirit) that I soon started to admire and desire for myself.

I have always enjoyed going for walks, and hit a peak a few years back when I went for a 2-mile walk everyday before any daily obligations or activities.  I found a nice path where I could be safe and enjoy the scenery and the antics of my dog tugging at his leash to chase ground squirrels.  When my husband and I married and moved out of my hometown, I lost my path (physically and spiritually) and had a difficult time finding one I was comfortable with in both aspects.  Also, it seemed like every time I started to walk, my body would rebel.  I have bursitis in both of my knees and the hills had a negative effect on them, and not walking caused me to become a more negative person.  Finally, my husband came home with a brilliant idea.  Every day he goes out past an abandoned fort.  He suggested that I walk around the fort.  I started a little over a week ago to walk around the fort on a daily basis.  I have noticed not only more energy and an overall more positive feeling, but I've begun to feel that connection I so admired.

"Peace is every step.
An overcast early Spring day on the abandoned Fort
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy."
~Tinh Thuy
(as quoted in Walking Meditation, 2006, p. 1)

Research has shown that being outdoors has significant health benefits.  TIME Magazine recently published an article that speaks about this.  Among the reasons for spending time outdoors is healing and mood improvement.  Mother Nature Network published an article about the benefits of walking.  Sunlight helps our bodies to regulate.  There is a growing belief in the mind-body-spirit connection.  I am one of those who believe in this connection.  I also believe that we have a connection with the world around us.  When we are in a stress-filled work environment, we generally become stressed and unhealthy.  When we are in a tranquil natural environment, we generally become tranquil and healthier.

We can work to boost this effect in our lives by being mindful of the environment around us.  If you are at work, put up a picture of a nature scene that will bring your mind to a relaxed state.  Become aware of your breathing and posture.  In a counseling class I learned a basic grounding technique that can help us to become aware of our breath and posture.  Sit in your chair with your feet flat on the ground and hands rested on your lap.  Sit up straight and close your eyes.  Slowly begin to focus your attention on the various parts of your body, starting at your feet.  Feel the connection to the floor, relax your ankles, flexing and rotating them.  Continue to move up your legs, into your torso, arms, and neck, flexing and rotating your joints.  All the while, breathe deeply.  When you get to your neck, finish with envisioning that tranquil nature scene that you love, open yourself up to that tranquility, accept it as your own.   In one of my Social Work internships, I learned another grounding technique that involves nature.  It is similar; stand with one hand on a tree, the other on your heart.  Become mindful of your heart beat and your connection to the ground, your connection to the tree.  Concentrate on it, be silent, and breathe deeply, be conscious of nature around you, the sounds and smells.  When we do small things like this to take a break from the hubbub, we are taking an active part in becoming healthier, less stressed.

Spirituality.  I recently read an article on the Mother Nature Network website about spirituality in nature.  A rabbi in Colorado started conducting ceremonies and sabbath meetings outside.  In the end of the article she is quoted as saying, “You sit quietly at an overlook or beside a Ponderosa pine, and it’s easy to experience a connection to something greater than yourself" (as quoted by MNN, 2007).  When we become open to The Other, all the things that we deal with on a day-to-day basis becomes a lot smaller.  Whether your belief is in a specific deity or an energy that moves in and through all of nature, there is Something Other than ourselves at work.  What is your favorite aspect of nature?  The caress of the breeze on your skin or tickling through your hair?  Is it the first flower of Spring or the vibrant Autumn colors?  Maybe all you desire is a chair on a beach in the sunshine, looking out at the blue sea.  Whatever it is, stop and observe, first as yourself being part of nature around you, then as yourself being separate, acknowledge that we are all connected, acknowledge that you are a vital part of all of nature. Acknowledge that all around you, life continues as the most beautiful aspect of being.

I am getting ready to go on my daily walk.  I like to watch the birds flirt with one another through song and flight.  I like to notice the holes where the gophers are creating their habitats and the new buds on the trees that promise warmer weather.  I like a specific tree, a soaring pine in the middle of the courtyard with enormous sap-covered pinecones.  She is the one that I stop at to do grounding exercises.  I like to thank her for her part in the circle of life, for allowing me to take a pinecone, for being a symbol of strength and stability.  It is this little action, coupled with a walk in nature, that

The enormous pinecone.  
brings me peace.  I feel the connection with The Other and know that all is well, at the heart of it all, everything will work out.

Light & Love

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hiatus & Vision

Has it really been almost two full years since I last sat down to blog?  What in the world have I been doing for those two years?  Well, I finished school.  Finally.  I now have my Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Counseling and Social Work.  (Whew!  It was as exhausting as it sounds!)

President Shepherd handing me my award (WNMU)
Going to school is hard but, by far, the hardest thing is figuring life out after school.  At my graduation in December 2014, I realized that I had been in school for nearly seven years.  It has been 2 months since graduation and I have yet to experience that "light bulb sensation" as to what to do to get my vision going.  I've done some research, signed up for Adsense on my blog, and have an idea about the website I want to create, but I have no idea how to get started.  Such is life after graduation.    "What now?" pervades my thinking.

So, here is my vision.  I would like to "upgrade" my blog (which means being more diligent) by making it a glorified advice column (for lack of a better way to put it).  I do not want to offer counseling, but information.  I can research and provide information about all types of things.  I have a passion about living naturally and am working on helping my family to become self-sustainable.  I would like to offer information about that same thing to others, but on a different level than other blogs.  I want people to go out and be educated about the medications they are putting in their bodies and know that there are natural alternatives to many of them, or lifestyle and diet changes that can be made to help facilitate better health.  I desire to offer products that I have designed to help with this (such as teas, candles for aromatherapy, etc) and a variety of other fun and interesting products and ideas. I also want to be able to help people find the resources they need to move ahead into the lives they envision.  When I spoke to a former professor he used the term "Wellness Coach" to describe what I want to do.  So, I want to be a Wellness Coach, but with more experience and knowledge (more means the amount of education I have received and the experiences I have had in the process of obtaining my degrees).

Bill Evans Lake
I'm not sure how to get started though.  So, I am going to start by being more diligent about my blog and sharing information that I have researched over the years in school.  Maybe then I'll have a lightbulb moment and figure this out.  Maybe if I go back to the lake I'll feel some inspiration.  It's lovely!

Light and Love!