Remembering Ralph

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not someone who remembers dates. Let alone what day of the week it is. But May 5th is a date I don’t forget anymore. My partner, Ralph, died four years ago on that day. Cinco de Mayo.

If you have a healthy grieving process, you move forward, you move on, you heal. And I most definitely have.

I wasn’t going to post anything today, but still my fingers were drawn to the computer. And when that happens, I don’t argue because more often than not, I’m pleading with the writing gods to inspire me.

Whether we’ve suffered a loss in the form of the death of a loved one (including a beloved pet), a divorce or separation, a job, or any other significant life-altering change, moving forward is imperative.

After a couple of years I started to feel that, well, maybe I shouldn’t share my thoughts about this particular loss anymore. Keep them to myself, because people will start to think I’m stuck in the past.

But my friend, Mary, reminded me yesterday that although we move on, we never truly forget. And that’s okay.

When Ralph died I found myself alone for pretty much the first time in my life. I could have crawled into a dark place of fear or longing or anger or pity. Instead, after the shock and sadness started to wane, I remember making a conscious choice to begin a love affair with myself.

I’ve spent these last four years getting to know what really makes me tick. Digging deep. Taking my inner child out to play again.

I realize that not everyone is the same. I’m an introverted artist at heart and so, for me, spending time alone can be like a soothing balm for my soul.

And from an Ayurvedic perspective (Of course I had to work that in here!) people with a lot of Vata in their constitution (air/movement) tend to be able to let things go, move forward.

It may not be quite so easy for the extrovert who needs people around.

Or for the Kapha-type (earth/grounded/stability) who can get stuck in the past, unable to move forward or forget.

Certainly there’s a spectrum for all of us. I think that my constitution and the knowledge that I had about it has helped me significantly.

And as with any life-altering situation, there’s usually the good and the bad.

My relationship with Ralph wasn’t without its hardships and challenges. It taught me valuable lessons which I carry with me into the future. If another relationship should come my way I will be stronger and wiser.

But it’s the good memories I choose to remember every year on May 5th or on those unexpected days when I feel Ralph’s presence. And I let myself breathe them in, whether they bring forth tears or smiles.

I loved his smile.

I loved his protective nature. The man would have jumped on the subway tracks for me.

Ralph&JazI loved how children were so dear to him. We could barely go for a walk in our neighborhood because he worried about the little ones who weren’t holding someone’s hand crossing the street. He loved when they came into his restaurant.

Speaking of his restaurant – I loved his cooking. God, how I miss his cooking!

I loved his sense of adventure. We relentlessly explored NYC every weekend even though he had lived there his whole life. He loved this city.

I loved riding my bike with him.

Back CameraI loved our Friday night movie dates.

I loved his generosity of spirit and lack of jealously. No matter what his own situation was, he was always happy for the success and joy of others.

I loved Ralph. And still love him because his spirit is never far away from me.

So, like a birthday that comes around once a year, I celebrate Ralph and all that he was to so many people during his short life here on earth.

He truly blessed my life.

Thank you for letting me share my memories here – again.

So much love,
Barbara

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Be the Cherry Tree

CherryTree7:Websized“Because we are formed from nature and have a sympathetic resonance with her, only nature can heal us when we become ill. When we eat when we are hungry, rest when we are tired, and create when inspiration comes, we live in sync with nature’s tempos. Disease will not last in a body-mind that is flowing in harmony with the rhythms of the cosmos, which sustain the material world with energy.”
Maya Tiwari, “The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of Ayurvedic Healing”

I’m obsessed with cherry blossom trees. I’ve been walking around with my head turned upward snapping away with my iPhone camera. They are so beautiful they take my breath away.

There used to be a Kwanzan cherry tree on our property when I lived in Michigan. I loved that tree during every season.

Green and carefree in the summer months, it grew taller.

Slowing down in the fall, it changed to a vibrant orange before shutting down and shedding its leaves.

Bleak and dormant in the winter, it rested, reserving its energy.

And then spring would come and the tree came alive once again with new growth – first the buds, then the blossoms and the leaves – creating a work of art for all to see.

This innocent rendezvous with cherry trees might just be the ticket to help me complete the transition from winter to spring. I was deep into hibernation mode this year and have been reluctant to come out of it.

Blossoms2:websizedThey say change is hard. I say transition can be just as difficult.

Every seasonal change I write about this. And every seasonal change I learn more and more about myself.

Seasonal shifts are precarious for our body, mind and spirit. Depression and illness are common during the transition from winter into spring. Suicide rates rise during these months.

Why? One would think that these would be happy months for everyone. The weather is getting nicer, the days are longer, and Mother Nature starts putting on her show.

But spring is Kapha Season, according to Ayurveda. There’s a heaviness, a sometimes lethargic type of energy that prevails as we make the shift from our winter slumber. Not just in our body, but in our mind and spirit, as well.

The body begins to try to detoxify itself from a season of eating heavier, fattier foods. Things start to move through the channels, like mucus – resulting in spring type ailments that are often centered around the lungs and sinuses (Kapha sites).

If you don’t work to eliminate excess mucus (by cleansing), the body will attempt to do it for you.

What happens to the excess mucus if we transition into the summer without cleansing it from the body? The heat will dry and harden it, further compromising our health. Think hardening of the arteries from plaque buildup or a sinus infection that just won’t clear up.

This past winter I let myself hibernate, without reproach. I set aside my guilt from not working enough, not writing enough, not creating enough. I just felt like going within. Being quiet.

I didn’t lay on the sofa eating chocolates all winter (Well, maybe watching Outlander a few too many times), but I definitely slowed things down.

In truth, I was in sync with the cherry tree – resting, reserving my energy.

In the back of my mind, I knew that spring was coming and that all of those ideas that had been swirling around in my head would soon take flight.

Creativity is a natural part of spring. Take advantage of it. Begin new projects, look for that new job, start writing that book, singing that song, learning to cook, exploring new frontiers.

I will be traveling to Scotland for the first time and can’t ever remember being so excited for an adventure to unfold. :)

Clean out that closet. Everyone knows the clarity and lightness of being you feel from doing that simple act. Ayurveda probably invented spring cleaning!

Spring has sprung. Be the cherry tree.

Cherry Blossom:websizedHappy May Day/Beltane!

So much love,
Barbara

P.S. It’s not too late to do a simple Ayurvedic cleanse. I’m on day four of mine (hump day – yay!) and am already feeling the positive effects.

Here are three easy cleanse options:

Banyan Botanicals (Love this one because they tailor it to your constitution)

Zrii Purify (Doing this right now. Easy and effective.)

Life Spa Colorado Cleanse (Excellent – short and long version)

Even if you don’t have the motivation or time to do a real cleanse, just giving your digestion a break by doing a kitchari mono-fast for a day or two really gives the body a break. Give it a try!

Posted in Ayurveda, Change, Change of Seasons, Depression, Kapha, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ayurveda and Mother Nature Are One

EarthDay

Central Park, April 2015

If Ayurveda confuses you, all you need to know is that at its core is the teaching we are one with Nature.

It’s pretty simple. We are air, ether, fire, water, and earth. In different proportions, of course – that’s what gives us our uniqueness, our constitution.

Discover what yours is and then seek to stay in balance by living in harmony with Nature and the seasons – eating the right foods, drinking clean water, spending time outdoors, honoring our biological rhythms.

This wisdom is in our ancestral memory. We just need to reawaken it.

Even in the midst of a concrete jungle like NYC, Mother Nature is there for us. Of course, we always seem to be making it harder for her to survive. We disrespect her by throwing trash, polluting her waterways and the air she provides us to breathe.

Truth be told, she will likely survive long after we’ve left this planet. But she must be so weary trying to clean up after us. Why do we this to her? And thus, to ourselves?

Some of my most precious memories are Nature memories. Smelling the pine trees of Northern Michigan, swimming in its lakes. Climbing the dunes.

Witnessing wild animals from afar. And the not-so-wild ones, as well.

Clouds and mountains in North Carolina and the French Pyrenees that brought me to tears just from the sheer beauty of them.

Falling asleep to the sound of an ocean roaring or a booming thunderstorm while safe inside.

Hiking in the desert and discovering its own unique beauty.

I could go on and on.

I don’t know why I’ve always lived in cities. Something keeps telling me that’s going to change one day.

Soon I will set foot in the country of Scotland. My father was Scottish, although we knew very little of his ancestry. He never spoke of it and I didn’t know my grandparents.

I started having dreams about Scotland a couple of years ago and then the synchronicities began to pile up until there was no choice but to go there and see it for myself.

And then, of course, “Outlander” put me over the edge. :)

All I envision when I think about going to Scotland is NATURE. I can barely contain my excitement to see the vast green hills, forests and rivers and whatever mysteries it has in store for me.

I don’t care if it rains.

Happy Earth Day to all. May you spend it hugging a tree, watching the birds, hiking a mountain or just thinking of our precious planet with love and gratitude. Be kind to her.

Much love,
Barbara

yellow bird:websized

 

Posted in Ayurveda, Nature | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Even Storm Clouds Are Beautiful

StormClouds2That heavy feeling creeps in, permeates your mind/body, and makes you want to crawl back under the covers...or reach for a drink, or a smoke, or maybe a box of chocolate chip cookies. Maybe even all three.

Most of us are downright terrified of this feeling. It’s so damn uncomfortable. It might be depression, anxiety, fear or anger.

Fear’s a big one. Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of not being good enough, fear of not living your life’s purpose, or your dream, or having enough money. Fear of things we have no control over.

How about writer’s block? Or just creativity block, in general. Amen to that one. Been there too many times to count.

I think we humans want to feel light and happy and joyful, all the time. Sometimes even just one or two days of feeling blue seems too much to bear.

But here’s the thing. I’ve learned some of my greatest lessons, and grown the most, when I’ve successfully navigated the stormy times.

I’m not knocking being happy, because, boy, it feels good and makes life a whole lot easier. But there is no greater feeling than having the courage to sit with that dreaded depression, or fear, or whatever it is – identify its source – and come out lighter and ready for a fresh start.

Like a summer storm. You see those dark clouds gathering, feel a shift in the atmosphere and then the heavens open up.

The best part might seem to be after the storm when you can smell the clean air, see the sun start to peak out from behind the clouds, and hear the birds singing again.

But every single part of the process is important. And necessary.

Even storm clouds are beautiful.

Can there be JOY in sadness? Can you find it while in the throes of grief or depression? I believe you can.

This revelation came to me after my partner, Ralph, died almost four years ago. While grieving my loss I started to have deeply moving moments of pure JOY remembering him with love. It would come out of the blue and make me both smile and cry.

It broke my heart open. But it was JOY. And that’s what helped to heal me. It gave me strength. I remember thinking, “This isn’t right. How can I be in such pain and feel joy at the same time? But I did.

And now when I find myself in that uncomfortable place of fear or anxiety or grief, I look back on that experience and know that I can get through anything.

It’s made a huge difference knowing how energy plays into this process. A knowledge of energy healing and the chakras can quickly help you identify where in your body lies whatever is making you sick, or depressed or anxious, etc.

Please don’t think that I’m making light of depression. Like with anything else, there are varying degrees of seriousness and for some people, it has been a lifelong struggle. These patterns can even come from past lives and seem inexplicable to the person in this lifetime trying to figure out the source.

My Ayurveda teacher, Maya Tiwari, states in her book “Women’s Power to Heal Through Inner Medicine”:

“Karma holds the golden key to healing. Healing comes directly from continual cleansing and ridding of karma. Healing also comes through wisdom – the process of awakening buddhi, the higher mind that holds the power of intuition, compassion, and resolve.”

While lots of people seem to come alive in the spring, others seem to find spring unbearable – especially those who live in places where long winters rob us of necessary Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin.

Ayurveda has long understood the connection between Kapha dosha and depression. But you don’t have to be a Kapha-type to experience depression in the spring. Because spring is Kapha Season – and depending on our own constitution – we might feel sluggish, heavy, lethargic and depressed – all unbalanced Kapha traits. Anyone can have a Kapha imbalance.

Here are a few suggestions when that unwelcome feeling comes around:

  • Before seeking out a distraction (food, drink, cigarette, TV), acknowledge the feeling and identify it. Is it depression? Anxiety? Fear? Anger?
  • Try to suss out the source. Is it just the result of something that happened recently, or is it a pattern that we keep repeating over and over? Maybe as a child you dealt with your emotions by hiding, running away, or blaming someone else. We tend to repeat these childhood patterns over and over.
  • Notice where you feel pressure or pain in your body. Print out this free chakra chart and you will soon be able to see/feel the connection between our emotions and the energy centers in our body.
  • Sit with it for a bit. Even better, write about it. Doing this in Nature is the best way of all.
  • Meditate! Meditation helps everything. Truly, it does.
  • Take action to help move the feeling – which is nothing more than stuck energy – out of the body. You might feel scattered and ungrounded (1st/root chakra) and a walk in the woods or some gentle movement like yoga or t’ai chi can be just the thing to make you feel better. Hug a tree. Or maybe you’re having trouble expressing yourself (5th/throat chakra). Singing is just about the best thing for that. In fact, singing and dancing can often move stuck emotions better than anything else. For me, it’s often in the 4th/heart chakra where that feeling settles in. And when I need to flush it out, I watch either a sad or funny movie. There’s nothing like a good cry or laugh to lighten the energy in the heart center, which by the way, includes the lungs – where grief resides. And deep breathing helps everything.
  • Pay attention to your dreams and write them down. My dreams are always particularly vivid and memorable when I’m going through a rough patch and they offer me clues as to what’s going on in my life. Animals almost always show up for me during these times. If this happens to you – Google the meaning behind the animal in your dream and see if it fits with your situation. You’ll be amazed!
  • Seek professional help if you’re unable to move forward by yourself.
  • And last, but not least, remember this experience and let it serve you well in the future.

It’s probably no coincidence that the seed for this article planted itself in me just weeks before the anniversary of Ralph’s death. I’d been thinking a lot about the subject because there are many people I hold dear who are struggling right now. Ralph himself (most definitely a Kapha-type) was suffering from depression in the spring months before he died.

It’s painful both to be in that space and to witness the people you love in pain. And so, I just want to reiterate, one last time –

Even storm clouds are beautiful.

With love,
Barbara

Oh, and P.S. – Guess what’s always behind those clouds?

Sun:Web

 

Posted in Anxiety, Ayurveda, Depression, Kapha, Self-Care | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Ayurvedic Tip of the Week: Bitter is Better

grapefruit:websizedThere’s a famous Ayurvedic saying – “Bitter is Better”. Our ancestors knew that food having a bitter quality helped with sluggish digestion and cleansing fats from the blood and liver.

Our modern diet is seriously lacking in the bitter taste. Sweet, sour and salty are the tastes most of us gravitate towards. The less we consume of the remaining three tastes – bitter, pungent and astringent – the more unbalanced our diet can become.

Ayurveda believes that all six tastes should be incorporated into our daily meals, if not at each meal. The proportions of these tastes will vary according to our constitution and the present state of our health.

Mother Nature knows that the bitter taste is necessary in the spring, after eating heavy, fatty winter foods necessary to insulate us from the cold. So, she wisely provides us with bitter greens like dandelion, nettles, arugula, watercress, spinach, sorrel, mustard greens, kale, collards, beet greens, etc.

Picking Stinging Nettles:web

Picking Stinging Nettles in the Spring (Always wear gloves!)

Here are some bitter food choices to add to your daily diet:

  • Grapefruit
  • Bitter greens (see above)
  • Bitter melon
  • Aloe vera
  • Barley
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Pomegranates

herbal_bitters-product_1x-1412783052You can also find actual herbal bitters (bitter roots, leaves and berries steeped in alcohol) HERE. Or, get creative and make your own! Mountain Rose Herbs is a wonderful source for clean,  sustainable organic herbs.

The bitter taste is especially important for Kapha-types to help rev up their normally sluggish metabolism. And it’s Kapha Season, so it’s vitally important to pay special attention to cleansing the channels of the body after the heavy qualities of winter.

Bitters are generally cold and sometimes too stimulating for Vata-types, or someone with a Vata imbalance. Just be prudent, don’t overdue their use, and perhaps add warming spices and/or heat the food slightly.

Pitta-types do well with bitter and astringent tastes and they can tolerate cold the best. Adding a little bit of sweet taste (of a healthy nature!) is also beneficial.

Remember, food is medicine. Oh, but it tastes so much better!

Much love,
Barbara

 

 

 

Posted in Ayurveda, Change of Seasons, Cleansing, Digestive Health, Kapha | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What’s All This Hype About Cleansing?

MarchThis is where I want to be on a cold, damp blustery March day. Sitting in the Poet’s House in Battery Park City, warm and dry and surrounded by books.

March is not exactly a favorite month for most people. At least not for those of us living where wind, rain, sleet, snow, and damp cold weather are typical of late winter. Anything goes. I can feel it in my bones just writing about it. March roars in like a lion, they say, and out like a lamb. It’s such a transitory month.

I may have been lucky enough to have a respite in Hawaii, but I’m already tucked right back in my cocoon in Jersey City.

I happen to like cocooning and so I’m feeling a little anxious knowing that my hibernating time is coming to a close. If all goes according to Mother Nature’s plan, however, soon I will feel ready to burst forth with stored energy and fresh ideas from the winter.

One good thing about gloomy March is that it gives us a few weeks to tackle (or at least think about tackling) some things that have been crying for attention. Think inner and outer world. Mind/body/spirit AND your clothes closet and relationships. Spring cleaning…or cleansing.

So, what is all this hype about cleansing?

Until I entered this sometimes mysterious world of holistic health I had never heard of the concept of cleansing. For most of us, cleansing meant soaping up our bodies during our daily shower or bath.

Over the past several years, the topic of dietary cleansing has become absolutely front and center. Juice cleanses, liver flushing and the Master Cleanse have all become household words.

But probably the most ancient and effective method of cleansing and rejuvenation began thousands of years ago with the Ayurvedic practice from India known as panchakarma.

Originally intended for royalty to promote longevity, panchakarma (means five actions) is still widely practiced in India and has gained popularity in the West.

Panchakarma is usually done over a two to three week period and should be done under the supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor to insure that the cleanse is safe and effective for your particular constitution.

People who have undergone panchakarma will attest that the healing effects are profound.

March/April and September/October are the months generally chosen for this type of deep cleansing, but it can be done at other times during the year, as well. I highly recommend looking into panchakarma treatment if you are dealing with serious health issues, especially those of a chronic nature.

But because cleansing for most of us is something we need to ease ourselves into, I want to focus today on sharing some easy tips that you can do yourself to help clean your system of toxins, give your digestion a rest, and reset your digestive fire.

Mother Nature knows that Kapha Season (late winter-early spring) is the best time for cleansing. She wisely provides us with the foods/herbs that naturally work to detoxify the body after a long winter of eating heavier, fattier and often sugar-laden foods.

If we don’t rid the body of excess fat and mucus at this time, it will rebel. Spring colds, stomach upset and lung congestion are all signs of excess mucus.

Ama, an Ayurvedic term for a toxic gunk formed from undigested food, travels in the body and its presence can lead to all kinds of disease. This substance needs to be eliminated if we hope to stay healthy, and spring is one of the best seasons to do this.

There is even mental amathose destructive undigested thoughts and emotions that wreak havoc on our mind and body.  That’s why an Ayurvedic type of cleanse will always address both mental and physical imbalances by recommending journaling, meditation, pranayama (deep breathing), spending time in nature, and eating foods that will support a healthy state of body/mind.

Begin by eliminating troublesome foods and other substances.

  • Take a week to wean yourself off of foods and other substances you know are your weaknesses, aka addictions – coffee, caffeinated tea, chocolate, soda, junk food, alcohol, recreational drugs/tobacco, etc. A friendly tip - get them out of your house and go slowly – especially with coffee.  
  • Eliminate foods that are mucus-forming such as sugar, meat, dairy, wheat and eggs.

Add more cleansing foods to your diet.

Certain foods are excellent at helping to move congested, sluggish lymph and support the vital organs, especially the liver and gallbladder. The right foods will also help to cleanse our circulatory system which is often limping along after a winter of indulging in sweets and fatty food.

A popular Ayurvedic saying is “Bitter is better”. Bitter foods help to stimulate digestion and healthy bile flow. 

Some good food choices for spring cleansing are:

  • Beets and carrots–cooked or juiced
  • Apples–stewed, raw or juiced
  • Leafy greens (bitter) like dandelion, kale, arugula, collard greens, spinach, etc.
  • Lemons, limes and grapefruits
  • Healthy fats (in small amounts) like ghee, virgin coconut oil and cold pressed olive oil
  • Gluten-free whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and millet
  • Spices/herbs like turmeric, cumin, fennel, coriander, ginger, manjistha
  • Kitchari - an Ayurvedic dish consisting of yellow split mung dal (lentils) and basmati rice along with spices is an excellent food to eat during a cleanse or anytime you’ve overindulged. It’s a complete protein meal which is easily digestible. There are a myriad of ways to cook kitchari. I don’t find it necessary to soak the lentils for a long time like whole lentils. If I have time, I will for a bit. You can also add a small piece of kombu which will help eliminate gas if that’s a problem. You can purchase an all-in-one kit of ingredients HERE.
Beets:Web

The mighty beet is a major cleansing food in Ayurveda

Properly hydrate. One of the main reasons we cleanse is to reset our digestive fire which can become sluggish and weak due to ama buildup. Truly good health is impossible without a well-functioning digestive system and dehydration is a big reason many of us have weak digestion.

Some tips for proper hydration are:

  • Avoid cold liquids. They literally put out the digestive fire.
  • Sip warm/hot water and non-caffeinated herbal teas consistently throughout the day rather than chugging down glassfuls of water. It is a much more efficient way to hydrate and also helps clear toxins from our system. Ideally, sip a bit of hot water each half hour. (I set my phone timer to remind me.)
  • Vata types generally have the most problem staying hydrated, no matter how much water they drink. A pinch of sea salt in warm water with or without fresh lime can help with this.
  • Read this great article on hydration.
  • Kapha types tend to retain too much water and should be careful not to drink voluminous amounts of water.
  • Drink a glass of warm water with lemon, lime and/or fresh ginger a half hour before your meals to hydrate the stomach and produce enough hydrochloric acid to digest your food.
  • Avoid drinking liquids with meals, except for sipping a bit of herbal tea. And drinking liquids directly after a meal will make digestion even more difficult. Best to wait about an hour.

Follow a regular meal routine. Our bodies like routine and our digestive fire depends on regularity.

  • Eat a light breakfast between 7-8 a.m. Vata types need a little more protein. Kaphas can get away with no breakfast or just a little fruit if they’re not hungry.
  • Eat your biggest meal between noon and 1:00 p.m. Our digestive fire is strongest at this time of day.
  • Eat a light dinner around 5:30-6:00 p.m.
  • Avoid snacking after dinner. You will be completing a mini fast each night if you follow this simple suggestion.

Remember, cleansing is not just about what we eat or don’t eat. Here are a few tips for clearing out mind clutter, emotional baggage and our environment:

  • Focus on eliminating negative thoughts and actions.
  • Journal, journal, journal those thoughts! It’s an effective way of moving them out of the body/mind.
  • Get bodywork. This is an excellent time for massage, acupuncture, energy healing, craniosacralchi nei tsang, etc. Stuck energy needs to get worked out of the body before disease sets in. I love Ayurvedic abhyanga massage which is both detoxifying, calming, and centered around your particular dosha.
  • Check out The Emotion Code.
  • Clear your surrounding of unnecessary clutter. We all know how good that makes us feel and how much clarity it gives us.
  • Clear your life of unnecessary toxic relationships. There’s no time like spring for this uncomfortable task.
  • Let there be light! If you’re living in a cold gloomy climate right now and can’t hop a plane to Florida, invest in a light box and optimize your Vitamin D3 levels. Oral supplementation is not always effective if your liver is particularly toxic. I love this Vata Abhyanga Oil with Magnesium and Vitamin D. I’ve been using it all winter. Smells great!

A word about the doshas:

Vata is the most sensitive of the doshas and care should be taken not to attempt too intense of a cleanse. Rather than balancing the dosha, a harsh cleanse can easily drive Vata even more out of balance.

Vata is the dosha of depletion and so Vata-types should primarily focus on calming, nurturing and rejuvenating the dosha, rather than cleansing. Juice fasts are generally not the best type of cleanse for Vata types because they are cold, light and dry – all unbalancing.

Pitta types usually have the easiest time cleansing, especially in the spring when the weather is still cool. They have lots of internal heat and generally very strong digestive fires. Pitta types are also the ones who do best with green juices because of their cooling nature.

Kapha types are the least likely to even consider a cleanse, although they are the ones who benefit the most because of their often sluggish metabolism.

March is a very difficult month for Kapha types (please read my article on Kapha Season) and depression is a real problem at this time. They would much rather bury themselves under the covers for a couple of months than get up and get moving. Kapha types generally have both internal and external sluggishness which is especially prevalent at this time.

Remember that most of us are dual-dosha types and should put our emphasis on whichever dosha is dominant during a particular season (or any given moment, for that matter!)

Hang in there!

First and foremost, when doing any type of a cleanse, listen to your own body. Start with baby steps, perhaps just by assessing whether you’re chronically dehydrated or not, or by eliminating the habit of snacking in the evening.

If you overdue it, especially your first time around, you may do more harm than good. An over-rigorous cleanse can have the opposite effect and drive toxins deeper into the tissues or overtax the organs.

Consulting with an Ayurvedic practitioner is always a good idea to help you figure out your particular needs based on your constitution.

Unfortunately, we live in a toxic world now with a food system that does little to help us stay healthy. It’s up to us as individuals to make smart choices for ourselves and our children.

Soon the weather will change and tempt us outdoors to play. We can take advantage of this last bit of winter down time to clear out that which is weighing us down – both literally and figuratively.

Ayurveda is all about common sense and feeling into the wisdom of your own body. This is how our ancestors lived and thrived for generations. Ayurveda is not some complicated restrictive system of medicine only for academics. It is our birthright and the knowledge that it brings is part of our ancestral memory. Tap into it and you will be amazed!

Much love,
Barbara

Here are some great resources to help motivate and support you.

Spring Colorado Cleanse: 14 Day Guided Ayurvedic Detox and Digestion Rejuvenation
Banyan Botanicals Spring Cleanse Guide
How to do Panchakarma at Home
How to Choose a Panchakarma Retreat Center
The Easy Way to Stop Smoking By Allen Carr (It really works!)

Are you unsure of your Ayurvedic constitution? Click HERE to take a simple quiz.

Need a little help getting back in balance? Sign up for a consultation via phone or Skype (or come see me in person in NYC!).

Posted in Ayurveda, Beets, Change of Seasons, Cleansing, Detoxifying, Digestive Health, Doshas, General Wellness, Kapha, Self-Care | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

“Can You Believe It?”

uganda2One day last week the water in our building was shut off. I knew it was happening and I had time to fill my bathtub so I could flush my toilet and fill some bottles and pots for drinking, cooking and washing dishes.

But when I went to brush my teeth and had to go get a cup of water to use, it struck me just how much we take water for granted.

When I celebrated my birthday last December I started a campaign with charity: water to try to raise money to help people without access to clean water. My lofty goal was to raise $2000.00. Two months later, I’m halfway to that goal. I have 32 days left until the campaign ends.

You can still join my campaign!

One of the reasons I was drawn to charity: water was that 100% of the money donated goes directly to the people in need.

Many of you generously dug into your pockets to help me and I’m so grateful. One donation in particular caught my eye. It was from little seven-year-old, Maya and her sister, Sarina, whose mother had shared my campaign with them.

A few weeks after my birthday, I received an email from their mom, saying that Maya had written a letter that she wanted to share with me.

With their permission, I want to share it with all of you. Thank you, Maya, for so eloquently stating just how tragic the water situation is for so many people, especially young children. You are helping to make this world a better place!

Maya's letter:websized

Maya, Age 7 – 2nd Grade

Much love and gratitude,
Barbara

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From Winter Boots to Flip-Flops and Back Again

Hawaii:Websized

Hiked to the top of the Pu’u Olai Cinder Cone near Makena Beach. Wales were playing below!

There’s a saying in Ayurveda – “The mind loves change but the body needs routine.” The more I try to live an Ayurvedic lifestyle, the more I know this to be true.

I just returned from a ten day trip to Maui – a lifelong dream of mine which came true thanks to my energy healing teacher who planned a retreat there for a group of her students.

As much as I’d dreamed of Hawaii and craved being in serious Nature, my body was deep into hibernation mode here in cold, wintry Jersey City. I couldn’t believe how reluctant I was to come out of my cocoon. I didn’t dare say this to more than a few people who I knew would understand – I was already hearing enough envious comments about my trip.

But, of course, I knew how wonderful it would be. Not only would I be in paradise, but I would be in the loving company of this second family of mine who were coming from all corners of the world. So I anxiously (over)packed my bags, like only a Vata-type can do and hopped onto an 11 hour flight (the longest I’ve ever been on).

Can I just take a moment to acknowledge how miraculous that last sentence is? For most of my adult life, I was TERRIFIED of flying. I would have lost five pounds just worrying about getting on the plane and have fortified myself with dramamine and anxiety medication.

Then I learned to meditate and one by one my anxieties and phobias melted away. I wanted to make note of this for those of you reading who might still be gripped by a fear of some sort.

It’s a whole lot easier enduring a long flight with a smorgasbord of free movies on the seat back in front of you (Thank you, United Airlines!).

I had an amazing trip. Birds and crashing ocean waves greeted me every morning after sleeping with the balcony door opened wide.

I stood under a waterfall and saw trees that took my breath away. I swam in the ocean and hiked to a hilltop where we watched wales breaching and playing in the water below.

TreeI was in photography heaven wherever I looked. This little pink beauty must be a tropical version of the fairy duster plant I saw in the Arizona desert.

Pink BeautyNo coat or boots or hat and gloves. The balmy, breezy weather was perfect.

Precious time was spent with my fellow students and teacher, learning more about myself and others as we all journey in this life together.

I laughed more than I have in a very long time. These friends with their incredible stories of pain and hardship know how to leave it all behind and be in the moment. Laughter really is the best medicine.

My Ayurvedic routine was knocked off course a bit – mostly from a food perspective. But I went with the flow and tried not to over think things. Nothing bad happened and I felt pretty darn good the whole time I was there. I was in Hawaii, after all!

That being said, there were a few basic principles that I followed that I think really helped me adjust to the time/weather changes. In short, I quickly found a new routine to stick to while I was there.

  • I got up relatively early rather than sleeping late, which always makes me feel groggy and a little lazy.
  • I kept up with my daily meditation which made a huge difference.
  • I was ever-vigilant as to the temperature – making sure I was dressed accordingly. Going from one climate to another can easily make us sick.
  • I made sure dinner was my smallest meal of the day and I tried to eat as early as possible.
  • I was in bed most nights by 9:00 or 10:00.

Of course, just as I’d not wanted to leave my cocoon, I didn’t want to leave Maui. I tend to dig in and feel at home somewhere and not want to move. But there was no question – I was headed back to Jersey City.

As everyone warned me, the jet lag is much worse coming back east. I marvel at people who can sleep sitting up on a plane. I didn’t sleep a wink and so I’m still recovering, but am quickly adjusting and slipping back into my cocoon as it’s freezing here!

I’m taking note of my list above.  Establishing a routine is one of the most challenging things for me but it has made such a difference in my daily life that it’s well worth the effort.

A little bit of Ayurvedic awareness (really, it’s just common sense) has helped make me a much better traveler. Each time I venture out things become a little easier and I get to check something/somewhere off of my bucket list. Gotta love the wisdom of this most ancient system which aptly means the knowledge of life.

Aloha! (I had to say that!)

Barbara

sunset:websized

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Are You Ready for Kapha Season?

Kapha Season:Websized
Cold, wet and heavy are a few qualities associated with Kapha dosha and therefore, with Kapha Season (late winter – spring). Can’t you just feel it in the photo above that I took from my apartment window last February?

Ayurveda doesn’t put exact dates on the seasons because changeability is one of its principles. To truly live an Ayurvedic lifestyle you must stay in tune with Nature on a day-to-day basis.   

Here in the Northeastern US where I live, the transition from Vata Season to Kapha Season generally begins around mid-February, but all you need to do is step outside and feel the sudden change from dry (Vata) to damp (Kapha). This is a much better indicator than a set date.

In either case, Ayurveda believes that the transition between seasons is perilous in terms of our health, and we need to be particularly vigilant as our body adjusts to the changing climate. If you start to pay attention, you will notice that more people get sick (and even die) during seasonal transitions.

For those of us with a lot of Vata dosha in our constitution, this time of year comes as a welcome relief as Vata Season comes to an end. But for many of my friends and clients who are Kapha-types, they find themselves feeling lethargic, congested and oftentimes depressed.

Water is Kapha’s primary element. Earth is secondary. It’s no surprise that someone with a lot of Kapha in their constitution will often complain of feeling “stuck in the mud”, especially during this time of year.

 The more we begin to pay attention to the influence of the particular dosha which dominates the day, season, or time of life, the more successful we become at achieving balance.

In the eastern system of the chakras, Kapha is associated with the first chakra (muladhara/root–element of earth) located at the base of the spine/genital region, and the second chakra (swadhisthana/sacral–element of water) located below the navel where the reproductive organs are located.

Kapha is Mother Earth personified – sturdy, grounded, solid and reliable. And Kapha’s association with the 2nd chakra/water element accounts for the strong sexuality and sensuality which Kapha types embody.

Qualities of Kapha dosha are cool, smooth, oily, soft, slow, steady, dense, heavy. Its tastes are sweet, salty and sour so the tastes that help to balance Kapha are bitter, astringent and pungent.

Kapha is our body mass, structure and fluids, and makes up our muscles, fat and bone. It is seated mainly in the chest, but also in the throat, sinuses, nose, head, mouth, stomach, joints, cytoplasm, plasma, and especially in secretions of the body-like mucus.

The mucus of Kapha protects precious tissue in the body but as it accumulates it needs to be expelled or it will lead to disease. Roughly 10% of diseases are caused by Kapha imbalances (60% by Vata, 30% by Pitta), but stagnation and/or accumulation of mucus in the body is often the culprit.

This is the reason so many of us have colds and stomach bugs at this time of year. Eating a heavy, fat, Vata-pacifying diet throughout the fall and early winter can lead to sluggish digestion and result in mucus buildup in the stomach, especially for Kapha types.

Often when Kapha season arrives, Kapha people will find themselves needing to vomit. In fact, a treatment in Ayurveda’s panchakarma for Kapha imbalances is known as vamana–therapeutic vomiting.

Lungs and sinuses also become congested and the lymphatic system can become sluggish. Kapha season is a time for cleansing and eating more detoxifying foods. Beets, bitter greens, apples, pomegranates, millet, buckwheat, aduki beans, ghee and most spices are all good choices for eliminating excess kapha.

Tips for a Kapha-pacifying diet can be found below under Helpful Resources. Just don’t be too rigid in trying to follow it. Instead, look for foods on the list that you like, and eat lots of them. Common sense should tell you that forcing yourself to eat anything that doesn’t appeal to you will not have a positive effect.

Bear in mind that even those of us without a lot of Kapha in our constitution can benefit from an Ayurvedic cleanse in the spring and by eating seasonal foods. Mother Nature, in all of her wisdom provides exactly the right foods we need each season. Just by eating local foods grown by our farmers we will be living Ayurvedically.

Because childhood is the Kapha time of life (birth to age 18), it’s the reason children have so many upper respiratory illnesses and seem to be forever producing mucus!

When reading the lists below, keep in mind that we all have the three doshas in us but most of us are dual doshas. Therefore, some of us will relate to these traits a lot, some a bit, and some, almost none at all.

Physical traits of Kapha-types:

  • Large in stature, with sturdy bones
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Large strong teeth
  • Strong sense of taste and smell
  • Eyes are usually large, warm and almost liquid in appearance
  • Thick, shiny hair
  • Strong clear nails
  • Steady appetite
  • Deep sleeper
  • Strong stamina

Traits of a balanced Kapha-type:

  • Warm and compassionate
  • Nurturing (Gives the best hugs!)
  • Loving, loyal and kind
  • Excellent partners and parents
  • Strong, sturdy and steady
  • Grounded
  • Even-tempered
  • Hard-working
  • Patient

Traits of an out-of-balance Kapha-type:

  • Depressed
  • Attached to material world (potential for hoarding) and to others
  • Possessive and greedy
  • Lethargic (too much of the earth element
  • Weight gain
/water retention (too much of the water element)
  • 
Laziness

  • Unforgiving and stuck in the past. Kaphas have memories like elephants!

  • Passivity

  • Unable or unwilling to change
  • 
Health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure

  • Buildup of mucus (spring colds and allergies are common)

What Kapha-types need to do to stay balanced and healthy:

  • Exercise daily (especially in the early morning)
  • Get up and get moving before 6:00 a.m. (two hours before sunrise is optimal) and don’t take afternoon naps. Sleeping during Kapha times of day (6-10) result in sluggishness and a Kapha-type will lack motivation for the rest of the day. Because the water element is so strong in Kapha types, they need to keep moving or they will stagnate like an obstructed river. 
  • De-clutter to lighten their load, physically, mentally and emotionally
  • Sip hot herbal/spiced teas instead of drinking too much water. Avoid cold beverages altogether.
  • Reduce foods that are cold, heavy and oily. Stay away from sweet, sour and salty and instead add foods that are light, dry, warm, pungent, bitter and astringent.
  • Reduce mucus-producing foods such as dairy, wheat and oats.
  • Avoid heavy meats and fried foods
  • Keep warm and dry, especially during cold, damp Kapha season.
  • Follow this Kapha-pacifying daily routine: Up before 6:00 a.m. (or, ideally, up to two hours before sunrise), meditation and morning workout, light breakfast at 8:00 a.m. Healthy lunch (biggest meal of the day) 12:30-1:00 p.m. and a light supper at 5:00-6:00 p.m. Bedtime between 10-11 p.m. Kaphas don’t need as much sleep as the other doshas (they tend to sleep too much), but a regular bedtime and restorative sleep is beneficial.
  • Kaphas can fast easier than the other doshas and it will help jumpstart their sluggish metabolism. They should definitely avoid eating past 6:00 p.m., 7:00 at the latest. This will give them a mini fast each evening. The word breakfast means just that–break fast.
  • Add spices to food to spark digestion. Be careful with salt intake and avoid table salt altogether.
  • Raw honey is a good sweetener to reduce Kapha. Buy local raw honey during Kapha season as it can help with springtime allergies. Just don’t overindulge, which is also a Kapha trait.

Kapha types make excellent teachers, healers, chefs, or any profession where nurturing is involved. They are physically hard workers because of their incredible stamina. I doubt that there’s a person reading this article who doesn’t know and love a Kapha-type.

If you have a Kapha in your life and want to support them during this difficult season, encourage them to move (Vatas are good at this!), and motivate, fire them up, and help them organize and clear the clutter from their mental, emotional, and physical world (Pittas are good at this!). Share this article with them because it’s likely they won’t choose to read it on their own!

These are all perfect ways to show your love for a Kapha and they will return that love with the best warm hug you’ve ever had!

Love,
Barbara

P.S. Are you unsure of your Ayurvedic constitution? Click HERE to take a simple quiz. Need a little help getting back in balance? Sign up for a consultation via phone or Skype (or come see me in person in NYC!).

Helpful Resources:

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Silence is (Sometimes) Golden

SilenceThere was a period a couple of years ago when I all but stopped listening to music. I just wanted quiet. Silence. I walked around with my noise-canceling headphones on without any music playing. I was going through a rough patch both emotionally and physically and music just seemed more than I could bear. This went on for a very long time.

Then I started putting my headphones on and listening to music when I first woke up and before I fell asleep at night. This sometimes had a cathartic effect – I would find myself sobbing when I played certain songs. A different kind of healing – but healing, for sure.

What is it about music that reaches the very depths of our souls and tugs at our heartstrings? Why does a song from decades ago take us back to a first love, a breakup, or even farther back to a song that used to play on our parents’ old phonograph?

I can’t imagine how intense this must be for a musician. Especially one who has written the music and performs it for years on end. I recently heard a musician comment about how singing a song can reopen old wounds over and over again. Perhaps though, with each performance, a little more of the buried emotion gets released.

I wrote about how we all have varying sensitivities to the five senses, depending on our innate constitution. Hearing is definitely one of mine. Going without listening to music for such an extended period of time seemed like a matter of survival, a healing of sorts. It was just too much for me, from a sensory perspective as well as an emotional one.

Of course, usually it works the other way – listening to music is one of the best ways to heal.

Sound is an integral part of the yogic/Ayurvedic tradition. We are vibratory beings as is everything else in nature. Om is believed to be the first sound of the Universe and all you have to do is be present in a group when it’s chanted to feel its power.

Mantras are chosen for their high vibration. As we chant them, they help to raise our own vibration.

Years ago in a class learning how to tone when doing energy healing work, I felt such a strong connection with my fellow student who was laying on the table, that I was taken aback. I was toning her heart chakra and felt as though the sound coming out of me (more powerful than I would have thought possible) was permeating her heart.

This was a mere two weeks after my partner, Ralph, had died, and my own heart was fragile. But that sound roaring out of me healed something in myself, though it was directed at my friend.

I’ve come to realize that I prefer music with lyrics to plain old jazz or classical music. Must be my love of words, I guess. That being said, I’m hopeless at knowing the words to most songs!

Having reached a happy medium now, I am aware of how silence can (sometimes) be golden but music can feed your soul. I try to find time in my day for both.

I don’t really have any scientific explanation for any of this. I’m sure it’s out there but I kind of prefer the mystery of it. I’m just musing about something that’s been on my mind and I would love for you to weigh in with your own thoughts.

I always marveled at my daughter’s ability to study while listening to music. It unsettled me just to watch her. I’m sitting in a cafe right now, trying to write this, and although I have on my noise-canceling headphones, the music they’re playing is making it difficult.

Time to head back home to my cave where I can get a dose of silence.

Much love,
Barbara

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