Ginger and Turmeric – Super Roots to the Rescue!

barbara-sinclair-holistic-health-ginger-and-turmeric-super-roots-to-the-rescueI still can’t believe that the first time I bought fresh ginger and turmeric was well into my 50’s. My mother was Polish and well, ginger and turmeric weren’t high on her list of ingredients. In fact, I can’t ever remember seeing either of them in our kitchen. Ditto kale, pomegranates, collards, etc. I mostly remember green beans, mashed potatoes and iceberg lettuce. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’d give anything for some of my mom’s golumpki (stuffed cabbage) right now. :)

Fast forward many years later through a chronic illness to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where I finally started paying attention to REAL whole foods.

Enter ginger and turmeric – super roots to the rescue!

Ginger and turmeric have become two of my favorites and so when I discovered that one of my beloved farmers (Lani’s Farm) from my old farmer’s market across the river had FRESH ginger and turmeric root, well, I just about did a happy dance and headed back to the old neighborhood.

Some people get excited about chocolate or wine, I get giddy when I see whole, fresh, pesticide-free produce!

I thought this would be a good time to talk about these two super roots because some folks will be feeling stuffed and bloated tomorrow. With a little help from your friends ginger and turmeric, you might feel a whole lot better.


Ginger is one of the famous “trinity roots” in Ayurveda (along with onions and garlic). In fact, many Ayurvedic practitioners say that ginger is one of the most important spices we can consume and should consume – every day. They literally consider it a medicine chest in itself.

This super root can help

  • Improve digestion
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Thin the blood, help blood circulation
  • Eliminate toxins from the body
  • Stop nausea in its tracks – great for morning/sea sickness
  • Prevent colds and flu, or shorten duration
  • Keep joints healthy
  • Immunity

But not all ginger is created equal. Fresh and dry ginger have very different properties and assimilate accordingly

Fresh ginger will surprisingly help reduce a fever, eliminate heartburn and ease migraines.

Dried ginger is very pungent and helps clear congestion. It’s most often used to eliminate cold and damp in the body and to help with respiratory ailments. Because of its heating/drying properties, it should be used sparingly if Pitta (heat) or Vata (dry) is in excess.

A great way to kindle your digestive fire (especially before lunch and dinner) is to either

  • Slice an ⅛” of fresh ginger and put a little sea salt on it. Chew before your meals
  • Grate a little fresh ginger, add a pinch of sea salt, few drops of lemon juice, ¼ tsp. of raw honey and eat before meals. You can add a pinch of ajwain seeds for an extra digestive aid

You can find really fresh dry ginger here.


If you don’t know about the healing properties of this super root, well you might just be living under a rock!

So much has been written lately about turmeric and its healing properties, especially in terms of brain health. India, where this beautiful golden yellow spice comes from and is a daily staple, has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s Disease – in fact, it’s practically nonexistent.

Dr. John Douillard says “Because the brain is predominantly fatty tissue, fat-soluble toxins may accumulate in the brain and cause damage. As a fat-soluble substance, turmeric may have an affinity for chelating (removing) fat-soluble toxins out of the deep tissues.”

In addition to supporting cognition, turmeric boasts these healing properties

  • Supports our moods, helps sleep, fights depression
  • Supports our gut and the flow of bile – a healthy gut is vital for our overall health
  • Amazing anti-inflammatory – inflammation is known to be at the root of many diseases
  • Boosts antioxidant levels
  • Anti-aging
  • Supports heart health
  • Nourishes the skin
  • Supports the nervous system
  • Helps with liver function
  • Supports healthy blood sugar levels
  • Promotes digestion

If you can find fresh turmeric, great, but often the powdered is much more readily available. Try to find the freshest you can. It should be a deep orange/yellow color. I like to buy my powdered turmeric here.

If you can add these spices starting tomorrow when digestion issues are rampant, great! If not, start adding turmeric and ginger to your daily routine and see how you feel.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Much love,


Posted in Ayurveda, General Wellness | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Who Went and Put the Holidays Smack Dab in the Middle of Vata Season?


barbara-sinclair-who-went-and-put-the-holidays-smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-vata-seasonThis year, armed with my ever-growing knowledge of Ayurveda, I am facing the holidays with a new sense of understanding, freedom, peace and CALM. Usually, as soon as Halloween is over, I’m filled with panic and dread. 

Who went and put the holidays smack dab in the middle of Vata Season?

The holidays seem to be all about staying organized, time management, scheduling, and upsetting your regular routine. Learning about Ayurveda finally made me understand why the holiday months have always derailed me.

All of those qualities that help to make this time enjoyable and minimally stressful are, unfortunately, not characteristics of Vata dosha. 

Vata-types often tend to be disorganized, creative, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants types, and extremely prone to depletion.

Of course, there are exceptions, and most of us have constitutions that are dual-doshic or tri-doshic. But for someone with a lot of Vata in their constitution, this time of year can seem impossible to endure. Vata-types can feel chaotic and unhinged even on days when there’s no holiday in sight.

So, how do Pitta-types handle the holidays? Well, they are generally the most organized of the doshas. Although Pitta-types can be overworked and overstressed (many Type A’s are Pitta), and we live in a very Vata-paced world, they at least have the skills to get through. 

They might have their shopping done months ago, cookies are baked and in the freezer and the tree is bought and decorated. They attack their to-do list with a vengeance.

And what about the beloved Kapha-type? Well, they might not be as motivated as the Pitta-type or disorganized as the Vata-type, but what is most important to them is family.

So the holidays can either fill them with joy or depress them, depending on the state of affairs in their family. A Kapha-type can easily slip into depression if they find themselves alone at the holidays.

If we can take a moment to understand each other better based on our constitutions, the holidays just might be a little less stressful and more enjoyable for all of us.

I admit that I feel a certain tenderness for my fellow Vatas during the holiday months. Being creative types we find ourselves in a dilemma – we love the twinkling lights, the music, the sights and smells of the holidays – but we often lack the energy or skills to navigate them successfully.

Thanks to Ayurveda, once I recognized these differences for what they are (our constitutions never change) I was able to let go of unrealistic expectations I had put on myself. I now do just a fraction of what I used to. 

I don’t bake cookies or send cards or even buy many gifts anymore. This seemed criminal at first, when one by one I dropped these to-do’s from my list. I’ll put some lights and ornaments on my nine foot cactus and maybe go into the city to see the decorations.

I already feel myself slipping into hibernation in spite of the unseasonably warm weather. I love to burrow in, read and watch movies.

It’s no coincidence that this time of year is ripe with spiritual gifts. The veil between our world and the spiritual world is very thin now and it’s a time for deep meditation, reflection and dreaming.

Vata-types are generally very spiritual. They often live more comfortably “in the clouds” rather than grounded in this world. This is even more pronounced during Vata Season.

Please nurture the Vata-types in your life a little extra during the holidays. Cook for them, hug them, lighten their load, keep them warm and be understanding of their limitations during this challenging time.

If you have a Kapha-type in your life, make an extra effort to spend family time with them and be vigilant for signs of depression.

And Pitta-types, this quote is for you (Vatas too!):

“The number one reason I hear each day that is causing too many of us stress is feeling like we have too much to do. In some cases, some of these things are necessary. In many cases, we take things on or convince ourselves the task is a must, when in truth no one will die if we don’t do it nor will you be liked any less. AND, as you let go of having to do it all, you create space for others to take on these tasks. Just remember, they may not do it exactly like you; that’s another topic for another day.”  —Jennifer Bolus

Wishing you all a calm, stress-free and happy holiday season!

Much love,

P.S. Don’t know your Ayurvedic constitution? Click HERE to take a simple quiz.

Posted in Ayurveda, Holidays, Self-Care, Stress, Vata | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

The Patience to Peel a Pomegranate

barbara-sinclair-the-patience-t0-peel-a-pomegranateSometimes you need to put in a little effort to reap the reward. Such is the case with a pomegranate.

It takes patience to peel a pomegranate.

Lots of folks pass up this powerhouse fruit because it seems like too much work.

Or the seeds have a funny consistency.

Or it’s not sweet enough.

This beautiful red fruit is chock-full of goodness. Some of its many health benefits include:

  • High in antioxidants and potassium
  • Heart healthy
  • Purported to lower cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Immunity booster
  • High in Vitamin C and K
  • Cancer inhibitor
  • Fertility booster
  • Astringent – an important taste many of us are lacking

Pomegranates are in season now and are a primo food for fall detoxing. They help draw excess summer heat out of the body and cleanse the liver – both important steps before cold weather sets in.

You can eat them as is, juice them, throw them in a smoothie or a salad.

My favorite way to eat pomegranates is to combine them with a diced apple, shredded carrots, beets, radishes, cabbage and/or kale or other greens. Toss with apple cider vinegar, olive oil and sea salt. Yum!

There are a couple of easy ways to de-seed a pomegranate.

  1. Cut the crown (protruding blossom end) off the pomegranate, removing with it some of the pale-yellow pith. Take care not to pierce the seeds within.
  2. Lightly score the skin in quarters from stem to crown end.
  3. Immerse the scored fruit in a large bowl of cool water and soak for 5 minutes. Holding the fruit under water, break sections apart with your fingers, separating the seeds from membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Discard skin and membranes (you can use the membrane/pith in your juice or smoothie – it also has many health properties). Drain the seeds and dry on paper towels.

Or, here’s another quick and easy method:

I learned to love pomegranates because Ayurveda reveres them as a superfood and, well, it’s the fruit of the gods. In fact, it’s one of the oldest fruits known to man.

After all, we have Persephone and the pomegranate to thank for winter every year.

Much love,


Secrets Revealed: The Powerful Health Benefits of the Pomegranate
Why Pomegranates Are Fall’s Superfruits



Posted in Autumn, Detoxifying, Heart Health | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Becoming an Earth Keeper


Mother Earth (Pachamama)

Last weekend I traveled again to the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. I wanted to return after having a wonderful experience there just a few weeks ago.

Serendipitously, my friend Robin mentioned that she would be there attending The Great Shamanic Initiation. I checked Omega’s website and immediately signed up. I had no idea what to expect, but that little voice I’ve learned to pay attention to was surely guiding me to attend.

I arrived a day early so that I could spend time in Nature – walking the grounds, sitting by the lake, lying in a hammock, hiking in the woods.

I was supposed to go on a group hike but when no one showed up, I took the map and headed into the woods alone. Did I say I have no sense of direction?

barbara-sinclair-the-pathYep, I got lost. Blissfully lost.

I will admit to feeling moments of panic as I searched the trees for the faded orange dots that (kind of) mark the way. The trail itself was practically unrecognizable – covered with fallen leaves, and sometimes gurgling water underneath.

I remembered the Omega employee telling me “You really can’t get lost out there. You’re never very far from campus.” Hmm. I felt pretty lost.

They really need to repaint those dots.

I’m sure the fact that I was in picture-taking heaven due to the brilliant changing leaves might have made me lose my way. So, I put my camera away and earnestly tried to get my bearings – using the sun (yes, the sun!) to guide me.

Eventually I found a trail marker that said “shortcut to campus” which I thought wise to take since I’d been gone for 2 ½ hours.

I never saw another soul.

The trees were mostly golden with splashes of red here and there, mixed in with all shades of green. It was crisp and cold, intensifying the fragrance of the pine trees.

barbara-sinclair-omega-hikeAcorns were raining down from the oak trees.

This city girl was in a state of bliss. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if I’d tried.

There couldn’t have been a more perfect preparation for the weekend before me.

Sometimes it’s hard to put into words how deeply an experience affects you. Changes you. I still have goosebumps.

It is rare for indigenous shamans from South America to leave their countries to share their traditions and wisdom. In The Great Shamanic Initiation, we have the unique opportunity to receive teachings for personal transformation and renewal directly from the Q’ero shamans from the high Andes in Peru.
— Omega Institute

Alberto Villoldo and Marcela Lobos of the Four Winds Society had brought four Q’ero shamans to initiate us as Earth Keepers.

Throughout the ages, secret societies of Native American medicine men and women carefully guarded their ancient wisdom teachings and acted as stewards of nature. These “Earth Keepers” existed in many nations and were called by many names; in the Andes and the Amazon, they are known as the Laika or shamans.

Earth Keepers teach us how to rewrite our stories about our lives, to do what the shamans call “dreaming the world into being”.
— Alberto Villoldo    

I don’t know how it happened, that in my sixth decade of life I should become so deeply in love with Mother Nature. I don’t think I’m anything special – I know this phenomenon has happened to a lot of my friends.

But I take very seriously what’s happening to our beloved planet. It’s dying because of us.

in fact, the sad news from the Q’ero shamans as they prophesied in “The Pulse of the Earth” is that it’s too late to reverse the damage we’ve done. Mother Earth (Pachamama) is already set in motion to right what has happened. To heal herself.

According to the shamans, the outcome of events has been cast. 2016 will see a continuation of extreme climate events – especially in wind and water. “What will come, will happen”, they say.

Even if you don’t believe this, surely you can see with your own eyes.

The oceans are dying, man is decimating areas vital for our survival like the Amazon, all in the name of money and greed. Cataclysmic weather has become the norm. And on and on.

So, what can we do?

When I began studying energy medicine several years ago, I learned that the most important thing i could do was to work on raising my own vibration so that it would ripple out towards others.

It is our collective positive vibration that will allow us to weather this greatest of storms.

We must open our hearts, heal ourselves, send love, be love, pray and give back to Mother Nature in any way we can.

I, along with about 200 other Earth Keepers, was given The Star Rites, or Mosoq Karpay (The Rites of the Time to Come).

Following the “despachos” (ritualistic offerings of mesa, or medicine bundles) in a ceremony, the shamans administered the Mosoq Karpay to each of us, one at a time, transmitting the energies originating with the ancestors of their lineage.

“The transmission of the Mosoq Karpay is the ceremony representing the end of one’s relationship to time. It is a process of the heart.

This process of Becoming is considered more important than the prophecies themselves. The Karpay (rites) plant the seed of knowledge, the seed of Pachacuti, in the luminous body of the recipient. It is up to each person to water and tend the seed so that it can grow and blossom. The rites are a transmission of potential; one must then make oneself available to destiny. The Karpays connect the person to an ancient lineage of knowledge and power that cannot be accessed by the individual. It can only be summoned by a tribe”.
Prophecies of the Q’ero Inca Shamans

These shamans could have stayed hidden on their mountain. But their beloved Pachamama is dying, due to our selfish ways, and so they’ve traveled far from their home to share their wisdom.

“The new caretakers of the Earth will come from the West, and those that have made the greatest impact on Mother Earth now have the moral responsibility to remake their relationship with Her, after remaking themselves.”
–Don Antonio Morales, a master Q’ero shaman

So, I’m asking now, “Who’s with me?”

Much love,


Posted in Healing, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Did You Know Your Lungs Need Extra TLC in the Fall When Grief Can Arise?


Pears are an excellent food to help keep your lungs healthy

What do pears have to do with the lungs and grief?

I had no idea myself until a three-month bout with whooping cough several years ago gave me a whole new reverence for the lungs, and the pear.

Ayurveda and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) revere the pear for its lung-healing properties. Its cooling nature helps when there is too much heat in the lungs and a cough producing too much mucus has resulted.

According to both Ayurveda and TCM, the lungs and lower intestine have a connection, and in the fall and late winter lung problems are often accompanied by constipation.

Enter the mighty pear which is a wonderful digestive aid that helps to normalize bowel function.

Keeping the lungs healthy has a tremendous influence on all of the major organs that lie below them. Pears not only nourish the lungs and the throat, they help to clear phlegm and are anti-inflammatory as well.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, the lungs are often compromised during the change of seasons, especially summer into fall and winter into spring. The body struggles to adjust to the change in weather and immunity can become weakened.

I think most of us associate grief and sadness with the heart. But it is actually the lungs which are the repository for these emotions.

Ayurvedic teacher Vasant Lad once told me that old grief which accumulates in the lungs is like stale air and needs to be expelled by deep pranayamic breathing

The breathing technique which is especially effective here is taking a deep breath (from the belly) and completely expelling it while making the sound “ssssssss” (like a snake).

Almost every healer I’ve ever worked with has gravitated to my heart/lungs as an area that needs extra TLC. They tell me that old, deep grief is/was “part of my story”.

For many of us, this is ancestral grief as well as grief from this present lifetime.

A wise and gifted acupuncturist once told me “My dear, you have so much grief, it’s buried in your bones.” As I was reeling from this shocking statement (I felt perfectly happy at the time) she inserted a needle in the center of my chest and it was as if a tsunami of tears rose up and out of me. I sobbed uncontrollably (and this was a group acupuncture session!) for twenty minutes.

I will never forget that experience.

Of course, the heart and lungs both reside in the Fourth Chakra (commonly referred to as the Heart Chakra) and are intricately entwined, both from an emotional and physical point of view. So, while we are nurturing our lungs, we are nurturing our heart, and vice-versa.

It’s officially fall here in the Northeastern US and so it’s probably no coincidence that I was drawn to post a couple of things about grief on my Facebook page last week and that I’ve been feeling that familiar constriction in my chest.

Time for some deep reflection and to amp up the pranayama practice (I always seem to fall off this wagon).

I’m adding lung-pacifying foods and herbal support, as well. Two great products that I like are Lung Formula and Lung Care Extract.

And don’t forget the mighty pear! Pears are abundant in the farmer’s market right now so I’m enjoying them raw, stewed in my oatmeal, quinoa, etc. or as a sweet treat sauteed with cinnamon, cloves, ghee and a little maple syrup or honey. So yummy and soothing for our beloved lungs.

Much love,

Additional Resources:

“Grief and the Lungs” By Emma Suttie, D.Ac
Keys to Respiratory Immunity From Maharishi Ayurveda
Breathe: Ayurvedic Tips For Healthy Lungs


Posted in Autumn, Ayurveda, General Wellness, Immune System, Traditional Chinese Medicine | Leave a comment

What Does Cold, Windy Weather Have to Do With Anxiety? It’s Vata Season!

barbara-sinclair-what-do-cold-wind-and-anxiety-have-in-commonHere we are again, at the juncture of the seasons. Where I live in the Northeastern US, it seemed as though the high heat and humidity would never leave. And then all of a sudden, it was hat and scarf weather. Windy, cold and wet. 

Yesterday I bundled up and went outside only to find it was warm again. Had to march back upstairs and peel away the layers.

But soon the cold will cause the leaves to change color, dry up and blow off the trees with a little help from the wind.

Ayurveda is very cautionary about the change of seasons. Our bodies need extra-special TLC as the climate shifts and different elements take charge.

“The Ayurvedic texts say that a disease can take root in the body only during the junctions between the seasons, when all nature is in flux. Because of the upheaval dominating these junctions, the body’s natural immunity becomes virtually defenseless against impending disease.” -Maya Tiwari

In Vata Season, the elements of air and ether predominate. This is shifting from Pitta Season, where fire and water were abundant.

Note: If you’re still experiencing any heat-related symptoms in the body (rashes, acidity, etc.) you might want to read this article I wrote recently. 

It’s always important to cleanse the body of excesses from the previous season and Mother Nature has just the right foods to help.

The air element in Vata seems easier to comprehend than ether (or space). We recognize the wind blowing and also that the air element inside the body is what moves everything.

But what role does ether play in the body? Here’s a great article by Dr. Marc Halpern from the California College of Ayurveda which explains how this mysterious element behaves in the body.

Vata dosha is dry, mobile, cold, light, rough, clear and subtle.

Whether or not Vata is predominant in your constitution (take this quiz to determine yours), all of these Vata characteristics can bring about an imbalance.

Because Vata by nature is movement, it rules the other two doshas, Pitta and Kapha. Nothing happens without Vata. There would be no breath, no blood coursing through our veins, no elimination, no thought processes.

Vata is the queen (or king) of the doshas.

And it can wreak havoc during fall and early winter. This I know for sure. The more awareness I place on this changeable dosha, the more I am able to keep my anxiety and fear at bay.

Vata dosha, more than anything else, needs to be deeply nurtured and nourished.

In addition to Vata Season, there are also Vata times of the day – 2:00-6:00 am and 2:00-6:00 pm. These are hours when you might find increased Vata. Bear this in mind during your day.

Here are a few signs that your Vata dosha might be increased and needs balancing:

  • Feelings of heightened anxiety, nervousness and fear
  • Bothered by cold and wind
  • Sleep is interrupted and light
  • Excess worrying
  • Excess stimulation is bothersome – i.e. crowds and loud noises
  • Intestinal gas, constipation – the colon is the seat of Vata dosha
  • Dryness – skin, hair, stools, eyes, etc.
  • Feeling disorganized and overwhelmed
  • Can’t sit still
  • Fatigue following bursts of energy. Crash and burn (this is typical of Vata energy)
  • Depletion

Like increases like in Ayurveda, so think opposite to bring your Vata back into balance.

  • Dress warmly and keep a scarf around your neck, especially when windy. The back of the neck is very vulnerable to wind.
  • Eat more warm, gently cooked seasonal foods. Root vegetables are especially grounding for Vatas.
  • Avoid cold drinks. Opt instead for warm beverages like spiced herbal teas, warm spiced milk, or warm lemon water with honey.
  • Eat enough healthy fats and oils (especially ghee)
  • Avoid over-exercising, which can aggravate already high-energy Vata. Gentle yoga, tai chi and qigong are excellent choices.
  • Take quiet walks in Nature – it’s very grounding for airy Vatas.
  • Meditation and pranayama (breathing practice) can help soothe Vata anxiety and fear.
  • Daily self-massage with warm grounding oils like sesame or almond oil is extremely calming to the nervous system. Or, try an herbalized Vata oil.
  • Try to stay away from loud, noisy environments and when you can’t avoid them, take a moment to breathe deeply and find your inner calm.
  • Keep a regular routine with regards to sleeping, eating, working, etc. is imperative for Vatas, who love variety and can easily lose focus. An ideal bedtime is between 9:30–10:00pm.
  • Nurture yourself as much as possible on a daily basis!
  • Determine your Ayurvedic prakriti (click HERE). Follow the food guidelines for your constitution and you’ll be on the right track.

When balanced, Vata-type people are creative, optimistic, joyful, forgiving, flexible, and full of enthusiasm. They thrive on change and love to discover and experience new things. 

While fall has always ushered in feelings of high anxiety for me, so too has it been a time of super-charged creativity.

Each year I learn a little bit more about keeping the energy balanced, deeply nurturing myself and allowing myself to receive help from others. Especially those gifted with organizational skills. :) 

Vata Season is also a special time for going within and connecting to our Source. Vata people generally have a very spiritual nature. 

So, take the time to get quiet, meditate, be in Nature, and you might find yourself receiving amazing messages to guide you in your life.

May the winds of Vata be gentle this season for us all.

Much love,

Posted in Anxiety, Autumn, Ayurveda, Change of Seasons, General Wellness, Self-Care, Vata | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mother Nature, Words of Wisdom, and a Fairy Sanctuary


Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

You never know what gems await you when you venture out into the world.

I spent last weekend at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, NY and my mind, body and spirit drank in all kinds of goodness.

I’ve been to Omega many times over the years and always breathe a sigh of relief when I arrive. It’s like camp for adults because, well, it used to be a camp and still looks like one.

There are cabins, dormitories, camping, a mess hall (aka cafeteria), and acres of blessed woods and a lake.

A welcome sight, coming from Jersey City.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to smell pine trees and breathe in the clean crisp air as I was this year, having barely tolerated a hot, humid, dusty and construction-laden summer.

I love sitting down to meals and meeting new people. The kindest seekers seem to gravitate to this place.

I heard stories of grief, loss, determination, exploration, elevation, and miracles, told with open hearts, humor and grace.

All this while eating delicious locally grown food.

Omega Institute organic garden

Omega Institute organic garden

In the most perfect setting.

barbara-sinclair-lake-at-omegaYou’ve probably noticed that I’m forever quoting poet, spiritual teacher and storyteller, Mark Nepo. Well, his workshop, based on his book “The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be” was the reason for my Omega visit.

Sometimes we actively seek out a teacher. Sometimes they’re thrust upon us. And sometimes they serendipitously appear out of the blue.

Such was the case for me with Mark Nepo. I was watching Super Soul Sunday one day last year and saw his interview with Oprah. I was mesmerized by his grace, his authenticity, his humbleness and his incredibly beautiful words of wisdom.

I began with his “Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have”.

The short daily entries have become my daily soul breakfast.

Each day I read Mark’s words, so poetic and true, with my morning tea. And I sigh, always in agreement of the truth he has placed before me.

I’ve only met him once, and may never meet him again, but Mark Nepo has become my teacher. In his humbleness, Mark would probably say that all of us are as much his teachers as his students.

I have been devouring his books and audio recordings, feeding my heart and soul and feeling so blessed to have found this teacher at this particular time in my life.

I offer you a few gems from Mark Nepo. Perhaps his words will resonate with you, too.

“Poetry is the unexpected utterance of the soul.”

“You can’t conquer fear. You can only let it pass through like wind through a tree.”

“When we can follow what moves us, we break open what is possible and the light of the soul spills out of us.”

“Authentic living begins with our acceptance of what we’re given.”

“If you try to comprehend air before breathing it, you will die.”

“The time has come to put our stones down.
  For hands clutching stones can’t freely drum.
 And hearts fisting the past can’t freely sing.”

“Repetition is not failure,
Ask the waves, ask the leaves, ask the wind.”

Thank you, Mark Nepo.

One last share about my weekend. Many of you know about my affinity for fairies. You know who you are. If I had a dollar for every person, friend and stranger alike, who has told me I look like a fairy, I have fairy energy, etc. I’d be a wealthy woman.

I’ve even noticed my ears look strangely pointed, especially in photographs. :)

Perhaps it’s the reason I somehow feel at home when I visit the woods (although I’ve been a city girl my whole life). Who knows?

Anyway, after I arrived at Omega and put my things in my room, I went for a walk – heading down to the lake.

As I walked down the path, something made me glance to the left where my eyes beheld the sweetest little fairy sanctuary someone had built under a tree.

It wasn’t a big tree, I could have easily missed it, as most people I mentioned it to, had.

But there it was, a home for the wee ones, and a spot for us humans to sit and contemplate fantasy vs. reality, and the wonders of Mother Nature.

barbara-sinclair-fairy-sanctuaryA perfect weekend. I am so grateful.

Much love,


Posted in Inspiration, Learning, Nature | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Here Are My All-Natural Remedies for Depression and Anxiety – What Are Yours?

barbara-sinclair-all-natural-depression-remediesMany many years ago my doctor said to me “You really should be on medication. You have too many highs and lows.”

I stubbornly refused, telling her that the waxing and waning of my moods in many ways reflected my rhythm of making art. Some of my best work was created during the lows, some of it during the highs. And I was not going to mess with that.

I wanted to feel passion and pain and joy and suffering. All of them. They’re an equally important part of life and I didn’t want to feel flatlined.

While perhaps the people in my life might have felt otherwise, I’m grateful that my intuition back then guided me to refuse my doctor’s well-intentioned advice. I know far too many people who have succumbed to prescription meds for depression and anxiety, never to get off of them decades later.

Medication was suggested to me again, when I had fibromyalgia, after my divorce, and then years later, after my partner died. Again, I declined.

Let me just say that this is by no means a condemnation of anti-depressants or the people who take them.

I know many people who would say that medication saved their life. Literally. Especially Kapha-type individuals who often struggle with deep and long term depression.

We are all different and I can’t impose what has worked for me onto others.

But I’ve thought a lot about this lately, as depression has peeped into my life here and there – especially after my partner’s death.

It’s not a lay-around-the-house-unable-to-function kind of depression. Although I’ve experienced that phenomenon as well in the past few years, usually it’s a day or two here and there feeling blue and not wanting to be social.

And it’s not an I-can’t bear-to-be-alone kind of depression. Along with the artist thing, I’m an introvert at heart and so being alone comes naturally.

But I know the signs when I’ve let myself be solitary too long. And then, as if through mental telepathy, the friends who know me so well start to reach out and try to coax me from my cave.

We are, after all, not meant to be solitary creatures.

On my bike ride this morning I started to mentally compile a list of all the things that I’ve learned to turn to to when I feel anxiety or depression knocking on my door.

There are no drugs on this list. Not even any herbs. Nor foods that comfort me. Because, of course, potato chips, ice cream and Scottish shortbread don’t really help lift a depression.

Instead, my list consists of activities I love. Some of them I’ve loved since I was a child and I think that’s a big clue for you to compile your own anti-depression/anxiety list.

Here’s mine:

  1. Riding my bike. I wrote a whole post about my precious pink bike. I can feel like crap, my emotions bouncing up and down, but when I hop on that bike and go to the river, it’s like the emotional storm dissipates and the sun comes out. Even when it really is about to storm (I got caught in a downpour last week), I feel good.
  2. Listening to music. There was a time when I needed silence for a while and stopped listening to music. Now, I need it again. Coming through headphones, it seems to have an even greater ability to lift me up. Singing along, of course, is even more of a depression/anxiety killer. And when I add
  3. Dancing – well, that just lifts me up even more. I didn’t dance for years and years. I was too shy. Now, most mornings you’ll find me with my headphones on, music blaring, dancing alone to my heart’s content. I tell you – it is the BEST depression/anxiety buster out there.
  4. Yoga/Qigong – even just a short 20 minutes, gets me out of my head and into my heart.
  5. Reading a good book. Especially fiction. I’ve always loved disappearing into another world via a good fat book. Even better if a warm blanket and tea and biscuits are involved.
  6. Meditation. My list would not be complete without this state of consciousness which we are all meant to experience daily, right along with sleeping, dreaming and being awake. Meditation did more for my insane anxiety than any little pill ever could. I went from someone who was terrified to get on an airplane to someone who comforts others around her when there’s turbulence. All thanks to meditation.
  7. Movies. Best in a theater, but even at home, a movie can get my stuck emotions moving like nothing else. When I’m feeling blue I intentionally pick a sad or happy or funny movie to get the tears or anger or whatever needs to go out the door.
  8. Nature. I think I saved the best one for last. Sometimes I have to physically force myself out of the comfort of my apartment to get outside and find some green (or even white, in the winter). The clouds, the trees, the water, the animals – they’re the perfect antidote when feeling blue. Standing in a pine forest is sometimes all the prescription I need.

There are two things going on here that are key. One is movement and the other is stillness.

Whenever there is depression there’s stagnation. Our prana, or life force is not flowing. Movement of any kind helps clear out and recharge our chakras and get the prana flowing freely again.

Stillness, on the other hand, is just as important. Running away from uncomfortable feelings without first sitting with them and asking questions is a dangerous habit and will only drive those feelings deeper into our very cells.

And when there’s anxiety, Vata dosha, which rules the nervous system, needs calming.

Years ago when I was terrified of flying, I finally succumbed to anti-anxiety medication. But I was still so wound-up in flight that the drug only heightened my anxiety and when I reached my destination I would be so tired I couldn’t function. Only when I started to meditate did this anxiety finally start to subside.

It is equally important to learn how to be in darkness as it is to be in the light.

The reason I am grateful that I resisted taking antidepressants is that living through those tough times without being drugged forced me to experience that aspect of life.

I learned so much about grief and death and loss and change that I might not have had I just started popping pills.

Coincidentally, my first issue of The Sun magazine arrived with a timely article by Tim McKee titled “The Geography of Sorrow – Francis Weller on Navigating Our Losses”.

“If we have both an adequate level of companionship in our sorrow and periods of solitude that aren’t about distraction or avoidance, then grief will transform itself into tender melancholy. This life we have is incredibly short, but we’ve been blessed with it. When we shut off our grief, we forget that. To let grief work its alchemy on you yields gravitas, by which I mean the ability to be present with the bittersweet reality of life, which always includes loss. There’s no way to be spared sorrow. I wouldn’t even wish that upon someone. But we shouldn’t get stuck in our grief; it’s not a permanent address but a companion that walks beside us….There is indeed such a thing as joyful sorrow.” — Francis Weller

How did this become about grief all of a sudden? Well, because I think that depression almost always bears an element of grief. Grief over the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a home, or a job, just to name a few.

While I didn’t include herbs on my list, they have in the past and still in the present play an important role in my healing.

Herbs are food and food is medicine.There are so many safe and amazing herbs that can calm our nerves and lift our moods. I have studied and learned a great deal about Mother Nature’s remedies.

When I had fibromyalgia, St. John’s Wort was a lifesaver. It helped curb the pain and let me sleep, and it helped me stay positive and out of self-pity.

And even humble chamomile is an incredibly effective nervine.

But I always remember what my Ayurveda teacher, Maya Tiwari taught us. That sticking to a healthy daily routine complete with sadhanas (daily spiritual practices) should always come first before reaching for an herb to bring us back into balance.

And I love the fact that doing something I cherished as a child can often chase away my blues or anxiety.

That’s my short list of truly natural antidepressant/anxiety remedies. Do you know what yours are?

Much love,

Posted in Anxiety, Ayurveda, Chakras, Depression, Grief, Healing, Kapha, Meditation, Nature | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Judgment, Blame and Shame – Meet the Little Voice in My Head

barbara-sinclair-judgment-shame-blame-the-voice-in-my-headI like to think that I’m not a judgmental person.

I like to think that I take responsibility for the things that happen in my life instead of blaming others.

I like to think that I’ve moved beyond feelings of shame.

But on a daily basis, a little voice in my head tells me otherwise. I don’t remember the voice being there years ago. Maybe it was there and I just tuned it out. Maybe it was stunned into silence from too much judgment, blame and shame.

It seems to have started after I began consciously working on my stuff. Healing myself, studying Ayurveda, energy medicine, writing this blog.

Just when you think you’re so conscious or spiritual some little voice tells you that your work is never done. To stop worrying about other people’s stuff. To mind your own business.

I especially hear The Voice when I’m on my bike, free as a bird.

I get a whiff of a cigarette and the minute my mind goes to judgment (So disgusting!), I remember that I smoked for several years. Started in my forties. One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. So, says the little voice in my head “Who are you to judge? Remember how hard it was to quit?”

Or – what kind of parent lets their toddler loose on the boardwalk when there are bikes and runners whizzing by? “Oh right.” says the little voice, “Remember the time your two-year old got out of her stroller, went down the escalator and was ready to walk out the front door of the department store while you were talking to a salesperson?”

That damn voice has a memory like an elephant.

That’s Judgment Voice. Thankfully, I notice the judgments seem to be getting smaller and more insignificant. I guess that’s thanks to The Voice.

Then there’s Blame. I hear her most often when I misplace something and my mind immediately goes to someone else. When I hear the Blame Voice, I usually laugh out loud. I only have to hear her to know that I lost it, I misplaced it, or I broke it myself.

There’s also serious Blame. The kind that we think we let go of years ago. But it still rears its ugly head, now and again.

For some people it goes back as far as they can remember. Could be an abusive childhood, an argument that never got settled, a divorce, someone who wronged us.

When my mind wanders back too far in the past and grabs ahold of something or someone to blame from the past, the Blame Voice snaps me back to reality. “Let it go.” she says. “There’s two sides to every story.”

And then there’s Shame. Ahh. Sometimes I hear it when I think of someone or something that shamed me in the past. It begs forgiveness.

Because the Shame Voice is reserved strictly for my own shame, it seems to have a gentler edge to it. “It’s okay”, she says, “acknowledge it, let the feeling pass through you, and then let it go.”

Shame is a great deal more painful to deal with than judgment and blame. Because, of course, most of us are way harder on ourselves than others. And somehow we always seem to feel responsible for our own shame.

In fact, the more attention I pay to The Voice, the more I notice that most of the judgment, blame and shame is self-directed.

I find it fairly easy nowadays to forgive and forget. I work really hard at not succumbing to gossip, which seems to always lead to judgment. But the thing The Voice keeps reminding me I need to work on is old self-judgment, self-blame and shame for my own actions in the past that hurt others.

I’m getting better at letting go, moving on, forgiving myself, thanks again to The Voice. Over and over she tells me that the past, however painful, was necessary to bring me to where I am today.

That all of those painful experiences gave me the opportunity to grow, to become the person I was meant to be, to travel towards the light.

“Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond.”
— Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have

Amen to that, Mark Nepo. Deep down inside, judgment, blame and shame aside, I am profoundly grateful for all of the broken pieces of my life. They have shaped me into someone who finally can love herself for who she is. Well, most of the time.

And with humble gratitude, I thank The Voice for keeping me honest and good and true to myself. It’s a daily struggle, but one worth having.

Do you have a Voice in your head, too? I’m curious what yours is yapping about. Please share.

With love,

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
— Mark Twain


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Ayurveda’s Tough Love Recipe for a Good Night’s Sleep (Or How to Sleep Like a Baby)

IMG_1021.JPGHow many articles have you seen lately about getting a good night’s sleep? A lot, I daresay. That’s because it affects us all and any one of us can fall prey to insomnia at any time. Don’t we all wish we could sleep like a baby again?

Lack of sleep can do more than just make us cranky and reach for a cup of coffee. It can make us crazy and it can make us sick. Our body depends on sleep to repair and regenerate. Without it, we’re vulnerable to a host of illnesses too long to list here. And forget looking and feeling our best. It just doesn’t happen without a good night’s sleep.

I know firsthand how horrible chronic insomnia is. When I had fibromyalgia, sleep was practically nonexistent. Pain and an overly sensitive nervous system kept me up most nights. Oh, the irony. I needed the sleep to heal the pain.

I used to joke that I felt like the Princess and the Pea because my bed felt like it was filled with hard pebbles.

I changed the mattress. I made my bedroom a beautiful haven. Desperate for sleep, I succumbed to a pharmaceutical named Ambien. Oh, boy, was that ever a mistake. I went from an insomniac to a sleepwalker doing all kinds of strange things in the night.

I finally found pain relief from herbal remedies and eventually my sleep improved. And only then, did the healing from fibromyalgia begin. But I’ve never forgotten how nearly crazy the lack of sleep made me.

We all know that our natural biorhythms dictate how we should sleep.  And yet still we treat bedtime like a toddler having a temper tantrum. We avoid an early bedtime at all costs. Can’t shut off the computer, tv or telephone. Just one more episode of our favorite show.

Had I known more about Ayurveda back then I feel certain that things would have been much different.

Here are a few basic Ayurvedic principles that are guaranteed to help get your sleep back on track:

1. Respect your biorhythms

Ayurveda divides the 24 hour day into six four-hour cycles.

2:00-6:00 a.m. – Vata Time
6:00-10:00 a.m. – Kapha Time
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Pitta Time
2:00 p.m. -6:00 p.m. – Vata Time
6:00-10:00 p.m. – Kapha Time
10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. – Pitta Time

In terms of sleep, it’s important to rise towards the end of Vata time (2:00-6:00 a.m.), before Kapha time begins (6:00-10:00 a.m.)

The reason for this is that Kapha is a slow, heavy, often lethargic kind of energy. Sleeping into this time of morning will not result in a rested kind of sleep. It will set you up for feeling groggy throughout the day, even though you may have slept more hours.

Even more important is getting to bed BEFORE Pitta time (10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.). During the evening Pitta hours, the body wakes up and the organs start doing their work, repairing, regenerating, digesting, etc. The liver is especially active at this time. This energy will wake us up and keep us up (i.e. getting your second wind) and make falling asleep next to impossible.

This time period is the most critical in terms of sleep. Sleeping from 10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. will do more for your health than sleeping during any other period. Most people with a lot of Pitta in their constitution are the night owls. They laugh at me when I make this suggestion.

Preceding evening Pitta time is Kapha time (6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.). Just like the slow energy in the morning, we experience it in the early evening hours. How many times have you fallen asleep on the sofa during this time? This is when your body is ready for sleep! Take advantage of its wisdom.

2. Eat your largest meal at noon and keep supper light and early (preferably 5:00-6:00ish).

Pitta dosha rules digestion and metabolism, so eating during the Pitta hours of the day – 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) will help the body immensely.

When we eat a heavy or late supper, our body will unnecessarily be given the task of digesting a big meal during evening Pitta hours, rather than being able to repair and regenerate. Digestion takes roughly 60% of our daily metabolism!

3. Learn to Meditate

Just like we have a sleep state, a waking state and a dream state, we also have a meditative state. It really is as important as all of the others.

Do yourself a favor and learn to meditate. Just twenty minutes, once or twice a day, will change your life and help your sleep state immensely.

An added bonus is that it’s a wonderful remedy for those who wake during the Vata time of morning (2:00 – 6:00 a.m.) and can’t get back to sleep. Meditating during these hours will often result in falling into the most delicious sleep you can imagine.

4. Turn off the lights and all electronics at least an hour before bedtime

The light really does mess with our melatonin and makes it hard for us to fall asleep. Light some candles, take a bath, listen to calming music or read a book (boring is better).

5. Learn how to do Ayurvedic self-massage (abhyanga)

Even newborn babies in India benefit from this age-old practice. HERE’S how it’s done.

6. Use herbal remedies to help with the transition

While we don’t want to become too dependent on anything to help us sleep, herbal remedies are food and can help us immensely, especially in the beginning.

HERE are some good choices from Banyan Botanicals, a wonderful source for clean, sustainable, organic herbs.

I had particular success using St. John’s Wort Extract when I had fibromyalgia. It had a three-fold effect for me – giving me pain relief, helping me sleep, and elevating my moods during the day. St. John’s Wort extract is widely used in Europe for depression.

Keep in mind that our bodies are all different and will react differently to herbs. What might be calming and sedating for one person, might be stimulating for another.

Also, most herbs take time to show any results. Be patient.

We can do this!!! What’s more important – our health or a TV show or Facebook?

I am right there with you. I have fallen into a pattern of not getting out of bed until 7:00-8:00. I feel groggy and lethargic.

This is not my usual routine. Morning is my best time of the day as it should be for everyone. Getting up before 6:00 is magic time in terms of creativity. I know this, and yet I can’t seem to put down that 1,000 page book that I’ve had my nose in until 11:00 every night.

I haven’t mentioned people who regularly work a night shift. It stands to reason that this fights against the body’s natural rhythms in the worst possible way. Aside from suggesting another job, all I can offer is that you nurture your body as best you can in all other aspects of your life.

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that can be helpful to alleviate some of the stress working a night shift has on the body.

I challenge us both to give these tips a try for two weeks and see if sleep doesn’t once again become something pleasant rather than frustrating.

Sweet dreams!

Much love,

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