What a Difference a Week Makes!

Apt

Starting to look more like a home.

I feel as though I’m slowly coming back to life. It has been one week since I moved across the Hudson River from NYC to Jersey City. Not a big move, by many people’s standards. But a big move for me, for sure.

They say that three of the most stressful life events are the death of a partner, divorce, and moving. Well, I can count all three in my life experiences in the last decade and can attest that moving is right up there stress-wise. There were times last week when I thought I was going to fall asleep standing up or collapse into a bucket of tears. I felt so depleted I could barely function.

Enter accepting help from friends. This has always been a challenge for me. I don’t want to ask for help. I don’t want to inconvenience my already-busy friends. I learned all about receiving when my partner Ralph died. It took something that serious for me to let down my “I can do it myself wall” and allow others to nurture me.

Sometimes the nurturing roles get reversed. The weekend before my move, my daughter, Amy, flew in to help me pack boxes and stay focused. Even when we weren’t focused on the move, having her there helped keep me grounded.

On moving day my friend, Manon, stayed with me all day. From packing up last-minute  items at my old apartment to directing the movers on where to put everything at my new place, she stayed with me until the end, on the hottest day of the summer, so far.

I was a zombie. A zombie who had forgotten everyone’s advice to pack an overnight bag. No toothbrush to be found, no sheets, no clean towels. I decided to just collapse on the mattress. Actually, I did this for the first two nights.

My friend, Stacey, having just moved herself two weeks ago, with three young children (one broke his arm just days before the move) and umpteen things on her own plate, insisted on coming over on moving day to bring lunch because she wanted to make sure I had eaten something (which I hadn’t). She fretted that she couldn’t do more, but little did she know that her constant moral support was every bit as valuable.

Once I was officially over on the Jersey side, I found myself completely overwhelmed and frustrated. I was bone tired but surrounded by boxes and crates, plants that needed attention and seemingly much less storage space than I had before. My artist’s eye wanted everything done NOW but I lack in the organization department – big time.

Enter Monica Abbatemaggio. I first met Monica and her sister Barbara about fifteen years ago when I wandered into their tiny but amazing little boutique in Tribeca just a couple of blocks from my apartment. We became fast friends and to this day, most of my dear NYC friends I met through the girls at their shop.

Sorelle Firenze (means Sisters of Florence) was more than just a store with great clothes. It was a place to stop and have lunch or a cup of tea, maybe a glass of wine, and always always some laughs. These two beautiful sisters not only are masters at styling, they are organizing geniuses.

Monica lives in Jersey City and when I woke up six weeks ago with the thought “I have to move NOW” and kept “hearing” a little voice say “Look in Jersey City”, Monica was the person I called. She ended up finding me an apartment in the building next door to hers and began her selling job on Jersey City. :)

Back to friends, and receiving. On the fourth of July, Monica’s only day off all week, she came over for four hours and whipped me and my place into shape. I had woken up that morning just wanting to bury my head under the pillow. I felt sad, frustrated and lonely. I felt like I was living in a chaotic, messy hotel room. Monica would have none of it.

You know how we all have something we do that we’re gifted at? Well, organizing spaces is Monica’s. She is super-organized (a Virgo) with an incredible eye for beauty and she moves at lightening speed. She is an organizing tornado. In fact, most of the pictures I took are slightly blurry because she was in near constant movement. Well, okay, they might also be blurry because I was exhausted.
MoniIt was a beautiful thing to behold. Going from room to room, Monica found a place for everything, and her creative solutions to what I saw as unsolvable problems blew my mind. In just a couple of hours, I started to see my new home taking shape. She had found sheets for my bed and completely organized my kitchen.

When Monica left, Manon returned, also giving up part of her fourth of July. She swooped back in to help me unpack the rest of the giant blue eco crates that were still left towering in my apartment. Manon Chevallerau, a postpartum doula by profession (talk about nurturing!), is also a gifted artist/designer who loves decorating and arranging spaces. So, again, I was in the hands of someone with a critical eye. When she finally went home, I sat in the dark watching the fireworks outside my window, feeling vastly different than I had when I woke up that day.

After a couple of good night’s sleep, I began to venture out into my new neighborhood. Getting lost is a great way to find your way around and I’ve discovered lots of good places within walking or biking distance.

It still seems surreal to me that there are so few people on the street. It’s quiet and I’m struggling to get used to that. This is a perfect example of Ayurveda wisdom. We need the opposite of what is in our nature to balance us. My Vata craves excitement and movement and busyness, but it needs calm and quiet and stillness for good health and longevity. I’m hearing birds chirping in the morning when I wake instead of cars and horns. That’s a good thing, right?

I went for a bike ride by the river on Sunday and when I looked at the NYC skyline I saw it through a completely different set of eyes. The dense “concreteness” of it made me pause and think about the rapid pulse of the city and its physicality. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a NYC hater all of a sudden. I will always love the city and am grateful to be just a five minute commute away. It’s different being on the other side. Time will tell how I adjust but I feel pretty positive that I already am. That apartment in the city that I cried for three days about leaving? Hasn’t crossed my mind. Isn’t that amazing?

NYCI’ve learned so many lessons during this move. I learned that having lots of awareness doesn’t make you immune to the difficulties, but it can sure help you pass through them much quicker and with a little bit of grace, if you’re lucky.

I learned that it is absolutely necessary to let yourself feel and express every emotion that arises. This, to me, was critical. I believe it helped me process my decision to move, find a new place to live, mourn and let go of the old, and make it through the actual physical move.

I learned that everything doesn’t have to be done immediately. Every wall doesn’t have to be painted, every picture doesn’t have to be hung right away. This is where I do battle with my artist’s eye. I am so visual and affected by my physical surroundings that it pains me to not have everything looking beautiful NOW.

Just when I needed to hear this the most, my friend, Cathy, wrote to me: “Remember, it takes months to form a child, let the apartment have time to form too. No need to rush. Just enjoy the unfolding. No need to push, just glide in like coasting on a bicycle. Wind at your back, instead of in your mind.”

So many of my friends are going through moving experiences of their own right now. I have been thinking of each and every one of you this past week – sending you love and good wishes for an easy transition.

And to all of you who have checked in with me via phone calls and texts and Facebook messages – well I just LOVE you and am so grateful to have you in my life. Your messages lifted me up and carried me through one of the toughest (but positive growth) experiences of my life.

With love,
Barbara

P.S. If you’re moving and need help setting up your new place or you just plain need help organizing and clearing clutter, give the Sorelle Firenze sisters a call. HERE they are in action!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Udder – Hit the Mother load

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This Sweet Song Changed My Whole Day!

I wanted to take a break from packing, cleaning and fretting to say hello and share something sweet with you. A mix-up by my movers has given me a one week reprieve and allowed me to breathe a little more before the final chaos of moving gets underway.

Funny how the Universe works. My initial reaction when told “Oops, we don’t have a truck for you on Thursday!” was disbelief. But after it settled in, I realized it was a blessing in disguise. I have been using the mantra “Let go and let God” over and over throughout this challenging process. Seems to be working!

On Tuesday, when all of this chaos was in full swing, I was noticing how ungrounded I felt. I knew I needed to get out, go for a walk in the park, do something other than pack and purge old things. But I had so much to do!

I snuck a peak at Facebook and clicked on a video that a friend had shared. Oh my goodness! It completely changed my mood, my outlook, my day. I have been singing this sweet song for two days now!

You can say what you want about the Internet and Facebook. I know that there’s a lot of negatives there. But the connections we humans are making, changing each other’s lives, lifting our spirits, is undeniable and precious.

This video of a father playing the guitar while his little girl sings a song is more than just a cute video. We really do have energetic roots that go down to the Earth! We need them to stay grounded and centered.

And there is such pure love and respect going on between father and daughter. My Ayurveda-obsessed eye could tell that dad has a great deal of Kapha energy. Kaphas have a lot of the earth element and are very grounded, loving, and extremely family oriented.

I couldn’t get the video to embed directly to my website, so click on the photo below and it will take you to my Facebook page where you can view it. I promise you, it might be the best 2 minutes and 7 seconds of your day!

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 8.27.09 AM

 

Enjoy and I hope you have a beautiful day!

Much love,
Barbara

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Learning What I Teach

boxesHave you heard the saying “You teach what you need to learn”? What a truism that is! I’ve written so many articles about feelings and stress and breathing and meditating that I’ve lost count.

Now I’m in the midst of chaos. I’m moving after being in the same apartment for many many years. But stuck in limbo because I need to sublet the old place before I can completely move to the new one. Jersey City beckons me to come get to know it, but I’m paralyzed among boxes, a to-do list that keeps rattling around in my head, work that needs to be done, and lots and lots of uncertainty.

When I was in Arizona last week with my energy healing group, I went for a craniosacral treatment. The therapist was immediately drawn to my head and said “Oh my, your brain is over-active today!” I burst out laughing!

I had decided to make the trip in spite of all that needed tending to back home. I thought the peace and quiet would rejuvenate me. I like to get up early and go for walks in the desert when I’m there. But my body had another plan. I was so fatigued the entire time I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she finds herself in a field of poppies. I’m always saying “Listen to your body”. And so I rested.

The Sagittarius in me is ready for a new adventure. But the Taurus in me is feeling uprooted. Last night I wanted someone to swoop down and figure this all out for me. An efficient organized Pitta. :) Instead I heard a message. “Go to sleep!” it said. So I went to bed and my night was filled with fragments of moving dreams. “Go away!” I wanted to shout. But I knew that my subconscious was just helping me work it all out.

It’s Sunday morning and part of my routine is to put my houseplants out on the fire escape. I water them and let them spend the day outside. I love my plants. I won’t have anywhere to do this at my new place. But truth-be-told, that same fire escape comes complete with filthy air from the busy street below that has covered my windowsills with a black soot for fifteen years. I have been breathing this, and so have my plants. Not so good.

PlantsThere is a rooftop in my new building where I will be able to escape. Who knows? Maybe I will even be able to see the moon (and dare I say, some stars) – something that is a challenge where I live now. I am looking for silver linings everywhere.

I returned from Arizona to find an orchid I had bought last year with over a dozen buds! I’ve never had orchids before and all I did was faithfully water it once a week. When I saw the new life it immediately took me out of my state of stress. I felt my body relax and I started to cry.

As hard as this experience has been, and will continue to be for a while, I also find myself drifting through it, as if in a dream. With each emotion that comes up (and there have been many) I have been honoring them and letting them express and pass through me.

Fear, uncertainty, sadness, loss – they have all been here. I feel them mostly in my heart and in my gut. Especially my heart. And so I have given special attention to my heart – nurturing it, using essential oils and literally placing my own healing hands on it when it feels overwhelmed with emotion. Breathing, sobbing, releasing.

And writing. With all that I need to do today, I felt compelled to write this and share it with you. So, thank you for being on the other end – caring enough to read and offer me your support.

You see, I am learning to RECEIVE. Something that has been a challenge for me in this lifetime. My wonderful friends have come to my aid – packing boxes, keeping me calm and focused. Helping me with the things that are just not my strength. Manon, JoAnn and Gloria – you have gone above and beyond and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My friend, Seema, recently told me a Chinese proverb that she always reflects back on when feelings erupt. It is simple, yet profound. It can be the difference between good health and illness, life or death.

“Emotions were meant to be felt, not stored.”

And Ayurveda! Oh, how I am using your wisdom! People thought I was a little impulsive making my moving decision so quickly. I knew exactly what this was about.

Last Vata Season (fall/early winter) I distinctly remember thinking “DO NOT TRY TO MOVE DURING VATA SEASON!” My constitution is Vata-Pitta. Many years ago, before I knew anything about Ayurveda, I would say to my friend, Mary “There’s this dichotomy within me – I want to be organized, but I don’t have the tools!” Classic Vata-Pitta!

I knew that Pitta Season (now) was my best bet for moving. What little focus and organizational skills I have are most present in the summer, when my Pitta is high. So, even though this is difficult for me, it would have been a hundred times worse during Vata Season.

I offer my little story here as food for thought. Some of the methods that have helped me to come to this level of awareness are meditation, self-reflection/writing, Ayurveda, and even music and dancing. Nothing takes me out of a sad or frightened funk like putting on happy music and dancing. I am in the moment and I can feel the stress just melt away. Oh! And a bike ride! :)

What helps you feel your emotions and release them? Please share! And thank you, again for the love and support I feel from you as I take this journey across the river.

Much love,
Barbara

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Ayurveda, Breathing, Change, Self-Care, Vata-Pitta | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Ayurvedic Tip of the Week: Resting for Better Digestion

Resting Dog copyResting for 15-20 minutes after a meal is a great practice that Ayurveda encourages.

Approximately 60% of our daily energy goes towards digestion. If we rest for a bit after eating, our body can perform this important function more efficiently – rather than sending the energy elsewhere – to the brain and other organs needed to do things like read, write, watch TV or exercise.

Did your mother always tell you not to go swimming after eating? Mine did – and for years I thought I would get a cramp and drown if I went swimming too soon after a meal. My over-reaction created more anxiety in an already anxious child. But Mom was definitely onto something.

John Immel of Joyful Belly Ayurveda says: “After eating, blood rushes to the stomach to supply stomach glands with fluids. The food is mixed with acids and slowly turns into a sauce. About fifteen minutes after eating, the food is fully hydrated and blood flow to the stomach relaxes somewhat. To ensure a proper supply of blood, rest at least fifteen minutes after eating.”

I have found this simple practice of resting for a few minutes after eating remarkably effective. Being quiet, doing some gentle breathing and avoiding multi-tasking definitely helps my digestion. I’m not saying it’s easy to drop those habits we get used to doing during and after meals – but it’s certainly something to strive for.

If you are somewhere you can rest on your left side for a bit – this helps the digestive process even more.

And if you’re someone suffering with serious digestive issues, I highly recommend giving this tip a try.

No more running down the street eating pizza or a bagel, New Yorkers! You don’t need that added stress!

Much love,
Barbara

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Staying Cool, Calm and Collected During Pitta Season

sunPitta Season is just around the corner here in NYC. We’ve had a few hot days but also lots of cool windy ones. My guess is that all of a sudden we’re going to be in the middle of a heat wave and I want to be prepared. I know that many of you reading this are already experiencing extreme heat.

For those of you around the world from me who are heading into winter, you can tuck this information away until your Pitta Season comes around again!

The junctures between the seasons (usually a two-week period) are when it is most difficult to stay balanced and we are more vulnerable to illness. When the weather fluctuates drastically during this juncture, that vulnerability becomes even more pronounced. In the Northeastern US, we are transitioning from Kapha Season to Pitta Season. Here, Pitta Season runs from late spring through summer.

Ayurveda’s seasonal calendar revolves around the three doshasVata, Pitta, and Kapha. The doshas are forces or energies comprised of the five elements–space (ether), air, fire, water and earth that make up our human physiology. The same elements that are in Nature are within us, as well.

Your prakriti (or prakruti) is your individual constitution which you were born with and it never changes. It is determined by the combination of doshas which are dominant in your psycho-physiological makeup, dependent upon your parents’ prakritis at the moment of your conception.

All three doshas are present in each of us, just to varying degrees. Most people are a combination of two doshas–rarely just one. Even more rare is a prakriti with three equal doshas (tri-doshic).

Your vikriti (or vikruti) is your current state of balance and is influenced by diet, lifestyle, emotions, the seasons, etc. We want to strive to be balanced in mind, body and spirit while paying special attention to the balancing properties of our particular doshas.

If you are unsure of your constitution, you can take this quiz. Or consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner to help you figure it out and make proper lifestyle adjustments.

 The elements associated with Pitta are fire and water. It is the energy of transformation and the metabolic force in our body that rules digestion. Pitta also rules our intelligence, our eyes, body temperature and skin coloration. It is seated in the stomach and small intestines.

The qualities of Pitta are hot, sour, sharp, moist, pungent, slightly oily, light and fluid. In Ayurveda, like increases like, so in choosing foods to balance Pitta, choose sweet, bitter and astringent foods, such as fresh sweet fruits, vegetables and grains, salads, beans, legumes, etc. At the end of this post I’ve listed some great resources to help you find a pitta-balancing diet.

Here are some characteristics of Pitta-types:

  • Highly organized and self-confident
  • Sharp-witted
  • Good public speakers, leaders, politicians, teachers, writers
  • Highly intelligent
  • Warm, friendly
  • Independent, courageous
  • Passionate
  • Have a strong athletic, medium build
  • Doesn’t like the heat (makes a Pitta tired)
  • Sensitive skin, usually pale with freckles and moles. Prone to skin eruptions and rashes–i.e. acne, eczema, psoriasis
  • Excessive sweating (often pungent)
  • Excessive hunger or thirst
  • Strong digestion, but needs regular meals (Pittas get crabby if they skip a meal!)
  • Hair is smooth and shiny, often blond or red. Later in life, hair is often prematurely grey or balding.

And on the downside–characteristics of an out-of-balance Pitta-type:

  • Sarcastic
  • Stubborn, hot-headed
  • Hot flashes
  • High acidity
  • Loose stools
  • Prone to headaches, fever, acid reflux, heartburn, colitis
  • Can be spiteful, jealous, angry–especially when stressed
  • Domineering, vain, ambitious

If you’re someone like me (Vata-Pitta) with Pitta being your secondary dosha, you’ll likely find that just some of these traits apply to you. The important thing to remember is to tune into your body.

Vata-Pitta and Pitta-Vata types often have more trouble adjusting to seasonal fluctuations than other constitutions. Basically, if you’re feeling hot, tired, stressed or experiencing some of the other symptoms above, focus on pacifying Pitta. If you’re feeling cold, anxious and fearful, pacify Vata.

You may be someone who rarely feels hot in your body but you have a hot personality!  There are varying degrees of the doshas in each of us. And other factors such as age can influence how strongly we experience an unbalanced dosha. Again, just pay attention to your own body/mind’s signals.

Here are some tips for remaining balanced and healthy during Pitta season:

  • THINK COOL and reduce anything that heats the body: saunas, steam rooms, hot showers and hot spicy foods. Stay out of the hot mid-day sun. Pittas already have an abundance of heat in their bodies and can damage their organs with too much heat.
  • Avoid drinking a lot of cold beverages, especially with meals. I know this sounds contrary to what I just wrote about staying cool, but drinking cold liquids is a shock to the system and puts out our digestive fire, resulting in poor assimilation and digestion.
  • Avoid excesses of foods that are salty, spicy, sour, hot or pungent.
  • Avoid coffee–it is especially unbalancing for Pittas due to its acidity.
  • Cool your skin with unrefined coconut oil (I massage it in daily before my shower–it really helps to protect and cool the skin. By applying it before showering, the warm water will help it penetrate the skin. Essential oils of sandalwood, jasmine, lavender, mint and rose are also cooling.
  • Don’t skip meals or let yourself get dehydrated. This is especially important for Pittas.
  • Drink coconut water. It’s a great hydrator and neutralizes acid so it can also help with heartburn and acid reflux.
  • Take walks or bike rides in the cool morning or evening. Moonlight is especially healing for Pittas.
  • Take time each day to do some slow, deep breathing and meditation.
  • Take lukewarm or cool showers or baths and run cool water over your head and the back of your neck before getting out. This helps to reduce excess Pitta.
  • When it comes to exercise, especially during Pitta season, cool it! Don’t over-exert yourself, especially by running in the hot afternoon sun.
  • Keep a spray bottle with rose or lavender water in your refrigerator and spritz yourself when you get overheated. The rose water is also excellent for dry, sore eyes. Just be sure it’s a good quality that is made with real rose petals.
  • 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m. are Pitta times of day. It is at this time that your metabolism kicks into high hear. This is why Ayurveda recommends eating your main meal between 10am-2pm (preferably 12-2pm). Your body will be able to digest this meal the best. Remember the old adage “Eat breakfast like a queen, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper”? It’s true. As for the 10pm-2am time, during these hours the body goes to work making repairs and burning stored fat. It wants to be sleeping during this time and not digesting a heavy late dinner or snack. Metabolism is active during these hours and it’s the reason you get your second wind around 10pm (Pittas love to burn the midnight oil). Getting to bed before 10:00 p.m. will not only allow you to sleep more soundly but will let your body repair itself much more efficiently.

BearIf all this information seems daunting, just focus on a couple of tips that you think will help you feel more balanced. Summer is the time to chill and not take on overly taxing projects. So act like this polar bear at the Central Park Zoo and get adequate R&R during Pitta Season. Find a hammock in the shade, read something you enjoy (not something you have to read), swim in a lake or the ocean or do whatever you love that is calming and cooling.

Wish I Was HereHere’s hoping for a slightly breezy, not-too-hot Pitta Season!

Much Love,
Barbara

Helpful resources for a Pitta-pacifying diet:

Eat, Taste, Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living by Thomas Yarema, Daniel Rhoda and Johnny Brannigan

Living Ahimsa Diet by Maya Tiwari

Posted in Ayurveda, Change of Seasons, Doshas, Pitta | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moving On!

Jersey City3

My view of Jersey City for so many years

Yesterday I signed a lease on a new apartment in Jersey City. Really, I did. This is not another false alarm like my almost-move to Asheville in the fall of 2012. I am a bit terrified to report that this is the real deal.

This MAJOR life event unfolded in less than a week. Although many years have led me to this decision, one day I just decided that I could not afford to live in my beautiful NYC apartment any longer. It had been the cause of many sleepless nights and I had swept the reality of my situation under the rug for far too long.

Why not another less expensive apartment in NYC? Perhaps one in an outer borough or upstate NY? Good question! I wish I knew the answer. For some reason I was guided directly across the Hudson River from where I now live.

Whispers in my ear, a visit to a friend who lives in Jersey City, several references on TV  and at the movies about “Jersey girls”, and a rare opening of a loft space in a building filled with artists right next door to the building where my good friend lives with her children.

Knowings. This seems to be how I make life decisions these days. Something inside of me just knew that this was the right decision. My dreams and meditations were filled with messages and signs.

There is an element of comfort, an easing out of my life here in Manhattan, to be just across the river. It’s under five minutes by train or ferry.

Sunset4For fifteen years I have watched the sun set over Jersey City from this side of the Hudson River. Soon I will watch the sun rise over Manhattan.

This past week I have had the opportunity to practice everything I teach. To face my fear, breathe through it, honor my emotions and release them.

I think I cried (I know I did!) buckets of tears for three days straight – feeling deeply the loss of my beautiful home, my neighborhood, my identity as a New Yorker, and of course, the memories.

I was surprised at how raw and intense my emotions were and equally surprised at how quickly the fear and sadness began to change to excitement.

I have the most amazing and supportive friends who leapt to my side to listen, love and encourage me. You know who you are and I deeply, deeply love you!

And…I DANCED! The minute I felt the fear and anxiety creep into my gut, or the sadness into my heart, I put on a happy song (Yes, even THIS happy song) and I danced and I sang. This is the best medicine there is!

There have been major glitches along the way. My new lease starts on Sunday, June 1st but I couldn’t get out of my old lease until August 30th. So…if anyone out there wants to sublease my beautiful apartment in July and/or August, contact me!

I won’t write another love letter to NYC. You can read the one I wrote in 2012 when I almost moved. I still mean every word of it. But I am excited for the next chapter in my life to unfold. I’ll be part of a vibrant community of artists, who surely will inspire and motivate me to make art again.

I have always loved the hustle and bustle of NYC. My Vata energy craves it and has fed off of it for many years. But Ayurveda teaches that we need to look to opposites for balancing the doshas. I’m hoping that the quiet of Jersey City will be good for me. And if I need a dose of crazy, I’m just five minutes away.

I will always be a Detroit girl, and a NYC girl – I’m just adding a new title to my story. And I’ve always wondered what it was like to be a Jersey girl!

Wish me luck for a smooth transition and please keep me in your prayers. I hope that my story will inspire you a little if you are stuck in a pattern of inertia and fear of change. Once you take the leap, amazing things start to happen. As Marie Forleo always says, “Everything is figure-out-able!” This has been my mantra since this new adventure began!

Much love,
Barbara

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The Ancient Ayurvedic Practice of Oil Pulling

3144_Sesame Oil 16 ozPrintI’ve had many requests lately for information on the ancient Ayurvedic practice known as oil pulling. Below is a short video which explains how and why the practice is so beneficial.

The video demonstrator uses sesame oil which is considered the best choice by Ayurvedic practitioners, but you can also use unrefined virgin coconut oil (my personal choice) or unrefined sunflower oil. I always use organic oil.

Note that sesame oil is a heating oil and is better for Vata and Kapha types. Coconut and sunflower oils are cooling and are better choices for Pitta types (fire). My constitution is Vata-Pitta, so I generally use sesame oil during the cold months and coconut oil when the weather gets warm. Although I admit to sometimes using coconut oil year-round because coconut oil is more pleasing to me.

I have practiced oil pulling on and off for a few years. But I decided to try it consistently for a month (every morning after brushing my teeth and scraping my tongue) before my last dental checkup. Both the hygienist and the dentist commented on how much better my gums looked and I have to admit, it was the easiest cleaning I’d had in a long time.

The benefits reach far beyond just a clean mouth, however. Ayurveda teaches that our mouth is not separate from the rest of our body and is in fact, a good indicator of heath in other areas. So, it made perfect sense to me that oil pulling would be beneficial to my general health.

I admit, the first time I put a tablespoon of oil in my mouth I wondered what the heck I was doing! But I’ll try just about anything when it comes to holistic health. :) Now I just put the oil in my mouth and go about my morning routine: brushing my hair, washing my face, putting water on for tea, making the bed, etc. Before I know it, twenty minutes has passed.

Check out the video, give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Much love,
Barbara

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Why Determining Your Ayurvedic Constitution Is So Important

Jasper's Birthday PartyRevisedAyurveda teaches that we are all born with a set constitution called prakriti (means nature or first creation in Sanskrit) which is determined at the moment of conception. Determining factors are:

  • The constitution of both parents (genetics)
  • The state of health of the mother throughout her pregnancy
  • Environmental factors such as the season and even time of day when conception occurred
  • Our karmic memory (what we carry over from past lives)

Just like we cannot change the color of our eyes or how tall we are, our prakriti never changes.  

It is from the three doshas (forces or bodily humors) known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha that seven body types (emotional, physical and spiritual) are formed. Our individual combination of the doshas create our unique prakriti.

“Being at the very core of our numinous nature, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are essentially the motion, dream, and food of being. Patterned within the physical body, the doshas are the organizing forces that maintain health and eliminate bodily waste.”
–Maya Tiwari, “Ayurveda: A Life of Balance”

These three doshas are combinations of the five elements found in all of nature: air, ether (space), fire, water and earth. We all have each of the doshas present in our constitution, just in varying, unique combinations and degrees.

Recognizing this uniqueness, and treating each person differently according to the needs of their prakriti, is what sets Ayurveda apart from the Western medicine approach of treating every person the same for certain conditions/diseases.

The seven combinations, according to the ancient Ayurvedic texts are:

  1. V (Vata) – Air/Ether
  2. P (Pitta) – Fire/Water
  3. K (Kapha) – Water/Earth
  4. VP (Vata-Pitta) – or PV (Pitta-Vata) – Air/Ether/Fire/Water
  5. PK (Pitta-Kapha) or KP (Kapha-Pitta) – Fire/Water/Earth
  6. VK (Vata-Kapha) or KV (Kapha-Vata) – Air/Ether/Water/Earth
  7. VPK (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) – referred to as Tridoshic – Air/Ether/Fire/Water/Earth

While our original nature or constitution is set and unchanging, our present state, referred to as vikriti is constantly changing – from season to season, day to day, even minute to minute. 

Someone who is predominantly Kapha, for example, can have a Vata imbalance, resulting in high anxiety, fear or nervousness (traits of unbalanced Vata).

On the flip side, someone who is predominantly Vata can have a Kapha imbalance. This was the case with myself (a VP type) after my partner died. For a couple of years I experienced a great deal of Kapha-type imbalances – weight gain, mild depression, lethargy (all highly unusual conditions for me).

In some ways, I think my body’s innate wisdom knew that I needed grounding (a Kapha trait that Vata-types are sorely lacking in). Being educated in Ayurveda helped me greatly to recognize what was going on and take the steps to bring myself back towards balance.

So, why is it so important to know your Ayurvedic constitution? I can’t begin to tell you how much it has changed my life to be able to recognize my own true nature, as well as those of the people closest to me in my life. And even encountering strangers in my everyday life – I am more understanding of, and more compassionate for people who are different from me in so many ways.

Imagine truly understanding why you (or your partner or child) is so quick to anger (Pitta), or so easily becomes distracted, anxious or fearful (Vata). Or perhaps you are someone prone to depression or you can’t let go of the past, or you just can’t seem to make changes in your life (Kapha).

Living with someone who is the complete opposite of you in terms of constitution can be a challenge indeed. But it can also be a blessing (opposites attract!) because one of the keys to living a balanced life in Ayurveda is thinking in terms of opposites.

I am mostly Vata-Pitta, so my natural state is constant movement – both physically, mentally and emotionally. Even the city I live in (NYC) is very Vata-Pitta. Everything in our world – including our cities, the plants, the animals and the ground we walk on – has the same principles. Think hummingbird (Vata) versus elephant (Kapha) versus lion (Pitta). You get the picture!

My partner was pure Kapha and could be content sitting and watching old movies for hours at a time. I got him up and moving and he got me to sit down and relax. Striving for balance.

Maybe you have one child who can’t sit still, with the appetite of a church mouse, and another who you can’t get moving but loves food. If you are the complete opposite of your child in terms of doshas, you need to truly understand what benefits them, on an emotional, physical and spiritual level.

Knowledge is power and knowing the constitution of your family members can completely change the energy in your home.

Here is a quiz that you can take to help determine your prakriti. And for more information about each dosha, check out these articles:

Vata: “Transitioning Into Fall/Vata Season”
Pitta: “Pitta Season: It’s Finally Here!”
Kapha: “Kapha Season”

If you are still confused and feeling a little overwhelmed by these ancient concepts and want to know more about how to determine your prakriti as well as the prakriti of your partner and/or children, I would LOVE to help you!

My absolute favorite thing to do is simplifying Ayurveda for people and gently guiding them towards their true nature. Contact me and we can get started!

In fact, I’m a little obsessed with these concepts! I remember looking through the lens as I was photographing the above birthday party and recognizing all of the different doshas of the children. I could tell by how they were handling the heat, their hunger level, their enthusiasm as well as their physical traits.

Have you discerned your prakriti? What are your thoughts on Ayurveda? I’d love for you to share them here with me!

Much love,
Barbara

“Not only was it “Vata Season” when I called Barbara, but I also have the propensity of allowing Vata to take over my life: I get hyper and anxious easily. I called Barbara for a consult, and she offered me much good advice which made a huge difference in my temperament and disposition.” - Gina Walker, Orchard Lake, MI

Some helpful resources:

“Ayurveda: A Life of Balance” by Maya Tiwari
“Perfect Health for Kids: Ten Ayurvedic Health Secrets Every Parent Must Know” by John Douillard

 

 

 

Posted in Ayurveda, Doshas, General Wellness, Kapha, Pitta, Vata | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Coconuts Cool! Coconuts Rule!

Coconuts copyI know that all of a sudden, BAM, it’s going to get hot here in NYC. Other places in the US are already experiencing scorching temperatures. I am going to be ready this year. And at the top of my list of must-haves to get me through it – COCONUT!

I love coconuts!  From coconut water to coconut ice cream, there’s something about them that’s synonymous with hot weather. As always, Mother Nature has provided a good reason.

Ayurveda classifies coconuts as a cooling food (a fruit, botanically speaking). So eating/drinking coconut and its liquid is pure gold for people with Pitta dosha, especially during Pitta Season. Vatas can feel free to enjoy them also during the hot summer months, but coconuts are generally on the avoid list for Kaphas, so be prudent if you do indulge.

Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes and low on the glycemic index. I have had a few unlucky incidences of heat exhaustion when coconut water pulled me through. It’s a much better choice than sugar-laden sports drinks, and I always keep a bottle with me now when I’m biking in the summer.

There are lots of options available, as coconut water has become a bit of a trend. Of course, the healthiest and most effective choice comes straight from the coconut. But unless I’m vacationing in the Caribbean or biking through Chinatown where they’re piled high in front of the bodegas (they lop the top off the coconut and stick a straw in it), I don’t always have the real thing handy.

Many of the coconut waters in the store have been ultra-pasteurized, thereby eliminating valuable nutrients. I love the 100% Raw Coconut Water made by Harmless Harvest. It’s processed in a unique way to retain the nutrients without compromising on food safety, and it tastes like the real thing.

Coconut milk makes a wonderful substitute for people who don’t drink cow’s milk and it’s a great addition to curries, stir fry and smoothie recipes. Avoid using the canned coconut milk you find in the store if possible–many of them have unnecessary added ingredients and are often in BPA-lined cans.

If the thought of making coconut milk from scratch is daunting, here’s an easy option, made using dried coconut: 

And then there’s coconut oil. There are umpteen healthy uses for coconut oil. First off, be sure to buy virgin unrefined oil. I have tried many different brands but my favorite is from Tropical Traditions. Get on their mailing list because they are always offering coupons (two for one) and free shipping.

Their coconut oil is handcrafted, not by machine, like most of the coconut oils you find on a shelf in the store. It’s a wonderful company and they have lots of informational videos and recipes.

Virgin coconut oil is a healthy fat with amazing healing potential. It’s good for the immune system, digestion, regulating blood sugar and has both antiviral and antibacterial properties.

You can sauté with coconut oil (it has a high smoke point), bake with it, make pancakes with it, pop popcorn with it (yum!), or add it to smoothies for a healthy fat. It’s also good in combination with ghee (especially on popcorn!)

You can use coconut oil to shave your legs or even as a deodorant (it’s antibacterial). Use it alone or add a drop of an essential oil like peppermint, lavender or tea tree. (Note: Don’t use essential oils on freshly shaven underarms.)

There are lots of recipes out there if you want to get fancy. Here’s one you can try. Or do like I do and just dab a tiny bit under each arm and you’re good to go. Another option is just clean baby powder (non-talc) or baking soda with a drop or two of your favorite essential oil. My personal choice is peppermint for its cooling properties.

I use coconut oil daily during the summer months to protect and moisturize my skin.  If you’ve ever heard the statement “Don’t put something on your body that you wouldn’t put in your mouth”– this is a perfect example.

You can rub coconut oil on your skin either before or after your shower. A little goes a long way and you will not feel greasy afterwards. Just give it a few minutes to absorb before dressing.

I find that using coconut oil on a daily basis gently tans my skin without burning or peeling and keeps it smooth. Plus, I still absorb Vitamin D from the sun which has so many necessary health benefits. Many traditional sunscreens are laden with chemicals (Would you eat your sunscreen?) and block any absorption of Vitamin D.

For additional sun protection, try adding a few drops of frankincense, myrrh and/or lavender essential oils to your coconut oil. My essential oils of choice are by Young Living. If you are interested in any of the oils, feel free to use my member #1295580 to sign up and receive them at wholesale price! And feel free to contact me with any questions.

So, enjoy coconut in whatever form you like this summer–especially when your Pitta is on fire. Watch for my summer newsletter where I will include more tips on staying cool and balanced.

In the meantime, enjoy this audio on essential oils for summer by my good friend Pamela Rich and her colleague Christi Collins. And I would love to hear about some of your favorite uses of coconut in the comment section below!

Oils For Summer


Much love,
Barbara

P.S. My latest use for coconut oil is to clean and preserve my wooden cutting board. Coconut oil is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal! Yay for coconut oil!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Healing Mother’s Day!

This is an oldie from last year which still rings true! I hope you enjoy it again, or for the first time. Happy Mother’s Day!

FamilyPhoto2:RevIf ever there was a day for journaling, it’s Mother’s Day. I can’t think of another day in the year that brings up as many conflicting emotions. Talking greeting cards, flowers, and breakfast in bed are all nice gestures to acknowledge our mothers. But the truth is, for many of us–whether we’re the child or the mother–there’s an aching pain below the surface.

Let me list some possible reasons:

  • You’ve lost a mother you adored
  • Your mother left you
  • Your mother was/is a terrible mother
  • Your child died
  • You terminated a child
  • You can’t have children
  • You gave a child up for adoption
  • Your children have abandoned you

The list could go on and on, but I’ll stop because my intention is not to depress everyone. Quite the opposite. I just want the healing to begin.

The mother/child relationship is a sacred one but often fraught with turmoil and heartache. What can give us the greatest joy can also cause the greatest pain.

We humans have monumental expectations of others and of ourselves. And when these expectations don’t turn out as planned we start stuffing our grief, anger, pain, guilt and shame down deep where we think it can’t hurt us. But it eventually rises to the surface and begs to be acknowledged.

And here’s where the light can come in! From an energetic point of view, all of the emotions I just mentioned are dark, negative energy that can wreak havoc on our mind, body and spirit. We must do everything in our power to dissipate it.

Think about opposite emotions that we have a conscious choice to embrace. Happiness, joy, forgiveness, and self-love. These are light, positive energetic forces that lift us up, heal us and can make us whole again.

My own relationship with my mother was a tumultuous one. She was never cruel or abusive like some, but we always seemed to be at odds. Under the surface kind of stuff. Towards the end of her life I was finally able to see things from a different perspective and take responsibility for the role I had played in our drama.

I consider it a gift that I was able to spend a great deal of time with her in her last years and heal a wound that had festered for far too long. I was alone with her when she took her final breath and in spite of the grief, I was grateful to have been by her side.

Years later when I began journaling and exploring the relationships in my life, I began to look at my relationship with my mother in a different light. She herself had lost her mother when she was eight years old and was one of eleven children growing up in Detroit in the early 1900’s. She witnessed a lot of death and sadness in her childhood – more than I can even imagine. There are always two sides to every story and we need to remember that.

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes circa 1960

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes circa 1960

I look at pictures of my mother now and see her fun-loving nature – climbing the dunes with her girls instead of sitting and watching, or riding on a jet ski for the first time in her 80′s! I see her devotion to our family and what a proud determined woman she was. I think I inherited her resiliency, that’s for sure. I have long ago let go of the stuff that caused us to be at odds with each other. Gone.

Mom and Dad living it up in their 80's

Mom and Dad living it up in their 80′s

And then there’s my relationship with my two children. They are grown now and off living their own lives. My emotion of choice was guilt for many many years.

We have all worked hard to re-build any bridges that were burned in the wake of my divorce with their father. I have let go of the guilt of letting them down, of not fully being there for them. I was (and continue to be) the absolute best mother I could be at every stage of their life and mine.

I have sent the guilt into the ethers and only think now of the unimaginable joy that they blessed me with as young children and that they still honor me with today. I have loved them unconditionally since the day I first set eyes on them. They are both remarkable in so many ways, and I am grateful to be their mother.

Then…

Brian and Amy with our beloved first dog, Morgan

Brian and Amy with our beloved first dog, Morgan

And now…

With Amy

With Amy

With Brian

With Brian

 

If you are hurting today or any other day because of your relationship with your mother or your children, know that you have the power within to let go of the pain. Here are some suggestions that have been helpful for me:

  • Journal. Writing about it or speaking aloud what needs to be said is powerfully healing. This blog is a form of healing for me, by the way.
  • Having a ceremony is another way to let go. Write out what needs to be said, burn it or bury it and say goodbye to the pain and the hurt.
  • Read “Truth Heals” by Deborah King. I guarantee you will learn how to release deep-seated emotions in a safe and healing way, leading to healthier and happier relationships.
  • Let Mother Nature nurture and wrap you in her embrace. She is Mother to us all and is there for us whenever we need her. Go outside and be with your Mother whenever you need her.
  • Know that you have the right to remove yourself from a toxic relationship. It may not be the right time now to heal the wounds if both parties are not willing or able. Just keep the door open.
  • Ask or grant forgiveness. Write a letter if things are too painful to say in person.

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

As I was finishing up this post, I glanced over to a little glass container that holds business cards, notes, etc. A card that was sticking up out of the pile caught my eye and I pulled it out. I kid you not–it was the prayer card from my mother’s funeral. You can’t make this stuff up. I turned it over and this is what it says:

“LIFE is to live and life is to give and
talents are to use for good if you choose.
Do not pray for easy lives.
Pray to be stronger.
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers.
Pray for powers equal to your tasks –
then the doing of your work shall be no miracle
but you shall be a miracle.
Every day you shall wonder at yourself…
at the richness of life which has come
to you by the grace of God.
But everyone needs someone – knowing that
somewhere someone is thinking of you…”
– Fr. Solanus Casey, Capuchin

Be strong, be brave, and love yourself. My wish to all of you is for a happy, healing Mother’s Day, every day.

Much love,
Barbara

Posted in Healing, Journaling | Tagged , | 4 Comments