Why You Need to Cool Your Body – NOW

barbara-sinclair-why-you-need-to-cool-your-body-now

Apples are one of the best foods for drawing heat out of the body

Here we are again, approaching the juncture between Ayurvedic seasons. The heat of Pitta Season will soon give way to the cold and windy nature of Vata Season (Fall/Early Winter).

Ayurveda cautions that this seasonal shift is a tenuous time for our health.

While it’s still terribly hot and humid here in the NYC/NJ area, my body is starting to feel the shift. Little waves of anxiety that are the hallmark of Vata Season are starting to appear. Uh oh…

For those of us who live in temperate climates, the changes are more obvious than for those who live in tropical climates. Still, wherever you are (well, maybe not in places like Scotland where the summer has mostly been cool and wet), if it’s been hot then you might want to heed this warning:

It’s time to kick that accumulated heat out of your body!

Ayurveda is wise and knows that the excesses which accumulate during each season need to be cleared out in order for the body to be healthy during the upcoming season.

In the case of Pitta Season, of course, it’s HEAT that needs to go.

If any of these symptoms ring true for you, you may have excess heat from the hot summer months:

▪ Skin problems such as rash, eczema, hives, psoriasis or dermatitis
▪ Feeling of heat trapped in the body, hot flashes
▪ Burning or itching sensations
▪ Digestive issues such as heartburn, acid reflux, burping, nausea, loose stools or diarrhea, intense hunger
▪ Yellow coating on the tongue
▪ Bleeding gums or canker sores
▪ Excessive sweating (pungent-smelling)
▪ Excessive thirst
▪ Feelings of anger, jealousy, criticism, impatience

While these symptoms may seem to be simply an annoyance, they are actually red flags of imbalance that, left untreated, can lead to more serious problems.

Vata is dry and mobile. If the excess heat of the summer is not properly expelled before entering Vata Season, this hot/dry energy will begin to move upward in the body, weakening it and making it more susceptible to colds, flus, allergies, as well as digestive and respiratory problems.

The body will begin to produce reactive mucus to combat the dryness and we will likely blame it on the person we work with who has a cold.

Mother Nature knows best, as always, and she kindly provides us with foods that are naturally cooling and help to dispel heat from the body.

You need look no further than your local farmer’s market. Chances are that most of the seasonal foods you find will be of a cooling nature, so eat lots of fruits and vegetables at summer’s end.

Especially effective are apples (the sweet kind are best for Pitta types), pomegranates and beets.

Eating lots of these foods may create looser stools. This is a sign that the body is expelling excess heat. So be sure to stay hydrated by sipping water and coconut water throughout the day.

Vata-types especially might benefit from fresh-squeezed lime juice with a pinch of sea salt in water to help ward off dehydration.

For a more complete list of foods that are cooling and Pitta-pacifying, click HERE.

The change of seasons is always a prime opportunity to cleanse the body.

Unlike harsh cleanses which can leave the body in a weakened state, an Ayurvedic cleanse gently clears the body and mind of toxins and brings the doshas back into balance.

Contact me for guidance with an Ayurvedic cleanse.

Next month I’ll be back with lots of tips to soothe your Vata. :)

Much love,
Barbara

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

The Thrill of a New Path

Exploring a Path in Northern Michigan

Exploring a path in Northern Michigan

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved paths. Walking on them, biking on them – all the while loving the mystery of where they took me.

That love has only grown stronger as I’ve grown older. I don’t need to search for them, they just seem to appear at the right time.

Just last week in Northern Michigan, I came upon a number of them while walking the country roads or hiking in the woods.

Back home, on mornings when I bike by the river, I traverse through a tiny little city park and always opt to take the path that cuts through it, rather than the easy way around.

No kidding, my heart skips a little beat and I feel like a kid again as a I weave my way through the trees and park benches. It only takes me about thirty seconds, but it’s so worth it.

When I lived in NYC, there was a special path down by the water in Battery Park City where I would always ride my bike. As I got off the tourist-laden main walkway, I would feel for a moment like I was deep in the forest (albeit on concrete). There’s a private little spot with some large boulders and a park bench. Sometimes I would stop to rest, eat my lunch, read a book or meditate.

Now I love to photograph paths as much as set foot or bike on them. There’s such a mystery about them. Where do they lead? Back where you started out? To a dead end? Or to something so incredible it takes your breath away.

Starting out on a hike in the woods last week, my daughter and I came to a fork in the path. The left side was unmarked but the other said “Keep Out”. So we went left and laughed when the path eventually ended at the “Keep Out” sign.

You know where I’m headed, don’t you? This is all such a metaphor for the paths we find ourselves on in our lives.

Talking about “your path” has become almost a cliche in the world of spirituality. But there’s no denying the impact our choices regarding right or wrong paths (some would say there is no right or wrong path – only the one meant for us) make in our lives.

I’ve learned that when faced with a big decision or life change looming ahead, turning to Mother Nature for answers can be just the ticket. Sometimes I do it consciously, but more often than not it just happens. Like being on the path.

That’s why when I’m stuck, or sad, or anxious, I nudge myself outside to be with the trees, the sun, the moon, the clouds, the water, the earth.

When you live in the city, it’s all too easy to hole up inside. I’ve been guilty of it this year and have had to make a conscious choice to fight against that becoming a bad habit.

And each time I step outside it’s like a veil is lifted and answers start to come to me. Almost the same as in a dream or a meditation.

There’s a correlation with everything in our life and Nature. Both the good and the bad. This is a polarity planet, after all.

The sun can illuminate us, give us energy, but it can burn us, too. We say things like “She has a sunny disposition” or “He’s burned me too many times.”

The wind can sweep away stagnant air and cool us down. But it can also be a destructive force.

And on and on.

I was ruminating about these things and came home to find this timely wisdom in my inbox from my friend, Brita.

“This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted, and shaky – that’s called liberation.” — Pema Chodron

Whatever path you choose (or as Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests – go where there is no path and make your own), enjoy the mystery and let it unfold, knowing that your life mirrors Nature in all her ever-changing glory.

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

Why Jamie Fraser Is the Perfect Pitta Male

jamie fraser starz screenshot pitta

Sam Heughan as Scottish Highlander, Jamie Fraser

Well, the 2015 Emmy nominations just came out and the cast of my favorite TV show, “Outlander” got snubbed. Boo.

I think it’s the first time I’ve ever paid such close attention to the Emmy nominations.

Caitriona Balfe, Sam HeughanTobias Menzies and everyone else involved are spectacular.

And, oh, there’s Scotland, which almost steals the show.

Scottish Countryside

Scottish Countryside

I barely watch other TV shows lately – just “Outlander”, over and over again. And seeing that in print I realize that it’s getting a little out-of-control.

Perhaps I had a past life in Scotland in the 1700’s. I don’t know what it is, but the story has a grip on me and won’t let go.

When I head to the lake with family in a couple of weeks, I’ll take a break. But, maybe I’ll bring the book along and read it again. :) At least I’m not alone, right, Brita?

Which leads me to the reason for this article.

Why Jamie Fraser is the perfect Pitta male.

Most of you who read this blog know what I’m talking about, but if not, let me just say that I’m not comparing Jamie, the kilted Scottish Highlander, to soft leavened flatbread (pita). I’m talking about Pitta Dosha, a la Ayurveda.

Here’s a little refresher.

According to Ayurveda , 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 is your individual constitution which you were born with and it never changes. It’s determined by the combination of doshas which are dominant in your psycho-physiological makeup.

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

In my opinion, Jamie Fraser is the perfect Pitta male.

I have to wonder if Diana Gabaldon (author of the best-selling “Outlander” series of books) knew about Ayurveda when she wrote the story, and that she was creating a perfect Pitta type when she crafted Jamie’s character – the handsome Highlander who has stolen the hearts of millions of readers and TV viewers.

The elements associated with Pitta Dosha are fire and water. Mostly we think of fire when we talk about Pitta.

And Jamie is HOT. :) Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well. He embodies all that Pitta Dosha is about. Outlander fans will see the connection immediately.

Pitta types are:

  • Passionate
  • Highly intelligent
  • Warm, friendly
  • Competitive
  • Sharp-witted
  • Independent
  • Courageous
  • Leaders
  • Highly organized
  • Self-confident

Physical characteristics are:

  • Strong, athletic build
  • Sensitive skin – often pale-skinned/freckled
  • Hair is usually smooth and shiny – often red or blond
  • Excessive hunger/thirst
  • Excessive sweating, high heat in body
  • Strong digestion, but gets crabby when they skip a meal

And the unbalanced Pitta type can be:

  • Sarcastic
  • Stubborn
  • HOT-headed
  • Frustrated
  • Irritable
  • Spiteful, jealous or angry when stressed
  • Domineering, vain, ambitious
  • Judgemental, critical, impatient, intolerant
  • Excessively perfectionistic

Can you see how these characteristics all relate to the fire element?

Pitta dosha rules our metabolism, digestion, and the transformation of our thoughts, food and physical activity into energy.

Pitta ignites our agni, or digestive fire.

It rules the blood. Hence, Pitta people are usually hot-blooded.

Pitta types are hot, inside and out – even their internal organs get easily overheated.

“Impervious to cold, he seemed to carry a small furnace within himself, and his skin was always warm; sometimes almost hot, as though he burned more fiercely in answer to my own cool touch.”Outlander

Scotland’s weather, much maligned by many, suits the Pitta constitution because of its cool climate.

And when I visited there in May, I commented to my friend about all the Pitta couples I saw. They were everywhere. Red/blond hair, ruddy complexions, wearing t-shirts while we had on our winter coats!

Back to Jamie…

With sword(s) drawn, Jamie valiantly and passionately rescues Claire (more than once – as she always seems to be getting herself in trouble).

And there are all of the references about his stubborn hot-headedness, which seems to run in the Fraser family.

Like a true Pitta, Jamie is a born leader – Laird of Lallybroch, his home.

Of course, I have to mention Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie in the series, and completely embodies this complex character that Diana has created. To a tee.

And Ronald D. Moore, for creating a show that honors the books, yet has a life of its own. (I saw the show first and then read the books.)

If you want to fully understand why Jamie Fraser is the perfect Pitta man, watch the show (on Starz) or read the book(s). There are eight of them, and another one on the way. Pick your poison – books or TV (or both, like me).

And Emmys be damned. I think I’m going to boycott this year. Except to cheer on Bear McCreary who wrote the amazing musical score and snagged a nomination.

You have no idea what you’re missing. Check it out.

Much love,
Barbara

P.S. If anyone’s wondering about Claire, the main character in “Outlander”, my best guess would be that she has a Vata-Pitta constitution. Or it could be Pitta-Vata. Claire has a lot of Pitta fire in her personality, to be sure – she’s a force to be reckoned with – but physically she’s more Vata (at least TV Claire is). Claire is played with equal passion by the talented and lovely Caitriona Balfe 

Posted in Ayurveda, Pitta | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

My Bike Is My Muse

Bike2My bike is my muse.

I had this thought the other day while riding my twenty-something-year-old PINK Giant mountain bike. It seems like all I have to do is hop on her and the ideas start to flow.

Sometimes they flow like a river, sometimes they drip like a faucet, and sometimes they flood my mind like a torrential rainstorm.

I’ve tried capturing them by using a dictation app on my phone, or asking Siri to take a note. Sometimes I just have to pull over and grab my notebook.

But more often than not, I merely continue on with the task at hand, which is to go for a bike ride, get some exercise and be outside.

If I were to stop each time my muse threw an idea at me I’d never get my ride in. So, I always say a silent prayer that the important stuff will stick around in my brain until I get home and can write it down.

Technically a muse is an individual (or deity/spirit/guide) who is a source of artistic  inspiration. It’s traditionally a woman – a la the nine goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who presided over the arts and sciences.

But I think anyone or anything can be our muse.

My bike has especially good energy. It was given to me as a Mother’s Day present by my kids a couple of decades ago, made the journey with me to NYC, and rode many miles in the company of my partner, Ralph.

I don’t do races or tours. I don’t do any mountain biking, even though it’s a mountain bike. I don’t do anymore crazy NYC city riding like I did when Ralph was alive. I go for fairly leisurely rides by the river that more often than not turn into precious creative time.

It’s no coincidence that this happens most during late spring and summer when it’s Pitta Season. Pitta is all about action, being “fired up”, getting things done.

My Vata creativity melds with my Pitta fire in the summer and sometimes I think I’m going to burst from all of the ideas I have bouncing around in my head.

Have you noticed more emails from me in your inbox lately? I apologize for that, but try as I might to adhere to a regular blogging schedule, it just doesn’t work for me. When inspiration hits and I’m able to harness it and bring something to fruition, I have to go with the flow.

In the wintertime, I have a different muse. Two or three, in fact. But that’s a subject for another time. In summer, I’ve decided that my bike is my muse.

The day I started writing this post my friend, Diana, came over to make lunch (the kindest thing you can do for someone who doesn’t like to cook) and share some of her poetry with me.

Lo and behold, she pulled out a book of poems she’s going to publish titled “Multiverses of a Captive Muse”! Big smile. :) I love synchronicity.

Diana has more of a traditional muse by the name of Calliope (one of the nine daughters), who presides over eloquence and poetry.

I think you’ll agree that Calliope has connected with Diana in a deeply profound way. She oozes creativity and generously agreed to share one of her poems with us.

A Muse Got Free

“A muse got free
and her wings cropped by angels
she believed in
suddenly disappeared.
She found herself
and her new bangs
sent by aliens,
disguised as strength,
as faith and as the new Life
they will abduct her soul
and take her to new universes
full of forces,
full of powerful horses
that will carry her thru
the highest peak in paradise.
It’s now or never baby!”
— Diana Calliope

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

INFINITAS Series By Diana Calliope

Whether it’s a Greek goddess or an old pink bike, having a source of inspiration is a precious gift.

We’re all born with creative potential for whatever we were meant to do in this lifetime. To waste it is sad and makes for an unfulfilled life.

So, I ask you – Who or what inspires you? Do you have a muse? Please share with me below!

Let that Pitta fire light you and create away!

Much love,
Barbara

My First Bike

My First Bike

Posted in Art, Ayurveda, Creativity, Inspiration, Pitta, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ayurvedic Tips to Avoid Heat Exhaustion/Stroke

Sun Drawing:web“Even after all this time
The Sun never says to the Earth
‘You owe me.’
Look what happens with a love like that
It lights the whole sky.” Hafiz

This poem by Hafiz is one of my favorites. The sun tirelessly gives to us day in and day out. It warms us, energizes us, and keeps us alive. But sometimes we need to take a break from the sun when the thermostat rises.

It’s heating up in the NYC area. It’s summer, after all. There have been some beautiful mild days but there have also been days of blistering heat and high humidity.

I’m being super cautious this year, having suffered heat exhaustion in the past. I recognize the symptoms and take it very seriously. Left untreated, it can lead to heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition which requires medical intervention.

Heat exhaustion can happen when dehydration occurs after a long heat spell – especially when the humidity is high. Living in an urban area can add to the likelihood of it occurring because of the poor air quality.

Symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Skin may be cool and moist to the touch

When heat exhaustion occurs, you need to immediately cool the body by:

  • Drinking cool (not ice-cold) non-alcoholic liquids
  • Stopping all activity and RESTING
  • Getting out of the sun and preferably into air-conditioning
  • Taking a cool shower or bath
  • Wearing loose-fitting, lightweight, natural fabrics

If your temperature reaches 104 degrees, seek medical attention immediately as heat stroke may be imminent.

People with high Pitta dosha need to be particularly vigilant about keeping their body cool. The main element in Pitta dosha is fire and so they already run hot. In order to avoid damaging their internal organs, Pittas should take special care to not get overheated.

I devoted a recent blog post to Pitta Season which is upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere. You can read it HERE to get some tips on how to maintain a healthy Pitta balance during the hot summer months.

But it’s not just Pittas that need to be cautious about overheating. I learned this the hard way a couple of years ago on a long bike ride on a blistering summer day.

My prakriti is Vata-Pitta, which can be a dangerous combination in hot, humid weather. Vata dosha is dry and easily becomes dehydrated. Vata-types also don’t sweat a lot.

Coupled with Pitta dosha, the air (Vata) can fan the fire (Pitta) and make a perfect storm for heat exhaustion. Ever heard the phrase “He/she runs hot and cold”? Well Vata-Pittas literally do–physically and emotionally.

Coconut water saved me that afternoon on my bike, and these days I am never without it in the summer. Coconut is a cooling fruit that can do wonders to help keep you hydrated. Read my article to learn about the many benefits of coconuts.

A problem that Vata-Pittas encounter when overheated is that their Vata dosha doesn’t like to sit still and they are often bothered by air conditioning because of the cold air movement. I had ditched my air conditioner several years ago when I lived in NYC because it unnerved me so.

I’ve never minded the heat, but as I’ve grown older, my body’s cooling mechanism seems more precarious. Now I have air conditioning which I use sparingly when it gets unbearable.

It took several days for my body to readjust when heat exhaustion happened.  I forced myself to lay on the couch in the middle of the day to rest. This is torture for a Vata-Pitta, unlike a Kapha who would gladly head in for an afternoon nap.

Water is the predominant element in Kapha dosha, so Kaphas do better in dry weather. When the humidity is high, they also suffer. Unlike Vatas, Kaphas tend to sweat a lot but also retain water. They need to be cautious in high heat and humidity, especially if they are overweight and/or have high blood pressure.

Exercising in hot, humid weather can be extremely dangerous. I want desperately to hand out Ayurveda tips to all of the Pittas running in the park during the hottest time of day. Red-faced and looking like they want to kill someone, I wonder what possible benefit they are deriving from this self-inflicted torture.

In fact, Ayurveda teaches that we should only exercise to 50% of our capacity. When it comes to the doshas, all exercise is NOT created equal. So, take it easy in the heat. Maybe opt for a swim or an early morning or evening walk or bike ride.

The bottom line is that all three of the doshas need to take care during extreme heat, especially when the humidity is high. Here are a few cooling Ayurvedic remedies for prevention or treatment of heat-related symptoms:

  • Fully hydrating the body can take up to two weeks. Sipping hot/warm water every 15 minutes throughout the day is much more effective than downing large glasses of water all at once. Cold water is shocking to the system and should be avoided. It also interferes with digestion by literally putting out the digestive fire. Remember that the average core temperature of the body is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Coconut water alone or mixed with fresh orange juice is one of the best hydrators around. Most sports drinks have added sugar and other unnecessary ingredients.
  • Sweet cucumber milk is delicious. Blend 1 cup of raw or organic, non homogenized milk with 1/2 cup skinned cucumber and 1 T raw sugar. (Thank you Joyful Belly Ayurveda!) Milk is very cooling and calming for Vatas and Pittas, but it should always be taken alone.
  • Combine 3-4 cups of water with 10 fresh mint leaves, 1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger and 1 tsp. fennel seeds. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and drink throughout the day. It will help cool the body and aid digestion. You can add salt, lemon, lime and/or raw honey. If adding honey, don’t add it to boiling hot water–wait a few minutes. Honey heated at high temperatures is toxic.

Here is a video with some Ayurvedic home remedies for heat stroke:

Wherever you are in the world, if blistering heat and humidity is upon you, be very cautious. Find a shady tree, or air conditioning and stay out of the sun as much as possible. It’s a great time to go to the movies!

Much love,
Barbara

 

Posted in Ayurveda, Ayurvedic Tip of the Week, Coconut Oil, Pitta | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ayurvedic Tip of the Week: Ditch the Leftovers

Farmer's Market

Lani’s Farm, Tribeca Greenmarket, NYC

Leftovers are a no-no, according to Ayurveda. This makes me a little sad. I used to love certain leftovers for lunch.

Unfortunately, once food has been cooked, cooled and then re-heated, the life-force (or prana) has left the food, and our bodies have to work much harder to digest it.

The same goes for frozen, canned, microwaved or packaged food. The fresher the food,  the greater the prana and its healing properties.

I got rid of my microwave years ago when I was still in NYC. Never missed it. When I moved last year I was greeted by a gigantic one in my new kitchen. What a waste of space! I don’t even use it to boil water.

When our food is not properly digested, ama (undigested food particles/toxins) builds up and begins to clog the channels in the body, setting the stage for disease.

For many (probably most of us) in this fast-paced culture that we live in, the thought of cooking each meal from scratch seems ludicrous and next to impossible. Especially if you’re a city-dweller without a garden in your backyard.

But the truth is, it just takes a little more thought and effort – learning proper portion size to eliminate waste – and the rewards are great. Most cities now have farmer’s markets, so this shouldn’t be an excuse.

Local, seasonal, and preferably organic food is the best possible fuel for our bodies. Mother Nature is wise and provides us with just the right foods we need during each season.

Cooking for one can be really challenging. I don’t even like to cook. But I’ve managed to figure it out (for the most part).

I visit my local farmer’s market at least twice a week, try not to overbuy (This is the challenging part for me – everything looks so good!), and I compost any leftovers. I’ve even made an arrangement with a friendly farmer at the market to take my compost.

Try it for a few weeks and let me know how you do (and more importantly, how you feel).

And always remember that baby steps are better than no steps at all! Even cutting in half the amount of frozen food or leftovers you eat will have a significant effect on your health.

I struggle to follow my own advice. It’s almost lunchtime and, truth be told, I want a tuna fish sandwich!

Much love,
Barbara

Posted in Ayurveda, Ayurvedic Tip of the Week, Farmer's Market, General Wellness, Nutrition | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

I Want to Share a Gem With You

Rosslyn:webOne of the last places I visited on my recent trip to Scotland was Rosslyn Chapel. Rosslyn was built in the 1400’s by William St. Clair and remains in the ancestral family today.

I was fascinated listening to a chapel guide talk about the history and symbolism surrounding Rosslyn. Its history is steeped in myths and legends and has been written about extensively by the likes of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth and a host of others – both in fiction (i.e. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown) and non fiction.

The chapel is loaded with hundreds of carvings of everything from an angel playing the bagpipes, to the Green Man (a pagan figure representing the unity between humankind and nature), to the fallen angel, Lucifer.

On the way out I stopped in the gift shop and my eyes immediately landed on a little booklet practically hidden on the bottom shelf titled “Tree Murmurs“.

I really love trees and believe that our spiritual connection with them is deep. When I leafed through the pages I quickly saw that “Tree Murmurs” was more than just a book of tree photos and poems. It’s a little gem.

Author Jackie Queally writes:

“Trees, once widely revered, lent great wisdom to men’s lives. We communed between our selves and the trees, and were deeply at one with the universe.

Some trees were of enormous importance. They represented aspects of our developing inner lives. An eternal tree cycle, reflecting the dynamics of the universal soul unfolding, integrates this inner circle of native trees.”

Jackie has written a fascinating booklet of beautiful poetry accompanied by information on the Celtic Year – divided into thirteen months, each of which have a respective tree/bush spirit.

I contacted Jackie and she kindly gave me permission to share a few of her poems here.

I’ve always loved Birch trees, even as a young child. We would vacation in Northern Michigan where they were plentiful. According to the Celtic Year, the tree associated with the month of my birthdate is the Birch.

BirchRev

Birch

“I grace the skies
with slender forms
embracing space
like none other.
And Venus beckons me
to her chamber
to rest my weary limbs
against the greying skies.
She bathes me with all her love
and restores me.
I will give you life
wherever you are
whether you are
alone or in company
near or far.
Why hesitate?
I seek your bidding
at the beginning
of the year.”
— Jackie Queally

Another childhood favorite of mine is the Willow. I would draw them incessantly.

Weeping Willow

Willow

“I carry the gentle mystery of hope
in the spaces I weave.
Leaning like tentacles
eagerly clutching
visions of the night
brought back
into the Light.
I hover on the edge of the Dreamtime
enveloping the Well of water Divine.
No time for Death,
nor yet for Life alone.
A sense of something else –
A surgeon carving stiches on your soul
so your fears drop off
one by one.
The journey completed
once embarked upon,
yet renewed
moment by moment.
I dissipate pain.”
— Jackie Queally

And a bush that you’ve perhaps never heard of – Gorse (Ulex europaeus, aka Whin). I was obsessed with this goldenrod colored shrub that dots the Scottish landscape and gives off a delicate coconut-like scent.

When I first opened Jackie’s booklet, it was the first poem I saw.

Gorse, aka Whin, dots the Scottish countryside

Gorse, aka Whin, dots the Scottish countryside

Gorse

“I occupy the eternal soils of youth
whose lessons are cloaked in adversity
and fruits are bruised with sweetness
for the bees.
Delicate blooms of yellow brightness
enveloped by the goddess’
coconut – sweet breathing
eternal in her love.

Ah! I am vigour!
ferocious fire,
stubborn fire,
borne of stubborn wood stems
star – leaved in their nakedness.
Live on…”
— Jackie Queally

You can order your own copy of “Tree Murmurs” HERE , along with a host of other fascinating books.

Or, if you’re lucky enough to be traveling to Scotland or Ireland, you can book a tour of various sacred sites with Jackie. I know I will be contacting Jackie when not if I return to Scotland!

Much love,
Barbara

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Ayurvedic Tip of the Week: Cool Your Pitta Fire

coconuts:webCool your Pitta fire by favoring cooling foods that are sweet, bitter or astringent. Avoid foods that are salty, sour, pungent, acidic, or hot/spicy.

Good choices are:

  • Sweet Fruits: melon, mangoes, pineapple (only if sweet), apples, watermelon, cucumber (yes, it’s a fruit!), etc.
  • Milk (drink it alone with Pitta-pacifying spices like saffron and turmeric). Raw milk or at the very least un-homogenized milk has the most healing properties. Let an occasional ice cream cool your Pitta, as well. :)
  • Ghee – cook with it, or add a tsp. to milk with cooling spices at night before bed.
  • Basmati rice, beans/lentils
  • Vegetables that are in the sweet, bitter or astringent category. This includes most leafy greens, sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc.
  • Coconut is an excellent cooling food for Pittas in all its forms. You can read more about its Pitta-pacifying properties HERE.

And (I’m sorry to say) there are the not-so-good-choices, as well. They are:

  • Acidic foods like coffee, and tomatoes (I know!) Because of its hot, acidic qualities, coffee can further unbalance an already unbalanced Pitta type. How and when you drink coffee can make a huge difference. Check out this article for some good suggestions. And tomatoes are, well, really acidic. Opt for the lower acid versions.
  • Pungent foods like raw onion, chilies, radishes
  • Sour foods like vinegar, grapefruit, pickles, fermented foods, alcohol, hard cheeses
  • Chocolate – Don’t shoot the messenger! Chocolate isn’t great for Pitta-types because of its heating properties and difficulty digesting. There’s probably not a Pitta-type out there who loves chocolate who will heed this advice. You know who you are. Therefore, limit consumption, eat only healthier (dark) versions and brush your teeth right after eating.
  • Heating foods like chilies, garlic, cayenne, etc.
  • Salty Foods – snack foods, pickles, iodized salt, etc.

Check out this list for more suggestions.

Symptoms such as acid reflux, heartburn, canker sores, ulcers, bleeding, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, excess bruising or any other inflammatory condition in the body are red flags that Pitta dosha has increased and needs balancing. Ignoring these signs can lead to more serious health problems.

Following these dietary suggestions can help make for a more comfortable summer season.

Now, that being said, I REALLY don’t like this part of my “job”. Suggesting to people what they should/shouldn’t eat. Eating is such an important part of not only our physical but our emotional and spiritual health, as well.

In fact, Ayurveda has a saying “How you eat is more important than what you eat.” Meaning – eat mindfully and with gratitude – and not running down the streets of NYC with a pizza slice in your hand!

But let’s be honest here. If temperatures are soaring and you have a lot of Pitta dosha in your constitution (or maybe just a temporary imbalance), cutting out or adding certain foods to feel better should be a good thing, right?

So, please take this all in stride – stay in tune with your body and its imbalances and needs. Eat seasonally and organic when possible.

I struggle with this every day. Knowing what’s best for my body but wanting the shortbread or ice cream instead. Knowledge is power, I keep telling myself. But I’m only human… :)

For more comprehensive information on staying cool during Pitta Season, click HERE.

Much love,
Barbara

Posted in Ayurveda, Ayurvedic Tip of the Week, Coconut Oil, Pitta | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pink Is Everything!” – The Healing Power of Color

PinkIsEverything:web

Detail from “Pink Is Everything”

One afternoon last January while meditating, I heard/saw the words “Pink is Everything!” Exclamation point and all. Whatever did it mean?

At first, I took it literally, as we humans often do.

Pink? I was never a pink kind of girl. Or woman. Never particularly liked the color.

But wait a minute. The last couple of years I’ve noticed myself bringing this color into my life (muted, rich shades of it, of course – not Disney pink).

I have a favorite pink scarf that I frequently wear and I’m knitting one with (you guessed it!) pink yarn.

I moved to Jersey City last summer and had my bedroom painted PINK.

PinkBedroom:web

Benjamin Moore #2007-40 – Coral Essence

I went to buy a new rug and when I stepped out of the elevator, the most beautiful pink Persian rug (on sale!) was lying there just waiting for me.

I thought this was a new phenomenon but I started to look around and saw that I’d used this color frequently in my art.

And my heart absolutely broke open when I would see pink flowers in bloom.

PinkFlowers:web

Hmm.

When I began studying energy healing and the chakras, I started paying attention to the colors associated with each chakra. (Click here for a free chakra chart.)

I noticed that at different times in my life, going through different challenges, I would either be drawn to/or turned off by certain colors.

Being an artist, this always got my attention. I wondered why I’d have such a visceral reaction to certain colors.

I used to detest the color orange, which is the color associated with the second chakra.  My whole life I had issues in this chakra and suddenly, when I started paying attention and healing it, I noticed orange becoming part of my palette.

Same with the color green (heart chakra). I can’t get enough of the color green these days – especially in nature (hence my recent trip to Scotland).

I bought a green jacket before my trip. And a green suitcase with a matching green backpack. :)

My least favorite color is bright red, the color of the root chakra. One of these days perhaps I will surround myself in red and finally be able to say “I’m grounded”.

Red was the favorite color of my partner, Ralph – one of the most grounded, rooted Kapha-types I’ve known. Like a tree trunk.

Interesting that pink is a combination of red (1st chakra) and white (7th chakra). The heart (4th) chakra is the bridge between the upper and lower chakras.

Who doesn’t think of the heart when they think of pink?

Like a dream that stays with us longer than usual, or a wonderful synchronicity that appears, these messages are gems that can add meaning to our often mundane or challenging life here on earth.

PinkIsEverything2:web

Detail from “Pink Is Everything”

I believe getting quiet is the best way to open up to them. You don’t need to be sitting in meditation, although that’s where some of the more profound (or at least interesting) messages have come to me.

They also come when I’m riding my bike, making art, dancing, or in the middle of a yoga pose, or even washing the dishes. Sitting under a tree. Rowing a boat. You get the picture. Whatever works for you.

Get quiet. Stay open. Receive. Reflect.

I became a little obsessed with this message. It floated in and out of my mind for days. It never went away. Months later it nudged me back to making art, and as I worked on a piece aptly titled “Pink Is Everything”, meaning began to take shape.

I looked in my notebook where I had jotted it down the day it happened and noticed the date was 1-11-2015. 111. 1+1+1+2+0+1+5 = 11.

A numerologist would have a field day with all of these 1s. My knowledge is limited, but I do know that my life path number is 11/2. (If you’re curious what yours is, click here.)

Much of the meaning of my particular life path number rings true for me. Certainly in the way my life has evolved in the last decade.

Intuition is strong in an 11 life path.

My friend, Mary, used to comment frequently on my intense intuition years ago. I would shrug it off. Sometimes it scared me. Now it’s become a driving force in how I live my life.

Intuition, and giving credence to signs and synchronicity has made my life so much easier to navigate and, dare I say, magical.

Pink is the secondary color of the heart chakra (after green).

Pink is a sign of hope.

It’s the color of unconditional love – for self and others.

It’s the Divine Feminine.

After my partner died I retreated and was okay with being alone. I’m an artist – we generally do alone really well.

It’s been a four-year journey of really getting to know myself for the first time in my life.

But all of these signs – I can’t help but wonder if it’s time to open my heart to another.

I’m horrified to even see those words typed in front of me. And that I’m sharing the thought with you. I’m really a terribly private person and wonder constantly why the hell I write a blog.

I’m not a dater. I recently saw the film “I’ll See You in My Dreams” starring Blythe Danner.

I could write a whole post on that movie. Phenomenal acting. Her reluctant dating made me shudder in horror.

Danner’s character was such a sad example of someone so stuck in grief that she’s given up on her own life having much meaning.

I am eternally grateful that I was able to grieve and move forward from both my divorce (a death in itself) and my partner’s death.

I’m not really over thinking how a relationship could occur without dating. :) I trust that the Universe will guide me to whatever is right for me NOW – and that very well may be to remain alone. I’m okay with that.

In the meantime, I would love to hear stories of messages/signs/synchronicities that have appeared in your life.

What colors do you love or hate, and can you relate them to your life?

Or do you think this is all just hooey?

Much love,
Barbara

pink scarf:web

Posted in Chakras, Energy Medicine, Grief, Healing, Heart Health, Meditation | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

How Did Such a Nature-Lover End Up Living in Cities Her Entire Life?

Which view do you prefer?

This?

Scotland:web

Scottish Countryside

Or this?

building:web

Jersey City Construction

What sounds do you like waking up to? Birds chirping? Or hammers pounding and construction equipment droning on?

I left the beauty of Scotland behind and arrived home to two more floors piled onto the construction site across the street from where I live.

I didn’t have a stellar view to begin with (if you look, you’ll see the few trees in the distance that are about to disappear). In another couple of weeks, I’ll have none.

Unless you count cement and glass.

If I crane my head out the window and look right, I can see the Empire State Building in the distance. My guess is that the days of this view are numbered as well – a new high rise seems to appear each week.

And the noise! I can’t even hear Jamie and Claire when my windows are open. Private “Outlander” joke. :)

I often wonder –

How did such a nature-lover end up living in cities her entire life?

I gave myself a few days after returning from my trip to let the blue feeling which was hanging over me dissipate. And it did.

Yesterday I was back to my usual morning yoga/dance routine and as I was bouncing around to “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves, it became clear that I can be happy anywhere – whether it’s in a fairy glen or an apartment building in Jersey City.

I am happy.

That being said…

How did such a nature-lover end up living in cities her entire life?

These cities have always seemed to nurture the artist in me – in a gritty urban sort of way.

Detroit was/is a haven for artists. The city that is forever attempting to rise from the ashes has birthed some of the most creative people I’ve ever met.

And NYC, well, no explanation needed. Artists flock here to immerse themselves in the electric eclectic energy vibe that charges the island (and surrounding boroughs). It fed me for many years.

And now, Jersey City. No less a haven for artists and explosive talent. I was welcomed into this creative community with open arms and it has recharged the sleeping artist in me.

But, still, I wonder,

How did such a nature-lover end up living in cities her entire life?

I’m a firm believer that the Universe puts us just where we need to be at the time. Even as I was moving across the Hudson River, certain of my decision, I had a knowing that my new home would be temporary.

Jersey City is a stepping stone. It nudged me out of NYC because it was imperative that I move on.

Time will tell.

I know that I can hop in a rental car, a bus or a train and head to Upstate NY or places in New Jersey that I haven’t explored. There’s beauty there. Nature.

I can ride my bike or the subway to Central Park. I can visit the beauty of my home state of Michigan, or countless other places in the USA.

But, for some strange reason beyond my control, my heart and soul are being pulled to Scotland. It continues to flood my dreams.

Last night I found myself on a website devoted to “moving to Scotland”.

I hope my family doesn’t freak out reading this.

I love my apartment. I love my new neighbors.

I hate the process of moving. I just went through it a year ago. How can I possibly be thinking like this?

I’m sitting in my neighborhood coffee shop writing and a little sparrow keeps hopping around by the window where I’m sitting.

Sparrows have always been messengers for me. I know they’re common here in the Northeast (as they were in the Midwest where I used to nurse the babies that would fall from the side of our house in Detroit). And today, I feel like she has something to tell me.

You can bet I’ll be paying attention to my dreams, meditations and Universe winks in the next few months. I’ve learned that if I need guidance, I need to be quiet, look and listen.

I know, we always think the grass is greener on the other side. But seriously, in this case, it is!

Green:websized

Stay tuned. I know I will.

Much love,
Barbara

Posted in Nature | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments