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What if you didn't have to fight so hard?

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Raise your hand if you have ever made plans and they got cancelled or didn’t work out the way you had hoped. Yeah, I thought so. Me too.

 

If I had a nickel for every time plans got changed in my lifetime, I would be SUPER rich. (In fact now that I think about it maybe I should have started collecting those nickels a long time ago…I’d really have something to show for it!)

 

I used to be so resistant to plans changing. I’d get invited to a social gathering, commit to attending well in advance, and then end up having a crazy day, not feeling well, or had some type of urgent situation pop up. And although I knew it wouldn’t be in my best interest to show up to the event, I would show up anyway. I’d make it happen no matter how I felt, just because I had committed and didn’t want to disappoint or upset anyone. I was a woman of my word.

 

I remember one instance when I was living in Detroit, our friends invited us over for a home cooked dinner. We planned it weeks in advance, and we were all really pumped up for it and excited to see each other. Then the snow started and didn’t stop, for hours. If I remember correctly, there was a minimum of six inches of accumulation…I’d say more based on my driving experience (which I will never forget).

 

Keep I mind that, in Michigan, driving in snowy weather is a regular, normal thing. Don’t be a wuss, do your day, no matter what. It snows, you go to work. It snows, you go to school (unless it’s REALLY bad and they pity you and even then it’s only a day or two a year no matter how much it snows).

 

On this particular night though, it was BAD. I remember driving my little Saturn Ion (which was like driving ice skates on the highway) and fearing for my life the entire way there. My knuckles were white, and my body cinched up, belly hugged in tightly with my face practically IN the windshield as if getting tinier and closer would help me see through the whiteout.

 

The snow was so deep you couldn’t even see the lines on the road. I couldn’t see my lane, and no one else was on the road (because I was the only crazy one keeping my plans that night) so there were no tail lights to follow. I drove 20 miles an hour, slipping and sliding the entire way there.

 

I stopped breathing. My heart was racing. I feared for my life. And yes, I did it all in the name of keeping my plans.

 

As it turns out, we made it there safe and sound and had a really great time with our friends. And by the time we left to go back home, the snow had stopped and the plow trucks had come out to play. All good news!

 

But was it worth thinking I would die for 30 minutes? I’d say not really.

This isn’t the only instance that I “made sh*t happen.” I did it all the time. No matter what, if I committed to something, I was there.

 

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with that. To be a reliable and trustworthy person are great qualities to possess as a human. However, there are times we need to not only change our plans, but to do it in the name of being kind to ourselves.

 

Life is full of surprises. Every day is not only an opportunity to wake up and live life, but an opportunity for change.

 

I believe the lyrics are, “Well, it doesn’t show signs of stopping. And I brought some corn for popping. The lights are turned way down low. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” YES. Thanks for enlightening us, Dean!

 

Maybe your plans were to leave after the movie. But, wouldn’t it be much easier to stick around, eat some popcorn and snuggle, rather than take the chance of nearly dying on the ride home?

 

I know, what a ridiculous analogy…but you get my drift (no pun intended…I know, my jokes are on point today…don’t be jealous of my corny humor).

 

The point is, what if you didn’t have to work so hard in life? What if surrendering to what is, regardless of what you had planned, is the best route for your health, your life, and the situation at hand?

 

And, going a step further, what if there were something BIGGER than you, a force more powerful than you can even imagine, that had big plans for your life that just happen to be a bit different from your earthly plans?

 

That party that you were supposed to go to…maybe your sister borrowed your car and couldn’t get it back to you in time to attend. Maybe there was a reason you weren’t supposed to make it to that party. Trust your circumstances. Trust that everything happens for a reason. Trust that higher part of yourself that gives you “gut feelings” which warn you about dangers around you. Trust the change in plans. TRUST THE FLOW OF LIFE, and try to surrender and flow with it.

 

Follow your instincts, no matter what anyone else thinks or says. Try not to fight your life so hard. Our friend Dean Martin might say let it snow. I like to say, let it flow, let it flow, let it flow.

 

I am not saying this is easy to do. It takes lots of practice, each day focusing a little more on being open to what comes your way. I am still working on this. To unwind my pattern of being a bit overly regimented and rigid has taken a LOT of practice and time. But I have come to realize that it’s worth the work in the long run, because when life throws you a curve ball, it takes a lot less energy to just let it go than to try and stop it.

 

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Four Things I Wish I Knew About Yoga

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When I first started working in the hair industry some 14 years ago, I was barely aware that yoga even existed. A fellow hair stylist of mine would enter our salon each Saturday morning, coffee in hand, and announce how good she felt after last night’s yoga class. The furthest that took me was, “I have a friend at work who does yoga.” Then I’d go for my morning runs and do some hair.

 

I was a hair stylist for less than six months when the body aches and pains began. Chronic low back and shoulder pain, neck discomfort, intense pain when I sneezed or coughed from a rib being out of place, and painful plantar fasciitis were normal for me.

 

I found that movement and stretching helped relieve some of the discomfort. So each morning before work I would go for a jog and follow it with an intense stretching routine which included a heating pad under my low back and about 45 minutes of enjoying Regis and Kelly (when that was a thing) if I could catch a small glance between hamstring stretches.

 

Once this morning routine was done for the day, I felt great! For about 20 minutes. And then the muscles would seize up again and I’d be back to square one wishing I had just finished my morning jog and had time to stretch again.

 

I was miserable in my body most of the time. I even tried massage and Chiropractic adjustments, only to find out that those were temporary fixes too. I grew tired and discouraged, and wondered if I could really keep doing this hair styling stuff.

 

Then one day, my yogi work friend asked me if I wanted to go to yoga with her. I had never done yoga before but I thought what the heck? Ok!

 

We walked into the studio and I immediately felt intimidated. Everyone around me had a fancy looking multi-colored lotus flower yoga mat and were OBVIOUSLY professionals and had been doing this a long time because they were tall, slender and super bendy too. And their outfits…like when did it become a thing to wear your cutest trendiest attire to workout in? I couldn’t tell if they were going to a night club or a fitness class.

 

Then there was me. I had one of those old bright blue foam mats. You know, the ones your mom used to do her thigh master exercises on? Yeah, one of those. (It had Velcro. Now I know you’re jealous…don’t be.)

 

I also had a history of having ZERO flexibility. Like, please do not ask me to touch my toes or I will fear for my life. And the grey, baggy Old Navy crop pants that made my five foot tall self look even shorter, coupled with my Tinker Bell tank top from Disney couldn’t compete with the nightclub-goers.

 

Upon entering the yoga room, I was lost on what to do. The music was soft, the lights were dim, no one was talking and EVERYONE was doing some sort of yoga pose that was as foreign to me as TGIF on a Tuesday night. Everyone was looking at me, I just knew it. They MUST know I’m new, and they must be laughing so hard at me. Oh boy. What did I get myself into?

 

Throughout the class I had no idea what I was doing. I felt awkward, and some of those poses were the hardest EVER. I remember downward facing dog being one of the toughest poses…my arms were shaking so hard I thought I might die a slow painful death just trying to hold myself up.

 

At one point I remember “flipping my dog,” and not knowing where I was in the room. Which way was up, down, left, right…? You could have handed me an ice cream cone and I wouldn’t have known how to hold it let alone eat it.

 

All of that business and yet, after that class, I felt better than ever, in mind and body. My anxiety had gone WAY down, and my body felt loose and open in a way I had never felt before. All the pain I was used to feeling dissipated just within that one hour, and I felt light and joyful, like I could take a ride on a unicorn in candy land.

 

And that was the day I realized yoga was more than just a workout and some crazy pretzel-twisting poses. I felt a whole new world had opened up to me. At the time I had no idea why or how, but I found my spirit that day.

 

After that it took me many years to find myself on the mat every day. I would practice sporadically, each time not quite fully understanding why I felt so great afterwards. And eventually it led me to my daily yoga practice and ultimately, to becoming a teacher and mentor for others.

 

Based on my own experience, I would like to share with you a few key things I wish I had known before that very first yoga class…

 

1.     Yoga is for everyone. So I couldn’t touch my toes. So I didn’t know any of the poses. So what? Yoga is for everyone, anywhere from novice to the more experienced student.

 

Every yoga teacher is different, but in my experience as both student and teacher, many instructors give alternatives to more complex poses throughout the class. In addition, teachers are often able to sense if a student is struggling, and with gentle awareness can offer help or reassurance if that is the case.

 

Furthermore, if you are just beginning your yoga practice, or if it is your very first class, it is always helpful to let the teacher know, so he or she can be of support to you throughout the class if you should need it.

 

So no matter who you are, what you do, or how long (or short) you have been practicing, get out there and try it. It could just change your life!

 

2.     In yoga, we practice non-judgment. This means you don’t have to wear fancy clothes, or carry a Lululemon yoga mat in order to “fit in.” The truth is, that day I walked in with my bright blue foam mat in my Old Navy crop pants and tinker bell tank, I may have been judging myself…but no one was judging me.

 

In reality, no one is paying attention to us in the yoga room. Instead, we come onto our mat to be in our own body, our own mind, and to practice in love and with respect for others.

 

And all those other people I saw, with their fancy mats and nightclub outfits, well, if I’m being honest with myself I was judging them. And they probably didn’t even notice me!

 

So try and open up your heart and your mind, and arrive on your mat as yourself. Your true, authentic, wonderful self, and don’t let anyone or anything intimidate you away. Because trust me, no one is paying attention anyway.

 

3.     Yoga can help strengthen, tone, and create space in the body. I only wish I would have started a regular yoga practice a lot sooner in my hairstyling years. I started seven years in, and I truly believe it would have helped me a lot more if I would have started years before.

 

Since beginning a regular yoga practice, my foot pain has completely gone away. My neck and back discomfort is 75% improved. My rib is back in place and I don’t scream in pain when I have to sneeze or cough. My hand and wrist pain has been greatly reduced.

 

I feel more spacious, and I feel a lot stronger in every aspect: body, mind and spirit. And if I am having some sort of body ache or pain, 90% of the time I am aware of what is going on and some exercises I can do to relieve some of the tension.

 

Yoga is not just for stretching and giggles. It is challenging, strengthening, and expanding our spirit. It builds stability, calm and focus. It can release pent up emotions which are stored in our tissues, and move stagnant energy in the body, creating space for healing.

 

4.     You have to start somewhere. Not every yogi is born with the natural ability to jump right on up into a handstand (in fact, I do not recommend trying that unless you’ve had plenty of practice and a qualified practitioner to assist you).

 

Perhaps you are in a class where everyone around you is achieving the peak pose, and you are left wondering how the heck they are doing it. There is one simple answer and that is practice. This is obviously not your classmates’ first yoga venture if they are coming into Hanumanasana (splits), Bakasana (crow), or Adho Mukha Vrksasana (hand stand).

 

Don’t judge yourself for not reaching a pose if you’re not ready for it. It doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability, or that you “aren’t flexible enough,” or that you are somehow lacking in some way. It simply means you’re just not ready!

 

I have been practicing yoga for over seven years, and it was only a few months ago that I finally had the space and strength in my body to achieve Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose). And I’m still waiting to feel confident enough to come up into a full handstand without assistance!

 

So, you have to start somewhere. Try not to worry about what others think, and definitely do not criticize yourself in your yoga practice. If you want to achieve a certain pose, believe you can get there, with time, practice and experience.

 

They say yoga is a metaphor for life. Are you often hard on yourself? Do you judge yourself for not accomplishing a goal or task? Notice if you feel similarly on the mat, and try giving yourself a break. Be kind to yourself for even showing up, because that is the first step to something even greater.

 

For those of you who are just beginning to bring yoga into your life, I hope some of these tips help you feel a bit more comfortable either starting or continuing your practice. I was right where you are once, and believe me I was feelin’ all the feels you are feelin’.

 

My hope for you in your yoga practice is that you keep going and keep trying. That you give yourself the love you deserve. That you come to your mat with a gentle kindness for yourself. That you keep striving for what you desire, whether it’s “that one pose,” or a personal or professional goal in life. And that after each practice, you feel like you could take a ride on a unicorn in candy land.

 

 

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My Swanky Loft in Downtown Chicago

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I am a 25 year old, hot, single and fashionable writer living in my own swanky downtown Chicago loft. I am constantly sought out by the fanciest, most established magazines around the U.S.

 

I am so busy with writing projects that it’s difficult to meet deadlines. My email is blowing up with requests, and I am being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for my endless words of wisdom on hair, makeup and fashion. I am overflowing with such fabulous ideas, that I can’t even keep up with the genius inside me.

 

Occasionally I glance up at my epic view of the city in between sips of coffee and daydream about the next handbag that is destined to be mine.

 

As evening approaches I wander barefoot into my spacious kitchen, which is, by the way, fully equipped with granite countertops and the most elaborate appliances and storage. I barely use any of them except for the microwave (which is also very fancy), so I reach into my freezer (one huge drawer for ice and food) and grab my microwaveable mac n’ cheese.

 

As dinner “cooks” I slip on my red leather pumps and throw a few curls into my hair. I am SO ready for that vodka martini, extra dry on the rocks (and don’t forget my olives please!). The microwave beeps as I tuck my lipstick into the side pocket of my Louis Vuitton purse. The clock is ticking, fifteen minutes to eat my noodles n’ fake cheese before I have to meet the girls at the martini lounge. Nothing like a long, hard day of writing followed by a cocktail with the ladies!

 

As I eat, Mom and Dad call on speakerphone to ask when they can come visit. They sound ecstatic, finishing each other’s sentences and speaking in tandem as if we are the freaking Brady Bunch. We say love you, bye! And I move forward with the evening, feeling like I’m taking a ride on a unicorn because life is just so darn wonderful (So THIS is what it’s like to be an adult)!

 

I go out and meet some boys, they are just ok. One in particular walks me home, I kiss him and toss him to the curb. I have more important things to do with my life than get involved with boys.

 

1am rolls around and I am spent. I have to be up at nine to start writing, so I pop an aspirin for my future headache, chug some city water and collapse in my king sized memory foam bed.

 

Upon waking I can see the sunrise through my front wall-sized windows. I stumble out of bed, brew some much needed coffee, and sit at my computer to start my once again long, hard day of writing in the Windy City.

 

Then Jacqui’s message pops up: How you feeling this morning, girl? I am totally hungover. That Dan guy though…he was HOT! Did you two hook up? Sorry I was so out of it last night. Richard was hitting on another girl…so I told her she was a skank. It didn’t end well. That last shot really helped. 100% ladies night tonight. Where we meeting?  ~Jacq

 

And so, tis life in my twenties.

 

END SCENE.

 

These were the “plans” I had dreamed up when I was in my late teens. I planned to go to college, major in English or journalism, get a great job in Chicago and enjoy city life the single way for a while. I’d live right in the heart of downtown, where all the action took place. I’d swank it up with all my fancy friends, take full advantage of the night life, eat and drink whatever the hell I wanted to my heart’s content, not exercise and at the same time stay healthy and fit.

 

I’d be fully independent, established and confident at the wise old age of 25. I’d have tons of money and a great family life as my parents would live happily ever after forever in their too-large four bedroom house in Farmington Hills. My social life would be on point, and despite how much vodka I drank, I’d still have enough energy and brain power to be the unbelievable writer I predicted myself to be. And, despite being a twenty-something, I would be single and would not have a boyfriend until I was 30 and found “the one.”

 

I’d wear designer clothes and carry designer purses. I’d drink lots of coffee.

 

Bottom line, I’d be awesome and would have no worries in life ever, because life is like rainbows and roses and unicorns.

 

The reality?

 

I went to college. I was totally confused and drank tons of booze and stayed up til 3am and ate pizza and fried food and got really, REALLY sick. I couldn’t decide on my major because I was too tired from boozing and eating crap and staying up late every night. I failed a class. I lost my scholarship. I dated a guy who was verbally abusive and manipulative…and I thought he was “the one” at a certain point in time. I fell into a deep depression and had horrible anxiety. The experience of being a true adult came on full force within three months of moving out of my parents’ house.

 

I didn’t major in journalism. I majored in fine arts and never have I ever used that degree for a specific purpose other than to say I graduated from college.

 

Despite my “plan” of not letting boys into my world until I was 30, I met “the one” when I was 21 years old and was married when I was 25. And, we didn’t move to Chicago. Instead we stayed in Detroit and lived there together for nine years. Our first apartment was a dumpy old one bedroom ground floor apartment that felt like a basement. Needless to say, there was no sunrise view.

 

I never wore designer clothes or carried designer purses or even cared about those things for more than a second. I could never live off mac n’ cheese and coffee, or I would die or just be taking lots of prescription drugs to survive. And, I barely drink alcohol anymore. I think you can guess why…ok I’ll tell you. It makes me feel like crap and I don’t love that.

 

Finally, by the time I was 27 my parents were divorcing, and the house I once knew as home has been long gone for years. Come to find out, my parents did not like each other enough to stay together after their kids were gone, and they certainly never finished each other’s sentences.

 

Turns out life is not rainbows and roses and kittens and unicorns. Life is real. And it will throw you a curve ball at any given moment in time.

 

I know this might sound a bit depressing, but the point I am trying to make here is that plans will be plans. You can plan as long and hard as you have the energy to. You can cook up the greatest fantasy in your mind. You can write down strategies and goals and timelines. And not that this won’t help you, it certainly will. But regardless of your plans, God/Universe/Spirit may have other plans for you that you may not be aware of in the slightest.

 

And get this: It’s all for your highest and best good, no matter what.

 

No matter how painful the experience, no matter how sudden or unexpected, no matter how different it is than what you had imagined, every experience happens to raise you UP. To make you grow stronger. To teach you the lessons you signed up to learn when you came here to this physical planet. To help you get to know yourself better. Ultimately, to put you in the right places, at the right times, with the right people, so you can be right with yourself and in the deepest part of your soul. And no one can take that away from you.

 

So I didn’t get that swanky loft in Chicago. So I don’t drink late night martinis with the ladies (although, that would be very nice sometimes ;) ). So I am not a writer (or, maybe I’m turning into one?). So I was not single and independent and rich at 25. So what?

 

I became a hairstylist at 23, and learned how to connect with others on a deeply personal and professional level. I met two of my very best friends in that business, both of whom are still two of my very best friends to this day. I never made a ton of money, but I did get to be a part of the beauty industry which was really, really fun and kind of swanky at times. I married my best friend at the young age of 25. And he is my heart. He makes me laugh. He takes better care of me than anyone could. He is my best friend, and I am grateful for him every day.

 

At the age of 32 we moved to Seattle. Still no swanky apartment in the city. But instead a sweet, homey and cozy condo in the suburbs where we have met tons of dear and lifelong friends. I don’t drink coffee but herbal tea and chai almond lattes are my jam. I don’t eat mac n’ cheese but I can cook up a mean bowl of gluten free noodles with homemade pesto sauce. Still not a writer (or, again, maybe I should consider it?), but I am a holistic practitioner and yoga teacher which I think is pretty awesome and I absolutely love love LOVE what I do.

 

Still have never been rich, and no I don’t have businesses blowing up my inbox with job opportunities, but I am happy. I am content. I love my life, and I have learned an endless amount of lessons along my journey.

 

I truly feel a connection with God, and now I am aware after almost 37 years of being alive, that with every hardship comes a lesson. With every struggle there is a growth opportunity. With every moment we feel weak, it is so we can become strong. And every plan that crumbles plants a new seed for us to grow and blossom.

 

So plans will be plans. Use them as a guide. Follow them to your heart’s content. And, be ready for something even better to come along. And whether it is painful or not is irrelevant. Look at the big picture. God has plans for you, all you have to do is listen and respond.

 

 

 

 

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My Newfound Perspective on Western Medicine

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2018 has been an intense learning experience for me, FULL of life lessons and it just keeps on going that way. This year has been a time of intense struggle in my life, on all fronts. (In fact I am ready to move forward into 2019…this 2018 business can, as Uncle Joey would say, Cut. It. Out!)

 

But I have to look at these struggles as life lessons. Looking back on what has happened so far this year, I can honestly say I have been “woke” in a lot of ways. One way I’d like to touch on today is my relationship with Western Medicine: What it was back when I was a kid growing up, what it was like in my adult years, and what it is today (thanks to 2018).

 

According to the National Cancer Institute’s Dictionary of Cancer Terms, the definition of Western Medicine (also called “allopathic medicine”), is: “A system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. Also called biomedicine, conventional medicine, mainstream medicine, and orthodox medicine.”

 

I spent most of my life, from the time I was a baby and into my adult years feeling sick. I had frequent stomach aches, constipation, sore throats, sinus infections, and other illnesses such as strep throat, bronchitis, the flu, all things that “normal” kids have and we all get through somehow.

 

Although I wasn’t horribly sick or terminally ill, which I am grateful for, I always had some kind of problem. On top of that severe anxiety and depression was always a focal point of my life. And to be honest, I never knew I had anxiety until I entered into my twenties. As silly as that may sound, I thought all my physical symptoms were physical symptoms. Not one medical doctor ever said to me, “I think you have anxiety/depression. Let’s look at that.” I just thought having physical problems, and being scared shitless all the time was a “normal” state of being. I knew nothing different than this life. I would think, “Everyone else must feel this way too.”

 

Once I entered my late twenties, by the age of 28 I was taking about five different prescription drugs daily, at minimum. That was without having some sort of infection and needing antibiotics. I was taking medication for anxiety/depression, chronic sinusitis, asthma, and a thyroid diagnosis. I had sinus infections that returned every two months, waves of bronchitis, urinary tract infections and vaginal infections on a regular basis. And each time I took an antibiotic for one or all of those, I was sure that THIS time, the infection would be knocked out for good. But it would always return like clockwork.

 

This had been a cycle for me over the course of my entire life, but it wasn’t until my late twenties that I began opening my eyes to greater possibilities. Thoughts that entered my mind were, There has to be more to life than this. I am only 28…what will my medicine cabinet look like at 60? I don’t want to rely on these drugs for the rest of my life...there has to be another way. And the like.

 

Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), I found a holistic practitioner who helped me shape up my diet, and recommended some herbal medicine for me as well. That very day I began to change my life and I haven’t looked back since. Today I take zero pharmaceutical medications, and it has everything to do with my diet and lifestyle changes, and my spiritual growth.

 

I was so interested in this way of living, the natural way, that at the age of 30 I started school for Traditional Naturopathic Medicine. According to naturopathic.org, the definition of Naturopathic Medicine is: “A distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances which encourage the person’s inherent self-healing process.” This website also states that “Naturopathic physicians work with their patients to prevent and treat acute and chronic illness and disease, restore health and establish optimal fitness by supporting the person’s inherent self-healing process.” The website also states, “ Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in the person which is ordered and intelligent. [They] act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.

 

“Naturopathic doctors follow these three guidelines to avoid harming the patient:

 

·      Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary

·      Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms

·      Acknowledge, respect and work with the individual’s self-healing process”

 

In other words, a Naturopathic physician’s job is to honor the innate healing ability of the body, and do everything they can to help support and facilitate this healing without the use of strong or dangerous medications or other substances that could cause harm in the long run.

 

When I first began my healing journey over a decade ago, I was very strict about everything being “natural” and being handled in a naturopathic manner. That is not to say that I do not practice this today. I still look at everything naturally first, and I always view the person as a whole (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) when working with not only clients but with myself. That being said I used to be so strict, not only in my practices and but also in my beliefs, that I thought of the medical community in general as being money hungry people who look at patients as numbers in a system. I thought of hospitals as being depressing places that force medications and procedures on the patients against their will. I thought the pharmaceutical industry was an evil, money laundering scam that poisoned people’s bodies and robbed their bank accounts. I was so against mainstream medicine that I got angry when friends or family would tell me about their health struggles. Not angry at them, but angry at the system, and angry at life in general. Talking, thinking about, or analyzing the medical system made my head spin and filled me with rage. And it was all due to my own experience with the medical system growing up, coupled with what I was learning in school about Western medicine vs. Naturopathic medicine.

 

I was learning that Naturopathic medicine could truly heal from the inside out. That Naturopathic medicine was built to support all systems of the body, so that, on its own, the body’s immune system had the ability to fight dis-ease. That the digestive system was meant to function properly on its own, digesting food, assimilating nutrients, and eliminating wastes appropriately, with the proper support and care from food, herbs, and natural body therapeutics. That the skin was an organ of elimination, and that covering it in drugstore lotions and other chemical substances would only suppress the deeper issue by not allowing the skin to eliminate toxins. I was learning all these new amazing things about the human body and began to view the medical and pharmaceutical industries as the enemy, and that the only way to heal the body, mind and spirit was through natural means.

 

Fast forward to 2018…

 

·      January 1, 2018: Emotional break down day. Digestive issues triggered after almost two years of eating mostly raw vegan, thinking this was the answer to all of mankind’s ills. I am confused and frustrated.

·      January 2018: New, exciting yoga teaching role has begun. I am scared shitless. My belly is locked up in knots. I’m not sleeping. Body shakes. I’m cold. I’m numb. I hate winter.

·      February 2018: Getting used to this yoga teaching position, but I still have a marble in my throat. Family health issues. Blood tests begin. I have candida overgrowth in my gut. Deficient in vitamin D, B-12, and iron. Blood tests indicate dehydration and low adrenal function. WHAT??? I have been working so hard with my raw vegan-ness. Confused as hell.

·      March 2018: Kitty has a seizure in my kitchen. Immediate veterinary help. And just like that she is diagnosed with three heart conditions and hyperthyroid condition. I am devastated, confused and lost on what to do moving forward. Must. Have. Wine. Oh wait, I can’t…those digestive issues. Candida. Dang.

·      April 2018: Trying to get kitty stable on new meds. They upset her tummy. She stops eating. She’s dehydrated. Emergency vet visits every other week. They stabilize her multiple times.

·      May-August 2018: Ok, we are getting stable. I feel more “normal.” Several rechecks on blood levels. Things are normalizing with supplements and eating cooked, warm foods and adding chicken dark meat to my diet. Kitty gets meds twice per day orally and transdermally. She is eating. We got this.

 

This year has changed my perspective of Western Medicine drastically. Yes, there are absolutely medical doctors out there who consider their patients numbers. Yes, the medical system has its flaws. Yes, the pharmaceutical industry definitely has its downfalls too and is practically unaffordable in some instances. And no, I do NOT believe in relying on pharmaceutical medication to heal.

 

But, what I DO believe, is I believe in collaboration. I believe that using natural means and combining them with medically necessary medications or procedures is a beautiful thing. I believe that Western Medicine and Naturopathy/Eastern Medicine can be used together in healing. I believe that disease prevention using natural means is essential (Key word: prevention), and at the same time we live in a world where all disease cannot possibly be prevented.

 

We have all kinds of environmental influences and stressors, all kinds of chemicals and hormones being pelted at us on a daily basis. The only thing we can really do, is to do our best with prevention.

 

I can honestly tell you that between my own recent health challenge, health challenges in my family, and this new life and death scenario with our cat, we have truly had some AMAZING doctors and practitioners on our team. Yes, to keep our cat alive and comfortable, she has to be on medication, at least for now. No amount of diet changes or supplements could save her life quickly like medication and this awesome team of doctors we have. I believe that, eventually, perhaps, with hard work and lots of research, trial and error, we may be able to one day get her off meds. But the reality is she needs them to survive, and I am eternally grateful, in this moment, that we have medication that can help keep our sweetie alive.

 

On the topic of human health, sometimes we just need to take medications or supplements to live a fulfilling life. For example, I have seen anxiety and depression take a HUGE toll on some of the people that I love. To the point where their eyes are dark and sunken back, they lose a tremendous and unhealthy amount of weight, and they retreat from society. Sometimes when we are in a situation like this, where quality of life is depreciated so greatly, no amount of therapy or supplements can help lift a person up more quickly or effectively than some sort of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. I am not ashamed to say I have taken these in the past, and it can legitimately save someone’s life. I do understand there are dangers to some of these drugs, and I am not trying to be an advocate for drug taking by any means. But sometimes, when you need it you need it. And it can make all the difference in the world, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

 

As for supplements, between all the blood testing I’ve had done this year, I have finally gotten my levels normalized for just about everything, with the use of supplements. And I take MANY supplements each day. We just can’t do it all with food in some cases. I am grateful for my doctors, and, although expensive, I am grateful for supplements because without them I would not be feeling as good as I do today.

 

We live in a world where western medicine often criticizes, or does not believe in natural medicine. A world where Natural practitioners, just like me, think of Western Medicine as the enemy. This needs to change. What needs to happen is a collaborative form of care. And I believe it is starting to happen. I am starting to feel a shift.

 

Energy medicine, yoga, and acupuncture are now being used in hospitals and medical clinics to complement and enhance medical health care. Naturopathic Doctors, in some states, practice natural medicine as well as prescribe necessary medications when the need is there. Acupuncture, longs walks, and yoga are being “prescribed” by medical doctors.

 

There is not a good or bad side to this. It is simply the world in which we live. I will be eternally grateful for medical doctors, veterinarians, and emergency medicine, as they all save lives. No, the medical system is not perfect. But what is? It needs improvements for sure, but what I see is continuing research happening in hopes of helping people survive in this crazy world. I see doctors, nurses and other practitioners alike, working hard to help their patients feel better. I see hard working, responsible, caring surgical teams performing life-saving procedures. And I see medication helping people remain stable and move forward with their lives, so they can feel somewhat “normal” (whatever that means).

 

The problem comes in when we start to rely on medication alone to “cure” us. In order to live, it is important for us as a society of humans to do things in our life to create the healthiest version of ourselves we can possibly be. Eating fresh, organic, unprocessed food, getting outdoors and staying active, connecting with others, having some sort of spiritual practices, and the like are just some things we can do to create our healthiest self in the midst of all the chaos.

 

There is much more I could say on this topic, but I will end with this. I will always turn to natural medicine first, for my care and my family’s care. And at the same time, no matter what happens, I truly believe that there are doctors out there who genuinely care for and want to help their patients. I believe that medication is not all bad, and I am grateful for the medications that save lives. I believe that working co-creatively, between western and eastern medicine is truly a blessing in our modern world. And I encourage you to BE in the space of gratitude for ALL things. Acceptance, kindness, and gratitude can change the world if we all join hands. After all, we are all connected, we are all ONE, as God intended.

 

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My Wake-up Call with Nutrition: Why I am No Longer Raw Vegan

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This is a difficult topic for me to discuss openly, and I have been waiting for the right time to do it. The right time being simply when I felt ready and called to share. And today happens to be that day.

 

Over the years I have experimented with all kinds of nutrition plans and diets, whether it was low carb, weight watchers, candida diet, paleo, leaky gut diet, vegan, raw vegan, you name it I’ve pretty much tried it.

 

And for the past two years or so I was mostly raw vegan. My body really started to clean out, and I felt AMAZING for a good portion of time. Like, TRULY amazing. My energy levels were high, my digestion was great, I had regular eliminations (which was never the case in my life until going raw vegan), and stomach aches were few and far between (which had also been a regular thing in my life). I even felt more inspired than ever, and had more brain power which allowed me to stay at a constant high energy level for hours at a time. In a nutshell, the raw vegan diet and lifestyle felt like the non-caffeine version of coffee intermixed with a gentle laxative that kept my otherwise slow bowels moving. I felt great! In fact I was so passionate about the lifestyle that I took a course that graduated me with the title Certified Detoxification Specialist.

 

But after about 18 months, I started to have digestive issues…and this time they were BAD. Worse than ever, in fact. I got stomach aches after literally EVERYTHING I ate. I had to keep food and food combinations to a minimum. For two months my diet consisted almost exclusively of bananas, spinach, onions, garlic and coconut oil. It’s all I could stomach without pain or discomfort. I had a constant lump in my throat, and at certain random points in my day I would begin to feel nauseous. One morning I woke up and looked in the mirror and found a big red spot in my eye, almost like a big blood vessel had burst. Bowel movements ranged from diarrhea, to constipation, to no elimination at all, and I had constant, heavy bloating. I just felt downright terrible.

 

I began taking herbs for parasitic infections, I tried cleansing out with laxatives, and I could only digest food if I took at least five digestive enzymes with each meal. I was miserable and could not figure out what was wrong. And when I mentioned it to friends, they responded, “But you eat so clean!”

 

All of these symptoms just baffled me. How could I be having these problems if I am constantly eating foods that detox out the nasties?

 

I went to see my Naturopath and was diagnosed with candida overgrowth. Again, I was baffled. From all I had read and studied up to that day, the foods I had been eating were the candida fighters! Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables are the detoxers that remove invaders from the body. I was even taking herbs to strengthen internal organs and tissues. So why was I having these problems?

 

I began taking some supplements I received from my Naturopath, to fight the candida, and started bringing in principles of the candida diet, from a book I read years ago titled, The Body Ecology Diet. Within a day of eating foods that starve the candida, I realized this was not the way my body could live. Because the candida diet requires little to no carbohydrates, I felt constantly light-headed and my brain was foggy. The human brain needs sugars to survive, and I was not getting them. Needless to say, that diet went out the window quickly.

 

I was at my wits end, and one day it came to me: Ayurveda. Long before modern medicine, Ayurveda was developed in India and is one of the world’s most powerful mind-body health systems. The basis of Ayurveda is that the mind and body are not separate, but rather they are deeply connected. And, according to this healing tradition, to heal the mind is to heal the body. Beyond this, Ayurveda is a science, and means “the science of life.”

 

Lucky for me, I knew someone who had the credentials to help me establish an Ayurvedic lifestyle and make some major changes. A yoga mentor, friend and Ayurvedic practitioner of mine was on my speed dial that day! We had an hour session where she gave me some basic lifestyle and diet changes I could make to start feeling better and getting my health back. I started implementing them immediately, and within four days my bloating was almost nonexistent, stomach aches were gone, and I was able to have a normal bowel movement for the first time in years (or maybe ever).

 

It has been about five months since that day, and although I am still battling candida to a certain extent, I am feeling much stronger, and much healthier than ever. I am able to eat a whole lot more food now, and have expanded my diet to include nourishing foods such as bone broth, ghee, chicken stew and wild caught fish.

 

Something I never thought I would do was go back to eating meat. But once I did, I could literally feel my body receive it with ease, down to the cellular level. I don’t eat meat all that often, I would say about once a week or so. If I’m feeling really depleted, maybe twice in a week’s time. And each time I do, I pray over it and thank the animal for helping to keep me alive, strong and healthy.

 

As most of you know I am an animal lover and so to honor the animal that is in front of me is very important to me. In most old traditions the killing of animals was not so brutal, and it was not taken for granted. It was honored and the animal was blessed and gratitude filled the hearts of the hunters. I take meat eating very seriously, and know that I am very lucky to be able to have access to these animals at my fingertips. It is equally important to me to purchase ethically raised, organic, Non-GMO meat, as well as wild-caught fish. This is an important piece of the puzzle for meat eaters in general, not just for me. Avoiding pesticides, GMO’s, antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals is essential for our health and well-being.

 

Now to clear up the question that must be going through your mind right now… “So, what IS the right nutrition plan?” It’s a great question! And unfortunately I have a very vague answer for you.

 

Everyone is going to be different. Every. Single. Body. is going to be different. One nutrition plan isn’t necessarily “better” or “superior” to another. There isn’t one “cure” for the human body. And, as mentioned earlier, if we are looking at things from an Ayurvedic standpoint, our physical body is highly affected by our state of mind. Going a step further, the tissues of the body store old emotional wounds, and our spiritual body is where illness actually originates from. So, how can we say that illness is only caused by food? What about our state of mind?

 

To tie this in with my raw vegan experience, I do not believe that it was truly just the raw fruits and vegetables that caused my symptoms. My mindset was of one that began to believe that fruits and vegetables were the only healthy foods one could consume. And then I would read articles and books about certain fruits and vegetables that were “good” for you, and ones that were “bad” for you. And pretty soon, I cut out all the supposed ones that were “bad,” and I was left with bananas, spinach, garlic, onion, and coconut oil. If I would have kept up the mindset of “everything else is bad,” and the raw vegan lifestyle, I believe I would have ended up not being able to eat anything at all without pain.

 

One common theme I always stick with when it comes to food, however, is that it is important for humans to avoid processed foods, processed sugars, and pesticides, and stick with eating organic foods as much as possible. This is the only concrete answer I have for you. And this is why teaching nutrition has taken a back seat for me. What I can offer though, is spiritual guidance from a nutrition standpoint, and that is how I have been working with my clients as of late.

 

For example, we can explore one’s eating patterns and tendencies and where these possibly stem from. For example, late night eating and sweet cravings. We can explore energy blockages in the body, and do a Reiki and chakra balancing session to encourage internal organs to start functioning properly. We can even move through a yoga sequence with a focus on calming the nervous system, which in turn can help heal in countless ways.

 

In Ayurveda, there are different mind/body types, and they all possess different qualities that require different healing foods and lifestyle practices. If you are curious about Ayurveda, I recommend reading about it, or contacting an Ayurvedic practitioner who can help guide you in the right direction for you. I am not an Ayurvedic practitioner, I only know things from my own experience. If you are lost on who can help you, please contact me and I will try and connect you with someone who can! One great resource I can recommend though, is The Every Day Ayurveda Cookbook, by Kate O’Donnell. This has really helped simplify things for me, not to mention the recipes are delicious!

 

I want to wrap up this post by saying that all this was NOT to bash the raw vegan lifestyle or diet! I think it is one of the cleanest, healthiest diets out there, and is FULL of life and FULL of nutrition. I also know from my studies in detoxification, that these are the foods that detox the body particularly well, and I do believe in cleansing now and then. I think choosing a raw vegan lifestyle totally depends on the individual and whether they have a constitution that can tolerate it long term. I know people who THRIVE eating raw vegan. I wish I were one of those people, but it is not so. I do much better with warming, grounding, moist, cooked foods like soups, stews, and oatmeal.

 

There is much more to say on this topic, but here it is in a nutshell. I’m not raw vegan because I simply can’t be. And, it’s ok with me. I am embracing my new lifestyle and diet changes, and feeling the effects each day. I still have a long way to go in my healing, but overall I am stronger not only physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well. This lifestyle has cultivated the brand new relationship I have with food. One of acceptance of ALL mindsets, of ALL diets and nutrition plans that can help to heal individuals all around the world. So whatever path you are choosing, God Speed! Love and light to all of you.

 

Blessings dear friends,

Andrea

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