When receiving becomes a gift

The general rule is: If you open a gift in the presence of the giver, then your verbal thanks are sufficient.

Emily Post

I checked my email one last time just before boarding the first leg of my flight from San Jose to Baltimore. There was a single new message, an apology from a long-time colleague who I hold in great respect, and with whom I had been in disagreement for some months. His words, “I feel sorry that I hurt you,” were neither casual not formulaic. And yet I struggled to take in his words, to actually receive the gift, the shift in relationship, that they held.


I wanted nothing more than to be able to simply open his gift, stand alive and in his presence across the geographic distance, and heartfully respond “Thank you.”  Except that wasn’t true. My feelings were varied, complicated, turbulent. 


Our relationship deserved more than a few words hurriedly sent off in response to his. For the many hours of flight and baggage handling, arriving home in the wee hours of the morning to a week’s worth of mail and tasks waiting for me, I struggled mightily to stay put in the gap between how I wanted to feel – generous, connected, forgiving, and the way I did feel: angry, small, closed, steeled.


Eventually…by the late afternoon hours, I recognized an old and familiar theme: fundamentally, essentially I was disappointed. I understood that I had burdened his words with a lifetime of disappointment, and I was able to respond to him:

I had to sit for a long time to be able to take in your words – “I feel sorry.” I have been waiting forever for God or Reality or Someone to say “Sara, I am so sorry…” It has taken me hours to let all the weight of the past roll off, and receive these as just your words.

The following week we spoke at length by phone. There was no barrier in our exchange. We each talked about our struggles and vulnerabilities and responsibility.  We did not “solve” our disagreement. Yet it was, from both ends, the most undefended conversation we have had in our twenty-one year relationship, both friendly and respectful, amends without glossing over, full of the nourishment and beauty of receiving, of being in friendly and respectful relationship.


Who in your life is waiting for you to receive their words, their heart, their being, just as they are, and just as you are, without glossing over?

What holds you back?

Choose a spring cleanse that’s right for you

Clients often inquire about cleansing at this time of year, and are ready to grit their teeth and power through some program to emerge “renewed” on the other side. But this willingness to push the body for a short period of time in hopes of a big-pay-off is not an ideal approach for many of us, and can have unintended consequences in a cleanse as in life.


Recently a client inquired about a cleanse for liver support, and also observed that a lot of her joint problems showed up following a month-long cleanse she had completed the previous spring. Her program had included a week on strict whole foods only (no meat or dairy), 10 days on water with lemon and cayenne a little maple syrup (The Master Cleanse), 5 days on vegetable juices, another week on strict whole foods. And, during this time, Dr. Shulze’s 5-day colon cleanse.


The timing of onset of her joint pain suggested to me that her liver had trouble keeping up with the tissue detox induced by the lemon/cayenne, veggie juice, and colon cleanses. Debris the body cannot clear tends to collect in joints as dust collects in corners. (Other natural “collection points” that can become stressed are lymph and endocrine glands, the central nervous system, and the heart.)


Any of this sound familiar?

Add to last year’s experience that this spring she is depleted and stressed by long-time multiple and sometimes conflicting demands, with cycle changes signaling the hormonal fluctuations of peri-menopause.

Add to this her constitutional type: small-boned, with a highly responsive nervous system, light and interrupted sleep, highly variable and easily-depleted energy stores, readily affected by cold and wind, a tendency to worry, feel spacey and scattered, and prone to feeling a detox “high.”

A better “cleanse”  for a stressed-out mind and body

focuses on nourishment, building up.

A Nourishing Powder (e.g. Shatavari, Ashwagandha, Bacopa, Cinnamon) is a good foundation for such a stressed system, a blend that is calming and restorative to adrenal, mood, sleep, and cognitive functions, and tonic for the reproductive system.


With this nourishing, building support as the base, here are 4-steps for a  low-effort light cleanse:

  1. If you know that you feel better when you eliminate certain foods from your diet, and can do so without creating stress or a sense of deprivation, then do that.
  2. Drop a slice of fresh lemon into the water you already drink during the morning.
  3. Whatever bitter green you like, throw a handful into your morning smoothie or prepare as one of your veggies for 4-5 lunches/dinners a week.
  4. Through the early spring, drink a cup a day of a blend of nettle leaf, dandelion root, and celery seed that can be brewed up with your favorite green tea.

A few considerations if you have a different body type, health status, life demands

  • Are you the last one to put on a coat as the temperature drops, easily get irritated or overheated, can eat anything, have a tendency to heartburn, itchy or inflammatory conditions, recover quickly from illness? Your cleanse best leans towards a routine that you can embrace without irritation, avoiding foods and beverages that provoke more heat, and including those that are cooling and hydrating.
  • Or do you have a body type that tends toward heaviness and lethargy, as well as stamina, accumulations of fluid? – whether as lots of respiratory mucous or edema in hot weather, and deep sleep with trouble waking in the morning. Your cleanse best leans towards foods and herbs that are warming and somewhat stimulating to get things moving, and incorporates some vigorous exercise.
Dandelion embodies the pushing up and out energy of spring.

Regardless of body type, consider the state of health of your body’s primary systems of elimination.

Any of these functions that are symptomatic may need its own particular form of attention both during and after a cleanse:  your whole digestive tract, including liver and gallbladder; urinary and respiratory tracts and lymph system. And your secondary systems of elimination: skin, sweat, sebaceous glands and tears; sinuses and reproductive fluids.



If your health is vigorous and stable, you can take on a more challenging or just a longer cleanse.

If you are depleted, managing one or more chronic medical conditions that are easily destabilized, tred lightly, choose nourishing support, and search out professional guidance.

And when you plan your cleanse, also plan for the weeks and months after the cleanse

It is all too easy to come off a cleanse feeling just super, energized and light: the clean out worked! – and then stumble over the harder work of cleaning up our act.

So as you plan your cleanse, consider how you want to use the opportunity that such a “reset” gives you – what change or two are you ready to take on that will leave you with less to clean out next spring?

If you are ready to turn your whole life around,

and have the foundational health to do so,

more power to you! 

But embrace with kindness whatever modest steps that are within

your reach, willingness, and energies.

For more about herbalism  

For more about an herbal consult with Sara