I’m gonna rock my rhythms into 2017

I am about to rock my way into 2017, re-membering and re-calibrating to my own rhythms.

As the year turns, I will be blessed once again to visit Assateague Island, wonder at the shaggy wild ponies as they wander roadside fields, see what changes the weather has brought this year.

Assateague is a barrier island, 37 miles long, stretching offshore of Maryland and Virginia. At no point is the island more than a mile wide. Overwash continues to move the island landward: winter storms move sand from ocean-side beach and dunes and deposit it along the landward side, sometimes opening new inlets or closing old ones. Depending on the severity of the storms and the extent of the changes, recovery may or may not take place over the gentler summer months.

I will take some time to sit in one of these generous wooden rockers on the deck at the Visitor’s Center and consider how the year has re-shaped me.

A year a go I found myself aware not only of possibilities but also of hesitancies, uncertainties, limitations: irresolution. I passed up goal-setting in favor of some open questions – and now I have a few answers.

How am I being drawn forward in my life as well as shaped or impelled by my past?

I have been drawn forward into teaching and group facilitations by hearts, minds, and hands extended toward me in partnership and collaboration. And impelled forward by consuming interests  from my past (I mean past, as in 20 years!) that have reappeared, seeking re-integration: social activism, Jewish renewal, the texts of Kashmir Shivaism.

It has, in fact, been a little spooky how people from that earlier era have made a series of reappearances into my life, and we have picked up conversations as if we had left off just yesterday.

Clearly there is some Very Large Rhythm at play here.

What is the thread I have followed, sometimes consciously, sometimes not?

When I posed this question a year ago, I had in mind some theme, a result perhaps, like, oh, becoming more myself. But I think the thread I have followed has been a process thread: listening and choosing. Listening to what Life is saying, what Life is offering, what Life is denying. And then choosing. And then making myself responsible for my choices.

What do I know that I have not allowed myself to know that I know?

That the Universe has my back. And not just sometimes. All the time. I’ll admit I have come to this from a place of doubt, even skepticism. I came to it through outcomes much grander than my partners and I could have created out of our own volition and skill. And through losses that did not fell me.

That with the Universe at my back, I need no longer sit when I should stand, stand when I should walk, walk when I should dance.

Which is a very good thing, because, my friends, 2017 is calling us loud and clear to stand together, walk together, dance together. 

There are some very Large Rhythms at play, and some very Large Dissonances at play, and the Universe has our back.

May you delight in the blessings of Winter

May you delight in the blessings of Winter

a season for restoring body and spirit,

and for savoring

friendship,

long quiet nights,

warm, nourishing soups and stews,

herbal teas that soothe, warm, and cheer,

candle and firelight,

the sheer beauty of nature’s forms stripped of all finery,

the still small voice within.

However you observe the season, may you find yourself in good company and in good cheer.

You are guests around my Thanksgiving table

Dear Friends –

It is just over a year that many of you have been following my blog posts.

This year of sharing my writing and practice with you have changed me both “for the better,” and “for good,” as Glinda and Elphaba sing to one another in Wicked, The Musical.

During this time, many “former” interests and areas of study have reappeared. They are knocking about in my heart and mind, shaking off years of dust and neglect. Insistent about wanting to be reintegrated as living presences in my life – social engagement, formal prayer, scriptural teachings from my Eastern path, a poetry manuscript I put aside over a year ago. These are some of my working edges, and I’ll continue to explore them in your good company.

Have you too been changed for the better over this past year? for good? 

What are your working edges now?

What questions are you struggling with?

And what would you like to read about here in the coming months and year?

What kind of nourishment would help restore you to yourself? 

Please take a moment out of your own holiday observances to respond in the COMMENT BOX below.

I’ll be paying attention.

I send you my deep gratitude in this season of giving thanks, for kind words, thoughtful comments, provocative questions. In a very real sense, I will feel your presence as guests around my family’s Thanksgiving table.

My dear friend Suzanne read the following poem to us at her table a few nights ago, and I’ll be sharing it at ours on Thursday evening.

Love and blessings to you and yours, and to the Greater Family of which each of our families is a part.

Sara

 

In Thanksgiving

adapted from the prayerbook Mishkan T’filah, used by Reform Jewish Congregations

 

For the expanding grandeur of Creation,

worlds known and unknown,

galaxies beyond galaxies,

filling us with awe

and challenging our imaginations,

we give thanks this day.

 

For this fragile planet earth,

its times and tides,

its sunsets and seasons,

we give thanks this day.

 

For the joy of human life,

its wonders and surprises,

its hopes and achievements,

we give thanks this day.

 

For our human community,

our common past and future hope,

our oneness transcending all separation,

our capacity to work for peace and justice

in the midst of hostility and oppression,

we give thanks this day.

 

For high hopes and noble causes,

for faith without fanaticism,

for understanding of views not shared,

we give thanks this day.

 

For all who have labored

and suffered for a fairer world,

who have lived so that others might live

in dignity and freedom,

we give thanks this day.

 

For human liberties and sacred rites,

for opportunities to change and grow,

to affirm and choose,

we give thanks this day.

 

We pray that we may live

not by our fears but by our hopes,

not by our words but by our deeds.

 

Blessed are You, Who orders and rules the universe, Your Name is Goodness,

it is fitting to give You prayers of gratitude and praise.

 

Your Herbal Medicine Cabinet:  Fall Allergy Season Tips

Sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes? Manage seasonal allergy symptoms with friendly herbs and simple steps.

 

Reduce your exposure to airborne triggers

Limit your outdoor time or time of day to early morning, late in the day, and after rains, when pollen counts are lower.

Avoid exposures to secondary smoke and chemical irritants.

Use a HEPA filter vacuum.

Change pillowcases nightly.

Get pets off the bed, out of the bedroom.

 

Wash away irritants

Fill neti pot with warm salt water, use morning and evening.

Add 5 drops each of Goldenseal and Propolis tincture to soothe and restore health to irritated nasal tissue.

Add 5 drops Echinacea tincture to fight infection.

 

Desensitize your immune response to local allergens

Enjoy a daily teaspoon of local honey!

 

Reduce “lifestyle load” and manage your stress response 

The stress hormone cortisol increases immune production of IgE, a key immune cell in the allergic response: lower your stress response, lower your tendency to allergic hypersensitivity.

 

Choose foods that improve immune response and avoid foods that make the body reactive

Eat more colorful foods, whole grains, organic when possible for selected foods.

Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids: fish and fish oils, & in nuts & seeds & their oils – flax, walnut, canola oil.

Drink more water and herb tea to keep flushing out your system.

Eat less red meat, white foods.

Drink less alcohol, coffee

Avoid sugar, which depresses immune response.

 

Herbal help for acute bouts of sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes

Chinese skullcap tincture (Scutellaria baicalensis): 3 droppersful in a little water. You can repeat that every 20 minutes up to one hour, but in my experience, you probably won’t need to!

 

Herbal supports for extended use through the allergy season

Nettle tea: limits histamine release, reduces production of excess mucus, and helps your lymph system remove wastes and toxins, allergens among them.

Elder flower or berry as a tea or tincture, or the berry as a concentrate mixed with water, limits histamine release and reduces mucous membrane swelling.

Mullein leaf or flower as a tea or tincture helps reduce flow of mucous with sense of heat, soothes irritation to reduce cough. Generally safe for long-term prophylactic use, and short-term symptomatic relief.

Note: Consult a health professional before self-treating with herbs if you are on blood-thinning medication, or multiple prescriptions for medical conditions; pregnant; or anticipating surgery.

More about seasonal immune support:  http://alifeofpractice.com/herbalism/nourishyourimmunesystem/

More about how herbs work for health: http://alifeofpractice.com/about-herbalism/

A Blessing for the New Year, 5777

On Rosh Hashanah, we celebrate the Day of Creation: this year, beginning at sunset on Sunday, October 2.

The Jewish Sages are always of varying opinions. Some say: we celebrate the 1st Day, the Creation of the Universe. Some say: we celebrate the 6th day, the creation of the First Human Beings.

Unable to separate human life from the natural world in which we are embedded,  I come down firmly on both sides.

So many of us are living through disruptive and transformative times, each of us a new creation in process. In chaos. In mystery. In the unknown. So whatever your faith, doubt, or practice, this blessing is for you.

 

A Blessing

from Sara Eisenberg

In this season when God has been in the field

and is about to ascend to His Throne,

the mind is sharper as it peers inward,

the heart is softening,

the inner workings of all the worlds are being reset –

May you be blessed with clarity,

compassion for yourself and the state of the world,

resolve to live a good-enough life, and

trust in one step at a time,

even when it is a step back.


Read more about God in the field here:

http://alifeofpractice.com/living-in-harmony-with-natures-rhythms/1007/

When Fall Calendars Collide, Be Just Who You Are

There is a particular collision of calendars in my life right now, as every fall. The September new moon has once again brought the Jewish liturgical calendar into play and called me to an annual Accounting of the Soul. I proceed. I hold firmly to my intention to be who I am, plain, ordinary and unique.

And all the while I shift my rhythms in response to the pulls of other cyclical agendas. The mix of rhythms can be as enlivening as a good jam and as bewildering as the cacophony of an orchestra tuning up.

IMG_1113

My body calendar has begun to register the shorter days. 7:15 and it’s already getting dark. Mornings can be a little sneezy and congested as ragweed pollination gets underway and leaf mold growth accelerates. The garden looks worn and dried out, and has revived only momentarily with yesterday’s downpour. Apples are hanging so heavily they pull the branches towards the ground, but they are not yet ripe enough for picking.


photoThen there’s the school calendar.
As Labor Day approaches, olfactory memories turn my thoughts to the scent of a freshly opened green and yellow box of Crayolas. I have a commanding sense that playtime is over and it’s time for me to get down to serious work. So I revisit work plans made way back last spring, adjust them for what I can see now that I couldn’t see then, for what I can live now that I couldn’t live then.

The winds and storms of the election year calendar spread troubling waters across my landscape, and I respond by keeping my eye on a near horizon I have set: the hour the last polling place closes on November 8.

But the calendar at the forefront for me at this time of year is the Jewish liturgical one. The new moon signals  the beginning of the month of Elul on September 4 and the High Holy Day season that will end at sundown on October 23.

The month of Elul invites me into an extended personal examination of conscience and behavior through the practice of Accounting of the Soul (Heshbon Hanefesh.)  Experience has taught me that whatever preparation I undertake now will shape my journey through the whole season.

Overlook the opportunities for conscious change, aka awakening, and any efforts to move in those directions will be much harder during the rest of the year.

How can that be? Is there really a season for change?

The Jewish Sages teach that during this period “God is In the Field,” more accessible than at any other time of year. You can think of the Field as a place you’d choose to meet a friend for an intimate conversation that doesn’t require a latte or even a cup of tea – a Friend who holds a High Position – it can be tough to get together during most of the year. Or you can think of this as Rumi’s field “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing” – there is that much Kindness available to meet whatever honesty, self-responsibility, clarity about my limitations and gifts I can summon for this annual talk.

When Elul ends, God leaves the Field for the Throne of Judgment. I will be judged on Rosh Hashonah, the New Year. I am responsible for my actions, and for their consequences.  But God’s judgment relieves me of the burden of self-judgment. And God’s judgment – which includes whether I will live or die, and if I am to die this year, by what means – will be sealed as night falls at the end of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. You can think of the Throne of Judgment and the King who occupies it as a Reality that responds to our world by bending towards kindness – not leniency, but kindness.

I have often approached this Accounting by journaling my way through an assessment of relationships: to myself, my family members, friends, communities, God, work, creative pursuits. Where have I fallen down as a human being? What needs attention, repair, simplicity, yielding, persistence, forgiveness? Too often the assessment has not come off the paper into life.

Almost a year since the launch of A life of practice, a conscious choice to show up consistently and differently in the world, and I am approaching the Accounting with an intention to make room for the Other without surrendering myself.

I am surprised to find how this intention opens up space in my brain, slows my biochemical anxiety response and even clock time, and actually changes my rhythm and responses. My husband asks me a question, and I respond in a way he can take it in – neither too little nor too much nor the “wrong” information (all well-worn paths).

This is Accounting in action mode.

As I intend and attend to the moment, I return – again – to who I am.

Even as I shift my routine towards longer evenings, reach for the Crayolas, or check in with election news.


 

Reflection: 

Perhaps you are the the one who holds the calendar for your whole family – birthdays, rehearsal dates, soccer matches, PTA meetings, travel dates.

Perhaps you are beholden to a medical calendar, filled with diagnostic tests,  treatments, days and times meals will be delivered or transportation provided.

Perhaps you are devoted to the calendar of Mother Nature herself.

What calendar(s) govern your time in this season?

How do you hold to who you are?

P.S.  As you reflect, let this sweet melody guide you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INKtCm2k3xs

Return again, return again

Return to the land of your soul

Return to who you are

Return to what you are

Return to where you are

Born and reborn again

Lyrics and music by R. Shlomo Carlbach.  Sung by one of my early teachers, Carlbach’s student, R. David Zeller

 

For more on life’s rhythms:

http://alifeofpractice.com/living-in-harmony-with-natures-rhythms/when-your-bodys-workload-is-over-the-top/

http://alifeofpractice.com/herbalism/nourishyourimmunesystem/

A healing environment: it starts with story

Bethany 2014I am delighted to continue my interview series with healthcare interior designer and fellow herbalist Bethany Ziman.  As an herbalist and healer, I know how important it is to hold a space and deep listening for each client’s story. A story constructed from ephemeral sensations, fashioned memories, and enduring emotional patterns, each with its own syntax and language. shaped by our culture and family, our neighborhoods and the physical homes where we grew up.

As we awaken and heal, we often deconstruct or otherwise rewrite our story. And yet we continue to live in our stories, much as we live in our material homes and workplaces. It had never occurred to me before talking with Bethany that designing interior spaces, especially hospitals, also starts with story: not typical at all, she told me, but a method that works for her. As you read on, you’ll also appreciate her “not typical” results.

During uncountable hours I have spent as a family member, friend, and advocate in more than a dozen hospitals over the years, I know how the physical environment itself  wears me down. Monitors buzz and beep. Urgent voices page medical staff. Carts clatter. Ever-present fluorescent lights and high-def screens glare. Plastic everything, even the plants. Windows are sealed shut. Air heavy with deodorizing cleaners poorly masking medical odors.

The healing power of nature, vis medicatrix naturae, has been abandoned. Read on and learn how one talented woman harnesses and translates this power into one of the most challenged of modern environments: the twenty-first century hospital.

Bethany is Director of Healthcare Interiors at the Baltimore architectural firm Marshall Craft Associates, and owner, herbalist and health and wellness coach of The Herban Pharm, LLC. She is an LEED accredited professional (aka “green” designer) and a Registered Yoga Teacher. Bethany brings both thoughtfulness and improvisational delight to all of her work.

 

Finding inspiration in the natural world

20140812_140648Bethany first visited Hamilton’s Pool near her hometown of Austin, Texas as a teen.This natural pool was created when a limestone dome collapsed exposing an underground river.  She described to me the wonder, awe and overwhelming sense of connectedness she felt to the landscape and the people who came here before her: “I remember thinking ‘Wow, I am sitting at the very spot where Native Americans sat with their families.’  I imagined them enjoying – just as I was – the beauty and coolness of the cave-like limestone canopy, providing protection from the scorching Texas heat.” That formative experience continues to influence Bethany’s design work and reminds her how vital it is to “tap into people’s sensory and emotional centers when designing places of healing, by incorporating natural textures and materials that we have co-evolved with from the beginning of time.”

An Interview with Bethany Ziman

Sara: It seems as if you begin writing your “story” for a design project with the same kind of empathic imagining you described at Hamilton’s Pool, re-membering within yourself what it was like for travelers of a totally different time, era and culture to enter that space.

Bethany:  I do begin with what I call the “energetics” – an understanding of how a design can evoke sensory and emotional responses from different groups who will enter and move through a space.

I consider how to design the interior architecture to uplift their mood; evoke a sense of peace, comfort, and reassurance; encourage collaboration and a sense of community; even initiate a movement toward health and healing.

Patients, their families and friends,  medical and maintenance staff – each group enters with a different mindset and agenda. I approach a Physical Therapy/ Occupational Therapy unit differently than a Neonatal unit or a Heart and Vascular unit, yet they all have over-lapping goals.  I think through the implications of these different perspectives.

In addition to the energetics, I draw on both art and science. The art is a choreographed play, using various media – color, lighting, texture, noise reduction, line, rhythm, balance, and harmony. Evidence-based design principles also play a key role. Studies have demonstrated, for example, how the presence of a garden or even just images of biodiverse gardens, can lower blood pressure and reduce patients’ anxiety and their use of pain medications

Sara: Recently you completed the design of a new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). A NICU functions as a kind of sophisticated womb, in a sense, where premature infants can come to “full-term” development so that they can go on to thrive in their own family homes.  In your story you set out to draw on the healing power of the natural world, what you call “its consistent complexities.”

Bethany: I was working on my Master’s degrees in Herbal Medicine and Health and Wellness Coaching at the same time I was working on the interior architecture and design and “the story” of the NICU.

As I learned more about the world of plants and plant medicines, I understood how we draw comfort from complexities that we don’t necessarily bring to conscious attention.

The UMMC NICU is designed with 52 single family rooms divided into 5 “neighborhoods.” People enter the NICU off an elevator lobby, passing through double doors in a floor-to-ceiling glass wall etched with a field of lavender flowers. I wanted to evoke our memory of grasses naturally swaying in the wind, which is an invisible but real energetic force. Even though the lavender motif is static, people may sense a natural movement that subtly breaks the static box of the built environment.

I was also learning about the energetics of plant medicines, when to incorporate cooling herbs vs warming herbs to create balance in the body. In the NICU I used the medium of colors, which are also cooling and warming, to distinguish different neighborhoods, each entered through it’s own “portal,” an architectural detail that you walk through to transition from one neighborhood to the next.

Orange neighborhood - Jaramillo 0021
Photo credit: A. Jaramillo

I strategically placed the orange and yellow neighborhoods on the north side of the unit so the colors would energetically balance and visually warm up the lower-lit northern exposure, and the blue and greenish-blue rooms on the southern side to balance and cool down the brighter southern exposure.  Solar shades in the rooms – also with a lavender motif – are programmed to rise and fall with the sun, reinforcing and rebalancing circadian rhythms. I chose photographs of healthy and biodiverse Maryland environments guided by this same color palette – their harmony and balance enhances the identity and sense of place of each neighborhood.

Sara: This design story, you told me, also takes into account the reality that NICU hospitalizations can run to weeks and months, and so the families need both privacy and social support.

Bethany: In my herbal studies I kept coming across patterns in nature that repeat at progressive scales, called fractals. I saw that I could incorporate this type of patterning to transition from spaces supporting refuge, intimacy and family bonding to progressively expansive spaces encouraging opportunities for social and environmental support.

A family can stay in the room with their baby, “huddle” or draw inward, regain strength and bond. When parents want to step away from the room but are not ready to travel too far, they can wander within their neighborhood, which includes a “respite,” a large window seat with a view and an architectural bulkhead overhead – a “protective canopy” inspired by the natural formations like the one at Hamilton’s Pool. Here a family may encounter other immediate neighbors.

And as time goes on, a family may wander through the other neighborhoods and encounter a larger pool of people going through a similar life event.

Community naturally evolves through these casual encounters where parents can teach and learn from other parents and the medical staff.

Blue neighborhood - Jaramillo 0017
Photo credit: A. Jaramillo

The unit is laid out like a large rectangular race track. To travel from one neighborhood to another patients and visitors move at their own pace along a wood-look path. Along this inner track, they walk among images of nature, sheltered from the fast-moving medical staff speeding along an outer track.

Practically speaking, “neighborhoods” met the need to conform to fire and building codes and functional “zones.”  Together the single family rooms and the neighborhoods provide opportunities for this range of privacy, social and care needs.

I wanted the high-tech critical care to fade into the background so the space would feel more nurturing and less clinical. The consistent complexities found in nature help bring peace and a sense of stability and reassurance to the worried mind. Where better to transplant these potent and viable seeds but in a healthcare setting?

Sara: What would you like readers to take away from your story?

Bethany: To be inspired to observe the world and beauty around them, to feel deeply, compassionately and with overwhelming gratitude. I find importance in investing in the time required to discover your gift – your passion, investing the time to develop it and then taking the time to share it with those around you who may be touched by the enthusiasm. I have learned that it often takes “going against the grain” on the road to self-discovery and being the driver of your own life but it is well worth the stance and I am happy to have been a rebel in this regard for most of my life!

 

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.
IMG_3788
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

Psst…It’s Winter!

Winter is the time to turn inward, to slow down, to go fallow.

We know this. And we likely know that our culture of busy-ness makes tuning-in to the winter season’s call challenging, but this isn’t another post to admonish you out of busy-ness.

Just a nudge here-if you haven’t stored up some winter moments, the rising energies of spring may leave you lethargic, fatigued, slow to sprout, and even later to fruit and harvest come summer.

This time around, for me, the problem isn’t too much to do.

The problem is the UN-seasonal weather. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed that it IS winter.

you make the fire and I’ll show you something wonderful: a big ball of snow! Basho
you make the fire
and I’ll show you something wonderful:
a big ball of snow!
Basho

Until well into January, when Baltimore’s winter temperatures finally plummeted, we’d been treated to balmy days, migrating birds and spring-blooming quince.

Without the cold and grey, even shortened days were not enough to draw me often enough to curl up under an afghan with a good book and allow myself to go somewhat dormant.

Sometimes the cues, the markers, the signals change, and we unknowingly fall out of sync.

The cold and grey, have always reminded me what to do. This Friday in the north east, we’ll see twenty-four minutes more of daylight than just three weeks ago.

I know this: Only by allowing myself to arrive fully in winter (however it shows up) do I gift my body, mind and spirit the grace and gift of an interlude.

So, I’ve pared down my day-time commitments, jettisoned more than a few attractive outings – theatre, community sings, dance classes. And I’ve built more protection around my hours after nightfall for staring idly into the dark. All to let myself go more fallow.

Depending on where you live, you may have many more or fewer weeks of winter than here in the Mid-Atlantic.

Either way, to help you set aside and protect the moments you need to take your rest, so you can spring forward with the coming season, I invite you to pause with intention and

reach for

nourishment (try a pot of my favorite immune-supporting miso soup, friendship, conversation

soothing and cheering herbal tea (recipe below)

candle and firelight

or open up to

bare branches and long views through the trees

night-time hours resonant with stillness

grieving your losses

pared-down-to-the-bone clarity

TURN WITHIN, EXALE, SHIFT YOUR ENERGY DOWN A NOTCH OR TWO –

even while sitting at a red light, waiting in line, waiting for the water to boil

listen…

to the still small voice within

fall into the spaciousness of the HEART, that seasonal field

where we can meet, in Rumi’s words,

“out beyond right and wrong.”


 

An ALOP RecipeYoung and Restless Tea

Young and Restless Tea

One rounded teaspoon each of dried Chamomile, Linden Flower, and Elderflower, and one 1/4 teaspoon of dried Peppermint.

Pour 8 oz boiling water over the herbs.

Cover and steep for 10-15 minutes.

Strain, sip, inhale, enjoy to calm restlessness, help you (and a finicky digestion) rest, help you “manage.”

A plus for late winter sinuses and lungs: this tea is also a mild respiratory decongestant.