Thursday, March 18, 2010
Three weeks ago the, "Building a Bridge" series was launched at, "The Big Fat Lie" and "Through Thick and Thin" sites. I have been applying this approach alongside other members of our community with phenomenal results. Before I get into describing my experience with this approach, I want to take a moment to congratulate all of you who decided to give your body the gift of this care and compassion. If you have applied this approach as outlined, you are likely feeling quite a bit different than you did just three short weeks ago. If you have had anything close to the experience I have had, you have learned that food is powerful medicine.
I gained so many insights from this experience. I learned a lot about my relationship with food and my body... many elements I was completely unaware of before. Since beginning my healing process, this is single-handedly the most loving, nurturing act I have ever carried out for myself. It has also had the greatest impact in terms of my health and well-being, physically, mentally, emotionally, and yes... even spiritually. I am now on the road to wholeness. I have a newfound appreciation and respect for the gift of my body. I feel a bit like Dorothy in, 'The Wizard of Oz'. "Toto... I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." In fact, I have no point of reference for the space I find myself in now. All I know is that it feels damn good to arrive here. I haven't felt this level of vitality in over 19 years!
I realized through this experience that I have been chronically under-eating for the large majority of my life. My signals were so skewed when I first came to intuitive eating that I falsely believed I was honoring my hunger and feeding myself in a nourishing way. Boy, were my perceptions off! My body has been in a depleted, compromised, under-nourished state. This hit me hard when I first started to implement the, "Building a Bridge" approach.
First of all, I found the minimal amount a food a person needs to eat to be well-nourished absolutely staggering. I had no idea how I was going to manage eating all of that food. I almost couldn't wrap my mind around it. It seemed overwhelming to me. However, I chose to enter into this experience with a fervent desire to learn how to provide my body with the best possible care. I have never respected my body, let alone offered it the benefit of my love and attention. I felt I owed my body at least this dignity after all the years of neglect it has suffered through. A lifetime of physical self-abuse has taken its toll.
I do not want to give the impression that all my issues are now resolved. There are no magical cures. Our healing requires our commitment and the willingness to sometimes work through uncomfortable patches. The damage eating disorder has done to my body is very real. I have extensive repair work before me. However, I would be lying if I were to say the, "Building a Bridge" approach didn't change my life. It has completely altered my relationship with food in a positive way. I now have a very different experience of living in this body of mine. There is true healing taking root. The "Building a Bridge" approach has had a more transformational effect on me than intuitive eating itself.
It took me about a week to adjust to feeling fullness in my body. It was a foreign experience for me that in the beginning stages caused my anxiety to rise. This anxiety caught me off-guard. I wasn't used to feeling the nurturing warmth in my belly. It felt utterly alien to have the sensation of food sitting in my stomach. Strangely, it dawned on me that this feeling of nurturance was the source of my anxiousness. This alone provided me with plenty of fertile emotional ground to explore. Where did I develop this fear of fullness and nourishment in my life? How has this fear impacted other areas of my life... my relationships, the way I move through the world, my ability to be aware of my needs and get those needs met? I found so many connecting threads when I opened the door to explore this uncharted emotional territory. It helped clarify why I have had this contentious relationship with food and my body. I came to see the symbolism of these struggles. It lifted the veil on a whole new dimension of my life experience. Yes... all this from feeling fullness.
The meals felt quite large to me in the beginning. Remember, I was used to existing in a semi-starved state. A lone fruit smoothie could have held me over for hours on end just three weeks ago... or so I thought. Now when I sit down for breakfast that fruit smoothie is paired with scrambled eggs and a whole grain pancake. My ED mind felt this was so much food. Too much, in fact. How could I possibly eat all of this? ED put up a fight and resisted. As much as possible, I stayed out of my head throughout this process and continued to gently remind myself that I was doing repair work. This was self-care. A way of giving back to my body for all I had stripped from it. I became fully in-bodied, experiencing the unknown territory of true nourishment. It was amazing... life-changing. It's something very difficult to articulate in words. It has to be directly contacted within yourself. It may seem odd that the rote act of eating could have such a profound effect. This experience moved me and shaped me in a way I could have never anticipated. I don't think I will ever look at food and my body the same way again and that is a blessing!
At first, I had to pace myself through my meals. I would feel the point when I would normally stop eating, at 'just satiated'. The pull to stop at 'just satiated' was very strong. I became conscious that I was afraid of feeling full. I patiently worked through it. I would take breaks midway through my meal. When I felt ready to eat a little more, I would do so. I used this pacing approach to finish the food before me. Tuning into my body, I was able to discern my fullness. It felt unusual, a little awkward even, kind of like the first time you tried to walk in a pair of heels as a young girl. I also noticed that though it was an unfamiliar sensation, it was not physically uncomfortable in any way. This was completely revolutionary for me. My experience of food has always been one of extremes. I have perpetually bounced between starved/semi-starved, or sickly stuffed states. To be nourished and comfortably full was unlike anything I have ever felt inside my body before.
My body welcomed the care. Within a few days my hunger was kicking in and demanding this new level of nutrition. My fear that I would not be able to eat the minimum amount of food required for my basic nourishment was completely unfounded. My body was 100% on board and continued to request this nutrition. Not only did I eat three substantial meals and two snacks every day over the past three weeks, there were also some days I needed to throw a third snack in! This blew my mind! By week two, I was completely out of my head when it came to food. I simply had no need to think about it anymore since my basic needs were being met.
Food has returned to its proper place in my life. I now see food in a completely different way. Food is fuel. It's what keeps my body running and humming. When it's time to eat I now consider what is going to provide my body with the best quality fuel. I continue to enjoy dessert just about every day. I have always had a sweet tooth. However, since I now have sound nutrition in place, I only need a small amount to feel satisfied. A couple mini peppermint patties, or a single scoop of ice cream is more than enough to provide a pleasurable end to my dinner. Sometimes, I don't even desire dessert and find it's the last thing on my mind. This amazes me! I never imagined this could be possible, but it is my new reality. I also continue to enjoy other treats like a handful of chips, or a few fries, but really, I find nourishing food far more pleasurable. Not only do the nutritious foods taste wonderful, they also make my body feel incredible. To me, that is a win-win situation. I love everything I eat. I prepare nourishing foods in ways I find deeply satisfying and oh-so yummy. I have also discovered that the more fruits and veggies I eat, the more my body calls for them. My relationship with food is in balance for the first time in my entire life. No deprivation. No restriction. Eating is now an absolute delight. The added bonus is that my health is rapidly on the mend.
It has been almost three months since I have engaged in any eating disorder behavior. My energy levels are through the roof. I have not had this much vitality since I was 18 years old! I now understand that all these years of unrelenting fatigue were related to not eating enough quality carbohydrates. I have been to countless medical appointments over the years in an effort to address what had been diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. Who knew all I needed to do to restore my energy was to eat enough carbohydrates? It seems so elementary... a no-brainer... but for me this was mind-boggling.
My blood sugar has stabilized, along with my blood pressure. I was shocked when my blood pressure registered 116/68 at a doctor's visit a week ago. Considering that at one point my blood pressure was sitting at 146/70 makes this improvement quite impressive. My mood has also lifted. I feel optimistic and generally happy. My stress levels have gone way down. I feel reconnected with my body in a way I have never experienced before. For the first time, I feel like me and my body are on the same page. I suppose that has everything to do with finally taking the time to actually listen to my body and address it's needs.
Over the past few days I have been shifting back to natural eating according to my body's signals. This transition has been completely different than it was when I first began to incorporate the intuitive eating approach about 4 years ago. I feel that this time, I am coming into this experience with a solid foundation under my feet. That alone, is making all the difference. My hunger signals are coming through like clockwork every 3-3 1/2 hours. I continue to eat three substantial meals and 2-3 snacks a day because my body is asking for that level of nourishment. I also feel a lot more satisfied when I get up from the table because instead of eating to 'just satiated' as recommended in the, "Intuitive Eating" book, I am eating until I am comfortably full. This one change alone has made an incredible difference. It has eliminated the cravings that used to be constant for me in the evening. I think the most important piece I take away from this experience is how necessary it is for our bodies to be properly nourished with a wide variety of foods and how essential it is to feel completely satisfied.
The final post in this series is going to outline how to transition from the, "Building a Bridge" plan to natural eating according to bodily signals. I strongly encourage you to give yourself at least 3 weeks on the plan for nutritional rehabilitation before transitioning into intuitive eating. If you try to take short-cuts with this, you are really only short-changing yourself. To rush this process along is to cheat yourself of it's life-enhancing effects.
Conversely, if you continue to feel disconnected from your bodily signals, you may need more than three weeks on the plan. Withhold judgment if you find this is the case in your situation. Every body is different. It may take a little more time for your signals to come forward and your body to recalibrate. There is nothing 'wrong' with this. It doesn't mean you could have done anything better. It only clearly points to how much you are in need of this nutritional rebalancing. Once your signals of hunger seem to be coming through fairly consistently you can begin to transition into natural eating.
We all heal at our own pace. There is no rush to get to an imagined finish line. All pressure with this process is self-created. Give your body the space it needs to find its equilibrium. This is one of the kindest acts you can engage in after years of inflicting your body with abuse. Practice patience. If you are not yet ready to transition from the plan, accept this. Rest assured that your body will let you know loud and clear when you are ready to move forward.
Building a Bridge from ED to Intuitive Eating, Part 8: Nature's Perfection... The way you were born to eat
As promised, we are now going to gently guide ourselves back into a natural pattern of eating according to bodily signals of hunger and fullness. Now that a solid nutritional foundation is in place and a sense of balance has been restored, the transition into natural, instinctive eating can be carried out with a sense of ease. For those who have attempted to grasp intuitive eating in the past but found it a struggle, you will discover that you feel more supported this time around.
If you have applied the approach that has been outlined in the, "Building a Bridge" series over the past three weeks, your body has been led closer to a state of equilibrium. Physically, you feel nurtured. You have greater clarity. Your mood is lighter and clearer. You have likely noticed that the signals of hunger that eluded you in the past are now coming through consistently like clockwork. As you take these first steps to trust your body and its communication, you do so from a new foundation. What once seemed complicated will now become easy to integrate. Finally out of your head and into your body, you will simply eat. It is an amazingly freeing experience.
Much like the first phase of this approach, there is a three week transitional period. Certain elements will remain in place as a life practice of self-care. In reality, the act of eating can never be a totally intuitive experience. For a state of balance to be fostered it is necessary to blend intuition with common sense. To try to divorce one from the other is to create division within yourself. It's like rejecting part of your natural makeup. This is largely why so many intuitive approaches fail. It is also the reason fad diets mire us in the over-thinking that disconnects us from our bodily wisdom. There needs to be a marriage of common sense with intuition in order for balance to take root.
Just as you can't cut yourself off at the head and have a totally 'heady' experience, you also can't disconnect from that beautiful brain of yours. Otherwise, chaos would reign. There would be people worldwide taking long walks off short planks and wondering how they landed themselves in such hot water. In the book, "Health At Every Size", By, Linda Bacon, PhD, there is reference to the experience of cavemen. Somehow they managed to survive without best-selling diet books, nutritionists, and 'experts' to guide them in their eating practices. This is because the act of eating is a biological event. It is hardwired into our genetic makeup. It doesn't require an instruction manual. However, if those same cavemen didn't also rely on common sense they never would have survived the ravages of winter. After bringing home the bounty of the hunt they may have been tempted to wolf down their lion's share, but they understood intellectually that they may not come across such bounty so readily in the future. Game was portioned and preserved to help the tribe survive during lean times. It is clear to see that we need to use all of our faculties when it comes to our self-care.
Another point that bears mentioning is that our current climate of convenience is a far cry from what it was even 50 years ago. There have been a lot of changes in the way we produce food, along with our current ease of access. We have more food availability and options now than at any point in history. As a species, we are evolving. Our bodies adapt to their environmental circumstances. However, in terms of genetic evolution, 50 years is a mere drop in the bucket. We have not adapted physiologically to the factory produced foods that grace most Americans tables.
Back when our parents were kids, dining out was a special event, not a regular thing. Meals were cooked at home and were balanced. Fruits and vegetables regularly found their way to the table. Foods were closer to the source, not so highly processed. People sat down to eat and used meal time as an opportunity for connection with their loved ones. They weren't eating on the run, shoving food in their mouths as they rushed out the door, or chowing down absentmindedly in the car on the way to work. They weren't using food as anesthesia, zoning out in front of the TV with seemingly bottomless bags of man-made snacks engineered to make their taste buds crave more. Mom made treats for movie watching in her own kitchen. She served up wholesome goodies like homemade cookies, freshly popped popcorn, or a batch of her famous brownies.
There is also another distinct difference between the way we live now and yesteryear. There were no video games back in the day. Computers had yet to take center stage. TV viewing was limited. People got out and about more. They connected with others. They found pleasure in more social activities. Kids didn't plop down in front of the tube and waste their days away. They were outside riding their bikes, building tree forts and having outdoor adventures. Dances were a popular social pastime. People moved more. Without all the modern trappings, people had to get up and do things for themselves.
The reason why we are seeing such a decline in our health has everything to do with the way our environment has shifted, along with the damaging message of the diet industry. The spin doctors of these corporations want you to be confused. Their wallets grow fatter the more confusion prevails. You have been programmed to believe that eating is complicated and that you need a trained 'expert' or the latest 'it' diet to guide you in one of the most intimate affairs... the nurturing of your body. The truth is, eating is simple. You were born to eat in a natural, uncomplicated way, but industry doesn't want you to know this because it would affect their profits. This is why 'Big Food', the beauty myth and the diet industry will set you up for failure every time. It's nothing more than a numbers game for these snake oil purveyors. They care nothing about you or your well-being.
It is impossible to look at our current state of health without considering the environment we are living in. Again, our common sense has to come into play. To try to discard this aspect is to muddy the waters.
When you were an infant, you didn't pull out a measuring cup to portion yourself out a serving of your mother's breast milk. You also didn't concern yourself with how that milk was going to affect your body size. You ate because you were hungry and your body demanded that fuel. Without it, you would perish. When you look at it this way, it seems completely asinine. However, in kitchens worldwide millions of people feel completely lost when it comes to feeding themselves. Make no mistake. It is not an accident. This is calculated confusion.
We were never meant to eat this way. We aren't designed to waste away. We are built to survive. Our bodies will resist us tooth and nail in our vain attempt to whittle ourselves to a size that will fit in the cookie cutter mold of the prevailing beauty ideal. Rather than blaming our bodies we need to recognize that they are responding appropriately. Our bodies are doing their job. In fact, the so-called 'obesity epidemic' is largely fueled by propaganda carefully planted by industries who stand to profit from our fear. Our expanding waistlines are our natural survival reaction to existing in the climate of semi-starvation that diets have created along with a reliance on foods that our great grandmothers wouldn't even be able to recognize. What we have here is a case of wag the dog. If we all believe that our lives are in danger because of our body size and we bear the brunt of the blame, won't there be an increase in demand for the quick fix promise of a diet? After all, according to media we are the ones who have dropped the ball. The overwhelming message is that we can't be trusted and need to rely on the professionals to resolve this crisis in the state of our nation's health. Corporations are well aware of the power of fear-based marketing. Here is the truth. We need to eat to thrive and well at that. It's time to stop putting the focus on body size and instead direct our attention where it really counts... on our health.
That's where the, "Building a Bridge" series comes in. In a very real sense, this has been a reeducation. We had to unlearn all the messages the diet industry has filtered through to us via the media. Now that we understand how to nurture our bodies well we can return to the way we were born to eat.
It will be important to continue to have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. If you are not eating these three meals, you are under-eating and doing biological harm to your body that will prevent you from restoring health. I encourage you to continue to eat your breakfast within an hour of rising. This simply makes common sense. Why work against your body when you can get your day off to a solid start? Continue to be mindful of the composition of your meals as outlined in the preceding installments of this series. A balanced meal will include quality carbohydrates, protein and produce. If you have any questions about this, review part 6 of the, "Building a Bridge" series. This portion of the presentation boiled down balanced nutrition to its purest, most accessible form. Snacks will now be optional. If you become hungry in-between meals, it makes sense to have a snack. In fact, it's helpful to always have a small, portable snack on your person such as a grab bag of nuts and dried fruit, trail mix, a granola bar, or other quick and easy fuel that won't spoil. This way, if you get caught in a pinch and your hunger catches you off-guard, you are prepared.
You will no longer be planning the timing of your meals with the exception of breakfast. It truly is the most important meal of the day, especially when an individual has a history of eating disorder. Skipping breakfast leaves the gateway open for ED behavior to enter. In order to prevent this backlash it is essential to start your day with some nourishment.
For three weeks you are going to utilize a technique that will help you adjust to listening to your bodily cues to guide your eating experiences. When you are done eating breakfast, note what time it is. Add five hours to this finish time and log the result in your journal. For example, let's say you finished eating breakfast at 8:30 am. Adding five hours to this time would give you a time of 1:30 pm. You would write 1:30 pm in your journal as a reminder to eat by this time if you have not felt your hunger kick in before then. The reason for this is that you should avoid going for more than five hours without food. At that point, all the food from your previous meal is long gone. You need to nourish your body with fuel so you don't become depleted or court blood sugar fluctuations. Every time you eat, note your finish time and add five hours, then logging the result in your journal. This will ensure that you continue to take care of your basic needs if your hunger signals remain a little foggy.
You will only need to employ this reminder technique for three weeks. Within that period of time, you will fall into your own individual rhythm and pattern with your hunger signals. There will no longer be a need to remind yourself to eat. It will be automatic. If you think about it, it's pretty exciting to consider that in only three more short weeks you will be back to eating in a completely natural body-driven way. You will simply eat. Consider this helpful tool the training wheels that will prepare you to ride free.
Another element that will come into play at this point is paying attention to your fullness. Throughout the nutritional rehabilitation period you likely experienced a reality check about the bare minimum amount of food your body needs in order to function optimally. I know this was a very awakening part of the experience for me and probably the aspect that had the greatest healing impact. Coincidentally, you are now going to be ahead of the game. Your body has recalibrated and your sense of fullness is going to be more clear to you than it was in the past. If you continue to have a little fuzziness in this area, simply try to inject more awareness into your eating experiences. Pay attention to the sensations in your body when eating. True fullness will leave you with a warmth in your belly. You will be able to feel the food in your stomach. There will be a sense of substance there. You will know you have found the groove when you feel completely satisfied and content after your meal.
If you happen to overeat a little in these beginning stages of listening to your body be patient with yourself. Try not to over-emotionalize the experience. It really is no big deal. Since you will now be eating when you are hungry, your body will balance it out. You may find your appetite is held over a little longer when you overeat. You might be used to having your hunger come forward about every three hours. A meal overeaten will likely hold you over for a bit longer than usual, edging you closer to that five hour mark. Your body will make the necessary adjustments if you allow it to lead the way. There is no need for guilt or worry.
At the end of these next three weeks take a moment to acknowledge all the progress you have made. You are now a natural eater and can get on with the rest of your life. Congratulations!
Thursday, March 4, 2010
- Learn about composting. See if this is something you can integrate into your life. Do some online research or check out a book at your local library and read up on the topic. This is a wonderful way to recycle what would normally get tossed in the trash and put it to good use.
- Make an effort to buy organic when selecting produce that ranks on the top 12 list of the worst pesticide offenders. Reduce your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.
- Blow out the cobwebs from winter by taking your exercise outdoors. Take full advantage of the warming spring weather to breathe some fresh air into your fitness.
- Make a soundtrack for your healing path. Put together a CD that will inspire you on your journey toward wholeness. Select songs that give you a sense of hope and that you find personally meaningful. Listen to your soundtrack often to infuse positive energy into your experience.
- Invite breath into your emotional space to break free bound feelings so they can be expressed and released.
- Get your green thumb on by planting a vegetable or herb garden. Whether you have lofty visions of raised beds or are taking your first stab at gardening by growing a few humble herbs on your windowsill, be part of the natural cycle that brings food from field to table.
Spring has sprung and has ushered in a wider variety of fresh seasonal fruits and veggies for our enjoyment. Having this kind of selection is like a breath of fresh air! Make some room on your plate for the great produce available this season. Be sure to bring a bouquet of spring blooms into your home to invite a splash of color and cheerfulness into your world.
Spring Seasonal Veggies (March-April-May)
- Belgian endive
- Butter lettuce
- Chayote squash
- Collard greens
- English peas
- Fava beans
- Green beans
- Morel mushrooms
- Mustard greens
- Pea pods
- Snow peas
- Spring baby lettuce
- Sugar snap peas
- Swiss chard
- Vidalia onions
Spring Seasonal Fruits (March-April-May)
Spring Seasonal Blooms (March-April-May)
- Birds of Paradise
- Cherry blossom
- Sweet Pea
Spring is the perfect time for us to begin thinking of introducing more organic foods to our table. There are many reasons why choosing organic has value. If you want to protect the earth's resources it just makes sense to purchase organic, whenever possible. This is often a decision that stems from our deepest values. Organic produce is pesticide-free. This is noteworthy because pesticides have a negative impact on the quality of our soil and water. This also naturally affects wildlife.
Factory farming is heavily reliant on the production of genetically modified crops. There has been little research conducted in the area of GMO's. We aren't clear about what the long-term health implications may be of consuming these man-altered foods. We largely remain in the dark when it comes to GMO's. Until we see the impact these foods are going to have on our health and the environment, many in the fields of science and nutrition feel it may be in our best interest to not jump on the genetically modified bandwagon. In fact, since the induction of GMO's into our food supply there has been an escalating rise in incidence of food allergy. The issue doesn't become any clearer with the so-called 'experts' completely divided on this topic. While some believe that GMO's are playing a part in the increase in food allergies, others claim this statement has no basis in fact. The great debate rages on and meanwhile, the American public are ingesting foods on a regular basis that in truth, we know little about.
Purchasing organic is a show of financial support for farmers who are more fairly compensated by growing organic crops. The pittance farmers earn producing government subsidized crops like corn is disgraceful. By supporting organic farmers we ensure that we will have a wider variety of foods to choose from when going to the grocery store. In fact, there has been a revival of heirloom crops within the organic farming community. It is important that we preserve the availability of these foods for the sake of biodiversity.
The verdict is still out on whether or not organic foods are actually healthier for us. With the current information available the decision to buy organic has more to do with how you feel about certain social and environmental issues than it does with building a healthier body. However, tests conducted by the USDA have confirmed washing commercial produce does little to remove pesticides. The residues linger behind on the fruits and veggies that you and your family eat. Considering that pesticides are another murky area and we aren't sure what the long-term impact of ingesting these chemical agents will be, it makes sense to be mindful of which commercially grown fruits and vegetables you are willing to put in your shopping cart.
This information is being presented for your personal knowledge and awareness. I think it is unrealistic to expect that an individual is going to be able to switch to all organic food choices overnight. We tend to approach changes in such an all or nothing manner in our culture. It makes sense to integrate changes slowly so you can look to your internal compass and feel out what is a fit for you in your life. The message at, "The Big Fat Lie" is one of personal empowerment. We want you to start questioning advertisements. We want you to begin to lift the veil on the pretty package that 'Big Food' is peddling. What does the content really look like when you get behind the slick advertising campaigns and media hype? No one knows what is better for your body than you. Our mission is merely to share information. It is up to you how you choose to apply what you learn.
Since we don't believe in diving headfirst into making life changes, we are going to kick off our spring focus by dipping our toes into the organic pool. We'll start simply by addressing which fruits and vegetables are important to purchase organic in order to reduce your exposure to pesticides. We are sharing the biggest pesticide offenders out of respect for those of you who may be on tighter budgets. After all, it costs more to produce organic crops. The production cost hikes are passed on to you when you head to the supermarket. It makes sense to share which conventional produce selections you can get away with purchasing in order to save you some cash.
I do want to share a little insight though on how our consumer dollars can have an impact and subsequently drive down the prices of organic foods so they can be affordable for everyone, indiscriminate of economic bracket. I live in the San Francisco North Bay Area in the heart of the Wine Country. People are passionate about whole foods and organics in these parts. In fact, the SLOW food movement is pressing forward full-steam ahead in my corner of the world. It is common for people in this area to purchase local whenever possible and to put money back into the hands of community farmers. In Sonoma County there is a major chain grocery store, Oliver's Market. They feature a wide variety of foods, both factory and organically produced. Since the consumers in this area largely favor organic produce, it has lowered the profit margin between organic and conventionally produced fruits and vegetables. In essence, the price of organics has been driven down to the extent that there is little cost variance between organic and factory farmed produce. The margin has become so slim in fact, that Oliver's Market is considering going all organic with their produce section. Now that is consumer power in action!
While I recognize that not everyone may currently be able to afford organic foods, if those of us who can shell out the cash did our part, we could help lower the cost of these wholesome foods for everyone. We can collectively change the world by pitching in and doing what we can. It sounds idealistic, but it's true. Small changes lead to major results. I share this story to illustrate that we do have the power to create a shift in our current food climate. If we each had a sense of personal responsibility to do our part, lasting change would become our new reality. Our dollars are the vote that counts the most in this consumer-driven society. Keep that in mind the next time you are at the grocery store. Even if you can only pick up one or two organic items, you are doing your part to make a difference. We can take our power back from the media and 'Big Food' corporations... one bite at a time.
Fruits and Vegetables Containing the Highest Level of Pesticides
*Buy organic whenever possible.
- Bell peppers
- Imported grapes
- Red raspberries
The Maiden's First Blush
By, Shannon Elsom
Cherry blossoms blush
At the mere mention of spring
Like a smitten maid
One of the most intimate ways we can connect with the earth and her cycles is by planting a garden. By tending the soil and nurturing seedlings to full fruition we see the symbolism of our own soul's work. Many gardeners have experienced this sense of connection and seen the parallels between caring for their earthly gardens and nurturing the growth of spirit. Upon entering this movement of co-creation with nature, we come to understand that the earth is not a possession, but is actually part of us. Never do we experience this more directly than when we grow our own food. Cultivating a vegetable garden helps us foster an appreciation for the earth and the bounty she blesses us with. We develop gratitude for our meals understanding the many hands and forces of nature that must come together to put food on the table. This helps us develop a true appreciation for real food. Not lifeless food that is produced in some factory but food brimming with life-force, born from the soil we walk upon. When we nurture this level of respect for the earth and move in harmony with her cycles, we enter a sacred dance of partnership. In doing so, we value the gift of life. From this space, treating our bodies with love and honor becomes a natural response to experiencing the wonder of being a note within the symphony of life.
Not everyone has space for a grand garden. Truth is, you don't need to have a big plot of land to grow your own food. Many of us live in urban environments where putting in a large veggie patch is not really an option. However, there are many ways that we can creatively garden. It only requires a little willingness to think outside the box. Those who have limited yard space can have a container garden. Half a wine barrel can accommodate a variety of produce. Even city dwellers can have a windowsill garden where they grow their own cooking herbs. Of course, there are always green thumbs who look toward spring with excitement because it means they get to dig their hands in the dirt and renew the passion they had to put on ice during the cold winter months.
No matter where you are on the gardening scale, open yourself to growing some of your own food this spring. It's not hard to get started. All you need is a little planning and preparation. First of all, consider the space you have. This will greatly determine your overall garden plan. Decide if you have room to put in a raised bed. If space is limited you can opt for the convenience and ease of a container or windowsill garden. Also consider what kind of sunlight you will get consistently in your planting location. This is very important to factor in and will largely determine which crops you plant. Once you have outlined the space you have available and the growing conditions, it is time to plan your crops. What do you want to grow?
In creating your garden plan it is important to remember that it is best to wait for all threat of frost to pass before you put your summer producing crops in the ground. However, there are some hardy transplants that you can get started with in early spring beginning in the month of March. These hardier transplants are:
- Collard greens
- Globe artichokes
- Kohl rabi
- Bok choy
- Chinese cabbage
- Seed parsnips
- Swiss chard
Sometimes, it can seem overwhelming to try your hand at gardening if it is something completely new to you. In this case, I highly recommend you visit your local nursery and get yourself some starter plants rather than working from seed. It's also a good idea to connect with your local nursery if this is your first try at gardening because you will find plenty of helpful people ready and willing to answer any questions you may have. They can also help you select starters that will do well in your regional area. Each starter plant has a tag that includes very clear directions about the type of light the plant needs, which soil conditions it prefers and when it is best planted. It's helpful to rely on this information as you are learning the ropes. I also recommend utilizing your local library to check out books on gardening. You can find inspiration and clear directive in the pages of these simple guides, giving your confidence a boost.
The final element you want to consider is soil quality. Many people get overly wrapped up in worrying about fertilizing. It doesn't need to be that complicated. If you can get your hands on some quality compost your crops are sure to thrive. Most nurseries have compost available at reasonable prices. If you feel like really invoking your inner earth mama, you can do your own composting. It's not as difficult as people think it is. You can actually get started relatively easy and it's a wonderful way to recycle waste.
I personally compost and use an old plastic salad container to collect waste that I keep in the cabinet under my kitchen sink. When the container gets full, it is emptied into the compost bin out back. You can find affordable compost bins. There's no need for anything fancy. In fact, if you are in a pinch a simple garbage pail with a secured lid will do. You need to make sure to frequently turn over the contents in the bin manually with a shovel or sturdy rake if you decide to go this route. Additionally, you can find numerous resources online that will tell you how to build a bin from the ground up.
When first starting a compost bin, you want to work in layers, kind of like when you are building a lasagna. The first layer of your compost pile will contain organic materials like the ones listed below. The second layer will include manures or starters to help activate the initial heating of the compost pile. The pile is finished off with a final layer, (about 1-2 inches) of quality top soil. Within about two weeks, your compost pile will sit and stew. At this time, you can continue to add fresh ingredients to your pile by recycling your wastes into the bin. When you add new material, be sure to turn your pile and water it. A compost pile started in the early spring can be added to all the way up to late winter. By the time the following spring season rolls around you will have quality compost to nurture your new crops with. Ideally, you would turn your pile weekly, but realistically most gardeners only get to this task every month or so. This doesn't seem to have a compromising effect. The compost seems to do just fine.
So much of what we normally toss in the trash can be recycled. The following items can be composted:
- Leaves/Grass clippings/Hay/Wood chips/Pine needles/Weeds/Wood ashes/Sawdust/Trimmings from houseplants/Garden soil/Flowers that have died/Straw/Broken-down cardboard
- Paper napkins/Post-it notes/Paper towels/Old bills/Old newspapers (shredded)/Tissues/Q-tips (cardboard only, no plastic)/Wooden toothpicks/Pencil shavings/Brown paper bags/Envelopes
- Veggies (note that corn cobs will break down slowly)/Fruits that have spoiled
- Natural coffee filters/Burlap coffee bags/Coffee grounds/Tea bags
- Pet hair/Leftovers from cleaning out the bird or Guinea pig cage/Feathers
- Popcorn/Stale spices/Stale bread/Egg shells/Pasta/Nut shells/Moldy cheese/Expired yogurt/Shellfish shells/Oatmeal/Rice/Tofu/Wine that's headed south (you wouldn't want to waste perfectly good wine)/Spoiled Beer (check note on wine)/Cereal
- Matches (paper or wood)
- Worn-out leather gloves/Leather wallets/Cotton socks
- Hair and nail clippings
- Dryer lint
Try your hand at a veggie or herb garden this season. Whether you have grand gardening plans or your plot is small enough to fit on your windowsill really makes no difference. This is a way to reconnect with nature, develop an appreciation for the blessing of food and to honor the earth as a great provider. Get your green thumb on today and let it grow... let it grow.
Inspire (in spi r') v. 10. to take air into the lungs in breathing; inhale. 11. Archaic a. to infuse (breath, life, etc.) by breathing (usually fol. by into) b. to breathe into or upon.
Many of us know the traditional definition of inspire; to produce or arouse; but we often forget about the archaic definition which means quite simply, to breathe into. The act of breathing itself is inspiration. Conscious breathing has the ability to connect us with our bodies and release emotions we are physically suppressing. So many of us hold our emotions so tightly in our bodies. Quite literally, we don't give these feelings any breathing room. We stuff down our emotions by disassociating and disconnecting. We each do this in different ways.
Some people use food or the avoidance of eating to disconnect from the feelings welling up inside of them. Others turn to substances like drugs and alcohol to numb out emotions that may feel too overwhelming to face. Some blind themselves to their inner realities with consumerism... shopping as a way to obtain material things to define worth and fill the void inside. We disconnect in a multitude of ways... tuning out with TV, the computer, video games, overwork, excessive exercise. In a very real sense we have moved away from an organic life experience toward a virtual reality. All of these means of coping are like slapping a band aid on a gaping wound. It doesn't stop the hemorrhaging... the bleeding out of our life force. The more we check out like this, the more our unaddressed feelings tend to build inside of us, creating pressure. This pressure leads to stress. That stress can impact our lives negatively on multiple levels.
Stress is the greatest factor in dis-ease. So much of our health and well-being relies on our ability to effectively manage our stress. Additionally, though we may think we are saving ourselves suffering by dropping the curtain on our emotions, we are actually breeding dysfunction which only further impacts our sense of discontent and lack of personal fulfillment. When we cut ourselves off at the head and sever ourselves from our bodies and emotions, those feelings remain. They haven't disappeared simply because we are not willing to look at them. As layer upon layer of unacknowledged emotion piles up on one another, our inner unrest reaches the boiling point. That pent-up energy must be released before we implode. Often this seeps out into our lives in damaging ways, affecting relationships, work, health, and our emotional/spiritual well-being.
It is very important that we hold space for all of our emotions, that we learn to invite our feelings in to sit for a spell and teach us something about ourselves. Most people resist emotional work because they feel like they have to figure it out, make it 'right' and possibly dredge up painful past memories that they would just assume leave behind in the dust of days gone by. This is a misconception. We don't have to sort out our feelings, categorize them, make sense of them, validate them, or even know where they originate from. There is a big difference between honoring our emotions and wallowing in feelings that can keep us stuck in life. Feeling our emotions does not mean we must convert to the 'religion' of martyrdom. It is about releasing what is weighing us down so we can build a bridge and get over it. It is when we cling so tightly to our emotions, blocking their expression, that we are keeping ourselves locked and bound by the shackles of the past. Feeling paves the road to freedom.
Sometimes when we open ourselves to feeling we make a distinct connection. We realize the emotion is related to some event in our lives that we didn't fully process and integrate, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, emotions surface and they seem to have no basis in rationality. They appear to spring up from nowhere. In those moments it is vital to trust that sometimes the body knows something we are unaware of. Our job isn't to 'fix' it, just to feel it. Feeling fully creates the necessary release that helps us move forward in our lives. It's not complicated and it doesn't require years of wading through emotional muck while lying on a psychiatrist's couch. In fact, the more we can be present and hold space for our feelings, the more easily they pass through us unencumbered. The sooner we get to get on with life. There is no way to avoid feeling. We are having a life experience and experience entails that we must feel.
How do we hold space for our emotions and reconnect when we are so used to checking out? The answer is quite simply, through inspiration. Through breathing, we become inspired and this facilitates the physical release that allows our bodies to surrender what they have been holding on to so tightly. It is amazing how releasing our emotions through breath can create so much space inside of us. There is a distinct broadening of our inner horizons when we allow our emotions expression through inspiration. It can be a powerful experience. We truly have the ability to heal and embody release simply by using our breath.
When we own our emotions we move away from reacting, toward responding. Reactiveness comes from an unaware space. When we are disconnected from our emotions we often move into reactiveness by blaming and judging, rather than by owning our feelings and expressing them in balanced ways. This only causes the divide to deepen and prevents us from moving forward in our lives and relationships. Reactions are impulsive. They are highly-charged. Our buttons get pushed and we head into blame mode because we want to make others/life situations 'wrong'. It is easier to disconnect through blaming than to come into direct contact with the intolerable feelings that get provoked by challenging situations and relationships. When we react, we give away our power. We come from a space of fear and defensiveness. This only creates more of what we don't want in our lives... isolation, disconnection, adversity, dysfunction.
Responding is quite different. It is recognizing in the moment that difficulty enters that there is a choice... to close ourselves off in reactiveness, remaining in our familiar comfort zone, or to move into a space of receptivity and understanding which opens the door to more meaning and personal growth. Responding comes from a secure space of authenticity and love. In order to respond, we have to be able to connect with our emotions while also respecting the feelings of others. If we can tune in the instant disruption enters, make contact with our feelings while also connecting with the feelings of others, we are opening ourselves to responding. Responding entails that we listen more, not only to ourselves, but to those around us. When we respond, we are stepping into our power. We are owning our emotions and relating to other's positions without feeling threatened. We understand that all feelings are valid and deserve respect and recognition, including those that run contrary to our own. We each deserve to have space held for our emotions. A balanced life is built on a foundation of responding, not reacting.
In order to come from a place of responding we need to learn how to feel fully. This requires us to come back into our bodies... to have an in-body experience. One of the easiest ways to do this is by connecting with our breath. The next time you find yourself moving into reactiveness... becoming mired in fear, anxiety, defensiveness, judgment, criticism or blame, take a moment to breathe.
First, locate where the feeling is in your body. Is it in your chest? Your belly? Your hands or feet? Once you discern where the feeling is in your body bring some awareness into that physical space. What does it feel like in your body where you are holding this emotion? Is it tight and constricting? Is it fluttering or trembling? Is it hot or cold? Full or empty? Does the feeling have a color? Really get into your body and get in touch. Once you have connected with the full scope of the feeling, begin to breathe into the location in your body where you are holding this sensation. Imagine your breath traveling inside that space, around it, above it and below it. Keep breathing into the area where your body is holding this feeling.
Sometimes we are physically constricting our emotions to the extent that we have cut off circulation, preventing nurturing energy from coming in. This is evident when the breath gets 'stuck' and is unable to reach the physical location in the body where the feeling is being held. This signals that there is something we are holding onto so very tightly. If we keep breathing into that tightness we can release the obstruction and allow our feelings to surface. The breath inspires and unlocks the feeling. Often, you will experience a physical sensation of release. This can manifest in many ways and will be different for each person. There is no 'wrong' way to experience this release. Trust what comes forward.
For some, the tears may begin to flow. Others may notice a shaking happening within, almost like a soul rattle dislodging years of pent-up emotion with its vibration. You may even notice that you release the feeling audibly through sighs, moans, or other sounds. Stay out of judgment. Don't bother trying to make sense of it. Let it be and trust in the body's wisdom to know exactly what you need for release.
You can use your breath to release any emotion. If you have a feeling of being cut-off from your inner world, take some time to come back into your body and breathe. Allow the inspiration to empower you so you can get clear on what your true needs are and can more effectively address your concerns. Feeling is healing. The more we can reconnect with ourselves, the more we move into response and find our entire beings coming into balance. Let yourself be inspired today.