The importance of feeling safe

Feeling safe isn't just an emotional nicety. 

When we feel threatened, our biology steps in. Hormones are released that increase the heart rate, blood pressure and blood flow, small airways in the lungs expand, our vision narrows as our other senses sharpen. We can't control any of this. This response is millions of years old and happens without thought.

Now, why we don't feel safe is another story. The threat might be real (being stalked by a cougar) or imagined (worrying about being stalked by a cougar while camping).

The thing is, to a certain degree, the effect in the body is the same whether the threat is real or not. This response is also activated when the threat is not life-threatening, which is why the medical world has labeled "chronic stress" as a major factor in illness and dis-ease.

We're designed to move fluidly in and out of the stress response -- there's a threat, the nervous system activates the appropriate response to flee or fight, we escape, we recover and the nervous system resets back to a regulated state.

The "threats" of our times are more constant, as well as intangible -- deadlines, mortgages, traffic jams, societal pressure. We don't get the chance to cycle completely through the response and reset, re-regulate. The overabundance of stress hormones in the body causes a big mess.

 

It's easy to understand that not feeling safe makes it really hard to sleep.

And you know how I feel about sleep.

Recently I was in Berkeley for another training. I stayed at a hotel this time. It was an intense training and I was feeling out of sorts, out of myself. What I really needed was good sleep and I didn't want to mess around with the possibility of not getting it.

When I'm disregulated like this, otherwise known as vata-deranged, one of the things that plagues me is fear. Just a general umbrella of anxiety. I manage well through the daytime hours, but it shows up with a siren and spotlight at night. Sometimes I experience it as a non-specific worry about life; other times it can be a specific obsession, for example, a fear of someone breaking in and attacking me.

This seems crazy in the light of day, but at night, my heart races, I hear every single sound and I can't sleep.

You can't talk or rationalize yourself back into regulation.
That's not the way the nervous system works.

Knowing that I needed good sleep to help keep me grounded, I did what would make me feel safe: I leaned the ironing board against the bathroom door, which opened to the entrance door. My rationale being, if the door moved, I'd have a lot of warning!

 

safety barricade

Did I feel a little crazy setting this up every night? A LOT crazy! Did it help me sleep? YES.

I'm not saying we should always indulge our neuroses. Gradually increasing my window of tolerance for fear and anxiety is a good practice. And using all my tools and resources for regulation is hugely important.

And... there are times to self soothe in the way that works (as long as it is safe for everyone), even if it doesn't make sense in a "rational" mindset.

What my fear told me is not that I'm unstable and need help being more reasonable and sane.

It showed me just how stressed my system was, how I hadn't been caring for my basic needs.

Once I recognized that, I could address the core issue.

 

"Safety precedes curiosity."

This is one of my favorite teachings: safety precedes curiosity.

And to be curious is to engage with the wonder and awe and beauty of life.

And isn't that what we all want?

It starts with feeling safe.

 

What does it take for you to feel safe?
How easy is it for you to give that to yourself?
What does feeling unsafe teach you?

 

Grief + Loss Anniversaries Part II

Part II of the resource guide on how to navigate loss anniversaries.

 

First, did I say I'm sorry you need this? Even if you're reading for a friend, it means someone is hurting. But that's part of the gig, right? 

So I'm glad you're here and accessing support. You are not alone.

Part I of the guide is here.
 

Part II
 

Anniversary Reflection

Use significant dates to reflect on how your life has changed in the past year. I like to journal about how my perspective on the loss has changed over time. Often looking back I see how hard I was on myself the year prior and that gives me information on how I can be more compassionate with myself going forward.

 

Gratitude?

Gratitude can live beside grief. Give thanks for everything you've learned in the past year, everything that showed up in support of you, thanks that you had the resourcefulness and resilience to make it through any rough patches.

Consider making a list of things you'd like to give energy to in the next year -- maybe a donation to a cause that's meaningful to your loss, volunteering, offering your time/talent to a neighbor or friend who is struggling. Finding a way to give reminds us that we are not broken and we have lived-wisdom to share.

 

Valid Grief Emotions

Remember that "grief" encompasses many emotions, not just sadness. Anniversary time can bring up anger and irritability, loneliness and despair, jealousy and resentment, even relief and gratitude. Whatever you feel is valid.

 

Share the date

Even if your anniversary day activity doesn't involve anyone else, it can be helpful (for you and others) if you share the coming date. No one else will have exactly the same relationship to the loss that you have, and we all have unreasonably full lives with a lot on our calendars. It's not fair to expect others to remember.

Imagine how helpful it would be for someone who loves you to hear: "Hey, I want to let you know that this anniversary is coming up and I might be a little more {emotional/solitary/angry/quiet}. I'd like to honor the day in {this} way. It would help me if you could give me a little more {space/love/massage} in the next week."

Clear, honest, vulnerable, straight-forward. Your person would be so grateful and you would get what you need! Granted, sometimes it's hard to know what you need; when you do, just state it plain and simple.

And especially if you're struggling with an anniversary, find at least one person who can lovingly support you -- a therapist, friend, support group. Don't try to go this alone, because you aren't.

 

Ritual + Ceremony

In recent Western culture, we have moved away from ritual and ceremony, yet these have been a part of cultures for thousands of years, in particular around death. You can create something formal or simple, solitary or involve others, something tangible or invisible.

On the first anniversary of the due date, I had a formal ceremony that included Greg and my support sisters. It was full of symbol and poetry and lots of tears. We buried one of the last ultrasound pictures and planted a tree. Afterward, we all ate together and shared stories and laughter. Since then, I like to be outdoors and near water on my anniversaries. Nature and the elements are reassuring and grounding for me. I don't plan much, though I know I'll do some writing and have lots of quiet time. This is a day I want to be alone, at least at this point. 

Like with everything else around grief and loss, you are making this up as you go along. Responding to the signs and your needs. Listening to your heart. Maybe it's five minutes in the morning to say a prayer and send it in the wind with your breath. Maybe you mail invitations and cook and recite a prepared tribute in front of friends and loved ones. It's yours to choose and create.

 

Forgetting and Remembering

There's no need to feel guilt if you miss or forget a grief anniversary. Life is crazy and we juggle more things than a wagon full of clowns. It doesn't have to mean anything, either (like you've "moved on", which isn't a thing anyway).

Yes, your relationship to these dates will change over time. If there are important dates you want to remember, enter them as a reoccurring event in your calendar. If you miss a date, let remembering you missed it serve as a reminder to pause and have your moment of honoring right then and there.

 

Feel free to share your ideas, resources and thoughts below. Sharing helps both the giver and the receiver to feel less alone <3

 

Grief + Loss Anniversaries Part I

As the three year anniversary of Oliver's due date approaches, I've been reflecting on the unpredictability of grief and the significance of anniversaries.

It doesn't matter what kind of loss -- the death of a loved one (person, pet, business, dream, etc.), a trauma or accident or a medical diagnosis -- there will be anniversaries, markers, triggers and memories (sometimes even physical "body" memories) that will come, and some will ask to be honored or acknowledged.

 

Grief and loss are a part of every life. These are a natural part of being human.

However, our culture does not acknowledge the profound impact of these events, and definitely does not provide the space for these types of losses to be openly discussed or shared.

In fact, we are often urged, subtly or overtly, to deal with the loss privately and swiftly, and get back to life as though nothing has changed.

Tenfold when we're experiencing emotions around an anniversary of something that happened maybe years ago; others may not understand, probably won't know what do or say or how to help support you.

 

This is a two-part support guide for navigating hard anniversaries and important loss dates in your life.
 

Part I
 

Self Kindness

Foremost, be EXtra gentle and kind with yourself around Anniversary time.

Maybe you feel nothing. That's ok.
Maybe you forget (see Forgetting and Remembering in Part II). That's ok.
Maybe you cry and rage (see Grief Emotions in Part II). That's ok.

If you know a particular marker is a hard time for you, go slow, be gentle, take care. Some years are harder than others, some losses are harder than others, so many things are out of your control.

What you do have agency over is how you treat yourself through it all.

Let go of any unkind story about being wimpy or it shouldn't bother you after all this time or you have to be strong. Wash that off your hands and watch it flow down the drain.

Life carries on, for sure, and when you're able, treat yourself with the tenderness you would grant a friend.

 

The Ambush

Grief can jump out from behind the bushes at any time. You know this. I call it The Ambush. Your wedding song comes on in the grocery store, you smell fresh vanilla bean, someone serves rhubarb pie at a pool party, and suddenly you are teleported to another world, another lifetime. You might want to flee, you might freeze, you might be overcome with emotion. 

I was ambushed this winter while walking the dog through the neighborhood after dark and seeing a man through the window reading to his young son. I cried the whole way home and then some.

You'll probably be more sensitive to Ambushes around anniversary times. You might tell yourself your reaction is unwarranted given the event that triggered it. Phooey on that. In addition to your memories and emotions about your loss, your body and your senses remember the light, the season, the scents of that time of year. As you spiral past these dates again and again, parts of your brain are lighting up, emotions are stirred and set in motion. Allow this to flow as best you can and give yourself what you need in the moment.

 

Significant Anniversaries 

Not all anniversaries will feel significant. I remember most of the dates related to the pregnancy down to appointment dates, yet the only two dates I plan around are the day he died and the day he was supposed to be born. You get to decide what dates feel important to you and you don't have to justify why.

It's also possible that what is important to you or touches you as the years go by will change. You might also be Ambushed by a date that you didn't think was a big deal, but triggers a memory that is tender. Give yourself so much love when this happens.

 

Early Anniversaries

Especially if you are in your first year or two of anniversaries (or if you have a lot of Ambushes), it might be interesting to know that often the anticipation of the anniversary is a lot harder than the day itself. I found this to be true and upon doing some reading and research, found out that it's common. The lead up, the dread, the reliving of those "last" whatevers can be consuming, stressful and exhausting. When The Day comes, maybe all our emotion is spent, who knows -- often it is just not as brutally hard as we thought it would be, or at least not as hard as the days leading up to it. That's not a promise, just a possibility.

Speaking of years one and two... many people find year two harder than year one. I think mostly this speaks to the unpredictability of grief and reminds us to let go of expecting it to go any particular way. Maybe anniversary #14 is the hardest of all. We just take it as it comes.

 

What else is going on?

How we approach and process an anniversary has a lot to do with what else is going on in our lives. Have you had time to care for yourself lately? Do you have other heavy things happening right now? Even how you slept the night before the date can affect how stable or fluid you feel. Everything affects everything. Again, unpredictable = yes; expectations = no.

 

Part II of the anniversary guide includes ideas on ritual and ceremony, how to use anniversaries for reflection, a reminder about what emotions are valid in grief and why to share your anniversaries with others. 

Read Part II here.

 

 

Pitta Project

Summer Solstice

Here we are at the peak of summer -- the summer solstice! It's the longest day of the year, and the official first day of Summer.

For many people, there's a felt difference in their energy, urges, even physical and mental states in the different seasons. Summer has long been revered as a time of increased creativity and stamina as well as maturation and manifestation of ideas and projects that may have begun this winter or spring.

In Ayurveda, summer is associated with PItta, which consists of the fire and water elements and governs transformation. Similar to the energetic qualities and beliefs about summer and fire, pitta is related to drive, intensity, precision, passion, intelligence and a desire for things to be orderly.

When untamed, pitta can veer into irritability, judgment, criticism, resentment and excessive perfectionism.  Think of the stereotypical "type A" personality and you've got a deranged (the Ayurvedic term for "out of balance") pitta.

This is not to say that pitta is a bad -- on the contrary. We all contain multitudes and are naturally combinations of many qualities. In Ayurveda the approach is often about finding counter-balance to help support harmony among the systems.

In fact, as a generally cold and dry person (my constitution is predominately Vata, associated with air and ether), a little fire under me can be a good thing.

My Pitta Project

Somewhere in the past week I saw/heard (it's very vata of me to not remember) of someone doing 100 squats a day for 30 days. I wondered if this might not be a fun project for my little twig legs, which are strong, but not that shapely. (I even took "before" pictures!)

I started my 100 squats with perhaps too much vigor, throwing in some lunge dips in the park last Friday. Pearl and I took a long, hot walk and my legs were pretty spent afterward.

Saturday I figured out that I can do 50 squats in the two minutes of my timed toothbrush. Bonus that I can see myself in the mirror and make posture adjustments in the shoulders and spine as necessary.

By my class on Sunday morning I was 250 squats in and unable to go up or down our stairs without sounding like a wounded animal. I shared my new goal with the class, and one person wisely responded that muscles need a day off for recovery. Ah, yes, moderation! Guess I have a little pitta in me after all.

This week another student wrote and said she might come up with her own Pitta Project, which inspired this post.

Maybe you, too, have a reasonable summer goal that can be supported by all this bright energy.

To call a senator every day.
To drink a half gallon of water every day.
To eat only plant-based food four days a week.
To walk a mile every morning.

Make it measurable and give it an end date. Your inner pitta will like that specificity. :)

Let me know if you come up with one and we'll do them together.

 

Unsupportive Resources

If you recognize that your main resources are unhealthy or harmful, like social media, video games, alcohol or other substances, here are a few things to consider.

First, know that it's totally normal to self-regulate! You aren't bad because you utilize a way of regulating that also isn't good for you. It's working in some way or you wouldn't do it. 

windows

The good news is there's something to be learned from the activity or substance. There's an effect of self regulation that is important and useful.

What are the qualities of that?
How do you feel when engaging with that "resource"?
Do you feel relaxed?
Present?
Engaged?

Start to notice, even look for, times and activities where you feel that quality outside of that activity/substance. You can even practice feeling that quality without the "thing."

Take the effect of the self regulation attempt and practice it separate from the unhealthy or harmful activity or substance. 

It's quite simplistic to talk about replacing an unhealthy resource just by noticing what it gives you or inserting a more helpful resource. However, when we do this with complete awareness of the body and what's happening in the physiology, the effects can be profound. 

Of course, substitutions probably won't feel exactly the same and making any kind of habit change takes work. But bringing in the body aspect and tracking the felt-sense experience will help make that shift with more honestly, awareness and nervous system support.

If you haven't already, check the post on ideas on identifying more positive resources.

 

*If you have an addiction or need clinical support, please seek out a therapist or treatment program for support and loving care.

 

Self-Regulating :: Resources

We all have ways that we self-regulate when we're stressed. Some might be less than ideal -- Facebook scrolling, online shopping or mindless eating -- and we might not even be aware of some of the ways we self-soothe, for example if you unconsciously stroke your thumb on your leg.

These are all attempts at finding a resource -- something we use to help stabilize our nervous system in times of distress.

Because resourcing is something we do naturally and can probably do with more consciousness (thus increasing its effectiveness) it can be helpful to identify what we currently use to soothe and give ourselves more options, if necessary.

flower arrangement

Types of Resources

Internal

  • Places in the body that are relaxed, pleasant, reliable, connected, non-reactive, can move and respond
  • Moving the body in ways that feel relaxing, discharging, enlivening, pain-free
  • Breath that is free and unrestricted
  • Prayer, affirmations, connection to the divine, spirit or universe
  • Acts of self care
  • Presence, consciousness, awareness, meditation

External 

  • Places, people or activities, real or imagined, that are comforting and stabilizing
    • nature, rooms or places in your home, trusted people, pets, music, exercise or activities, travel, religious or spiritual places
  • A therapist or support group
  • Safe and appropriate touch
fresh flowers

 

Again, we all self-regulate throughout the day. If I'm feeling stressed, I might shake off my shoulders and/or take a walk. On another day I might have a chai and check email.

It's the effect I'm looking for -- to diffuse my stress or anxiety, to take a break from the thing that is stressful, hopefully broadening my perspective around it.

The first option - a shake of the shoulders and a walk - is probably the more healthful option. So I can really be aware of how that shake and walk make me feel:

What are the sensations in my body?
Where are they?
What effects do they have?

Simply noticing these things can help me the next time I need to pick which self regulation to go with.  It can also help imprint the "non-stressed" state as I go back to what I was doing.

 

Curious about what your go-to resources are? Make a list!!

Here's part of mine:

Internal -- noticing or moving my hands, a head bobble, moving my jaw/face, recalling a line from a poem or a song, making little sounds, joint movements like shoulder rolls.

External -- nature and being outside, journalling, podcasts and music, walk/stretch/yoga, essential oils and good smells, fresh flowers, my faminals, friends and Greg, my therapist.

Since identifying this list a few months ago, I've spent less time online and on my phone, I've been reading more and seeing friends more regularly. Knowing that I have simple accessible resources in every moment helps ease my anxiety.

As you identify your resources, notice what happens in your body as you think about them and write them down. Sometimes just thinking about a resource is supportive.

What if you realize that your main resources are unhealthy? We all have mildly unhealthy outlets, but if your main support is also harming you in some way, here are some ideas.

 

One Thousand Degrees

Well, that's what they feel like...those first few hot days after the gentle fluctuations of spring.

To combat the afternoon slump, I like to take the dog for a walk around the block after lunch. Today she got so hot that every patch of shaded lawn was the only place she wanted to be -- sprawled out on her belly, fully exposed to any amount of coolness. If I wanted her to go anywhere, I was going to have to drag her as she played possum. I wish I had a picture of it.

My phone says 87, but it feels more like the 90s. It was a hot walk, I'll give her that.

Perfect timing to try out one of my recipe ideas for the Summer Daylong Retreat!

I decided on a classic cooling beverage -- Rosewater Lemonade. Two of my favorite things! roses and lemons, and I had both ingredients on hand.

We are moving into the season of pitta, or fire, as described in the Ayurvedic system. When aggravated, pitta can respond with irritability, resistance and aggression. Being over-heated can make anyone angry!

The antidote to out-of-balance pitta is cooling sweetness and beauty. Rosewater Lemonade is the perfect remedy.

The fragrance of a rose can cool anger and criticism. Rosewater relieves and cools inflammation as well. While I was making this drink I sprayed it on my face and the back of my neck -- it's great for sunburned skin or summer rashes, and heals and soothes internal tissues. It has a mild astringency that tones tissues, including the digestive tract.

hot lemon water

Lemons are an Ayurvedic staple year-round. They cleanse the blood of impurities, aid digestion and quench thirst. They are a cooling astringent in the blood. The sour taste brings a scattered mind back into focus and helps shift us from the head back to the heart.

rosewater

This drink is absolutely lovely. It's light, sweet, subtle and, well, cooling! I'm sitting outside working, even after that thousand degree walk!  Pearl, on the other hand, is inside :)

 

Rosewater Lemonade

1/2 Lemon
1 t raw sugar or maple syrup
1 T rosewater
2 c water

Mix all ingredients together. Served cool or at room temperature.

For even more cooling, use lime instead of lemon.

My beverage came out a honey color because I used coconut sugar. Next time I will try maple syrup. 

I played with the ratios and ended up adding more lemon and rosewater, so I'm not quite sure what my proportions were. Experiment according to your taste.

Enjoy!

rosewater lemonade

Recipe adapted from Joyful Belly.

 

Wait 30 minutes

canyon ranch

While on our honeymoon road trip through the Berkshires, we spent some time in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was the middle of May and still very spring-like with unpredictable weather.

It would be sunny and warm, then we'd go outside again and it would be gray and windy. Pretty soon there would be a little drizzle. Then it would be overcast and humid.

And that was all in one day!

We were talking to a Lenox resident about the climate there compared to California and he said, "If you don't like the weather, wait 30 minutes." 

We laughed and parted ways.

I keep thinking about this wisdom -- if you don't like something, wait 30 minutes (or 30 seconds) and the conditions will likely change.

Don't like this sensation? Don't like that sound? Don't like this state of mind?

We pass through so many moods, preferences, responses in a day. So much stimulus, so much input. All of it changing, all of it impermanent -- both what is coming at us and our response to it.

Spiritual practice is in part about stepping back from these fluctuations. Like stepping back from a picture on the wall -- when your nose is at the glass, you can't see much of the picture. Stepping back will help see the whole story, the broader context.

Being a witness of your experience. Noticing, with interest and curiosity when possible, the constant flow of life.

I'm trying to keep this playfulness when I notice my inner narrator chiming in about not liking -- or even liking -- what's happening.

"Wait 30 minutes," I tell her.

berkshires

A poem in honor of this wisdom.

Thinking Like a Butterfly

Monday I was told I was good.
I felt relieved.
Tuesday I was ignored.
I felt invisible.
Wednesday I was snapped at.
I began to doubt myself.
On Thursday I was rejected.
Now I was afraid.
On Saturday I was thanked
for being me. My soul relaxed.
On Sunday I was left alone
till the part of me that can’t
be influenced grew tired of
submitting and resisting.
Monday I was told I was good.
By Tuesday I got off the wheel.

Mark Nepo
From The Way Under the Way, 2016

 

Instead of caffeine, try this

A friend and I were talking about health, sleep and food (yes, this is what we talk about for fun) and she mentioned that the midday slump has been killing her since she gave up caffeine.

I asked if she'd tried maca powder and she said she has some in the cupboard but hasn't used it. I went on to tell her how I'd been using maca and several other superfood powders for about a month and a half and my last period was a breeze, especially compared to the torture I often go through.

She gave me the look that said, You know you have to post about this, right?

So here we are. 

I've been collecting research and reading about this newest round of hyped-up "superfoods" for a while and slowly integrating them into my daily/weekly protocol, partly for energy, partly for nutritional value and partly for hormone balance.

After about six weeks of consistent use (I even packed pre-measured doses for my travel), I'm reporting positive effect.

I like a little "boost" after lunch and wouldn't it be great if that was something more healthy than a cookie? I usually do chai, but the caffeine can mess with my sleep, even if I have it in the morning. So I was curious about these energy boosters.

My other big motivation was hormone balance. My cycle is mostly regular but incredibly painful -- PMS, bloating, digestive issues, intense cramps and migraines. I'd been reading about several of these adaptogens to help ease these symptoms. But more on this later....

The three supplements featured here are for energy and focus (among other things).

 

Maca Powder
Maca is a root vegetable similar to a radish, native to the Andes of Peru. It has many claimed benefits including increased energy and stamina without the jitters of caffeine, improved memory and focus, elevated mood and improved hormone and sexual health. It also is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Here is more information about maca.

After much research, this is the brand I purchased and have really liked (the raw one).

 

Rhodiola Rosea
A common herb in Chinese Medicine, this supplement is known by many names, like king's crown and golden root. The major health benefits of rhodiola are said to be energy boost, mild stimulant, it combats stress and fatigue and supports the nervous system, cognition and mood.

Two articles on Rhodiola. One note -- I chose rhodiola with 3% rosavin over salidrosides, since rosavin is reported to correspond to the neurotransmitter serotonin, being more stabilizing and regulating (vs salidrosides corresponding to dopamine and being more stimulating).

This is the brand I went with after my research.

 

Mucuna Pruriens
The last herb in this feature is mucuna pruriens, which also goes by other names and is used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is said to support the nervous system, improve energy and stamina, increase cognitive function and support the reproductive systems.

More on mucuna pruriens.

And here's the brand I've been using.

 

How to use these?

I used to do capsules for everything, but I started making balls that called for some of these fancy ingredients and it was a real mess to cut the capsules open.

Powders are also most economical and direct.

Plus, I like using these as flavor and thickeners in my oatmeal, smoothies, chai and yogurt.

A few ways you could try these:

  • Add to a beverage, like chai, a mushroom tea or golden milk for a midday pick-me-up.
  • Stir into hot breakfast cereal.
  • Stir into coconut yogurt for a snack.
  • Blend into smoothie.
  • Mix with a tablespoon of honey and just eat it.
  • Make balls.

 

How much to use?

  • Because these are stimulants, start small and slowly increase the serving if necessary. I started with half the suggested serving size.
  • Always be conservative, since you don't know how your body will react.
  • Start taking one at a time so that, like any good scientist, you'll have more data on how your system responds to each.
  • Take them in the morning in case they are overly stimulating for you.
  • Take a break once a week from the supplements.
  • You may feel the effects quickly, or you may not notice the effects until you stop taking them.
  • Take notes! Maybe one product doesn't do anything for you, but another gives you pep. You'll want to remember which did what.

 

I've read that people have used these single herbs (or in combination) to help kick everything from nicotine to caffeine. These three herbs have been used for thousands of years in other cultures/countries and have enormous nutritional value as well. Let me know if you have tried or decide to try any of these!

 

Social Contagion and a Values-Aligned Life

Social contagion is the well-researched idea that we "catch" emotions and behaviors from other people. Susan David, the author of Emotional Agility, gives a couple of examples:

You step into an elevator and the person in the elevator is on their phone. You are likely to get out your phone as well.

If you are on an airplane and your seatmate buys candy, even if you do not know that person, the research shows that you are 70% more likely to buy candy.

Even more shocking, if people we know by acquaintance, or even by 2-3 degrees of separation, get divorced or put on weight, it significantly increases our chances of getting divorced or putting on weight.

We unconsciously start wanting things other people want or normalizing behaviors we previously would not have engaged in.

That's some powerful suggestive influence.

So what can we do to stay aligned with our own deeply held values and not be unconsciously swayed by the actions of other people?

David's advice is something she calls Values Affirmation - spending even 10 minutes every day thinking about your values, what type of person you want to be in relationship, as a parent, at work and so on.

Just 10 minutes a day of focusing on your core values will help protect you from social contagion. 

Obviously this requires clarity around what your values are. David urges us first to come from a place of compassion and care for ourselves and our emotional bodies. She also has a free test on her website that can help you determine how well you are living a values-aligned life and ways to be more emotionally agile. 

If you're interested in more on this topic, I recommend the author's interview with Rich Roll. She covers a lot of ground:

  • practical examples of what it means to live a values-aligned life
  • the difference between values and goals
  • why will power doesn't work
  • the danger of bottling or brooding on your emotions
  • the myth of "negative" or "bad" emotions

I enjoyed this podcast so much, I've listened to it twice! Let me know what you take from it.

 

Amazing Ants

New York City is a wonderful example of how no system works in isolation.

(We'll get to the ants in a minute.)

The city of Manhattan, like all cities, has main systems that keep things running smoothly -- water, garbage, sewer, electricity, import/export and traffic, to name a few.  It may seem that these systems are separate and autonomous. 

But consider this: if any one of those systems gets clogged or shut down, it will affect many if not most of the other systems.

If the electricity goes out, that affects traffic lights, and traffic jams affect the timely and efficient transport of the garbage. If long term, the overflow of garbage might eventually impact the sewage or even water systems.

Or if the water system shuts down, that's going to wreak havoc on pedestrian and auto traffic, as well as the import and export of goods on/off the island -- people trying to get water already on the island, other people trying to get water to the island, still other people trying to get off the island. This would impact the garbage and recycling systems with an increase in plastic bottles. That extra processing could affect the electrical systems with an increase in energy. 

And on and on.

new york city ants

Here's where the ants come in. Did you know that for every human on the planet, there's over a million ants?

And ants make up their own system in New York City -- Waste Removal.

Those ants in New York City eat the equivalent of 60,000 hot dogs a year!

Isn't that amazing!?

Watch this two-minute video from National Geographic on how vital ants are to the ecosystem of Manhattan.

So what?

Well, if you watch the video, you heard that it is conceivable that without the ants, there would be more rats and pigeons in New York, and they can carry disease. So maybe disease goes up. Or maybe the means of controlling the rats and birds causes other toxic issues. Yikes!

What's the larger point?

Our bodies are just like this. No system works in isolation. From digestive to respiratory to endocrine to cognitive to sensory to skeletal to spiritual. All communicate and affect one another. Whole body, whole person, whole health.

This is a friendly reminder that every part of you wants and needs loving attention and conscious care in order to keep running optimally. You can't "make up for" eating poopy food or forgo some amount of healthy movement every day. What you put on your body and in your home counts too.

What you do matters.

So, like the ants, let's keep doing our best!

 

Anytime Biscuits

I love biscuits. My mom used to make biscuits like these, free form and oversized, for breakfast and we'd slather them with butter and honey.

There are for sure things that I just have to accept are going to be "different" in vegan form.

Ice cream. Angel Food Cake. 

Different meaning not as good. And I'm ok with that.

Because honestly, anything you can make, I can make vegan. And it's almost always just as good or better. (If that hasn't been true for you, let me give you some better recipes!)

And the great news is, I don't have to skimp on biscuits!

I saw this recipe last week and started craving them. So Saturday morning, I made them with all 5 ingredients, and they were AMAZING.

While they were cooling I cut up some fresh strawberries from the farmer's market and cooked them into a little saucy-jam. 

So really, I had strawberry shortcake for breakfast.

To be honest, these would be great with soup or throw some sage or rosemary in there and you'd have a lovely savory biscuit. These biscuits are for anytime!

If you love biscuits, try them. If you don't love biscuits, I don't know if we can be friends.

 

Vegan Biscuits

Ingredients

vegan biscuits

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup rice milk (I used about 3/4 C almond milk and filled the rest with water)


Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

vegan breakfast

2. Line a sheet tray with parchment and set aside. I cooked mine in a glass dish smeared with a little Earth Balance.

3. Mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix oil, and rice milk until just combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and combine with hands. Do not overmix.

4. Form biscuits and place on lined sheet tray. I made 10 biscuits.

5. Cook for 20-30 minutes depending on size. Biscuits should have a light, golden brown color.

vegan strawberry shortcake

 

Recipe adapted from VegNews.