A Poem to Warm and Lighten

Today I offer a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, from her book Words Under The Words. Read slowly and savor — poetry offers a feast of sensory information. May its light and warmth guide you as we move from these short days into the increasing expansiveness of this cold and stark season.

The Song

From somewhere
a calm musical note arrives.
You balance it on your tongue,
a single ripe grape,
till your whole body glistens.
In the space between breaths
you apply it to any wound
and the wound heals.

Soon the night will lengthen,
you will lean into the year
humming like a saw.
You will fill the lamps with kerosene,
knowing somewhere a line breaks,
a city goes black,
people dig for candles in the bottom drawer.
You will be ready. You will use the song like a match.
It will fill your rooms
opening rooms of its own
so you sing, I did not know
my house was this large.

Innoculate yourself against fear

Are you caught up in the fear and anxiety regarding the H1N1 virus and vaccine? There are stories every day about people lining up for it, places running out of it and all of the anger, fear and worry that public health officials and newsmakers are heaping onto it.

I am not here to tell you whether to get the vaccine or not — that’s a very personal decision. But I do know that fear, stress and worry can depress the very immune system you’re hoping to strengthen, and that there are lots of things you can do to bolster yourself whether you choose to vaccinate or not.

Small Steps First

Any time you are feeling overwhelmed and overcome by fears and worries, the best place to start is by choosing one or two simple, doable things to begin creating a shift. When it comes to physical wellbeing, there are some very basic things you can do to feel empowered and hopeful:

1) Wash hands often, and not with antibacterial soap. There is mounting evidence that these soaps help naturally occurring bacteria mutate and thrive, because they have as strong a desire to live as we do! Regular, gentle forms of soap work well and don’t have that unwanted side effect.

2) Boost your immunity naturally by cleaning up your diet. Even in the overindulgent holiday season, you can focus your eating on more nourishing fruits and vegetables — how about a lightly sweetened apple crisp, or roasted sweet potatoes? Any roasted vegetable is more naturally sweet and rich tasting –simply toss with a little olive or grapeseed oil, salt and pepper to taste and spread on a baking sheet, then pop into a hot (400 degrees or even higher) oven till tender and caramelized. Yum! See two of my favorite recipes at the end of this newsletter.

3) Take adaptogenic herbs such as Siberian ginseng, rhodiola or astragalus. These help foster your body’s innate ability to stay balanced in the face of stress and fight off toxic invaders. And if you do start to feel like you’re getting sick, grapefruit seed extract is a wonderful natural antibiotic (Proseed is a high quality brand, www.imhotepinc.com).

4) Think about incorporating therapeutic grade essential oils into your life, such as those made by Young Living (http://selfcare.younglivingworld.com). The oils can be worn or diffused, and are excellent for household cleaning and disinfecting without adding any harmful chemicals or toxic residue to your home or body. I’ve used them in my healing practice and my personal life for over 10 years with great results — they smell amazing and also offer tremendous emotional and spiritual uplift.

Watch What You Say

And what about the words we are saying to ourselves while in the grip of this fear and worry? Remember that our bodies believe every word we say, and we can adjust how we talk to ourselves to create more calm than conflict.

It can be as simple as catching yourself in a downward spiral and stopping for a moment (“wow, there I go again!”). Now that you have broken that chain of thought, replace it with one that sounds more like this: “In this moment, I feel fine.” “Right now, I am simply driving (or cooking, or reading the paper, or listening to music) and all is well.” “My body has an infinite ability to heal and self-regulate, and I trust my innate core of wellness.” Try it and see if you don’t notice an immediate, if subtle, lift in your mood.

A Simple Spiritual Truth

One of my favorite wisdom sayings is “Trust God and tie your camel to a post.” Meaning, yes, have faith that all is well and you are in good hands AND remember that you live in the material world and must take steps to act in accordance with physical laws.

Faith and action work together to create true union within. When you let yourself rest in the knowledge that all is essentially well, and then take solid steps towards assuring that you are in an optimum condition for that to be true, you will truly be well…even if you do come down with a touch of the flu.

TRY THESE SIMPLE, HEALTHY TREATS

Baked Oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together in a large bowl 1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use grapeseed), 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1 egg and ¾ cup of milk. Then add 2 cups organic instant oats, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and your favorite chopped fruit and nuts to taste (this morning mine was about half a banana and a few handfuls of pecans). Mix thoroughly and pour into lightly greased baking pan, about 8×8. Bake for about 25 minutes or until firm to the touch. Serves 4.

Gluten Free Fruit Crisp

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

You can use any fall fruits — approximately 5 cups of apples or pears, adding dried cranberries or raisins if desired. I use about 5 large Rome apples, sliced and spread in a 9×13 baking dish. You can also add some grated lemon zest, ginger or other flavor boosters. For the topping, melt ½ stick of unsalted butter and mix that into 1 cup instant oats, ¼ cup brown sugar, 1/2 to one cup chopped pecans or walnuts and one teaspoon vanilla extract. Spread over the top of the fruit and bake for about 1 hour. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

The Untapped Key to Self-Care

When you run your own small business, like I do, you are IT — the service provider, the marketing director, the bookkeeper, the writer/editor, etc., etc. Yet, in most businesses (and in family life as well), one of the keys to getting more done is to delegate certain tasks. A really good manager understands this model and, rather than be a control freak and think that “it won’t get done right if I don’t do it myself,” learns to find the most effective ways to delegate to the people who are most likely to rise to the occasion and complete the task well.

But no one else is here! How do you delegate tasks when you’re the only one running the show?!?

Do More By Doing Less

At the moment, I’m running a bit on empty, yet it’s time to get this newsletter out. I’ve been wracking my brain for some stunning topic, hoping that if I just hit on the right thing the words will flow, but inspiration is apparently on vacation. I am wanting to connect with you, and at the same time needing to disconnect on some levels and give myself some space from a period of emotional intensity and overwhelm. What’s a tired gal to do?

Recycle!! It saves the planet and weary brain cells! It reminds us of good stuff we already know but somehow keep forgetting in the busy flow of life! I share this with you because it’s my own personal form of self-care in this moment — allowing myself to rest and still finding a way to have the satisfaction of meeting my commitment to have consistent contact with you.

So I share with you a bit of advice I once sent in an e-mail to a friend. She was feeling much as I feel right now (and I know you’ve felt at times) — that we never want to let our emotional state affect our ability to show up in life. But sometimes the most efficient thing we can do is just feel how we feel without pushing past it. And in the allowing, our feelings have a chance to find their place and loosen their grip.

In doing this, I find myself feeling alive and peaceful rather than frantic and stressed. May you do at least one thing this weekend that allows you to be true to yourself and feel peace in your heart.

ADVICE TO A FRANTIC FRIEND

IT’S OK TO REST. It’s OK, normal, expected, human to hit a wall once in a while, especially when you’ve been go, go, go. The ego doesn’t want to hear this, but the heart finds it comforting.

I would encourage you to try dropping the linear timeline you’ve set for your goals, and remember that life is circuitous, and that the spiral is one of the most common forms in nature and in life. We spiral in and then spiral back out again, usually to a place that is more integrated and, in spite of how it may feel, further along than where you started.

Because now we have rested, and maybe learned something new about ourselves, or at the very least taken time to let the field lie fallow for a time so new growth can occur. Life may feel like a race sometimes, but you can only be where you are and there’s no prize waiting at the end — except hopefully a peaceful heart and soul.

It is only with the space between notes that true music is made. You’ll be able to do more if you give yourself the rest your heart is crying out for. Sometimes stop means stop — not “do enough yoga and meditation to jumpstart you into going full tilt again.”

There are no guarantees of success, or it looking a particular way in spite of your goals and efforts. You do your best, offer what you have to offer, try to live well day to day, and see what comes of it. And doubt is always part of the equation, especially when you’re working hard and not seeing results you’re aching for. Rest in the doubt and clarity will arise — remember that lotus flowers bloom in muddy water.

The History of Beauty

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in New York’s Museum of Natural History, something I haven’t done in decades. Much of the time I was looking at artifacts from Central and South America, tribes of people I’d never heard of and places I barely recalled from the history books of my school days.

One thing struck me over and over again – no matter how ‘primitive’ the people were, no matter how rudimentary their tools, I witnessed an inherent drive to create objects of beauty. Bowls, spoons and ritual items were clearly designed for pleasure as well as usefulness. It was almost overwhelming how intensely this desire for beauty shone.

The Clash of Beauty and Kitsch

Plastic Santas…excesses of red, green and gold…some inflatable menorahs and blue and silver tinsel to make the Jews feel included…the annual spree of glitter and excess is here!

While the human drive for beauty exists in all of us, it is overdone to the point of insanity at this time of year. For many, the holidays have become something ugly rather than beautiful, and the noisier it gets out there the more we crave quiet and simplicity.

Where do you find simple beauty in this onslaught? Is it a white bowl filled with bright orange clementines set on an empty table? A fresh bough of blue spruce lining a shelf or mantelpiece? Or maybe a single string of lights around a doorway and a grouping of candles on the coffee table to offer brightness on these dark days.

A Celebration of Instinct

The desire to pull in, be quiet and keep things simple competes head-on with the push for gaiety and communal celebration in this last month of the year. Here are a few ideas for honoring the hibernation gene, which is alive in us as it was in our ancestors, and resides side-by-side with the beauty gene:

1) Overrun with magazines and catalogs? Cut images and words you find attractive and meaningful to create a collage before tossing the rest. If there is something you’ve been struggling with or worrying about, meditate on that first and see if you can intuitively create a piece that points towards resolution or offers hope and inspiration.

2) Invite a partner, friend or child to sit with you on the couch and give each other foot rubs. Gather some towels, your favorite lotion (usually better than oil for feet, they will gratefully soak up the moisture) and get some soothing music going before you start. Use the time to relax quietly together or share stories and giggles.

3) Gather a few friends for an early evening potluck, perhaps with a specific theme such as favorite family casseroles, seasonal recipes of root vegetables and savory soups, or an ethnic cuisine of your choice. Ask everyone to make enough so people can bring some home and enjoy another evening of lovingly prepared food – a real gift when they’re too busy or tired to think about cooking.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Most of all, allow yourself to honor your needs, whatever they may be. If filling your weeks with parties and glitter is what honestly feeds your soul, put on your party shoes and go! But if the quieter pleasures and simpler beauties nourish you, listen to that inner wisdom — socialize with consciousness and deliberation, and enjoy the solace of quiet warmth when the comforts of home beckon.

I leave you with this quote from Rumi: “You must have shadow and light source both, Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.”