With the ushering in of the fall season comes the increased vulnerability to colds, flu, allergies and more. What seems to accompany that are the ads, signs, announcements and urgings everywhere you look and listen to get the flu shot... After all, Big Pharma has a profit to make and I was recently appalled to see a discount on groceries offered if you got your flu shot. How manipulative and misleading! I urge you to think twice about putting a vaccine in your body that is not guaranteed to combat all strains of the flu. Not to mention, the additional ingredients that are unnatural and toxic, while ignoring and depleting your own body's intelligence that knows how to fight illness if we simply provide the right support. Unfortunately, as versed as I am in Ayurvedic practices during these transitional times, my own immunity became lowered and I caught a cold. ; ( While I am rarely sick, I had to heed the message to take a little more down time, get back to some practices from which I have fallen off course, and cultivate a little more discipline in the self-care arena. During times of transition (like now) we do become more vulnerable to illness, so it is a perfect time to re-commit to self care. When we do get ill, it is a message, whether it's a cold or cancer, high blood pressure or heart disease. To think of it as anything but a message is ignoring nature and ignoring your own innate wisdom that speaks to us in ways that are intelligent and encourage and sometimes force us to heed its message so we can respond in a loving and compassionate way.
Immunity can be cultivated and supported. Here are some basic practices to put into your life at times of transition, especially into the colder, unpredictable Vata season:
Use a Neti Pot! This wonderful Yogic practice lubricates, warms, and cleans the soft, sensitive tissue in the sinuses. This is a practice where warm saline water is gently poured into one nostril and allowed to flow out of the other. You can follow with some nasya oil that helps keep allergens out and protects the mucus membranes from dryness that invites pathogens to set up house and wreck havoc.
Start your day with a cup of hot water with ginger, lemon, and honey. And if you're fighting an illness as I am at the moment, add some turmeric and cayenne pepper for a real boost of metabolism, warming, and detox. This practice has been miraculous in helping me move towards healing more rapidly and has done wonders for the residual cough as well. Honey has natural antibiotic properties and vitamin C and ginger help to kindle the digestive fire (Agni) to digest whatever experiences life hands you.
Stay warm and protect yourself from wind and cold. Feeling cold is not only uncomfortable but can lower your immunity and make you more susceptible to illness.
Consume warmer, heavier and oilier foods and beverages like soups, stews, quinoa and oatmeal. Do you really feel like eating ice cold salads and beverages when it starts to get colder? Use olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil and avocados to lubricate the physiology inside and out especially if you notice your skin feeling drier as the weather gets cooler.
Take even more time to meditate and go within. It is a time to hibernate and become more quiet and contemplative as we continue into the season of darkness and the Divine feminine. Take a break from thinking to connect with this beautiful, creative, and intuitive aspect of your Being.
Do Yin Yoga! This practice is a beautiful and contemplative way to access that Divine feminine, receptive and quiet energy of creativity, wisdom and pure potentiality. It teaches us about receiving as well as about relationships which are vital in helping us feel love, community, compassion, understanding and joy - not to mention the deep levels of the bones and connective tissue on which this practice works.
Bring a yoga practice into your life if you don't already have one. Even 15 minutes on the mat to deep breathe, meditate, stretch, and connect with your Self. The strength, balance and flexibility you cultivate there will translate to the strength, flexibility and balance you notice in life. Just because you don't have time for an hour long class, doesn't mean you can't do it daily or at least every other day. I do it in the kitchen, in a grocery line, at my desk and consciously breathe in the car. It's a great way to take a break from anything and reconnect with yourSelf.
Favor sweet, sour, and salty foods and warming spices like ginger, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
While we still eat all six flavors at every meal, favoring those three will balance Vata and create Sattva or harmony, purity and equanimity in the mind and physiology.
Take vitamin C and immune boosting herbs like Guggulu, Ashwagandha, Guduchi and Amalaki.
If you feel like you are coming down with something; a scratchy throat, headache, runny nose or body aches, try Inner Defense and let the highly antimicrobial essential oils help you fight whatever is ailing you so you don't succumb to illness. Remember to also take time to rest which is the most helpful thing you can to to head off illness.
Turn off the TV and especially the news, and especially before bed! Reduce external chatter that only contributes to internal chatter and turbulence. What are you really missing - the debates? Reality TV? You will be better off not listening to the epitome of turbulence and absurdity.
Cuddle more! Human touch is more vital to health and wellbeing than we realize. Look at your relationships and see where you might extend a softer more compassionate approach, Where might you be wasting time and energy in disagreements and ego-based conversation and drama? What would it be like to let go and see the Divinity within yourself and your partner and share time just Being.
And speaking of cuddling.... Get to bed by 10-10:30 PM! Let your evening routine be quiet, relaxing, and inspirational as you prepare for restful sleep. After 10:30 there is that danger of getting a second wind, so head that off by being in bed with lights out before hand. 10 PM - 2 AM is Pitta time and is used at night for cleansing and detoxification. It's harder for the body to do this when you are awake and at your computer working.
The fall & upcoming winter season doesn't have to be wrought with illness. And if you do happen to catch something, use the opportunity to take needed rest, eat great food and get back on track with your health promoting practices. Illness is a cleansing and a message. Viewed like this, you can go with the flow and end up feeling better than ever from heeding the messages from your body, mind and spirit rather than resisting them by taking medications and continuing your practices that got you there to begin with!! To your good health!! ; ) xo
For more tips come to my monthly Yoga Tune Up this Saturday 08 October at 10 AM!
Autumn, no doubt, is my most favorite time of year. As the leaves change color, the weather gets cooler and the wind kicks up, bringing with it the Vata (Air & Space) season of coolness, creativity, enthusiasm, dryness, and unpredictability. It is a time of transition and also a time of the harvest; to reap what we have sown and enjoy the fruits of our labor throughout the year. It is also a time to eat warm & heavier foods, to snuggle, to rest more, and begin to go within, or to hibernate, pulling back our attention from outside distractions and bringing it to the fertile soil of our essential nature within.
With the exception of 1 or 2 programs, I haven't watched TV in about 3 years. And now that I am getting reacquainted with it due to changes that have happened in my own life, I see that I really haven't missed much!! Besides being bombarded by drug commercials, toxic yet seemingly tempting food advertisements meant to keep us fat, sick and dying, and unessential chatter that adds to the already over-stimulated society that we have become, I find it really does not fascinate me too much. As a matter of fact, I almost find it intolerable and to be simply, information overload!
In Ayurveda, we digest everything, literally everything; not only the foods we eat, but also our experiences provided to us by our five senses and extra senses. The eyes, for example are a Pitta, or fire organ. We take in that toxic television screen and what's on it, through our eyes, and we have to do something with that information. When it's violence, we are inviting that experience into our physiology and our physiology must respond to it. When it's heart-warming and beautiful, we invite that experience into our physiology and our physiology is nourished by it. I just heard recently, probably on the one show I do watch which is Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, that people spend about 5 hours in front of the TV a day,..... A DAY!! First I wonder, who has that kind of time, and more importantly, at what cost? And HOW?? It seems to me we have become so hypnotically scripted in how we live our lives. We're so stressed out at our jobs, relationships, and by subsequently unhealthy food choices and no exercise, all we really feel like doing is crashing in front of the TV when we get home. This is unfortunate for many reasons, but mostly because of what we miss of life; the moments of love and relationship that are forever lost and unretrievable. It's also unfortunate because many of us live in front of a computer screen at work, only to come home and plant ourselves in front of another screen we see from our sofas. Why would we do that? No wonder our eyes are tired! Unless you haven't noticed, (and by the way, there are many who haven't), we're living in a world that just doesn't work. Fear and hate (like we hear about on the news) are the primary foods we are fed from the TV. Isn't it time we chose to nourish our souls instead of being distracted by mindless chatter that creates mental and emotional turbulence that leads to illness and dis-ease of all types?
So instead of turning on the TV just out of habit, I invite you to choose some other, not-so-popular options: get quiet, meditate, do some yoga, sit and just have a cup of tea, take a walk, eat slowly, read, watch a sunset deliberately, breathe, put your devices down (they're just as bad sometimes), and talk to your spouse or a loved one while actually looking into their eyes with compassion and thoughtfulness, and see for yourself the transformative nature of those practices and how life will become sweeter and more purposeful.
I told you only about the eyes,... think about your other senses and how you feed them sattvic (nurturing and pure) experiences or experiences that require significant energy to digest. What are you "feeding" yourself? I'm certain of this; you're worth feeding with love, compassion, mindfulness, joy, good food and rest. I don't think the TV delivers those things on a consistent enough basis to spend so much time with it.
Ayurvedically speaking, everything we put in our body, on our body, do to and with our body, is for our enlightenment. The same applies to the mind, heart, and soul.
We must choose very carefully, especially now....
With Spring always comes new beginnings! I find it to be a time of hope, joy, inspiration and also a time of letting go - of that which does not nurture and soothe, so that those things that do, can find their way in. Recently in my own life, I had an experience last week where I was aware of something that was not working for me, yet I continued to pursue it for all the justifications I could come up with in my limited mind, until something so absurd had to happen to wake me up to the fact that what I was doing, was just not nourishing - and voila - a decision was made; one that should have happened weeks ago. The sense of relief I felt was a big clue that I was on the right track as I said to myself : "I really don't need this toxicity in my life."
Toxicity can come in many disguises. Not only from what we eat & drink, or from our environment, but we can become so stuck in our rationalizations about why we need to do something that is not nourishing to us, or why something has to be a particular way, or why we might continue to allow mental, emotional or physical abuse, meanwhile cutting off the flow of the Divine to show us infinite possibilities for what could be. I've found my tolerance for rigidity (my own and that of others), becoming less and less, and this is a wonderful thing. Investing emotional energy by choosing anger, to be insulted, or to see someone's guilt instead of their innocence is something that still boggles my mind, especially when engaged in by those who understand consciousness and should seemingly know better. It steals our energy to hold on. Getting stuck in fear of what others will think, say, and do is something I find I can no longer buy into after many lessons and deepening into who I know myself to BE. I find that the older I get, the less I care to engage in ego-based notions of right and wrong and those things that create separation rather than Unity. As I continue to detoxify my own life, I am amazed at the actions and reactions that happen simply out of habit. I observe the world and those in it and wonder how it is that we got so far off base to live in such a constricted and stressful state that we have literally made ourselves toxic and sick. No wonder everyone is so tired.
Metaphysically, everything happens for a reason, a higher purpose and certainly for our learning and highest good. For example, kidney stones can be lumps of undissolved anger, a shoulder issue can be about literally shouldering a burden, heart disease is about matters of the heart, back pain can be about not feeling supported emotionally or financially. These things can be very literal and provide important clues as to why we might be suffering physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
So when we decide to detox - let the cleansing of the body support the cleansing of the psyche, our houses and our hearts for those things that no longer serve us. Where might you be rationalizing the continuation of toxic habits, situations and relationships that are creating havoc instead of cultivating peace of mind? The first clue is how your body feels when you think about changes you might need to make. It knows all and responds with messages of comfort or discomfort. Is it fear that's holding you back? Fear of what others might think, say and do? Is it rational fear or just habitual fear? When we need to make changes or embark on a new path, waiting for fear to subside will not yield results. It just doesn't happen and we find ourselves stuck in the same old patterns, repeating the same old actions with the same old results. The toxic buildup continues (in Ayurveda, we call it ama), and we become sick. We must feel the fear for what it is and do it anyway. Taking time to go within and ask yourself these questions is an important part of the spiritual journey to enlightenment. We always have choice - even if only how we interpret something. Metaphysically, everything is relationship and if a relationship is not right for one, it is not right for the other. Moving towards peace and health and taking the road less traveled takes courage, but once you're on the other side of it, you may wonder what all the fuss was about.
Speaking of stretching, it really shouldn’t be such a stretch to think that one of the biggest businesses in the world should have humanity’s best interests at heart when it comes to our health and wellbeing. Well surprise, surprise, they don’t!
As it relates to mental health, I would like to give you a little history. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders (with very few statistics) is the way mental illness is categorized and diagnosed. “Disorder” is really used as a euphemism for illness.
The first DSM was created in the early 1950s. It was 130 pages with 112 mental disorders.
DSM II was created in 1968 and contained 178 disorders. By defining more and more of life as abnormal, psychiatrists could get their hands on a huge amount of government money. This one was specifically written to align with the ICD (International Classification of Disease) that doctors use to code conditions so they can collect payment from the insurance companies.
DSM III, created in 1980 had 259 disorders where it redefined psychiatric disorders more carefully and as “medical conditions”. This was based on the recommendations of Dr. Robert Spitzer who threw out Freudian Psychology saying that psychiatric disorders were now biological. This is how chemical imbalance theory was invented, i.e., since the drugs create an alteration in brain chemicals, then mental illness must be caused by too much or too little of them. This is like saying that since an aspirin helps a headache, when you have a headache it’s caused by the deficiency of aspirin. This was so convincing that psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry have relentlessly promoted this theory to the medical field and the general public through the media in every way, shape, and form imaginable.
DSM IV, produced in 1994 with 374 disorders - This 886 page book weighs in at 5 lbs.
Isn’t it a travesty that this is the method by which patients are assigned a diagnosis and subsequent treatment? Yet even many psychiatrists would say that most of the disorders have not been rigorously validated. It’s been called a sham and a house of cards that is not based on scientific evidence and yet this is the way mental illness is categorized and treated here in the US and in many other countries. And the possibilities for the mongering of disease knows no bounds. In children, psychiatric disorders went from 3 in 1952 to over 44 disorders today where children as young as 3 can be put on these poisons to “correct” behavior.
The most current DSM V published in 2013 is 943 pages which of course, corresponds to the most recent ICD-10. The ICD’s Mental and Behavioral Disorder section almost parallels the DSM, so whatever happens in the DSM appears there too. And by the way, the APA (American Psychiatric Association) makes a great deal of money by publishing & selling it…. about $6.5 Million in sales/year.
For everything you can think of that might seem to be odd behavior, psychiatry has a name for it, and then for every name, there is pharmacology behind it providing a pill for it. With that comes a follow up appointment and a life-time patient. The DSM is truly only there to justify drug treatment since the time you might spend in a psychiatrist’s office has become less and less over the years as actual “therapy” has gone down and the use of psychopharmacology has gone up. It doesn’t take too long to ask a few questions and write a script to alleviate some symptoms.
Mental illness are not discovered, they are invented; many times as a way to create what is called “expanded uses for existing pharmaceuticals”, and usually it’s around that time when the patent is about to expire. The DSM is not scientific, it is political, and every time it is used by psychiatrists and drug companies, it makes money. It is truly the ultimate money making machine and this inherent conflict of interest is driven only by the desire to make money. If you really did the research on these “diagnoses”, you would see that that substantial reimbursement would disappear. Follow the money and you will always get your answer.
Did you know that over 120 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with a mental illness? A psychiatric diagnosis means a prescription for a psychiatric drug and over 600 Million scripts are written for psych meds each year. Even for people who don’t want meds, there is a diagnosis in the DSM for them too called; “Non-compliance with treatment”.
The definition of Disease Mongering is this: “it is a pejorative term for the practice of widening the diagnostic boundaries of illnesses and aggressively promoting their public awareness in order to expand the markets for treatment.” They do this through the marketing of illness in print, on TV, radio, and on the internet. It’s everywhere and the message that you need some type of a drug, psychiatric or otherwise, is getting in, whether you are consciously aware of it or not.
There is no test out there that can tell you that you have a chemical imbalance. And without an X-Ray, MRI, CT Scan, Blood work, a diagnostic test of any type, how does one arrive at a chemical imbalance of the brain simply by observation?
Perhaps you’ve been told your chemical imbalance is just like needing insulin to treat diabetes. It’s not….
“Ask your doctor!”
(adapted in part from the CCHR (Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights) movie, “DSM: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual”. Visit www.cchr.org for more information.
I have to wonder why it is such a stretch to think that bringing our attention back to nature would not be a means by which we could begin to heal ourselves as well as the damage that has been done to our planet (by us). I think it’s time to take a serious look at our lives, our health (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually), and our environment and ask ourselves the question, “so how’s this working for us?” Not very well, if you ask me. So what can we do to change the paradigm to one of healing rather than harming?
The critics and naysayers about CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine), whose conclusions are based on what they think is a “scientific” perspective, who like to quote the research findings, (usually done by a drug company), are really not seeing the forest through the trees (oh yes, and there are fewer and fewer of those too, thanks to humans…). Natural healing existed long before western medicine and big pharma. What we call new is ancient and what we call “traditional” is only about 200 years old. Ayurveda, the ancient healing system from India, goes back over 6000 years and there are probably even more traditions of Indigenous people before that. If you really think about it, since all of our “advances” in technology and medicine, there is more cancer than ever before, more radiation, more pollution, more corruption, more torture of animals and humans, and more diagnoses of diseases both physical and mental, than ever before. Our inherent need to label everything has lead us down a path of further belief in the magic bullet or quick fix philosophy – not only in medicine, but in everything. Instant gratification is the rule rather than the exception and once we get it, (that which we think we want), our satisfaction is short lived before we are on to the next thing in our search for what is really to be sought after within, or simply going back to bad habits that probably contributed to the situation to begin with.
I hear it all the time… “I tried Alternative Medicine – it doesn’t work.” And why might that be? Usually it’s because it’s tried as a last resort rather than a first resort when it should be the other way around. By the time a mild symptom has evolved to coronary artery disease or a tumor on a lab report, yes, it is probably too late to simply try a diet or lifestyle change. Not to say that those things shouldn’t be implemented immediately. They should, but that is the time when a western medical approach most likely needs to be implemented.
When we have a minor symptom, be it a little digestive disturbance, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, or a minor skin eruption, we tend to jump to “fix it”, usually with a pharmaceutical, only to receive temporary relief in addition to the gift of a side effect to go with it, or at least a contribution to toxicity. That toxicity builds up the more meds we take as well as eating processed foods and not sleeping properly and before we know it, we have a full blown illness that could have been prevented.
Why not try going back to nature and first inquire within why the symptom might be presenting itself to begin with. Nature really is more intelligent than our limited intellect that tells us to jump to a pharmaceutical because we saw it on TV. Using food as medicine as ancient modalities have understood for thousands of years, can do wonders to switch on and support the body’s innate healing mechanisms, and even affect brain chemistry. Adding other lifestyle changes that are deceptively simple yet powerful allies can only serve to contribute to the prevention of illness and the treatment of dis-ease if it happens. Our only job is to tune in to the messages our body-mind sends, and respond with an attitude of “First, do no harm” – and that is, to yourself or the planet. If the cure harms anything, then it really isn’t a true cure, is it?
Dr. Joanna Carmichael is an RN, Dr. of Metaphysics, Divinity, Interfaith Minister, Ayurveda Practitioner, Spiritual Teacher and Founder & CEO of the Kalyana Centre in Narberth, PA