So, are there any doubts that Big Pharma has a big hand in the opioid crisis (among other abuses)? I hope everyone had an opportunity to see 60-Minutes on Sunday to hear the courageous declarations from a former DEA officer who has blown the whistle on who is really at the heart of the opioid epidemic. All I can say is, "It's about time we heard such things on mainstream media! ” Even they can no longer deny the truth even though the drug companies comprise most of their sponsorship. And along with that, it is my hope that people will continue to awaken to the Truth about the “treat the symptom, not the cause” philosophy that has defined medicine for way too long.
Big pharma and the AMA are threatened no doubt, because alternative medicine takes money out of their pockets and will continue to do so as people wake up to the fact that there are many choices when it comes to healing. And as the establishment continues to try to remove those choices, it is “WE the people” who must demand a different healthcare system that enables us to have those choices.
As we can see, many, many things that have been a part of the cognitive dissonance that has pervaded this country and even the world, are now coming to the surface, not to be ignored any longer. And now more than ever, it is time. It seems the courage of a few has sparked the courage of many to come forward about abuses that have contributed to the suppressed emotional body of the whole (women and men). Again, we must remind ourselves that change must trickle up instead of down. Clearly, we have been shown again and again that there is no leader who is going to save us. We must also remember that the current “leader”, as much as people want to throw stones and criticize, is a reflection of the collective whole, US; our decades of selfishness and consumerism at the expense of the Spirit. Everyone is a reflection, even those (especially those) whom we resist acknowledging. Remember Spirit? Consciousness? That part of us that is eternal and what we get to take with us when we leave here? Yet we spend so little time in that silent space between the thoughts amidst the chatter and the collective “hum” of sensory overload that predominates our lives these days. We’re so busy looking down and multi-tasking that we are failing to take the time to look within and heal that which would contribute to the healing of the collective whole.
Amidst the disasters both natural and man-made, the tremendous acts of humanity cannot and should not be ignored; people who are celebrated as heroes yet have a deep humility and feel that anyone else would have done the same. I like to think that’s true. Why must it take disasters to bring out the best in us, that our Light can shine ever more brightly?
Many people ask me, “so do you think things are getting better or getting worse?” My answer is “yes”. Both are happening simultaneously and we must be conscious of the fact that destruction must happen in order for something new to be built. In Ayurveda, we have the three Gunas or tendancies; Sattva, Rajas and Tamas; equanimity & purity, passion & creation, and destruction & inertia respectively. All three are necessary at all times and in varying degrees, and I can’t think of a better example than what is happening on our planet and especially our country currently. Karma is playing out in ways we may not understand, but is necessary in order to balance out the energy of the past so our future can be healed.
It is the time of Diwali, or the Festival of Lights that is celebrated every year in India and around the world. It is not just about the lights as viewed on the outside, but more of a symbolism of the Light on the inside of which we must become more cognizant. Light illuminates the darkness and it only takes a spark. Without Light, we do not have clarity. And we must have clarity along with quiet to discern our next action. Reaction (especially aggressive and negative) does not solve anything and only serves to antagonize. Have you ever changed your opinion about something because someone came at you with aggression? I know I haven’t. Are you aware that you are using up your precious energy in being angry and aggressive? The cause may truly be important, but are you reacting aggressively or responding from a clear place of peace that is mindful of the whole? When I am approached by someone whose inner light is already shining, simply by their mere existence, and because they have done their own inner work, my impulse is to move towards them and then my belief or opinion may be changed. I change when I am invited, not when I am forced. This is why we must turn our awareness inward now more than ever and get in deeper touch with that inner Light. Feel, process, and let go of that which needs to be healed, so that the Light of clarity can permeate ourselves and each other that the collective whole can be renewed. As Light is shed on the many secrets and violations that have been suppressed for so long, whether it is big pharma’s agenda, sexual assault and trafficking, or a family secret that has been kept for decades, healing can finally begin and a new energy of peace, equanimity and tolerance can be created. The energetic elements of space, air, fire, water and earth are speaking loudly while at the same time expressing within us. Are you ready to wake up to the Truth that you have known for so long? What do you choose to do with your energy? How can it be used to truly benefit the Whole?
My beautiful Praying Mantis friend returned to my garden bigger than ever!! You can see a video on Facebook. He had disappeared for awhile and I honestly felt heartbroken because his presence added so much to my life and garden. Such a strong presence for such a little guy... Then one day when I was watering and pruning, I tuned my Hibicus plant around and there he was. So much bigger and he had changed color to match the changing season. He was the color of the worn wood on the deck. I am continually amazed and awed at the magic and intelligence of nature and how we are meant to live in harmony with these amazing plants and Beings that grace our planet with their wisdom and grace.
The message of the Praying Mantis is to pray and find wisdom in the stillness, and I can't think of a better time in which this message is more relevant. With the recent weather patterns causing such tragedy for so many, and for whom we send our prayers for peace, healing, and resilience, the question that haunts me the most these days is "What's it Gonna Take?" This country, (and really the planet), has endured challenges due to weather, terrorism, banking, government, the economy, and healthcare. We have been challenged to look at ourselves and the collective impact we have on each other and the earth, and the message doesn't seem to be getting through. 9/11 wasn't enough. The senseless acts of terrorism aren't enough. A nurse getting handcuffed and arrested for being a patient advocate isn't enough. The weather where Mother Earth is screaming to be heard, isn't enough. Banks taking advantage of people isn't enough. The state of our insane government isn't enough. The abuse people suffer at the hand of insurance companies when their health is suffering isn't enough. And yet here we are, in ill health, slaves to jobs and relationships that do not serve the highest good, and addicted to technology, as we are looking down and out instead of looking up and within, at ourselves, each other and at beautiful and amazing nature itself, of which we are a part.
We can clearly see that when it comes down to it, when we are pushed, people will step up to the plate regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, or political affiliation and do the right things. Why must it take a tragedy such as Hurricane Harvey, Irma, or an earthquake to bring out the best in us, when it is our birthrate to have our light shine no matter what the situation. The weather? - It's all about the emotions as much as people do not want to hear that. Water is the emotions, fires are transformation, and the winds of change are pushing us to change our self-centered ways and our focus to the whole. We need to dig deep to find, express, reveal, journal, or do whatever it takes to know Who We Are and where we need to heal so that we can own ourselves and not fall victim to the atrocities that have dictated how we live our lives. We live in an environment of emotional and financial slavery. We don't ask questions. We don't question the sanity of the rules by which we abide. Now more than ever is the time to take that ball and stand up for what is right and True.
We saw it in the US Open Ladies SemiFinal, when Sloan Stevens enjoyed a lengthy and deep embrace with Madison Keys, went and sat next to Madison when that had never been done before - what a metaphor for how we need to view each other, our connection and our relationship to all that is. Two women, both American, black and white, honoring their hearts instead of their differences or what has never been done before.... This is the expression of Unity within competition. The millennials seem to have a better grasp on this than what we've experienced. I eagerly look forward to a day when we do not need or want to compete with one another, for any reason.
So what's it gonna take for you to make the choices you need to make to heal yourself, to declare that the toxicity in your life is no longer acceptable, and the take action accordingly? To contribute to the collective consciousness by healing yourself..... Your Divine right is to love yourSelf enough to do what is necessary to find the peace, health, wealth, and happiness of which you are so deserving. This, by definition metaphysically is good for you, your family, the community and the collective whole. Because when you do, that will support the attainment of that for All.
So, What's it gonna take? Only you can decide.
Well here we are approaching the end of August with the total eclipse of the sun coming on Monday 21 August 2017. Lots of change is looming and with five planets in retrograde, Mercury among them, I've had some interesting experiences both frustrating and magical in the last few days. If there was any doubt that certain things are simply "meant to be", that doubt has yet again been mitigated. If one is meant to have a certain experience, the energies will conspire to provide that lesson, and if you are not karmically destined to have a certain experience, no matter what the circumstances, Divine intervention may step in to block it.
After seeing a patient in Chester, I returned to my car and was about to back out of the parking space, except there was a large pickup truck to my right, blocking my view. Backing out of this space, places you right on Chester Pike where cars are going about 40 mph or more. Because I couldn't see, and knowing I was backing into traffic, I was obviously going slowly trying to inch my way out to where I could see. Suddenly, all the lights on my dashboard flashed on and the car stalled. Cars whizzed by behind me which would have taken my trunk out into the middle of Chester Pike! At first, I thought, "oh no, here's mercury retrograde wrecking havoc with my car." But it wasn't until I told a friend about it later that I realized I was spared from what would have been a tragic accident, and that someone or something had to have intervened. There was nothing wrong with the car; no problem restarting it, and no problems since. Seemingly out of nowhere, a man appeared to the left of me and I asked if he would be kind enough to guide me out of the space because I couldn't see. He gladly helped me and I was safe and sound and back on my way. When the car started right up again, I was simply grateful, but I didn't immediately see or appreciate the deeper meaning that occurred. Have you ever had an experience where you know that Divine intervention came in to move you toward something that you needed to experience, or protect you from something you were not meant to experience? I've had it happen many times....in spite of my resistance!
When things run their karmic course, the energies conspire to remove you from a situation that no longer serves to provide a lesson. When they haven't, it can seem like no matter what we do, the only choice is to surrender, feel the discomfort and subsequently, the lesson (which is usually in hindsight) and move through it with as much grace as possible. We don't usually move and grow when things are going great, when we are content, or simply maintaining the status quo. As I think back during this Mercury retrograde period of time, (where we are invited to review the past), I am remembering all of the discomfort that at the time was a drag, yet it propelled me to move into deeper and wider awareness, and more aligned with my true purpose and Self. Another thing that happened last week was a situation where a conflict reached intolerable levels despite all efforts to cultivate understanding and an amicable solution. Despite best efforts, I was pushing against a force that was pushing against me where I had to make a decision to keep wasting my energy in futile pursuit, or save my energy so I could open a door to something new and in alignment with me now. The energy was conspiring to push me out despite the rationalizations I was using to stay. I finally closed to door (on my birthday) and almost immediately, something new came in to support, uplift, and remind me, that when we remain in our personal Truth, it is not only for our good, but the highest good for all involved. And, lesson OVER! These days especially, we must be ever mindful of wasting our time and energy in toxic situations that serve no purpose other than to undermine and aggravate rather than nourish and heal. This can be applied to many situations in life. When we are meant to let something go, the messages are always there, and sometimes must become so strong that we are literally pushed out of situations where we are no longer meant to be for our own highest good.
In what areas of your life might you need to go deep to take inventory and let go to allow Divinity to show you a new way? It does always know better than we do, doesn't it? It is certainly a time of dismantling the old so we can all do something new. And the best place to start is with ourSelves. It is very easy to look outside of ourselves and call out what is wrong, point the finger and place blame, but the true work is within and where we can elicit the change we are all seeking for ourselves and for the planet. Be safe during Mercury Retrograde!
Does your kitchen and pantry support your new and improved dedication to health and wellbeing? Just like we want our home be a sanctuary, the kitchen is a big part of that as most people consider it the heart of the home. In counseling clients trying to make lifestyle changes, specifically for weight reduction, some of the resistance I encounter when I ask why processed food is even in the house, is that, “it is there for the kids”. After I laugh, I suggest that their kids (and kids’ friends) should not be eating that stuff either! That’s when opposition rears its head, as if it’s the accepted norm for kids to eat junk food and their health will be resilient to it forever. I only wish I knew in my teens, 20s and 30s what I know now about nutrition through Ayurveda, meditation & yoga practice, and how much can be done to prevent dis-ease before it starts and how we can support longevity through our choices that nurture our unique nature. It’s so much easier to learn healthy lifestyle habits when you are young rather than after you have acquired bad habits (and possibly an illness) because of stress and lack of time when all the responsibilities of a multi-tasked life have taken over. But many people are already there, and it doesn’t help to beat ourselves up over what was, but rather to make slow, conscious changes that can support a life of health, vitality, healing, and happiness and decrease the continuation of habits that will inevitably lead to illness and possibly an early death.
A pantry and kitchen that favors healthy, organic, local, seasonal and natural foods and beverages over FLUNC foods (Frozen, Leftover, Unnatural, Nuked and Canned) will support your efforts when temptation is there to throw you off track. This is only until you get used to how good you will feel when you learn to listen to your healthy body as to what foods contribute to true nourishment, ease of digestion and elimination and good health, and it is rarely the ones with labels! So take a good look at your pantry and in your refrigerator. Foods without labels are the best, but if there are labels, look out for too many ingredients, chemicals, unnecessary additives like MSG and dyes, excess salt, white flour and white sugar, and especially HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). I was very disturbed one time when I couldn’t find one bottle of Balsamic vinegar that didn’t have caramel color! Why balsamic vinegar needs a color additive is beyond me, but these are the questions we should all start to ask and send a message by not purchasing them. Many of these additives are also in the pharmaceuticals that you may be taking (listed as “inactive” ingredients), as well as in products you may use on your body and in your mouth, but that is a subject for another post and should also be considered. Check expiration dates and get rid of food, beverages, condiments or spices that are not fresh and outdated. Get rid of your microwave; it will save counter space and food tastes better when cooked in the oven or on the stove with fresh herbs and spices. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and if you do eat meat/eggs/dairy, be sure it is wild caught/free range, grass fed, organic and antibiotic-free from animals that have not been tortured and mercilessly slaughtered. Let your pantry, fridge and kitchen reflect the healthy choices you are now making for yourself and your family. Keep the workspace in your kitchen clean and clutter-free so you are not stressed when preparing and consuming food and cook with love.
Many times when we are tempted to go for something that doesn’t support our goals, it is not because we are hungry physically, but hungry for something else. Take a moment to tune in and see what it is you are truly needing in that moment. Just that mindfulness can go a long way in helping you make better choices. So enjoy your clean and healthy pantry and kitchen and set an example for the kids and their friends. You will be doing yourself (and them) and great favor! ; )
Oil pulling (Kandava or Gundusha) is another ancient technique that works deep within the tissues to loosen and dislodge toxins that build up all throughout the physiology (and mind). In Ayurvedva we believe in oleation inside and out! In Western culture (which is thankfully changing), oil and fat has been the enemy. Since oil contains more calories, it is incorrectly labeled as something that can cause us to be fat. Nothing could be further from the Truth. Oils have so many benefits that are too numerous to mention here, but a few related to oil pulling are anti-microbial properties, lubrication, whiter teeth, healthier gums, relief of bad breath and other conditions related to dryness, and healthier skin, hair and bones.
How to do it: Upon awakening and on an empty stomach after brushing your teeth and tongue, take about 1 Tbs of coconut or sesame oil and gently swish it in your mouth for about 15-20 minutes. (If you are new to the process, start with 1 teaspoon and try 5 minutes as it might take some getting used to.) If that seems like a lot of time, again, start with a few minutes and work up to it. I find that doing it first thing in the morning while I am in the kitchen boiling the water for lemon-ginger water, cutting up fruit for breakfast or making a smoothie, feeding my pets, getting my things ready to go out the door, 20 minutes goes pretty fast. Do not swallow any of the oil as you will be putting the toxins back that you just pulled out. The oil has a chelating effect of bonding to toxins so that they can be eliminated from the body. Discard the oil (and the toxins) into the trash (not the sink) and rinse your mouth. Observe how your mouth feels and watch the results over time. Whiter teeth, healthier gums, glowing skin and perhaps even some greater benefits like fewer colds, clear sinuses, relief of jaw pain and inflammation, softer skin, better complexion, and better health overall! Wouldn’t you rather put this in your mouth than the chemicals found in mouthwash? Give it a try and see for yourself!
My home is my sanctuary. My office is also my sanctuary. These are places where I walk in and just feel "Ahhhhhhh". This is how your home, your office, and even your car, or places where you spend a lot of time, should be. How much does your home contribute to your sense of health, wellbeing and ease? A great deal! When your home or office is a mess, cluttered, and disorganized, this creates mental and emotional turbulence that supports the stress response rather than a restful awareness response in the body-mind. This can translate into chemicals being released in the body that contribute to dis-ease, weight gain and other issues that make us feel fatigued, unhealthy, unhappy, frustrated or discontent. In the ancient arts of Feng Shui (environmental aspect of Chinese Medicine) or Vastu Shastra (the environmental balance aspect of Ayurveda), the environment plays a big part in how we feel, how we attract prosperity into our lives, how harmonious or disharmonious our relationships are, and how energy in our life flows in general.
Take the time to go through your home and see where you might eliminate clutter (the first rule of Feng Shui and Vastu). The extreme expression is hoarding for which there is always a deeper issue(s) at hand and these underlying issues need to be confronted and gently dealt with so as to heal at the first cause. Think of how you feel when you clean out a drawer, a closet or a room. It feels good, doesn't it? Where there is clutter, there is stagnation and just like the energy channels of the body, when we clean up clutter and unblock the stagnation or blockage, prana or life force is restored and we feel better, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The same is true in our environment, and since we are simply extensions of our environment, these things affect us in subtle and not so subtle ways. A clear desk invites a clear mind. Getting into a clean car or walking into a clean, uncluttered house or office invites health, wellbeing, prosperity, and harmony. There will be more on this later, but for now, how do you feel reverence for your home, your office, car or anywhere you spend your time? Is there fragrance, beauty, flow, connection, and a sense of openness and possibility? I have things that I do to create and nurture that sense of reverence I have for my home and office. I adore flowers and always have fresh flowers in their various stages on the kitchen and coffee tables and in the bedroom. I light incense and a candle when I enter my home or office as ritual and a point of transition from home to work or vice versa. Take a moment to think or better yet, feel, who you are when you are in these places and do they speak to the reverence your have for your Self and your environment? What can you do to make your environment more conducive to the goals and dreams you have set for yourself, your relationships, your career and home life. In the quiet moments of contemplation about this, you may be surprised as to what you discover... Ahhhhh. ; )
A daily self-massage (known in Sanskrit as Abhyanga) with herbalized massage oil is one of the most important tools to activate your inner pharmacy and balance your doshas. The skin is the largest organ of the body; it helps us maintain our temperature and is a way by which we can ingest nutrients and release toxins from the body. In Ayurveda, we do a daily self-massage from head to toe as part of our morning routine.
How to do it:
Warm the oil so it is pleasant feeling to the skin. Starting with the head, massaging the scalp, ears and face, moving down to the neck and shoulders, on to the arms and hands, the chest, belly, and back (as far as you can reach comfortably), the buttocks, pelvis and hips, legs and feet. Massage with circular motion on the joints and long strokes on the long bones. If you do not have time for a full body massage (which really only takes about 5-7 minutes), at least do the head, neck, and feet. You really can’t do it wrong and do not be attached to doing it “right”. What’s important is your intention of self-love and giving something to yourself that is nurturing, nourishing and empathetic. Human touch has been found to be very important in health and wellbeing. Babies who are not touched and held can actually suffer developmental and cognitive issues and even death. If you do not have a partner and/or are not getting enough hugs, it can be detrimental to your overall health and wellbeing in ways which you may be unaware. Sometimes we are lacking in this area and distract ourselves with busyness so as not to face our loneliness and/or lack of physical connection with people. Abhyanga is a way of giving that loving, nurturing touch to yourself. Lubricating the body-mind on the outside with oil is a way to loosen toxins from the physiology, decrease physical rigidity, as well as bring awareness to the other ways we may be mentally rigid in our lives. Immune function is another significant benefit of self-massage as the lymph glands located just below the skin do not have a pump like the heart, and rely on movement and massage to release toxins and promote cleansing and detoxification. In addition, self-massage has the following benefits:
Vata (heavier, heating) Sesame, Almond (can add essential oils lavender, vanilla, cardamom, rose)
Pitta (cooling, soothing) Coconut, Sunflower, Olive (can add essential oils sandalwood, patchouli, jasmine, peppermint)
Kapha (lighter, warming) Safflower, Sunflower, Mustard (can add citrus, ginger, peppermint)
There will be more on the doshas in a later post, but in the meantime, enjoy the benefits of this ancient practice as you continue your journey of resurrecting the health and wellbeing you deserve. Enjoy! ; )
In Ayurveda, digestion is everything! This is not only the digestion of our food, but the digestion of our experiences through our five senses and extra senses. The digestive fire or Agni, as we call it, needs to be robust and burning brightly so that all of what we ingest, both physically (through food) and mentally/emotionally (through experiences) can be thoroughly metabolized. This can be likened to a fire burning in your fireplace. When it's burning brightly and beautifully it gives off adequate light, heat, and beauty. When it's dwindling down to ashes and coals it provides nothing but toxic residue. And if it's burning out of control, it'll burn the house down. Your belly is that fireplace. You've heard the term "fire in your belly"? Well this is literally what fuels all processes including our passion, creativity and determination! Without it, we can feel tired, fatigued, depressed, defeated, and sick which affects our ability to work, play, have good relationships, be of service, and manifest our dreams. We want to feed our body-mind-heart-spirit with nutrients (both physical and metaphysical) that create something called Ojas, or subtle nourishment, immunity, or essence. Ojas is the result of ingesting foods, beverages and experiences that are nourishing to the physiology, mind, heart, and spirit. Ama, or toxic residue, on the other hand, is the result of ingesting foods and experiences that are harsh, full of chemicals from processing, and detrimental to the physiology, mind and spirit. The body-mind is in a constant state of needing to digest all that happens to it and around it 24/7! That includes our experiences and the emotions those experiences produce. Wherever there is energy, there is digestion, and the food and experiences we take in must be digested and processed resulting in either Ama or Ojas.
Take the time today to bring awareness to everything you put into your body with regard to foods and beverages. How do you start your day; with a cup of caffeine, processed creamer loaded with artificial ingredients, and white sugar? Do you skip breakfast due to time constraints? Do you snack on junk food at the office, skip lunch and then are famished at dinner? Do you smoke, drink, or eat in excess? What types of food do you put in your shopping cart; foods around the perimeter of the store or processed foods from the middle aisles that you microwave to add insult to injury?
Now take the time to bring awareness to the other ways you feed yourself. Are you compelled to multitask? Do you watch violence on TV (including the news) just before going to sleep? Is your job or career a source of toxicity or are you in your dharma, doing what you love? Are your relationships toxic and depleting to your energy, or nurturing, compassionate, and loving? All of these things contribute to either Ama or Ojas. There will definitely be more on this later. In the meantime, there's lots of grist for the mill here. The first step is awareness. Many times and for many reasons we get into habits that contribute to illness and dis-ease without even realizing it. Take the time to step back and look at your life as a detached observer, without judgement, and see where you are being invited to make some changes that will create Ojas! ; )
I hear it all the time, “I ‘m not flexible. I can’t do yoga.”
The truth is, you’re inflexible because you don’t do yoga! (this applies to the mind as well, by the way). You can't expect to magically be able to do the asanas (poses) of yoga perfectly when you haven't stretched in decades. This especially goes for the men! Yoga is literally for every body. Because the essence of yoga is union ~ of body, mind, heart and spirit, within ourselves , with each other, the planet and the cosmos; the practice of it, no matter how quiet or rigorous, is about bringing more awareness to every aspect of your Being. It’s not important that you can twist your body into a pretzel – most people can’t – even yoga teachers. What’s important is that you spend some time each day on your mat to be present with your body, mind, and spirit. That is, really feeling your body & the messages it is sending you, the state of your mind and emotions, and connecting to your soul – that aspect of you that is perfect just as it is and the part you get to take with you when you leave this plane.
Commit to at least 10-15 minutes of gentle stretching and deep breathing each day and feel the difference it will make in your strength, flexibility, and balance. This, by the way, translates to strength, flexibility, balance in your life. Commit to trying it for a month – take a class, buy a book, watch a video, Google “gentle yoga”, there are even classes online – there are many, many resources out there to help you learn. There are also variations on every pose that provide equal benefit and inspire you to go deeper - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Yoga is a practice that can always take you deeper so you do not need to learn everything at once. See if you don’t notice a difference in yourself after several weeks. Others may notice too. So relax, stretch and breathe! You’ll find yourself craving it and just like when you exercise and meditate regularly, noticing even more when you don’t do it. Your joints, your muscles, your mind, your digestion, and much more will thank you! Enjoy!!
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