The Health Benefits of Sisterhood

 

People laugh at me sometimes, with how obsessed I am with book club. More than guiding my current reading habits and being an outlet for intellectual curiosity, it takes up priority space in my calendar. Some would say I’m almost religious about it. Could be.

One thing I know for sure: that one night each month feeds my soul.

I used to have a similar take on a choir I’d joined for a time. About the art school office I worked in for 10 years. About natural health school. About hanging with my friends – girls’ night dinner parties being the cherry on the cake.

The common denominator in all these enriching scenarios? Female community.

(Maybe my need for such circles is a bit religious. Being part of a value-based collective certainly adds appeal to any religion. Having stepped away from the Catholic Church I was raised in, my need might be greater than someone who’s stayed more fully connected to a specific faith.)

My girlfriends, and the other clutches of women I mention above, were key to my survival post-divorce. Over 5 tumultuous years, I first learned how a non-judgmental circle of women (& a few special men) grants me

  • the courage to surrender the masks/labels and be myself;
  • the safe space in which to pour my hopes and fears;
  • shoulders to cry on, buddies to dance with;
  • the permission to put myself first (not that we women need it, but we think we do).

I learned that a strong group makes each individual woman stronger.

Being immersed in a community of like-minded, supportive women is the most direct route to knowing and loving yourself.

This solid container works for anything you want to improve really, however, in terms of health, the support of a group is proven to speed recovery and reduce risks of recurrence.

As part of a community, you have a built-in buddy system – someone to hold you accountable, to cheer you on, to hold your hand when things get rough, and to celebrate with you when they go well.

Knowing someone has your back in that way makes it easier to step out of your comfort zone.

On my own, I doubt I’d have had the energy to find another man, let alone explore the world of online dating. Without the love of friends and colleagues, jumping full-tilt into a new line of study might not have been so effortless, and I may never have discovered a new career – one that continues to stretch and fulfill me 14 years later.

A healthy relationship and enriching work serve to nourish you in mind and soul – essential pieces of your health picture.

More than just having a body free of disease, health literally means to be whole. To have balance in the lifestyle choices you make, so you can enjoy balance in your life.

That “being healthy” umbrella covers every part of your life – relationships, heart & soul, mind, work, money, society. It’s not just about the perfect body or a body free of disease. In fact (this is a discussion to explore further another day), it’s possible to be healthy even with a disease.

Every part of your life stands to improve with the health-giving support of a collective.

Community also means a place to ask questions and learn from the experience of others.

In recent years, I’ve discovered pockets of loving circles online. Some of the small Facebook groups I belong to hold the same magic as I’ve experienced in person. They might be a network of colleagues and other alternative health practitioners; financial advice; business support for solopreneurs; accountability and cheerleading through a challenge or a course. I’m also a part of deep spiritual circles through the internet.

I have connected with like-minded women all over the globe who I now consider good friends.

No matter the area of life, my book club, my friends, these online groups all prove to me yet again that it takes a village to raise a healthy woman.

Which is precisely why I have opened a community of my own. The Whole Health Dinner Party is a closed Facebook group for members of my community. It’s a place to talk about food and body and soul and life. For asking niggling questions and sharing thoughts. A place for conversation about health in all its shapes and forms.

Won’t you join us? Enter your email in the box below and I will send your invitation.

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The Value of Chocolate {+ a Valentine Ritual}

Inspired by Judy Chicago, I’ve created a virtual dinner party: One category of my blog will be dedicated to honouring women who I want to be a part of my soul community. Each woman at my virtual table has a lesson to teach, even if it’s simply to inspire us with her ability to hold greater aspirations for ourselves than we’d ever thought possible. Each one will be a manifestation of the Goddess, a Wise Woman, a pilgrim on the road of the Sacred Feminine. I want to share the wisdom of these women as part of my community of support.

chocolate ritualI have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t like, crave, need and/or have a daily dose of chocolate. It seems to have become a part of the shared female-experience, along with cramps and birth stories.

Our love of this dark delicacy has sparked any number of studies and investigations into its benefits: the antioxidant load, the blood pressure- and cortisol-lowering properties, the magnesium.

Fortunately, the availability of good chocolate has started to shift along with the interest. Like all of us, my early experience of chocolate was limited to the candy – lots of sugar, milk-infused – brought to us by Hershey and Cadbury and Nestlé. As an adult I graduated to Godiva, then truffles, then gourmet combinations with salty or tangy or pungent flavours.

But there’s so much more to chocolate than meets the eye:

  • Were Theobroma cacao grown and harvested as it was meant to be, it would be worth more than gold.
  • The Aztecs used it as currency.
  • The word theobroma means “food of the gods”.

Yet, like so many things in our lives, we’ve taken the unique qualities of a commodity and industrialized them to a point where they become commonplace. Think salt or sugar. Think a fresh tomato in the middle of winter, or the rows of candy bars in every grocery and convenience store in the world.

In these quantities (and lower quality), chocolate isn’t good for us.

But what IS chocolate? Why are we so fascinated by it?

Is there a way that we can honour the value of chocolate and enjoy it in a way that’s more nourishing?

To answer these questions, I brought in chocolate aficionada, Sue Ann Gleason. What fun it was to chat with her about chocolate for an hour! Yes, it ended up being quite a long conversation, but like a good piece of chocolate, perhaps it’s best savoured in small bites.

To quote Sue Ann from her website, Chocolate for Breakfast, my intention with this post is to take us one more step towards “enjoying the sensuous, sumptuous, voluptuous nature of the food we eat”.

Listen to our conversation to find out

  • The health benefits of chocolate: we riff about the good, the potential for bad and the difference between a treat and a treatment;
  • Why you might want to eat chocolate for breakfast;
  • How chocolate is like a good bottle of wine;
  • And, as part of spiritual self-care: How to create a chocolate ritual as a means of treating yourself exquisitely.

Sue Ann shares details on how to choose good chocolate – the most important step of all! – as well as many online resources for purchasing the best kinds.

want a version you can download to enjoy on your commute in the morning? Grab it here.

Though I only had commercial chocolate during the recording, I just bought some Marou from Vietnam. I’ll be tasting it on Friday with my girlfriends, along with other types I found while out exploring bean to bar chocolate in Montreal.

I found them at

La tablette de Miss Choco
Les chocolats de Chloé

Now it’s your turn to get in on the conversation:

What is it about chocolate that appeals to you? We’d also love to hear what you learned when you take the time to honour this “food of the gods” and taste it with the ceremony and reverence it deserves. When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Sue Ann GleasonTo learn more about Sue Ann, you can connect with her in a few different places. (Delicious freebies await you!)
Chocolate Lovers’ Guide: www.chocolateforbreakfast.com <http://www.chocolateforbreakfast.com>  <http://www.chocolateforbreakfast.com>
No Longer Asleep at the Meal ebook: http://consciousbitesnutrition.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chocolateforbreakfast

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Let your Inner Virgin Shine!

Inspired by Judy Chicago, I’ve created a virtual dinner party: One category of my blog will be dedicated to honouring women who I want to be a part of my soul community. Each woman at my virtual table has a lesson to teach, even if it’s simply to inspire us with her ability to hold greater aspirations for ourselves than we’d ever thought possible. Each one will be a manifestation of the Goddess, a Wise Woman, a pilgrim on the road of the Sacred Feminine. I want to share the wisdom of these women as part of my community of support.

As we draw closer to Christmas, it seems appropriate to bring one of the key players of this story to the table. (Yes, my Catholic roots are showing, but bear with me.)

The Virgin, 1926 by Joseph Stella The Brooklyn Museum

The Virgin, 1926 by Joseph Stella The Brooklyn Museum

The Virgin Mary is revered around the world as the woman who miraculously conceived a child by the God.

What does that mean to us today? Why does she continue to fascinate in our cynical times? What could she have to do with you and your health (regardless of your religious leanings)?

It all gets back to the original meaning of the word virgin.

We use it simply in the context of never having had sex. Depending on how old you are and what your cultural/social environment is like, it can even be a stigma or badge of honour.

There have even been times when I’ve speculated with GFs as to whether it “grows back” after a certain time without. Kind of how your insurance record clears after so many years without a claim.

Nowadays, we refer to any type of neophyte as a virgin: a night club virgin, a camping virgin. I’m a Twitter virgin. A friend of mine just lost her podcast virginity. Way beyond the sexual context, this virgin – male or female – is someone who’s never done…something.

But dive back to the ancient roots of the word and you find an independent woman, not answerable to any man or child. Though I don’t know the precise origin of this word, it speaks to me of a matriarchal society where woman was respected as an important, integral, valuable part of society.

Hence, Elizabeth I is famous as the Virgin Queen. We know she was far from sexually untouched. She was a virgin because she was a woman unto herself – sovereign over her own life as well as her king(queen)dom. And a strong one at that!

I also think about the virgin goddesses of mythology: Venus, who emerged fully-formed on her half shell; Athena who sprang from Zeus’ head in full armour, wisdom incarnate.

Put these 2 concepts together and you get my vision of who the Virgin Mary is: (Yes, this gets to my point!)

She’s a woman who had her purpose whispered in her ear by a messenger of the Divine, and she stood by that purpose no matter how difficult or painful it was. Though married to Joseph and mother to other children, they didn’t detract from the truth of who she was.

Mary acted as a conduit.

She was the vessel through which spirit became flesh. She represents this creative capacity of every woman: to have a fully-formed expression of the Divine emerge from her body. Now that’s a miracle!

Worship of Mary was a continuation of goddess worship under the strong thumb of Christian paternalism. She was the beacon that held women strong to their purpose – though lost and hidden for centuries – until it was time for them/us to emerge.

And (re)emerge we did!

Standing firm in our own purpose, which as a collective means giving permission to each other to heed the call whispered from the Divine. Perhaps this means bearing children, or bearing the burden of leading a campaign for female education. Maybe you write plays, or maybe you write contracts. Maybe you design jewellery or websites.

The what doesn’t matter. It’s the opening of yourself as a vessel, as a conduit to share yet another aspect of the Divine that does. And that enhances your health – your fullest expression – in more ways than you can imagine.

I’ve had some ideas swirling around my consciousness for a while now. It’s high time I gave birth to their reality. Too unformed yet to share any details, I can give you a hint: the dinner party theme plays a big part.

So tell me, what’s been whispered to you? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

While you’re at it, share this post with the independent women in your life:

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No angels whispering in your ears lately? Maybe try listening to those menstrual cramps, that anxiety, the pain in your knee or the restlessness in your soul. Not exactly Gabriel in robes and glowing wings, but there’s a message in there for you to heed! (Contact me if you need an interpreter.)

The Holy Trinity of Women’s Health

Inspired by Judy Chicago, I’ve created a virtual dinner party: One category of my blog will be dedicated to honouring women who I want to be a part of my soul community. Each woman at my virtual table has a lesson to teach, even if it’s simply to inspire us with her ability to hold greater aspirations for ourselves than we’d ever thought possible. Each one will be a manifestation of the Goddess, a Wise Woman, a pilgrim on the road of the Sacred Feminine. I want to share the wisdom of these women as part of my community of support.

This October – Breast Health Awareness Month, a month all about the very seat of nurturing and nourishment – who better to invite to my virtual table than the Holy Trinity of Women’s Health.

For the young woman trying to stabilize her periods, reduce PCOS and acne, or improve her fertility, Alisa Vitti is the Go-to-Girl. The Maiden of my trinity.

In her book, Woman Code, Alisa not only teaches how to eat and change your lifestyle to optimize your health, she teaches you how to “go with the flow”. You don’t need me to tell you that each week of your menstrual cycle comes with its own set of symptoms, emotions and brain capacity. Alisa demystifies the stages and teaches you how to tap into the power of each phase. How to live more fully with the body you have, embrace its wonders and be the deliciously vibrant woman you should be.

Some of us didn’t have the benefit of her wisdom at a young age, so we have Dr. Sara Gottfried, the Matron, to set us straight in middle age.

Examining the hormone trinity: thyroid, adrenal glands and ovaries, Dr. Sara explains in her book, The Hormone Cure how to determine which of these babies is out of balance and how to get them back on track. She speaks specifically to women in perimenopause who’ve lost their memories and sex drive and gained an extra 20lbs and bad moods in their place.

The one who helped snowball the shift in approach to women’s health is Dr. Christiane Northrup, Supreme Goddess.

In her first book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, she dug our particular challenges out from under the weight of a male-centric medical system and invited us to own our individual experiences within our symptoms.

Her current focus is on helping women flourish both physically and emotionally past menopause. No longer seen as the declining years, Dr. Northrup has breathed new life into the notion of the Crone.

These women inform my personal health journey as much as they inform my work.

They, along with countless other authors and practitioners today, make it imperative that we own our bodies, be proactive in our health and live from a deep sense of power and vitality, no matter our age.

I raise my glass to each of you. Salut!

Who’s your favourite author, what’s your favourite book or website for women’s health? Who would you invite to join the conversation here? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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The Sacred Wedding Feast

Inspired by Judy Chicago, I’ve created a virtual dinner party: One category of my blog will be dedicated to honouring women who I want as a part of my soul community. Each woman at my virtual table has a lesson to teach, even if it’s simply to inspire us with her ability to hold greater aspirations for ourselves than we’d ever thought possible. Each one will be a manifestation of the Goddess, a Wise Woman, a pilgrim on the road of the Sacred Feminine. I want to share the wisdom of these women as part of my community of support.

Recently, I wrote about commitment to your health being tantamount to moving forward with your life. I talked about how your soul had made a commitment to embody for this lifetime.

Being Easter weekend, I want to explore that relationship between body & soul a little more deeply. At a time of year when we revisit the greater impact of the Divine living a fully human existence, when we reconnect to the dual nature of our very existence, Easter celebrations could be considered as a wedding feast between body & soul.

Who better to have as guest of honour at the feast, to set as a shining example to this sacred inner marriage, than the divine Meggan Watterson.

Meggan Watterson

Meggan Watterson is a theologian, modern-day mystic, single NY mom & author of Reveal: A Sacred Manual for Getting Spiritually Naked.

After years of hearing about women in Christianity, Meggan’s body screamed at her, through glaring physical symptoms, to seek the word of women within religious teachings. Her studies lead her on a quest of the Divine Feminine through seminary school, work with unwed mothers, two powerful pilgrimages to the Madonna shrines of Europe, and as the leader of a sacred circle known as the Red Ladies.

Meggan insinuates through her words and work, that while Jesus sits at the right hand of God, there is undoubtedly a female counterpart (dare I say Mary Magdalen) at his left.

It took a crazy case of anxiety and a paralyzing fear of flying to lead Meggan Watterson through the very dark tunnel of fear to the brilliant understanding of her mission: “My one true ministry is Love.”

The Source of that Love, she teaches, is found within each and every one of us. Yes that’s right: in your own body. After centuries of being told by Christianity and other religions to deny the body (especially as a woman), and to seek God “up & out”, Meggan Watterson dares you to dive down and in.

As she puts it, “The body is our sacred chance to be here.” It’s our responsibility as physical vessels to seek the truth of our own well-being and path at the very core of our being. It’s through the flesh that we can most effectively pray and honour the Divine.

Meggan used a meditative writing practice as a way to hear, get to know and trust her deepest inner voice, what she calls her Soul Voice. Realizing this was the source of her strength & wisdom, she made a full commitment to honouring her needs: a sacred marriage to her Self.

The union with her divine soul has become her primary relationship (not discounting union with another). Through this container of commitment, she’s grown as a person, as a mother, as a wise-woman, as a priestess. As a force of embodied Love to be reckoned with.

My Intimate Dinner with Meggan

I had the priviledge of being a part of Meggan’s first online Red Ladies this winter, an experience that reinforced the fact that Soul and its work defies all time & space.

Through 4 months in this circle of brilliant women, I learned that my own inner voice is more prolific than I’d given Her credit. I’m listening to Her with more trust. I learned how fully owning my body can be a profound expression of my divine worth.

I was brought back, again & again, to tangible proof of my own power, strength & wisdom.

The greater trust in my instincts also means enriched, more nourishing sessions with my clients. I feel it. They feel it.

This knowledge gave broader understanding to my explorations of self-care as a spiritual practice.

The deeper connection to my Self, the container of that relationship, holds me safe as I gently explore the possibilities of living in Love over fear. Maybe my fear isn’t a debilitating anxiety, but there are times through the day when I know I’ve made choices to avoid conflict, to please another in spite of my own needs, or to avoid leaving my comfort zone.

It’s all part of that conscious daily choice, and that occasional need to recommit, within any type of marriage.