How to Have a Wholly Healthy Holiday

 

It’s mid-December. Life just got a tad more hectic and will stay that way until the kids go back to school in January.

You kick yourself for not having honoured last year’s vow to be organized earlier. You harp on about the excessive consumerism and the social obligations – loud office parties and stilted conversations with people you only see once a year. There’s cooking and shopping and wrapping and planning. There’ll be food from your naughty list on offer everywhere you turn.

Your belly clenches in anticipation, even as you fear you won’t get it all done, so you run too fast, stay up too late, say yes to more events and volunteering than you know is good for you. You start to feel your life getting away from you; you’re scrambling to keep it all packaged in a manageable bundle. (Writing this, I picture my arms flying through the air, trying to gain control over some invisible chaos.)

How can you get it all done without burning yourself out? How can you actually enjoy the celebrations after all the work?

How can you maintain the spirit of the season without compromising your own spirit?

The hustle and bustle of Christmas tips so easily into stress & overwhelm when there’s no connection. If you’re anything like me, a certain amount of what you do at this time of year comes from outside expectations – your husband and kids’ needs, of course, but also what your sister-in-law or your mother expect of you, office obligations, and maybe a small dose of keeping-up-with-the-Jones’.

When you lose sight of the meaning behind the traditions in favour of trying to do it all, you end up losing sight of yourself in the process.

The other morning I headed out the door for an early appointment, into the soundless dark of that first deep snowfall. Because I’d taken on an extra contract recently, my time for all the Christmas necessities became suddenly limited and I felt that panic welling in me by the minute. My thoughts threatened to spin out of control as I walked to the bus. There was something about the peace of the day, however, that drew my attention more strongly.

It was one of those mornings when the carpet of snow muffles every sound. The only thing I heard was my breathe, so I settled into it and the way it shifted and vibrated with my steps. The sun was just coming up behind the clouds, sending the bare trees into dramatic relief against the lightening grey. No birds sang nor squirrels chattered – they were still huddled in their cozy nests. Even my usual morning petition to earth and trees for support through my day fell flat as I felt their own energy had settled deeply below the surface.

I heard a voice inside me say, “Enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the absolute peace.”

To use traditional Chinese terminology, this is a yin season – we’re approaching the most yin day of the year on the 21st – inward moving, cold, dark, moist, introspective and receiving. Your instinct is to follow that energy –the desire to curl up under a blanket with a book, have more nights in with your family, make pots of soup – that’s you putting yin into action.

Christmas is an affirmation of the return to more yang – outward, hot, light, expansive and giving. A natural celebration of those qualities we so love; they help us connect to the world around us, and traditionally offered survival as people share limited resources for food and heat through the winter. Yet, as we North Americans love to do everything to excess, the holidays are over the top, to the point of frenzy.

The stress of the year comes, in part, from the struggle between the two poles of energy clashing.

This year, in order to maintain your energy, your sanity and your joy through the season, balance those the seasonal extremes regularly.

Connect daily – hourly – with the yin energy of the natural season (of which you are an integral part) to offset the yang of the seasonal holiday.

Here’s how:

  1. Soups, stews and congees – food cooked with water or other liquid – nourish deeply with their easily assimilated nutrients and gentle warmth. Eat one or the other daily. Squash soup, with a hint of curry, apple and coconut is my favourite, like a warm blanket in a bowl. Bonus points for drinking/using bone broth.
  2. Foods that tonify yin include millet, barley, rice (eaten as whole grains, not in flour products); beans, especially black, kidney, mung or green; beets, black- & raspberry, seaweed. Easy on the red meat, sugar/refined carbs and alcohol; remember the gratitude for the bounty along with the indulgence – celebrate conscientiously.
  3. Turn inward daily with quiet practices such as meditation, yoga, journaling, put on a fire (or a candle) and get lost in its flames. Give yourself an opportunity to turn off for a few minutes every day. Trust that it will all get done; trust that what gets done is enough.
  4. Take a walk in the early morning or the evening. Let the quiet penetrate you, and notice your limbs soften as the frenzy drops away. Though the earth is frozen, you can still tap into its energy by consciously feeling your feet connect with the snow and pavement at every step – imagine red roots running into your soles, nourishing you with the distant warmth of the core.
  5. Balance the giving with a healthy dose of receiving. We’re good at the first – not so much the second. Practise receiving compliments, an offer of a cup of tea or help in the kitchen. At a recent party, several people commented on how good I looked – after the 2nd or 3rd time, I noticed my shoulders curled in and my chest collapsed even as I thanked them. Open your heart and let the love, the gift, the compliment in. As Dr. Northrup says, it gifts the other person with the joy of having their words and other offers of love accepted. (You can start right now – see below for my present to you.)

What gets you the most stressed out at this time of year? What practices help you stay balanced? When you share in the comments, you open the opportunities for others.

*****   *****   *****

My Christmas gift to you:

Over the last few years, I’ve found a word to be my touchstone, my intention and my guide for the year. Better than a resolution, it creates a container in which to take action with healthy practices, it creates a filter through which to set my priorities and make decisions, both personal and professional.

On the 21st, the darkest day of the year, I will be posting an audio guide for helping you connect with YOUR word for 2017. Solstice is the perfect time to explore your needs and priorities and set that intention, so that it can come into the light as we head to the new year.

Access will be exclusively for the community in the Whole Health Dinner Party space. Learn more and join here.

Now practise the joy of giving: Share this post with 2 of your friends using any (or all!) of the links below.

Choosing Toxicity

 

Powerful words hit home at just the right time.

Clearing through my desk drawers, I came across “Your Metabolic Journey”, a sublime excerpt from Marc David’s Slow Food. Like any truly wise piece, it strikes a different chord each time I read it.

Going through once again, I paused at this part: “If you invite toxicity into the body then you are asking it into your personal world.” True. Could apply to me. The full impact of how deeply these words were meant for me didn’t show up until a few days later.

A Bad Habit Revealed

I hate to admit this out loud, but I tend to be the shoemaker’s child when it comes to my eating habits. Using the turmoil of a big move as an excuse, that tendency took over and became the beast I’d worked so hard to tame. My food intake was less than exemplary, less than nourishing.

I was eating stuff that I clearly know is bad for me (because of asthma and gallstones and other issues that seem to be cropping up like weeds as I age). I am a much happier girl if I stay away from gluten, dairy, sugar, dark chocolate (I know!), greasy food and alcohol. Yet, I was eating bread and pasta and baked goods constantly. I was adding cheese and creamy sauces to everything.

A Nagging Belief

As part of my inner journey, I recently came face-to-face with a belief I held around punishment necessarily following reward. Call it the Upper Limits Problem (à la Gay & Kathleen Hendricks), or a fear that something bad must follow the good, a loss after a win. I started living in dread that some mysterious shoe would drop because of many positive changes in my life, to the point that I was lying awake, imagining the possibilities in all sorts of permutations from identity theft to brain tumours to multiple forms of destitution.

I’m always on the lookout for when and how certain conditions start in body and mind, so I wracked my brain for the story or memory that would have set that belief in motion. Yet, it didn’t seem to resonate with any of the childhood stuff I’ve rehashed for other juicy info.

How Habits Create Beliefs

A few days later, I woke up to the fact that I was nursing a glass of port while nibbling a bowl of chips into which I’d dumped a pack of Reese’s Pieces.

This wasn’t a party or a special occasion or a rare occurrence. I was having them, the worst foods for my digestive and adrenal health – for the 3rd day in a row – as I supervised homework and got supper started. To be perfectly honest, I’d been eating chips and drinking alcohol more regularly than is good for me these past months, along with my other transgressions.

You see, I’d had a good day, was feeling carefree and I figured, “Why not?” knowing full well I’d likely be suffering in the days to come. This is a pattern with me. Nothing new.

And that’s when Marc David’s words hit me full force. The belief in punishment is not a result of some trauma that happened when I was 3. It’s the result of a current habit I’d let slip into daily routine.

How crazy is that? I’ve been punishing my body as a means of celebration.

How to Turn Awareness into Action

The lesson I’d received went one step deeper the next day when I, yet again, chose a glass of port over herbal tea for my mid-afternoon treat… because it was there.

It seems that becoming aware of the pattern wasn’t enough to get me to stop. It took a much harsher reality to snap me out of it completely.

The 8-year-old daughter of a dear friend has a usually benign condition that, in her case, causes intestinal bleeding. It’s been stable for several years, but has recently come back with a vengeance. The day after my big Aha, she was in surgery for the 2nd time in as many weeks, as 5 doctors performed innovative techniques to stop it once and for all.

This girl was fighting for her life, yet I continued to take my own digestive & healing capacity for granted by clogging them up with the very elements that cause me the most harm.

My good intentions took on a whole other meaning when they weren’t just about me. I needed a cause greater than myself – a Why – to jump-start the humility it took to step fully into the shift.

I’d been praying and sending healing light to my friend, her family, the doctors. It was time I put my prayers into action. …Maybe create a new belief in the process.

The only way I can build trust in the Universe’s inherent goodness, to trust the powers at be to keep me safe when things go well, is to build trust in myself to do the same.

Regardless of how magical the intention behind your thoughts and words, there comes a time when you need to set the wheels in motion with concrete action. If I want to free myself from unnecessary punishment, I need to stop punishing myself unnecessarily.

If I want to enjoy vibrant health, I need to stop the practices which dull that vibration.

A Belief is a Choice

Another thought lands as these realizations swirl through me, mind, body and soul: holding onto a belief or a habit is a choice.

And so I choose to detoxify. Not a full-on diet change, I simply reduce the ways in which I “invite toxicity” into my body.

I choose instead to “invite the sacred into [my] personal world, [so I] will find it inhabiting [my] metabolic world.” (Marc David)

I choose reward over punishment, health over setbacks.

I choose to feed my body, my thoughts, my beliefs according to the person I want to be.

I choose to show myself the Love I want to radiate to the world.

And you know what? Like magic, there’s been no question or struggle about nourishing vs harmful foods ever since.

What about you? Which of your habits perpetuate beliefs you’d rather clear? What awareness have you recently had which now needs action to alter your metabolism and your life?

When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Radiate love and light in your world: share this post with friends using any (or all!) of the buttons here:

How Your Emotions Change How You Eat

 

In the last post, I wrote about a simple approach to making your meals healthier. Simple. That word is so deceiving. It means “easily understood”; it does not always mean easy to carry out. A simple decision might be easy, such as “I’ll drink a glass of water as soon as I get up.” Deciding to give up sugar or choose whole foods over processed is simple, however, if it were easy, people would just buy different groceries and I’d be out of work.

I’ll go a step further and say that “simple” holds a certain amount of wisdom and potential for growth behind it. Giving your kid a new limit, like no TV on Tuesdays, is simple, though requires you to stretch some of your parenting muscles, and him to exercise his creativity. Letting him watch because you’re tired today is easy, but may not be the best thing for him…or you…in the long run.

When you first introduce the idea, there will be resistance (aka a temper tantrum or two) until the new routine becomes habit. He’ll bend over backwards to negotiate a trade (“I’ll stay off on Wednesday”) or to convince you that letting him watch TV “just this one Tuesday” will be ok. While it’s important to hold space for those possibilities to come up, it’s best to stand your ground. You know from experience that if you hold firm for 10 minutes, he’ll back off and end up having a blast rediscovering the Playmobil he hasn’t touched in months.

Similar scenarios will play out in your head after you give up, say, sugar or dairy. You’ll have inner (or outer!) tantrums about how it’s unfair that you can’t have ice cream when all your friends are eating it. You’ll negotiate extra kale or a longer workout tomorrow, or promise yourself this will be the last bowl of ice cream you’ll ever eat in your entire life.

Like a good parent, you need to give those outbursts room to release. Maybe not by kicking and screaming in the middle of a restaurant, but in your journal, talking to a friend, or by dancing it off in your living room.

Once the storm has passed, this is the opportunity to explore neglected nuggets that might have gone unnoticed for months or even years. I’m talking about emotions and memories that get stuffed under that need for ice cream.

“I’m afraid I’ll never enjoy my food again.”

“I don’t want to burden my friends with my health issues.”

“I’m sad that I can’t eat what I want.”

“I feel like I’m being punished…like my body’s betrayed me…like it’s all downhill from here…”

Ah, now here are the forgotten toys – the parts of you that you shove to the back of your emotional drawer.

In my yoga class last week, we focused on hip openers. The teacher prefaced the class by reminding us how, as part of the second chakra, home of how we connect and relate to the world around us, the hips are the drawers where we dump all the emotional stuff we don’t want to deal with. Like the trinkets and old clothes that clog up your dresser, stuffed emotions block the internal feng shui of your body – unexpressed emotions clog up the flow of energy and movement in your life. No wonder we women end up with tight or arthritic hips!

Your intestines, as well as your uterus and ovaries, also sit in that same area of the body. What does that say about the women who show up in my office? Women with IBS, constipation, bloating & gas, menstrual pain, fibroids, infertility. Seems the hips aren’t the only place that collect our emotional junk for storage.

Beyond the brain-gut connection, this bit of energetic anatomy clarifies how emotions and food are so tightly linked. Incidentally, the stomach, liver and pancreas lie in the 3rd chakra – the seat of your will and anger – another potential hotbed of emotional turmoil mixed in with your eating habits.

Just as cleaning out the dresser breathes new life into your wardrobe and your home, giving those old emotions space to move up and out opens up your body and life to similar movement.

Perhaps April is a synchronous time for me to be preparing to put my house up for sale. The urge to spring clean has helped motivate my efforts. As I declutter and clean and sort and donate, I have the time to get curious about the emotions that surface: about leaving this place, leaving this city and everyone I know. There are days when I have to stop the work and just be with the sadness, the fear and anxiety. There are days when I plow through another closet. And some when I avoid it all by eating every sweet and starchy thing I can find in the pantry.

There’s another good word: avoid. A-void, void-less. In stuffing my face with cheese bagels and apple pie, am I trying to re-clog the space I’ve so diligently created?

I’ve done a lot of writing, a lot of crying, talking, singing, dancing, and I’ve supported myself through the pain with flower essences and body work. Perhaps it’s time instead for me to sit in that open space and allow possibility to unfold. Here goes… feels like I’m bored in my room with no TV…until I start to notice the “toys” around me.

The void morphs into a sacred space, where waits my love of adventure, my excitement about setting up a new house (I already catch myself playing mental doll’s house with some of the places I’ve seen online.), a clean slate for my work and a whole city full of friends and clients I have yet to know.

Without really trying, my urge for sweets has subsided and I’m ready to nourish the new life I’m about to create.

This type of work isn’t easy…you may have to face some harsh realities about yourself, or wade through some pretty nasty sludge. It starts with the simple act of giving the shadows in the corner room to breathe. It starts with the simple gesture of being gentle with yourself no matter what surfaces.

It starts with listening to your body.

What have you discovered about yourself as you make a food shift, or other life transition? Or where do you get stuck every time you try? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

A Healthy Expression of You

 

I’m so glad I embraced that new tradition of coming up with a Word of the Year. It has so much more staying power and room for possibility, rather than resolutions for things you’ll jump into whole-heartedly for 3 weeks, then let fizzle out and gather dust with those last few Christmas ornaments you keep forgetting to pack away.

For 2015, I chose Trust. It held a place of honour on my first-ever vision board (unless you count my adolescent bedroom wall). It underlay the decisions I made in work and life. It peppered my parenting. Trust allowed me to take a step back from the worried, need-to-control-every-outcome-in-my-life thoughts that spin around my head at 3 am.

A year based on Trust opened the space for more possibility and best of all, those possibilities showed up!

  • As deep connections with new colleagues and clients;
  • As more clients (aka more income);
  • As fewer stress-based knee-jerk reactions when the shit hit the fan;
  • As fewer inner battles around eating “good” food and steering clear of the stuff that does me harm;
  • As professionals trusting me to be the person they needed to flesh out their projects – a reflection of my own trust in having the ability to step up and be that person;
  • As fewer arguments, more ease and fun, with my sons;
  • As a more honest look at who I am and what I want/need.

As magical as the power of commitment to a word is, there’s magic in the discovery of the word in the first place.

How to Choose a Word

There are plenty of business and life coaches around with tools to help you find your word for the coming year. Some of them are based on core feelings, some on core values…or a combination of the two. (If you want a specific reference, let me know and I’ll send you some links.)

In the end, it comes down to being aware of what you say, what you write, which topics draw you in as you read – notice the words and themes that come up often. It’s the way that your soul gently invites you to explore what’s most important for your growth and healing over the next 4 seasons.

This is how it’s transpired for me in the last few weeks:

I’ve given a lot of attention to stepping away from letting the list of shoulds dictate my day, and moving towards decisive action.

Small moments of dishonesty – “white” lies, omissions, denial – mostly to myself – have been coming out of the shadows and tapping me on the shoulder for appraisal.

I noticed ways in which I held myself back from saying what I fully needed to say to a client, in a supervision group, to my child, to my husband. …Or let it out in a passive aggressive way.

I noticed ways in which I shied away from giving all I could have in a situation – food for a pot-luck, donations, gifts.

During an energetic medicine session, my throat became tight at the same time as the practitioner started coughing.

In part it was all about doing over not doing, saying over holding back. But as I sat with it, really let it all sink in as I journaled about it, the word came out loud and clear.

Expression

Perhaps it could be seen as an extension of the trust I built last year. Where trust required a bit more surrender, expression requires a verb. It’s the movement, the action, the saying of the words that come up when I trust myself. Expression is a fully honest manifestation of me – poured forth into a safe container held by people I trust to receive it.

I have a feeling it’ll prove to be the “master class” for what I learned about over the past year. As I prepare to commit to its development through 2016, I recognize it will also come with a more expanded sense of responsibility, as who I am is more openly expressed.

Regardless, I’m already excited about the magic it will create in my health, my relationships and my life.

What do you need more of in 2016? Would finding a theme word help you achieve it? Let’s find out: write your word here and open the possibilities for yourself!

Want accountability and moral support as you explore? Tell two friends (by using the share buttons below) and get them to join you.

Forget Resolutions! Do This Instead.

Yes, I’m jumping on the non-resolution bandwagon. Let me tell you why and what I’m doing instead to inspire and focus my intentions for the New Year.

It all comes down to the word: Resolution.

When I hear that word, it makes me think of solving a problem. It insinuates that there’s something wrong with me that I need to fix. Sure, I might do well to alter my eating habits or step up my exercise routine or line my financial ducks a little straighter, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve done anything wrong.

If you’re anything like me, you end up making variations of the same resolution year in and year out. You start the year feeling like Sisyphus as you re-solve the problem of getting that boulder up the hill.

The sensation that arises when I think about resolving to do something, is forced, like it’s coming from the shoulds. From outside of me. I feel like I’m smacking my fist into my palm saying, “By gum, I’m gonna do it if it kills me!” Or like a kid who finally gives in to what his mom’s been harassing him to do for hours: “Ok, fine!”

I prefer the word Commitment.

Commitment feels like a choice. It’s a decision to say Yes. It comes from the dreams. When the handsome prince asks for your hand, you have a choice.

Now, commitment doesn’t guarantee happily ever after. Nor does it require perfection. As I said in a post last year, commitment is the glue that holds you to your decision.commitment glue

Commitment says, “things may not have worked out as I planned today, but I’ll be here tomorrow to try again.”

Commitment holds forgiveness.

Where a resolution tries to rectify the past, commitment looks forward to the possibility of the future.

So, what am I committing to in 2015?

I’m committed to giving back: People, organizations, the Universe have brought me so much this past year – this past decade, really – it’s high time I return in kind more consistently. It may be a favour or a pay-it-forward consultation. It may be a donation – this year 25% of the Whole Health profits will go to organizations that sustain the earth, education and women in need.

I’m committed to Trust: my Word of the Year. I’ve discovered that for me, the opposite of fear isn’t love as many proclaim. It’s trust. Trusting myself as much as trusting others. Trusting Life.

I’m committed to working with a financial coach to ensure all my eggs are sorted into the best baskets. Sure, my papers are organized and I can do my own taxes, but sometimes we need an objective eye – one with more experience and expertise – to improve on a good thing.

Over to you. Did you make a resolution? Choose a word? What do you want to commit to in 2015? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Click on any (or all!) of these buttons to encourage your friends to commit to themselves this year too!

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