Contemplate This!

Meditation was something for yogis and the crunchiest of granolas.

You know, something for people without their feet planted firmly on the ground. It was something they did to take them out of life – to become “detached” from all that was around them.

Or so I thought.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Just as yoga had quickly shattered my notion that it was simply about stretching the muscles, meditation has revealed how a spiritual practice effects the physical. Meditation grounds me so fully into myself and into my life that there are days when I can’t function (on a solidly practical level) without it.

Sitting in stillness quiets the inner voices calling out all the shoulds to my day.

It removes the worry about what others will think and gives me the freedom to just be who I am – one of the things that can suck my energy dry if I let it.

Along with yoga, meditation has become the logical antidote to our overly stimulating lifestyles, to the stress levels at the root cause of just about every ailment we currently know.

I love how mindfulness and breathing have trickled into the mainstream world of business, sports, medicine, law – everyone’s getting in on it.

It makes us more relaxed, more productive. Seems so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? That taking time out of you jam-packed day to sit quietly would improve how you work. But it does.

Since starting my morning practice about a year ago, my ability to focus and stay on task has sky-rocketed. It’s effect is abundantly clear on the days when I don’t sit for those vital 10 minutes and I find myself back in some form of working-mom-ADD.

No lotus position required.

That’s the thing: It doesn’t take a huge investment in time. It doesn’t take any special equipment or cost a dime (unless you want to train more deeply).

Simply sit in a comfortable position – legs crossed or feet on the floor – so that your sitting bones are settled evenly on the cushion/chair/floor and your spine is straight.

Then breathe.

You can get apps to help with specific techniques, such as at where they have intro videos and a free trial period. (No, I’m not an affiliate.)

The simplest is to stay focused on the in & out of your breath, and label any thoughts as such and let them float away as a cloud.

That analogy always seemed rather airy-fairy and elusive to me until I heard the folks at a headspace explain it like this:

The blue sky is there all the time, yet on grey days we focus on the clouds, letting them get us down or change the focus of our day. But, get in an airplane and there it is: perfectly blue sky.

Who you are, the essence of you, the seat of your gifts is like that blue sky: there all the time. Again, we focus on the clouds; our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, criticisms, bad news, etc. as the source of our self-definition. Like the clouds, these things are nothing more than what’s most readily visible in a given moment.

In the 10-15 minutes that I sit, I revel in the concrete sensation of being fully in touch with my essence. I’m reminded that it’s accessible all the time by simply parting the clouds.

Spending that time with that internal truth is just as valuable as spending 20 minutes playing with your child or chatting with your sweetie. It strengthens the relationship.

Acknowledge it or not, housewife or CEO, holistic practitioner or plumber, that deeper connection to self

  • Builds trust and improves the communication channels, giving you better access to your values, and priorities.
  • Helps you get clear about your needs
  • Eases the struggle with lifestyle choices…and business choices
  • Deepens the connection to Source and engages the Universe to move with you and for you, in whatever you undertake.
  • Improves your health and vitality. Unplugging from the constant buzz of the outside world gives your adrenals a break, which means better sleep, concentration, creativity. More libido and less belly fat. (Read more about those interactions here.)

When I was preparing the “recipe card” for vibrant health that I now hand around as a business card, the first “ingredient” was a no-brainer.

Warm your heart with daily contemplation until it holds the steady glow of a pilot light.

That’s the source of your inner glow, the heat that sparks any action you take, the flame of the gifts and integrity you spread to your loves ones, your community, to the world.

So I dare you, have a seat and breathe.

Try it for a few days then come and tell me what you’ve noticed. Or what’s changed for you in a big way if you’ve already got a practice going. When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Get your friends in on it too! Use any (or all!) of these social share buttons to dare them.


Navigating the Perils of Perimenopause

Perimenopause is a process, not a disease.

Let me say that again: Perimenopause is a natural process, a stage in the journey of a woman’s life. It is NOT a disease state that requires medical intervention.

Like puberty.
Like pregnancy.
Like labour & delivery.

In my practice, it shows up as

  • the 40-year-old who can’t get pregnant;
  • the woman who’s tried everything to lose the 20 lbs that showed up overnight and refuse to leave;
  • the woman who can’t sleep at night, yet can hardly keep her eyes open all day;
  • the confidant woman paralysed with anxiety;
  • the woman who wants a new job and can’t stand the site of her husband…let alone have sex with him;
  • the woman who walks into a room and…wait a sec, what was I saying?

She’s anywhere between 35 and 50, yet she feels like you may as well just buy her a flowered hat and sign her up for shuffleboard.

“Nobody talks about this,” my girlfriend complained the other day. And yet, we’re all (not so) silently suffering through its effects.

Is this all you have to look forward to?

Not at all.

Perimenopause is a transition. Depending on your attitude and willingness to work with the waves, it can be navigated smoothly, albeit not always gracefully.

As a holistic nutrition student, I learned that menopause is “simply” puberty in reverse.


  1. Ovaries produce estrogen (boobs, pubic hair, curves + uterus develops + bleeding starts)
  2. Progesterone kicks in (ovulation + body ready to maintain a pregnancy)

Perimenopause (= around menopause):

  1. Progesterone production declines (ovulation stops)
  2. Estrogen dwindles (stop bleeding = menopause after 1 year without a period)

But we aren’t simple creatures, as the men in our lives like to remind us: we’re complicated. (I prefer the word complex.)

First of all, puberty got rolling a good 3 years before you actually got your period and continued to fine-tune for a few years after. (Remember all those years of feeling more like a moody alien than a normal teenager?) The transition out of child-bearing mode takes its time as well, with just as many mood swings. About 10 years, and you might even start feeling the symptoms of hormonal shifts in your 30s.

The complexity comes from the fact that these processes involve much more than just your 2 female hormones.

All the glands of the endocrine system work in concert. (Skip the green box if you’re already familiar with this system.)

Endocrine System

The Endocrine System – Click on the image for easier reading

If other aspects of your endocrine system’s out of whack, your sex hormones won’t be able to do their job properly. (Which impacts periods & pregnancy as well as perimenopause.)

When your sex hormone production begins to wane in your 40s, the other hormones change their tune to create a new harmony. Generally, that interplay happens most dramatically with the thyroid and adrenals. If those two musicians aren’t feeling their best: the perils of perimenopause.

The key players in this crazy dance:

Cortisol (from the adrenals) gets into action to keep you safe and able to cope during occasional times of strife. It keeps you alert to potential danger and ready to make a hasty retreat if necessary.

Unfortunately, we’ve set up our lifestyles in such a way as to keep that state of emergency going constantly. (To read more about this concept, click here.)

When stress gets the best of you, or you can’t get out of bed in the morning, that’s cortisol out of whack.

On the other hand, you know that elated mood you’re in about a week after your period, like someone lifted a veil? You know the peaceful, blissful state, like you’ve never looked or felt better than in your 2nd trimester of pregnancy? That’s progesterone at work.

Progesterone calms the brain as part of its job to keep you zen & happy while pregnant.

Given the way that cortisol can dominate progesterone (see #3 in the green box), it’s not hard to see why so many women of this age suffer from anxiety.

Estrogen is like the Enjoli of the body. You remember the ad?

“I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let you forget you’re a man, ‘cause I’m a wo-o-oman.”

Ah yes, the epitome of the 70s women’s movement – elbowing in to take our place in the boardroom without giving up power in the bedroom, all while keeping up the housework.

The main peril of this life stage is estrogen dominance, the state in which estrogen is too high relative to progesterone.

It happens because of progesterone decline, progesterone resistance (see the green box), or because diet & lifestyle increase your exposure to xeno-estrogens & estrogen mimics from chemicals.

In terms of attitudes and ideals, it’s easy to see how this state has energetically become so prominent these days. Modern women focus most of the our energies into being sexy, successful, multi-tasking CEOs and push aside the instinct to make babies until much later, if at all.

Part of estrogen’s job is to enhance our female wiles to snag a mate, then give us the wherewithal to raise/maintain/hold together a family. One part of this particular super-power means that estrogen (along with her sister progesterone) makes us more, umm, let’s call it open to compromise.

I heard it best described in a conversation between Marc David and Dr. Sara Gottfried (during the Psychology of Eating Conference in July). One of them said something like, we spend childhood just being ourselves, go through the 1st change to become accommodating for about 35 years and then go through the 2nd change to be our (true) selves again.

Estrogen dominance also disrupts thyroid function (through iodine displacement as described in the green box).

Thyroxin modulates metabolism, that is, your energy levels and your ability to lose weight. The thyroid gland sits in your throat, the middle of the 5th chakra, the emotional centre of expression and judgment. Your Voice.

It’s interesting to note that the hormone, which defines the first half of womanhood, also keeps the ability to speak your truth in check.

One thing for sure, once you get to the end of the fertile leg of the journey, once the estrogen levels off to a minimum, you no longer give a shit what others think. I see women in perimenopause all around me compelled to say what they have to say, do what they have to do, wear what they want to wear. It’s no wonder job and husband dissatisfaction are high on the perimenopausal complaint list.

(This by no means insinuates you have to change them – unless you do – but it means you need to reassess priorities and relationships. You may need to learn a few new dance steps with your sweetie, your colleagues, even your girlfriends.)

I could go on about all of this. In fact, as I wrote this, I realized that I could develop each sentence into a paragraph, each paragraph into a chapter…hmm, now there’s an idea… For now, I’ll keep it “simple”.

Is there a “simple” way to address the complexity?

You bet: reduce estrogen dominance.


1. Reduce exposure to xeno-estrogens.

Opt for household cleaners with natural ingredients (never anything chlorine based).
Pull out your grandmother’s old cleaning tricks.

2. Clear out/displace the excess.

Eat 7-10 servings of vegetables each day. Vary the types and colours; always include leafy greens, sea vegetables and (cooked) cruciferous.
Eat legumes (pulses) at least 3 times a week.
Eat good quality protein and fats (building blocks for all your hormones) at each meal.

Make it simple: vegetarian chili with sliced avocado

3. Reduce mental-emotional stress

Hang out with your girlfriends
Hang out in Nature (sunshine!).
Move in a way that you love, be it Zumba or running, surfing or dancing,…

Even simpler: Take a walk in the park with your BFF.

(For more detailed information about reducing estrogen dominance, click here.)

As I said, this is really just the tip of the iceberg, but let’s get this conversation happening. I’d love to hear about your experiences. Let’s support each other through this transition, to land softly grounded on the other side.

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

Get your friends in on the conversation with the social media buttons too!


Strengthen your Immune System from the Inside

Spiritual ImmunityIt’s that time of year in the northern hemisphere: the beginning of flu season. It had been my intention to share nutritional ways to support your organism from whichever viruses are floating around this year.

Instead, I wonder, have you ever taken the time to consider the holistic significance of your immune system and how it works to keep you healthy?

The Immune System (Re)-Defined

The immune system (IS) is your body’s defense against disease; no news here. But did you know it’s in fact one part of the complex messaging system in your body that includes your mind and emotions? The field of psychoneuroimmunology has broken open the mysteries of how hormones, neurotransmitters and the various immune responses work constantly to keep you healthy on a minute-to-minute basis.

On its own, the basic function of the IS is to differentiate between self & non-self.

Let’s take a step back and look at that role metaphorically.

Differentiating self from non-self: what’s yours and what’s not. From a psychological viewpoint, that’s called boundaries.

A healthy immune system is all about having healthy boundaries. Immunity is about not letting something in, or not letting it affect you. Like that saying, “I am immune to his charms,” meaning the guy has no sway with you.

Again, from a physiological POV, the 1st line of defense is the skin and mucous membranes: the actual physical barrier that protects you from your environment. The skin also delineates the human form, it literally defines your (physical) edges.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m out of sorts emotionally, I feel as if “I don’t know where my edges are”. I trip or bump into things, and I have a hard time making decisions that are right for me. At times like this, I’ve been taken advantage of, or I let someone else’s priorities rule my mind.

Let me draw you a picture:

You work long hours and barely have time for your family, let alone yourself, because you’re afraid there won’t be enough money to pay the bills. You say yes when the boss asks you to work over the weekend because it’s nearly salary review time; you have to say no to your daughter’s big soccer game.

Or, how about this one:

Your pre-teen really wants to go to a party weekend that you feel is wrong for his age. You tell him no, out of a desire to maintain his best interests and your values. He rants & screams all sorts of threats and insults, bangs his door. Do you maintain your decision. Or, do you worry that his frantic behaviour is an indication that he’ll act in some rash way, so you give in.

Here’s another:

You need time to yourself this weekend, to recharge your personal batteries. You look forward to puttering in the garden and curling up with a good bodice-ripper. But your sweetie is counting on you to go to the family gathering at his mother’s cottage. You go out of obligation, or stand your ground and feel guilty all weekend.

These types of scenarios send messages to your mind & body that your values, needs and priorities are secondary to everyone else around you. Keep this up, and eventually lose sight of what’s yours and what’s not.

Physically, that’s what your IS does. It lets in and/or defends against organisms seeking access to, and energy from, your body. Because of its strong ties to your thoughts and emotions, its actions can happen as a response to love or of fear.

Now, let’s go a bit deeper. OK, a lot deeper.

The Self.

When I talk about the (capital S) Self, I’m referring to your Higher Self, your Spirit. The part that connects you to the Cosmic Whole, that carries the blueprint for who You are.

As a messenger within your organism, the IS is a part of the Soul’s guidance system. Your soul is kind of like the GPS that helps you navigate your Spirit’s map. The Soul leads your body, heart and mind towards the greatest expression of your Self.

On an energetic level, the IS helps you grow into that full expression, by acting as a messenger that determines what is true to You and what isn’t.

When you prevent that growth, by suppressing immune responses (such as acute fever & inflammation), the IS cannot convey its messages effectively. The message needs to get louder to be heard.

The results of a faulty immune system manifest as susceptibility to infections (viral, bacterial or fungal) on the one hand, and allergies on the other. (The extremes of those opposites play out as cancer and auto-immune disorders.)

The diminished IS comes from a lack of self-care (read: Self-Love). The hypersensitive responses are an over-reaction born from Fear.

To break boundaries into their simplest form, it’s all about saying Yes or No. Looked at another way, boundaries are formed/maintained/breached depending on whether we act out of Love or out of Fear. (As with the examples above.)

When we eat chicken soup for our illnesses, how much of the immune-boosting of the soup comes from the Love of the mother or grandmother who made it?

Several studies at Linda Loma University in California document the direct impact of sugar on the IS. (Google it for details.) Large amounts of sugar – an addiction used to replace any lack of sweetness or love in our lives – brings with it a false sense of well-being that simply over-excites you, then leaves you drained and wanting more.

Kind of like a bad boyfriend.

Physiologically, the adrenals feel the brunt of that impact.

The adrenals play a key role in our response to stress (they’re the source of adrenaline & cortisol). Did you know they’re also responsible for modulating inflammation – one of the non-specific immune responses? If they’re not happy, then neither is your ability to respond to invaders.

The adrenals are a part of the 3rd Chakra, the Will. This emotional energy centre oversees your ability to take your place, to stand your ground. It’s the home of your sense of Self. It’s depleted by fear and enhanced by self-love.

Poor adrenal health is something I deal with almost constantly in my practice. As women we live our lives from our should’s, from the needs of others and out of fear of losing them. No matter what type of issue she comes to me with, there’s often a piece that leads right back to a woman’s 3rd chakra and her adrenals.

As you prepare for the winter, check in on how solid you’re feeling on a mental-emotional level.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I live my life according to what’s true for me?
  2. Do I honour my own values?
  3. Am I able to say No when something’s not right for me? Do I say Yes when something is?
  4. Do I have a good support system? In 2 of her books, Dr. Christiane Northrup points out that simply having the perception of strong emotional support enhances a woman’s immune response.

One last reminder: A healthy body and immune system does not necessarily mean that you’ll never get sick – it means that if you do, you’re equipped to deal with it.

What will you do to improve your sense of Self before hunkering down for the winter? Share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comments below – you might provide inspiration and support to someone else!

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I wish you a winter filled with rosy cheeks and laughter!


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