Gwen's Story... Don't Let it be Yours

While she got the necessary tubes together for my blood draw, we chatted easily. I have routine blood tests done every 4 – 6 months, and over the last 2 years Gwen and I had become fond of each other. She was complaining again about body pain and her digestion acting up, and how the stress of working at the lab was becoming almost too much to handle.

Gwen is about 45, divorced, is overweight and due to childhood and young adult experiences, doesn’t really believe she deserves good things to happen to her.

This sounded very familiar to me. During my life, I’ve met several people very much like Gwen. Our families aren’t always what we would have wished for, events in our lives leave a stamp that for many of us are difficult to erase or get past.

Gwen has a lovely face and a sweet smile. She has a sense of humor; life necessitated she develop one. I like her very much.

Leap of Faith

I decided to take a leap of faith that she was telling me about her situation as a subtle request for help. She knew I had consulted with several prominent integrative doctors, and was curious about what I had learned since some of the blood tests I request are uncommon and had to be looked up.

I told her to please try to eliminate sugar and as many carby foods from her diet as possible for just 2 weeks. I asked what vegetables she liked, and she laughed knowing I was going to disapprove of her answer.. “Lettuce?” she offered.

“And…?” I wasn’t going to be put off by her attempt at diverting me with humor.

“Well, I don’t know.. carrots?”

“Are you serious?” I teased, “First of all you’re like, asking me.. instead of telling me, so I don’t think you know what a vegetable looks like!”

Gwen laughed again,”Well they don’t all taste great.”

“Some phlebotomist!” I teased.

A Serious Chat

When she was done drawing my blood, I spoke to her about the dangers of chronic inflammation and told her that I would come back in a couple of days with an antioxidant scanner I borrow from a doctor-friend to test her. I also said that if she wanted me to try to help her get better, I would need a promise that she would follow what I suggest… else I’d be sending her out to look for a stick.

She smiled at me with an intense expression in her eyes. The expression told me that no one had cared enough to offer to help her before, and that she was scared about what may be going on with her health.

“Ok. so here’s the deal. I will try to come here after work two days a week, and we’ll go for a 20 minute walk on your break. Can you do that?”

She said it would depend on how many patients they had and how many other staff were around, to call first.

Two days later, I showed up with the scanner. Two of Gwen’s colleagues, whom I also knew, wanted to get scanned as well. Their results were borderline, they could be eating healthier.

Needless to say, Gwen’s results were very bad. Her immune system was overtaxed and weak.

“Did I flunk?” she asked jokingly.

I felt compelled to be straight with her. “Your score is not ok, but we knew it wasn’t going to be. You’ve got to start eating well, and I think you may want to take heavy duty antioxidants to help your body fight whatever is going on. I’m not joking, Gwen, you are very vulnerable, and the aches and pain you feel all day long are telling you things have to change.”

She looked at me quietly and nodded.

“So when people bring donuts and bagels here, you need to have food you bring from home so you’re not tempted. We’re going to consider food like that to be poison.”

“What would I bring?” she asked me with a blank look.

“Berries, a hard boiled egg, a gluten-free slice of healthy bread with hummus or a salad. Go to my website and browse around. Choose things to make only from there until I can give you some cooking lessons… and let’s see what happens in a couple of weeks.

“Can you afford to buy this antioxidant-mineral supplement for a couple of months?” I showed her the one I recommended. The cost was around $70/month, and she said she couldn’t swing it. I told her to buy three of the critical anti-inflammatory supplements.. for around $35.

The Next Few Weeks

We never did walk, because either my work or hers got in the way. But she told me she was taking occasional walks with a neighbor friend. I dropped by once for fun, and someone had bought donuts! She immediately shouted, “Not me! I didn’t touch them!”

I texted her a couple of times during the next few weeks to see how things were going. She wasn’t very forthcoming with details… but I didn’t want to push her.

I knew that for Gwen, eating was part of her emotional world. I went through that after my sister, and then my brother-in-law passed barely 24 months apart. I gained almost 20 lbs that I wasn’t able to shed until I had to change my lifestyle for my own health reasons.

Food and Emotions

It's not news to anyone that when we feel lonely, and unloved or unlovable, food is a source of solace. And not just any food, but foods that give us the necessary blood sugar high. So we gravitate to baked goods, cookies and sweets or rich foods.

And after we’ve indulged we either feel bad, or act like it’s not a big deal, but in reality knowing that it is.

I used to think to myself, “Well, I’m already 20 lbs too heavy, half a pound more isn’t going to make a difference.” But half a pound more every week or two did make a difference.

chubby me

I had low back pain, I hated that when I sat down I had two rolls of fat around my waist. When I was dating, I would wear tops that hid my mid-section… and yet, I couldn’t control what I figured could be the problem.

Funny thing is that I was aware of proper nutrition and healthy foods. I am a chef after all, and fed my children well-rounded meals and very little junk. So I hardly ever ate fried or creamy foods, or too many sweets.. but bread, cheese and rice were part of every day’s fare. And even though accompanied by many vegetables and salads, they have their effect.

So I lulled myself into believing I was eating right, and it was due to me being in my mid-forties that I couldn’t lose weight. I didn’t exercise, except for dancing now and then, and doing Pilates occasionally.

Gwen had larger emotional scars than mine, so I cut her some slack, but I knew she had to do something soon before her body gave in to whatever was brewing.

Fate Steps In

When I returned for another set of blood tests 6 months later, Valerie greeted me. “Where’s Gwen?” I asked.

“Don’t you know? She’s been out for a week.” she replied.

“No, I didn’t know! What’s up?”

“Oh, my goodness, I thought she would have called you. She fainted while on a walk, and then she had hemorrhaging so they’re doing tests.”

“You’re kidding! Gosh I sure hope she’s ok… thank you for telling me. I’ll call her this afternoon for sure.”

Valerie walked me to the cubby where she was going to draw my blood, “I wish you would. She’s not doing well.”

I felt like I let Gwen down. I had tried, but when you feel someone just can’t go it alone, and the only way they can make a drastic change is to have you there to coach and cheer them on every day, it’s hard to know what to do.

At one point, I was going to offer her our garage conversion to come live in, at least for a few months while she taught herself a new way of thinking, eating and living. But there was no way she was going to leave her home, and I never brought it up. I guess I just hoped she could find the resolve to start making a change.

When she told me about some of the devastating experiences she had as a teenager and young adult, I said that I had been sent into her life for a reason then, because with the right perspective she could let go of all that pain and realize she is not the person she was then, and if it were not for this thing we call ‘memory’, she would be a shooting star!

She hugged me.

Face the Truth and Make a Change

We are all a little like Gwen in some way. We all talk ourselves into accepting situations, or habits that span years as ‘normal’, and harmless. I mean, if you’ve been eating badly for 12 years and other than the weight gain, or occasional aches and pains, or headaches, or skin conditions, you’re ok.. well, what’s the problem?

We keep on trucking in the same groove until one day, like Gwen, like me, BANG! Something unexpected suddenly happens.. a lump, a fainting spell, chest pain, an abnormal blood test.

You know what many of us think in that first moment of realization? … ‘Wait, that can’t be happening to me!’

And the second thought…? ’If only I had paid more attention to blahdeeblah.’

Gwen knew things were bad. Gwen knew her body was breaking down.   Why couldn’t she, why can’t we, stop ourselves from being stuck in same pattern? Why is it necessary for so many to hit the wall before embracing behavior that is good for health and well-being?

I’ve always been curious about that psychological barrier we all struggle with.

When I called Gwen, do you know what the first thing she said to me was?

“I messed up. I didn’t listen to you.”

I hated hearing those words. I told her, “Yes, you did, you stubborn monkey. And I wish I could turn the clock back.”

Gwen was waiting to hear back on a number of tests. She was weak, and in bed most of the day. I asked her to start eating certain foods, and to send her daughter out to get the 3 supplements we talked about. She promised to do so.

I said, “Think positive and watch happy uplifting videos while you’re laying around. And no matter what the results are, remember there are numerous options for treatment out there, and I would be happy to refer you to the right person once we know what’s up.

I will be calling her again this weekend. She didn’t call to tell me about the test results 3 weeks ago, so not sure there is a diagnosis yet.

Don’t be another Gwen. Only YOU can reduce your risk and improve your health.

Being 20+ lbs overweight is the gateway to a host of inflammatory diseases.

Our body can’t handle processing all the toxins we’re exposed to in the world, plus the preservatives in processed foods and personal products, plus the pesticides on non-organic produce, plus the effects of smoking or drinking alcohol or eating too many carbs.

Living with environmental pollution alone overtaxes our liver and kidneys, and they’ll try to hum along for as long as they can.. but pile on all that other stuff and we’ve created a recipe for disaster.

It’s a hard journey back to health once it’s lost.

We are victims of the hundreds of food manufacturers that spend billions to create flavors and textures that will hook us to their nutrition-deficient products. I believe you can stand up and find your strength.

If you struggle, find a friend or family member who will actively support your effort to make a change. Limit yourself to eating only foods you cook according to healthy guidelines, or look up recipes on this blog.

You can also contact me, and together we’ll devise a plan that will work for you.

More than anything in the world, I wish for you a long and healthy life.

An Incredible Story That Has Much to Teach

The woman's name is Anita Moorjani.  Anita was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and doctors told her family she was just hours away from death. It was at this point that she “crossed over” and then returned again into this world with a clearer understanding of her life and purpose on earth. This understanding subsequently led to a total recovery of her health.

Anita was born in Singapore of Indian parents, moved to Hong Kong at the age of two, and has lived in Hong Kong most of her life. Because of her background and British education, she is multi lingual and, from the age of two, grew up speaking English, Cantonese and two Indian dialects simultaneously, and later learned French at school.

She had been working in the corporate field for many years before being diagnosed with cancer in April of 2002. Her fascinating and moving near-death experience in early 2006 has tremendously changed her perspective on life. Her work is now ingrained with the depths and insights she gained while in the other realm.

This is the original NDE description that Anita Moorjani submitted to The Near Death Research Foundation in August 2006. 

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EXPERIENCE DESCRIPTION:

I had end stage cancer (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), and was being cared for at home. I was connected to an oxygen tank, and had a full time nurse. But on this morning, February 2nd 2006, I did not wake up. I had fallen into a coma.  My husband called my doctor who said I needed to be rushed to hospital.  The senior oncologist looked at me and told my husband that it was now the end, and that my organs were now shutting down.  I would probably not make it beyond the next 36 hours.  However, the oncologist said he would do whatever he could but prepared my husband that I would most likely not make it, as my organs were no longer functioning.  They determined this because my body started to swell up, and I had open skin lesions. They started me on a cocktail of medication on a drip, and poked me with tubes and pipes for nourishment, drugs and oxygen.

I thought that I was drifting in and out of consciousness during this time, because I was aware of everything that was going on around me. But it was confirmed to me later by my family and the doctors that I was in a coma the whole time. I saw and heard the conversations between my husband and the doctors taking place outside my room, about 40 feet away down a hallway. I was later able to verify this conversation to my shocked husband.  Then I actually “crossed over” to another dimension, where I was engulfed in a total feeling of love.  I also experienced extreme clarity of why I had the cancer, why I had come into this life in the first place, what role everyone in my family played in my life in the grand scheme of things, and generally how life works.  The clarity and understanding I obtained in this state is almost indescribable.  Words seem to limit the experience – I was at a place where I understood how much more there is than what we are able to conceive in our 3-dimensional world.  I realized what a gift life was, and that I was surrounded by loving spiritual beings, who were always around me even when I did not know it.

The amount of love I felt was overwhelming, and from this perspective, I knew how powerful I am, and saw the amazing possibilities we as humans are capable of achieving during a physical life.  I found out that my purpose now would be to live “heaven on earth” using this new understanding, and to share this knowledge with other people.  However I had the choice of whether to come back into life, or go towards death.  I was made to understand that it was not my time, but I always had the choice, and if I chose death, I would not be experiencing a lot of the gifts that the rest of my life still held in store.  At first, I did not want to come back, because my body was very sick, and I did not want to come back into this body as the organs had already stopped functioning and I had all these open skin lesions. But it seemed that almost immediately, I became aware that if I chose life, my body would heal very quickly.  I would see a difference in not months or weeks, but days!

I then started to understand how illnesses start on an energetic level before they become physical.  If I chose to go into life, the cancer would be gone from my energy, and my physical body would catch up very quickly.  I then understood that when people have medical treatments for illnesses, it rids the illness only from their body but not from their energy so the illness returns.  I realized if I went back, it would be with a very healthy energy.  Then the physical body would catch up to the energetic conditions very quickly and permanently.  I seemed to become aware that this applies to anything, not only illnesses – physical conditions, psychological conditions, etc.  I became aware that everything going on in our lives was dependent on this energy around us, created by us.  Nothing was real – we created our surroundings, our conditions, etc. depending where this “energy” was at.  The clarity I felt around how we get what we do was phenomenal!  It’s all about where we are energetically.  I somehow knew that I was going to see “proof” of this first hand if I returned back to my body.

It felt as though I was drifting in and out between the two worlds, this physical world and the other side, but every time I drifted into the “other side”, I seemed to go deeper and experienced more “scenes”.  There was one where I saw how my life had touched all the people in it – it was sort of like a tapestry and I saw how I affected everyone’s lives around me.  There was another scene where I saw my brother on a plane, having heard the news I was dying, coming to see me (this was verified to me as when I started to come round, my brother was there, having just got off a plane).  I then saw a glimpse of my brother and me and somehow seemed to understand it was a previous life, where I was much older than him and was like a mother to him (in this life, he is older than me).  I saw in that life I was very protective towards him.  I suddenly became aware he was on the plane to come and see me, and felt “I can’t do this to him – can’t let him come and see me dead”.  Then I also saw how my husband’s purpose was linked to mine, and how we had decided to come and experience this life together.  If I went, he would probably follow soon after.

In addition, I seemed to understand that, as tests had been taken for my organ functions (and the results were not out yet), that if I chose life, the results would show that my organs were functioning normally.  If I chose death, the results would show organ failure as the cause of death, due to cancer.  I was able to change the outcome of the tests by my choice!

I made my choice, and as I started to wake up (in a very confused state, as I could not at that time tell which side of the veil I was on),  the doctors came rushing into the room with big smiles on their faces saying to my family “Good news – we got the results and her organs are functioning – we can’t believe it!!  Her body really did seem like it had shut down!”

After that, I began to recover rapidly.  The doctors had been waiting for me to become stable before doing a lymph node biopsy to track the type of cancer cells, and they could not even find a lymph node big enough to suggest cancer (upon entering the hospital my body was filled with swollen lymph nodes and tumors the size of lemons, from the base of my skull all the way to my lower abdomen).  They did a bone marrow biopsy, again to find the cancer activity so they could adjust the chemotherapy according to the disease, and there wasn’t any in the bone marrow.  The doctors were very confused, but put it down to me suddenly responding to the chemo. Because they themselves were unable to understand what was going on, they made me undergo test after test, all of which I passed with flying colors, and clearing every test empowered me even more!  I had a full body scan, and because they could not find anything, they made the radiologist repeat it again!!!!

Because of my experience, I am now sharing with everyone I know that miracles are possible in your life every day.  After what I have seen, I realize that absolutely anything is possible, and that we did not come here to suffer.  Life is supposed to be great, and we are very, very loved.  The way I look at life has changed dramatically, and I am so glad to have been given a second chance to experience “heaven on earth”.

For more, click here.

You Create Your World Every Moment

I wish there was a fool-proof formula we could all follow to move 'out' of ourselves, to float above this vehicle we call our body, and observe ourselves act and react to mundane, fleeting, mostly unimportant events in our life. To see how we take things far too seriously, including ourselves! I wish we could REALLY see, FIERCELY believe, that it is the programming of our minds that creates chaos and negativity or hinders peace and happiness in our lives.  And that if we spend just a handful of weeks working consciously to change our reactions and attitudes, we can intentionally generate a new program.

I wish we listened, quietly, with inner stillness to what others are 'saying' before we allowed our ever-churning brain to start preparing our response to justify what 'we' think.

I wish I could help you understand without a shadow of doubt that you house in your heart Divine Light that is clouded over by falsely thinking that you are separate from the Universe, from all Humanity and from Truth.  And that if you sat quietly for just 10 - 15 minutes each day, and let go of everything during those minutes, focusing on 'seeing' the Light flickering in your heart, and imagining it growing until if filled your being, after a while your perspective, your attitude and your knowing will be informed by that Light and life will begin to change.

What is going on with this body, in this life is a Gift intricately planned to present us with situations designed to help us learn specific lessons, (if we allow them to).  These lessons invariably expand our understanding of Who we are, Where we are going and Why it's necessary to cultivate Acceptance and Awareness.

Without a positive attitude and strong faith in the power of our mind, we can't heal.  Negativity changes your body chemistry, physically.  It takes hours to neutralize the toxins that negativity releases in your body. That alone should deter you from giving in to such a response. Stop, breathe and consciously choose a reaction before you say or do something you'll regret.

It's not easy, but practice is the only way to make it a habit.  No one is going to walk into your life and make everything better. You have to do that.

This moment is all you have.  How do you want to spend it?

Unhappy?  Fearful?  Worried?  Frustrated?  Bitter?  How about choosing to be Happy, Brave, Accepting, and Grateful?

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Vow to live your life as if today is the all you have...this moment the only moment. Join the abundant Joy that resonates in every aspect of Creation, and don't let anyone shake your determination to feel good.

Excerpt taken from The HuMan Handbook

"Change is what happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than your fear of letting go. You are using up enormous amounts of life force energy holding on to your pain and past.

Change your habits and you will quickly change your life. It only takes three weeks to “birth” a new habit. The Universe ...will express anything you make into a habit.

You are the architect of the reality that you are experiencing. Forming new habits is how you will manifest what you want. Creating habits is the key to your success or failure.

Consciously creating new habits for more than 21 days is a small price to pay for what you want to manifest."

"When things change only two things can happen with one being obvious and the other being extremely subtle. The obvious thing is that you will manifest what it is that you want to experience. The not so obvious thing is that you will surface what it is you need to heal, so that you can manifest what you want."

E-mail your first and last name to SabrinaRose@HolisticLearningCenter.com, subject line- The Human Handbook to receive a copy.

It doesn't matter where you are in your journey...this human handbook is a guide to mastering the inner you!

Cafes, Challenges and Grace: Our menu

Why do we get pushed to the edge at certain points of our life?
 
Why are we forced to face difficult situations that seem in the moment hopeless, or intolerable, or confusing, or maddening, or frightening through no fault of our own?
 
Many of us try hard to live our lives with integrity and understanding.  We do our best to be kind to others, to be sensitive to other people's feelings, to be conscientious in our work, and yet... in spite of our efforts, we get curve balls: our boss is a jerk or is unreasonably demanding, our job is eliminated, our children don't appreciate what we do for them, our spouse neglects our emotional needs or is abusive, or  some turkey runs into our car in the parking lot and doesn't leave a note.

Screamin

Where is the justice we grow to expect from a world led by a Benevolent Being? Good deeds should be rewarded with good results, and bad deeds with consequences... and yet losers get away with so much, and we get taken to task for a tiny error.
 
Well, at a certain point in our lives, we realize that our definition of 'justice' or 'good' or 'bad' has little to do with the Universe's.  Man's terms and perspective are just that...they are not the standard by which the Universe operates. Events are neutral... they serve a purpose...therefore no matter how we view them, they are not 'bad'.
 
A wise and enlightened mentor once said to me, "The only sin man can commit, is not living up to his/her best knowing." Beside that omission, one we should be able to control, all else fades.  If I am unable to live and act based on my BEST knowing, I shouldn't expect anything or anyone to be any better.
 
There have been times when a situation has asked every ounce of tolerance, of understanding, of patience or of perseverance from me.  A situation I didn't see coming, didn't ask for and couldn't have anticipated.

A Collaboration Disguised as a Cafe

When I opened a Cafe two years ago, I hired young men who needed the work to do some of the labor... painting, sheet rock, installing cabinets or shelving.  I was over budget already, thanks to the City of Berkeley and their unreasonable requests for very specific improvements and many fees. I was at my wits end, watching my savings dwindle, and a process that should have taken 3 months, turn into an ordeal that took 6 months.
 
And then to top it off, the contractors I hired lied about their skills and tried to charge me way more than the job warranted.  One of them made 4 trips to Home Depot to buy and return materials, because he couldn't estimate what he needed or how much he needed, and wanted to bill me for his 4 two-hour long shopping sprees on top of the cost of materials we didn't wind up using!
 
Sit back. Breathe deeply. Rise above the situation and look down.  What's really going on?  Why did God very tangibly show me that I was meant to open a Cafe by sending not one, not two, but multiple signs that is was to be...and then put me in a situation where I doubted the whole thing and my ability to pull it off?
 
Without taking the time center yourself and literally rise above a situation, you cannot and will not see why it's happening.
The Director who hired me to be a Team Manager at AT&T once told me, "Sometimes it's not about you.  Sometimes you're participating in someone else's learning." At the time I didn't want to hear that, but over the years I've brought that piece of wisdom to mind, and found it be crucial in understanding what was going on, and then finding the right response.
 
In the heat of the moment it is impossible to think clearly. Stepping back means allowing for space to fall between you and the situation you're facing.  Taking a deep breath means not reacting in the moment, until you understand what's going on. Rising above, gives you perspective and allows the petty reactions to fall away.
 
Only at that point can you fill the space that was created with the right response.
I found myself yelling at the workers, unable to tolerate their lies and ineptitude.  I wrote a biting letter about the delay tactics, excessive red tape and unreasonable requests of the Berkeley City Planning office, and a local newspaper published the letter. My landlord fluctuated between being understanding and pushy when I didn't open on schedule. I thought I'd lose my mind.
 
After I stepped back, took a deep breath, and surveyed what should have been a happy process (For 15 years I talked about owning a small Cafe, and now life gave me an opportunity to fulfill that dream), I realized that everything worthwhile has a price.  It needs to. Even if it seems too high, like this one did, and those young men learned a harsh lesson in dealing with me.

You see God practically pushed me into this. Here is how:

  1.  My daughter owned an Art Gallery across from UC Berkeley
  2.  The Candy store two doors up suddenly became available
  3.  She called me and begged me to come look at it, because it was so cute
  4.  I told her I was not leaving my well-paid job at AT&T even though I have talked about wanting a Cafe
  5.  I went to look just for fun
  6.  I loved the space.  It was indeed adorable and a great location, and the address was meaningful to me
  7.  For kicks I devised a menu, talked to the landlord (who also owned the Gallery space) and figured that maybe a family member could run the Cafe during the day and I could take over the last 3 hours if I indeed took the plunge
  8.  The landlord wanted too much rent, and since my bf told me I should be able to get a better deal with so many vacancies in the area, I walked away
  9.  The landlord called me 10 days later to say he'd accept my low offer since he loved my menu and concept, and how cool to be near my daughter
  10.  I negotiated and signed the lease
  11.  TWENTY FOUR hours later, I received a call from a Director at AT&T telling me I was part of the latest layoffs!
  12.  My severance pay was enough to finance my living expenses for a year, and provide a reasonable amount towards the many improvements needed for the Cafe
There were even more signs, but my goodness these were big.

So why did I find roadblock after roadblock when I started the Permit process?

I was very much a participant in the learning experience of several people in City Planning. The head Engineer, who was featured and named in my letter, hopefully learned that you can't lead customers on, and not do what you promised.  And that you can't live in your cushy bubble and ignore the needs of an individual who is trying to open a business for their livelihood, and drag the process out by asking for outlandish things like drawing the location of lights and the wattage for light-bulbs and the type  of light-bulbs on the plans... the location of the light switches and which one controls which lights...the degree of slant of the threshold to see if wheelchairs can go over the bump... and on and on and on. The Candy store would have provided all that info, and I wasn't changing those things!
 
But you see my error was in getting caught up in the details. What I mean by that is my focus was captured by the mundane.  I forgot Who was running the show.  I should have remembered every step of the way, that if God wants something to happen it will happen according to His timetable, His plan, and His will. Events in my life have made this very evident.

Nothing would have changed except my attitude

And guess what?   Most of the time THAT's what it's all about. Remember Job? Attitude.

If I had continued to move inside the Grace that was showered down on me, I wouldn't have lost perspective and I would have been more aware of the choices I made.  The amount of stress I put myself through would have been shaved down to a minimum.  This wasn't my project alone.  This was OUR project. And the proof was the amazing hand-picked people who became my loyal customers, and the relationships I built with many of them.
 
My Cafe became a haven for my regular customers. They would come for advice on treating symptoms, for help with finding work or a place to stay, for celebrating a success or milestone, to talk about someone they were interested in dating, and ask for special meals due to dietary restrictions.
 
An adorable 89-year-old woman came in one afternoon, and had tea.  It was slow, so we talked...and after a few minutes we were hugging. She shared that her son was losing a battle with an illness. A couple of weeks later he passed away, and she came back for another hug.  She said she had been very depressed the day she first stopped by my Cafe, and felt a ray of sunshine bathed her when she walked in. We still get together for lunch now and then, and we write or call each other.
 
My bf would laugh and ask me what other restaurant in the world people would feel comfortable going into and asking for something to help with an upset stomach or a sore throat?  Or if they could get a specific meal that wasn't on the menu?

I asked a good friend, who is an artist and took Arabic lessons from me, to make a 5' wood plaque that would go over the door in the Cafe ... he created a beautiful piece of art mimicking Arabic Calligraphy with the two words I wanted... In Gratitude.

So no matter what life has in store for you, no matter how dark things look in the moment, know in your heart that...

  1.  There is reason and it's usually a demand for inner growth
  2.  All things pass, and the sooner we let go of our self-pity or rebellion the sooner it will do so
  3.  If we can muster up acceptance and trust in the powers that be, we learn to weather the inevitable challenges in a mature and helpful way
  4.  It's not always about you! But you still have to play your part.
    Meditate
Perhaps in time I can learn to feel grateful for the privilege of being a participant in someone else's growth
St. Francis prayed: "Lord, Let me be an Instrument of Thy Peace."
Meditation, even for just 15 minutes a day, will help put each day's events in perspective.
Meditation is inviting that SPACE I spoke of. 
 
In stillness, answers come. 
In silence, Grace descends.
 

The Theme of Divine Presence; Being Who You Really Are

For many year I have been reading and studying the writings and lives of several mystics. Inayat Khan is one of those.  The insight and awareness I developed over the years has nourished my vision of life and my attitudes.

It is this new awareness that helped me understand, learn from and move through many trying experiences... a forced separation from my first home and country, the passing of my parents followed by the passing of a sister and brother-in-law, my divorce, the process of reinventing myself, the loss of my dearest friend and mentor, and cancer.

There are principles at the heart of every system of faith that echo one another, and it is these common principles that Inayat Khan touches upon in his writings.  He speaks from personal experience, from a life devoted to self-knowing and awareness.

It is with calm Grace that one must strive to face each new inner lesson offered by life, and it is with Awareness that we must inform our reactions and actions.

I hope you are able to gather a few drops of gold from the passage below, to store tenderly in your heart, and to draw upon them as life unfolds.

I included the link to the entire Chapter in the title below.

Inviting Divine Presence into Your Life

Consciously invite the Divine Presence into your life!

The wonders of Divine Presence are always available to everyone, but Divine Presence will not force itself on anyone. We are free to be asleep. We are free to be ignorant. We are free to be selfish. We are free to be as foolish as we choose. And we pay heavily for such misdeeds and lack of understanding. Yet the Divine Presence is always there, just waiting for us to awaken from our slumber.

In order to enjoy a life of love, harmony and beauty, one must align one's outer life (worldly life) with one's inner life (spiritual life). In other words, the most pressing need of mankind today is to re-unite body and soul.

The wonders of spiritual life will not be fully embodied in one's own life until one awakens to the presence of Divine Presence and allows it to be the very foundation upon which every aspect of daily life is built,  thereby bringing the wondrous blessings of love, harmony and beauty into every situation.

Life should be a joyful journey, and living in harmony with the ideals of Divine Presence is the key.

If you do not yet feel that wondrous Divine Presence deep within, then (for the time being) simply strive to allow your life to be centered around great ideals such as loving-kindness, generosity, compassion, gratitude, and joyfulness.

Whenever anything else arises, calmly observe whatever has arisen without undue reaction, and return as quickly as possible to embodying those great ideals such as loving-kindness, generosity, compassion, gratitude and joyfulness.

In this simple manner, one can gradually begin to reprogram the sub-conscious mind, and thereby more fully live in harmony with the Divine Presence.

Girl blowing hearts

Be Beautiful!

In every moment of every day, the central theme of Divine Presence is simply this: Be Beautiful!

Each of the beautiful attributes of mankind, such as loving-kindness, generosity, compassion, grace, and joyfulness, all arise from the wondrous Divine Presence which exists in the calm pure depths of the heart.

The beauty which any individual exhibits truly glorifies the Source of Beauty, and will hopefully invite others to turn, in their own way, toward that same Source, like moths toward the flame.

What does it mean to be beautiful?

  • To be beautiful is to let our thoughts, words and deeds bring Divine Presence into the world.
  • To be beautiful is to greet each and every being with grace, with love, with compassion, with joyfulness.
  • To be beautiful is to see the ever-present Divine beauty everywhere.
  • To be beautiful is to express joyful gratitude for all that we receive.
  • To be beautiful is let the Divine radianceof your inner light shine upon all beingswithout any of one's own hindrances or preferences whatsoever.
  • To be beautiful is to expect nothing in return.

That which is truly beautiful always arises from the depths of your own loving heart. That is, you will be most beautiful when you are living in harmony with your own highest ideals and greatest aspirations.

One cannot be an expression of true beauty when trying to be like someone else.

Follow your heart!  Be beautiful in your own way!

~~~~~~~~~~~

Compassion international

The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so, do that which best stirs you to love.

Saint Teresa of Avila

What If? - Why Statistics Shouldn't Scare You!

One of the most routine pieces of information that the medical industry, for it is an industry, throws at us is a Statistic. Statistics are there to show you how likely you are to contract some disease, to have a boy or girl, to getting a divorce, or find a new job.  There seem to be so many studies that we now have a statistic for everything...including how many times you're likely to blink in a minute! How could we go on without that piece of data?

We have to be honest though; we like them. We quote them to others to deter them from some decision or action. If they favor us, we advertise them.

Statistical tables

Well, one thing I surely learned from taking Statistics in Grad School, is that if you manipulate data just right...you can come up with a number of statistics... and not all will agree.  In other words, much of data can be manipulated to show the statistic you are after.

And yet, without statistics we're loathe to trust information lest it merely be opinion.

Let's think about that for a minute.  I'm going to go out on a limb and ask... is there anything truly that is more than opinion?To be tagged a trusted statistic, the number must be based on factual data... that may or may not hold up in time.

How much time is long enough? 5 years worth of data? 20 years? Up until such time as new data is discovered?

Some of you are going to gasp in horror, shake your heads in dismay, and remind me about all the theories we accept as truth since they are based on scientific FACTS! You know the proven, repeatable, unbiased, honest-to-goodness, theories.

Bar Graph

Hmmm... can you think of something we believed to be true for decades that was later dis-proven?  I mean besides the Earth being flat, and that the Sun rotates around the Earth.

How about:

There are 109 Elements in the Period Table New information: Since 1994, six new elements have been discovered.

or:

The first mammals evolved about 155 million years ago. New information – “The shrew-like animal would have run under the feet of dinosaurs at the start of the Jurassic period, nearly 195 million years ago … Hadrocodium wui pushes back by another 40 million years its first appearance in the fossil record.”.

Here are a couple of sites just for fun...

1. Medical Facts that Have Been Proven to be Wrong

2. What Scientific Laws or theories have been proven wrong?

All this is to say that as we add new information to our data, our statistics or theories have to change.  With me so far?

Ok, here's the "WHAT IF"...

Let's go back to the Medical Industry... that slow to move, slow to assimilate new information, give me 3 - 10 years of similar data before I can make a decision, industry.

  1. Medical statistics in the West are based on Western Medicine's view of valid data.  Yes?
  2. In the U.S. and even more so abroad, many, many people incorporate "alternate"  methods into their every day or healing regimen. Yes?
  3. When a patient visits a traditional medical practitioner, their condition is assessed from a "symptom" and "data I learned about that symptom" perspective. Yes?
  4. A patient is hardly ever asked what their eating habits, supplementation, attitudes and belief's are as part of the standard, one size fits all data sheet they fill out.  Yes?
  5. A diagnosis is based on those symptoms (I am trying to distinguish these from causes of illness) and on scientific data, clinical that is.  Yes?
  6. You are then given a statistic if relevant to your situation, and with Cancer patients, boy are we happy to quote statistics.  Yes?
  7. You leave programmed with the belief that you will fall in one of those statistical groups, and left to wonder which it will be... because you really have no control over that...it will depend on how your 'disease' responds to treatment. Yes?

Here's my belief and something you should think about seriously

To make things simple I'm going to choose two people to illustrate my theory. We're going to name them B and K.

B and K have recently had mammograms that show a small mass in one of their breasts. B and K are informed they should have biopsies.

B is conservative, has not done a lot of thinking about health trends or a lot of research about cancer treatment approaches.  She is a believer in Traditional medicine and trusts that her Oncologist has all the answers.

B opts for a needle biopsy, since she is assured they are safe.

K is progressive, she is a hiker, has acupuncture for benign symptoms and  is very interested in nutrition and Eastern medicine. She immediately scours the Internet for the latest news in Breast Cancer research.

B doesn't want a needle biopsy.  She can't believe it's 100% safe, since in her mind there is no way that pulling a needle filled with cancer cells isn't going to leave a few of those microscopic cells along the needle path. She opts for a lumpectomy.

They have the same type of cancer, and their Oncologist suggests the traditional Chemo drugs for that type, followed by a course of radiation. The statistics are shared with each of them... since they were both caught early there is a 78% chance that nothing will develop, and a 22% chance of recurrence. Chemo adds another 5-6% benefit.

For our example, they both choose to have Chemo.

They both meet with the resident Nutritionist who tells them about foods and supplements to avoid during treatment, and how to modify their diet for cancer prevention.  He gives each a handout about Chemo side effects and some suggestions to alleviate them (most are drugs to take).

K leaves feeling down, a little overwhelmed by the information and the changes she has to make.  Her husband is supportive and upbeat, and her sister is distressed, a little worried about her own fate now. K's home is comfortable, clean and in a suburban neighborhood. K has two children, 14 and 16, and a small dog. Her brother has left her a message on her answering machine encouraging her to talk to a Doctor he trusts before making a decision.

B leaves feeling anxious to get home so she can initiate a search for a Complimentary Therapy practice.  Her boyfriend sends a few emails to solicit info from friends.  They live in a two-story condo and have custody of his 12-year-old son. The house is a little messy, but furnished tastefully.  Flowers stand in a vase in the living room, and a parakeet in a large cage near the patio door. Two of B's friends are waiting for her when she arrives...each has brought a gift from the Farmer's market.  They cook lunch together while she tells them what her approach is going to be.

K and B go through the same treatment cycle.

I m not sure...

K

takes the suggested meds for side effects.  Eats well and tries to be positive. Her husband goes to most of the sessions with her, alternating with her concerned sister.  K suffers from fatigue, has a rather emotional reaction to her hair loss, and is cautiously optimistic.  She walks for 20 minutes most days and tries to act brave in front of her sister so as not to worry her.  Her kids are taking things well and help around the house.

No one suggests she have alternate types of care during the course of her treatment. She's not sure she trusts acupuncture, when a friend mentions it.

B

finds and consults with a Nutritional Oncologist. She immediately starts on a long list of supplements each specifically targeted to either support her immune system, help the Chemo be more effective by unmasking cancer cells, or counteract the side effects. She continues acupuncture to move the toxins out as quickly as possible and alleviate nausea, and joins her two friends in a Yoga class twice a week.

Her boyfriend sets up a rotating meal prep schedule with some of their friends, so that for the 4 days after Chemo they don't have to worry about cooking.  They give each cook an approved ingredient list. He makes sure B has plenty of uplifting books to read, is ready with an amusing story when he gets home, and the three watch funny movies after dinner and homework are done.

Pretty woman

B meditates, is determined to move through this process and into a healthier body, and goes out with the girls to shop for a crazy wig when her hair falls out.

Outcomes

A year and a half later, K has a recurrence almost in the exact same spot as her previous tumor. She opts for a mastectomy and new course of treatment. She mostly sticks with her diet, and takes a few standard vitamins.

B on the other hand, is an active volunteer in the Cancer Wellness Community 3 days a week after work. She has completely changed her lifestyle and eating habits and continues with a maintenance Supplement regimen per her Nutritional Oncologist.  Her friends, inspired by her, have cut out some of the bad foods they used to indulge in. She has one more scan in 6 months and will proclaimed Cancer-Free.

And What do the Statistics Say?

K and B's Oncologist, ignorant of all the ingredients that went into each woman's healing process, chalks one person up as benefiting from the XYZ Chemo combination, and one woman needing a second round with XQW treatment, and per statistics not as good a prediction for long-term cancer-free survival.

Where are the Stats that take into account the needle biopsies vs. lumpectomy?

Where are the Stats that traces eating habits and the effect of well-studied supplementation?

And where are the Stats that show how one's attitude and faith skew the odds in one's favor?

Where are so many of the potentially high-impacting variables accounted for in the Medical Industry data?

No where.

And so from my heart I say:

  1. You are not a Statistic.
  2. You are in charge of your healing process.
  3. Educate yourself and be open-minded.
  4. Surround yourself with happy, positive people.
  5. Don't mess with the recommended Cancer Diet, it's Medicine!
  6. Cultivate an unshakeable faith in your ability to heal
  7. You are NOT your illness... it is passing.
  8. Laugh, laugh, laugh... It really IS the Best Medicine!

~ Be Well. ♥

Pick Up a Colored Pencil, Open a New World

A few weeks into my Chemotherapy, I remembered that the Anthroposophic doctor I had seen the week before hosted painting classes for some of her cancer patients.  She herself had amazing drawings she created when battling illness. For those unfamiliar with Anthroposophical medicine, it is a complementary approach to medicine that integrates the theories and practices of modern medicine with homeopathic medicines, physical and artistic therapies and biographical counseling.

The medical approach has its foundation in a spiritual-scientific understanding of the human beingthat regards human wellness and illness as biographical events connected to the body, mind and spirit of the individual.

Anthroposophical medicine uses a holistic approach ("salutogenesis") that focuses on factors that support human health by strengthening the patient's physiology and individuality, rather than solely addressing factors that cause disease. The autonomy and dignity of patients is a central theme; therapies are believed to enhance a patient's capacities to heal.

This system was founded in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Ita Wegman as an extension to conventional medicine based on the spiritual philosophy of Anthroposophy.

....

Up to that moment I used to spend the first few days after Chemo reading stacks of books by my favorite authors, taking my 'round the clock list of supplements, attempting a short walk in the afternoon, and doing light cooking till my son and bf came home around 4pm.

sharpie-ultra-fine-point-permanent-markers-profile.png

Based on that recollection of art as therapy, I felt the urge to try to paint, so my daughter brought me some paints, a few small canvases and brushes.  As a teenager, I dabbled with my father's oil paints, but enjoyed drawing a lot more.

I attempted an abstract painting, but didn't like the medium, so I asked J to buy me a drawing tablet on his way to work the next day, and he gave me a huge box of colored pencils. I ordered a rainbow of Sharpies from Amazon too.

In the early 70's I loved drawing psychedelic pictures, and actually had a couple that my Mom thought to bring me from Lebanon on one of her trips here in the early 90's.

HAC_love_small
HAC_love_small

Below is the template of one of them done in pencil that I decided to redraw in color.

A World of Colors

This began a journey that wove a thread from the past into the present in a lovely healing pattern.  I was addicted to cranking out a picture every 2-3 days.  Since I have never really 'grown up', I brought my favorite animated or cartoon characters into surround, and asked them to join me in this play with shapes, color and images.

The focus, the colors, and the call to be creative in a world of fantasy, helped me ignore the raging battle inside; my body dealing with the onslaught of Chemo drugs (I was on a dense-dose regimen with a treatment every 2 weeks), trying to cheerfully weather the awful taste in my mouth for 6 days after treatment and still eat well, and the stunning transformation of my hair into a brittle patch of falling squiggles, and the inevitable a drop in energy. (I shaved my head not long after that very disturbing experience began!)

HAC_ipod
HAC_ipod

My family had fun being surprised by each new creation, and made suggestions for the next picture.

HAC_record
HAC_record

Since my boyfriend J is in the music business, and we all either play an instrument, sing, or are avid music lovers... I had come up with a tribute to the what is essentially the backdrop of our lives.  Remember, my creativity was dampened more and more each week by the Chemo doing a number on my brain cells.

I laughed that these were worthy of a child's portfolio!  But I was having a blast, or as much of one as I could during this amazing process of rebirth.

HAC_mushrooms
HAC_mushrooms

Conclusion

I framed the originals, three were gifts, and made good quality copies of the rest, since my family thinks that I should make them available for purchase!  Cute people, aren't they?  :)

Art is a meditation, it reduces stress and summons creativity... as side many of us may not nurture enough.

So next time you're dealing with an overwhelming situation, whether you think you have talent or not (it didn't stop me!), pick up some colored pencils, crayons or markers, and Go WILD!

~ In Good Health!

The Windmills of Your Mind

Are You your thoughts...?

Have you ever considered that perhaps, once our brain has been programmed with what and who we think we are... dating back to messages and impressions received in childhood and the teen years, that becomes the theme music over which all the lyrics of our life are written?

Unless we start to consciously erase and re-record our theme music, writing new movements to create the person we want to be, we're stuck.

We get so caught up in the constant and unrelenting work of our minds (sane and less than sane thoughts) that we identify those ramblings with who we are!

IF you meditate, then you've observed the absurd goings-on in our attic! My goodness, how busy!

meditation-1287207_1280.jpg

Deepak Chopraadvises us to attempt to live in those moments of silence between thoughts.  A challenging and wonderful practice.

During a normal day many of our thoughts are logical and grounded so they aren't huge offenders... it's the thoughts that judge...telling us we aren't smart enough, or kind enough, or beautiful enough, or tough enough that we love to identify with and that can drag us down.  It's the instantaneous reactions, void of purposeful control or scrutiny, that get us in trouble.

You are... or become... what you identify with.  Release your identification with your thoughts and choose who you are by they way you act and react to life.

One of the laws of the cosmos is: Like attracts like. If you send out negative, self-defeating thoughts, more of that will come your way. On the other-hand, if you insist on finding the good, the positive, or the opportunity for a change, in whatever you face or in yourself, the universe will amplify this aspect.

We all have weaknesses. Focusing on them makes them bigger.

We all have strengths. Focusing on them makes them bigger.

Another Deepak Chopra insight: "Be conscious of your decisions and make the best choices you can at the time and in the circumstances, and you will be making the forward ... progress."

~~~~

When I was a girl, one of my mother's close friends and distant relative was a darling woman named Shareefi.  She was one of the two daughters of a religious elder in our community. She was short and little on the round side, with a matching face...like the moon.

I don't think I can recall one time that she wasn't smiling...her eyes twinkling with deep creases at the ends.

It didn't matter what the conversation was about, Shareefi smiled through every word. If it was what one may consider sad news, she let her smile drop of 2 seconds, but it's as if her face couldn't relax into anything but cheerfulness.

That was 36 years ago... she obviously made a lasting impression on me. What a wonderful example of how to radiate our inner beauty into the world!

Own who you are. Recognize your beautiful self. Accept yourself for your strengths and weaknesses, because that's how we're all created...with aspects we have conquered and others to work on.  That's the point of life. So why not accomplish our growth with a resolve to do it cheerfully, like Shareefi?

While you can't control most situations life will offer you, you can definitely control how you choose to reactto them. It may take a little practice, but soon you'll re-program your brain not to automatically kick into upsetness, anger, self-defense, or alarm when things go differently than you expected.

How great to be able to handle every 'crisis' or 'disappointment' with calm and grace?

For an inspiring talk byHazrat Inayat Khan on Self Control, click here.

What is your ideal?  Hold that up before your mind's eye daily, it's your goal. Be relentless in your pursuit.

The next time you find yourself feeling low because of a some situation, or because someone is judging you, say to yourself, “I am not defined by situations or opinions, I know who I am.”

Inayat Khan said, "The greatness of man lies in the greatness of his ideal."

Become your ideal, but even as you strive to do so Love this beautiful creation that you are now.

We are all flowers growing together in the Universal Garden, whether temporarily in the shade, or struggling to bloom, each one worthy of shining in the sun.

~ Namaste. ♥

Appealing to the Eye

"Appealing" is defined as: Attractive, inviting, or pleasing. Since sight is the first sense that experiences food we are served, the presentation should attract, invite and please the eye, and promise the palate that it too shall be delighted.

Before I was old enough to understand this concept,  I used to watch as Mom spent hours decorating the dozen or more dishes that would garland the dining room table whenever we had company.

A dinner for 30 - 40 guests was a common occurrence in our house, since cooking was Mom's passion, and Dad's work necessitated socializing.

Between 1969 and 1974 Mom re-created every dish she knew how to make and invented over three dozen of her own, to include in the cookbook her friends pushed her to write "Dishes and Flavors of the East".  It was the first compendium of its type, capturing many recipes from around the Middle East and North Africa, which she collected and improved upon over the years.

Since Mom never measured, it was a 5-year-long effort to capture and record the correct amount of each ingredient. It sometimes took 2  - 3 tries to get a recipe right.

dinner party Aley 1970's
dinner party Aley 1970's

A dinner for 25 guests - 1972

She would literally spend an hour on the plate of Spice Rice Pudding, creating a mandala with pistachios, almonds, walnuts and pine nuts. Her friends would hesitate to disturb these works of art to serve themselves.

I don't have actual photos unfortunately, since most of our possessions were victims of the unrest in Lebanon...I took photos of pictures in her cookbook as an example.

spice pudding decorated by Sittou
spice pudding decorated by Sittou

Yaqout's Spice Rice Pudding with Nuts

Another example of her work and one of my favorite rice puddings, flavored with Orange Blossom water, is below.

Rice pudding_ Sittou
Rice pudding_ Sittou

Middle Eastern Rice Pudding with Glazed Apricots, Pistachios and Pine Nuts

Putting conscious care into what ever it is we do, is bound to elevate the benefit of the service that 'thing' offers its recipient, whether it's food, a project, a handcrafted item, etc..

It's impossible not to feel the effect of someone's sincere and best effort.  Anything done with love carries love's vibration, one of the highest energy vibrations on Earth.

Mom sitting with us when we were sick, was enough to make us feel better. She used to silently repeat God's name for the better part of each day.  How could we not heal faster around her?  They say God is contained in His name. :)

Well, it's the same with work we do...what we pour into it, others will get out of it.  In my own catering service I saw this principal at work.  The simplest appetizers or meals would elicit the type of acclaim one would expect for exotic creations. People were reacting to the mindfulness and love I insist on bringing to my cooking.

This approach applied to whatever we do becomes a Meditation.  It lifts us and our companions...it expresses and generates love...and it demonstrates that we are grateful for the skills we've been given and want to use them to serve others.

So many of your blogs speak in this way to me.  I congratulate you and thank you.

 Cheers! ♥

~ Hoda

Bring the Divine into Your Home and Your Heart - The Rose

Flowers ...

they're common, they're everywhere.

But have you stopped to think about their role on Earth? The amount of energy needed to create a tightly wound bud, the force needed to unfold its petals and the magic that releases its fragrance.

And all that work to attract our attention, to give us pleasure...to offer us a glimpse of the Divine at work.

pink rosebud
pink rosebud

The variety of delicate, or striking hues and subtle shading that roses offer is simply astounding.   A rose's capacity to bring a smile to our lips and joy to our hearts cannot but be the Divine Will at work.

blushing rose
blushing rose

No wonder the Rose is the flower of love.

How Apt an Expression . . 'Stop and Smell the Roses.''

I often wonder how we can take so much of creation for granted, missing nature's invitation to appreciate and be grateful for  the infinite care that went into its design. All for our enjoyment.

magenta rose
magenta rose

As I walked in my garden I stopped by each rose-bush, looking earnestly at the blossoms and the incredible beauty each held. I noticed that my breathing slowed down, my mind stopped its incessant chatter, and a smile forced its way from my heart to my lips.  "How exquisite you are!"

blush roses
blush roses

These pink blushing roses melted me...I thought of weddings and fairies and sunrise and angels. How could I walk by and not stop to pay homage to the Creator of this delicate flower...impossible.

Cut flowers in a room raise the energy.  They are unique in the way they lend their aid when used in a meditation arrangement, complimenting objects or pictures that inspire you to focus on inner peace.

The Flowers of a Greater Garden

WE are no less beautiful, when we let go of ego based actions and reactions, when we stop trying to 'win' or impress, when we let the fragrance of our love embrace those around us indiscriminately, when we prevent ourselves from judging others...remembering that we are not perfect... then we too are roses in the Garden of the Divine, and we too bring a smile to His lips.

Resolve to be a rose. Share the light hidden in your heart with everyone you meet... whether through a smile, a kind word or a small gift. All you give returns to you tenfold, that is Love at work.

~ In Gratitude. ♥

Let Nature be Your Therapist

It was a little more than a handful of years ago that we were talking to our plants...playing music for them...encouraging them to grow. Studies back then showed that plants responded to human voice and music, that happy plants produced abundantly. What that study didn't include was the benefit to us from interacting with and being around those happy plants. Simple little flowers peeking out of a vase lift the energy of the space they're in and coax a smile out of us. Indoor plants like Philodendron, Peace lilies and Spider plants clean the air of chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene.

It is only in the past 10 years that I have been able to grow orchids and violets, and have them bloom year after year.  I love them and they know it.  I compliment them on their beauty and I dust off their leaves so they can breathe properly.  Every once in a while, I will change the tablecloth they are sitting on...like changing the sheets!

In my modest garden I have a wonderful patch of mint that is now thriving after the rain.  It's fragrance surrounds us as we come in or leave the house.

They offer me visual and olfactory pleasure as I crouch down to pull the weeds that try to quietly infiltrate their camp.  I notice that I breathe more deeply and feel calmer as I wander from area to area, watering...picking fruit...admiring the blossoms...listening to the birds... and watching squirrels chase the ever elusive things they chase!

The dogwood is beginning to show off its creamy yellow buds with the promise that we'll find it is an exquisite addition to our yard.

It takes an act of Will to get us out of the house sometimes.  But we can't but be happy one we make it outdoors.  Train yourself to notice the little things on your walk or drive.

Our family home was surrounded by very tall pine trees. Mom said they had healing energy.  I think many old trees do.  After chemo one day, I wanted to be in a forest setting, so my boyfriend and I drove to a grove of tall trees, that included Redwoods, in the Berkeley hills and took a short walk.  It helped me relax, connect and feel 'larger' than what I was going through.

I think that is a key... to have some way to remind yourself that you are 'larger' than anything you experience.  When we identify ourselves with pain or hardship, we limit our ability to rise above it...letting it define who we are in that moment.

Allowing the grandeur of creation to remind us that this 'condition' is temporary and 'small' in the scheme of things is helpful.  Even if your energy is low, try to get outdoors, weather permitting.  A drive to a park or through hills will work if you can't take a walk.

I was born under the sign of Pisces, and love being around water. If you are lucky to live close to or within driving distance of a lake or river, pack a light snack, a blanket, and go!

We pay therapists to help relieve stress in our lives, when the most competent, compassionate and unerring therapist is just outside our door. The cost? Our willingness to join it.

~ Be Well.

Laugh Your Way to Good Health!

M.D. Anderson News Release 01/15/09

To help cancer patients better cope with their diagnosis, the Place ...of wellness at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has added Laughter Yoga to its extensive list of complementary and integrative therapies.

Created by Indian physician and holistic enthusiast Madan Kataria in 1995, this complementary therapy combines humor, gentle exercises and stretches, and yogic breaths. The practice is inspired by the belief that simulated hilarity has the same benefits as genuine laughter and creates an environment where jokes and words are not needed, only amusement and a child-like attitude.

"Cancer patients deal with a lot of stress and anxiety," said Stephen Findley, chaplain in the Department of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education and Laughter Yoga facilitator at M. D. Anderson's Place ... of wellness. "With something as basic as expressing joy, they can release tension and hopefully view a difficult situation, such as a fighting cancer, as manageable."

As a group, class participants follow their laughter leader through a series of exercises to help everyone bond, diminish individual inhibitions and warm up the body. During the sessions, participants are encouraged by their instructor to maintain eye contact within the group and to "fake it until you make it."

"When cancer patients join the class, they may not feel like participating at first," said Findley. "Because this therapy is a body-mind exercise, as your body feels more relaxed, then mentally you'll allow yourself to be more childlike and adopt a positive attitude."

The sessions have three parts: rhythmic clapping and chanting; laughter exercises; and meditation. One of the exercises involves conducting a "body scan." Starting at the head, patients use their finger to scan their body for pain or discomfort. When an ache is found, everyone is instructed to find amusement in that ache and then express it.

"Laughter Yoga brings a unique element to the Place ... of wellness," said Moshe Frenkel, M.D., medical director of the Integrative Medicine Program at M. D. Anderson. "This complementary therapy allows us to incorporate humor in cancer care and help patients discover a playfulness that reduces stress and anxiety while increasing their pain tolerance.

"We know from multiple studies that laughter causes a positive physiological response - it lowers cortisol levels, improves our immune system function noted by increased number in activated T lymphocytes, increase in number and activity of natural killer cells, increase in salivary IgA, increase in endorphin release and above all reduces stress and anxiety."

By providing these sessions to those impacted by cancer, participants learn how to better manage the every day concerns of fighting their disease with something as unexpected as expressing fun and happiness.

Chaplains Stephen Findley and Christiana Liem are certified Laughter Yoga leaders with the Dr. Kataria School of Laughter Yoga and facilitate three classes per month at M. D. Anderson's Place ... of wellness. The class is open to all those touched by cancer and is free of charge. For a complementary and integrative medicine therapy schedule, please visit http://www.mdanderson.org/departments/wellness/ for more details.

~ Hooray for MD Anderson!

The Gifts of a Neighborhood Walk

Yesterday was a balmy 88º so I had to wait until after 7:00pm to take my walk.  Armed with my iphone which I use as an ipod while walking, off I went. I am fortunate to live in a quiet, lush area of this suburban city of ours. I have 5 large trees on my property... two are the rather messy but wonderfully shade-giving mulberry trees, and one is a pine that is over 20' feet tall.

Our home is on a corner lot, so we've planted flowering shrubs against the house...camellias, azaleas, baby's breath, and Hydrangea that are a gorgeous purple blue.

 

 

Here are the gems I am treated to as I take my walk...as the seasons change, so do some of the sights of course...on this warm day and after a heavy rain last week, nature was basking and blooming and boasting!

Tiny white, yellow, purple and pink ground cover flowers poked their heads out of the greenery along the street, beckoning to bees and color-loving creatures...I discovered I was one of them.

 

 

Some of the yards sported amusing mailboxes.  Here two of them...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one of my favorite front yards.. it's full of whimsical sculptures and this wonderful water pump and tub.

Makes me want to replace the grass that covers our yard and get busy with rock creations and stuff from a flea market sale!

 

Tiny bushes huddled together, commenting on the passersby, command ones respect like flat, green, you-can-step-all-over me grass never can.

 

 

 

 

 

And then I came upon this striking orange puff of flowers...actually there were about 10 of them hugging posts that outlined a corner lot.

 

I am partial to white flowers, and this tree charmed me...bending branches to allow us shorter creations to better admire its loveliness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can't remember the name of this powder puff flower! ?

Talk about show-offs! Red leaves, green leaves and a sprinkling of white frost... doesn't this look like Christmas in April?  Luscious!

 

And of course what garden is complete with roses?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well it's almost the end of my walk.  I didn't see the orange tabby that usually comes running to me as I pass her house, and walks part way down her street with me.

 

 

 

Maybe we'll meet tomorrow.

 

Giving our attention to the abundant attractions that the Universe has laid out for our pleasure and enchantment is a meditation. What an easy way to lift our spirits and rejuvenate our connection with Mother Earth.

 

~ Namaste!

 

 

 

Health and Wellness, and Preventing Disease

Maintaining health and wellness and preventing disease are major priorities for integrative medicine. Currently, the majority of our health care dollars are spent after a person is in crisis, when it costs the most to intervene and when the possibilities for full recovery are the slimmest. A recent study found that of the 7 million deaths from cancer worldwide in 2001, an estimated 35% were attributable to nine modifiable risks factors, all of which are controllable and most of which are under an individual’s own sovereignty.

Based on this and other scientific evidence, integrative medicine recommends lifestyle modifications—changes in diet and nutrition, physical activity and exercise, adopting stress management methods, and strengthening one’s social networks—to lower an individual’s risk of specific diseases and improve overall health.

The Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, under the leadership of Dean Ornish, MD, offers a comprehensive approach to lifestyle modification for people who are at high risk for or diagnosed with conditions such as coronary artery disease and prostate cancer. The program’s core components are a low-fat, whole foods diet; moderate aerobic exercise; stress management; and group support. This program, which has been approved by Medicare, is used in hospitals and clinics around the country.

Because the food we eat plays such an important role in maintaining health, nutrition has been a key focus for research—not only what to eat but also how to grow and buy the right food and how to prepare it in a healthful way.

“As a rule of thumb, try to include foods in your diet that have less than three grams of fat per serving. Stock foods in your refrigerator that you want to have on your diet. If it’s not right in front of you, you’re less likely to eat it. Cleaning out your refrigerator can be a nice metaphor for cleaning out your body and organizing your life in the way that you want it to be,” advises Dean Ornish, MD.

“Even simple choices can make a powerful difference. For example, two tablespoons of most salad dressings have as much fat as two scoops of premium ice cream. When in a restaurant, ask for the dressing on the side; just dip the tips of your fork in it with each bite, and you’ll get a fraction of the fat that you would otherwise.”

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Forward-thinking hospitals have now begun to promote healthy food. Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest nonprofit health plan, opened its first farmer’s market on the grounds of the Oakland Medical Center in Oakland, California in May 2003. Today, a total of 26 Kaiser-Permanente facilities have established on-campus farmer’s markets, which enable the facilities to offer better food choices to both employees and patients and promote awareness about good nutrition.

These and other integrative approaches to maintaining a healthy lifestyle may prevent serious illness and challenging medical treatments. In his book, 8 Weeks to Optimal Health, Andrew Weil, MD wrote, “Many of the common complaints that people have these days respond much better to simple adjustments in lifestyle than to taking medicine.”

Read more here.

The Connection Between Mind And Body

The idea that our minds and emotions play a critical role in our health—a fundamental premise in integrative medicine—is far from new. Many ancient healing systems emphasize the interconnection between mind and body in healing, including Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, who taught that good health depends on a balance of mind, body, and environment. Modern scientific research supports this age-old tenet of medical wisdom. It began in the 1920s, when Harvard scientist Walter Cannon, MD, identified the fight-or-flight response through which the body secretes hormones called catecholamines, such as epinephrine and nonepinephrine. When they enter the blood stream, these hormones produce changes in the body—i.e. a quickened heart or increased breathing rate—that put the person in a better physical state to escape or confront danger.

In the following decade, Hungarian-born scientist Hans Selye, MD, pioneered the field of stress research by describing how the wear-and-tear of constant stress could affect us biologically.

Since then, scores of scientific breakthroughs have illuminated the mind-body connection in health. Experimental psychologist Neal Miller, PhD, discovered that we can be trained to control certain physical responses, such as blood pressure, that were previously considered to be involuntary. This discovery gave birth to biofeedback, which has now been found to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, attention deficit disorder, headache, hypertension, and urinary incontinence.

Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, MD, identified the flip side of the stress response, which he called the “relaxation response.” Benson demonstrated that meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques can bring about physiological changes including a lower heart rate, lower breathing rate, and decreased muscle tension along with positive changes in brain waves. Mind-body techniques that elicit this relaxation response have been successful in treating many stress-related disorders.

Research by psychologist Robert Ader, PhD, at the University of Rochester provided a link between the brain, behavior and immune function, and founded the new field of psychoneuroimmunology, which researches ways to increase immune function through the use of the mind.

Based on a Buddhist meditation practice, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts, developed Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a mediation technique that has successfully reduced physical and psychological symptoms in many medical conditions, including pain syndromes.

“When we are on automatic pilot, trying to get someplace else all the time without being attentive to where we already are, we can leave a wake of disaster behind us in terms of our own health and well-being, because we’re not listening to the body. We’re not paying attention to its messages; we’re not even in our bodies much of the time,” explains Kabat-Zinn. “Mindfulness—paying attention on purpose in the present moment nonjudgmentally—immediately restores us to our wholeness, to that right inward measure that’s at the root of both meditation and medicine.”

Guided imagery, which utilizes the power of imagination to heal, has been shown to reduce anxiety and pain in people with a wide range of medical conditions, including asthma, back pain, and headache, and to help patients better tolerate medical procedures and treatments. “Imagery utilizes the natural language of the unconscious mind to help a person connect with the deeper resources available to them at cognitive, affective and somatic levels,” explains Martin L. Rossman, MD.

Innovative research by Dean Ornish, MD, and his colleagues found that a program integrating mind-body techniques such as yoga, meditation, stress management, and group support with diet and exercise reversed coronary artery disease. “What we are finding is that comprehensive lifestyle changes may ‘turn on’ the beneficial parts of the genome and ‘turn off’ the more harmful parts,” says Dr. Ornish.

Today, these breakthroughs in our understanding of the mind-body connection have translated into effective therapies that support a patient’s journey through illnesses and trauma. Virtually every major medical center now has a stress management or mind-body clinic, and practices such as meditation, yoga, and group support are woven into the medical treatment of heart disease, cancer, and other serious illnesses.

James Gordon, Director and Founder, Center for Mind-Body Medicine, has conducted mind-body skills trainings for patients and health care practitioners around the world. Gordon has said, “Mind-body medicine requires that we ground information about the science of mind-body approaches in practical, personal experience; that we appreciate the centrality of meditation to these practices; and that we understand—experientially as well as scientifically—that the health of our minds and the health of our bodies are inextricably connected to the transformation of the spirit.”

Go to source and watch a short video here.

Reduce Your Stress!

My personal feeling from observing friends and family that developed cancer, as well as myself, is that stress may be a trigger. One of the main pieces of advice given to cancer patients by most doctors is: reduce the stress in your life. I opened a Cafe 3 years ago, after getting laid off from a job of 15 years, and the stress of renovating the space, getting city permits and being there all the time did me in.  Within a few months I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

We may not be able to control stress, but we can manage it. Here are some stress-management tips that may help you feel:

  • Accept that there are things in our lives we cannot control.
  • Religiously guard your positive attitude; don't give in to the brain's defaulting to the negative. Repeat positive affirmations cheerfully and believe them!  ''I will make it through this'', "Nothing is worth feeling stressed about".
  • Halt stress in its tracks; if you feel overwhelmed, take a walk or a leisurely drive , or watch a funny movie or video.
  • Give yourself time to get things done. Manage the timing of events so you don't have to feel rushed.
  • Do things that bring you pleasure, reading, writing, walking or gardening are all good.
  • Spend 15-20 minutes each day sitting quietly. Learn and practice relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes every day. You can bike, walk, hike, or work out. Your body handles stress better when it is fit.
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. And don't smoke.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Get enough rest and sleep. Your body repairs itself at night.
  • Reach out to supportive friends, and family. Invite them for a cup of tea.

Resource: Click here for article on Relaxation Techniques.

~ You will be fine!