Radical Self-Care, Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini is a unique form of yoga that has deeply transformed my life. I don’t intend to tackle the gigantic topic of how it works because¬†I actually don’t understand this mystery myself! What I do know is that is does work; I feel peaceful, radiant, and energized each and every time I practice. I am content to follow along and do what the teacher tells me to do without an intellectual understanding.

What I can say is that the practices use the ancient technologies of sound, breath, and body postures and movements to stimulate chakras, organs, and glands in order¬†to create specific effects. There’s usually chanting, sometimes a gong, and mudras (hand positions). The goal is to draw kundalini, a powerful yet dormant energy, up the spine to awaken the chakras, and ultimately experience enlightenment.

While I can’t claim to yet be an enlightened being, I have experienced deep states of bliss and the amazing sensation of oneness; being at home with the divine and completely comfortable within my own body. Creating health by energizing organs and glands¬†seems to be¬†just a side affect, but an enjoyable and vitalizing one at that. Sometimes the exercises are difficult, often they seem weird, but that is a price I’m willing to pay to feel the glow.

I highly recommend seeking out a teacher to guide you along this mystical and magnificent path. If there’s not one available to you, I did find this book to be helpful. It speaks about the importance of the gentle awakening of kundalini¬†because an abrupt forcing of the energy can be uncomfortable, even dangerous. Taking the gentle route is not exactly the American way, but really a must in this field of study.


Radical Self-Care, Brain Power

Experts are suggesting that we keep our brains active in order to keep them healthy. It’s the “use it or lose it” theory of mental functioning. There are numerous ways to go about this; crossword and Sudoku puzzles¬†are perhaps the most popular. I find crosswords to be terribly frustrating and number puzzles somewhat addictive, so I take a different route.

Learning a new language is said to be great for the brain. I would love to take a class to refresh the German that I studied in school decades ago. Yet there is no room in my schedule for that. A friend introduced me to Duolingo, a free app that I use on my smartphone. Every day I spend five minutes firing off neurons and spreche deutsch, often while waiting for or riding on public transit.

Just as convenient is a Scrabble-like game called Words with Friends that I play on my phone. It gets me thinking in new ways, and while I can’t say it’s really affected my vocabulary, I’m all about remembering two letter words like za, xi, and qi that make it easy to rack up big points. The neat thing about this app is that you can play against a stranger, a friend, or even the system, and you can play at your own pace.

These are things that are fun and fit easily into the organic gaps that occur throughout my day. Because, let’s face it, if it isn’t easy and fun, it’s just not going to happen. It doesn’t really matter what you choose to learn or if it’s a useful skill. All that matters is that you give your brain a challenge on a regular basis. Mental exercise to stimulate the gray matter doesn’t need to be a tedious chore. But it does need to happen if we wish to improve memory and cognitive functioning as we age. It might not seem like a priority now, but it will be someday and I have no intention on waiting for a diagnosis to urge me on.

Radical Self-Care, “Brownies”

I bet you didn’t see that coming! It’s really important for me to have healthy treats on hand. It prevents temptation to indulge in junk foods that I will later regret. More than a decade of experimenting has taught me that I feel my best when I avoid gluten, dairy, and sugar. As I endeavor to always feel my best, I’ve learned to make fabulous yumminess that doesn’t contain any of those ingredients.

My favorite of these desserts can easily pass as brownies, even amongst non-health-food eaters. They’re often called “bliss balls”, and with good reason!

There are dozens of recipes online with¬†lots of variety, here’s a simple one. You can experiment with spices like cinnamon or ginger, citrus zest, coffee beans, vanilla, or coconut. I’m a purist when it comes to chocolate, so I keep it simple, but that’s just me. Google “bliss balls” or “raw vegan desserts” and you’ll be delighted with the options. These little babies are dense and satisfyingly sweet. I feel energized when eating them and they are the antidote to cravings.

Brownies. Who knew they could be healthy?!?

Radical Self-Care, Jarred Lunch

When you’re picky about the quality of food you ingest, it’s tough to eat out. When you’re concern for the environment inhibits reliance on single-use disposable containers, it’s nearly impossible to get take-out. Given that nearly every day I’m away from home at lunchtime, I need another option. Bagged lunches got boring a decade ago, and I wanted some variety from my standard green smoothie.

Last year I saw a post on Facebook about layering a salad in a Mason jar. I was intrigued but didn’t pursue it until yesterday. I had an extra long day and needed to pack two meals for the road. And as I was carrying everything on my back, it needed to be simple and efficient. In addition to my smoothie, I made a really hearty salad with organic vegetables and humanely raised smoked turkey breast. I followed the general instructions on this website and was really quite pleased.

jar salad

I had a thirty minute layover at the train station and found myself an area with a breeze and a shaded empty bench. I shook my jar to distribute the dressing and mix things up and dug in. I immediately  had a good laugh because my plastic fork was too short to really reach into the jar and was completely incapable of spearing carrots. I did the best I could turning the jar on its side and scooping, and aside from my technical difficulties, I was really quite pleased. The lettuce was crisp and none of the vegetables had gotten soggy.

If grabbing food on the go isn’t your thing because of cost, dietary needs, or lack of convenient options, jar salads can really be helpful. The ease of transport earns this concept a dozen gold stars. As with any packed lunch, variety is crucial, but that is only limited by the preparer’s imagination. Some pomegranate seeds would have been a nice addition to my recipe. Or pumpkin seeds. Or roasted sweet potato. Or chickpeas. Or …. well you get the idea! Just remember to bring a proper fork.

Radical Self-Care, Get Help

One of the most valuable aspects of being a Reiki Master is the ability to give myself daily treatments. I love that whenever I want, wherever I am, I can flow life-force energy for healing. It’s simple and powerful and helps me connect to my deeper truth every time. I also get a boost of energy each time I give a client a session. As Reiki flows through me, my body naturally absorbs some. It’s the best job perk ever!

Because I have access to healing energy on a daily basis, I sometimes forget the magnificent feeling of receiving a session from someone else. Yesterday I arranged to be the client and allowed myself to be flooded with Reiki. It was magical! I felt a deep sense of serenity and weightlessness that was profoundly nurturing. I felt like I was floating in a sea of wellness and that I belonged there. Afterwards it seemed like I had released a lifetime of burdens that had never been mine to carry.

It was a tremendous reminder to me of not only¬†the amazing benefits of Reiki, but also of the importance of asking for help. Often I find myself identifying with the label of “independent woman” and trying to do everything myself. I am learning to recognize that there is no shame in asking for help, just as there are no rewards for going it alone. Receiving a gift allows another to enjoy the blessings of being a giver. Being in the flow of give and take is a beautiful aspect of belonging¬†to a¬†community.¬†Allowing interdependence means becoming a better receiver, and that is a goal I am ready to pursue.

Radical Self-Care, Enjoy a Facial!

I rarely get facials. Twice per month I do an elaborate skin-care ritual at home with masks and goops to promote healthy, clear skin; and to be honest, I’d rather have a massage if I’m going to spend that kind of money. However I’ve been having trouble finding the right products for my skin in the hot, humid climate where I now live. So I decided to seek some professional advice.

I’m pleased to have been educated about some things I’d been doing wrong and about the line of Dr. Hauschka products I ordered afterwards. Pricey, yes, but pure ingredients backed by scientific research, and most definitely a step up from most of the so-called natural brands found at a health food store. (Just because the word “organic” is printed on the label, or even in the brand name, doesn’t actually seem to mean much when you read carefully.) Over the past week of my new regime, I have noticed an improvement.

However the greatest benefit I received from this experience was an awareness of how little I practice self-care while performing skin-care. During the facial, I noticed how gentle and soothing her touch was. Nothing like when I’m cleansing, toning, and moisturizing! I realized that I’m rough and rushed and not at all kind to my face. It’s something I just power through to get it over with so I can move on the next thing I need to accomplish.

As much as I’m enjoying the new products, the epiphany I had about the approach to using them was even more¬† fantastic! I’m not talking about spending a lot of time either; merely two minutes twice per day. That’s the same amount of time I spend brushing my teeth! No big deal, really, but the change in attitude is huge. Including skin-care as an act of self-care, something I do to nourish and be kind to myself, seems pretty simply but is actually a radical shift in my consciousness. I can only imagine that the effects will ripple out into other areas of my life as well.


Radical Self-Care, So-long Caffeine!

I’m ¬†feeling pretty stiff after a full day of giving massages. Yoga definitely helps, as does being aware of body mechanics while I’m working. Yet there is much room for improvement! I’m remember doing a cleanse earlier this year based on Dr. Alejandro Junger’s book, Clean. I’m easing my way into a purer diet based on his suggestions because of the spectacular relief I experienced. It was like traveling back to a time before I knew muscle tension and joint achiness!

I’ve done lots of detoxes over the past two decades. What stands out for me about this one was that I gave up all caffeine for three weeks. Usually I continue to consume green tea for the antioxidants and other health benefits while cleansing. I had a huge epiphany that even the small amount of caffeine in green tea contributed to feelings of anxiety, sensations of stiffness, and disrupted my sleep somewhat. As impressed as I was, somehow I fell back into my ritual of having two or three cups of black or green tea each morning. The symptoms returned so gradually that I just didn’t notice the impact of this discretion.

If your interested in the science behind cleansing, I do recommend his book. I’m not sure if it’s the caffeine itself, or perhaps an acidic internal environment that leads to inflammation. Having had the experience of it’s absence, I don’t really care about the cause! I’m just eager to return to that freedom of sleeping deeply and jumping out of bed at 6am, well-rested and free of all aches and pains. So I’m saying goodbye to an old friend. This morning I will savor my last cup of black tea with honey and coconut creamer. This afternoon I will linger over my last cup of green tea with a few drops of stevia. Tomorrow I will switch to rooibos “lattes” and licorice tea. Coz nothing tastes as good as pain-free feels!


Radical Self-Care, Listen to Your Gut

I have a big decision to make about work this week. The numbers are all in support of saying “yes” to an opportunity, but I am feeling hesitant. When I sit quietly and tune in to my inner knowing, my intuition is not onboard. When my head is telling me one thing, and my gut says¬†something entirely different, I know I need to get clear about my goals. I can’t choose the best route to my destination without knowing where it is.

Rather than ignoring the dissonance I sense and choosing the intellectually sound option, I have asked for time. Fortunately I’ve learned to recognize the uneasiness that signals my intuition is trying to warn me of discomfort ahead. I’ve never ignored this phenomenon and not regretted it later. This is one lesson I’m not willing to repeat!

As it turns out there are factors that¬†cannot be evaluated¬†by accounting alone. My needs for freedom and joy do not fit neatly into financial planning columns. Physical and mental wellness cannot be measured in dollars and not all¬†hours spent at work are equal. Sometimes increasing income is not the best way to honor one’s dreams and more work of a less desirable nature is not necessarily an opportunity. And when a potential decision makes me cringe, it’s definitely a sign that I haven’t considered less tangible information.

It’s time to create some clarity about my goals on all¬†levels; career and finances, health and well-being, personal growth, and relationships. While I’m pretty sure that I’m going to decline this seeming opportunity, I’m going to take the time to sit with the decision. Will it get me closer to any of my goals? Will it actually improve my quality of life in this moment? Will it create more joy and freedom today or just the potential for it down the road? For me, all of these considerations are much more important than columns of numbers. My gut is speaking to me loud and clear, and I fully intend to listen.

Radical Self-Care, Uncover Your Innate Energy

Last night I was thoroughly exhausted. When I found a video in my inbox called Four Mistakes that Zap Your Energy, I paid attention! It’s part of a free series offered by Hay House and Kris Carr, a NY Times best selling author and holistic health pioneer. It’s only available for a limited time, so if you’ve missed that window, check out her website; there’s tons of other helpful info there.

I learned a lot from what she had to say. I won’t try to repeat her message, but will encourage you to listen for yourself. I tuned in while doing restorative yoga poses and flooding my weary body with Reiki healing energy. Then I went to bed at 830 pm, so clearly my  innate energy needs to be uncovered. I will start implementing her suggestions today.