Going on a Media Diet: 30-Day Challenge

I work part-time in retail. Doing so allows a more steady flow of income as I build my herbal business. I truly enjoy the customer aspect of retailing: meeting new people, talking about the products we sell, finding out what they like to cook and eat and how they might use our products.

One thing I dislike about retailing—and fortunately it doesn’t happen too often—is when someone walks into the store on a cell phone. And they’re talking. They are unapproachable and that leaves me to wonder, What should I do?

The other night, this happened. Or so I thought…only the lady was not talking or texting;200px-Cnn.svg she was getting a CNN update about Hannah Anderson, the California teen who was kidnapped and whisked away to some remote part of Idaho. The woman apologized for being on her phone and filled me in, saying Anderson had been killed (this, apparently, a case of CNN jumping the gun, because the girl had not been killed; her kidnapper had been).

“How awful,” I said.

And then I proceeded to introduce this lady to our products while feeling like I had whiplash.

The woman was very pleasant and thankful for the tour. But when she left, I had the feeling I’d been assaulted by her having shared something with me I had no desire to hear and that was siphoning away my energy. Many people have had this experience. It isn’t that we are not empathetic, but we truly cannot do anything about the situation, so hearing about it serves only to drain us.

Negative news does not faze me if I believe there is something I can do to help. When there is nothing we can do, we can send energy to the people involved, and there are entire practices around this, from a friend of a friend who lights a candle every morning when she prays for a number of people close to her and far away, to my friend Beth Terrence’s May is for Metta (lovingkindness) practice. But this assumes, too, that we have the presence of mind to send energy—and that is something that takes practice.

I personally am still in the “avoid” phase of my development. Regardless of context, most all news revolves around someone doing something, usually bad, to someone else. Occasionally, a feel-good story or broadcast item is thrown in for good measure. When the news is bad, I feel depressed, so my best solution is to avoid. It’s kind of like a shopaholic who avoids going to stores and unsubscribes from all mail-order catalogs and e-mails.

The fact is, we are awash in information, a lot of it just bad—bad, meaning poorly written or crafted, but bad also meaning, this stuff really isn’t good or healthy for us to partake of or read.

The only person who’s given me flack about this is my father, who seems to believe I am uninformed for not subscribing to a newspaper—whether the Washington Post or our local daily. But I am informed enough to know that paying attention to negative stuff puts me in a bad way, so I avoid it. Am I informed or not?

We have plenty of studies from neuroscience that show our brains evolved to give more weight to the negative than the positive. Naked little apes, we were much like the desert hare on television that falls prey to the family of Harris hawks. We are still wired to look over our shoulders.bbcover

Believing that we must keep up with everything that’s going on in the world is a fallacy, too, and taxes our energy and resources. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t if we want to—just that we should not feel compelled, feel as though we’re bad people or somehow lacking if we don’t follow every little snippet of a story. It is, of course, important that we engage our civic duties—to know what state or federal laws or local ordinances are being proposed and to weigh in, because these laws have direct or indirect impacts on us.

For all who read this blog, if you agree, I have a challenge: Let’s see if we can go on a media diet for 30 days. This doesn’t mean you have to commit to missing out on your favorite shows—though, if you want to take a full break from all media for 30 days, that would be akin to doing an elimination diet with certain foods and that can be helpful in finding triggers. But what I envision is cutting out the crappy-feeling news or TV programs: the kind of stuff that I would ordinarily click on when I’m on Yahoo! or when I come home late and just want to zone out. It means recognizing that this stuff is like high-fructose corn syrup for our minds—empty calories that suck our energy as we try to “digest” it.

My end of this bargain will also include seeking out the good stuff and sharing it with you, from Web sites and articles to TED talks and, possibly, book reviews. But if you find yourself doing that as well, feel free to share below, in the comments section, or post to my Facebook page here.

To start us off, I have a couple of links to share.

This first is an article by neuroscientist Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain. It’s entitled Seven Facts about the Brain that Incline the Mind to Joy.

The second is an entire Web site devoted to good news, the Good News Network.

So, I hope you’ll join me and share how you feel as you go along.

Teasing Out Your Bliss Point

When my beloved and I stopped by Art Things in West Annapolis last week for some advice on hanging a piece of fiber art I had made a couple years ago, we ran into Jeff Huntington. He is a local artist and adjunct faculty of The Corcoran School of Art + Design in Washington, D.C. He also does screen-print work and makes my beloved’s work shirts, and that is the main way we know him.

My beloved asked him what he’s been up to and he mentioned Bliss Point, a series of portraits of a variety of children and young people—nieces and nephews of Huntington’s—that capture their expressions as sugar addicts. The term “bliss point” is food-industry jargon for the point at which there is just the right amount of sugar that makes a processed food or drink optimally enjoyable.

Processed Food Today
“Bliss point” is the key to the castle for processed food companies. If they can target just the right amount of sugar in their products, they’ll sell more. The general thinking is that people buy “food” based on what they expect it will taste like—and how—not based on how nourishing the food (or “food product”) is. The food-processing industry has reams of data (mathematical and otherwise) about the various bliss points of processed food. And they can make similar calculations for salt and increasingly for fat, which has been tricky to pinpoint.

A mural by Jeff Huntington and Jimi HaHa depicting one of Huntington's nephews after he drank a 20-ounce Mountain Dew.

A mural by Jeff Huntington and Jimi HaHa depicting one of Huntington’s nephews after he drank a 20-ounce Mountain Dew.

Huntington’s work on the bliss point is very visible in a mural he did with local artist and musician Jimi “HaHa” Davies. (The two have an artistic partnership known as JaH-HaHa Collaborative Art, and if you live in Annapolis or spend some time there, you’ve probably seen their penny portraits or t-shirts.) The mural, entitled SUGARUSH, is one of Huntington’s nephews and captures the expression of the boy after he has drunk a 20-ounce Mountain Dew. The mural is on an east-facing wall of the Metropolitan restaurant on West Street in Annapolis. The boy looks like he’s going to blow up.

The Bliss Point series portraits can be viewed here. The portraits speak for themselves. But if you understand something about how sugar behaves in the body, then you won’t be too surprised that the children look like they’re drugged out. Bliss Point was Huntington’s response to an invitation to Corcoran fine arts faculty to participate in an exhibition in Milan, called Are We What We Eat? Sustenance and Art. The aim: raise awareness of issues around sustainable food and nutrition.

Because Huntington often taps his nieces and nephews to serve as models, he gets up-close looks of children who consume a lot of caffeine and sugar and other processed foods from an early age. For this reason, he shifted some of the imagery he used in the collages to those of “cupcakes, icing, brownies, chocolate and other sweets.”

Health and social issues have tended to entice Huntington, whose past series have focused on Alzheimer’s (Plaques and Tangles), because his own father lives with advanced stages of the illness, and anorexia and eating disorders among those in the beauty/fashion industry (Super Models).

The Philadelphia-based nonprofit Monell Center does a lot of research around the chemistry of human taste and smell, including the "bliss point."

The Philadelphia-based nonprofit Monell Center researches the chemistry of human taste and smell, including the “bliss point.”

Adults, even the parents of today’s children, may not “get it” when it comes to sugar and manufactured foods that are specifically engineered to keep em coming back for more. Although the food-processing industry is not terribly old in the long history of what people have eaten, it has become increasingly sophisticated in terms of what it puts into food to encourage consumption. The term “bliss point” used to be applied to economics, but has made its home in the food-processing industry since the 1970s.

Processed Food Back Then

Today is different than when Huntington or I grew up in the ‘70s. We had processed foods, of course. One of my favorites was Little Debbie Swiss Rolls, those creamy combinations of chocolate and vanilla that I liked to freeze, then cut into slices before eating. There were Lucky Charms and Sugar Pops and, later, Cheerios to which I added granulated white sugar. There were Yoo-hoo chocolate drinks and Doritos, and one of my other favorites—Pop Tarts.

I don’t like thinking about these today, because I am concerned that even thinking about them will trigger my metabolism to prepare to receive them, which means it would say to the pancreas, “Hey, buddy! Wake up! WE NEED SOME INSULIN!” Even when I wasn’t eating super-processed stuff, I was still getting sugar in the form of Del Monte Fruit Cocktail or Libby’s canned corn. Despite my memories of these foods, they were not constant companions. Mom did the grocery shopping and so, had a fairly tight grip on the food budget and what we ate, and she would not allow junk to replace better-quality foods.

To this day, I still have not tried this food product. Mom always made hers from scratch.

To this day, I still have not tried this food product. Mom always made hers from scratch.

Mom cooked supper almost every night or we had leftovers and those things were seldom out of a box. We never had Hamburger Helper, for example, and she made her mac and cheese from scratch. But we ate a fair amount of pasta—spaghetti or Husband’s Delight—and rice—the processed yellow rice you could get in tiny bags at the Kash ‘n’ Karry for Monday night’s chicken-and-yellow-rice dish.

Things changed about 1980-81. Pinellas County, Florida, got a Costco and a Pace and things that had been a sometimes-treat, such as Coke, became pretty regular drinks we’d have with supper. They were so much cheaper to buy in bulk…and Mom did.

I speed-skated competitively, and I recall many a Friday night, when the general skate session ended at midnight, we’d come in for a two-hour practice. At 2 AM, we’d head toward home and stop at the Jack-in-the-Box or, more often, at the Krispy Kreme. I loaded up on a crème-filled, chocolate-covered doughnut topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. I ate this with a small carton of milk, while the adults had coffee and caught up on more gossip. My parents would have been just slightly older than the age I am now, and I cannot imagine staying up that late—even with a child in a sport like speed-skating—or eating that much sugar or drinking caffeine at what is considered “liver time” in Chinese medicine, the time when we are to give most of our processing organs a rest.

“Food Product” Prevalence
But it’s not only that today, everywhere we look, we find processed foods. It’s also that they are cheap to buy and, as Huntington points out, very well advertised. The advertising has “been there for a long time, but it’s become so intense, relentless and constant,” he says. If there’s an equation that seems to suit processed food, it might be bliss point + prevalence + convenience + heavy advertising = more sales/more consumption.

The funny thing about the processed food industry is that it does not confine itself to any one country. In fact, recently the United States shifted to second place in the ranking of nations consuming energy-deficient foods, following Mexico. Some thought this was reason to cheer. I was not one of them.

It was not all that long ago that it was common in places like the South to see mineral deficiencies result in illnesses like pellagra. Many people don’t seem to have a handle on the physics and physiology of food/energy. A food that is not nutrient dense actually draws more from the body’s reserves that it gives back, which means the person’s energetic accounts are in the red.

More common sight: families buying fresh food directly from farmers at local markets.

A more common sight: families buying fresh food directly from farmers at local markets.

I asked Huntington what he thought might slow or reverse these tendencies to consume “food products” and drinks that are not helpful for us. He doesn’t know, but says any move toward reversing and slowing is just that—slow. “Younger generations slowly get wiser, older generations and habits die, and eventually it will be more common to care, be more aware, read labels, etc., and to want this kind of awareness for our children instead of blindly painting some false image of ‘happiness’ for others to see.”

There are signs of a wake-up underway. If you visit local farmers markets on the weekend, you see more families with young children buying fruits and vegetables and better-quality eggs. You see more people growing some of their own food. You have more people asking important questions: “What’s in this? Are there any genetically modified organisms? What about ‘natural flavors’?”

I, for one, am hopeful that the times, they are a’changin’.

To view more of the work of JaH-HaHa Art Collaborative, go here.

Seeking the Shaman Within: An Interview with Beth Terrence

My first personal encounter with shamanic practices came in 2007, in an appropriate-to-our-times trio of CDs recorded by therapist and shamanic practitioner Sandra Ingerman. It was entitled, The Soul Retrieval Journey: Seeing in the Dark.IngermanSoulRetrieval

As Ingerman defined it, “Shamanism is the first spiritual practice of human kind,” dating back at least 30,000 years. Shamanic practices are cross-cultural, with variants used in Siberia, Australia, Africa, North and South America, and parts of Europe and Asia.

The word “shaman” comes from Tungus, a Siberian tribe (today called the Evenki), and it translate as “one who sees in the dark.” That phrase resonates as shamanic work often involves going into the depths of what we don’t see in our everyday, conscious lives and bringing ideas, revelations, and more nuanced views of old experiences into our consciousness so that we can grow our awareness of ourselves.

Fast-forward to 2011. I’d heard about “Beth” from the friend of a friend, but for whatever reason, it did not work out for us to meet. The friend did not say anything about Beth’s work, just that it sounded like Beth and I would have a lot in common.

When I finally met Beth early in 2012, I was glad I had. Beth Terrence, Annapolis-based shaman, facilitator and holistic practitioner, has become a good friend and has been an integral part of my spiritual growth in the last year. She runs Beth Terrence Holistic Health Resources & Wellness Programs.

Beth Terrence is a shaman, facilitator and holistic practitioner based in Annapolis, Md.

Beth Terrence is a shaman, facilitator and holistic practitioner based in Annapolis, Md.

By the time I met Beth, I’d done some shamanic work on my own and had taken a basic shamanic journeying class through the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, started by anthropologist Michael Harner, Sandra Ingerman’s teacher.

But I had never had a soul retrieval undertaken on my behalf. Terrence journeyed for me and recovered two parts, both of which have begun to play key roles in the spiritual work I do now.

Long-Standing Interest in Holistic Healing
Holistic practices are not new to Terrence. She was 11 when she came across a book on reflexology. She used the book to teach herself. As a teenager, she developed a meditation practice that continues to this day. Her own health issues with fibromyalgia led to yoga, chiropractic work, herbs, massage and acupuncture. When she got as far as she could on the physical level, she began to work with emotions and the spirit. Eventually, this led her to shamanic work.

“Most traditional and indigenous cultures have had someone who holds the spiritual foundation in the community,” she says. “People go to this person for healing. This person works with the individual and the collective.”

Shamanic practices are a natural fit for Terrence. In cultures where a shaman saw to the well being of the people, the shaman often had an initiatory experience as a child—they were somehow set apart from the tribe, whether because of illness or something else that distinguished them.

Terrence believes that her childhood and teenage years were her gateway to shamanic work. Her mother suffered from schizophrenia, InspiredVoicesand the experience of growing up was one of near-constant fear. (Terrence writes about this experience in “Lost and Found: The Birth of a Shaman,” in Inspired Voices: True Stories by Visionary Women, compiled by Andrea Hylen.)

Traditionally and even in many indigenous cultures today, shamans often work on the physical plane, using plants to help heal the physical body. But the work doesn’t rest only on the physical. Indeed, greater support for healing may come through helping the mind, emotions and spirit.

Helping Others to Access the Shaman Within
It is a gift when we can see ourselves as we truly are, but not many people are so well developed or disciplined that they can easily size up their internal conflicts and pinpoint the roots of their illnesses. And in a culture where distractions are woven into the fabric of daily life, it’s all the more difficult to take the time to focus on oneself and discover what lies in the unconscious and to bring it to consciousness and begin to work with it.

But that said, with a little help, we can learn how to work with ourselves.

“I believe we all have a shaman within,” says Terrence, who’s been working with shamanic practices for more than 10 years.

Beth Terrence deepened her connection to herself and to Earth through a vision quest.

Beth Terrence deepened her connection to herself and to Earth through a vision quest.

Shamans can help others access that “inner shaman,” which allows the person to regain his or her own spiritual integrity and wholeness.

A primary tool that shamans use is the shamanic journey, a way of connecting with unseen worlds in non-ordinary reality, that is, reality not bounded by time and space, where the journeyer can access information that can help herself or others.

All in an Afternoon’s Journey
The hallmark of a journey is a visit to lower, middle or upper worlds—or a combination of those. A person initiates a journey to the lower world usually by visualizing an opening in the earth. The opening may be a pool or lake, a tree or a waterfall, even the stairs that lead down to a subway tunnel. The lower world is the realm of power animals or totem animals, which are helping spirits, usually an aspect of ourselves that we need to activate—to bring from the unconscious to the conscious realm—depending on what the animal represents in general as well as to the journeyer specifically.

Middle world journeys take place on this plane and often are initiated by visualizing a walk out the front door.

An upper-world journey is initiated by visualizing an upward track, such as a tree or mountain or even an elevator going up. The upper world is where the spirits of  the ancestors reside along with teachers in human form. Angels or animals may also appear. All can be helping spirits.

Among the reasons for undertaking a journey are to get in touch with these helping spirits and guides. They can provide insights into your past, present or future. They may help inspire your creativity. Overall, they provide a safe connection to yourself to allow for wide-ranging exploration.

Physical and Spiritual Healing
One of the doorways Terrence passed through on her way to becoming a shaman was her own struggle with fibromyalgia at about age 19. “I didn’t find much support in conventional medicine, so I looked to other modes of healing,” she says. “In that process—diet/nutrition, yoga, meditation, body work, network chiropractic—at some point I came to a place where it was 70 percent resolved. I realized the primary aspect I needed to address was the emotions.”

That realization led to other areas, including Bach Flower Remedies, pioneered by Dr. Edward Bach, and PEER (Primary Energy Emotional Recovery).

Willow is one of Dr. Bach's remedy plants, meant to assist with moving emotions involving resentment and self-pity.

Willow is one of Dr. Bach’s remedy plants, meant to assist with moving emotions involving resentment and self-pity.

Working with those methods helped to resolve the symptoms of the fibromyalgia. But there was still more to do. “I still felt like something was missing, some piece—that I still carried a lot of pain and so I continued on my personal work as part of my journey.”

When she left New York City for Maryland in 2001, Terrence experienced a period of grief and intense loss, including the deaths of people close to her as well as divorce. But her mentor for energy healing, Bill Henegan, who helped her understand her calling, also worked with her through that time.

“I wouldn’t have made it through without him,” she says.

A year later, Terrence began to attend a sweat lodge/shamanic journey/ceremony group. Then a friend who felt severely depressed and had serious health issues felt drawn to have a soul retrieval and asked Terrence to come as a witness. That was Terrence’s first experience with individual shamanic work as a healing tool.

Soul retrieval is one of the main shamanic practices. It can be helpful for people who have suffered soul loss, a common occurrence for anyone living. Soul loss can result from basic experiences and extraordinary experiences, such as trauma, accidents, or even those times as a child when we felt no one was there for us or, for whatever reason, our needs were not met. Soul loss may also occur when we don’t have the ability to deal with what’s coming up, when we feel cut off or disconnected from ourselves—even if the disconnection is caused by something that happened in a different lifetime—and parts of ourselves have dissociated.

“Soul retrieval helps people to reconnect with parts of ourselves that are ready to come back,” says Terrence.

Shamanic practitioners and people themselves can use the journey process to recover these parts and reconnect with them. To do a soul retrieval, the shaman first creates a sacred space in which the client is supported in a “container” of love, one that protects him or her from interferences of the outside world.

Dark Night of the Soul
Through that period of grieving and further journey work, Terrence began to feel more connection with the spirit realm. She went to a workshop that combined shamanic journeying and work with stones and crystals as spirit medicine. The workshop leader told Terrence that her pull toward the spirits was so strong that she needed to choose between leaving this realm or staying here and moving through the pain and turmoil. It was then she decided to have a soul retrieval herself.

When Bill Henegan passed away in 2005, Terrence encountered some “divine timing” in her connection with shaman Ross Bishop through the Energy Therapy Network, an online list of providers and events that relate to alternative healing—the same way she had met Henegan.

Terrence apprenticed with Bishop, who had studied shamanic practices with indigenous people, but also incorporated inner-child work with journeying.

Inner children may be described as those parts of ourselves that have gotten—to borrow poet Robert Bly’s phrase—stuffed “into the bag.” The children are, well, children. They are spontaneous and joyful. But to some adult for whom a child’s actions may cause embarrassment, those parts of the children get shoved away, out of sight. But they do not disappear. They become what Carl Jung dubbed the shadow. The question is, of course, how best to reintegrate those pieces of ourselves?

Using Bishop’s techniques, which are found in his book Healing the Shadow, “there’s an opportunity for [people] to, in a sense, self-facilitate their own soul return.”HealingtheShadow_Cover_RossBishop

A practitioner can help initiate the process of returning lost soul parts as well as to help someone move more easily through areas of resistance—areas that may be difficult and uncomfortable for someone to work with on her own.

Terrence has seen how much journeying can help people who are burdened especially by old patterns and habits. One instance of this was in her work with people who have addictions. She was able to introduce the journey process to people who didn’t know about it and didn’t have “too much faith or belief they would have some sort of experience.” They were able to have a visual or auditory experience that helped them to learn about their own intuition and how they themselves experience that intuition energetically, says Terrence.

They learned to solve problems creatively, using imagery that came to them through their inner guidance. Most importantly, they achieved a “natural state change” rather than using a substance. Creating a natural altered state of consciousness is one of the many benefits of shamanic journeywork and opens possibilities for those dealing with addictions. Through journeys, they can experience the sense of connection they had been longing for—a sense of connection for which they had used substances as substitutes. Journeys gave them a way to cultivate connection with—and within—themselves as well as with others and the world.

More Connection, More Joy
That’s how shamanic work goes—whether someone is reconnecting with lost soul parts or simply seeking guidance. The more people connect and reconnect, the more they are able to live fully, with more joy, and the more they are able to be in the present; they become integrated. That can help people to live better with fellow humans and with Earth itself.

It’s always been important for two-leggeds to connect with Earth by actually walking on the land or swimming Earth’s waters. But unless you make the time to do so, it’s difficult today. Yet, as Terrence says, “In any moment, we can go into that space in nature (through the shamanic journey). In our day and age and in our culture, fostering a sense of connection with Earth and the natural world is a major part of shamanic work.”

Even if shamans do not work directly with plants, today’s shamanic practices still derive from Spirit, Earth and humankind, likely making them the oldest co-created practices.

“Often, through ceremony and ritual, we honor and connect with Earth—that’s an aspect of all ceremony,” says Terrence.Beth_VisionSite2

In shamanic work, “there’s a strong respect and honoring of Mother Earth as a caretaker and the feeling that all beings are equal and one,” says Terrence. “The interconnectedness of all things is accepted as a foundational belief or philosophy.”

“Becoming integrated is part of becoming whole and balanced,” says Terrence. “Lack of integration adds to chaos. Integration can provide a sense of peace, balance and wholeness…as more people become integrated, that can create more balance in the world.”

Meeting People Where They Are
In an indigenous culture with an active shaman, people would not be without their soul parts for very long. The return of the parts would often be accompanied by celebration or a joyous welcome from family, Terrence adds.

Given all the chaos present in modern, Western culture, it’s often difficult for lost soul parts to become integrated. “If we lived in a natural place and we lived more slowly, it might be easier for the parts to integrate,” says Terrence.

How Terrence works and at what pace depends on where the client is. Through a process of dialogue, exploration and inner guidance, she feels into what method would best benefit a client at that time.

“Ideally, my goal is to initiate a process of transformation for my clients so that they can then continue to work on their own process of growth and change,” says Terrence. “The work is customized. It may take several visits or ongoing work to address various issues or layers. This ultimately creates a foundation so that the client becomes their own agent of change,”—their own shaman.

Learn more about Beth Terrence by visiting www.bethterrence.com.

On Saturday, July 27, from 1 to 4 PM, in Annapolis, I’ll have the privilege and honor of co-leading a workshop with . Beth and I will offer a variety of tools for heart-centered living as well as heart-supportive plant medicines. Cost of the workshop is $50. Space is limited, so if you’re interested, register by going to https://www.eventbrite.com/event/7246250731?ref=ebtnebregn.

The Ecological Reclamation of the Self

In each of us, there are hidden, often unexamined, motives for why we are the way we are, why we become the people we become.

Stephen Harrod Buhner

Stephen Harrod Buhner taught recently at a workshop on the Gaian mind outside Charlottesville, Va.

After spending a weekend in early June with Stephen Harrod Buhner, author, herbalist, psychotherapist, teacher, generous spirit and more, I realize I need to examine just how much of my life has been driven not only by a desire not to suffer, but moreover not to see or feel others suffer.

A lot of healers, many people who serve as caregivers in our culture, likely have the desire not to see or feel others suffer as an overriding (or underlying) motivation, whether they care much or little about their own suffering.

I have no doubt that I’ve struggled with this my whole life: Why do bad things happen? A younger version of me wrote about the rights of crime victims on behalf of an academic publisher, and I was, during that time, intensely interested in why certain people were vulnerable to the actions of others. Another younger me was also intrigued by the culture of Russians—by their writers and artists and musicians—those people who seemed to be able to feel deeply around suffering and not have those feelings destroy them. I believe the act of creating something out of that suffering is what allowed many of them to continue living.

Suffering as a Window on Feeling
If I poke a little deeper around the issue of not wanting to suffer and not wanting to witness the suffering of others, I believe it is because it upsets us to feel. It upsets us to feel deeply, especially when the feelings are those of suffering. Take any tragedy—something that could have been prevented—Newtown or Columbine, 9/11 or the disasters involving the Challenger or Columbia space shuttles, or even the ongoing shredding of the fabric of life that manifests as habitat destruction, chemical contamination, pharmaceutical runoff, take any of these and ask yourself: How long can you “sit’ with the feelings these things stir in you? How long before you want to look away, before you go back to checking your e-mail or planning your next getaway?

My impulse is to try to distinguish between needless suffering and suffering that cannot be prevented (my way of looking away!). But where is that line?

The example that kept running through my head during Buhner’s workshop was that of Anniston, Alabama, and the residents who’ve lived with contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) for decades and suffered untold amounts of cancers and death because of a coverup and lack of accountability by Monsanto. History and our current times are littered with such examples.

Part of Buhner’s “consumer warning” to those who attended his workshop was that we would have certain of our deeply held beliefs shaken. My beliefs around needless suffering were among the parts of me that were shaken.

“Gaia is not afraid of death,” Buhner said. “Suffering is built into the system. Because death is inherent, so is suffering—it’s what allows innovation [Buhner’s word for evolution]. You cannot avoid suffering.

“Part of the function of people who are older is to live in balance with suffering—it gives young people hope. Safety doesn’t exist. Shit happens.”

“You have to let the world have its own suffering,” says Buhner.

By degrees, I suspect I will learn how to let go, not of caring, for what kind of human doesn’t care? But to be able to feel through sadness and darkness and emerge more whole, less fragmented because of being able to feel. In fact, learning how to feel initially creates more fragmentation within us. Learning how to interpret what we feel is what helps us piece ourselves together.

Our ability to feel is what allow us as a species to innovate—to be able to adapt. If we do not change, Buhner says, we become caricatures of humans. Being able to feel forms the basis for what Buhner calls the “ecological reclamation of the self.”

What shreds the fabric of life is ecological degradation. Habitat destruction is probably the key here, because various species, large and small, need a certain amount of habitat in which to live—to breathe, to attain sustenance, to be able to defecate without fouling the nest, to be able to reproduce, to be able to raise their young.

The nonprofit Appalachian Voices focuses on minimizing the impacts of coal in Appalachia and improving the prospects for clean forms of energy. Visit them at appvoices.org.

The nonprofit Appalachian Voices focuses on minimizing the impacts of coal in Appalachia and improving the prospects for clean forms of energy. Visit them at appvoices.org.

Humans, too, face habitat destruction. Certainly, whatever we do to Earth—in terms of changing biology and physiology, changing the chemical and hormonal makeup, even changing the geology—we do to ourselves.

But our self-destruction doesn’t stop there. In fact, what is more sinister and more devastating for us is the metaphysical self-fragmentation that goes along with the physical destruction of the planet. The more we fragment Earth, the more we ourselves become fragmented.

The way out is to work on becoming whole humans, to focus on the ecological reclamation of the self. And the way to do that is by learning to feel…to feel everything.

Working with Earlier Ego States—a.k.a. the Inner Children
If there is a key to being able to flow through feelings and allow them to flow through us, it is no doubt because of the inner work we do or the activities that allow us to enhance and expand our perceptions of the world around us—a walk in the woods while being fully present to all that is, or playing music or painting. We may think we know the world around us, but what do we really know?

Those who’ve grown up embedded in Western civilization are the children of the philosopher Descartes. Most of us have inherited his great misperception: “I think, therefore I am.” But it is time for us to mature, to move beyond this great fallacy, to connect with our hearts and to continue to deepen that connection. What would it be like instead to live in the mode of “I feel, therefore I am”?

No one said choosing such a path is easy. It’s hard to detach from the culture you’ve known your whole life. One method Buhner has used to be able to feel and be fully present is through working with earlier ego states. He spent 15 years, day in and day out, working with his inner children through each stage of development, allowing each one its voice and providing it the nurturing that his adult self can offer.

Going back in time, always with the question, “How does it feel?”, each feeling a variant on “mad, sad, glad, or scared”, this work allows openings in our “sensory gating channels”—the channels through which our perceptions and the meanings we derive from them are mediated.

Pine was one of five plants Buhner gave workshop participants the opportunity to "sit" with. Those who sat with pine almost universally reported feeling calm and peaceful in the presence of this tree.

Pine was one of four plants Buhner gave workshop participants the opportunity to “sit” with. Those who sat with pine almost universally reported feeling calm and peaceful in the presence of this tree.

“The narrower the gating, the less meaning [we experience],” he says. “The wider the gating, the more meaning.”

In the past, spending time in nature has helped me to open the sensory gates. And more recently, inner-child work has begun to bring changes to my perceptions of life as well as more meaning into my life.

I find it’s not always easy to talk to my “children.” Certain of them are stronger and louder than others; certain don’t seem to want to talk to me at all while others don’t want to stop talking. Despite the challenges, the importance of doing this work is clear to me, especially after spending some time with Buhner. The aisthesis—or heart-feeling-sense—in the room during his workshop could only have been as deep as it was because he had done that work and because we were interested in doing that work. I loved experiencing that feeling—it was one of comfort, of feeling safe enough to explore aspects of myself that are not often comfortable to explore. I hope to try to, though the inner-children work, maintain that kind of feeling.

Becoming Whole
If we look around us and we are completely honest, we see lots of people—holey people—who try to fill their holes by investing everything in their identities, or by buying things they don’t really need, or by chasing after new and different people with whom they want a relationship, however brief.

I’d guess most of us know about this. I sure do. I know because I used to be that way. My identity was tied up with my hobbies and interests. I used to buy art in order to, as Buhner might say, try to hang onto someone else’s aisthesis (or heart-feeling-sense), whatever glow emanated from the painting the painter had set down on paper or canvas.

But we each have our own heart-feeling-senses. We each have the ability to become whole. If we are to really grow—to conduct our own ecological reclamation of our selves—we’re going to have to make the time to do this work, the work of courting our heart-feelings. It’s long work and hard, but it’s probably the most important work we can do as a species.

Doing this work reinforces something that Buhner said, something that is coming to be second-nature and will eventually feel as though it emerged with me from the womb: “Just because we were abandoned does not mean we have to abandon ourselves.”

Cascade Anderson Geller: A Tribute

I knew about herbalist, teacher and all-around good soul Cascade Anderson Geller long before I’d ever met her. It was in passing, in a class my teacher Kathleen Maier was conducting, after an herb conference she had attended. I cannot recall exactly what Kathleen said, but whatever it was, I knew that someday, I wanted to take a class with Cascade. Even transmitted through another person, she just sounded wise, knowledgeable and kind.

Mostly, I wanted to go on a plant walk with her and I got that opportunity in 2011 at the International Herb Symposium when she led a walk through the woods on the campus of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass.

I am sorry that I and other herbalists—long-time or aspiring—and just anyone who cares about Earth will no longer have the opportunity to meet, see, listen to or spend time with Cascade. She journeyed to the ancestors last Saturday. I was stunned when I heard this, because it’s so hard to believe that someone with such vitality could be there and then, not there. So, I’d like to share some of the things I learned from Cascade, because these kinds of things need to be shared and because it is a fitting way to honor her.

Cascade Anderson Geller at the ruins of Inca Pirca, Ecuador, February 2012

Cascade Anderson Geller at the ruins of Inca Pirca, Ecuador, February 2012

On that walk at Wheaton, it was immediately obvious that Cascade loved trees—and for good reason, for, as she pointed out, they have long provided humans with some of the safest medicine around. She approached a witch hazel, which had galls in the leaves. These galls are made by a wasp. She explained how the leaves with galls would actually be higher in medicine, tannins perhaps, than others, because of the tree’s production of secondary metabolites—the things a plant typically makes to defend itself and which humans often use medicinally.

Tannins, she said, are a good place to start in one’s herbal education. So, if you have poison ivy, she said, you can make a strong black tea or a witch hazel wash. Both are high in tannins and “tannins precipitate proteins,” which means they form a seal or a scab.

So, trees/shrubs are the “first line of protection” and most are ‘non-toxic.’

Speaking of “toxic,” Cascade related a story from a 1996 visit to Ecuador. The group was visiting a shaman and someone asked a question about psychoactive plants and which were “toxic.”

The shaman had nothing to say…at the time.

The next day, though, he came back with, “No toxic plants—only fools.” In other words, know what you’re doing when you’re using plants in any way, even if you’re using them for food.

Cascade shared many such stories and I was fortunate in February 2012 to be able to travel with her, herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, and Kathleen Maier on a visit to Ecuador co-led by ethnobotanist/herbalist Rocio Alarcon, a native of Ecuador. I had many a “back of the bus” conversation with Cascade, who spoke about the importance of activism within the herbal community and the natural products industry. In fact, that was the subject of the last talk of hers I attended at the Medicine of the People conference (a.k.a. Herbal Resurgence) near Flagstaff, Ariz., last year. Cascade’s activism—whether on behalf of plants or people or the waters of her adopted home town of Portland, Oreg.—was a reflection of her deep love for this place we call home.

Cascade, Rosemary Gladstar and Rocio Alarcon, Ecuador, February 2012.

Cascade, Rosemary Gladstar and Rocio Alarcon, Ecuador, February 2012.

I’d like to share some of the things I learned from Cascade:

“If you have nature, you have your life—no matter what happens.”

Speaking of the protective waxy cuticle that trees and shrubs form early in the spring season: “Wax before going into the sun; people learned from plants.”

On the “courting” relationship of human and plant: Say, “ ‘I’m interested in you. Would you like to share your medicine?’” This is a daily practice, Cascade said. “What’s necessary is the heart connection—learning how to ask the right questions. And just like a child again—start over.”

“ ‘The most important thing for human beings is to sing and dance,’” she said, quoting an Ecuador shaman.

On harvesting plant medicines: “Don’t pick the first—bless it. Take some good, leave some good.”

The oil from poison ivy can stay viable up to five years, she said. If you’re harvesting in an area full of poison ivy, be sure to bring along some isopropyl alcohol and make sure you wipe everything down once you return to the car.

Hot water makes a better extractor for things that fight infection, she said.

Cascade recounted how growing up in her household, someone with a headache would have their head wrapped. She said they would use sassafras leaves to encircle the head, but that we could also use lobelia or tobacco leaves, and then wrap the head with a “headache scarf.” This was not only to help resolve the headache, but also to indicate that the person wearing the scarf was not feeling well and should be left to rest.

About marijuana as medicine, Cascade said it was “Not taken by smoke. There was no smoking in the old world that we can find.” The chillum pipe, she said, was designed by Caribbean Island Indians and was used in Asia for opium, where they would “eat smoke.” The point of smoke was communication: You would inhale and ask a question and release the question in the smoke. Instead, medicinal use of marijuana involved extracting the medicine in fat—“whatever was high-quality fat of the land,” she said, and this could have been an herbal oil. This, Cascade said, was taken by rectal or vaginal injection. Taken orally, it broke into its components and was “more confusing,” so Cannabis tinctures are not as effective.

For heat stroke, she noted that it’s helpful to make sunflower seed tea with honey, with slightly crushed seeds, soaked for 15-20 minutes minimum or overnight.

So many more teachings of Cascade’s I could share. But perhaps the greatest one was her simple presence. On our last full day in Cuenca, Ecuador, after I and many others of our group had not been feeling well, I awoke early feeling better. I wanted to go out and have a look around.

This night-blooming cereus grew in the courtyard of a convent in Quito, which was our "home base" in Ecuador. This was one of many plants we met that Cascade seemed to really love.

This night-blooming cereus grew in the courtyard of a convent in Quito, which was our “home base” in Ecuador. This was one of many plants we met that Cascade seemed to really love.

Cascade was up, too, and we ended up walking to a church on a hill. It was too small to be called a cathedral, but more ornate than a simple church. It was Carnival season and a band outside the church was playing jazz. We popped in to have a look and just be, but that whole time I was with her was about just being.

I know many others, no matter how much or how little time they spent with Cascade, feel the same. Such a loss for our herbal and Earth-loving community. And yet, those of us who take this presence we felt—and feel in our memories—to heart have a huge opportunity to carry on Cascade’s work and her Spirit.

My heart goes out to Cascade family, to her husband and children. And love to you, Cascade, and the kindest and sweetest of blessings on your journey.

Self-Care Tip #4: Crock Pot, Star of the Kitchen

As my beloved and I embark on a slightly different way of eating, I am reminded of the importance of my seven-quart crock pot. It’s been a good friend to me, cooking up delicious broths (vegetable, chicken, and beef bone) year after year. Occasionally, when I’m feeling unwell, I eat some of the chicken broth. But generally speaking, all of the broth (or stock) goes into making soups that we’ve come to love. In the weeks ahead, I expect to be making more soups as we eliminate grains and dairy and add even more greens and veggies.

If you’ve never made stock in a crock pot, I ask you: What are you waiting for?!

The process I’m about to describe calls for chicken, but I’ve also made mirepoix and beef broth. Any of these are easy.

This one yields stock on hand, anywhere from 3 to 5 quarts, depending on bird size, for a variety of uses, plus leftover chicken that can be made into chicken salad. Folks may have other ideas about how to use the meat (and I’d love to hear from you about how you use leftover chicken), but this is the best way I have found.

Here’s how I make stock (the crock pot, of course, does 80 percent of the work!):

Place a whole chicken in the crock pot. (I include heads and feet whenever I have them. They add collagen and make for a richer stock.)


We got this chicken from P.A. Bowen Farmstead in Southern P.G. County. These birds are not fed soy and roam on pasture.

Add apple cider vinegar. I use at least two and sometimes three or four large spoonfuls. The vinegar helps to draw minerals out of the bones.

I generally use an organic apple cider vinegar for this step.

I generally use an organic apple cider vinegar for this step.

Add water to cover. Usually, the water does not quite cover the entire bird, but it’s pretty close. I am careful not to overfill the crock after having had some greasy mishaps.

We use a Berkey dual-stage filter to take the chlorine and fluoride out of our water.

We use a Berkey dual-stage filter to take the chlorine and fluoride out of our water.

Cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours. Others say to cook the bird longer, but this is what I’ve found works best for me.

Once the cook time is up, I move the ceramic pot into the fridge where it can cool. (I have also taken up the stock immediately, pouring it into glass jars that I then let cool in the fridge. But I’ve gotten a little lazy, so letting the bird and stock cool in the ceramic pot is a happy compromise.)


It’s a slimy job, but somebody’s gotta do it!

When cool, take out the bird and pick. We remove the skin and the bones.

Many soups call for one or two quarts of stock. These containers make it easy to measure those amounts…or approximate, which is what I usually do.

Ladle the chilled stock into quart-sized plastic tubs. I don’t much care for plastic, but this is what has worked for us. Someday, when I have time, I will experiment with filling glass jars half-full with stock and freezing those. I’ve heard it works, but you have to be very careful about not filling too much lest the glass breaks.

Label the tubs and freeze.

Once the chicken has been picked, make chicken salad.

I almost always use tarragon in chicken salad.

I do this by shredding the chicken into smaller pieces, blending in the spices (tarragon, curry powder, coriander) and salt to taste, cutting up and blending in apples, along with the all-important mayo. We may look for something else to use in lieu of the mayo on the new diet.

A “side” effect of chicken stock!

It is wonderful to have a ready supply of stock on hand when the soup-bug bites! You can also make medicinal broth with the addition of various herbs and mushrooms. It’s nice to freeze these and have them ready to be thawed when someone comes down with cold or flu.

P.A. Bowen Farmstead in Brandywine, Maryland, is a grass-based farm that offers soy-free, pastured poultry and eggs, among many other pasture-raised animal foods.

Barriers to Self-Care, Continued

This is the second of a two-part article. The first can be found here.

Seasonal depression—or plain old depression. This is a tough one, because it touches on all levels of a person’s being, not just the emotional/mental, but the body’s physiologic processes, the spirit and sexuality. If not addressed quickly, one ends up in a vicious circle where there’s no physical energy to do much of anything. Then, that lack of motivation feeds back into the other aspects of oneself, further depressing the body, etc. Aside from standard treatment—which may involve overprescribed meds that don’t really address the underlying causes—what can one do?

I can speak only for me in this. When I get the blues, my go-to is often music—listening and singing, sometimes dancing. Sound is a vibration powerful enough to shift our perspective, and some people practice sound healing and music therapy, both of which may include the use of singing bowls. I don’t have singing bowls—though they are lovely!—nor am I a music therapist. What I have found that works for me runs the gamut from Jimi Hendrix’s Drivin’ South to songs by Heart. If I have the energy to get up and listen to these and to dance or sing, then I am generally all right. (I listen to sad songs if I feel I need the catharsis of tears—Poulenc or Janacek, or the Duke Ellington/Mahalia Jackson version of “Come Sunday.”)

If I can make it out the door, my other go-to’s are walking and observing nature. The latter I do most of the time, anyway, and it seldom fails that I don’t see something that lifts my spirits…usually in the form of winged creatures: turkey vultures riding thermals, robins running, wrens picking at berries, cardinals cleaning themselves.

The kinds of distractions I love include watching the interaction between insects (honeybees, in this case) and plants like this meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).

The kinds of “distractions” I love include watching the interaction between insects (honeybees, in this case) and plants like this meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).

When I stay indoors, whatever pall I may be working under also tends to stay put.

Sometimes having commitments to others also helps to pull us out of our funk, so having regular activities can be helpful in combating the blues.

But now and then, we just need to feel sad and to know that that is all right. The pain often moves us in a direction different from the one we were going. Giving ourselves the space to feel down can be part of good self-care.

Distractions. Funny, I was distracted by something when writing this post, something I can’t remember that seduced my attention away from the screen (maybe another screen?). It’s easy to be hard on ourselves when it comes to this one, but let’s put this in perspective: Our ancestors would not know what to do with all the things that demand our attention. This is something we need to evolve through, to choose between what we allow ourselves to be distracted by and what we don’t. Not easy. Especially if it’s one of those, “Oh, this will just take a minute” kinds of things: answering a text or e-mail or taking on a chore that we think will only take a few minutes.

Maybe the best thing to do here would be to give regular attention to our self-care. Maybe it’s a small thing: Washing and cutting up leafy greens for supper the next night, or taking five minutes to clean up part of our space. But the point is to just do one thing toward our self-care every day.

“I’ll start tomorrow.” Why wait? You are worth starting today. This is one that has stumped me from the standpoint of concern that I will fail—that tomorrow will come and I won’t be able to continue something I started today. But this sort of thinking gets us in trouble, because we could also start something that would feel so good to us—a bath or a foot soak—that we’ll want to make sure we do it again, if not the next day, then soon. Any care we show ourselves, our body appreciates.

Sometimes, things cannot wait. I don't mind sharing some figs with ants, but it seems somehow disrespectful not to pick them and eat them. They are such a gift! This, too, can be an example of good self-care.

Sometimes, things cannot wait. I don’t mind sharing some figs with ants, but it seems somehow disrespectful not to pick them and eat them. They are such a gift! Harvesting and enjoying them can be an example of good self-care.

“I don’t know how.” This one gets back to self-intimacy. But if you really don’t know, look to people and resources in your community, for they are there. Annapolis has people who can teach you to meditate, people who can show you how to care for your skin, how to eat well, get movement into your life, laugh and have fun.

Inability to ask. As a former reporter, I take for granted my ability to ask questions. But asking for help? That never has come easily. Most of this is pride, no doubt: If I can’t handle something myself, doesn’t that make me weak? Lesser, somehow? There’s also a “pride of ownership” involved in trying to do everything oneself.

It often takes greater self-assuredness and self-knowledge to know when we need help and to be able to ask. We truly have only so much time, so asking someone for help with something they are skilled in and we are not helps us become more integrated, both into our communities but also with ourselves.

Ultimately, self-care arises, I believe, from healthy self-love, and it is through acts of self-care that we grow our love for ourselves. Like a depression spiral, developing the process of caring for ourselves and loving ourselves is self-reinforcing. It often goes against all the imagery we see around us, but the images—whether of elite athletes or supermodels—are false. Our bodies are not machines, to be used up, then taken in for some work, then put back “on the road.” It is for us to learn to work with our bodies—and all they contain—not to override them until they wear out.

Barriers to Self-Care

As I’ve begun to focus on taking care of myself, I have come to see certain inconsistencies between what I say I want for myself and my actions in following through on what I say I want. For example, I want to take care of my skin. Yet, often when I am trying to get out the door, there is no time after showering to slather unrefined sesame oil on my legs, something that is especially important in winter and becoming more important year round as I get older.

Situations like this prompt me to consider what kinds of barriers prevent me from taking care of me. I want to share these as I believe I am not the only one who feels this way or who encounters these issues. These are in no particular order:

Supposed lack of time. I head for the door for an appointment or work and have no time to make a tea that might help me feel a little less run down. I “suck it up,” in other words.


Salvador Dali’s flexible clocks in The Persistence of Memory

When we are young, it’s important to develop good habits and not a “devil take the hindmost” approach to our own care. Unfortunately, this approach permeates our culture when it comes to making good choices around our priorities: Is it all that important that I watch an episode of “NCIS” (even zipping through commercials, it still takes up valuable time)? Or is it more important that I make my lunch for the next day so that I am not eating out or just grabbing something that is not as good as something I’ve planned?

How I manage these decisions—and ultimately, the hours I have—determines my health and my joy. And I’m not knocking “NCIS” or any other show; they have their place, but their value needs to be weighed against so many other things that are important.

Lack of will to choose and settle on something. This one feeds back to the time issue. What do I really want? We are overwhelmed with choices and this abundance can make it hard to determine what sort of abundance we want for our lives. I would need a small city to enclose all the things I’ve ever been interested in, from chemistry to race-walking. Unfortunately, I do not have enough lifetimes to accommodate all of my dormant interests. Each of us has to define the sort of abundance we want for ourselves. Certainly, that can be having a bazillion interests, or it can be ensuring that we get to see the sun rise and/or set several times a week or to make sure we make time for birdsong. The fact is, the better we take care of ourselves, the more energy we have for various pursuits. Or we can make space just to be: to enjoy being alive.

A few years ago, I considered why I was interested in so many things and I realized it came down to a need to feel smart. That was not something I was pleased to admit, but admitting it has helped me to push beyond grabbing for this or that interest and to really begin to focus steady attention on a couple of interests.

Stripped wool awaits project designs, hooks and linen.

Stripped wool awaits project designs, hooks and linen.

“One more won’t hurt” thinking. How many times have I said, “Well, I’ll just take one more of these”? The “these” in question might be a piece of dark chocolate or a tortilla chip. Self-care means combining rationality and intuition to learn and decide what is most healthful for us. It means not being led around by our taste buds! I know that’s often easier said than done, but there are plenty of people—you probably know some—who’ve been able to get past small addictions and large.

Fear of self-intimacy. To make the most of self-care, we need to know ourselves. Really well. Only in that way can we truly understand our needs, be able to say “no” firmly, but politely, even to ourselves.

“Who am I?” is a scary question for many of us. The masks we wear are more to keep ourselves from seeing ourselves as we really are. We fear our shadow and only want our light to shine. But when we suppress the shadow, our light also dims. The shadow needs our attention just as the light does. The opposite also holds true: People spend so much time dwelling on what’s bad about them, their own light blinds them.

Making the time for self-care offers a middle way through shadow and light and helps us to become more grounded, more comfortable with, more appreciative of all that we are. We are human, after all. We don’t have to spend our time here feeling as though we need to be super-human, no matter what’s going on around us.

I’ll offer some more barriers in my next post.

Self-Care Tip #3: Soak Dem Nuts

In a little more than the time it takes to listen to Duke Ellington’s “Ring Dem Bells,” you can “soak your nuts” and dry them. Well, the drying will take some time, but you don’t have to hang around and watch.

Now, I can see why you might want to listen to the Duke…or to Lionel Hampton’s version of “Ring Dem Bells,” but why soak nuts? Why not just eat them raw?

Raw pecans in glass bowl await salt and water.

Raw pecans in glass bowl await salt and water.

When people ask me this, I reply with a couple of things:

One is, the nuts taste better. There is nothing in this world like a crispy pecan or walnut.

Two, I suggest they think about what a nut is and what a nut does. A nut—a seed, essentially—is a little package of genetic material protected by natural preservatives. Until the nut or seed finds the proper conditions—good soil, right moisture, enough light—it will wait, ensconced in enzyme inhibitors.

So, when we eat a raw nut or seed, our body has to wend its way through these enzyme inhibitors to get at the nutrients in the nut or seed. I don’t know whether anyone’s studied this, but it seems possible that once the body has expended energy to get at what in the seed, it will have expended more energy than calories and other good stuff taken in from the nut itself. In other words, eating raw nuts can impede your digestion—and cause you to lose energy in the process.

Step 2: Salt the pecans. Here, I've used coarse Celtic sea salt.

Step 2: Salt the pecans. Here, I’ve used coarse Celtic sea salt.

Soaking nuts and seeds in salt water helps to break through the enzyme inhibitors and makes more of what’s there more easily available for us to digest.

Some basics:

Store raw nuts in the freezer. (If you can get them in the shell and store them that way, that helps, though it is more work to shell them.) This helps to maintain their shelf life. Even so, the fat in nuts goes rancid fairly quickly. Try to use them within three months.

Add a little more water than needed to cover the nuts, because they will absorb a lot.

Step 3: Add a little more water than needed to cover the nuts, because they will absorb a lot.

Soak raw nuts in salt water. A minimum of seven hours for something like pecans. Overnight also works well. (Other nuts or seeds may have different soak-time requirements.)

Dry the nuts in a food dehydrator or oven that has a low setting—no more than 150-degrees Fahrenheit. This is where it helps to have a dehydrator. Our oven, for example, doesn’t go below 170.

Store crispy nuts in a jar in the fridge and take out as needed.

I set this at about 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Drying takes about 12-16 hours.

Step 4:  Dry the nuts. I set this at about 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Drying takes about 12-16 hours.

Once you get down with soaking your nuts, your probably will not want to eat them raw again.

You can also flavor the nuts with herbs such as rosemary, a little cayenne, or curry in between soaking and drying. I dredged pecans in curry with extra turmeric recently and they taste quite good, though could use some salt!

One thing I use crispy pecans for is a celery dip, usually at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but sometimes for special gatherings. Blend softened cream cheese with mayo (I make my own with extra virgin olive oil or use safflower mayo) and then blend in ground pecans. Once this is well mixed, you can stuff celery, though sometimes I find it irresistible just to eat a spoon of this by itself!

Celery stuffed with cream cheese, mayo and crispy pecans makes a nice snack and is a good blend of carb and fiber, protein and fat.

Step 5: Enjoy! Celery stuffed with cream cheese, mayo and crispy pecans makes a nice snack and is a good blend of carb and fiber, protein and fat.

Self-Care Tip #2: Coconut Oil, Meet Mary Poppins!

We all have bacteria in our mouths, and many people suffer—sometimes unknowingly—from systemic oral infections. Gingivitis (gum disease) and periodontal disease are our most prevalent forms of microbial infection. Left unchecked, they kill. Who among us was not touched by the story of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year old from Prince George’s County who lacked access to dental care and whose untreated tooth abscess led to his death following an infection that spread to his brain?

Aside from the usual tips—brushing and flossing after meals—there’s a fairly easy way to clear up oral infections and, in the process, actually protect other areas of the body, including the brain and heart, and turn around certain illnesses.

The way is oil pulling, which comes from Ayurvedic medicine and is an old method. Various oils have been used over time, but coconut oil works best, says Bruce Fife, N.D. in Stop Alzheimer’s Now! How to Prevent and Reverse Dementia, Parkinson’s, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, and Other Neurodegenerative Disorders. (Fife also has published a book specifically on coconut oil pulling.)SpoonfulCoconutOil

Just a Spoonful of Coconut Oil…

First thing in the morning, before breakfast, put a spoonful of coconut oil into your mouth and begin to swish it around. Don’t gargle! You do this for 15 to 20 minutes. Although this seems like a long time, it goes quickly when combining this with other things. Oil pulling has worked best for me when I’ve combined the swishing with washing pans or preparing breakfast or lunch. Just like the oil in your car’s engine, the coconut oil “sucks up bacteria, toxins, pus, and mucous,” says Fife. When finished swishing, spit the oil into the trash—do not swallow! Spitting it into the sink may clog the drain over time.

You can use oil pulling two or three times a day. Just make sure you do it before meals on an empty stomach.

Taking oil into the mouth this way will certainly feel uncomfortable at first. But stick with it, for at least a week. People who have done oil pulling have reported seeing progress, a little every day.