Kiss a Goldfish

5 Ways to Check in with Yourself

Article originally written for the Jordan Porco Foundation

photo-1556007263-4ae59e6b068e
Photo by Aman Mahapatra on Unsplash

Sometimes our world gets so busy and we have so many things to cross off our To Do List that we become strangers to our own needs. We are on perpetual turbo cruise control, spinning our wheels from morning until bedtime. Where is the time for the me or the we in there? The following five questions can help you assess if you need to step it down, not up!

  1. What can I spend 15 minutes on every day that will refuel me? (for example: reading, walking the dog, gardening, meditating, doing a crossword puzzle, etc)
  2. What am I avoiding doing or procrastinating about that would actually relieve some stress if I completed it?
  3. Am I spending enough quality time with family members or friends?
  4. Am I moving my body enough? (at least a half hour of exercise per day)
  5. Have I found my purpose? Am I pursuing it? (That’s a big one!)

It’s really important that we carve out some time each day to do something we love so that we can re-energize and feel at peace (if only temporarily). It’s in those quiet moments of equanimity that we reconnect to ourselves and who we are. We are so outwardly-focused and so plugged in  to hundreds and thousands of others—the world, even—that we have lost touch with ourselves. Many of us need to seriously rebuild our friendship with ourselves.

Here’s the super cool thing: if we attempt just a few minutes of an activity then, miraculously, more minutes could magically appear and we may actually stay on the enjoyable task longer than anticipated! And if those minutes don’t magically appear, we’ve at least devoted 15 minutes to reconnecting with ourselves. Truly, we don’t have to feel guilty for taking a couple of minutes each day to do something we love!

Perfectionism breeds procrastination

We often put off a task fearing that we will not be good at it and then become bound by

karim-manjra-1395312-unsplash
Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

our own perfectionism (avoiding math homework or taxes, anyone?). Instead, we can give ourselves permission to complete a project with a C level of effort, which is far better than no effort at all! Like we say in college, “Cs get degrees!” So too does completing a task competently but not perfectly. It gets the job done, if not with a perfect score. Who cares if the basement isn’t perfectly organized! Did you get rid of 5 boxes of old clothes? Fabulous! Progress, not perfection is the goal.

Procrastination also increases anxiety and negative self-talk. Have you ever wished that you didn’t complete a project/task/assignment that was due? Me either. The trick is to only do it for 5 minutes and, just like doing something we love for a few minutes each day, doing 5 minutes each day of something we’re avoiding also yields great rewards. Five minutes frequently turns into more, but if not, that’s still putting in 35 minutes per week on something we weren’t putting any time into at all. Do those 5 minutes the moment you think of it! Nike didn’t say, “Just Do It” for no reason. It works!

Humans need other humans (yes, even introverts do!)

Humans are social animals who need some form of tribe or pack. Support systems are critical to overall mental and physical health and for longevity. So, if you’ve been feeling all alone on an island, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and either make time for family and friends, or find family and friends. How, you ask? Join clubs, take personal interest classes, go to the gym and take exercise classes, or connect with old friends—anything that increases your contact with possible future friends (who may become family over time) in a healthy way. Notice we didn’t recommend going to a bar to make friends?

If you already have your posse, but you’ve been in hiding for a while, invite one or more of them out for a walk, coffee, dinner, or whatever thing you do/did together.

The body is made to move

miguel-salgado-160276-unsplash
Photo by Miguel Salgado on Unsplash

 We have become a society of sitters and it’s impacting our overall health. Being sedentary is actually as risky as smoking! It increases the danger of coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and even death. Now the good news: if we exercise, it’s a powerful depression and anxiety fighter as well as an ADHD modulator (as effective as antidepressants, ADHD, and antianxiety medications) without the side effects. It releases feel-good endorphins—dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It even promotes neural growth and increases self-esteem. Exercise also aids in the prevention of substance abuse relapse. It’s an all-around win-win for wellbeing and health! Exercise can be as simple as a walk around the block or with your dog. Great strategy: text your old or new friends, leash up your dog, and reconnect to nature, yourself, and your support systems.

Finding your life’s purpose is your life’s purpose

Looking for your life’s purpose is kind of like looking for love—it doesn’t come when you’re trying too hard. Some people are born with knowing what they want to do with their life, but the rest of us sort of bumble around until we trip over what makes us happy and serves the greater good (the greater good part is the key ingredient). When we do for others, our psyche sings. We can do it for the planet, for animals, for a neighbor, for children, or for goldfish. The “it” isn’t as important as the intention. And if we act in ways that enhance the vibrations of the universe with kindness and compassion, we change ourselves, too (even at the molecular level!). Bringing joy begets joy.

artem-maltsev-1318977-unsplash
Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

Remember, your life’s purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be your job. It can be found and pursued in any number of activities we engage in. Yet another reason to do something we love every day—we could finally find that thing we’re meant to do!

kyaw-tun-1095636-unsplash
Photo by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

This is your prescription for greater happiness: be present for yourself and extend to yourself the love and care you have for your most cherished loved ones. Because you are your most cherished love one. You will be with you every day of your entire life. Be kind, be generous, be patient with you. That is the most important part of your life purpose. And then, go kiss a goldfish!

The Art of Saying Yes by Alison Keller

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 12.05.55 PM
“They say God is happiest when his children are at play.”

~ Old Hardy Greaves, The Legend of Bagger Vance

Picture yourself, for a moment, wearing the burliest winter gear you can imagine. Now multiply that by three. The most important component of your outfit is your boots. They are constructed of thick insulated rubber and wool felt weighing in at 2.75 pounds per boot.

If you are getting the sense that gravity just got more cumbersome, you’re on the right track.

Now, imagine you have 16 enthusiastic, 40- to 60-pound dogs wearing brightly colored harnesses. They are all barking excitedly at you.

Why?

Because you are in the process of hooking them up, one by one, to your dogsled. You are a musher and you have informed them it is time to go for a run. They can hardly contain themselves. They know what they are; they were born to do this. They are saying yes to their Yes.

The dogs, once attached to your sled, begin to yank and pull at their lines with gleeful and robust vigor because, not only are they saying yes to their yes, they are in a collective of like-minded beings, yourself included, who are also saying yes to the same Yes. The very air around you is becoming highly charged with excitement.

The only thing holding your sled in place is a very serious, two-pronged metal hook Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 12.11.59 PMjabbed into the hard-packed snow and, with each new dog you add to the line, you must have faith that the hook will hold. Once your last dog is added to the gang line, you move to the back of the sled as quickly as you can, under the weight of your plus-gravity suit, before the sled breaks loose and becomes something akin to a runaway train piloted by a mob of kindergarteners on a collective sugar high. You grab on, reach down, pull the hook and, Whoosh! You’re off on a roughly 1000-mile race through the raw and rugged Alaskan wilderness where temperatures can, and often do, drop to what we’ll just call the “wickedly cold” range.

So…are you saying, “Yes! That’s for me!”?

Probably not. But for a small group of men and women gathering in the state of Alaska right now to run the Iditarod, it is a big Yes! The Iditarod, self-proclaimed the “last great race on earth,” commences every year on the first Saturday in March, beginning in Anchorage and ending roughly 1000 miles away in the remote coastal village of Nome, Alaska.

For obvious reasons, the competitive musher’s Yes has to be big, otherwise they would not devote so much of their time and resources into such an endeavor. I am intimately aware of how big this Yes is, but not because I am a competitive musher—I happen to be married to one.

I met my husband, Jeremy, 20 years ago on a dusty road in the middle of a remote tourist destination here in Alaska. In the spring of 2002, he took me out on our first date—fittingly, a dog sled ride. The following year we married and, within 18 months, we ushered into the world our first-born son, Bjorn.

Seven months later, on a bright, frosty morning in September, while Jeremy was making his way across a damp footbridge (perhaps a bit too hastily), he slipped on a wet board and, with quite a bit of momentum, crashed into the boulders of the riverbank and shattered his leg. Major surgery was required to put his leg back together with a steel rod inserted from knee to ankle. Needless to say, the recovery process was long, yet Jeremy would find himself standing, the very next winter, as a rookie with his small team of 13 dogs at the starting line of the 2007 Iditarod saying a big fat Yes!

IMG_4090
Jeremy & Bjorn with a team

I could fill pages with the obstacles and turns of events that made the whole Iditarod thing seem ridiculously impossible and utterly insane. Likewise, I can produce an equally long list of grace-filled moments, some nothing short of miraculous, that carried Jeremy and his dogs, not just past the starting line, but all the way to Nome.

I followed that race closely, of course, and it was a tough year out there on the trail. Many of the mushers scratched early due to a blizzard and horrendous trail conditions that were ripping up sleds and breaking a few bones. Jeremy persevered and some of his tales from the trail can be read about in his blog, www.allroadsleadto.dog

As Jeremy neared the finish line, I flew with Bjorn, then 2 years old, to Nome to see him cross it. We arrived a couple of days ahead of Jeremy, who was riding near the back of the pack. The winner and top finishers had already crossed the line several days before.

The final leg and finish line in Nome runs down several blocks of this small town’s main street called Front Street. Once settled in our lodging, I packed Bjorn up snugly in his stroller and we walked downtown to watch one of the mushers pull in.

The experience was more thrilling than I had anticipated. I remember being swept up in the excitement as I cheered with the rest of the crowd lining the street to welcome this trail-worn musher to his finish line. I had no idea who he was but I had a small notion, from following the race, what he must have been through to get there. He had dared to say yes to his Yes and all of us standing there on the street were basking and rejoicing in the reverberation of it.

It’s All About the Yes

There is something subtle and unseen that happens when we say yes. If you are at all familiar with energy testing, or muscle testing, you can experience this for yourself. When a person says or thinks the word Yes, they will test strong. Likewise, if a person says or thinks the word No, they will test weak. The forces at play here are the vibrational frequencies of our thoughts affecting the flow of energy through our physical body out into our subtle energetic body and beyond.Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 11.55.32 AM

Yes carries a positive connotation in our minds and therefore creates a higher vibrational frequency. When we experience what we consider positive emotions like joy and love, we resonate at a higher vibrational frequency. This is why falling in love feels so amazing and light, like walking on air.

Conversely, when we experience sadness or anger we resonate at a lower vibrational frequency, with guilt and shame being some of the lowest frequencies. This is why shame feels so dense and horrid, as if we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Too much time spent in lower vibrational frequencies can lead to exhaustion and degeneration of the mental and physical body.Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 12.20.34 PM

This is not to say we should push away lower vibrational emotions; we need to find healthy ways to express and process them. It is only when we make a habit of lashing out at others in judgement and anger or suppressing our emotions out of fear or shame that we get stuck in those emotions and they subsequently get stuck in us. When we get stuck in these lower vibrational frequencies for too long, chronic conditions usually arise.

The good news is that higher vibrational frequencies can help you move stuck energy; laughter as the best medicine is truer than you may have realized. This is where learning to say yes to your Yesses is so valuable. Our yesses are what we enjoy, and enjoyment will have you vibrating at a higher, more health promoting level.

But this can be difficult for many of us. We have a lot of noes weighing us down. We give them long, fancy names like responsibilities and obligations. Yes, we do want to take care of the basics in life, but we also want to be careful we don’t start using them as excuses to keep us from our yesses, especially if those responsibilities are consistently contributing to low vibrational frequencies.

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 12.18.05 PMWe have big Yesses and little yesses and if you are not naturally talented or practiced in the art of saying yes to a big Yes (which can be overwhelming and scary), there is great value in beginning with the smaller, more easily obtainable little yesses. A little yes can be as simple as taking the time you think you don’t have to read a good book. Better yet, read a good book aloud with your children, because now you are saying yes collectively and raising vibrational frequency together.

Knowing When To Say No

After Jeremy’s 2007 Iditarod, although he wanted to run the race again the following year, he looked at the realities on the ground and felt he could not ask me to support him through another race. Training and running the Iditarod is a resource-intensive Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 12.34.56 PMendeavor, and unless you finish high, there is no financial reward. As the sole breadwinner of our young family, he knew he had to choose responsibility over his desire to race again. It was an easy and wise choice to make and he did so with no regrets. There were plenty more yesses to say yes to. Saying yes seems to be a gift Jeremy was born with and it would take me many long, difficult years to catch up with him. But catch up I did.

Fast forward 12 years and, if anything, our financial reality is no better than it was back in 2007. But when Jeremy told me he wanted to run this year’s Iditarod, I gave him my full, unwavering support only because I get it—I fully understand the power of saying YES.

Leading From Behind

Make no mistake, saying Yes to a loved one’s Yes carries its own kind of power. I could Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 12.37.41 PMeasily come up with a long list of reasonable noes under the guise of responsibilities and obligations, either spoken out loud in open disapproval or suppressed in silent abdication. But to what ends? So I can feel reassured that the electric bill will get paid on time this month? What frequency do you suppose worry resonates at?

Jeremy frequently speaks about the importance of leading his dog team from behind. A competitive musher must be able to do this well because he literally rides behind his team. Yes, he has talented lead dogs, but the team as a whole is an orchestration of resounding yesses which must be conducted and responsibly stewarded by the musher. It is difficult to get very far down the trail any other way. To hear more about leading from behind, tune into Green Ink Radio for an interview with Jeremy where he talks about this principle

https://www.spreaker.com/user/greeninkradio/fork-tuning-energy-amplified?utm_medium=widget&utm_source=user%3A9495365&utm_term=episode_title

Leading from behind is something each and every one of us is capable of doing when we choose to openly and fully support someone with whom we are in relationship. And our lives become so much richer for it.

The positive effects of saying yes to a Yes, whether it is your own or someone else’s, reverberates out into the world, touching more people than you could possibly imagine. I delight in the knowing that my yes to Jeremy’s Yes reverberates out to connect and resonate with so many others saying yes to this amazing event. From the friends and family chiming in with well wishes and helping hands, to the hundreds of volunteers who flock to the Iditarod from far and wide, year after year to support the race, to the fans who gather at the starting line to see the teams off and the ones who show up on Front Street at all hours of the day and night to cheer the mushers and their dogs to their finish, and to the thousands of inspired children following the mushers from their classrooms every year, we are all saying Yes just by showing up.

Humanity is the ultimate Internet, and every time you say yes to your Yes, big or small, you add to the web of love and light in which we all need to play.

So, thank you for showing up.

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 12.17.46 PM

Alison Keller writes from Alaska where she homesteads and homeschools with her husband, Jeremy, and their two sons, Bjorn (14) and Liam (8). Jeremy and Alison met and married in the remote backwoods town of McCarthy, Alaska where the local population of bears far exceeds the people. They built a beautiful life together centered around homesteading, homeschooling, and subsistence farming. The family and their unique lifestyle became a point of interest on Discovery Channel’s Edge of Alaska reality TV series. Today they live in Knik, Alaska where Jeremy is currently building a sled dog team with his sons. Jeremy ran and finished the Iditarod in 2007. This year, not only will Jeremy be running the 2019 Iditarod but his eldest son, Bjorn, will be running his first Jr. Iditarod. For more information visit http://www.allroadsleadto.dog. Alison is currently studying energy medicine and spends a lot of her practice time not only on Jeremy and the boys, but on the dogs as well.

IMG_3783
Bjorn with a team member

Saltwater Farm Vineyard’s Unoaked Chardonnay Hits Its Sweet Spot

Saltwater Farm Vineyard

I recently visited Saltwater Farm Vineyard in Stonington, Connecticut with the Eastern Connecticut Chapter of the American Wine Society. It’s a cool old WWII private airport right outside of the elegant coastal village of Stonington Borough. You can still fly a private plane right to the vineyard—just call ahead to make arrangements.

Our tasting room attendant, Gregory Post, was an amazing host. Be sure to ask for him when you book your tasting—he’s one of the best parts of the experience! Saltwater Farm offers tastings until mid-December from Wednesday through Sunday, so start your holiday celebrations with a fun weekend afternoon at the vineyard and follow it up with a picturesque stroll and dinner in the village. You’ll be happy you did!

The atmosphere at SFV was delightful: rustic-industrial in a bucolic shoreline setting. What’s better than that on a crisp fall day?  The group of people who attended the event with us are wine lovers and epicureans, so there was a banquet of gourmet treats to share along with the chardonnay, rosé, and cabernet franc wines provided in the Signature Tasting ($10 for four wines and an additional $3 for a commemorative Saltwater Farm Vineyard glass). Saltwater Farm also produces a merlot, a reserve cabernet franc/merlot blend, and a young red blend, Runway Red, all offered in the Reserve ‘Red’ Tasting. We didn’t taste those wines on this trip, but my husband and his posse bought and shared several bottles of the Runway Red. At $28 a bottle, it’s not a super inexpensive option, but is right in line with many other Connecticut vineyards’ wine pricing. Saltwater Farm’s wines range from $25 to $37 a bottle, with the rosé and chardonnay wines being the least expensive and the cabernet franc/merlot blend and the merlot being the most expensive, respectively.

On that particular bright fall day, Saltwater Farm Vineyard provided an onsite oyster bar and many of the event attendees loaded up on ice-cold, plump, fresh, local oysters to pair with the chardonnay and rosé wines provided. SVF also had live entertainment at 3 pm (as they do on most Sundays), and the vocalist had some of the women swooning (and not from too much wine, I don’t think). We had a large group, with almost 30 attendees. It really was a great day for all, with old and new friends and even strangers sharing in the hospitality of Saltwater Farm Vineyard, Gregory, and our AWS group.

Spaz on Wine, Uncorked Goes Live!

I did my first-ever Spaz on Wine, Uncorked live podcast broadcast from SVF. Note to self: Never, ever do a show after doing a wine tasting! My mistake regarding the rapid swigging, not Saltwater Farm. My husband and co-chair of AWS, Gary, believes hosting entails role modeling having a seriously great time for oneself. So, I was alone on an island actually doing the work of hosting the event. And, in order to keep up with the wine tasting offerings, each time I returned to the table after passing around shared culinary delights, I had to do a hefty shot of the previously poured wine in order to make my glass available for the next offering. And then—brilliant plan of action—I did a live recording immediately following! As I flubbed my intro and forgot I couldn’t edit (all while live on air)—my only consolation was that my listener-base is small and, therefore, so too should be my humiliation. Ahhh…why, why, why does life never work that way?  As I re-entered the huge tasting hall a massive cheer erupted. They had all been listening LIVE inside! Eeeeek! Fortunately, Gregory, who could seriously work in television, radio, or on Wall Street, provided a seamlessly polished performance (unlike mine) and carried the episode.

Here’s the thing—I am not a natural podcaster. I am insecure and self-conscious. I try all types of different approaches and am never as smooth or charismatic or charming as I imagine that I will be. But I keep plugging along, knowing that someday I’ll hit the sweet spot, and become exactly what I am supposed to be. I owe thanks for this in large part to Nate Caron, host of A Veracious Self on Green Ink Radio, who has been patiently working with me to help me find my authentic voice.

SVF Estate Chardonnay Hits Its Sweet Spot

Hang on, that line of thought actually does loop back to the unoaked chardonnay at Saltwater Farms: I believe that the SVF Estate Chardonnay has definitely hit its sweet spot (and with no help from Nate!). At $25 a bottle, it’s not your everyday bargain brand, but it’s also not cost prohibitive, either. Saltwater Farm Vineyard describes it as, “Clean, firm, and vibrant with notes of citrus and Granny Smith apple. Untethered from oak, it is the essence of Stonington’s terroir: minerals, wet rocks and seashells.” I don’t know about you, but I suck at sussing out the flavors of terroir. Wet rocks? Seashells? I tasted nary a shell or a wet rock, but I did love the lingering, dry, minerally balance. Admittedly, I also didn’t actually miss that I didn’t notice any eau de conch on my palate. 

The 2017 Salt Water Farm Estate Chardonnay was the belle of the ball at our Signature Tasting. And my father, renowned wine connoisseur and author, Gene Spaziani, agreed. When I asked him to share his tasting notes, he said it was “Crisp and sharp, fruity, and nicely balanced with a lingering finish.” Pour me another, baby!

Cin cin!*

*Cin Cin (pronounced chin chin) means cheers in Italian. 

Accepting Change with the Vibration of Autumn!

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 2.46.46 PM
Red Power is SunMoonYinYang

The season of change is upon us! Equinox energy is abundant with opportunities for transition and transformation. In the northern hemisphere, the fall equinox celebrates balance with the pinnacle day of equal dark and light, presaging a shift into more dark than light. Although not everyone will be ready—or willing—to embrace this change, fall equinox is a great time to think about your own balance.

Saying “So long!” to summer is bittersweet for many, and just plain bitter for some!  Aside from the obvious, undeniable shifts we see outside in nature, there’s a lot going on inside our own personal nature. Autumn provides a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge that we all change and that transformation is natural and a normal part of life. 

The subtle and not-so-subtle seasonal shifting is multi-faceted and its effects are deep-reaching. Harnessing the energy of autumn is a beautiful way to accept the changes and create more harmony in your life, and it’s a powerful way to welcome winter! But our reluctance to go with the flow has the potential to amplify our discontent.

Have you been hitting the snooze button lately?

Getting up in the morning may not be as easy now as it was when the energetic rays of summer slipped through our windows to give us a gentle nudge. Sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin, the “happy hormone.” Serotonin is “the precursor for melatonin; it helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and the internal clock” (www. medicalnewstoday). Sunlight directly affects this internal clock, or circadian rhythm, “a roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria” (http://www.sciencedaily.com), and shorter days with dimmer light means less serotonin production and less melatonin. Our sleep cycles will shift in response to this decrease.

The dynamics of this natural change slows down our biochemistry; the bear in hibernation is slow-down in its extreme! The body will seek to compensate for this initial decrease in energy, possibly by seeking out the quickest fix with caffeine, sugar, and carbs—just a heads up to avoid the potential “fall.”

Our bodies may require more sleep as we adjust to the seasonal shift. So, first off, pay Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 3.04.55 PMattention to your sleep/wake cycle and ditch any guilt about it. I don’t believe there is a single bear on the planet who is feeling guilty about hibernation. Why should you? Negative emotions are like sludge in the energy flow. With our energy already slowing down, adding to it with feelings of guilt is a recipe for mood swings and depression.

Why not embrace the changes in your circadian rhythm with a salute to nature’s ability to willingly let go and celebrate the shift? We’ll be affected physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, so let’s take a look at what we can do to remain as balanced as possible during this time and increase our vitality and well-being.

EmBODY the Spirit of Autumn

Being mindful of your nutritional input can make all the difference in relation to your energy levels and your ability to be fully alive! The decrease in serotonin is a good place to start. Despite the fact that serotonin plays a major role in your brain chemistry, it is actually produced in your gut!  Gut health is critical for balanced brain chemistry. We often start with diet changes by removing items, which can start our change process with the energy of loss and/or scarcity. Try adding something to your nutritional regime that can make a positive change in your gut health, like drinking fermented drinks such as kombucha (fermented tea) or kefir (fermented milk). Improving your acid-alkaline balance will yield results on many levels and will reduce inflammation, helping that belly feel summer-slim.

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 3.10.10 PMAnother dual-role player in our biochemistry alongside serotonin is Vitamin D. Not commonly referred to as a hormone, vitamin D plays a major role in the dynamics of our biochemistry. Since our natural doses of Vitamin D come from the sun, the lack thereof can lead to deficiencies. Some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are: bone, back and muscle pain; fatigue and tiredness; depression; bone loss; hair loss; and an overall compromised immune system, making us more susceptible to allergies and the cold and flu “season.”

To counteract these deficiencies, increase Omega 3s by eating more fatty fish (like mackerel and salmon), cheese, and egg yolks. Vegans and vegetarians can eat more mushrooms and drink fortified soy and/or almond milk. Plant-derived supplements (www.peta.org) are more bioaccessible, absorbable, and good for everyone. The Five Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine “associates the energetic vibration of Autumn with that of our Lung and Large Intestine organs” (www.tcmworld.org). To support these organs, include pears, roasted almonds, chick peas, honey, celery, mint, and white sesame seeds into your diet.

EnvironMENTAL Cues

Fall is a time for self-reflection and introspection. With the shorter days and colder temperatures, we begin to turn inward. Because we are more inwardly focused, our Spirit becomes more accessible. It’s a great time to take a deeper look inside, to ask questions like: Who am I? What am I? Am I fulfilling my human potential? We don’t necessarily need answers; we are simply checking in to see whether the outside world we live in supports the inside world we live within. 

The autumn season gives a big shout-out to the act of letting go. With the changes in sunlight and temperature and the need for change of habit, our moods are directly affected.  It’s often easier to make changes and start new routines when you have a partner. Why not choose the environment to help you? The environment will not oversleep, cheat on a diet, or let you down in any way in terms of commitment.

The trees must release their leaves in order to conserve the dwindling supply of energy that they will receive from the winter supply of sunlight. Perhaps the bounty of color is nature’s way of celebrating this release? Those leaves don’t go straight to brown, dry up, and die straight away. Instead, there is a generous and beautiful transitional shift. Our spirits brighten and our moods lift each time our eyes fall upon the colors of autumn.

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 3.12.11 PM

For regions that don’t have these visuals, the energy of this shift mingles with the energies of the planet so that subtle shifts can be felt and experienced with enough power to announce the arrival of autumn. It’s simply Nature’s way.

EMOTIONal Effects of the Season

Change does not occur in the comfort zone, and although the autumn season lures us Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 3.16.44 PMwith cozy sweaters and comfort foods, these pleasures do not guarantee a smooth transition. The onset of SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) or “winter depression” can be triggered by the fall season. With all the changes in our biochemistry that come with the season, it is no wonder that some of us may have a very difficult time adjusting!

Another factor possibly exacerbating this issue is the fact that the vibration of grief and loss is powerfully present in autumn. The fading of sunlight, vegetation, warmth, and long, lazy days are obvious losses that can set off any residing blocked energy of loss within you. Again, Traditional Chinese Medicine acknowledges grief and loss as an elemental force of the season. Whether you have experienced the loss of a loved one, place, thing, or even a belief, the energy of loss can get triggered during the season of loss.

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 3.29.34 PMAs difficult as it may sound and seem, embracing the loss may help the flow of the energy pass through you more swiftly. Viewing the flow of grief as a river sweeping through your energy body and cleansing it of emotional blocks is a great way to embrace your grief. For those of you who may be in the throes of sorrow, this may be an important time to seek extra support or to make a greater effort to stay connected to people who help you feel safe.

SPIRITUALly Spry

Spiritual spryness refers to our energetic fitness. There is a robust flow of energy out there at this time of year—we can see it in the colors of nature and feel it in the bite of the breeze. It’s definitely an invitation to increase our sense of vitality.  In order to do this, we need to enhance our energetic flow. The carefree days of summer offered an opportunity for a more relaxed living routine, which might have led to things piling up. It makes sense for us to remove clutter and get more organized now.

The energy of this season is about letting go, organizing, list-making, and the like. This is a great precursor for our natural desire to start the upcoming New Year off with a fresh, empowering start. Clearing away clutter of all kinds is a wonderful way to fine tune your intentions in preparation for the upcoming season of rebirth and renewal.

This act of clearing can be just as overwhelming as it is inspirational, so take the concept

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 3.41.16 PM
http://www.turbosquid.com

in small doses. Try not to think “weekend” or “dumpster.” Instead, invite the idea that the next time you come across a small item that you haven’t used or needed in a long time, you will consider tossing it. Start small, similar to clearing a few twigs at a time from a blocked stream. Clear a few more, and then a few more, and the next thing you know, the stream will be flowing full force and you may not recognize your own home!

The same goes for thoughts, behaviors, and habits. Think about how much more available attention you can put to use to not only gain a deeper sense of peace, but to apply yourself to achieving goals and enhancing your life! There are many ways to help retrain your mind; meditation, for instance, or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique or “tapping”). Again, you don’t need to go big! Just  commit to a 5-minute meditation. Begin by simply becoming mindful about taking a single breath. Our life starts with a single breath—don’t underestimate the power in that!

Some Simple Steps to Autumn Solace

Autumn carries the frequency of change. The season vibrates with the energy of transition and transformation. Seasonal change is going to happen and there is nothing you can do about it except to resist it—but will that serve you?  Resistance may be a necessary part of your tradition of change, but keep in mind that holding on for too long to what has passed can have adverse effects on your overall health and wellbeing.

When you are ready, here’s a brief list of suggestions to help you increase your sense of vitality and enhance your sense of wellbeing:

  • Take time for introspection. Meditate or vegetate, whatever makes you chill.
  • Cleanse your body. Add fermented food and/or drink to help improve your acid-alkaline balance. Invite a gentle cleanse or fast, or simply eat lightly for a short period.
  • Drink plenty of water to help flush out toxins and energize your cells.
  • De-clutter. Start small if needed; recall the twig-blocked stream, and take away one twig at a time until the flow increases.
  • Get organized. Initiate list-making and restructuring on all levels—with your “stuff,” with your schedule, with the way that you think.
  • Practice letting go. Join the spirit of the season and invite letting go of unwanted anything. A simple exercise can be taking a mindful breath. Think “in with the new” with each inhale and “out with the old” with every exhale.

Thank you for aligning your energy with me. May you enjoy an abundant harvest this season and approach the winter months with a sound spirit, strong immune system, and a fantastic flow of vital energy!

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 3.50.00 PM

Sources in order of appearance:

http://www.fpvforums.org/yin-yang-in-nature-yin-yang-in-nature/red-power-is-yinyangsunmoon-zps4ca755e1.html

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/serotonin-facts-232248

https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/circadian_rhythm.htm

https://www.peta.org/living/food/5-ways-to-increase-your-vitamin-d-intake/

https://www.tcmworld.org/092217-2/

https://www.turbosquid.com/3d-models/3d-pile-branches-pbr-model/1127662

https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/101939742/autumn-expected-to-be-warmer–and-wetter–than-usual

 

 

9/11 Compassion Re-set for Global Healing

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 9.12.11 AM

The Phoenix from the Ash 

This piece is dedicated with love to all those affected by the 9/11 tragedy, and with gratitude to “D” for sharing her story. May your healing be amplified.

What is your first thought when someone says, “9/11”? The majority of people in the U.S. would reply without effort: “Twin Towers,” “World Trade Center,” or “terrorist attack.” The magnitude of devastation on September 11, 2001 was unprecedented in the United States and its immediate effects were cataclysmic and far-reaching. In the aftermath, those two numbers—9 and 11—were branded into our brains with the power of fear and destruction.

Where were you when you first heard the news? Take a breath and be with that for a moment. Time stood still for many of us…and almost instantly, the collective global shock and disbelief radically shifted our energy patterns and neuropathways to realign us with a very different reality than the one in which we had been previously living. Our memories of 9/11 play a critical role in perpetuating our fear and our hold on the energy of suffering.

Time for a Change

We need a 9/11 memory reset. We need to first set the intention that the task shall be done and then we need to find something electric and magnetic that has the power to override and replace the fear and devastation thrust upon us from that attack. We need to connect to the phoenix that rises from the ash.

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 8.55.31 AM
From the Last Spark by amorphisss

What if we retrain our minds to pull up something beautiful and positive that will assist in the healing of these ailing souls? Instead of calling up death and destruction right away, let the mind call upon love and compassion.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. (Dalai Lama)

Do you know someone who was directly affected by the 9/11 tragedy? Nearly 3,000 people were immediately killed in the attacks on the Twin Towers in Manhattan, at the Pentagon in Arlington County Virginia, and on the downed airplane near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Over 6000 people were injured on that day. (CNN.com) Long-term health effects have emerged as complications arising from that deeply-imprinted psychological trauma, and the numbers of fatal illnesses and chronic issues related to the release of toxic airborne debris continues to rise to this day. Further, “It is estimated that there are between four and 50 psychological victims for every physical casualty in a terrorist attack” (WBUR.org/Cognoscenti). The exponential effects of the tragedy are mind-boggling.

The Energetic Reality

Seventeen years have passed since that devastating event. For those indirectly affected, daily life may not have shifted much. The reminders and emotional triggers—the energetic connections—are likely to be random and infrequent, and to be spurred on by the media, the source from which many of us have logged our memories and established associative neural connections.Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 9.26.03 AM

For the growing numbers of those directly affected, it may seem as though the event occurred yesterday. For these victims, life has forever shifted. So when behaviors, thought processes, and communication affected by the trauma show up, they may not be identifiable as an outcome of the event and are perhaps not even consciously related to it!

Clinical social worker “D” (a fictitious identifier to hold confidentiality) was part of a FEMA-assigned first response support team. In spite of previous training and preparation for dealing with trauma, the magnitude of the 9/11 trauma was unprecedented and, once the team was immersed in the chaos, there was no tried-and-tested way to know what to do.

D recalls that “it was a 24/7 vigil.”  Every moment became a prayer, an asking for help, an opening for higher wisdom to channel through and assist. As it turned out, she felt as though the victims were helping the supporters understand how to minister to the needs of other victims through their innate state of compassion for one another.

The deep-reaching effects on her psyche that D absorbed during the body recovery and victim-support process eventually gave way to a fresh perspective, a perspective that unfolded preciously and naturally during D’s interview on Energy Amplified! The realignment was so subtle that it wasn’t until the interview was over that D realized just how much the energy of compassion had vanquished chaos and taken over the mechanics of rescue, recovery, and healing. D is now riding on the wings of the phoenix.

For most victims of 9/11, the world moved on while the fragmented pieces of their own lives came together only somewhat and at a much slower pace. The tendency for those affected by 9/11 to feel pushed to move on with the rest of the world may have placed unwarranted pressure on many of them to get themselves “back to normal.” Recovery and grief are unique to each individual, however; there is no format or timeline. Such unrealistic expectations and inaccurate measures of health create a wide separation between victims’ inner and outer worlds and make for a painful disconnect.

Our Deeper Connection

There is no way to relate to such an unprecedented event without experiencing it; sadly, there is no real go-between, only islands of separation in a universe where everything is connection.

And everything truly is connected; perhaps more so than what is commonly acknowledged. Our ancestors understood this without effort. Ancient communities knew instinctively how to foster this knowledge and utilize its presence as a threshold for developing ways and means to keep unity alive and awakened. Long before the arrival of the internet, our ancestors were living by the creed that we are all connected and they didn’t need scientific proof to believe it.

All things are connected like the blood that unites us. We do not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. (Chief Seattle)                                                                         

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 9.40.26 AM

Chief Seattle was indeed talking about the World Wide Web (and beyond), but not the one we presently pay for. And although his quote may not have directly spurred on the direction of science at the time, it certainly paralleled the discoveries and conceptual understanding of connectedness borne of the scientific minds that came forth shortly thereafter.

Albert Einstein and his colleagues were probing the constructs of our micro-world just decades after the death of Chief Seattle, and their work led to the creation of String Theory.String Theory states that our universe is made up of tiny little string particles and waves. These strings are the building blocks of the universe we experience”(learning-mind.com). Einstein himself thought String Theory to be “spooky.”

So, given the fact that our spiritual ancestors and our scientific ancestors agree that we are all somehow connected by strands and strings, I’m proposing that we use this concept and perspective as a tool for healing, as our rising phoenix.

Tune into Energy Amplified! and listen to D’s story in The Transformational Energy of Compassion episode. Take it in. Be with it. Imagine you are witnessing compassion-inspired support. Feel the authentic, raw emotion in her recall and make it yours. Remember how she speaks of the victims exiting the train covered in ash. Then see the Phoenix. See it rising from the ash. See its wings of compassion.

Just as the negative effects of those fatalities can multiply, so can the positive effects when our first response to 9/11 is connected to the vibration of Compassion. Reset the mind. Create a new groove. With a single intention sent out into the web, we can initiate a rise in our collective vibration. Together, we can override the vibration of fear each and every time it gets triggered.

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 9.30.42 AM
If Everything is Connected, So Am I by Jill Slaymaker

Sources in order of appearance:

https://www.deviantart.com/amorphisss/art

https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/september-11-anniversary-fast-facts/index.html

http://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2017/04/17/boston-bombing-three-years-mental-health-richard-beinecke

https://www.learning-mind.com/dimensions-string-theory/comment-page-1/

https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-If-Everything-is-Connected-So-Am-I/314593/184649/view

An Oracle for Everyone

Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 8.02.32 PM

Each one of us has an experience of being human that is particular to who we are at our core and what we’ve lived over time. But we also share with each other the peculiar experience of being human, of being a unique consciousness that exists within (and, arguably, without) a body on this planet and in three-dimensional space. Becoming aware of ourselves as existing with a body that is separate from the body within which we were gestated is one common aspect of being human. And once we find ourselves inhabiting a body of our own, we are tasked with learning how to care for and feed that body, which is another commonality of the human condition that we all share.

Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 8.16.10 PMAnother persistent aspect of the human condition is a need for stability; a desire to keep things running smoothly with as few disruptions to our “normal” life as possible. Or, more accurately, no disruptions at all, ever! If you’ve lived as a human for any amount of time, you know that this ideal is far from the reality of everyday life. Most of us live through times of disorder and disarray in our personal lives. And most of us have thought, Wow, if only I’d seen that coming! Because if we had seen it coming, we could have been better prepared and being better prepared would have cut down on the chaos and confusion that resulted from not being prepared and then we could have sailed right through whatever it was like a champ!

Let the Dust Settle!

One method for getting a heads up on what’s coming our way is divination. Divination has been used by humans all over the globe and as far back as we have evidence for human life. There are countless forms of divination, ranging from Abacomancy (through Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 8.19.13 PMstudying dust) to Zygomancy (through studying weights). Consulting an oracle—someone or something that can connect with the deity(ies) or spirits—has a long history in human culture. You’ve probably heard of the Oracle at Delphi, even if you’re not sure of what exactly it was. Delphi was a location in ancient Greece where a priestess would go into trance and receive messages from the god Apollo. Those messages were interpreted by the priests of Delphi and delivered as prophecies to those seeking answers.

The Oracle at Delphi is probably the most well-known oracle system in western culture, but there are many other oracle systems from many other parts of the world. Some oracles weren’t people, but statues. Typically a representation of a god or goddess, the statue would move or speak or make some kind of sound that could then be interpreted by the experts in such things. In some oracle systems, like incubation, it was the person seeking the prophecy who was the oracle. They would sleep in a section of a temple or other sacred place (sometimes wrapped in a fresh sacrificial animal skin) and receive their answer in dream form.

One of the most ancient oracle methods comes from China and requires that a turtle shell or shoulder blade of an ox be inscribed with a question and then burned until it Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 8.05.44 PMcracked. The cracks were then interpreted and an answer transcribed. Many African cultures see the oracle as someone with a strong connection to their own spirit double. The diviner and their client may hold hands or both hold a stick and the movement of the hands or stick are interpreted for messages. Some diviners in certain African oracle systems work as pairs, using chains of seed shells cast on the ground, each interpreting the other’s chain and effectively “doubling” the answer. Some indigenous cultures in the Americas used grains of corn for Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 8.06.55 PMdivination, which were thrown onto a white cloth or into water. The kernels were then interpreted based on where and how they landed. This was actually a pretty common method in many cultures, with variations in what was thrown: sand, beads, shells, stones, bones, dice, and so on.

What’s Your Oracle?

Many of these oracle systems are still practiced today. The stars and celestial events (such as eclipses and comets) have been looked to for information about the past, present, and future by just about every known culture for thousands of years and is still widely accepted as valid or, at the very least, intriguing. Free of the stigma usually attached to tarot cards, oracle cards have become a very popular way of gaining insight into a situation or circumstance. The ever-increasing numbers of oracle card decks, featuring themes from a nearly countless number of inclinations and belief systems, speak to our enduring conviction that there is some way to know what’s happening next. And also to our boundless optimism that we can be, somehow, better prepared for it when it comes. 

Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 8.03.09 PM

To hear more about oracle cards and how they can work for you, check out the latest Tarot Talk podcast.

If you want to learn more about the types of oracles discussed above, try these places:

Oracles and Divination

http://www.worldhistory.biz/ancient-history/58945-4-oracles-and-divination.html

http://www.psychicstudent.com/types-of-divination/

The Oracle at Delphi

https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/pythia-oracle-delphi-001641

Ancient Chinese Divination

http://www.indiana.edu/~e232/02-Shang.pdf

African Divination

https://bulletin.hds.harvard.edu/articles/summerautumn2013/silent-voices-african-divination

South American Divination

http://www.faena.com/aleph/articles/divination-by-means-of-maize/

Pinot Grigio, But I Love Thee!

The Pinot Grigio Prejudice

Americans love wine. We drink so much of it that we actually consume more wine than any other nation in the world! It’s the Millennials who are largely responsible for pushing our charts of wine consumption skyward. It has been speculated that the media is a big influence on their choice of beverage du jour, through movies and television shows rife with young, hip, main characters imbibing wine in ever-increasing amounts (Thach, 2015).

Of all the wine drank on our star-spangled shores, Pinot Grigio is the third most popular wine in the US, right after first-place Chardonnay and second-place Cabernet Sauvignon (Thach, 2015). Despite Pinot Grigio’s great popularity, it has largely been rebuffed by the wine community as the Muzak of the wine world. The great wine glass maker Riedel doesn’t even make a Pinot Grigio glass! They make glasses for Daiginjo, Kalterer See Auslese, and Rheingau, but nothing, nada, zip, for Pinot Grigio. Why not, you ask? So glad you asked!

The Pinot Grigio Prejudice abounds mostly because some wine aficionados believe Pinot Grigio wines to be too one-dimensional to warrant the admiration bestowed upon other white varietals. But this unfair judgment is mostly due to the great numbers of mass-marketed, low-budget Pinot Grigio wines produced (Thach, 2015), and not the better quality, refreshingly high acid, bright, minerally, quaffable wines also produced, but at a slightly elevated price point (VinePair).

Pinot Grigio Done Right is Like a Hemingway Novel

Another factor in Pinot Grigio’s bad rap is, in part, due to it being promoted as a “training wheels wine” (Frazier, n.d.a.), second only to white zinfandel. Oh contraire! Pinot Grigio done right is like a Hemingway novel: sharp, dry, and with no flowery artifice to mask its salinity. A good Pinot Grigio brims with fresh notes of lemon, lime, apples, and honeysuckle. Pinot Grigio pairs beautifully with fish and shellfish, white pastas, appetizers, and summer salads. It also goes great with mild cheeses (although I have paired it with an extra-sharp Vermont aged white cheddar and it held its own!).

What’s in a Name?

Are Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio the same wine? Yes and no. Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape, just grown in different regions of the world and produced in different styles. The grape actually originated in Burgundy, France (hence the Pinot Gris appellation). The name Pinot Gris was derived from the French word pinot for the grape structure, which resembles a pine cone; and gris, because the grape, a cousin of Pinot Noir, is actually gray in color rather than the green of other white varietals (Schmitt, 2017). Pinot Gris style wines pair well with heartier fare such as hard cheeses, squashes and yams, cheese casseroles, and chicken and pork dishes. Pinot Gris is sort of like Pinot Grigio’s older, college-aged sister; more sophisticated, with greater depth and character, but with a little less sassiness, in my book, at least. And I must confess, I am a sass woman!

In the 1300s, the Pinot Gris grape migrated to Switzerland and eventually to northeastern Italy (Lombardy, the Veneto Fruili, Trentino, and Alto Adige), where its name and production style became known as Pinot Grigio (VinePair, n.d.a.).  Even though the wine is French in origin, it was the Italians who popularized it and brought the wine to the global market (Gorman-McAdams, 2014).

In Italy, Pinot Grigio wines are grown and produced in the Italian style and are often crisp with lively fruit, flowery bouquets, and a dash of zing on the finish (Gorman-McAdams, 2014). According to Wine Folly (2014), regions with chillier temperatures are likely to produce wines in this method. Some regions to look for with Pinot Grigio of this type are: Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy; Veneto and Lombardy, Italy; Austria; Hungary; Slovenia; Romania; Pfalz, Rheinhessen, and Rheingau in Germany; and Okanagan, Canada.

On the other hand, Old World Alsace style Pinot Gris wines are more fruit forward, higher in alcohol, less acidic, denser in flavor, and provide a slicker mouth feel. Stone fruit flavors balance the citrus characteristics in Alsace style Pinot Gris wines. According to Wine Folly (2014), several of the countries that make this style are, interestingly, the New World wine regions of Fruili-Venezia Guilia, Sicily; Abruzzo and Tuscany in Italy; Australia; New Zealand; Chile; Argentina; and California, Oregon, and Washington in the US. Alsace style Pinot Grigios are also considered to be a better investment if cellaring your wine is a priority.

Terlato Pinot Grigio is Liquid Summer

Admittedly, I have a peculiar fixation on rooting for the underdog. It’s been a lifelong preoccupation: befriend the bullied kid; join the Rolling Stones camp versus the megalithic Beatles one; love jazz and blues when rock was king; and, most recently, be in pursuit of the perfect Pinot. Pinot Grigio, that is! I think I may have found it in Terlato Pinot Grigio, 2015, (no affiliate marketing ploy—just the love of wine). For $20 a bottle, I think you’ll find it’s like liquid summer; evocative of a warm sunny day with low humidity and bright blue skies, a delicious salad on the patio and Frank Sinatra crooning in the background in chorus with the birds.

Those are my unconventional Pinot Grigio tasting notes, backed by extensive hands-on-wine-glass research. Please share with us the magic that slides out of your next bottle of Pinot Grigio. Together we can defeat the Pinot Grigio Prejudice for the good of all wine drinkers—present and future! We also welcome recommendations of other great Pinot Grigio wines as you discover them. Keep us posted!

Resources:

Frazier, K. (n.d.a.) Best white wine for beginners. Love to know. [Blog]. Downloaded from

https://wine.lovetoknow.com/wiki/best_wines_for_beginners

Gorman-McAdams, M. (2014, April 25). What’s the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio? [Blog]. Downloaded from https://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-pinot-gris-and-pinot-grigio-126507

Learn about Pinot Grigio white wine. VinePair. [Blog].  Downloaded from https://vinepair.com/wine-101/learn-pinot-grigio-white-wine/

Schmitt, P. (2017, September 1).Everything you need to know about Pinot Grigio. Downloaded from https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2017/09/everything-you-need-to-know-about-pinot-grigio/

 

Thach, L. (2015, January 24). The state of wine drinking in America today. The Week. Downloaded from http://theweek.com/articles/532653/state-winedrinking-america-today

The 3 types of Pinot Grigio. (2014, June 18). Downloaded from  https://winefolly.com/review/3-types-pinot-grigio/

Wine in America. (2017, December). Pbs.org [Blog]. Downloaded from  https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/wine-america/