Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Scratchy Throat? Here's What I Do


Sometimes I just do something super simple like gargling with salt water or diluted Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, (I like Braggs,) and that always helps to ease a tickle in a throat.  But, when I really want to stop something in it's tracks before it even gets started, I have a much more thorough approach.

And that is one of the main keys, 'before it even gets started.'  So often, we want to deny the subtle signs that anything is wrong because we really don't want it to be real.  Instead, I openly refer to this phase as 'a slight imbalance in my wellness.'  And I let people know that I'm going to be tending to this, because this is the most crucial time to tune in and take action, rather than hoping it will just go away.  

Our bodies are masters at sending us subtle cues well before bigger symptoms occur and it pays to pay attention to them.  Headaches, backaches, changes in the bowel habit, these are all ways our body talks to us to let us know that something is amiss.  And that little, tiny scratchy throat is no exception.  So, here is what I do.

First, I drop everything, clear my calendar, at least for the rest of the day, stop what I'm doing, go inside, get warm, stay warm and start heading in the direction of rest and wellness.  I don't eat junk food or sugar, but if I did, I'd stop that nonsense pronto as that sort of eating habit is sure to dip the immune system and kick a bad thing into high gear.  

Generally, I'll then reach for a salt water gargle, first, which is always right at hand with good quality Celtic Sea Salt or Real Salt being permanent residents in my kitchen.  I use one teaspoon of salt, dissolved in, first a half a cup of hot water, stirred, and then another half a cup of cold water added in order to dilute the solution to a comfortable temperature.  While standing at the sink, I pour some of the salt water into the palm of my hand and while closing one nostril with my fingers, I snort the puddle of salt water, from my hand, up my into my sinuses, with my other nostril.  Then, I trade hands and nostrils and pour and snort some more.  

After that, I take a nice big mouthful of the salt solution and gargle and spit.  I repeat this several times, hitting high notes and low notes, and all the notes in between, vocally, while gargling.   This exposes all of the many folds of my vocal chords to the salt solution.  These folds can be hiding places for invading microbes and it is best to let them know, with the salt, that they are not welcome.

Natural salt, from dehydrated ocean water is full of minerals and it is also a good bio-film disruptor, which means that it can break through the little crust that microbes, like bacteria form, as a protective layer, on top of their colonies. These colonies are where they can thrive and multiply.  

Xylitol is another great bio-film disruptor.  So, I also reach for my Xlear nasal spray, which has xylitol in it, and I shoot a couple of good squirts up into my sinuses after I've recovered a little from the salt water snorting.

I tend to have very clear sinuses, but when I inhale Xlear up my nose, I am always amazed at how much mucus is liberated.  I'll generally need to spit and blow for a good five minutes after a good application.  It is surprising how much material can be undetected and stored up in those sinuses.  And those hidden, mucus-rich areas can be fine homes for microbes and their bio-films.  

Xlear is also one of the tricks I use for staying healthy after having spent time out in public, where I may have been exposed to any number of infectious, air-borne microbes.  In the same regard, I may use my nebulizer to inhale a very dilute mist of .75% hydrogen peroxide.  I learned about this technique from a May 2020 article that a friend of mine shared from Dr. Mercola.  Just a couple of breaths using this mist can really knock back pathogens from the lungs.

 While the water is still hot in the tea kettle from making my salt water solution, I generally brew myself a couple of cups of Throat Coat Tea by Traditional Medicinals.  This is a very soothing combination of herbs to support the health of the throat, coating it with slippery elm bark and marshmallow root.  Wild cherry bark, fennel and cinnamon add their goodness, drying mucus, easing airways, reducing inflammation and acting as antioxidants.  The licorice root boosts the immune system and gives it all a lovely taste.  Sipping this nice warm tea all day also helps to rinse away any little microbes that may be trying to set up housekeeping in the mucus membranes of my throat.

At this point I might additionally reach for a throat spray, like 'Singer's Saving Grace' or HerbPharm's 'Soothng Throat Spray.'  A couple of squirts in the back of my mouth are very soothing and also help to discourage any invasion.

I'm a big fan of Dr. Richard Schulze and his American Botanical Pharmacy.  He is one of our great contemporary herbologists and his 'Oral Therapy' mouth wash is miraculous.  I'll also gargle with that, to really knock back any invaders and I follow it with his beautiful 100% food sourced Vitamin C tablets, 'Super-C Plus.'  I'll suck on one or two of those and they feel so good.  In fact, they could go in my top paragraph as the one or two things that can be done to start turning a situation around.  After having successfully managed to conquer the invasion with this protocol, I keep a few of these little C tablets in my pocket for a few days, so I can pull one out and suck on it from time to time, in order to keep the internal balance in my throat in good health. 

After all of this flushing and chasing away of bad microbes, I like to go to my refrigerator where I keep what I need to replenish my throat flora with healthy microbes.  For this I use a beautiful probiotic capsule that has been carefully preserved from an old world source.  It is called 'Healthy Trinity' by Natren.  I put two of these beautiful capsules in my mouth and let them slowly dissolve there.  I'll often do this just before I fall asleep, for good internal mouth flora and also, incidentally, for tooth support.  This is, as the French would say, the pièce de résistance, or the final important feature for regaining the balance of health in my throat.  

I keep all of these things on hand because having a fully equipped apothecary, or in-home store of herbs and remedies, is a big part of natural healing.  This is a good idea for anyone who is interested in a holistic approach to health.  My throat care prevention supplies are  just a small portion of my personal apothecary.  I also keep herbal stores for organ cleansing, injuries and first aid, brain health, heart health and a host of other simple mostly herbal remedies for maintaining and creating beautiful health, in the way that nature provided.

 A good cook knows the importance of having basic staples on hand: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, what have you.  The same holds true for natural healing techniques.  What I have given you here is one recipe from my cookbook.  There are hundreds more.  And like any recipe, it may shift and change as the years go by.  My storehouse of home remedies started decades ago, with one cupboard.  Now it is quite extensive, housed in several cabinets, a dresser or two and even a mini-fridge.  And if you haven't already, this is a perfect place to get started, a few powerful healing allies, to help stave off a sore throat, before it even gets started.  Enjoy.



Friday, June 10, 2022

One Can't Say Enough About Gratitude




Can there ever be enough said about Gratitude?  I don't think so.

And talk about a healing balm.  Picking up the reins of our mind and turning our thoughts toward thankfulness in any situation shifts the energy instantly and brings about positive change.  Not to mention, gratitude is one of the three main types of prayer, commonly known to all of humankind, next to, 'Help,' and 'Silent Union with the Divine.'

So, yes, Gratitude.  It is always worthy of mention.  And I could almost stop right there, with 'enough said.'  But, I'll elaborate just a little more.

Habitually switching our thoughts to gratefulness can take some practice, but it is one of the best ways I know of for coming up out of a funk.  One does need to first recognize and realize that a funk has descended.  Sometimes we can really get lost in a negative internal mind climate, festering and stewing like an infection.

This is where the idea of 'the witness,' (from Jnana Yoga, from Hinduism,) comes in.  Here, there are the two birds sitting in the tree of life.  One is busy doing and experiencing all of the activities of life, while the other is just watching.  This watching bird, within ourselves is 'the noticer.'  And the noticer gives us a little perspective.  It notices when we are happy.  It notices when we are sad.  And it can alert us, as the rider of our own horse of life, when it is time to turn a run-away situation around and head in a different direction, like toward Gratitude.

Listening to the news or just tending to the day-to-day chores or foibles of life can really get us all wound up.  But, there is always something to be grateful for, even in moments that can seem quite stinky.  If we look, we'll find it.  And that gives us our first step up out of that place in our heads.  "The sky is a beautiful blue."  "I can take a breath."  "I'm sitting next to you."  There is always something to be grateful for.  We can start there.

Huston Smith in his seminal book, The World's Religions, 1958, noted the three types of prayer that I was referring to earlier.  Universal to all religions, both oral and written, they are: 1.) The Asking Prayer,  "Please help me."  2.) The Prayer of Gratitude, "Thank you."  And 3.) The Prayer of Silent Union with The Divine, where we loose our sense of self and become one with everything.

From the asking prayer, I've heard that we can get three different answers: "Yes, of course."  "Yes, but later."  And, "No, I have something better for you."  All worthy of gratitude.  And when we loose ourselves in oneness, doing what we absolutely love, be it dancing in the waves or climbing a mountain peak, we have reached a state of bliss and what is not to be grateful for there.  So, yes, gratitude.  It is what keeps the world going round and helps us to attain humanity's greatest desire, Peace, both within and without.

So, let's pick up the reins, together and come round to a unity of being, reaching for and finding gratitude, as often as possible, in every moment of every day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Focusing on Goodness and Beauty Through Challenging Times



There are so many scary things going on in the world right now.  Even our day to day experiences can be frightening and sometimes overwhelming.  However, in spite of all of that, I find that it is important to realize and remember that at our core, we are love, all is well, and there is nothing to be afraid of.

Holding to a deep and abiding belief in the beauty and goodness of all things isn't always easy for me either, but thanks to the help of some of my favorite authors, I've become so practiced at it that on the occasions when I slip into despair, I find that those moments have become fewer and farther between and that they last a lot less longer.  So, I'd like to share with you some thoughts that I've embraced in my life that help me to more swiftly make the transition back into trust and joy. 

1.  Remembering Miracles and Gratitude.  In his book, Pronoia, Bob Brezsny explains that we tend to have the habit of thinking that the whole day is going wrong if we do something like stub our toe on the way to the bathroom in the morning, instead of recognizing that we've already experienced twenty-five miracles in just waking up from sleep and moving our bodies, flicking on the light switch and taking a nice deep breath.  His point is well taken.  There is a stupendous amount of things to be grateful for in every moment of every day.

2.  Realizing Our Higher Self's Perspective.  One of my favorite mentors, Peace Pilgrim, has a chart of her spiritual growth that is shared in the book, Peace Pilgrim, Her Life and Work in Her Own Words.  It shows how we can vacillate between the emotional ups and downs of the low self and the high self.  As we progress on the journey of a life dedicated to spiritual development, our ability to move more swiftly through the challenges of a self-centered nature become easier and we engage more regularly with what she calls our God-centered nature. 

3.  We Alone Control the Direction of Our Thoughts.  Viktor Frankl, in his life changing work, Man's Search for Meaning, wrote of his experience in a concentration camp during WWII.  He said that they could take everything away from him except his own mind and that where he held his thoughts, or his attitude, was completely under his own control.  

4.  Healthy Clean Blood Makes for Healthy Clean Thoughts.  The teachings of the great contemporary nutritional, health and well-being herbologist, Dr. Richard Schulze, consolidates the knowledge that we have gained over the last few centuries in regards to the role that good nutrition, internal organ cleansing and self-care play in our lives.  He says to "Stop doing what is making you sick and Start doing what makes you feel well."  Our bad junk food habits and sedentary lifestyles do catch up with us.  Keeping our internal organs clean and functioning well, helps to keep the rest of us clean too.  This includes our blood and thus our brains.  When our brains are not so busy dealing with dirty blood, our thoughts can become cleaner, as well.

5.  Choosing Our Level of Engagement.  Jill Bolte Taylor, in her wonderful new book, Whole Brain Living, shows us how we can identify and begin to choose between the four main parts of our brains.  We can decide which part of our awareness we would most like to have holding the microphone of our lives.  It seems that too often, we tend to jump into our left emotional brain, which is all about, "Me, Me, Me," and about all of the things that are wrong in this moment.  Instead, we can learn how to engage the other parts of our brain to skillfully handle and move through difficult events.  We can consciously choose where we want to place our awareness like: in our ability to reason and figure out how to move forward, or in our playful side, or in our expanded sense of deep interconnectedness which holds everything with compassion and love.

6.  We Can Heal Our Lives.  Louise Hay, in her ground-breaking work, You Can Heal Your Life, shows us how creating the habits of positive thinking through self love and affirmations can move us into new dimensions of gratitude and joy in our lives.  Her 'go to' reminder of, "All is well.  Everything is working itself out for the highest good.  Out of this experience only good will come.  And, I am safe." has been life changing for me.  It has helped me to work through some of the scarier situations in my life, allowing me to shift my perspective into trust and love.

7.  When We Change Our Perspective Amazing Miracles Occur.  Near Death Experiences, like Anita Moorjani's Dying to Be Me or Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven or Mellen-Thomas Benedict's Journey Through the Light and Back, demonstrate the miraculous effects that changing our perspective can hold.  A Course in Miracles teaches this too.  Our beliefs have the potential to help us let go of the most dire of circumstances and turn them into bliss.  

8.  Our Consciousness Lives On In Love.  Some very accurate and persuading examples of the ongoing presence of human consciousness have not only been shown in cases of Near Death Experiences but have also been shown through the work of talented mediums.  These professional psychics have been able to share intimate details from loved ones who have passed on and who have reached out to their living family members to help them move beyond grief.  This type of profoundly healing information allows those who remain alive to be assured that consciousness not only lives on but is whole and happy and well.  Some of the mediums who have inspired me are Tyler Henry with Here and Hereafter, and  Gordon Smith with The Unbelievable Truth.  Death is not the end.

9.  Good News is Great News.  Most of our journal and broadcast news focuses on what is alarming and seriously concerning.  But there is a lot of good going on in the world that we hardly ever hear about.  Brilliant people, young and old are coming up with new perspectives and innovative solutions all the time.  It serves us well to search some of these good news sources out and share them with others.  Many of my environmental journals like National Wildlife from the Nation Wildlife Federation or Nature Conservancy Magazine from The Nature Conservancy often have great reports on collaborations that are turning the tides toward a healthier world or things that we can each do like planting for wildlife in our gardens.  Also, the Good News Hub reports great good news stories online.  News like this always lifts my spirits.

10.  Singing and Dancing Our Way to Beauty and Goodness.  I sing everyday.  It makes me feel happy, even if I'm just humming.  And I dance whenever I can.  When we do these two, we lighten our hearts and leave our troubles behind.  Even if you have to 'Fake it until you make it,' it is time well spent.  You will feel lighter.  And it's fun.  Just allow your playfulness to come forward.  

I hope these ten tips help you to hold a more positive outlook as much for you as they have for me.  And finally, I'll leave you with this one last idea.  Stay in your joy, as much as you can.  Try to do something that you'd love to do every day.  Make it your top priority and it will make your day, every day.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Gaining and Maintaining Beautiful Eye Health Along With Great Vision



Vision is our dominant perceptual sense.  Dogs smell.  Rabbits hear.  But we humans predominantly use our eyes to inform us about the world around us.  We see.

Just like any other muscle in the body, the muscles around our eyes can become weak or tight.  When they do, our eyeballs can loose their nice round shape, becoming more oblong or egg shaped, either too long or too wide.  If one or more of the six muscles that surround our eyes pulls habitually on that beautiful fluid filled ball of ours, then we can't see as well, becoming either nearsighted or farsighted.  When we correct this visual disturbance with eye glasses, the problem gradually gets worse as we lean progressively more heavily on that crutch.

Practicing regular eye exercises is one of the basics of maintaining or reclaiming great eye health.  Another basic is calming the optic nerve.

The optic nerve is a comparatively long and large structure that comes right from the eyeball itself, straight back into the brain.  (A portion of the nerve fibers coming from each eye, actually cross each other, but that's a detail we can save for another time.)  When the optic nerve gets highly stimulated from bright light or the tension of muscular strain, it becomes overburdened with chemical messages causing fatigue.  When this happens, it can take a little while to calm down.  This is where "palming" comes in.  I'll describe that a little later.

When I was a young girl, growing up, my mother and my grandmother were both writers.  They each spent many hours a day reading and writing.  Yet neither of them wore glasses.  Though sadly my mother passed quite young, my grandmother lived into her mid-nineties and lived her whole life long without getting any prescription glasses.  And she read almost all day, everyday.  This was because she had learned how to care for her vision from an eye health pioneer of her time, Dr. William Horatio Bates, M.D. (1860-1931.)  She read his books, did the exercises, and blessedly taught my mother, who taught me.  Many was the day when I would come across my mother or my grandmother palming or moving or resting their eyes. 

Back in the day, instead of celebrity rags at the checkout line in the grocery store, you could pick up little self care books on natural health techniques.  I still have a 35¢ hard cover copy on correcting vision problems naturally that I purchased in my early twenties.  It is titled Sight Without Glasses, by Dr. Harold M. Peppard.  The top of this little book's spine is ragged from the number of times I have pulled it out from my bookshelf.  Another small paperback, that I have from back in 1994, by Richard Leviton is called, Better Vision in 30 Days.  These little guides have kept me on track and I am so very pleased to say that they work!  And there are lots of more very detailed resources available, like Help Yourself to Better Sight, by Margaret O. Corbett or The Eye Care Revolution by Robert Abel, Jr., M.D..

The exercises, or 'movements,' as Dr. Bates used to call them, are remarkably simple.  

Palming.  Palming comes first and foremost, for calming the optic nerve.  This is done by placing the palms of your hands gently over your eyes to create a dark environment where your eyes can begin to drain off the remaining chemical residue caused by light from inside the optic nerve.  This is best done in a darkened room, with a straight spine and the elbows resting on a surface which is at about chest level.  Resting the elbows keeps them from fatiguing.  Care should be taken that the palms rest very lightly on the bony structures of the skull, around the eyes with no pressing.  

Bates felt that imagining movement, like a black boat, on a black sea, sailing in a figure eight was helpful while palming.  I like to imagine a herd of black horses running around on a black beach at night.  Doing visualizations, like these, while palming seems to help the optic nerve drain more quickly and completely.

When palming, it can take a little while for the eye to no longer see patches of lingering light and see only blackness.  I can see complete blackness typically in about five minutes.  But I have very good vision and well cared for eyes.  Bates liked for people to palm for twelve minutes, warming the hands first by rubbing them briskly together, (raising the chi,) before starting.  He also liked for people to palm before starting the other exercises or movements.  This relaxes the eyes before asking them to engage their muscles.  Then, just like gently stretching any muscle, you move first one way, and then the other.

Though there are a host of exercises allowing one to address any number of possible corrections such as double vision, wandering eyes or astigmatism, I have focused on just a scant handful of them to maintain my good vision.  Almost all eye exercises are best done outside and my favorites are these five:

Sunning.  This feels really great.  I step out into the morning air, while the sun is still low on the horizon.  I close my eyes and point my nose right at the sun.  Then I slowly move my head from left to right, allowing my shoulders and upper torso to move as well, so that my face is moving in an arc of 180 degrees.  I might do this for as long as four or five minutes.

Looking at a Distance.  The next thing I like to do is see if I can see some distant hikers on the trail going up the mountain near my home.  The trail is probably about a mile away from my front door.  It's fun.  We tend to have a lot of hikers here, and my husband and I often try to see who can see someone first.  

In our modern day and age, we rarely look at a distance, but if we were people in ancient times, it would be very helpful to see if that distant fruit tree was ripe or not, or to notice if anyone else was over there.  Spending just a little bit of time looking at a distance helps us to counter act all of the time that we spend reading or staring at close up screens while engaging with technology.  

Often while driving, on open roads, I'll rest my eyes by looking over the steering wheel at the far off landscapes ahead of me, allowing my peripheral vision to keep track of what is happening near by.  And while I'm at my computer, I frequently gaze out the window, behind my screen, at the large tree across the street, allowing my eyes to focus on its leaves and branches for just a moment or two.  These kinds of tiny habits give the close up muscles of my eyes a little chance to rest and relax and greatly reduce any symptoms of eye fatigue.  My grandmother used to say, "Look up."  She said that gazing into the sky or the trees overhead was very relaxing for the eyes and the mind. 

Looking Close and Looking Far.  This is one of my very favorites.  I enjoy seeing how quickly I can change my focusing ability.  After looking at the mountain in the morning, I'll take a few moments to briefly look at my thumbnail, held about eight inches from my face.  As soon as I can clearly see my cuticle and the details of the skin around my nail, I glance back at the mountain and see how long it takes for me to see details there.  Then I look back at my nail, and then back at the mountain.  I maybe do this half a dozen times, or more, depending on how acute my eyes are and how quickly my vision can adjust.

Swinging.  This one I do seated, with my eyes closed.  It is important not to move your eyes too quickly for this exercise.  Slow and steady is best.  Begin by holding your head in a comfortable position and looking straight ahead.  Then close your eyes, and start by moving just your eyes to the left, as if you were looking to the left.  Then to the right.  Back to the left again, and back to the right.  Go easy, especially when you are doing this for the first time.  Go nice and slow and not too far.  Repeat a comfortable and gentle number of times.  Pause for a moment or two after you've completed this, keeping your eyes closed.  'Rome wasn't conquered in a day.'  

After that, with eyes still closed, let your eyes swing up and down.  Then, after that, try moving on to the diagonals.  First up on the left and down on the right.  Then, up on the right and down on the left.  Try to make your movements nice and even, gradually moving your eyes without letting them jump along.  And always come to center, resting your eyes for just a moment or two before changing directions.  This really gives those six muscles a nice, deep, long stretch.

Watching My Dog Chase the Ball.  This one is really lovely and I do it every day.  We take our dog to the park and throw the ball for her.  I watch her very carefully, yet with soft and relaxed eyes, not straining, never straining.   As she quickly moves away and back toward me again, my focus naturally changes to follow her.  The muscles around my eyes actually change the shape of my eyeballs, in a steady fashion, slightly longer or wider to maintain the focus in a continual stream of gentle natural movement.

If you don't happen to have a dog, maybe you have a ball, a similar version of this exercise happens when you hit a ball against a wall and let it bounce back to you and hit it again.  Tennis, or pickle ball or ping pong accomplish a similar effect.  

My grandmother was a great ping pong player, well into her advanced age.  And she often rested her eyes, by sitting down and closing them briefly after a game.  She rested her eyes while reading too.  She'd hold her finger on the page, so her eyes would not have to strain and search for the next line.  She also blinked, a lot, not only at the end of every line while reading, but also while just looking around or speaking with someone.  She always read with good and even light and she never stared or let herself strain her eyes in other ways. 

Just like any exercise program, doing it once or twice won't get you there.  It takes a near daily commitment to see lasting results.

Meir Schneider, of the School of Natural Healing, based in Berkeley, California, has taken this type of work to a beautifully refined level.  He was born legally blind and can now drive on the freeway.  He teaches how to work with and improve or prevent a variety of eye health challenges including blind spots, glaucoma and macular degeneration.  There are more answers to eye health problems than just drugs or surgery.

I am currently working on not only maintaining my beautiful and blessedly perfect vision, but also on preventing cataracts.  I'm having success doing this by adding in a few new eye exercises, that I'm now learning, along with keeping my self fully hydrated and doing periodic water fasting, (please see one of my new favorite books on this method of natural healing by Kate McCarthy titled Water Fasting.)  I also use two or three drops of Dr. Schulze's Eyebright Formula in distilled water in an eye cup, every day.  This gives my eyes a nice bath in healing herbs that definitely help to increase the blood circulation to all of my eye structures, while keeping them nourished and healthy.  So far, it is all definitely working!

May you and your family and friends come to know the joy of maintaining and reclaiming beautiful eye health and vision with these simple habits of relaxation and gentle movements that you can easily incorporate into your lives.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Step Into the Magic of Your Dreams

Hello everyone.  My friend Cyndi Silva asked me to do an interview exploring perspectives on Dreamwork.  Please enjoy this 50 minute zoom discussion on various types of dreams, helpful tips on how to remember your dreams and a few ideas on how to easily interpret them.  To learn more about Cyndi and her lovely work visit:  and

Friday, February 18, 2022

A Few of My Tips on How to Have a Happy Marriage


Standing on the steady ground of four decades of a successful marriage, I realize that there are a few things I've learned about how to navigate the waters of close relationships.  I'd like to share some of them with you now.

Perhaps the first and most important is self love.  If we do not love and value our own self, we will not have the ability to stand up for ourselves and meet our most basic needs in life.  Self love gives us boundaries.  And good boundaries keep us safe and whole.  They protect us from what I call, "Deal Breakers."  

If I realize or discover that someone who I am becoming close to has unresolved issues that they need to work through such as: alcoholism, drug addiction, illegal activities or basic moral or ethical problems like lying, cheating or stealing, I can make a choice as to whether I feel called to help them with that soul growth or not.  For a potential life partner, either of these would most likely be a 'deal breaker' for me.  And for a friendship, depending on how much drama I might want to allow in my life, I might find myself distancing from that relationship.  

A couple of other examples of 'deal breakers' might be when one person is wishing to start a family, while the other does not feel called to that experience.  Or, if one person really wants to pursue higher education, or a higher station in life while the other finds that they are contented with how things already are.  These are perhaps less difficult for a couple to consider than say, addictions or what not, but they can none-the-less be good reasons for not being in a marriage together.

A second relationship dynamic that I've observed is that we often choose and are attracted to people who have mastered qualities that we ourselves have not yet fully cultivated and would love to be able to express.  When we find someone who has those qualities, it allows us to observe and hopefully develop some of those traits in ourselves so that we can become a more well-rounded individual.  Thus, the engineer is drawn to the artist.  The structured and orderly life craves some of the freedom and spontaneity of the creative life and visa versa.  

The trouble begins when we start to judge the other through the lens of our own perspective.  The artist can't understand why the engineer won't just take a day off to relax and have some fun for a change.  And the engineer gets to the point where they can no longer abide by the constant messy chaos of those art projects scattered all over the place.  Each tries to make the other be more like themselves.  What first attracted, can later become the thorn of contention.  

Herein lies a bit of surrender.  It just becomes so much easier when we let the people in our lives be who they are and do what they are capable of doing.  Yes, we all have chores and we absolutely do need to contribute, in the way that we each best can, to our shared lives together.  But, it is good to remember that the only person we can actually change is our self.  And the more we try to change someone else, the more frustrated or resentful we become.  If, instead, we change our tack and simply accept them, just as they are, the less burdened we become in our own minds.   

In addition, when we allow our own internal emotional climate to be determined by the actions of others, we potentially set ourselves up for a lifetime of misery.  We need to realize that we are all flawed individuals.  Who among us is perfect?  No one.  This is very true in a marriage too.  We are all here, to learn and grow.   

So, yes, we all have improvements to make.  But we need to grow at our own pace and in our own time.  We wouldn't force a six year old to do a twelve year old's algebra problems.  We would allow them to gradually develop into that capacity.  And in the meanwhile, rather than focusing on what's wrong with each other, we need to focus on what's right.  

This is my main point here.  Keep the grain and let the chaff blow away.  I like to ask, what makes me feel better?  Do I like being criticized for what I haven't done or did wrong, or do I like being complimented for what I did right and thanked for all that I do do in the marriage?  The answer is clear.  I appreciate being appreciated and thanked.  It is good to remember this.  I love that old saying, Gratitude Brings More Blessings.

Peace Pilgrim used to say, "If you smile at the world, it smiles back at you."  So, for homework here, and to start making changes in yourself, the next time you feel frustrated or angry with your significant other, stop yourself and think of 10 things that they've done right.  And warm your heart with those realizations.  Let them remind you of why you were attracted to this person in the first place.  And, then mention and focus on these things instead.

It is amazing how transformative this practice can be on a relationship.  When one person starts doing it, often the other responds in kind.  Soon, rather than complaining about your spouse to others, you are off to form a mutual admiration society and come to be, as Frank and I like to point out, "President of each other's fan club."

Another relationship pattern that I have noticed in myself is irregardless of whatever the fault or error or misdeed that I may see in the other, if I look closely enough.  I'll find that at one time I have committed some version of that same misdeed.  Introspection is good and it helps us to see the bigger picture.

This is not to say that I am always to blame for everything that goes wrong in a relationship, because some people, and it is especially common for women, can fall into this trap and feel that if they just work harder on themselves, or make changes in who and how they are, everything will right itself.  But a happy marriage takes mutual effort.  Gentleness, caring and loving respect, on the part of both parties, is essential.  This is a daily task.  Both have to pull their weight.  If one does all of the work, that is not going to yield any kind of lasting results.  

I remember one marriage where the woman was so in love with being in love that she did everything to hold onto the relationship.  And it is important to realize that we teach people how to treat us.  In this case, she taught him, right from the start, that she would do it all, diminishing her self and her own needs in the process, and he didn't have to do a thing.  Unfortunately that even included his not remembering to treat her with loving care or consideration.  Until too near the bitter end, she felt that being in relationship had greater worth than her own sense of self.  

When the love of oneself is strong, and our boundaries are good, we can remind our self, and the other, that this is a partnership.  We can ask how can we help each other to get each of our needs met.  

Sometimes the stressors in a marriage arise from outside of the relationship.  Jobs can be too demanding.  Grief or difficulties with aging parents or other problems can cause us to become overwhelmed.  When this occurs, we can say, "I see that you are not happy."  Or we can say, "I'm not happy."  And then, "What can we do, or what change can we make, together, so we can both be happy?"  

Oscar Wilde said that the core of any good relationship is conversation.  This is another key that I find to be extremely valuable.  Life is meant to be shared.  It helps us to stay connected when we talk.  And often it is the simple things, the little things that we remember and love. This is where the long burning embers of love lie.  And it is how we grow together and not apart.  

Everyone is different and some are not as free with words.  But even with quiet ones, we can create the time and space to talk.  Sometimes it is easiest to begin with the day to day events of our lives.  And opening the doors to communication can happen in any number of ways.  We can chat during meals, or go for drives together.  We can take a walk, or share a cup of tea after a movie.  Just asking each other about any little thing can get the words rolling.  

Cultivating the habit of conversation is good.  And it gives us the opportunity to share about the more challenging things in a relationship, when they arise, like miscommunications or finding and admitting to our own short comings, or very importantly, expressing our gratitude for what is right and good in our partnerships.  

Another valuable tip for cultivating healthy relationships is loving touch.  Our hands and arms make a circuit to our hearts.  Even our friendships need a gentle touch on the shoulder or a nice hug from time to time.  But, in our marriages or more significant relationships, it really helps to remember to express the love that is in our hearts through the gentle articulation of our hands.  We need to help each other up when we have fallen and let each other know that we care by patting a back or taking hold of a hand or softly caressing a cheek.

A fairly common relationship challenge can happen when a family is born.  When a new baby comes into a partnership, quite often the parents place nearly all of their attention on the child, as they should.  But, sometimes the connection between the mother and infant can allow the bond between the parents to lapse.  The husband may be able to understand this mentally, but emotionally he can feel left out.  As things settle down, it helps to remember to share the love, all the way around.  When raising a family, I feel that it is important to remember where the primary relationship lies and to keep that strong.  It takes a lot to navigate family life and the load is best shared.

This was one of the gifts that my parents gave to me in my childhood.  And I feel so blessed because of it.  They worked together as a team and they directed the lives of their children.  My brothers and I knew where we stood and neither of us kids stood at the helm.  Our parents worked together to raise us, each with their own specific roles.  There was a tremendous sense of comfort and confidence that that brought to us all.  

 In family dynamics, it is also good to remember that children's minds are not fully developed and their capacity for rational thought still lies ahead of them.  They are simply not capable of being a fully functioning life partner.  It just seems to work best when adults are holding the reins.  This lets the child feel the consistency, order and security of adult decisions being made.  And when there are two adults, they can each look to each other for guidance and decision making.  This, as well, models for the child what a successful working marriage looks like, one that they can then pattern their own life after.  

I'm not forgetting 'deal breakers' here.  Sometimes we have to let go of a relationship.  Our work together is done and we go our separate ways.  And if a marriage doesn't work, for whatever reason, being a single parent or sharing parenting in separate households is a much better option than having ill-will and contention rule the home.  But if we can work through our differences and keep a happy home, it does wonders for a child to be able to witness that.

One of the enduring markers to health, which includes the health of relationships, is to ask oneself, 'When did I stop singing?'  And, 'When did I stop dancing?'  If you have stopped, start the work there.  And then do it together.  We need to remember to have fun.  To sing and to dance and to be playful.  We need to laugh and crack jokes, and have a good time.  We need to touch and smile and chase each other mirthfully around the house every once in a while.  We need to sit together and watch the sunset and make and eat good food.

And last but certainly not least, we need to remember that the doors to love open from the inside.  It is not so much who someone else is, or how amazing they are.  We are all amazing sparks of Divine Love.  What matters is that we hold our focus on seeing that spark in the other.  They didn't cause us to fall in love with them so much as we came to the place in ourselves that was ready to open the doors of our hearts, to open ourselves to love.  And this is a choice that we can make everyday.  We can choose to love.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Our Refined Sugar Addicted Culture


I have quit sugar hundreds of times, and I'm not exaggerating.  I think I first started stopping when I was about seventeen, after a fully sugar-saturated childhood, commonly having it with my three meals a day, often complimented with two or three sugar snacks or desserts in between.  I began perfecting my strategy to overcome this addiction in my twenties, researching the health problems, reading books like Sugar Blues, by William Dufty, a classic, and observing the co-craving pulls, like my body's need for magnesium, which is found in dark chocolate.  Not only would I engage my rational mind and my will power, but I'd also put a few tablespoons of tart cherry juice concentrate in my drinking water in order to keep my magnesium levels nicely replenished all day.  And this is still a strategy that I advise for those who just can't say 'No' to chocolate, which is very hard for many of us to do.

Another sugar stopping strategy for chocoholics, (if the caffeine therein isn't posing a problem,) is to turn to non-sweetened sources of chocolate, like Pascha 100% cacao unsweetened organic dark chocolate baking chips.  These are Fair Trade Chocolates, which means that unlike 95% of the chocolate that is sold in the world, no human rights abuses or child slave labor was involved in the production of this product.  That is a really good thing.  And it is available at most healthy food stores.  Another non-sweetened source that is very good, comes from the UK and is available here in the states at many of the Trader Joe's stores.  This is Montezuma's 100% Cacao Solids, Dark Chocolate, Absolute Black bar with Cocoa Nibs.  These bars are ethically sourced, though they are not certified Fair Trade chocolates.  With a similar ethic, another popular favorite is Addictive Wellness Raw Wild Cacao With Adaptogenic Super herbs.  With mostly organic or wildcrafted ingredients, it is not only refined sugar-free but it is also gluten-free, keto, vegan and paleo.  Unlike the other two that I've mentioned, which are not sweet, the Addictive Wellness chocolates are sweetened with xylitol and stevia.  This small company also makes their chocolates with health promoting herbs so the consumer gets more than just the chocolate fix.  

But it is not just chocolate that is at the root of our problem here, it is the refined sugar.  Our primary sugar crops are sugar cane or sugar beets.  Currently 95% of the sugar beets in the USA are grown from genetically modified seed.  This means that if you are eating something sweet, say at a restaurant or friend's house and the sugar used was not cane sugar, which is highly likely, then you are, quite assuredly, inadvertently, consuming a GMO product.  Just so you know. 

When sugar is refined, all of the naturally complimenting nutrients are washed away, leaving only the pure white crystalline substance we all crave so hungrily.  Molasses is the by-product of the rinsing and the concentrated result of all that has been removed.  This is part of the reason why molasses is seen by many as a healthy food.  Molasses may help to prevent anemia because it offers iron.  It also provides calcium, magnesium, potassium, along with a variety of B vitamins.  I've learned that one half of a teaspoon of molasses per day, perhaps served in a cup of herbal tea, can prevent a tendency toward easy bruising, which sometimes happens in people with anemia.

After the molasses has been removed, those remaining refined sugar molecules are significantly different.  When they passes through our bodies, they try to make themselves whole again.  They grab onto and rob us of our own vitamins and minerals on their way out.  This seriously depletes our health and compromises our immunity.  And that's not all refined sugar does.  Recently there have been studies that show how those stripped sugar molecules accumulate in the folds of the skin contributing to wrinkles.  Other studies show how sugar destroys collagen causing sagging skin.  But that is not the worst of it.  

I've heard that we all successfully process and eliminate something like thirty million cancer cells per day.  That is amazing and wonderful.  The problem happens when some of those thirty million cells slip past our bodies immune system and set up housekeeping somewhere, like in one of our nutrient rich internal organs.  Cancer cells have a great affinity for sugar way more than any other cell in the body.  They need huge amounts of it for their growth and they use roughly 200 times more sugar than normal cells.  And, along comes our regular sugar-addicted intake to feed that growing cluster of cells and 'Voila!' we find ourselves in trouble.  It is good to remember that when we are regularly eating sugar we are feeding cancer cells.  Not a good idea.  

So, yeah, bad bad bad.  We don't want to do it.  But, it's addictive.  Very addictive.  In animal testing experiments, mice who were made to be addicted to both sugar and cocaine, chose the sugar first, over the cocaine, when deprived of both.  That shows us how extremely addictive refined sugar is.

Some people are under the mistaken assumption that brown sugar isn't white sugar, but it is.  It is just that it has had a little molasses added back in for color.  So, it is good to also watch out for that common trap or justification, thinking that brown sugar is somehow better for you.  It's not.  It is still white sugar with just one other little ingredient.  

A few years ago some of my British friends told me that for health reasons food producers in the UK were no longer allowed to put added table salt in their processed foods, like crackers and such.  But sales dropped way off, so they started including more sugar instead and sales shot back up.  Now, I see that currently the UK has introduced legislation to restrict low-priced offers on foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt content.  When the government pays for health care, it tends to care a little more about everyone's health.  But here in the United States, sugar related illnesses are increasing every year: Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and obesity.  And sugar is a big part of our lives.

For my own part, I know that my little sugar addicted self can hardly stop me when I am confronted with a nice salty, sweet cracker, like a Ritz or a Wheat Thins, especially if it is paired with cheese, (the casein in which is another addictive substance.)  The internal justifications come flying to the fore of my thoughts.  "It's only a teeny bit of sugar.  I'm not eating the desert.  It's just a few pieces of cheese and a little cracker or two." (More like ten.)  

And then there are all of the other processed foods, laden with refined sugar and other empty calories.  White flour, for instance, which though high in caloric value, has been stripped of almost all of it's nutrients.  Most of it's vitamins, protein and fiber get lost during processing.  Thus it is empty or nearly devoid of all nutritional value.  Almost every loaf of bread sold in supermarkets is full of empty calories and they most often also contain sugar.  Deli items like coleslaw, canned goods like soups or three bean salad, all too frequently have sugar in them.  Almost all potluck food table dishes, "My, your beets are so sweet and lovely."  Yes, and there is a reason for that.  The glaze is laced with more than 'just a pinch' of brown sugar.   Not to mention restaurants.  Chefs know what makes us want to come back for more.

And, food scientists have been perfecting this for years.  Sugar.  Fat.  And salt.  Our brains are hard wired, from our distant past, to seek out these three qualities in our foods in order to keep us well fed and alive.  But, when we were foragers, we would only find one of these big three at a time.  Fruit would give us sweetness.  Vegetables like beet greens and celery or sea kelp would give us that savory saltiness.  And fats would come from nuts and seeds.  But those three didn't come paired or tripled together in any one food.  We had to seek them out separately.  And we did.  And the pull for each was plenty strong enough to get us there.  But when you put these together, like the salt and sugar of those fatty crackers that I was mentioning, or a good cheesecake with all three, salt, sugar and fat, then our little brain cells go berserk, "Pay day!"  And you can bet we will want to come back for more.  Those who support the food industry with research to increase consumer sales absolutely know this and definitely capitalize on it.

In my long personal history of stopping sugar, again and again, all of these points have helped me along the way to strengthen my resolve.  In my earlier decades the main concern was slowing my gradual wight gain.  But the holidays and all of their temptations would lure me back.  "Just one chocolate bar, it's Christmas," or a few pieces from the annual gift box of "Sees."  Then New Year's Resolutions, "That's it.  No more."  But then Valentines Day comes along, and "It's such a nice candy heart, given with such sweet love," or Easter with fluffy yellow Marshmallow Peeps.  Birthdays and cakes of distinction in summer, jello and cream and puffy dry light meringue cookies with chocolate chips, marzipan and baklava, not to forget Halloween or those lovely Thanksgiving pies.  Then it is Christmas, all over again.  So, yes, hundreds of times.  At least five times a year for decades.  

I have one friend who shared with me that she had stopped sugar, once and for all.  Then she woke up six months later, with a cold and the realization that it was probably due to all of the sugar which she had been eating that past week.  She was shocked to remember that she had forgotten all about quitting sugar and had been on an unconscious bender with it for nearly five of those six months time.  So, she quit again.  This is often the way it goes with addictions.  How many tries has it taken the smokers you've known to finally move beyond it.  Addiction is not easy to overcome.

I would like to mention that in some cases a sugar addiction can save us from more potentially imminently dangerous addictions, like alcoholism.  When I've attended AA meetings as a guest with family members or friends, I'm actually glad to see the cookies and punch that can help keep those folks coming to their meetings.  A lesser addiction can be a solution.  And that's a good thing.

But for those of us who just want to get off sugar, I've learned a few tricks.  First if you typically have sugar every day at say 2:00 pm.  Then, a 1:00 pm it can really help if you can beat yourself to the punch and have a big hit of sweetness that is not made with refined sugar.  Both honey and maple syrup are not as addictive as refined sugar and they are a whole food, so they don't try to rob you of nutrients as they pass through.  Both of these natural sugars provide a lot of good minerals.  So, take a big spoonful, enough to beyond satisfy.  I'll make a 'cookie bowl' of one tablespoon of honey, one half of a sliced banana, one pat of softened butter, one tablespoon of peanut butter, ten or twenty raisins and or the same number of non-sweetened chocolate chips.  (Organic, vegan unsweetened dark chocolate chips are sold in most healthy food stores or are available on-line.)  I stir it all together and wolf it down.  Then when 2:00 pm comes around, I've already had my hit.

For holidays, have some fun and learn how to bake.  Make all of those special treats, like pumpkin or apple pie, substituting honey or maple syrup for sugar, cup for cup, in the recipes.  This will get you through and it is delicious.  Honey burns a little quicker than sugar so watch your temperatures and times.  In decades past, I've even made butter brickle with equal parts maple syrup and butter, stirring constantly in a hot pan until 'the hard ball stage.'  But, remember, we want to use these natural sugars as a step down plan.  The idea is to get through the tough temptations and then gradually let them go too.

Next you can go a little further.  Instead of apple pie with super sweet honey and empty calorie white flour crusts, try baked apples.  No need to peel, just core them almost to the bottom and then put some spices like cinnamon or nutmeg in the cavity with a pat of butter or not.  If that's not sweet enough to satisfy you, try dropping a teaspoon of St. Dalfour 100% fruit jam in there and slow bake them with a little water in the bottom of the pan for several hours until they are well caramelized, nice and brown, and their skins have started to split.  These not only make a satisfying desert that you could serve with a little raw cream, for a holiday treat, but they also make a great cold breakfast food too.

Some years back, I learned a great mantra, which holds me in good stead now.  "If it is sweet and it is not a raw organic piece of fruit, spit it out."  Recently, I've actually made it two whole years without a single molecule of refined sugar passing through these lips.  And if a slight indiscretion should occur, like one of those crackers, I can immediately feel that dip in my immune system, telling me to watch my step.  This is because sugar knocks your immune system a nasty set back for generally four hours after just a small consumption.  Not something that I want to do during the holidays, this year or any year when the viruses and bacteria of colds and flus are flying around.

So, just in case your New Year's Resolution includes cutting back on white sugar or quitting it all together, I thought I'd share my path to healing and give you all a  few tips and a little boost with your resolve.  A Very Happy New Year to you.  May it be full of great health and joy.