Archive for Tips and Tricks

Resentment: A Malignancy. Some ideas about how to work with it.

A postcard project by the artist Xylor Jane

I hear about resentment ALL THE TIME. Whether it’s from clients working through a 12 step program in recovery, people digging through the rubble of a break-up or friends struggling in a horrible job situation, resentment isn’t simply having bad feelings or being caught in a rough spot. Resentment is a SITUATION, friends. It’s a situation in which we re-injure ourselves again and again, a cycle of self-suffocation under the weight of an original pain. It’s picking a scab over and over, a festering infection we then blame on someone else. We ignore our opportunity to heal and instead, we tread in the pond of fetid despair and rage. It’s downright Shakespearean.

When you break the word down, it means “to feel again”. To re-feel, re-sent. So we have an original thing, for example, a close friend betrays us, deserts us in our hour of need. Or maybe someone lies to us. Performs underhanded business practices or acts with divisive and sleazy intentions at work. Regardless of the wrong done to us, harboring the injury, a fugitive lugged around town in our gut like a sweaty culprit with a knife, there is a point at which we have to make a change.

Because the wrong has been done, and now here we are with our life. As Mary Oliver would say, “Our one wild and precious life” and we are now spending it in our minds plotting revenge or looking for pity or triangulating with other people and basically functioning in a fictional land of seeking a justice that will never come. It is a mythic justice we imagine again and again, hours on a hot pillow in a cold dark that digs acidic paths in our collective soul. Like somehow, if we raise the stakes, we can win something. Some kind of prize like redemption or vindication.

On a larger level, we call this war. Here: Take a second and put your Resentment goggles on and read the front page of any newspaper other than the New York Post or National Enquirer. All of the death and war and destruction you see there is rooted in massive cultural and historic resentment. It is the worst case scenario of YOU ARE WRONG AND I DESERVE TO BE RIGHT AND I SHALL BE VICTORIOUS AND YOU WILL PAY. Sure, sometimes resentment starts as “I just want my side to be heard”, but when we replay the hurt over and over, water the garden of pain with the fertilizer of being wronged, the only possible fruit is larger, deeper pain. More constant, more robust, and frankly, boring as fuck. That entire swath of real estate could be swapped out for something fun. Or kind. Or loving. Or hell, even neutral. That poison whose effects serve to reduce your humanity can be served an eviction notice. Often the oldest residents take the longest to pack up their shit and leave, but why not clear the deck of our lives? And the more we practice, the better we can do with all the opportunities for resentment that are sure to arrive any second. Because we will continue to be hurt and feel wronged. But we do not have to be driven by those experiences entirely.

Write it down. Get it out.

So.
What do we do?

Well, I’ve studied a ton of different views on this feeling. The common opinion is that resentment is one of the greatest toxins we have in this life. Even if our bodies are ripe and fit, our bank accounts wild with Benjamins, and we are surrounded by people who want our attention and love, the bitter obsession can grow to trump all of it, placing its blinders on our eyes and obstructing our way to seeing everything we have that’s phenomenal.

The world of addiction recovery has a formal process for members to work with resentments. Those in recovery believe that resentment is a path to relapse which is ultimately a path to death. The suggested work in recovery is this.

1. Make a chart with four columns. In the first column list all of the people, institutions, places ideas or principles you feel angry at or injured by.

2.In the second column, write out why you feel hurt. What happened? Be specific and exhaustive.

3.The third column is where you identify which part of you was injured. Was it your heart? Your fiscal health? You emotional security?

4. HERE’S THE DIAMOND: The 4th column is where you say what YOUR part is in the situation. What is you RESPONSIBILITY in this resentment? What might you have done differently?

Now, within a program of recovery, it is suggested that people work on this with a trusted guide, a sponsor. If you are not in a program of recovery, you might want to do this with a trusted friend, a spiritual teacher or peer, or whomever you feel emotional safe with. The writing of these lists, which are called inventories in recovery, can bring a kind of clarity to where we get to take some responsibility for our own part in this hell. And when we get honest, vulnerable, and clear, we are able to soften some and regain our humanity, relinquish some shame, and walk toward healing.

For some people, this kind of formal work might be too structured. Maybe writing a journal could be helpful. Something more in line with someone’s style, but rather than a catalog of the wrongs, it’s IMPERATIVE that we engage with this externalization process in a way that we participate with agency. At its core, resentment is something we are DOING. So the lynchpin of moving past it is regaining our vision of self as an agent of choice. We can admit, if only to ourselves, that place where shame hides in hurt. We can let ourselves take responsibility for our part in something, which seems so terrifying, so of course it’s exactly the thing that sets us free.

Another path is one in the tradition of lovingkindness. In this tradition, we use our thoughts and our hearts to practice sending our good thoughts to those we are wronged by. I know that sounds awful. Who wants to send chocolate to a demon? But part of the process undoes the idea that the person is, in fact, a demon. We begin by sending these thoughts of peace and freedom to those we love the most. That’s easy. And as our hearts open, we then send these feelings out to kind acquaintances, people we like, have warm feelings about. Then we make offerings to strangers we have never met, the billions of people we have no baggage with yet no particular love for either. And once we get here, our hearts are a bit softer, more willing. We send thoughts freedom and peace to irritating people, harmless folk who bug the shit out of us. And then to jerks, but not our special jerks. Maybe famous jerks or our friends’ jerks.

And then,
Here we are.
Our hearts are open and we attempt to send these kind thoughts to those who have harmed us.
It may be awkward and we may feel full of shit, but we try.

And then,
my friends,
we do this for ourselves.
We wish ourselves peace.
We wish ourselves freedom.

As time goes on, we begin practicing living in ways that short circuit resentment before it begins. We try to cultivate behavior that invites honesty and integrity in the moment so that these situations do not arise so much later.

1. We try to give without expectation. When we throw a party for a friend’s kid because that friend has connections we think we need or because we want to feel important to that person and we then don’t get the reaction we desire after we’ve worked so hard, there is a recipe for a resentment to begin. But if we are honest, and we throw a part for a friend’s child because we love to throw a party and because that friend is overwhelmed and we actually have time, then the results are in line with are true intentions. And then, we have a killer party.

2. We practice gratitude. When we take time out from our daydreams of resentment and revenge, and we consciously make choices to notice all that is going well in the world, in our bodies, with our loved ones, something happens in our bodies, with our very chemicals, that heals old wounds and prevents some new ones. Like the world might be going to hell in a hand basket and our boss is a slimy creep and our lover is sick but goddamn if the view from here isn’t gorgeous anyhow. We make a conscious choice to look at what’s good, most especially in the face of the worst.

3. We go outside. We are citizens of the planet. Whether our place is among the incredible streets of a city teeming with a billion stories of a billion people or we are living in a shack on a beach watching the massive tide of saltwater wash animals we never see onto the shore, being in touch with the sense of being both in the enormity of our life experience and simultaneously the experience of being so small, such a piece of elemental minutiae in the universe and in history, that sense of life matters.

Look, I’m not coming from a place of total idealism. I am not out here in the woods swimming in a secret cove with lavender waterfalls among miniature dolphin friends and sunning myself in the light of patchouli rainbows. I’m not delusionally having mai tais with Sapphic ponies blessed by shamanic eagles.

I am all for every feeling you got.

I understand the transformative power of rage and despair.
I know what it’s like to wander through the city streets,
devastated. I know what it is to be in fear and loss and betrayal and often,
All at once.

I have been petty and vindictive and small and mean and stupid.
I’ve been wasteful, entitled, brooding, unkind and wallowy.
I’ve been feverish with revenge, with disgust and with blame.

Which is to say,
Like you,

I’ve been human.

But this last week, In looking with so many people at the last year and forward to this one, the theme of resentment has come up over and over and over again. Some with the scales larger than others. So I wanted to offer some things to work with. See what you are willing to do.

Oh, and even though I haven’t actually been being blessed by Shamanic eagles, I did meet this guy yesterday. And I put him at the top of my gratitude list.

 

 

Who Has the Energy to Cook, Dammit?

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Welcome back to your regularly scheduled life! The holidays can be pretty draining. Even when they are the most fun and exciting and delightful. Plus there’s the possibility that the holiday season is extra awful for a person. So, a human can really grind the gears moving from extended holiday back to work. And what if on top of that, you had to do all the laundry and answer 11,846 emails and mop the floors and get groceries and follow the old dog around the yard in 19 degree weather because everything is covered in ice and he slips and falls and can’t get up. What if all that is happening and now it’s time for dinner and you just don’t have it in you to call up your inner domestic goddess.

IT’S COOL. You don’t have to resort to mac and cheese from a box. (But, of course if you want to, I get it, and I won’t stand in your way. I will say, however, that I find a little Cholula really helps it along.)

But it’s a brand new year! You want to keep your healthy intentions intact. You also want to eat pretty quick and you want something warm.

Here’s an easy dish that tastes delicious and is ready in about the same time as the dang mac and cheese. You need to have a few supplies on hand but I bet you do. This is the exact reason I always have a few cans of organic vittles around.

The Best Lazy Chickpea Stew

1 onion
1 clove mashed garlic
1/2 t sea salt
2T olive oil
1t dried oregano
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1/2 c vegetable broth
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1 can organic chickpeas

Throw that olive oil into a skillet and heat it up. Slice your onion into moons and cook it until it’s translucent. Then add your garlic and spices. When you see the oregano start to plump add the can of chickpeas and and cover with all the spices and oil. Stir for about 2 minutes. Then add in your veggie broth and bring to a boil. Once you’ve got your broth going add in your can of tomato goodness and stir. You can add salt to your liking.

BOO-YAH!!!

20 minutes later you have a healthy meal PLUS leftovers for lunch this week. So delish. When you’re not in a rush, you can make this from scratch in the summer with soaked chickpeas and fresh tomatoes from the garden. It’s just killer.

 

Solstice is Coming. Be the Khaleesi of Salad.

This is the Western part of the greens coming in.

I know this is not Westeros, and in fact it’s just Western Mass, but I have just wrapped up this season of Game of Thrones where Tyrion Lannister solidly WON Father’s Day. In the land in which I am Khaleesi, the dog wanders the yard and has finally figured out which greens not to pee on. The salad greens. In the mornings I meander about in an oversized SF Giants T with leggings, toting a colander about the plot. I gather green leaf lettuce, arugula, mizuna, some baby mustard, striated oregano, basil, spinach, lemon mint, red butter lettuce and some other tufts that “salad mix” envelope of seeds spit up. Radishes are coming along as well. So far the big money items haven’t formed yet so I augment with the farmer’s markets and at the store. Here’s a pretty good list of some things I check out and you, too can pick up for a good, colorful, nutrient rich time:

Summer squash, pluot, radish, spinach, tomato, purple cabbage, and cucumber in a roasted garlic vinaigrette.

Cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, fennel bulbs, carrots, cauliflower (all the colors), tomatoes, bell peppers, peaches, pluots, plums, strawberries, blueberries, jicama, celery, red onion, Chioggia beets, grapes, purple cabbage, avocado and asparagus. Any or all of these will take you out of the standard “garden salad” place of feeling like you SHOULD be eating salad into the glamorous world of Salad is Delicious. Building a salad can be super fun. Part of it is the dressing as well, which I think I’ve talked about before. OH, yes, there it is.

Last March I wrote a post with the goal of supporting each and every reader here to NEVER BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN. Making your own is easy, it’s cost effective, it’s free of preservatives and creepy Monsanto shit and the best reason: it tastes better. This isn’t even to mention the long term benefits adding your kitchen into your regular creative vault of delights, the ways that making your own stuff builds confidence as well as competency, AND you can use the money toward actually getting the salad. There’s some good recipes there and a great one from a reader in the comments section. So run with those. But let’s chat about building a hearty, interesting, beautiful salad.

Celery, radish, shaved fennel, purple cabbage, black & white sesame seeds tossed with lime juice, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

1. Work with color: Green salads are phenomenal. But you can have a thousand shades of green in a salad. Each one will bring a certain depth that’s pretty to look at AND the color of your produce reflects the nutrients it contains. So the more color you serve, the deeper your nutrition, yo. So even in a green salad, go with speckled lettuces or dark greens with lights, red edges and yellow stripes. Moving out from green, go for the rainbow. More color means more nutrition, more taste, and it goes with more outfits. I like to mix in purple cabbage with my greens, add radishes and different colored peppers. Get the purple cauliflower sometimes or the red. Or those fancy heirloom carrots that are all different colors. Let yourself branch out and make the salad bowl into a riot of color.

3. Add fresh herbs: It’s so great that now we can walk into a produce section at any given market and find that lettuce has moved far beyond iceberg and romaine. (WHICH I’M NOT KNOCKING). Varietal strains come in all shades and shapes and various flavors from bright to bitter. People are getting into slicing kale super thin and adding that to a raw salad offering. Here’s what I’m begging you to do: add in herbs. You can grow an easy kitchen garden on a sill or you can get little bunches at the market. Just toss in your basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley and savory. Add in fresh chives with the blossoms and dice up some chervil and lemon mint. These greens wake up the entire experience with bright flavors and unexpected combinations that really come together.

4. Toppings, Toppings, Toppings: One of the easiest ways to take your salad to the next nutritional level is to throw seeds and nuts on it. Put a sprout on it. Any extra kaboom you can hit on will up your healthy fats, your omegas, your protein, and it’ll add a good accessorized look to the whole shebang. What works? Here are some ideas off the top of my head: crushed walnuts, almond slivers, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, any color sesame seeds and extra points for a mixing of shades, flax seeds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pecans and any sprout that strikes your fancy. For extra points: throw seeds and nuts in a dry cast iron skillet and toast them over a low heat until the release some of the scent.

Baby spinach, toasted maple cardamon walnuts, and flame grapes roasted with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

5. Add some protein: Me? I love a legume. Give me a harissa chickpea. A stewed chipotle pinto bean. A lemongrass hunk of tofu. Take any kind of protein you have and add it into a salad. This will turn your side dish into a whole meal. For the vegans, I vote for legumes the most. Tofu is great on occasion (it has a lot of phytoestrogens in it in addition to being pretty processed so I think it’s great sometimes, but I don’t like to advocate for it as the main source of vegan protein.) Also nutritional yeast is great as a sprinkle or also as an ingredient for your dressing. Especially a miso one. Vegetarians can add hard boiled eggs. And for the seafood lovers out there, adding fish to a salad is a favorite of so many people I know who swear by salads as entire meals. Especially in the summer, a well-built salad in a pretty bowl really does it for me.

And so, my friends, Happy Summer Solstice to you. May your pagan rites be merry. And may your salads kick some serious ass.

What if it wasn’t a problem?

That’s what I’ve been asking myself a whole bunch this past month. It’s a simple question I’ve been toting along in the spiritual back pocket of my Jordache jeans like we used to have those combs in the 80s. I can’t believe what a difference it has made for me.

Here, I’ll show you what I mean.

Me passing a reflection of myself on my way to the gym: “I can’t believe I work out this often and I still have days when I cringe at my own reflection.”
Pocket: “What if it wasn’t a problem?”
Me: “Oh. I can just be grateful that my body works. That I am loved. That I just got to move my body and feel exhilarated. Maybe how I look isn’t today’s big PROBLEM.”

Or how about this:

Me at the end of a long day of not feeling productive: “I sat at this desk for 8 hours, didn’t finish my article, left emails on my desktop, didn’t make soup, and now it’s far too blustery to go running.”
Pocket: “What if it wasn’t a problem?”
Me: “Holy crap. What if productivity wasn’t the yardstick I chose to judge myself with today. What if I coached five clients really well, I took some time to pet the dog, and I read a ton of articles that inform my life? What if I let that be enough today?”
Pocket: “What if you are enough?”
Me: “Now you’re testing me, Pocket.”
Pocket: “Let’s talk again tomorrow.”

It’s just a tiny question that can get us out of a malaise or a self-imposed despair that we are not required to carry. You can turn around in your own prison cell and just walk right the hell out. Try it. You got nothing to lose but some sorrow.

 

Coach’s Seasonal Cleanse Prep Suggestions

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Although I lead a cleanse every season, Spring is The Big Poppa of them all. You can join my Spring Fling ’13 here. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Spring is the season associated with the liver, one of our most heroic organs. The liver is the filter of the body, sifting all the toxins out and shuttling them to a swift trip out of our bodies.

Like any irrigation system, things build up, and the system can tire under strain. Ours is no different. This is the absolute best time to give your liver a standing ovation, a shout out, and a heartfelt thank-you note in the form of trying a cleanse. It works 24/7 to keep us as poison free as it can, no matter what manner of horrors we ask from it.
There are a billion different cleanses out there, from whole foods cleanses to elimination cleanses, to Master Cleanses, to juice regimens. Take some time to consider which cleanse offers you the best chance of serving your body well.
You may pick a cleanse in which all the meals are made and you don’t have to cook at all because the kids are home on Spring Break. Or maybe you got a new juicer and you want to try taking it for a serious spin with a 7-day juice detox. Or perhaps you’d like to build your cooking skills and overhaul your kitchen into a temple of health so a group with an online support element might be the best for you.
No matter what you choose, detoxing is no joke. Often the first days of a cleanse arrive with headaches, mood swings, fatigue, and fitful sleeps. As the body detoxes, some of those poisons get freed up from being trapped along our digestive tracts and they can be re-absorbed causing us to feel like we have a mild flu or a major bad mood. It will pass. I swear.
But before you even get to the first week, there are steps your can take to support your cleansing experience and help you ease into your Spring Cleanse with a sense of adventure and clarity.
1. Let people know your plan. 
Pick a few people around you who will be supportive of your plan for a Spring detox. Tell them know what your particular regimen entails, and how long the process will take. Let them know you’d appreciate their support as the first few days might not be so cute for you. For the ultimate in support, see if a friend would like to do the cleanse with you.
2. Clear out your schedule.
You’ve got your whole life to get freaky and party on down. Use this as an intentional time to prioritize your health. Block out the cleanse time on your calendar and keep your social plans as easy and laid back as possible. Go for walks with friends. Weekend matinees are great. Gentle exercise and museum meetings are perfect.
3. Prepare your kitchen. 
Look over your protocol and as the cleanse approaches, make your way through your everyday food so what remains in your kitchen are foods that make you feel strong and clean. Remind yourself that the foods you feel attached to are not going anywhere and when this cleanse comes to a close, you still have the choice to go and get them again. Although, magically, you may not want to.
4. Practice. 
If you’re doing a juice cleanse, start looking up juices on the internet and getting familiar with them. Get a feel for how much produce makes how much juice. See which herbs you like in your tonics and so on. If your cleanse is more on the whole foods tip, start dabbling is clean eating blogs and do some research on what kinds of cleanse foods might appeal to you. Begin practicing before the cleanse arrives so you have some established comfort with your new materials. It’s like Spring Training for baseball.
5. Ween off the heavy hitters.
If you are a coffee drinker, a sugar eater, a gluten eater, and/or a whiskey appreciator, you may want to begin to week yourself off these common ingredients that most cleanses abstain from. Going off coffee, sugar, gluten and booze is a lot for some people all overnight. Start drinking decaf or downgrade to green tea. Begin cooking with whole grains instead of serving dinner with bread. Just ease off things as your start date approaches.
Here I offer you one of my favorite cleanse tools. I like to prepare this broth and offer my body not just hydration in the days leading up to my cleanse, but also the rich potassium broth is a great source for electrolytes and building the blood up. I just tote it around in a quart sized mason jar and drink it like a tea.
The Cleansing Potassium Elixir

Ingredients
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 bunch dark leafy greens (chard, kale, collards)
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 beet sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • one knuckle ginger, sliced
  • 1 turnip, cubed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • ¼ stick of kombu
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • a tiny dash of sea salt
  • 1/4t black ground black pepper
Preparation
Heat your olive oil in a heavy pot. Put in your onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Heat these for about 5 minutes. Cover with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add in your beet, turnip, kombu, greens, and ginger. Boil for about 3 minutes and then turn down to simmer for 1.5 hours. Strain out all the vegetables and set aside. Pour your broth into mason jars and add your tiny amount of salt and pepper to taste. You can puree the vegetables for a side dish or compost.
This article originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.

Quit Sugar with Me! Super fun.

I’ll be like Julie McCoy, your Cruise Director

It took me so many tries to quit. And there’s no magic to it. But there are tools that make the possibility of success a little bit closer and a lot more fun that just a white knuckle sandwich.

I can’t know the story that brought you here. Maybe it’s all the news you hear about how terrible refined sugar is for your body. Maybe it’s the way Type II Diabetes keeps cropping up all over your family tree, and beside you with friends and co-workers. Or maybe it’s the annoyance of being such a slave to sugar, unable to say no even when you truly want to. Whatever the reason you come to this series, you’ll find the information you need to make changes, you’ll get support, use your inherent creativity, have fun, and build community.

This four-week course will happen on your own time with a group that meets online all day, every day, for the duration of our studies. You can literally come to the group at any time to write what you need or share a discovery with the group. This frees all of us up to have our own schedules and make these meanigful changes in our lives as they happen. You’ll also have a coaching call with me every other week, one on one, to support you through this work. In this way, support can also be customized to your needs.

Each week we’ll tackle a different topic or angle about the Great White Beast. You’ll get handouts and documents to keep for continued support long after the class is over. Together we will do exercises, make recipes, deconstruct cravings, keep journals, and get our bodies moving as we look at our attachment to sugar.

If giving up sugar has been a longtime goal of yours, this course is just the thing to help you.

Join me by signing up right here.

My Article on Quitting Sugar from MindBodyGreen

Quitting Sugar is a tough fight, but it’s worth it.

Sugar is taking a public beating this week, as the internet is crammed with articles on why to avoid it, including Michael Moss’s fascinating NYT Magazine piece on processed foods as well as yesterday’s NYT column column by beloved chef Mark Bittman.

Bittman’s article explores findings from a study that links sugar consumption, not obesity, to diabetes. According to the piece, “researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates independent of rates of obesity. In other words, according to this study, obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.”

Going beyond the link, Mr. Bittman finally says from the center of chefdom what health coaches and researchers like Dr. Robert Lustig have been saying for years:

Sugar is toxic.

Which is the best reason to quit sugar.

One of the forty million times I quit eating refined sugar (and hopefully the last), I had the magnificent idea to start a journal and track not just my food, but my THOUGHTS about food. How much of my intellectual life was being held hostage by food obsession? And how much of that chokehold was related to sugar? And finally, what might be available to me mentally if all that room was suddenly liberated for me to use in a less exhausting manner than the vicious mistress of obsessive thinking?

I also decided to do a little research about my sweet tooth and see why I felt so helpless in the glitter of its outstretched fingernails. I found this lecture that Dr. Lustig gave a lecture called Sugar: The Bitter Truth in which he shows us that sugar actually stimulates the exact same region of the brain that cocaine goes to work on. I like to call it the Euphoria Lounge. Who doesn’t want to be transported from feelings of suffering, boredom, fear, or betrayal simply by adding a substance to our systems? It is so much easier than talking it out, going for a run, being present in pain or accepting responsibility for things that are causing us harm. NO WONDER I LOVE SUGAR!!

But my journal revealed that the effects of sugar didn’t end simply with the stimulation. Without indulging in the initial impulse, I was able to keep my brain off the endless hamster wheel of desire and denial. “I want this but that’s bad so I can’t.” and then on an even worse day, “I want this so I WILL and now I AM BAD.” Then the sugar appears and the blood sugar Olympics begin their relentless training: the high, the crash, the craving, and mental gymnastics to deny the desire and so forth. And the whole time the mind is engaged in this cycle actively, countless hours are robbed from our waking lives.

So how do we get off the ride? Here are some basic tools for support in quitting sugar, serving the health of your body, and freeing your mind from obsession so you can go about the fantastic business of living.

1. SOUR: Just like on a color wheel where hues opposite from each other cancel each other out, so too is the landscape of our tongues. Having a sugar craving? Grab a pickle. The sour taste will physiologically kill the impulse long enough for you to make a different choice for yourself and mindfully return to the life you are in the middle of living.

2. SUPPORT: Grab a friend or a posse and do it together. The first few days and even two weeks can be so intense when we try and let go of a crutch that no longer serves our health. It’s ok to ask for help and having a friend engaged in a common goal serves to strengthen the entire team. I see this over and over in my group cleanses, how the power of community creates a momentum for everyone.

3. CHANGE OF SCENERY: When the impulse feels at full banshee-monster-head-banging massive, make a physical move. Walk around the block. Take yourself up and down the stairs at the office. Go swimming. Take the dog out. Move from one room of the house to another. Call up your sugar-free pal and talk it out. Remember the craving will pass. Everything does.

4. ADD MORE PLEASURE: Congratulate yourself each day by furnishing yourself with a pleasure. Giving up sugar is not about living in denial, it is about a new perspective of pleasure. Run yourself a gorgeous bath with essential oils and bath salts for added detoxification, aromatherapy, and muscular relaxation. Bring yourself flowers. Treat yourself to a mani/pedi or give one to yourself. Masturbate. Let’s face it, no one is ever mad about an orgasm.

When I was finally able to let go of sugar, I realized through my journal how much of my mental space had been taken up not just by the sugar craving and acrobatics around that, but by just food obsession in general. My mind is now so much freer to be creative, to be curious and alive. My focus is more clear and my relationships with people are deeper, more authentic and loving. I don’t sit with my friend over tea and wonder how long until I get to eat. I sit with my friend over tea and I think about how nice it is to have time to catch up with such a hilarious woman, and how lucky I am to know her.

The Smoothie Chronicles: Chapter 1

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I started making smoothies when I did my very first seasonal cleanse a few years back. At first I thought they would never keep me full until lunch and I panicked about not having enough food or enough chewing or blah blah blah. I guess Food Panic is a whole issue for a future post now that I’m typing. So for now, let’s just say I didn’t believe in these things. I didn’t like the idea of adding powders to things or feeling like I was going down the path a new bizarre disordered kind of eating that included cutting out BREAKFAST, the Holy Grail of meals. But I knew it was just for 3 weeks and I felt open to trying this detox so I just got on board. What the hell? I mean, I’ve done way crazier shit without a thought to my health at all, like for instance, doing crystal meth and not eating anything at all for like 3 days.

Who needs a smoothie now, Girl?

Anyhoots, turns out I loved them and even when I am between seasonal cleanses I make them all the damn time. It just kind of stuck with me. I have an old blender you can see here (along with the recipe for almond milk I use in all these little devils). While I tend to covet objects, I also find my Libra rising engenders a certain commitment to beauty far beyond functionality sometimes. In this case, it’s great because me and Ginger got this beautiful blender at an estate sale for next to nothing and the thing just doesn’t quit. It may not be the Vitamix or the Ninja we often dream of, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of such a pretty appliance that does it’s job just fine. All of this to say, you can be a smoothie enthusiast for much less than $600 in the equipment department. Also, in case you ARE looking to upgrade and are feeling shut down by sticker shock, fancy blenders and juicers are often things people re-sell on craigslist and ebay because they go through a phase and then say Fuck It, I’m Not A Smoothie/Juicing Person.

Over time, I’ve written a bunch of recipes for smoothies for my own cleanses that I do, but I’ve also just spent a bunch of time winging it. So I thought I’d collect some images with basic ingredients for you to toss together if you like. All the recipes I’ve made for the cleanses aren’t on here and often tend to greener, but not always. Anyhow, I hope these inspire and offer some good ideas for whatever you got going.

5 uses for Pot Liquor. This post brought to you by a reader’s comment.

After my bean post, a great colleague and health coach, Renee Martin, asked me about some things a person can do with the pot liquor after cooking the beans. I was going to just answer her, but I realized there are so many great things to do with the stuff that I’d just make a separate post about it. So here you go:

1. I love to use it a base for soup. It adds some texture and thickness to the base of the soup. In the way of this process, it can also be used as the base for a stock to then go into a soup later for when you have a hankerin’. I like to make stock as I go and I freeze it and throw a label on so I know when it went into the hopper. So take all your leek tops, onion skins and ends, carrot butts, parsnip heads, ginger skins, broccoli stems, kale spines and egg shells for you non-vegans (My friend, the artist, gardner and fantastic cook EE Miller taught me this. It adds calcium to the mix!) and boil them up in the liquor. I put it all into cheese cloth but you can also strain the liquid out after. any way that works for you. A vegetable stock doesn’t really need to cook down for a very long time, while a bone broth can simmer for a few hours.

2. Add it to your cornbread mixture and other savory baking adventures.

3. I sometimes cook my rinsed rice in it to bring richness and balance to a meal.

4. You can use it as a liquid for savory dips and hummus. I read about this someplace and haven’t tried it yet.

5. Use it in gravies and such. Especially tasty in a vegan gravy with hippie dust.

What else have ya’ll done with it? I imagine there’s a ton of stuff I haven’t even imagined. I bet you could even make a great Bloody Mary with it, although I am prone to a Virgin these days. I know I left that wide open for comments, and let the record reflect, I am not afraid.

*Inflammation Station Part 2: The Sweet 16 of Stress Reduction

You probably began reading this article because you feel, not just stressed out, but also TRAPPED in that stress. Your life is so packed up, there is no time to edit anything out, change any commitment, or find any space at all to make it to a goddamn yoga class with a mat strapped to your back on a crowded city bus. Or maybe you have too much to do to make the kids are getting their needs met. Or things at work are over the top tight now. You’ll find a way to tae care of yourself as soon as it slows down. But here are some ways to take care of yourself and your stress levels TODAY. NOW. Just pick one from the list and start there. Then  maybe two. Mix it up. Let yourself be healthy.
1.   
Breathing – Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an important meeting, when it occurs to you that you’re actually not breathing? If you look further, you might also notice that your heart rate is above normal and your temperature has risen. Taking deep breaths lowers your blood pressure, delivers oxygen to the far reaches of your body, and relaxes your alarm system into peace.
2.    Exercise – You do not have to be bench pressing Toyotas or climbing Mt. Shasta to reap the incredible rewards of exercise in terms of stress management. Exercise of any kind releases endorphins, your body’s own personal Dr. Feelgood chemicals. It also elevates your mood and self-confidence, while improving your sleep and increasing your overall daily energy reserves. Start slow. But start now.
3.    Creativity - When we engage in an act of creation, we can achieve a kind of focus similar to the concentration achieved through a meditation practice. Allowing yourself the time and space to focus on knitting a scarf, spinning a ceramic ewer or crafting a hilarious blog helps you to be present with yourself without tripping out on the future or the past. The act itself slows the pace of things and your body responds by relaxing, counteracting the effects of toxic stress.
4.    Schedule time for Yourself – Your calendar has a ton of things in it. Sally’s birthday dinner, a presentation for the marketing department, a training HR is sending you to attend for a whole weekend,. What it probably doesn’t say is “Wednesday from 2-3:30. Take self for a walk along the water. Read new detective novel on my favorite bench in the park. Go to the fencing class you’ve always wanted to go to.” Prioritize time for yourself at least once a week. Making this commitment actually strengthens your commitments to others, diminishing your overall stress levels of feeling, ironically, overcommitted.
5.    Interspecies Pals – Hang out with your dog Gus. Or your cat Parsnip. Or your fish Thelonius. Being with animals not only provides us comfort, but often it highlights simplicity and strips down the stress we labor under. Food. Shelter. Love. And a nice swim, except maybe for Parsnip.
6.    Sleep Getting a good night’s sleep can improve our concentration, our effectiveness and our energy levels. Try to lay off the liquids 2-3 hours before bed so as not to interrupt your slumber with an insistent bladder. Cut off the caffeine about 7 hours before you turn in. And try to get in bed the same time every night. Keeping yourself consistent with your pillow will begin to ratchet down your stress levels.
7.    Hilarity – Go ahead and laugh your ass off. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the release of endorphins. Laughter also stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce the physical symptoms of stress.
8.    Stretch – Yoga is great for stress. But look, I’m just going to go ahead and say it. It’s ok to hate yoga. Really. You don’t have to tote a little mat around town or invest in Lululemon wardrobes to reap the benefits of stretching. Just go ahead and start your day by doing five minutes of stretching and see how things go. You will be in more alignment, more embodied, and begin your whole day grounded. Literally.
9.    Dance and Sing –You can go out with friends and get lost in the thrill of a great sound system or stay home and get wild with whatever blows your dress up. Abandon and fun in a totally physical sense decrease your stress levels and free you from the tangle of daily irritation
10. Eat a Healthy Diet – Start your day with breakfast. Always. Starting your day with complex carbs, slow digesting fuel, will keep you full and energized for your morning. Keep your diet balanced, your consumption of refined sugars limited, and pile your plate with colorful produce. A balanced diet of whole foods and produce keeps your stress levels down and your blood sugar stable. This results in a more consistent energy and mood throughout the day.
11. Get loud about it – According to a recent study in Great Britain, work-related stress can be relieved by up to one quarter by letting out a good scream. Get primal. Just let it rip.
12. Call a Friend – You don’t have to do it alone. Call someone you trust and air out your stress. Let people go through it with you. The bonds of your relationships will strengthen, you can get it out of your head, and ultimately, you will take solace in human connection, an experience proven to reduce stress.
13. Gratitude – Studies show that cultivating gratitude can be one of the greatest weapons against stress out there. Keep a gratitude list by your bed and each night or morning (whichever suits you best) write down three things you’re grateful for. Everything from your new socks to a stable of wonderful friends. Begin cataloging all the things about life that rule, three at a time each day.
14. Get your Financial House in Order - If looking at finances gives you sharp emotional vertigo, schedule five minutes a day to begin assessing where you are. Just 5. And at the end of five minutes, move on with your life. Engaging yourself slowly and daily will build confidence, shake you quite gently out of denial, and put you on the road to making choices based in reality. Soon five minutes will turn to ten and then fifteen and healthy choices on that front will lead to peace and recovery in other venues.
15. Delegate – Do you hate spending so much time at the laundromat? Drop it off. Does looking for parking make you nuts? Take public transportation or treat yourself to a walk. Does paying bills drive you crazy? Set up automatic payments. I am not saying these are the right answers for you, I am just saying there ARE answers for you and you can take action to strip stressful things from your life.
16. 1979 Time – This is my favorite. Turn off your phone for an hour a day. Walk away from your computer. Close Facebook. Turn off the television. Just one hour a day. Read a poem. Go look at a tree or the sky. They get more and more fascinating if you let them. People really can wait an hour to hear from you or get an email response.

Think of all these things like a Venn diagram with overlapping circles or a fascinating chain reaction of good stuff. If you get a good night’s sleep, you wake with more energy and feel inspired to make yourself some steel cut oats for breakfast. Once that happens your morning is fully fueled and your cravings for sugar and caffeine diminish. Highs and valleys even out and your blood sugar stays healthy throughout your day. You take yourself away from your desk at lunch and sit outside in the sun reading a battered copy of Moby Dick you always meant to get to. That lights your creative spark and you plan a quick picnic dinner for your sweetheart and the two of you enjoy a pleasant evening together with no texting or TV reminding you why you are lucky to have companionship in your life. That leads you to remember other ways your life has delivered gifts like how your dentist told you your teeth look great.

The Domino effect works in both directions. Set yourself up for some serenity today. The world will do its part to offer you stress, so don’t keep helping it out. It’s doing just fine and it completely supports your new plan to give yourself abundance. And so do I.

*The original version of this first appeared in the WONDERFUL blog, MindBodyGreen