Are you getting the (health)Care that you deserve?

Do I have a story for you!  I think you will resonate with it.
 
This is about two medical doctor interactions that I recently had.
One demonstrates a “don’t do this”.
The other “do this”, for me and how I approach my health.
 
This story’s also about:
What it’s like to challenge the accepted norms.
What I look for (and most importantly: avoid!) in any kind of healthcare provider – from a massage therapist, to an acupuncturist, to a general practitioner, and so on.
 
This path, life, isn’t always the easiest.
But it is definitely made easier with community, sharing, and knowing that you are not alone.
And boy do I have some doozy stories from years gone by.
 
This is the first of what may be many “healing journey” stories. It’s time to share with you what my story has been so far. About what’s possible when you step on this path. Then, you can understand not just who I am, but why I work the way I do. How I started on this path, and the myriad twists and turns. Also, maybe, about that one time I did a liver cleanse and had a job interview moved up a week that I went to, reeking of garlic and who knows what else…
 
I’ll share what I’ve learned, and where I’m at now.
(Spoiler alert: BETTER THAN EVER! GETTING BETTER EVERY DAY! Yep, all caps for that one.)
 
Ready? Let’s dive in!

Last week I had a really, truly, crappy experience with my general practitioner (GP) at my annual physical.  I went so that I could keep an eye on certain blood markers, and so I could have an emergency-use (for migraines) prescription refilled.
 
This experience reached peak terrible around how to “treat” my thyroid condition.  I left the appointment feeling bullied.
Like worse than Mean Girls bullying bullied.
 
This GP berated me for not wanting to medicate thyroid medication. And…
 
For not needing thyroid medication to manage my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in the first place.
 
And then she questioned my endocrinologist (the one doctor I see very regularly), and suggested that I was some sort of irresponsible person for, gasp, not wanting to take unnecessary medication.
 
I know I don’t need this medication because I see my endocrinologist several times a year, closely monitor my health between observation and lab work, and discuss the entirety of my health-life with my endocrinologist at my appointments.
 
Did the GP ask me these things?
 
No.
 
And here’s the thing that had me all worked up the entire weekend:
 
Patients should not be bullied or made to feel bad, or infused with fear, over how they are managing their chronic conditions. Especially when they are a success story.  And even moreso if they are struggling!!!
 
Being educated about one’s condition should be considered a GOOD thing. Not something seen as a liability, a form of defiance or combativeness.
 
Successfully managed chronic conditions should not be weaponized against the patient.
Heck, no doctor should be weaponizing a patient’s health and health-history in the first place!
 
How the GP acted and reacted is not how medicine (of any kind) should be practiced. Period.
 
Medicine is about doing no harm.
 
It’s about bringing people to more health through compassion, and care, not through bullying and shame.
 
Doctors should not be saying, “you are here so I can fix you” to a patient with long-term, complex, chronic conditions.  Especially not without engaging in more inquiry about the situation, person, and so on.
 
Or, I don’t know, asking if the patient wants to, or feels they need, “fixing” to begin with?
 
This is especially true when that person sees you once a year or less for a 15 minutes appointment.
 
This approach is not only downright arrogant. It’s harmful.
 
Everything I have experienced on my long health-journey tells me that true health and wellness is not rooted in arrogance.
 
Acting from such an arrogant place severs the bonds of trust between patient and practitioner, between the medicine and the potential benefactor (the patient)…
 
Arrogance is also a barrier between myself and my own wellness. Between me and the world. Between me and God/Source/Universe/Spirit. Between me and love. Me and others. (Gosh, any time I’ve gotten arrogant about anything in my life, it has done nothing but cause harm!)
 
Arrogance severs and prevents connections.
 

This interaction exemplifies why I said, “screw this” and began turning to “alternative” medicine 18 years ago.

It’s why I enrolled in a clinical herbal program when my health was in the toilet.

I knew there had to be another way. 

On the other end of this spectrum with a medical doctor…
 
I had a wonderful recent experience with my endocrinologist.
At our last appointment, I challenged a recommendation of hers and said I was more comfortable approaching this recommendation from a different angle. We discussed it, and she said, “sure, if that’s what you want to do. Just know, this delays any measures we can take until this testing is done.”
 
I was fine with that. My endocrinologist was too. She got it.
 
When I told my endocrinologist about my GP visit, she rolled her eyes. My endocrinologist assured me that what I said to the doctor was SPOT ON regarding thyroid health, treatment, labs, and so on, that I wished I could have hugged her.  I was so relieved.
My endocrinologist and I talked about my lab results, how I’m feeling, what’s going on with me outside of the labwork health-wise. Oh, and that recommendation that we shifted to testing first so I was more comfortable?  Yeaup: didn’t need to do anything.
At the end of the appointment, she said, “well, your labs look great! See you in six (6!) months! Keep up the good work!” Can’t argue with that. (This is the first time that she’s said see you in 6 months since we started working together. Usually it is one, two, or three…)
 
As you know, I spent the weekend in a tizzy over how my GP talked to me last week, and this appointment was just what I needed.
Speaking up pays off.
 
 
It’s really hard for me to “stand up for myself”, to stay rooted in myself, when there is a huge conflict such as my appointment last week.
I’m getting better at it, but this is a huge challenge for me.
Advocating for yourself is not easy. 
 
You have to educate yourself and then advocate for your health needs.  You have to remember that you are the expert of your health, that you know you best.  You have to observe how you feel, what works for you, what doesn’t, and act accordingly.
 
This is especially true if you have a complex chronic health condition, or multiple conditions. Or don’t want to be taking medication when a dietary change will do.  Or, if you want to be the gorgeous self-empowered human that you are!
 
Self-advocacy is the key to well-being.
Self-advocacy is what gets you eating those vegetables.
Telling your practitioner, “that’s not going to work for me because…”
Getting out and exercising because you know you feel better when you do.
Getting enough sleep every night.
Not eating that food that you know aggravates your health condition.
 
We all need and deserve a care team that honors our lived experience.
 
You deserve someone who understands that you are unique, that your experiences are your own, and that there is so much healing that can happen simply by working with the whole picture.
For me, having a care-team involves not just “alternative” practitioners and practices, but the standard allopathic ones as well.  I know what I get from each practitioner and how it fits together, but it took me 18 years (holy moly, I still can’t get over that) to get here. 
For you, and your team, the bigger picture will be different.
No matter what your picture looks like, in the end…
 
All that matters is that you are getting the care that you deserve.
 
Self-advocacy and being health-empowered help you winnow out the people who are not right for your care team.
 
The process can be exhausting. Enraging and frustrating.
It can leave you feeling unheard, invalidated, dismissed, bullied, “fired”… I’ve been there.   I’ve been fired by doctors on more than one occasion.  Yet, all this has been worth it.
 
It’s worth it because ME and MY HEALTH are worth it.
 
If all you have is one person who “gets it” – that can make a world of difference.
 

That’s whats taken me to the next step, on more than one occasion!

How are you taking your next step towards living a health-empowered life?

Are you listening?

Another topic has been on my mind so much the past year and I wanted to speak about it.  Alas, the best laid plans are indeed of mice and men because… I came down with a horrendous cold!
 
This cold has been a good lesson in letting things rest as they are for the moment. To take a step back. To give myself time to convalesce and recuperate.
 
It’s given me a moment to reflect on how far I’ve come on my own journey. To know how much I am listening to and honoring my inner wisdom.
 
Prior to working from home, I’d trudge to work on all but my worst of days, and force myself through the day.
 
Why?
Because that’s just what was done.
 
I couldn’t just, stop. Could I?
 
People don’t just do that. Do they?
 
What would it mean if I actually, simply, rested and let myself recover from a cold?
 
What would it mean if I didn’t just push through?
 
Would it mean that I’m weak? I’m not tough enough? My life isn’t “busy” or demanding enough?
 
(I mean, look at what’s happening with Simone Biles! This is a hot topic this week…)
 
What if it meant that I was honoring my body? Honoring what my body was calling for: rest, nourishment, recovery?
 
I can see how self-destructive all that pushing was. To not allow myself to rest – what was I telling myself? That I didn’t deserve the time to do one thing: recover from being sick (or, as it were, to simply be sick).
 
Not to wallow, mind you, but to ask myself: what do I need most right now?
 
And to truly, deeply, listen to that answer then act on it.
 
When was the last time you did that?
 
Asked yourself what you need the most right now?
Then deliver, for yourself.
 
Even practicing violin has not happened this week because my body has been asking for unprecedented couch and bed time, rife with naps, broths, piles of tissues and, of course, herbs and baths.
 
And you know what?
 
Zero guilt, shame or inner conflict over what is and is not happening while I am sick. No pushing to get over being sick as quickly as possible.
 
I’m just… sick. That’s it.
 
Taking care of myself, and doing the bare minimum. And being okay with it.
 
This is a big deal.
 
No pushing.
 
No guilt.
 
No, “oh, I can’t do X, Y, Z because I’m sick” and then stressing out about it…
 
And that’s what I want to ask you this week:
 
If you look back to, say 2 years ago, or 18 months ago, what has changed with how you move through the world?
 
What hasn’t changed?
 
Are you listening to that glimmery voice that lives within more?
 
Are you acting from a place of fear or powerlessness?
 
Or are you shutting yourself down, for whatever reason?
 
If you’re shutting your inner voice down, do you know why?
 
Get curious as to your reason(s) why…
 
How do you feel when you close yourself off to your inner voice?
 
How do you feel if you can’t hear your inner voice?
 
So why am I asking these questions when I’m talking about how glorious it is to be sick this week?
 
Because I’m listening to my inner voice who said, “just stop. Rest. Take care of yourself.”
 
My inner self is overjoyed.
 
I share this because that’s what happens when you start listening. Really listening.
 
Then acting on those glimmers that you hear.
 
You feel okay even when you are going through a box of tissues a day and waking up with eye-watering sinus pressure headaches.
 
When I say I’m living in integrity, or as many would currently say, “acting in alignment” – this is what I’m talking about.
 
Honoring your deep wise self through loving action.
 
How have you been honoring and loving your deepest self through action?
 
 
As for the herbs I’m using?
 
I’m using two TCM formulas for my pattern (External Wind-Heat and associated headache), and yarrow-peppermint tea with local honey. I’m also taking a couple of diluted tinctures for the cough, one of which is my first time using it: New England Aster!

Tug Hill Herb Harvest – July 2021

I am settled back home in Brooklyn after a few-day trip up to Tug Hill.  The purpose of the trip was not to harvest herbs, but to connect deeply to myself and to Nature. My great-aunt, a six (maybe even seven!) decades-long resident of Tug Hill, said that everything is off this year in terms […]

Safety Within

Well… here we are.  In NY, it is week 10 of shelter-in-place.

No matter your particular situation:  How are you doing?

How are you feeling: physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually?

Have you been learning new things about yourself, your life, your world?

Discovering challenging things, uncovering pearls of wisdom or inner gifts? 

Do you have things coming up from a long time ago, asking to be released, held, healed?  

Are you experiencing new feelings, or feelings that you would typically work to avoid, ignore or otherwise deny?

Are you working with this time?  Are you fighting this time?  Is this time a boon or a bane? Both a boon and a bane?


I’ve had my share of “ups” and “downs” throughout these past few months.  Today, as I post this, I’m longing for living life differently than I have been, in a place different from where I am because without the things that keep me “here”, I want to be “there”.

I’ve written and re-written this post for several weeks, because this liminal space is… uncharted. It’s, wild. There are no paths to follow. Only the experience of the moment. (And maybe even a cup of tea or two too…)

Here in this moment, I have felt a great sense of stability amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the world, and a sense of blossoming like I’ve not felt before.  It’s as if I’ve been on the open ocean for so long, that I see there’s something on the horizon, I just can’t quite make out what that something is yet. It is exciting, and scary. This is amidst the pain, suffering and grief throughout what is currently happening the world over.

I’ve been tapping into some core feelings that I’ve not been able to make space for – and that in and of itself is a great gift even if opening it seems to leave scratches, like walking through a rose or berry thicket.  

This time feels like a holding, an awareness, of both the blossom and the thorn.

Yet, just like wrapped gifts and roses and berries, there are treasures if we persevere through the uncertain parts; only if we stop, if we take a moment, a breath, and watch what’s happening. If you stop in a blackberry thicket, you cease to get pricked and scratched and seemingly grabbed and held ferociously by the thorns and canes. You can feel a sense of calm within this wildly thorny place. We can possibly safe in this, if we let ourselves.


As a survivor of domestic abuse, the survivor of workplace emotional and psychological abuse, and the spouse of a recovering alcoholic, I can without a doubt say that none of this, and I mean none of this, is fully accessible without a sense of environmental safety. If you are not safe in your home, are living with an abuser or in an otherwise abusive environment, getting yourself safe is your top priority. You deserve to be safe so that you can grow and thrive as who you are meant to be and who you truly are. If you are in an unsafe position, please refer to the resources below.

Here’s how I see it. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can grow or heal without feeling safe, without feeling held and nurtured.  Seeds don’t grow until they’ve found their home in the soil, on a tree limb, in the water, etc.  We all have seen plants growing in the scarcest of conditions, but there the seeds have landed, with conditions that are “good enough” for them to take their chance at thriving during their time on Earth. 


From my years of undergoing therapy for PTSD, the very first order of business was establishing a sense of inner safety where my body did not feel like it was spinning out of control, or on hyper vigilance mode all the time.

I didn’t know what it meant to feel relaxed and safe in my body for more than a short time until this past fall. Making safe havens within ourselves takes time. Much like the formation of earth, sand, trees, patience – or the willingness to keep returning to these practices with the tenacity of a tree growing in a sliver of a sidewalk crack- is required.

My vision of safety is not living in a utopian dreamworld, where everything is our idea of perfection or consistent certainty. This is obviously not the safety such as in greenhouse uber-controlled conditions where the soil, humidity, water, light, and nutrient conditions are closely monitored.


Safety is that which we know within ourselves, that we can look within and feel a sense of inner trust, compassion and a general feeling of “I’ve got this”. It’s courageous stuff, especially as a woman in this society who is told all sorts of things about who I am supposed to be, what I am supposed to want, how I’m supposed to behave, and what relationships I’m supposed to have.

It’s hard to feel “safe” when the world-at-large is telling you that you are not to be trusted: that who you are and what you want is somehow not acceptable or good enough. It is hard to feel safe when you don’t know what you are coming home to after work. It’s hard to feel safe when you work in an abusive work environment.


It starts small: making one promise to myself every day (this started with meditating daily), and has grown from there.***

From these small acts, we cultivate safety that becomes trusting oneself in the wildness that is living life.  This wilderness is the ground upon which we stand in the here and now.  This wilderness is filled with all sorts of interesting things to navigate along the individual’s path – and each path’s terrain is different. This can be the place where we explore in meditation (and other internal practices), in our creative work, in therapy/self-exploration, in our physical world, and in our relationships – but only if we dare to learn the terrain that is our inner world. 

We learn what is predictable, what is unpredictable, what season or cycle we may be in, and where we fit into it.  We can let go of our notion of control: control over our environment, thoughts, finances, relationships, and so on. We can return to ourselves, and learn to trust in who we are and our place in the world.

We learn that big, traumatic, things can happen and we can still feel safely held by ourself, the world, you name it and that we can be true to ourselves and navigate these waters. That even amidst great upheaval, there can be growth, healing, expansion into the deeper self because of this feeling of holding, of inherent safety within our beings. This feeling can be touched upon and returned to repeatedly.


This sensation of being safely held and returning to who we are is connection to the Dao, Universe, Heavens, God, Spirit, Gaia, Great Mystery, etc. I don’t really have a word for it, and I know of some people who call it magic. We feel held within this connection by our Yīn.

Yet, in our society today, we are very Yáng focused. Yáng is described below in detail, but it is outwardly moving, bright, heat, and loud. Yáng has taken over our world, and this is a big reason why we are seeing climate change: the balance between Yīn and Yáng is terribly off. Instead of an ice-age of Yīn, we will have a heat-age of Yáng. We are already in this transition, and if we do not cultivate the balance within ourselves and society (and our treatment of the natural world) through Yīn, our whole world will collapse.


Yīn (陰) is the female principle in the Yīn -Yáng dynamic.

Yīn is defined as the following: shade, shadow, cold-lit, dark(ness), dim(ly), north side of a mountain, south side of a river (especially regarding place names), cold(ness), inactivity, declining strength, seasons of autumn and winter, cool vapors and aura of autumn and winter, cold wind (especially north wind), feminine principle (opposite of a Yáng), associated with the moon, earth, darkness, cold, weakness, softness, hiddenness, latency, stillness, etc.; the broken lines in Yijing hexagrams, symbolic of the number 6 as the most fully Yīn of the nine fundamental numerals, below the surface, secretive, out of sight, retract(ed), suggest(ion), intimation, innuendo, pertaining to the reproductive organs.[1] 

Yīn Organs in Chinese Medicine are those that hold the vital energies and spirits: the Heart and Pericardium hold the Shen (our life spirit), the Liver holds the Hun (creative spirit), the Spleen holds the Yi (our integrity), the Lungs hold the Po (our instinctive-animal spirit), and the Kidneys hold the Zhi (our innate wise spirit).


Neat factoid:

There is also a variation in pinyin spelling (yìn) that utilizes the same character set that means: afford shelter, protect, benefit, cover over, conceal, hide.[2]


Yáng (陽) , on the other hand, embodies brilliance, light, the south side of a mountain, warmth, lively, full of life, the seasons of spring and summer, superficial, surface, the masculine principle that is comprised of the sun, heaven, light, warmth, strength, hardness, height, mastery, potency action.[3] 

Yáng Organs are the organs that move internally and externally: Small Intestine and Triple Warmer move food and the heating-cooling fluids of the body, the Gallbladder moves bile, the Stomach moves food, the Large Intestine moves waste material, and the Bladder moves water.


With our enforced yìn-Yīn time here in the United States (during the shift from the Yīn to the Yáng time of year at that!), we are afforded the opportunity that we no longer get during autumn and winter: a time for stillness, to peer into our inner stillness and shadows. 

This is, of course, terribly poor timing for all we want to do is be out in the world being active and we’re forced to remain within ourselves and our homes (however that may look for you).  It’s no wonder that as these weeks continue on we may be feeling stagnant. This is the time of year that we move all that’s been accumulated during the winter into action.

Yet, I see this yìn time in that we have the opportunity to shine the Yáng light into the Yīn darkness that all too often are unable to do. This is where this time can be a boon – but again, only if we already feel some sense of safety, some kind of holding. And, as I previously stated, for a lot of us, that’s just not the norm and that needs to come first.


This is only possible if we have that safety, that feeling of being held.

The Uncertainty guide offers practices which open you up to your inherent way of being. To help you learn to feel safe in yourself again.

Once you have that…

the Fire that’s in your Heart can shine like the sun into the depths of your being, allowing you to discover your unique treasures and gifts. You can transform through this uncovering what you’ve taken on that is no longer useful. You can courageously move through your fear and create what the Ancients call: wisdom, benevolence, integrity, rightousness, and propriety.

Stay tuned for more on these transformations!


References:

[1] A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese by Paul W. Kroll

[2] In A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese by Paul W. Kroll,

[3] In A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese by Paul W. Kroll,

[4] Lonny Jarrett, Nourishing Destiny, pg 153

[5] Larre and Rochat de la Valle, The Seven Emotions, pg 95

_________

Resources:
***The Holistic Psychologist is a great resource on Instagram, YouTube and her Inner Circle group for clear instructions on how to help you return to yourself. I wish she was around when I started my journey years ago, because everything she discusses is what I’ve explored and her work is just phenomenal. Simple, clear, to the point.

Resources on Domestic Abuse, Alcohol Abuse, and other:

If you are a domestic abuse survivor, FreeFrom seeks to provide opportunities for income generation and independence: http://www.freefrom.org/

CapitalOne Bank offers online accounts without receiving paper mail. This is a great option for you to squirrel money into in case you need it. You can use ATM’s with your debit card to make cash deposits. Here’s the link to the free checking account: https://apply.capitalone.com/index.html#/getting-started?productId=4000&Product=360Bank

ProtonMail is free encrypted email: https://protonmail.com/signup

Domestic Violence Hotline: https://www.thehotline.org/help/

Futures without Violence: https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/get-updates-information-covid-19/

If someone in your household is abusing substances and you have no recourse to leave, Al Anon may be of help in helping you get through this time. https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/electronic-meetings/

If Alanon is not for you, there are other 12-step type options.

Speaking with a therapist (which should be free of copays at the moment) may help you during this time as well.

Realizations and Lessons

I had a big change a week ago, a huge realization:

I am not what is swirling about in my head, my body or the environment around me.  I am the stillness that resides deep within, that I have been allowed to touch every so often in meditation.

With this realization, that sense of stillness has become ever more present – on the meditation cushion and off.

 

Following this realization, I have learned some important lessons this past week:

That I can indeed trust the answers that are provided to me from that deep place of stillness and mystery within; and to trust those answers in directing my course of action without second-guessing said answers.

The fire and strength in me is true to me, it is “real” – there for me if I am also sensing the stillness and “rightness” of it (for lack of a better way to describe it).  Sadly, I forgot that I had this in me, and that I don’t have to question its existence, role or purpose in my life.

I learned that I don’t have to shrink myself and say yes when the situation clearly calls for a “no”; I can speak my mind clearly without ill-will or intentions of harm.

Surrendering to the force that rushes up and says “now is the time, you can do this, you must do this” will not lead me astray.

You see, I’ve spent the last two and a half years working to get to this place.  It was on the horizon yes, but the horizon seemed to never get closer.  Yet, maybe, just maybe, all that my teacher has been trying to teach me is sinking in and taking root.

I tend to be willful and stubborn; about change and allowing myself to go to those (sometimes terribly) uncomfortable places within. But with these major shifts that have been happening, with so much power behind them: Who am I to question it when there’s such a deep sense of rightness and trueness, comfortable or not?

So now, my boat has dissolved and I am in the middle of the ocean. I have jumped off the cliff and am forever falling.  It may sound like I am losing my mind, but I’m fine.  I am freer than I have been in a very, very, very long time.

What a strange gift this has been, all spurred by the unlikeliest of circumstances: I left teaching at East West School of Herbology.  My herb home-of-origin of 7 years.

 

Everything has changed, and nothing has changed.

 

Queen Anne’s lace

Releasing What Has Been Held – the Breath and the Lungs

I lost a dear friend and companion, my cat Norton, who was by my side for almost 15 years to cancer at the end of April.  I was devasted from the time I got his cancer diagnosis until his peaceful death at home.

Yet, soon after Norton’s passing, my husband and I found ourselves fostering a 7 month old Siamese kitten.  It really was not planned, and it happened spur of the moment, I did not question it.

It’s been two months since Norton passed and I feel like I may finally be re-emerging from the depths, with my now adopted 8 month old kitten in tow.  She’s been good for me: reminding me to keep going, that there is fun and play to be had, and that life moves on whether we want it to or not.

What a change it has been: going from a sick elderly cat to a toddler has brought a new kind of whilwind of activity and energy to the household.

I’m still not so sure that our other cat, Saul, who is 14 years old, would agree that this is a welcomed change – but I certainly like it!

All I know is that the other day something happened…

I feel like I am breathing again at home, that I’m relaxing back into my space where I was holding my breath – waiting for Norton’s end to come, then holding my breath to hold on to what Norton left behind, to now accepting that this space that I was holding on to for him will always be there and I can accept that, and let go of my breath.

As I look upon my grief over my companion with a different perspective, I see the connection to my held breath: my Lungs.  Oh my Lungs this year have been worse for wear.  Being filled with grief (the emotion that is associated with the Lungs), my life was lacking in inspiration (which one of the virtues associated with the Lungs).  It’s no wonder, how can I take any light in when I’m holding on to a candle’s wick that once held a flame of life.  Lack of oxygen snuffs out fires, and my situation has been no different.

Physically, I’ve been riddled with terrible seasonal allergies.  My Lungs simply cannot process the grief and the incoming tide of pollen from the trees blooming in full force.

I went so far as to take Zyrtec for a whole week, but it made me feel (and look!) so stuffy everywhere but my head that I stopped taking it.

I’ve been exhausted and not wanting to exercise, thinking that walking 5 miles a day is enough for my body – it isn’t…

So, I haven’t been writing – because I have to be *inspired* to write.  I feel like I have nothing to say with words right now.  There are no words.  Yet here I am, rambling along…

So how to get over this apparent writer’s block?  Maybe in writing this.  Maybe it will lead to another kind of inspiration: one that comes from a release, a relaxing into.  Maybe by baring a little bit more of the roughness and rawness that is still so present, can I get back into the swing of things – to share those discoveries that are shining through.

In this spirit, with that long-winded wind-up, here’s a glimpse of a discovery, a deeper understanding that is still swirling about my heart and body, all thanks to a little plant called Ghost Pipe.  I do not often take this herb, but when I find myself reaching for a bottle of it I take it.  Oh, it had such lovely things to remind me…

 

Ghost Pipe

Ease of Being, Breath

Between two worlds

Linked with the underworld via mycelium and the breakdown of material

Linked to the heavens via upward growth

Remains in the shadows

White (flesh)

Purple, blue (tincture, when bruised)

Releases round seed heads in a sunburst circle

Grows only in healthy forests (predominantly maple)

Always said that this provides space between oneself and one’s pain, as a point of separation, but I don’t think that’s actually what is happening. I think what is happening with the ingestion of this plant is that one is reminded of their greatest, deepest, sense of self which is still and dark and sparked with light, joy, ease. This plant is an intermediary between the two, the inhalation of the lungs (an acceptance of the situation, if you will), and the exhalation of the lungs (of what can be let go). Acting like the plant itself – an inhalation of the mycelial network, a translation into what needs to be communicated to the body “relax, all is well, all is right”, then an exhalation of flowers into the world of what will ultimately be released: seeds, growth, life.

 

Digesting the Difficult Things in Life

I’ve recently been going through the most difficult thing in my life to date. And, I’ve developed a slew of digestive issues, and a return of migraines, to boot.

My dear cat, Norton, was diagnosed with intestinal cancer a week before Christmas.  I honestly, naively, thought my 17yo cat had worms and that’s why his belly was so bloated and he was losing weight so fast.  (Oh the things we tell ourselves!)  The vet, in a moment deeply lacking in compassion, told me that I’d have two good months with my cat left, and that I’d have to euthanize him after that. (I have not gone back to this vet!)  I am still fairly certain that I, for one microsecond, disassociated from my body because I remember feeling like the room got really big and I saw things from a different angle while she told me this.

It was a completely and utterly heartbreaking vet visit.

I have cried so much since then my eyes have felt like there were particles of sand in them.

After the news I spent a couple of weeks sleeping on the couch with Norton, compromising my well-being to be by his side as much as possible.  Trying to capture every moment.

I now also have a recurrence of migraines the likes of which I have not seen in years and years.
What’s interesting about this last bit is that I have been avoiding all my migraine triggers for foods, I’m moving every day, I’m meditating, I’m playing/practicing my violin, I’m talking with friends and family about what’s going on, and now I’m writing about my situation.

As always, I hope that in sharing what is going on with me, that it strikes a chord with you and you find solace in not being alone in what you are going through.

So now I have developed, in addition to these migraines, regular digestive issues. Everything that I eat sits like a lump in my stomach. I still feel like my lunch from yesterday is still being digested. It’s gross. I’ve taken my herbs (Bao He Wan is a great formula for that kind of stomach upset, and stomach upset in general), I’ve had teas, I’ve eaten as simply as possible, you name it I’ve tried it.

Then I had a thought: what if it’s not about the food that I’m eating (or not eating), or the exercise and creative outlets and emotional expression, but about this most difficult and heartbreaking situation?

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, as I’m wont to investigate, this would be akin to my Spleen/Stomach (or Earth element) being unable to digest my current situation. I cannot break it down, I cannot assimilate it, I cannot transform it – not yet.

I’ve been asking myself:

What would it mean to transform this experience?
What would it mean to assimilate this heartbreak into my being?
What would it mean to really be in this grief?

 

Grief is the emotion of the Metal element, it’s the holding onto and letting go of experiences.
What would it mean to let go of what I’m feeling about this situation?
What else am I holding on to, and how can I work on letting that go?

I’ve had glimpses of these moments, and some answers to these questions, but then the grief and heartbreak come pouring back in.

 

I think, like digesting an overly indulgent meal, it is going to take time and some discomfort and lots of my herbal helpers: ginger, cardamom, bitters blends, artichokes, orange peels, Bao He Wan, hawthorn berry, rose and albizzia for my heart, ocotillo to move what is stuck…