Tenderness

Tenderness

tenderness

¨I hold myself in tenderness.¨  This folks has become my mantra this week.  And, it is creating beautiful clarity in the way I am interacting with myself and my world. This is my first clear adult boundary.  I am currently in a beautiful online course with Shanti Zimmerman of Switzerland and an international group of brave souls. Shanti is a boundary Jedi. This is what I have learned so far. My tenderness turned inward is as unique as my fingerprints. I don’t know what yours looks or feels like. I can only tell you this, it is such a worthy investigation and magic will happen if you choose yourself.   

I want to admit that up until the past few weeks, I have handled myself quite roughly.  I have no regrets as I love what I do and who I am so very much. However, I am certain that medical school and residency likely would not have happened without my desperate need for external validation that ruled my 20´s (and really most of my 30´s).  Unlike the majority of other students, I was privy to this insight as it was unfolding. I also knew, even back then, that sometimes external validation with the right mindfulness can be the very thing that tips us into an internal sense of worth. I took a calculated risk.  

Becoming a physician is physical and mental torture.  I know because I lived it. I feel sweaty even typing this line because the culture of medicine is such that we don´t openly speak about the brutality of our training.  Speaking out is in itself is a sign of weakness and is ferreted out quickly and often silenced by some burned out wretch who trained before you. It seems ridiculous now that I allowed the EXACT same sentence to repeatedly silence me.  If you’re a physician you are familiar or may have even used the sentence of which I speak.  If you’re not, it starts like this, ¨Well when I was in training (x number of years prior), insert some version of how much more grueling the training schedule was back then.¨  For future reference physician readers, this is not an empathetic move. I too have been guilty of this. Like prisoners, we perpetuate the violence.

In medicine, speaking out is seen as complaining.  Now, I see how very different these two things are. I was unboundaried.  I willingly participated in a culture that I thought required me to have no boundaries.  Self-sacrifice and silence were probably the two most important qualities that were ingrained in me in my medical training.  These two are also the composite that forms the gnarly roots of many a physician´s depression, anxiety, and psychotropic drug use (both pharmaceutical and elicit). I cannot compassionately lead others towards health and healing without crystal clear boundaries.  And shocker guys, but silence and self-sacrifice are the exact opposite of being boundaried. Being boundaried looks like risking speaking up. It looks like all kinds of vulnerability to me (right now). AND, putting my needs first again and again until it becomes a natural way of being.  Sounds crazy? Like the recipe for becoming a real jerk? The EXACT OPPOSITE IS HAPPENING!!!!!! I am more gentle and kind than I have felt since childhood.

Today, and every day going forward I am committed to holding myself in tenderness.  I am working on my boundaries and getting way more clarity than I have ever had around what this actually means. (thanks Shanti).  For me, for now it is a practice. I don´t instinctively have it quite yet. Amazingly, what I already do have one week into this is such a sense of relief. I feel much safer at home in my own body and being and with others.  

We are all tethered in our journeys.  Where I go, you will feel a pull. May the vibration of this thread serve you in your beautiful unique way.  May you know that YOU matter most. I highly recommend you find and follow Shanti  if this type of work resonates with you.

 

Artist Credit:  Tenderness – Original Oil, by Jia Lu

The Farm Connection

The Farm Connection

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Eating living foods is one of the most important steps you can take in ensuring your family’s health.  Years back, I read a phenomenal book called, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimal Health by Jo Robinson.  Her work spread awareness of how truly dead the majority of foods are that arrive at our grocery stores.  In our bodies there is a constant balance being struck between oxidative stress and the antioxidants that we consume.  For those antioxidants to work, they need to still be ACTIVE!  A clock starts ticking the minute that carrot is pulled from the ground.  Did you know that those pretty bagged organic orange carrots have been sitting stored for ~6 months?  The antioxidant activity they have is zero by the time you eat them. Even the best, most expensive supplements cannot change this.  Nothing can replace eating real, living foods. So what do we do?

There is an amazing woman in our community named Beth Parks.  Many of you guys know her. Many of you are already members of the Farm Connection.  I was super late to this party. But I AM HERE NOW!!!!! I want to admit that there are times in my life when I get down on capitalism.  There are times I feel like I am being manipulated into buying things I don´t need and simply fed ideas that don’t source me. The Farm Connection has become my antidote.  Eva Bunker, my business coach noted how Beth´s business is the perfect example of how the beauty of entrepreneurial spirit can add value to our lives. When we see a need, figure out a solution that only we can figure out, that also adds value to all involved; this is capitalism at its best. Beth did this. She figured out a way to link the consumer and the farmers directly, benefiting all involved. If you are already hitting the farmer’s markets and getting fresh food, my hat is off to you.  If you are like me and struggle with the time and the space to make it all happen, The Farm Connection may be the answer.  As the Farm Connection has grown their ability to deliver has as well.  I can now have farm fresh foods that I choose delivered right to my door.  (If you like the culinary challenge of the random bag of produce typically delivered by CSAs they have that too!)  

Eating real food has been one of the most important first steps in my own healing process and working with others.  Inflammation and oxidative stress are very intimately related. Each and every living food we eat is healing because we live in a world teeming with oxidative stress.  Eating beautiful living, local food is both pleasurable and truly medicinal. If you have local family or friends to buy Christmas gifts for, I would consider a membership to the Farm Connection.  It is truly a gift to our local farmers, community and to our own bodies. I am so grateful to Beth, her family and her staff. Also Eating on the Wild Side is available at the San Antonio Public Library or Amazon.  A worthy read indeed!

 

     

Solid Introduction: Baby Led Weaning vs Purees

Solid Introduction: Baby Led Weaning vs Purees

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Starting solids can be a confusing time for both parents and babies.  As the entire subject matter deserves a book, this short article will serve as clarification around a popular movement called Baby Led Weaning.  

Right around 6 months many babies will lose their tongue thrust reflex, simultaneously begin to have sufficient core strength to sit with their esophagus right over their stomach and finally, their stomach’s lining will begin to acidify.  Some physical indications of readiness for solids include: babies sitting on their own confidently, not pushing food with their tongue straight back out, and deftly grabbing at things on your plate can all be signs of physical readiness.  

Much of the beginning of solids is truly more about exploration than nutrition. Emotionally some children are more adventurous than others. Food introduces brand new sensations through both taste receptors and the tactile senses both in the mouth and their fingers.  Some infants are excited by this new frontier while other babies shy from it. Luckily, until an infant is over 1 year old, the majority of their calories and nutrition will continue to come from breastmilk or formula.  Therefore, there is no need to rush. Know this though, an early refusal usually has less to do with the particular food and more to do with overwhelming sensations. I caution folks to introduce sugary fruits later because the sweetness can alter babies perceptions at both a neuronal and synaptic level.  Sugar, even fructose, is a powerful drug. Antioxidants are naturally a bit bitter. Just keep that in the back of your mind when choosing first foods. Introducing one food every 4-5 days will help you recognize if any given food doesn’t sit well in your infant’s system.

In the media there is a wonderful debate regarding purees versus table foods as the best way to introduce solids to infants.  In my community, Baby Led Weaning has taken hold. With any health movement, I strongly encourage parents to take this type of theory in stride and with a large grain of salt.  There is NO one perfect way to introduce solids to infants. Amazingly, folks have been doing pretty well making the transition to solids intuitively since the caveman days without any internet or commercial influence.

Mindfulness is always the most important first step of any transition.  Pay attention, play present witness to your individual developing baby. Some infants are good and ready for food way before others.  Some have a mouthful of teeth before others. Some infants have no teeth and act like they are entranced with each bite you feed yourself and they beautifully coordinate a chewing motion with just their gums!

Regarding the puree and table food battle, I do agree that most infants have a pretty decent gag reflex to help protect them from choking on their siblings Legos.  And, I do agree that gagging is not the same as choking. However, remember that gagging can scare both mom and infant and this can lead to aversions for both parties.  Know thyself. If you already know that seeing your kid gag is going to give you anxiety, start with purees or fork pressed foods from your plate. Remember that each of your babies temperaments are different.  Some fall and get right back up. Other go down and cry for a good long time. The same analogy applies to your young eaters, wherein some will gag and go right back to getting that baked carrot stick down. Unfortunately, some will not go back and aversions can start forming.

There are specific foods such as grapes, hot dogs, popcorn, raisins, uncooked hard veggies, fruits, and leafy vegetables that require grinding motion (2 sets of molars) or are shaped exactly like the airway of your child and clearly pose risk.  These are known hazards to young children. Even grown children should sit down and eat the above foods carefully. I also strongly believe that all parents would benefit from learning how to help a choking child.  Also, it is very important to be good at recognizing the difference between gagging and choking.  

One very difficult and important final piece is, if your child is gagging, do NOT be tempted to stick you finger in their mouth.  Allow them to work what’s back there forward or your gagging situation can become a true choking situation as your finger accidentally pushes what’s in their mouth further back than where they can’t get hold of it.

In summary, remember physical and emotional readiness come into play simultaneously and both parents and infant are players.  Purees and table foods can be great places to start. And, finally I see no reason developmentally to not use both.  There is no shame in the mush, the pouch nor the convenience of table foods.  They will grow up beautifully nourished whichever way you go.

As always, you know your infant best.  And, in the same moment, I am here for you as you journey.  Reach out with any specific questions.

         

Intuitive Healing

Intuitive Healing

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You are an intuitive healer.  To think intuitive prowess is a special gift handed out to only a few gypsy souls, is fallacy.  Intuition, at its root, is simply a receptive type of awareness.  Sure, theoretically it could give you clues to the future but most commonly it gives you insight into the now of any given moment.  It is in this now, this very moment, that powerful healing happens.

There is no one who knows your child better than you do.  Purposefully, I have created a practice placing parents back into their seats of authority over their children’s health.  This power does not belong in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies, in the pockets of the insurance companies, nor do I believe our children deserve to be at the mercy of the machines of capitalism that have replaced actual science.  Authority over their health belongs to those who love them most rather than someone who sees them as a profit margin.

If any of the above resonates, you may be a good fit for this “intuitive” practice model.

What an intuitive practice looks like is guiding parents in continually developing mindfulness around their own physical and emotional health and also that of their children.  I see these as deeply intertwined and in no way can parent and child’s health simply be separated.  Child and parent are constantly in interaction and lasting healing comes from working with both simultaneously.

If you are willing to look at your own behaviors, emotional well-being and how this affects your child, you may be a good fit for this model of care.

Conscious Dance

Conscious Dance

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Over the past few weeks many people have asked me, now what is this Conscious Dance thing you do?  I decided I better write a quick blog explaining what I’m up to as I get ready to start my beginner’s series on Friday in case someone out there needs to be there and didn’t realize it yet…

Conscious dance is a mindfulness practice not terribly different in its purpose from yoga.  You will often find these two practices housed in the same spaces. There are currently over 100 flavors of conscious dance and another will likely be born before I finish this article.  The reason there are so many is because each teacher brings forth their unique transmission of awareness through movement. Amidst these many teachers, there have been influential masters of this art that have touched us all. Through their lifetime of work, they tapped into universal truths and made them apparent and accessible to beginners and advanced dancers alike. This ability to give access to the deep work through a word, a look, or a ritual is what sets masters apart and creates powerful transmission of awareness from teacher to student. If you’re called, there are living conscious dance teachers that can take you straight to the heart of matters, if you’re ready to go.

So why the dance?  Well the truth is, it’s what humans do.  We’ve danced forever. Before our hairy ancestors even had words, humans danced to communicate about their hunts.  Every single human is a dancer. Put on a beat and watch what a young baby does.  They bop. They laugh. Humans in movement have access to ecstasy. I’m not talking about the peak experience kind.  That can be sort of confusing for folks. Alan Watts, one of my favorite philosophers, defines ecstasy in a gorgeous way.  Ecstasy is the sensation of surrendering to vibrations and sometimes to insights, that take you out your so-called self.  In defining it, he contrasts ecstasy to being-uptight. Ecstasy is most simply the opposite of being uptight. What I have found is that there is no faster, more efficient way to get out of my ego-bound head and into the ecstasy of being present in my body than a beat.  I swear. You put one on and I start to reflexively move inward towards that free, baby self, bopping and laughing.

I have to be honest though, this work isn’t all gumdrops and kittens.  Trauma has the ability to freeze parts of bodies. The body really does remember each traumatic event and it stops us from being free in both movement and in our daily lives.  As a physician, I think it is the deep healing that I have witnessed in myself and others through this practice that has led to my desire to teach. Part of why dance works so well as a healing modality is, in movement or the lack of it, we learn about ourselves.  We see our unconscious patterns. We dance our patterns all over the place. For example, it took me years to be able to move in “weird” unconventional ways because I was trapped in a performance and perfectionism. It has taken even longer to loosen up my hips. They are still holding hurts that I am working on.  Luckily, this dancing thing has no finish line. It is instead a lovely spiral that offers us continually, a path home.

If you would like to join us, the link to the Beginner’s Series starting Sept 14th @745pm is below.  Please feel free to email any questions.

https://www.facebook.com/events/307292260032368/

The Dance, art by Rassouli
Website resources for further reading:

http://soulmotion.com/

https://www.5rhythms.com/

https://nianow.com/

 

Fear

Fear

I recently had the privilege of holding space for a frightened client as her child went through a complete cycle of a severe asthma attack.  What hit me hardest in walking with this mother, was the intense energy of fear. It was a “me too” moment. My own child has put me face to face with deep penetrating fear more than once.  This fierce love of our children creates the deepest attachments formed in life. When they are ill, fear of losing them can cut loose in our bodies and beings. There is no ritual to move this energy at this time.  Worse, you may even be shamed for feeling it. How many times have you been told, there’s nothing to worry about?  You go to the doctor and prescriptions and treatments are prescribed but who is helping us examine and move fear?  My best friend (Dr. Julie Von) has often told me that she felt her asthma was wrapped into her mother’s fear and anxiety.  She sensed that her body became a way of manifesting her mother’s fears, sadness and other unresolved emotions. If this sounds far-fetched, I encourage you to look deeper.  This is not to dismiss the physical realm of asthma or blame her mother. It’s to bring awareness. To continue to completely dismiss the psycho-spiritual aspects of pediatric medicine is absurdly bad science.

A child depends upon us to understand complicated situations or those that feel out of control.  Chest tightness and hypoxia definitely signal to the body that things are out of control. If this fearful child is met by the energy of fear from their mother, the potential for the entire situation to build energy towards chaos absolutely follows.  Now imagine this same child faced with a calm, grounded mother, acting from intuitive wisdom. Could you imagine how these two scenarios could create a completely different oxygen level in the same child?

So let’s pretend we’re not all the Zen calm mother in the second scenario all the time. Something big happens and we freak the f*ck out. How do we authentically experience our fear and not get it all over our kids?

As my client was battling her fear for her child and his asthma, my own child lay raging fever in his sleep.  I was already curious about fear, and now here I was standing in my own. My mindfulness practice helped me to know that I was caught in fear.  I cannot stress enough how important a mindfulness practice is to know what is going on! Without I would never have had access to even the first layer, which is simply recognizing the emotion. I feel terrified right now.  I then let myself breathe into the arising fear.  I literally sat down into this fear and traced it. And there it was.  It was connected to the scariest thing in this world.  The fear of losing him. I then let myself enter that awful layer. What would it be like if I lost my son?   Tears came hard as I dropped in fully. I allowed myself to actually feel the depth of what was happening to me.  It didn’t last super long and then the fear shifted. Simply by allowing it to be recognized, experienced and held; fear shifted.

There is no escaping fear when you love the way we do.  I agree that it is so very uncomfortable and would rather just not.  And then of course there is the bitter irony that it is bravery that is required of us to sit still enough to feel our less desirable feels.  To hold honor to what is there in the moment, without judging and welcoming it, will allow what is next to happen. It may be another fear. It may be something entirely different. 

 

Love and tenderness to each of you brave, brave souls as you journey the hard stuff.  -Heather

 

      

      

Radical Self-Care

Radical Self-Care

engine light

Radical self-care.  You will see me writing on this concept over and over again.  I want to ooze the importance of self-care with my existence.  I want to be contagious in my liberation to others.  Culturally as women, we are trained early on to place our desires on the back burner to better care for those around us.  It is therefore a revolutionary act when we move even momentarily from the demands of those outside of ourselves (the other) inward.  Caring for others can absolutely bring a wonderful sense of fulfillment and joy, however it requires a delicate balance and self-awareness.  It is through these two concepts we can prevent the slip into depletion.

Finding balance depends upon our inherent constitutions, stressors with us in the now, our immediate health and our ability to know ourselves and our own needs/desires.  Dr. Julie Von, fertility expert, has taught women through an exercise she calls “Find Your Pillars” how to identify the things in our lives that help hold us up (i.e., keep us sane). Once we have identified the parts of our lives that fuel the soul, the next trick is learning how to consistently make them a priority.  For me, I know I need to dance, practice yin/meditation, and have time in nature; however, despite this intellectual knowledge of my pillars, I let things get in the way.  

Currently there are around one million reasons each week that explain why I cannot take proper care of myself.  My personal favorites are guilt and too busy.  My own child would like to be next to me 100% of everyday.  Familiar to many of us loving Moms, is the heart wrenching tearful departure that comes from separating from our child, often regardless of their age.  As an empathetic mother, we share this pain when we part.  The natural maternal empathy is beautiful, however a disconnect happens when that awareness of other turns to guilt.  Though utterly unfounded, guilt strikes through tendrils of the unconscious notions of what a woman “should” be doing with her time and what a mother is.  This is an area worth exploring in oneself as it houses many obstacles to being able to fully step into balance.

Another great source of my barrier to self-care is time.  I mean the fact that I work two jobs and one of those jobs is running a busy practice on my own clearly validates the too busy, right?  Despite my best intentions, I sometimes overdo it.  And, if I let my own care slide, sometimes too busy gives birth to too tired.  And then, cue the check engine light!

Like any vehicle, each of us has a dashboard with indicators of how we are doing both physically and emotionally.  The flashing of my check engine light looks like this on the emotional plane:  A feeling of being near tears, mild irritability, resentment towards my husband, hypersensitivity and a sense of being overwhelmed.  (In many ways, this warning phase feels similar to PMS.)  After choosing to ignore these softer signs, I can begin to tip into serious engine damage.  On the physical plane my adrenal glands begin pumping out epinephrine to keep up with the demands I am putting on myself.  Here I can sense rage, despair, and rampant irritability.  The key to preventing this type of damage is early recognition.  Also, at a deeper level, I’ve had to work hard with a coach to heal the fun trans-generational pattern of worn-out, angry women.  Though all of them amazing and utterly justified in their anger, it is not how I choose to live my lifetime.  

As much as I’d love to be that infallible, magical superhero version of a mother that our culture has perpetuated to make all Mom’s feel inadequate, I’m not.  I am simply a human being that has her own needs.  So as I wave goodbye to my son to go have my hour of me time and the guilt comes, I remind myself of the miserable version of me I become when I don’t take care of myself.  I remind myself that self-care is prerequisite to the function of my higher intuition.  Then, it becomes a simple and clear choice and my heart lifts.