Thursday, February 28, 2013

Honoring Our Cycles

As women (and men in their own way), an essential key to unlocking our innate ecstasy is honoring our natural cycles.

This previous Sunday, I led a class on Super Herbal Elixirs.  The energy and information downloads and exchanges were spectacular, and it progressed into another ecstatic, high energy community event with much love, laughter, sharing, and celebration.  The next day, I felt intensely sensitive, reclusive and sleepy, and I just wanted to crawl into a cave and hibernate for a while.  When I had the chance to be in complete quiet, resting with my eyes closed, I was in Bliss.  I felt the same way the next day.

The day after that, I found myself in a solid, earthy state, protective of my "space", a familiar energy I recognized as leading up to my bleeding time. For most women, the resistance or rejection of this natural energetic becomes something commonly labeled as "PMS".  I allowed and honored this energy the space to be, and it became an earthy sort of silliness, and a relaxed acceptance of whatever existed in the moment (a temporary dissolving of goal-oriented thoughts of the future), with moments of almost-pretend moodiness. My bleeding time arrived the next morning, which I had felt/known in advance, simply from energetic cues (because I don't have physical "PMS" symptoms).  

Women often view their cycle as a monthly mundane repetition of menstruation and ovulation, a purely physical phenomenon with maybe a few mood swings or other emotional changes.  However, like the tip of an iceberg, these events are only the most physically obvious signs of MUCH larger and more vast energetic and creative cycles.  Becoming aware of and attuning to these energetic ebbs and flows results in optimizing our creative energy and experiencing much more efficiency in our lives and harmony in our bodies, minds, and emotions.

What Really Happens During Our Moon Cycles

Here's how it works.  A woman's cycle "starts" when she begins her moontime bleeding.  In past times, before artificial lights and arbitrary schedules, women always bled together on the new moon.  The energetic of the dark (new) moon and of a woman's bleeding are similar.  It's a time when we are called to go deep within, intuitively examine the entire structure of our lives and Life itself, and naturally cleanse and renew our whole selves.  Our hormone levels are low at this time, and our left and right brain hemispheres synchronize, allowing us to tap into much greater levels of intuition and knowing about areas of our life that we have yet to fully understand or resolve.  We can access a state of consciousness that gives us the power to sort out extremely complex aspects of life in almost a "dream state", below the level of our surface minds.  We may not be fully aware at this time of all that we are learning, but if we allow ourselves the time and space to go deep, ask for divine guidance, and "dream while awake" (go on an inner journey), it has been my experience that my newly acquired wisdom now becomes part of me and expresses through me at a later time.

Women no longer bleed only on the new moon.  Our bodies are adaptable, and it often seems as if my body factors in my mind's awareness of plans when choosing the best time for me to rest and bleed.  For example, if I know I will be traveling or teaching a class at the time when I expect to be bleeding, my body will postpone it until afterward, since I will be able to align more fully with the introspective and reclusive energy of my moontime after all the outward activity has slowed down.  I have learned from that, and since I enjoy having regularity in my cycles, I do my best to plan events with consideration of where I'll be in my cycle during the event.

After bleeding time, which lasts for a couple days up to a week, depending on the woman, our hormone progesterone slowly starts to increase.  Energetically, this is a time of gradually increasing activity, creativity, and socially interactive energy.   It is a good time to start new projects.  This creative, active, social, and procreative energy, along with our progesterone levels, peak during ovulation, which happens around two weeks after the first day of bleeding.  Naturally, the energy of ovulation is similar to the energy of the full moon.  Feelings are heightened, creativity is at its peak, we feel social and magnetic, our communication skills are increased, and we're fully present and engaged in our interactions with other people and in the world.

After the progesterone peak of ovulation, this hormone starts to lower and its counterbalancing energy, estrogen, starts to increase.  This begins to bring our energy back inward, inviting us to begin reviewing, contemplating, and integrating the heightened experiences of our cycle's energetic peak.  We move gradually from the outward, social energy of ovulation to an inward, "home-tending" energy.  This can be a good time to focus on home and family responsibilities.  About two weeks after ovulation, a sudden drop in both estrogen and progesterone initiates menstruation, and we come full circle.

I'm using descriptive signposts here that only apply to menstruating women, but this also applies energetically to women who are not experiencing these obvious physical events (such as during pregnancy, early breastfeeding, and menopause), because we are still feeling the cycles of the moon.  Women seem particularly linked to the moon's rhythms, which is why I'm speaking about women only with all this... and I'm curious if any men are aware of cycles of their own (if so, please share!!)

Menstrual Cycle Nutritional Support

There are ways you can support yourself nutritionally during the different parts of your cycle.  Since salt is contractive and holds fluids in your body, it is beneficial to lower your salt consumption for the few days before and during your bleeding time, so your body can have a full cleansing.  During this time, I crave more naturally sweet, expansive foods, and much less savory, contractive food.  Leading up to and during ovulation is the time when salt is most appropriate, as its contractive nature helps the egg pop out of the ovary.  When I say salt, I'm referring to natural sea and rock salts, or naturally salty foods. 

It is also important after menstruation to replenish your blood, using mineral-rich foods and drinks like nettle leaf infusions, green juices, seaweeds, blue-green algae (especially spirulina and chlorella), blood-building tonic herbs, and other things.  One of my favorite blood-replenishing beverages is a fermented beet drink called Beet Kvass, made with beets, salt and spring water.  It's tangy, salty and sweet, and after bleeding time, I often can easily guzzle large amounts of it!

My Personal Journey

I have been very interested in this topic for the past few years, but I didn't always feel this way.  I had my first menstrual cycle at age 12, and it was horrible.  I didn't feel ready at all, emotionally or physically.  I was at a summer camp and I didn't tell anyone all week (I just bled in my underwear the whole time).  I told my parents when I got home, sobbing, like my cycle coming was a tragic event.  I just didn't want to be a woman yet.  For all my teen years after that, my bleeding times were long and heavy, with days at a time of extremely painful cramps.  I have always been natural-medicine-minded, and never took pharmaceutical drugs for anything, except for my unbearably painful menstrual cramps.

At age 21, I stopped bleeding entirely for about 4 years, as a result of a prolonged experiment with a very cleansing type of raw food diet (high-fruit, very-low-fat).  My hormone levels bottomed out and my blood volume was too low to spare any blood each month.  About a year after changing my diet to include lots of superfoods, healthy fats, and blood-building tonic herbs, my cycle returned.  Immediately, it was completely different than before.  Its monthly timing was regular, my bleeding was light to moderate and only lasted 2-3 days, and my "cramps" were really mild... just some tender contraction feelings during the first couple days that were not only tolerable, but actually enjoyable, because they put me into an effortless meditative state. 

After those 4 years of "rethinking" menstruation, my feelings about it were so different.  I was actually ready to be a woman this time, and I delighted in the awareness that I have a cycle I can attune with.

When I gave birth to my son a few years later, he was an avid breastfeeder (still is!), and my menstrual cycle waited until he was two and a half to return.  When it did return, nearly a year ago now, it became even more enjoyable than before.  I attribute this continually increasing enjoyment of my bleeding time to how I have consciously embraced it more and more over the years.

Honor Your Cycles

Our creative power is greatest when we consciously align with our cycles.  In our culture, we are instructed to follow an activity pattern determined by outside systems, and these activity and rest cycles are not aligned with nature's cycles (and our bodies' cycles).  If we push through, and try to work hard during our natural resting and contemplation time, we will be moody, irritable, tired, AND we won't get anything accomplished anyway!  Then we'll be dragging during the naturally creative and energetic time of our cycle, not able to fully utilize its energy because we didn't replenish at the appropriate time.

When we honor our cycles, we experience ourselves as the wise, powerful creators we already are.

Are you aware of the energy shifts of your cycle?  How do you honor these shifts, or feel you could do better in honoring them?  Please comment below!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ode to Super Herbal Elixirs (and a recipe!)

7-8 years ago, I discovered a Holy Grail of the food world, and it changed my life (and continues to).  Imagine a combination of smoothie + herbal tea + some of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet, then multiply the taste and nourishment factor x 50, and you have what I call a Super Herbal Elixir.  Breakfast, lunch & dinner of champions.

Why are they so amazing?  What are Super Herbal Elixirs?

These drinks are a meal in a glass.  The various components serve to stack the odds in our favor, nutritionally.

First of all, blending food in a high-powered blender and drinking it makes it far more digestible.  The blender breaks the cell walls of vegetables, seeds and fruits far more effectively than our teeth, even if we chew 50-100 times per bite (and who really wants to do that?!)  It's also way faster to prepare a blended meal than cook, chop, and carefully arrange various foods on a plate, and you have much less to clean afterward.  Preparing elaborate meals is wonderful and fun, and personally, I'm definitely NOT enthusiastic about doing it 3x per day!  My days are smooth and easy when I drink 1-2 elixirs during the most active parts of my day (or as a nightcap), and prepare 1-2 regular meals when I'm in centering/integrating mode. 

Elixirs are a delivery system for all the nutrient-rich foods, herbs, and supplements we wish to consume that day.  By understanding the basic components of an elixir, you can literally make infinite variations, depending on your health and life goals at that time.

For example, lately my health goals are building strength and toning my body, boosting my brain power and creativity, increasing my bone mineral density, building rich, healthy blood, and gentle maintenance cleansing.  My elixir ingredient choices lately are catered specifically to helping me reach these goals.  Including hemp seeds, sprouted rice protein powder, raw cacao, maca, Jing-and-blood-building tonic herbs, marine phytoplankton, a food-based iron & B-12 supplement, wild-harvested horsetail powder & pine pollen tincture, and coconut oil, helps me further ALL of my health goals with ONE drink!

I have prepared an estimated 1000-2000 elixirs for myself and my family in the past 7-8 years, and every one of them has been slightly different, although I stay with certain themes for a while.  As my health goals, ingredients on hand, and nutrient requirements change, I slightly alter my daily elixir composition, for extraordinarily customized nutrition. 

When you understand the basic components of an elixir, it is easy to start making infinite variations of drinks that taste amazing and satisfy your hunger and nutrient requirements, every time!

The basic components of a "meal type" elixir:

* the best liquid ever (wild spring water or herbal tea)
* an easily-digestible, clean, nutrient-rich fat source
* a healthy sweetener (unless you're making a savory elixir)
* superfoods to add loads of nutrients & emulsify the fats, sweets & liquid
* tonic & adaptogenic herbs
* fresh veggies & fruits (optional)
* supplements (optional)
* additional flavor components like spices or essential oils (optional)

That's it, in the most basic sense.

Now here's an example recipe for you to play with!  This is a fun and delicious drink my husband and I created soon after our son was born, when we were waking up at 4am every morning and felt an extra requirement for adaptogenic nourishment!!  Enjoy!

Superfood Mocha Latte

~ 2 cups spring water or adaptogenic herbal tea
~ 2 Tbs lucuma powder
~ 2 Tbs raw chocolate (cacao) powder
~ 1 Tbs tocotrienols (vitamin E rich concentrate from rice bran)
~ 1 Tbs wild blue-green algae (AFA)
~ 2 tsp soy lecithin (non-gmo)
~ 1 tsp maca
~ 1 tsp ground vanilla bean
~ 1/2 tsp chaga extract powder (or use the whole herb in your tea base)
~ 1/2 tsp ho shou wu extract powder (or use the whole herb in your tea base)
~ 1 Tbs coconut oil
~ 1-2 Tbs raw honey (or other sweetener of choice, to taste)
~ 4 drops coffee bean essential oil (or a splash of actual coffee if you're into it!)

Optional additions, to add a raw, whole-food caffeine source:  1/4-1 tsp guarana, yerba mate, or yaupon holly powder.

You may also leave out some of the above ingredients, or substitute with other things, and it will likely still taste amazing!

Make a warm drink if it's winter, or a cold drink if it's summer, by varying the temperature of your water or tea base (you can even throw in some ice cubes to make it extra cold!).  Add everything to your high-powered blender and blend well. Pour into a cozy coffee mug or fancy glass and savor each sip!


If you desire to learn more about this powerful, ecstatic form of nourishment, I am teaching a Super Herbal Elixirs class this Sunday, Feb 24th, in the Dallas, Texas area.  I will be demonstrating and sampling 6 delicious, original elixir recipes!  Read more & sign up for the local event here. 
This class will also broadcast LIVE via the internet, so if you live somewhere else (or just can't make it to the physical event), you can still be part of the action and the fun!  You can watch the webcast from your iPad, iPhone, computer, or any other internet device capable of streaming video.  Click the local sign-up link above to read the class description, and if you're ready to participate remotely, sign up here for the Elixir class webcast.


Please comment below with any questions, or to share your own experiments and LOVE for Super Herbal Elixirs!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ecstatic Goddess Transformation

4 of my girlfriends and I ~ all health conscious mamas and bloggers ~ share an uncommon addiction.  We all LOVE goal setting and establishing new healthy disciplines into our daily lives to embody our Inner Ecstatic Goddess in ever greater ways!  Every time one of us goes on about some new life upgrade we're into, the rest of us are lit up and jumping in with our own versions.  We must discover, just HOW awesome can life possibly get?!

Kristen posted one of her versions a while back, and Lauren just wrote about her most recent aspirations.  Of course, now I'm lit up and ready to write my own!  So here they are, my most current transformational disciplines!

Ecstatic Foods

  • Daily super herbal elixirs with my favorite nutrient-rich superfoods, raw plant-based protein powder, and jing-building tonic herbs.  
  • Daily green veggies (preferably wild-harvested or home-grown), fermented food, plenty of protein rich seeds, seaweeds and algaes
  • Minimal amounts of glycemic sweets (mostly use stevia & xylitol for now)
  • More spring water, in the morning and throughout the day

I do all of this already, so this isn't a huge shift, just some intuitive tweaking in the direction of increasing my intake of tonic herbs, greens, wild foods and ferments... foods that definitely take me further into ecstatic realms!

For the past few months I have also been laying off the sweets almost entirely, for some deeper healing.  After years of an extremely unbalanced high-sweet-fruit diet (many years ago), I lost interest in store-bought, mono-cropped sweet fruits, and switched to local raw honey as my main sweet food.  I've been re-balancing even further lately, by only occasionally eating honey, and enjoying more foods that are rich in protein, healthy fats, and minerals.

I am also focused on building my blood right now, currently using a food-based iron/B-12 supplement (and a couple of powerful Chinese yin jing tonic herbs), inspired by a recent realization that I've had varying levels of anemia for the past 16 years.  I have a whole plan for strengthening my blood to levels I have yet to EVER experience, and I'm very excited about the effects this will have (and already is having) on every part of my life!

Ecstatic Movement

I feel best when I enjoy some form of ecstatic movement (joyful exercise) daily. Variety works great for me.  My favorites are:

  • Ecstatic Dance.  I love going to group ecstatic dances, and for a more consistent dancing fix, my absolute favorite exercise ever is being outside by myself at night, with headphones, dancing myself into another dimension to energetic and uplifting music.  This is something I used to do every night for years, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.  I re-discovered this greatest-of-pleasures just a few days ago, and afterward felt so ridiculously amazing that I was floored I had forgotten it for so long!  It is truly a Divine Worship practice for me.
  • Long walks.  Another thing I did every day for many, many years.  It's my moving meditation, therapy, and creative inspiration.  After my son was born, I did my best to maintain this practice somewhat regularly, by putting him into a carrier and walking with him on my back or front.  My daily walks fell away at some point, and when I added them back in, I had some immediate serious upgrades in my daily mood and well-being.
  • Strength building.  Besides yoga, this has yet to be a consistent practice for me at any point in my life, so I still kind of feel like a newbie in this area.  I've done enough sporadic experimentation to have developed some familiarity with various exercises and their effects, so I am slowly adding them in with more regularity and building my confidence.  I desire to discover how being physically stronger than ever will affect me in all areas of my life.  Will keep you updated! :)

Nature Connection & Earth Skills

For the past few years, I've had a major interest in changing my lifestyle and adapting my body and mind to feel really comfortable in nature.  This has included developing skill and confidence in gardening, growing fruit and nut trees, foraging wild edible & useful plants, walking barefoot on a variety of terrains, building my nerve force by consciously increasing my tolerance to temperature extremes (like hot & cold weather and water), and fine-tuning my ability to observe and be aware of nature's subtle messages (which all wild animals are acutely aware of).

I have come a long way.  My interest in these skills is mainly because I find nature to be far more inspiring and aesthetically pleasing than the man-made world, and I desire to reduce my dependency on all the intricately intertwined aspects of "the system" (consumerism, slave labor, government, currencies, climate-controlled boxes, modern entertainment, and the like).  This has resulted in a slowly shifting self-identity... feeling I am "in the (man-made) world, but not of it", and able to feel myself as originating from and being home in nature (God's creation).  This brings deep peace to my soul, and I long to go deeper.

So this continues to be an essential area of self-improvement for me.

  • Connect daily with the seasonal wild edibles of whatever area I'm in, by eating them.  Currently it's the young spring greens like chickweed, dock (the short time window when dock actually tastes good raw!), wild lettuce, dandelion, henbit, and plenty more. Also enjoying wild edibles I have previously harvested and preserved.. right now that includes sumac berries, dried horsetail, vitex & pine pollen tinctures, pecans, lotus nuts, and some tea herbs like fennel & bee balm.  Continue learning more about edible and useful wild plants.
  • Continue strengthening my nerve force by enjoying temperature extremes.  In Mount Shasta, this meant taking daily walks in the snowy cold, doing occasional "snow plunges" (rolling in the snow in my swimsuit!), and dipping in cold rivers and lakes!  During my current Texas visit, it will mainly involve being outside during the wild weather fluctuations of the winters here.  In a very short time, it can often go through cold, rainy, warm, balmy, windy, and more.  Good for adaptability practice!
  • Plant gardens everywhere I go.  The more I do it, the more nuances I learn, and the easier it gets.  This morning I scrounged up some starter pots and dirt, and planted kale and radish seeds.  We'll be here just long enough to enjoy eating them.  Then we'll go somewhere else and plant another garden!

Thank you, Lauren, for inspiring me to share my current practices with my world!  And thank you Debbie, Joanna & Kristen for being my amazing friends and enthusiastic transformation partners!

Anyone else up for some Ecstatic Transformation?!  Share your current aspirations, and what you're doing about them, below, or post a link!