with Melinda Rodriguez

I have a shameful secret that I have never shared with anyone.  I have prayed a horrible prayer.  I began praying this prayer when I was about 12 years old.  I’ve presented God with the same request a thousand times.  She has never answered…until now.  Finally, she has shown up in the most grandest way, not only granting my wish, but essentially offering me a choice and returning the question by asking me – is this request still valid?

As a highly sensitive person, I have taken in life deeply.  Every joy is massive, and every sorrow is unbearable.  I’ve known wrenching heartbreak on so many levels that by my 45th year in life the collective consciousness of the cells in my body were no longer healthy. My inner critic had so drastically destroyed even the smallest semblance of self love that I could no longer distinguish truth or even allow love from others to wake me up.  The words were spoken, but they meant nothing.  The walls of self loathing were far too solid.  And my prayer became an unconscious mantra.

“Please God, take me. I cannot stand the pain of life any longer. Please release me from this body and this earthly existence.  Please take me home.  Please God.  Let me die.”

There is no one event that invited this prayer; just a lifetime where my sensitivities somehow misconstrued my truth thereby cutting me off from the force of love. Emotionally I had become such a mess that I could not longer grow – so my cells did.  After months of dealing with a horrible cough that would not go away, I requested a chest x-ray.  That was the beginning of a tremendous journey; a journey that ultimately, oddly, saved my life.

Cancer

Saved

My

Life

The urgent care doctor told me the chest x-ray revealed metastases on my lungs that were coming from an unknown primary tumor.  She suggested I get in touch with a general practitioner ASAP.  I did just that and got an appointment the next day.  I had a large mass protruding from my pelvic region that I assumed was a fibroid.  I had been seeing a gynecologist about it, but because of my medical insurance, not only did it take me four months to get into the gynecologist, but once I finally saw her, I had to wait another month to get an ultrasound to determine if the mass was indeed a fibroid.  It was during that wait that I went to urgent care where they found the metastases.

The general practitioner ordered me a CT scan that same day and by the next day I got the phone call that changed my life.  “Ms. Rodriguez, I’m sorry to tell you this but the scan reveals what we believe to be cancer in the pelvic region as well as the liver, lungs, and lymph nodes.”  I was at work when I got the call.  I had just stated a new job in Hospice admissions and triage.  Ha!  Hospice!  The irony!

I had stepped outside to take the call.  The doctor wanted me to come in the next day so he could refer me to an oncologist with City of Hope.  When I hung up I began sobbing.  I knew a call like this was coming to some degree since there were metastases found on my lungs.  But nothing could really prepare me to hear the totality of the content of the call.  I left work and drove 30 miles in rush hour traffic to my parent’s house where I shared the shocking news with them.  I called my sweetheart, Luis and my daughter and shared with them as well.  Of course, everyone’s response was “We will fight this. You will be fine.”  But none of us even knew if we were dealing with something fightable.

The days and weeks that followed were filled with doctors and hospitals and poking and prodding and a painful lung biopsy that revealed the unbelievable – stage 4, metastatic ovarian cancer with metastases on the lungs, liver and lymph nodes. I remember sitting in my hospital room the night before the confirming biopsy with my oncologist.  The scan alone told her what she needed to know.  I was dying.  The biopsy would simply reveal her recommended course of action, but either way it included chemo.  Luis was there with me and I was uncontrollably crying.  I was scared. I was scared of the needle they were going to stick into my lungs in the morning and other procedures, including chemo, which still lye ahead.  I was scared of dying in pain, but not death itself. I had never been in the hospital before except to give birth.  I had never had surgery and NEVER even entertained the thought of dealing with doctors until now.

Although my doctor was very careful not to give too much of a prognosis, I asked if this cancer would take my life, she said yes, but the chemo would add quantity.  I insisted I wanted no quantity at the price of quality.  She assured me she would honor that request.  All I wanted was more time with my daughter, grandson, Luis and my parents.  I wasn’t done yet – despite that damn prayer I had recited a thousand times.

Surgery was out of the question because the cancer had spread so much.  First, she wanted to see if we could shrink the mets with chemo.  And to administer the chemo without frying my veins, she wanted to surgically implant a chemo port-catheter; a lovely little contraption that is implanted into my chest where it connects with a major vein to my heart.  This is where I get all my chemo pumped in from.  Fun stuff!

Being not only a believer in alternative medicine, but also a practitioner, many of my friends were shocked that I chose the conventional route and agreed to chemo.  But what most people don’t know is that I had been dealing with symptoms for months before my diagnosis. I thought the symptoms were connected to the mass, which I thought was a fibroid.  I had been treating these symptoms with many different types of alternative therapies – reiki, shamanism, herbalism, conventional talk therapy, energy medicine, diet, exercise, and more.  NOTHING WAS WORKING!  I knew in my heart at diagnosis that I needed to follow a different, more conventional route in conjunction with my alternative work.  I knew I needed to explore chemo.

There was a period of about 6 weeks between diagnosis and my first dose of chemo.  Once I received my diagnosis, my body and mind let go.  I had been in such pain, on so many levels prior to diagnosis.  But I kept going.  Despite the fact that I had to factor in thirty extra minutes to get ready for work so I could lie down, or that I was getting very little sleep due to pain, I just pushed through.  I was so harsh on myself I would not let myself rest.  So when I got my diagnosis, I stopped fighting and surrendered to whatever I wanted to do.  I stopped working from that night of the phone call.  I got into bed that night and did not leave the house except for doctor’s appointments.  When I did leave the house I needed a wheelchair to get around.  I stopped eating.  Luis and my parents tried endlessly to get me to eat, but they were not very successful.  I might have a few bites of Jell-O here and there or a nibble of yogurt, but nothing substantial.  I became very weak, thin, and slept most of the day.  I existed in a comatose state.  God had finally answered my prayer and granted my wish!  I was dying.

My mother would come over every day and sit with me and rub my legs, worried terribly about my declining health.  My father would come and tend to my gardens so they wouldn’t die.  Luis would cook and clean and do anything to get me to eat.  He also encouraged me to get out of the house, even go for a ride, but I could not muster the energy.  Getting up and down my stairs became a one-step-at-a-time sloooow journey; one that I avoided if I could.  I was totally and completely exhausted.  I was exhausted from my diagnosis, but I was also exhausted from life.  It was as if all of the pain and suffering (physical and emotional) I had forced myself to push through over the years was finally coming to an end and all I had to do, all I could do, was rest.  Deeply rest.  I was not necessarily surrendering to death, I simply had an unwavering need to just rest.  I was so tired from life.  I don’t think I can explain it any better than that right now.

chemoThe day came for my first chemo.  I was in so much pain, so weak, so tired; I didn’t care what was going on.  I took morphine before I left the house and once I arrived, they drugged me up with a cocktail of pre-drugs that knocked me out for the count.  I woke up occasionally only to hallucinate.  I don’t do well on drugs and they were taking full effect upon my mind.  I was having conversations with people that weren’t there and fighting with Luis about objects that were not there, including a book I insisted I was reading – there wasn’t a book in sight.  And if there were, I was in no condition to read.  Apparently I was quite the day’s entertainment for the nurses and staff.  Luis got a kick out of it all too.  After about six hours of crazy shenanigans, Luis was finally able to take me home where I slept until morning.  I continued in my comatose state for a few more days as the chemo side effects kicked in.  By the following week however, something miraculous began to occur.

One morning I woke up and suddenly realized that the horrific pain I had been suffering during the night for the past six months had gone away.  It is a funny thing about pain.  When you feel it so intensely for so long, you get used to it.  When it subsides, it takes a while to recognize its deficiency as your mind is still living as if it were in pain.  This was true for me at least.  I began to notice an incredible sense of peace and love throughout my being with my newfound absence of pain.

The more and more time that passed without pain, the deeper and more poignant the peace and love felt.  For me, it was foreign.  I had never felt this level of love and resulting peace before.  The love I felt in and of itself was unfamiliar.  It wasn’t a love coming from outside of me; it was a love that defined me.  I could feel this force of love surround me that was coming from within as much as it was coming from without.  And what was coming from without was from a solid force of endless, unconditional love.  I suppose it is what some would call God or Goddess or Spirit.  It felt (and still feel) it is so all-encompassing that I could not put a label on it, but I would describe it as a force. This force and I are one.  This force and you are one.  This force is what connects every living thing as one.  This force is where we came from and were we will return.  It is what created us and it runs through every cell in our being.  We are not just a part of this force, nor is it just a part of us – WE ARE THE FORCE.  We can both feel this force as existential as well as emanating from within.

What I was feeling was not only love from Spirit, but love from my self.  This was extraordinary!  Such a stark contrast for how I was feeling at the time of my diagnosis.  I was falling madly in love with myself, just because I existed.  Every night I would feel this force of love surround me and every morning when I woke up I would just bask in it.  I would text my mom about how wonderful it was to be out of pain and write facebook posts about my revelations of self love (I couldn’t talk at the time because of my cough).  This love was healing me from the inside out.  I began to eat again and going on short outings.

I was recognizing that all of the extreme emotional pain I had endured over the years had accumulated in my body as physical pain.  As I began to heal from the physical pain, so too was I healing the emotional pain.  In this amazing state of love, I could really let go of the past and integrate my experiences into growth.  I was now growing, so the cancer didn’t have too. I had finally experienced the totality of rest that my body and mind needed in order to really focus on healing within.

Before my diagnosis or BD, I was all about go, go, go; do, do, do; produce, produce, produce; and do it all while giving the illusion to the rest of the world that I was perfect.  I spent more time wallowing in my own private unhappiness, unworthiness, failures, lack and resulting self-hatred than truly resting and allowing myself to heal and integrate life’s traumas.  I had moments of self-love, but they didn’t last.  I could understand the concept enough to teach about it and to preach about it, but I wasn’t completely experiencing it.  In fact I was experiencing a nightmare of self loathing.  Sort of like the typical irony of the therapist that helps everyone else while her own life is completely in shambles.

The truth is though that I could not felt this level of peace and love without that level of anguish and torture. The mental contrast between the suffering and pain and this new state of love is exactly the space where the healing occurs.  In other words, I needed to really feel the distinction between the sell-hatred and self-love in order to heal.  In other words, I needed the cancer!

In fact, the same goes for all of us.  Hopefully you don’t need cancer, but we all need trauma, drama and pain in order to have the opportunity to integrate and rise. Forget about letting go or releasing.  We can’t release a part of ourselves and the past is a part of us.  But we can integrate the grief and sorrow so that what results is the incredible love and joy of what is right in our life.  Releasing and letting go is like denial.  What we resist persists.  When we dive deep into our truth around pain and suffering there is a self compassion that becomes available.  Should we choose that self compassion it begins to transform into self-love.  That self-love allows for compassion and forgiveness of others, compassion and forgiveness of ourselves and ultimately an integration of the past, resulting in true peace and a deep awareness of the force of love that we are.

I’m not done with life yet.  I had an extraordinary night of dreams about a month ago.  I was being shown aspects of my life’s purpose.  At the moment just before I awoke, I disembodied voice asked me “So, what do you want now?  Do you want to live?”   I paused for maybe two seconds and then answered with a resounding “YES!”  And then my alarm went off and I spent the day with my grandson.

The chemo sucks.  It kicks my ass.  I might spend and entire week in bed. I’m bald, have no eye lashes or eyebrows and feel tired and weak a lot of the time.  Sometimes I get a little nauseous.  Sometimes I get a lot nauseous.  But I can eat again.  I am pain free most of the time.  I can leave the house without the need of a walker or wheelchair.  I am healing beyond expectation.  I have one more chemo session in this round, and then I get a chemo vacation and another scan to see where I am and where I’m headed.  And by the way, those chemo nurses that I entertained that first day – they have become some of my greatest allies and cheerleaders.

Who knows what is going to happen to me.  Perhaps my emotional healing healed my body, the cancer is gone and I will live to be 100.  Perhaps my time is about done here and I’ve got weeks, months, or years to live.  It doesn’t matter really. I say that cancer saved my life because I was not living a life BD (before diagnosis).  Even with my chemo-riddled body, I am living more fully than I ever have.  I’m here right now and right now I plan on basking in that self love and enjoying every minute I have with those I love. I have no intention of wasting precious energy sweating the small stuff.  My hope and wish is that you don’t either.  My prayer now is that somehow, some way my story wakes up anyone who is stuck in the land of unlovability to get the hell out of dodge.  That is no place to live, only to die.  My prayer is that we all slow down enough to feel the force of love that we are move through us and around us and touch the people we love.  I pray that we all get the rest we need before life forces it upon us.

One last thing…stop worrying so much about what you put in your body, and worry more about what you put in your mind.  The body has an incredible intelligence that knows how to process out toxins on its own. Yes, eating well most of the time supports that process.  But you have to think well too.  I believe one reason I’m fairing so well through chemo is because of my herbal medicines, but they can’t do all the work.  I have to show up too.  We are not what we eat, we are what we think!

Let’s just all stop worrying about anything – period.  Worrying is the greatest waste of energy and robs us of being in the moment.

And know this – I love you!

I leave you with this haunting piece I wrote two months before my diagnosis.  Channeled by the Great Goddess Kali herself…

kaliI am Kali. Have you summoned me? You have asked for change and I am here to ignite it. I will cut out of your life what no longer serves you. But I am not nice or gentle about it. I will cut and cut until you bleed into an anemic stupor, just short of literal death. And that is precisely the point. For when you are weak and can no longer fight off the necessary changes, you are forced into surrender. Worry not, as the wounds will heal and become the most beautiful scars. Yes, beautiful! In thier forming is your own death and rebirth into an expression of yourself far grander than your fears would allow. I know it hurts dear one, but I do his out of love. I can see what you can not and what is on the other side of that fear and pain is a joy unimaginable. Sometimes gentle just can’t get the job done. Sometimes what holds you back has formed roots that must be violently torn right up. If you can muster trust in me, it will serve as a mild anesthesia. It won’t completely eliminate the initial pain of my psychic, psyche surgery, but it will make it tolerable. And what is on the other side of your recovery will be the highest high you have ever known. Take a deep breath. Keep breathing. I promise, the pain will end.

bald2aWhat I’d give for a bad hair day!  Anyone who knows me or has spent any amount of time with me knows how obsessive I am with my hair.  In the 7th grade, when I began using tools and hairspray on my hair, I would spend hours trying to get it just right. Then I would pack on so much hairspray, Aqua Net to be precise, that my hair felt like a helmet.  I would turn my whole body with my head as to not undo the locks from their perfect place.  And now, it’s gone; all gone!

Chemo sucks indeed.  Yes, it is a necessary evil right now with stage IV ovarian metastatic cancer that has spread to my lungs, liver and lymph nodes, but it sucks ass.  Yet, in my 2 out of 6 rounds of having the deadly poison pumped into the port catheter conveniently implanted into my chest, I am finally free of the devastating pain I was in before my diagnosis. So in a way, I am grateful for the war being waged within my body for it seems to be having an effect despite the large tumor still protruding from my abdomen.  And of course there is the weight loss – another upside from this nasty disease.  Fortunately I am not gaunt, just back to my ideal weight and glad that I didn’t throw away all of my skinny clothes even though I haven’t fit into any of them for years.

Chemo makes me feel like crap, weak and tired, but the hardest part is being bald. Unfortunately my bathroom is comprised of three walls of mirrors.  Every time I walk in there I am painfully reminded of my circumstances.  Even after almost of month without hair, I still walk in there, catching a glimpse of my profile out of the corner of my eye and for a split second I think to myself “who is that?  She looks like someone with cancer.”  Oh yeah, it’s me.  I’m the one with cancer.  Fuck!

I face my own image full on in the mirror and feel momentary pity for the poor girl staring back at me.  However I quickly shift that pity to a sentiment of it-is-what-it-is and move on. I can only hope that I get used to my appearance soon, otherwise those mirrors are going to have to come down. I mean seriously, how’s a girl supposed to heal when she is constantly reminded of a suffering self-esteem thanks to chemo-induced baldness.

Then there are the looks I get when I go out into public.  There’s the fearful pity look that predominantly comes from women probably 10 years older than me.  Clearly they have their own inner struggle between their honest fear of reality and the pity they think is more appropriate.  And the second-take male look.  Not sure I have that one figured out, but men will look at me then do a double take.  Of course there is the curious child.  That one doesn’t bother me so much.  There’s also the look from someone I know that has no clue and is seeing me for the first time in months and I’m now bald and skinny.  They don’t know what to do or say…what do you say when you see someone who is all of the sudden bald?  I quickly put their curiosity to rest and fill them in on my recent diagnosis.  But the freak-out award goes to an unidentified gal who crossed a cross walk opposite me.  She was coming straight at me, paying no attention to me but rather to see if the coast was clear to cross.  By the time she felt assured it was she was a few feet in front of me and we almost collided. She took one look at me and gasped.  She then gave me a wide berth as she continued crossing.  I couldn’t help but giggle and the smart ass in me had to announce loud enough for her to hear that cancer was indeed not contagious and she didn’t have to worry about going bald from possibly being in my airs pace.

This is NOT the life I had planned for myself!  After all, I ate well 80% of the time.  I am a practicing herbalist, I am a healer, I am a spiritual teacher – this wasn’t supposed to happen to me.  Except that, it did!  I cleared a lot of toxins out of my life 4 years ago and continue to clean things up wherever I can.  I eat organic whenever I can.  Come on!  WTF!  Cancer?!  Stage IV?!  Damnit!

The truth is though, it can happen to anyone.  Cancer does not give a hoot who you are, how healthy you eat, or any other so-called defining marker that you mistakenly think keeps you safe from disease.  The question is not “why me?”  The question is, “WHY NOT ME?  Really, who do we think we are when we ask “why me?”  We can follow all the rules we think we are supposed to follow in life, in any situation, but NOTHING prevents bad things from happening to us; not positive thoughts, not clear chakras, not yoga, not green smoothies, not organic food, not even prayers, NOTHING!  Of course those things may lower our odds, but they do not offer all out prevention.

This does not however mean we live in fear or give up on spirituality or our healthy path.  What this does mean is that we truly strive to live in the present moment.  We absolutely let go of the bullshit from the past; leave it behind!  We must make love a priority as well as time spent with loved ones.  Quit worrying about security or safety because it doesn’t exist. Put joy in front of your career path. Better yet, include joy with your career path.  Because if you are not loving what you are doing every day then what is the point?  Please, take it from someone who has to face their own waning mortality, joy and love are everything.  I have no idea how long I have left on this planet.  Neither do you.  You may not have cancer, but you could die tomorrow from a number of causes. Right now my only focus is on healing and I do that by feeling as good as I can and surrounding myself with as much love as I can.  But if you are reading this and not actively healing or dying, then please commit to living joyfully in the present and focusing on the people that you love.  To be perfectly cliché, don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff!  And even if you are actively healing or dying, the advice is the same.

I guess my baldness is small stuff eh?  That’s why I posted a raw, bald picture of me here.  Because it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.  It only matters that I focus on why I’m bald – because I am actively healing.  I am in treatment because I want more time to love. I want more time to feel joy.  I want to watch my daughter be a mother and see my grandson grow.  I want to spend as much time and share as much love with my aging parents as possible.  I want to feel the arms of my lover around me for as long I can.  These are my treasured gifts as I walk my human path.

So I leave you with this very important question – what are your treasured gifts on your human path and what is their priority in your life?

Your support for Melinda’s medical expenses is so very appreciated. Every little bit counts.  Click below to to show your support.

Winter Blessings!

I hope that you are in the middle of enjoying the peace of the holiday season.  The seeming stressors of Christmas should be well behind now and the anticipation of a new year and a new cycle are gratefully on the horizon.  As we approach 2015, I am noticing a great deal of preparation for transition and transformation.  Preparation can happen in a medley of ways – anything that causes us to slow way down and be still is our illuminated self implementing a process that prepares us for big change.

I know change can be scary.  As humans we naturally fear the unknown.  In modern times that fear can manifest as deep anxiety when mystery is involved.  Our ancestors used earth-based spiritual beliefs and ceremonies to ward off the anxiety associated with the unknown and instead glorified mystery as a sacred, unavoidable aspect of life.  Indigenous Americans term this as “The Great Mystery.”  Over time this term has become synonymous with The Great Spirit, but there is a subtle difference.  Mystery is a part of life.  The more we accept this gracefully, the more peace we invite into our existence.

476494ed5be9ea68b8963a9e5cf15323I personally have been forced into slow mode with an odd flu-like illness that has lasted over two weeks.  This extended period of doing basically nothing has provided me with a great deal of introspection time and communing with Spirit.  I’ll be honest, some of the time when I was really feeling tired of being sick my inquiries to Spirit were something along the lines of “enough is enough….I’m done with this!  What the F@$% is going on?”  But as the illness winds down and I am slowly reemerging back into daily life, there is a synthesis that is occurring and the bigger picture is becoming clear.

As a New Year’s gift to you, I have decided to do a general 2015 card spread and take a peak at what is ahead in the New Year.  The synthesis I have been feeling became even clearer as the cards were laid and my intuition pointed me to the meaning of the spread as a whole and how it impacts all of us.

I think I can sum 2015 up with the words “cleaning out our closets.”  Closets would be metaphor for our psyches.  The angels are showing me that collectively it is vitally important to our wellbeing, personal progress and human evolution to take a deep look at our beliefs.  We all have imbedded beliefs deep within our subconscious that are ready to come out of hiding and be displayed on the bookshelf.  Shadows formed from our past do not disappear, and when they are hidden, they can cause trouble.  When they are illuminated, they loose their power and can be transformed into useful fuel to propel us forward.  Shadow and light are both normal aspects of human life.  Hiding or ignoring our shadow self is not only futile, but ultimately, harmful.

Some of us have gotten a head start on this process.  This has been necessary so that we can assist those who might have a harder time cleaning out the closet.  There is no wrong or right on who’s had a head start and who might struggle with this.  There must be no judgment involved in this process.  In fact, that is one aspect of our beliefs that would benefit from a deep cleaning.  Where are we judging ourselves or others?

What other beliefs might we be buying into that are not true?  Is there a story we are telling ourselves that is not real?  Whomever you were in your past is not who you are today.  We are constantly and consistently changing.  New aspects of ourselves are requesting to emerge, but they need those old beliefs that are no longer true to move aside.  This is always true, not just for 2015.  There are always new aspects of ourselves that are emerging.  However, I am being shown that this is a year in which unveiling our beliefs will be happening on many different levels; personally and globally.  It will also be happening at an accelerated rate, which at times might seem shocking.

Spirit is reminding us also that we must not get caught up in getting too serious with the task.  We must remember to play and invoke joy.  We must be as equal in our diligence to play and be playful as we are in exploring our beliefs.  This lightness will help us embrace the changes that will be occurring.  For some of us, these may be big changes.  For others, they may be on a smaller scale, but still quite poignant.  Play and playfulness however is the prescription for us all.

There are two animal allies that appeared to assist us in our endeavors.  The first was Dragonfly.  But of course – the one who helps us see through illusions!  If you find Dragonfly appearing in your life, in any form (in person, in pictures, in dreams, etc.) be open to seeing through the illusions of old beliefs.  If you are looking for assistance in this process, call upon Dragonfly for help.

The other animal ally was Black Panther.  She helps us to embrace mystery, so it makes perfect sense for her to appear as a guide upon our journey.  Should you find yourself needing to know how it all is going to work out, allow yourself to surrender to mystery.  Call upon Black Panther to help you through the unknown and trust in Spirit to know what you are not meant to know.  You don’t always need to understand where an old belief might have come from to be willing to let it go.  If you discover a belief that is no longer serving you, don’t waste a great deal of time trying to figure out the “whys” and just be willing to surrender it. And again, be watching for her to appear in dreams or pictures or any creative way.  Unless you live in the jungle, it is doubtful she will show up in person unless it is in her miniature form of a black cat.

So 2015 is about change, letting go of the old beliefs that block this necessary change, and embracing new beliefs that put us on our pathway of wisdom.  Remember that you don’t have to go at it all alone.  Engage with your tribe, your community, your friends and loved ones.  Seek out mentors and healers that can assist you on your journey.  If you are a healer or mentor, remember that you need support as well.  Surgeons don’t operate on themselves.  Healers and mentors work optimally when they have a source of support to turn to and are aware and evolved enough to know this truth.

Should you desire to dive a little deeper and examine your own beliefs, be prepared for the changes on the horizon, or explore any issues currently occurring in your life, contact me and make an appointment!

Wishing you a joyful and harmonious 2015!

Melinda

Holy crap it is dark in my house right now! It is about 3:00PM and adding to the fact that in the little canyon where I live it gets dark a bit earlier than an elevated or flat area, it is also a rare cloudy day here in So Cal. And still no rain – ugh! But even if it were not cloudy, it would be fairly dark already due to the time of year. It always seems to sneak up on us doesn’t it? I am a morning person, so I am definitely enjoying more morning light now that the clock changed, but some alterations are required for my afternoon/evening if I am going to survive the dark months without slipping into depression and falling into bed by 6:00PM every night. How do you fare in the darker months? If you are like a large portion of the population, you might suffer a bit (or a lot) from SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It happens. There is a fancy name for it now, but our ancestors were well aware of what happens in the dark…and they adapted. So can we, but it takes awareness, acceptance and surrender if we are going to thrive through the fall/winter. And what we learn from nourishing ourselves through the darkness can also help us create nourishing habits for any time that depression sets in, or what I refer to as “the demons getting too loud.”

43e2881e3851702d415f76c6f8faf7daI noticed at a very young age that in the dark, everything seems worse. And if I let those demons get too loud, things can snowball out of control and the next thing I know I’m feeling like my world will end and sometimes I even end up in tears. Once the sun rises, I realize that I conjured up things in my mind that weren’t true – well, the demons did anyhow. That is what I call the negative “monkey mind,” because those monkeys lie. They are not voices, but thoughts; untrue thoughts. As a deep thinker, I can get caught up in over thinking which is when those damn demons pipe in. Of course I can get caught up in over thinking anytime; usually when I am out of harmony like being over tired or having too much chaos around me. But when it is dark, well, the demons like the dark. On occasion I take them out for dinner and feed them, which quiets them a bit. But I must employ an alternative voice that counters their efforts, daily; particularly when the little buggers wake me up in the middle of the night and start their lies.

Being a 45 year old woman in a world that over-values youth, I’ve noticed in the last few years those wretched demons have gotten louder. Some days they tell me I’m fat, or I’m too old, or undereducated, or not making enough money, or ugly, or not a good enough mom – the list goes on and on. And not one of those things is true. They are all outright abominable lies! So I created a deeply loving, nurturing and nourishing inner voice that shuts them right up. She has always been there of course, but she was too quiet for too long. So I gave her some voice lessons and got her to speak loud and clear. She is especially effective at 3:00AM when the demons think they can come out and play. She refocuses my thoughts on gratitude, which is like kryptonite to negativity. She also calls me endearing names like lovey, baby girl, sweet thing, precious, etc. She tells the truth, always. Even when the truth might be a little tough to hear, she speaks it in a loving and uplifting tone.

I haven’t given her a name per se. I simply call her nourishment. If I’m feeling down, I ask myself what is the most nourishing thing I can do for myself right now. Sometimes it is to just let go and have a down, depressed moment (or more than a moment). There are times when that is nourishing. But most of the time, she offers empowering suggestions that lift me up. So I thought I would share some of her encouraging advice with you in case you have similar demons to mine, or know someone who does. It is especially helpful during the dark months, when our shadow selves ask for some attention. They certainly need attention, which is why I take the demons to dinner. That is just my metaphor for honoring the shadow self. Our shadow self gets loud sometimes because it is trying to lead us to wisdom. Our shadow is asking us to go deep into ourselves and look for places that need nourishment – hence feeding the demons. By feeding them every now and then, we can see where we are lacking true nourishment.

Here are some ways we can nourish ourselves through the dark months:

• Go ahead and go to bed a little earlier! How about honoring the rhythms of the earth instead of fighting them. We all would benefit greatly from getting 8+ hours of sleep each night. Know your personal rhythms. If you are naturally a night owl, rejoice in this time of year! You just got more dark and can still get to bed early. If you are a morning person like me, go ahead and go to bed early, then wake up with the sun. Make good use of the daylight you have. When it gets dark, go ahead and wind down without feeling guilty. Yeah, guilt is one of those demons.

• Get your movement in! Movement is the creator of endorphins – the feel-good hormones. Explore when is the best time for you to get your movement in and make a commitment to yourself to do it. I like the mornings. I hike 3 miles almost every day with my dogs. I like to get out into nature and get those endorphins flowing early on and use them throughout the day. But I also like a little light movement in the evening, like yoga or a gentle walk. Want to hear something funny…sometimes I run around the first floor of my home for 10 minutes in the evening. The cats think I’m nuts. But if I’m already in my comfies, and I don’t want to put on walking shoes, I just run barefoot or in socks around the house. It helps me sleep better too. I’m not suggesting you do the same, just do what is nourishing for you. But I thought at least the visual might give you a chuckle. Movement every day is nourishing to everyone, but it is especially important in the dark months.

• Get in your vitamin N – vitamin Nature! Don’t let cooler weather, or for those outside of California, sometimes freezing weather deter you. Bundle up, grab the pups if you have them, maybe a friend, or even go at it alone and get outside. The light, even when cloudy, still gets in through the eyes and feeds the body and soul by increasing your serotonin and dopamine, the other happy hormones. Try to do it without sunglasses, for a few minutes at least.

• Get good nutrition! Nourishing your body nourishes your brain, and your soul. These days I realize good nutrition has a different definition for everyone. It is like parenting styles. Whatever type of diet you prefer, make sure to get in plenty of good fats. If you are not vegan, plenty of animal fats like grass fed butter, organic full-fat dairy, organic meats, etc. They will also help keep healthy levels of feel-good hormones pumping strong. Consider some nourishing bone broths. They’re warm and deeply nutritive. I don’t do the smoothie thing for a variety of reasons, but I do drink nourishing herbal infusions (different from teas). My favorites for the blues are Nettle and Oatstraw. I rotate through more than that, but I drink extra when I need upliftment. Also consider sources of vitamin D if you live in areas that don’t get a lot of sun. Salmon is an excellent source. That is why it is so abundant in the Northwest by the way. Nature takes care of her peeps! Cheese and egg yolks are good too.

• Get in plenty of time with community! It is easy to hunker down and read, or write, or watch TV this time of year. Nothing wrong with that. But make sure you have harmony between down time and community time. If you have kids and/or a partner, play games, have daily family dinners, and do projects together. If you don’t have kids, or are empty nesting it like me with a partner who works A LOT, take a class, offer a class, get together with friends, go to a drum circle – just don’t hermit too much. I’m definitely guilty of hermiting too much, but my nourishing voice nudges me to get out at least one night a week for some community nourishment. Pets are great, and they help, but we also need human connection. I’m known to teach evening classes during the dark months and the main reason is to ensure I get a community fix. For those of you local, what class would you like to see me teach this season?

• Get in plenty of gratitude! I don’t know about you, but I can physically feel when depression begins to seep in. For example, in the middle of the night when the demons get loud. This is when I use gratitude like a tuning fork. I begin to focus on all of the people I am grateful for and why, all of the experiences I’ve had, and even those yet to come. I might reflect on that day, or that week, or even that year. It’s ok if you are grateful for the same thing over and over. It is not a creativity contest. But sincerity is crucial. Draw attention to how your body feels when you are in gratitude. There is a kinesthetic shift in the body when we start focusing on things that make us feel good, like what we are grateful for. I used to have a terrible time refocusing my mind when the demons get too loud in the middle of the night. I’d attempt to visualize something joyful and before I knew it, those sneaky little turds worked their way back into my thoughts. But counting my blessings is far better than trying to count sheep. As my mind reaches for what I am grateful for, there is a magical effect that occurs that puts both me and my demons back to sleep.

Lastly, if you have not already, please create your own nourishing inner voice. It takes conscious awareness and practice, but it won’t be long until new neural pathways are made and she/he becomes louder and louder. When you catch yourself unconsciously allowing the demons to run amuck, invoke that voice of nourishment! Let it tell you that you are adorable, beautiful, have an amazing heart, are of such incredible value just for being you and that you are so very needed in this world. Because that is truth! Yes, we will all age, we might gain or loose weight, maybe we let opportunities go or think we pursued the wrong ones, we are not perfect parents, partners, friends or relatives, nor could we ever be, but we are always doing the best we can. When we are nourished, we make nourished choices and have nourishing thoughts. When we are depleted, we make depleted choices and the demons rule our thoughts. Choosing to listen to the nourishing voice is the true pathway to self love. Self love is not a final destination that you will master, so let go of that notion of nonsense. We will always have moments, days, and weeks even of self loathing. That is how we know what self love really is. The contrast between self loathing and self love is exactly what we came here for. Conscious awareness is our practice that leads us to loving all of our self; the demons and the shadow as well as the glorious light that is our ultimate truth.

Enjoy the fall/winter season.  It will pass as all things do.

Many Native American tribes were matrilineal before the Europeans came along.  Women held great power and respect in these communities cntv_110221_hc_joshua_hinson_09and when a child was born, she/he was a descendant of the mother’s clan, not the father’s as is typical today.  The sweat lodge was actually a counterpart to the women’s moon lodge, originating out of a desire for men to release and restore similarly to women. The ancient ones knew of women’s great power and revered it.  The newcomer’s feared it.  And sadly, what humans typically do when we fear something is demonize it.  And so the devolution of women’s power began.  And when truth re-surfaces, the evolution can start a healing spiral of veneration for all.

I recently heard a woman ask if it was ok to prepare herbal remedies if she was in her moon time (menstruation.)  Huh?!  She was of Native decent, and being that women are often forbidden from certain ceremonies during their moon time, she figured it might also apply to herbal preparations as well.  The common reason that gets reiterated as to why women are forced to refrain from ceremonies during menstruation is that they are too powerful and will somehow affect the ceremony negatively.  Really?!  Please excuse the expletive, but I call bullshit!

I believe the underlying truth is that historically men have feared women’s power, and once again, what one fears, one must make “bad.”  I’m not blaming or bashing, nor am I lumping all men into this belief.  In fact, I think evolved men would agree.  It’s much easier to say we are dirty when we menstruate, or give birth, or bitchy as we move through our natural hormonal dance.  And so, as the celebration of women’s power evolved into the demonization of it with the arrival of a new culture, we were banished from the ceremonies if we bled.  With the evolution of women’s rights of course, it became much safer and politically correct to say that we were too powerful to join in ceremony.  As if that would somehow sooth, keep us from resisting and just go with the flow (no pun intended).

Unfortunately, much of the pre-European history of Indigenous American people has been lost. They often followed an oral tradition, and soon enough the truth was educated right out.  However, thankfully, tidbits of wisdom are still in-tact, even if not well known. Here are a few videos that might surprise you and make you think twice about the “herstory” of women’s power.

http://www.powwows.com/2014/09/10/matrilineal-societies-women-with-power-and-respect/

And let me be clear, I am not referring to women’s power as something that is somehow greater than men.  Neither is greater than the other.  Both genders have an equally shared responsibility with their power.  Claiming it and owning it never equates to an abuse of power.  One of the important first steps we must take as humankind, as we continue our evolution on this planet, is to honor one another.  The only way we can truly create peace is for both genders to equally respect and revere one another.  To me, gender equality is not about any woman being able to do what any man does, or vice versa.  Gender equality is about an equal distribution of power and truly finding admiration with each other.  Sadly however, the pendulum still leans deeply in the patriarchal field and women’s power is still not honored or even acknowledged in some areas of the planet.

The Dali Lama is quoted as saying “The world will be saved by the Western Woman.”  How ironic that Western women were once the leaders of this country…before it was a country.  My hope is that we the Western women wake up.  I mean really wake up.  No groggy sleep-walking, claiming we are awake and then feeling shame about our female essence.  I’m including myself in this desire, for I can admit that at times I can sleep-walk as well as anyone.  We need men’s support as we do this.  As Western women, we can waive our feminist flag all we want, but what good is it if we just become so harsh that we disown our nature?  Aren’t we then trying to fight fire with fire?  From what I’ve seen, more fire might make a good band-aide, but water is really the best remedy.

I’m proposing that our feminine nature, our juicy power, our lusciousness – in whatever way we desire to express it – is how we can nudge that pendulum out of patriarchy and into a natural swing of harmony; back and forth, sharing power, reciprocally.  As we honor and reconnect with the ancient ones, we reawaken women’s natural power, which is harmonious with all of life.  This is how the world will be saved by the Western woman.

Aho!

I heard a song recently titled “I Am light.”  Lovely title isn’t it?  The lyrics are just as charming, speaking about not being our pain, not being our past, not being the things people have done to us, but being light at the core of who we are.  I believe this to be true.  But how do we experience this truth?  After all, day in and day out we live in a physical body and in a physical world that projects suffering from so many angles.  With the complexity of our human mind, believing and actually experiencing the truth that we are light can be a challenging quest that often seems to lead only to fleeting moments of any real awareness of our light – our Spirit – our God-self.  Anyone on a spiritual path pursuing spiritual growth knows of the many practices and journeys involved in seeking such awareness.

There is one practice that I discovered 15 years ago that truly opened my awareness of my light.  Whenever I engage in this practice, I sink deep into my body, feeling every cell of my being while simultaneously feeling connected to my spirit and my oneness with the Great Spirit.  This sensation lasts for hours, sometimes days.  The more I do it, the happier I am.  The amazing aspect of this practice is that it engages body, mind and spirit.  It is not a passive practice like meditation or listening to music; it is an active practice that requires gentle physical involvement.  It is an activity that has been practiced since the first humans walked this planet, in every corner of the world.  Every culture has roots to this practice, and in many parts of the planet it is still utilized today.  It truly is etched deep in our DNA, for no matter our cultural background, this practice was present at one point or another.  It is also something that anyone can do, at any age.

020 (2)Drumming!  And to a similar extent, dancing and singing or chanting.  These are all activities that our ancestors engaged in.  These activities were a part of everyday life.  They were healthcare for the community.  No one needed training.  No one was told they had no rhythm or a voice not good enough to sing.  Where community is strong in cultures around the world today, you will still find people engaging in making music, dancing or singing.  No one is a spectator; everyone participates, young and old.  And although they may not articulate as much, when they drum or dance or sing – they experience their light.  They experience joy and happiness.  They feel connected to their community as a valued member with something precious to contribute.  These innate elements of creating rhythm with others is sweet medicine to the body, mind and soul; medicine so many are missing out on today.  This missing medicine I believe to be a big part of why so many people feel disconnected, disenfranchised, depressed, ill, and overall unhealthy in today’s world.

Because we have evolved so far away from such activities in western culture, drumming is often a safe beginning activity to get our feet wet and reconnect to our light as we drink in the delicious awareness of our spirit.  Anyone can pick up a drum like a djembe or frame drum and play it.  And when a group of people come together and play drums – magic happens; literally!  I’ve witnessed it hundreds of times with people from all walks of life, all ages, and all backgrounds.  I’ve seen reticence morph into ecstasy in less than 30 minutes.  It just never gets old.  I get a double whammy of light every time I lead a drumming event because not only am I experiencing my spirit, but I’m watching everyone around me experience theirs.

Honestly, you don’t need a drum though to unleash this divine connection to your light.  Something a simple as a tiny egg shaker can connect you to your rhythm, which is the real essence that exposes the light.  Even objects around your home can be used to make some sacred noise.  A basic rhythm such as a heartbeat rhythm played repeatedly for at last 10 minutes or longer will actually shift your energy.  This isn’t something I’ve hypothesized, this is scientific fact.  Dr. Barry Bittman has done extensive research into the effects of group drumming.  To summarize one of his most notable findings, cancer fighting antibodies were found in the blood of a group of people drumming together that were not there prior.  I would hypothesize however that it was not so much the drumming that manifested these antibodies, but the group of people connecting with their rhythm and making music together that made the magic.  It is rhythm that is the direct link to our light, regardless of the medium.

Our ancestors may not have had the knowledge we do today about rhythm, but they certainly had the wisdom.  They knew the power of rhythm and how it affects the community as a whole, which in a healthy society is the health of the people; body, mind and spirit.

So the next time you are feeling down, disconnected, unsure of your light – drum, dance or sing.  Better yet, find a group of people to do it with.  Let go of any inhibitions about rhythm; those would be just part of an untrue story.  No one is truly without rhythm; it is a biological impossibility.  We might find ourselves disconnected from our awareness of it, but just like our light, our inner spirit, it is there…always.  The more you explore rhythm, the more connected to it you will feel.

Be forewarned though – connecting with your rhythm has been proven to ignite states of joy, harmony, ecstasy, peace and a lasting awareness of the light within.  So don’t blame me if you find yourself in a space of exhilarated happiness from drumming or dancing or singing – thank me.

In Rhythm & Harmony

Melinda

 

 

 

 

How well do you sleep?  I hear so many people complain that they aren’t sleeping well, particularly women, especially women between 30 and 60.  What I come across commonly is that they can fall asleep, but have trouble staying asleep.  There are also those that have trouble getting the mind to shut down so they can nod off.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Unfortunately, I am no stranger to difficulties in sleeping.  However it has improved significantly in the last few years with only a few days out of a month that I might have trouble.  I have contemplated regularly what the right recipe is for good sleep.  Sometimes I think I have it, only to encounter one of those rare nights where I either can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep.  Then I heard an interview recently with my favorite herbal mentor, spilling the beans on what she believes to be the secret sauce for good sleep…Stinging Nettle!

Doh!  Are you slamming your palm against your forehead right now thinking “here we go again with the Stinging Nettle?”  Yes, I have written on this topic before.  And if you know me personally, you know I praise this weed like it is gold and have probably encouraged you to make some.  It is gold!  But I have new information that may not only lead you to better sleep, but what if I told you that Nettle, along with other nourishing herbs, are the simple, affordable pathway to hormonal harmony.  Friends, when I hear something that I know can empower and assist people, and they probably don’t even know about it, I want to sing it from the mountaintops!

I’m not going to repeat myself on the surplus of nourishing components to Stinging Nettle infusion.  You can read about that here https://pathwaysofwisdom.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/stinging-nettle-how-i-love-theeand-so-should-you/.  Instead, I want to share how this weed can lead you to the sleep you lust for along with its ability to support your body in proper hormone production, and throw in a few other golden nuggets of wisdom.

infusions2First let me say that I LOVE my nourishing infusions!  What is an infusion you ask?  It is NOT a tea!  I repeat, NOT A TEA!  Nettle tea, or any other herbal tea might be delightful to drink, but there is no nutritional, nourishing, or healing value (besides the enjoyment factor).  There is simply just not enough herb in a tea and it is not steeped long enough to extract all of the goodies that any particular herb contains.  An infusion is a large amount of nourishing herb “steeped” for an extended period of time, 4 to 10 hours, allowing the hot water to extract the gems our body requires.

It is also important to note that a not all herbs can be made into an infusion.  The term “nourishing” indicates the type of herb that is used.  There are four main categories for herbs – nourishing, tonifying, stimulating/sedating and potentially poisonous.  For further information, you can check out my blog post https://pathwaysofwisdom.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-wisdom-of-healing-allies/.  One must be mindful and respectful when working with the Earth’s healing jewels.  All but nourishing herbs should not necessarily be taken excessively or indefinitely.  Nourishing herbs however are essentially food and there is no known risk of overdose, nor unwanted side effects.  The above referenced blog post also explores herbs in food form such as infusions or tinctures vs. capsules or pills as well as the importance of working with them one at a time.

So how does Stinging Nettle help us sleep?  Well, it is an extraordinarily powerful adrenal ally.  When we wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, it is often due to adrenal burn out, or what is commonly called adrenal fatigue.  Your adrenals are supremely important to the overall health of your entire body.  Yes, all organs are important and they are all connected, but the adrenals are not holding up well with modern, western societal demands.  Simply put, the adrenals manufacture certain vital hormones, such as cortisol, the stress hormone.  Too much stress over long periods of time leads to too much cortisol, which leads to sleep impediment (along with a slew of other symptoms).  Taxing the adrenals in that way with an over production of cortisol and other stress hormones exhausts the adrenal glands rendering them dysfunctional and therefore altering the appropriate balance of hormones in the body, including those that keep sex hormones stabilized.  The adrenals were just not designed for an overly stressed life style.

Now Nettle won’t dissolve your stress.  Only you can do that.  But you can certainly support your adrenals along your journey of lowering stress in your life and continue to nourish them for the unavoidable stressors that will always be present from time-to-time.  I love my Nettle infusion and have been drinking it for several years now, along with other nourishing infusions.  But I too encounter busyness or forgetfulness and miss it some days.  I have finally connected the dots and now notice that when I do miss it for more than a few days, my sleep is not as sound, even downright sucky if I’m gong through periods of high stress.  Putting this puzzle together has motivated me even more to keep on top of my nourishing infusions, which includes Nettle.  In fact, I rotate through the various nourishing herbs, but I drink Nettle daily; sometimes several glasses a day during extended activity demands or periods of high stress.

So by now I’m guessing you are also starting to recognize the connection between Nettle and hormonal harmony.  Over production or under production of sex hormones, as affected by the adrenals, also impede sleep along with causing a landslide of other unpleasant experiences.  Again, stress is an important factor in harmonized hormones, but we can also nourish and support our body, providing optimum nutrition that goes beyond food.  Food is important of course, but most of us don’t eat perfectly each and every day.  Nourishing infusions provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals our body needs without any need for further supplementation.  It is also affordable, doesn’t require fancy machinery, or gobs and gobs of organic produce.

But Nettle certainly isn’t the only nourishing herb that is helpful to hormonal harmony.  Here is an excerpt from Susun Weed (my favorite herbal mentor) in an article she wrote on how minerals make the difference:

“By 2015 half of the female population of the United States will be post-menopausal. But this group of post-menopausal women won’t be old fuddy-duddies with broken hips, heart attacks, and failing memories. Women of today expect to emerge from menopause energetic, zesty, and passionate! Are hormones necessary? No! Wise women nourish their hearts, bones, and spirits with simple, safe mineral-rich herbs.

Herbs, especially the weedy ones, are minerals powerhouses. Getting those minerals isn’t as easy as taking a tincture (alcohol extracts little to no minerals) or swallowing a pill (minerals are poorly utilized from encapsulated herbs) but it isn’t difficult either. At the Wise Woman Center we include mineral-rich herbs in our daily diet; it’s easy, tasty, and very rewarding. How do we do it?  Drink 1-2 cups nourishing herbal infusion each day.

Herbal infusions differ from herbal teas: They are darker in color and richer tasting because their long brewing extracts many more nutrients — especially minerals. My favorite nourishing herbal infusions for menopausal women are oatstraw, red clover blossoms, stinging nettle leaves, and comfrey leaves.

To prepare your infusion: Put a quart of cold water up to boil. Weigh one ounce of dried (not fresh!) herb into a quart canning jar. Go brush your teeth and count your grey hairs until the teapot whistles. Pour the boiling water into the jar with your herb (only one herb at a time, please!), screw on a tight lid, turn off the light, and go to bed. Next morning strain out the herb and drink the liquid: cold, hot, or at room temperature. Add honey, tamari, or milk if desired.

Oatstraw (Avena sativa) has a mellow taste. It eases frazzled nerves, lowers cholesterol, improves circulation, strengthens bones, eases headaches, relieves depression and encourages us to be sexy old ladies!

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) infusion not only builds bones, and prevents cancer, it reduces serum cholesterol (protecting heart health) and helps maintain strong pelvic tissues –thus preventing incontinence, lowered libido, atrophic vaginitis, and uterine prolapse. Red clover contains ten times more phytoestrogens than soy, without soy’s bone-damaging, thyroid-impairing side-effects.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) infusion contains more than 500 milligrams of calcium per cup. (Nettle tea has none, neither does the tincture.) Nettle strengthens adrenal functioning, promotes sound sleep, increases overall energy, prevents allergic reactions, strengthens the blood vessels, and prevents hair loss.

Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum x) is controversial. Ingestion of its roots can cause severe liver congestion. The leaves are safe, though labeled otherwise. Comfrey leaf infusion helps maintain good vaginal lubrication, strengthens the bones, protects against cancer, soothes painful joints, and improves mental functioning.”

I have not tried comfrey or oatstraw yet, but have an order on the way.  I’ll let you know.  I love the taste of red clover.  Red raspberry, which is not mentioned above is also a great nourishing herb for infusion, and I drink that regularly.  It has a strong taste, but a little peppermint mixed in helps, which does not interfere with the medicinal qualities of the herb.  I use ample peppermint with my Nettle, and I will admit it was an acquired taste.  It has such high chlorophyll content that it tastes a little like a fish tank at first.  But within a day or two of first trying it, you’ll notice level energy throughout the day and excellent sleep at night, which is what we all want isn’t it?

So cheers <clink> to you!  May you be blessed with hormonal harmony and a beautiful night’s sleep.  And please do leave a comment and let me know your experiences with nourishing herbs.

Harmonious Blessings,

Melinda

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 229 other followers

%d bloggers like this: