Tag Archives: holistic

‘Basic Elements of Meditation Practice,’ More Incredible AudioDharma Teachings from Tara Brach

                                                                                                                                                   Tara Brach

Yes, I am writing about Tara Brach again.  Her teachings have been having a huge impact on me.  I started this blog as a place to share things that I believe have the power to change the quality of peoples’ lives, specifically in the arena of health.  From a holistic perspective our mental and physical health are inseparable, both spheres affecting one another.  When something like Mindfulness Meditation begins to have a positive effect on one’s life they can’t help but want to share it with as many people as possible.

One of the biggest things stopping people from receiving the benefits of meditation is a misunderstanding of the goal.  The idea isn’t to clear your mind or completely stop thought, but to accept what is happening in your mind at the given moment, without judgement, attachment, or aversion.  The ups and downs of life are inevitable and this ability to accept can greatly improve the way we face these undulations.  Few can explain the subtleties of this to a Western audience better than Tara Brach.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

In February she released a two-part series on her podcast called ‘Basic Elements of Meditation Practice.’  The teachings are nice for people who want to start meditating, but have had trouble getting started, while at the same time they are useful for those looking to go deeper into their own understanding.  The lectures show us that meditation doesn’t have to be complicated and should never be difficult.  Often times the quality of intention is what counts, viewing it as something you look forward too, rather than a chore or another thing we should be doing. She expounds on the importance of consistency over length of session, especially when getting started.  She beautifully relates this to the cycles of nature and how coming back each and every day creates a rhythm, even if it’s just sitting on the cushion for a few minutes when we wake up or before we go to bed.  I can’t recommend this series enough to anyone interested in simple, easy-to-follow guidance.  I will close with a poem Brach shares at the end of Part 2.  Namaste.

Peace is This Moment Without Judgment

“Do you think peace requires an end to war?
Or tigers eating only vegetables?
Does peace require an absence from
your boss, your spouse, yourself? …
Do you think peace will come some other place than here?
Some other time than Now?
In some other heart than yours?

Peace is this moment without judgment.
That is all. This moment in the Heart-space
where everything that is is welcome.
Peace is this moment without thinking
that it should be some other way,
that you should feel some other thing,
that your life should unfold according to your plans.

Peace is this moment without judgment,
this moment in the heart-space where
everything that is is welcome. ”
-Dorothy Hunt


Origins Movie, free until Sunday, November 23rd, don’t miss!

“Four years, 19 countries, and 24 experts in anthropology, medicine, ecology, and health have exposed the roots of our DNA and how to prevent the modern world from making you sick.”

Watch the Origins movie here!  Free until Sunday. November 23rd, 2014.

Are you looking to take your health into your own hands?

This movie provides a basic overview, with a positive spin of course, of where the modern world is headed and how we can take care of ourselves given the issues we face.  It talks about the importance of looking back towards millenia of tradition before stepping forward.  It also reminds us to vote with our wallets by stopping giving money to the people who are making us sick. I really enjoyed it and hope you do too.

The Beautiful Benefits of Self-Reiki Everyday


The above quote is a beautiful prayer, as well as the precepts or principles of Reiki. Even for those who don’t practice Reiki, reciting these words can be a wonderful way to start the day on a positive note and go forth with a pleasant mindset. I like to carry it written on a card in my back pocket.

Today marks about six months practicing Reiki and the completion of the Reiki Level II certification for me. After each certification the practitioner commits to a 21-day cleanse, including a full Reiki treatment each day, either self-treatment or for a family member, friend, or patient. Over the past six months I would say I have practiced Reiki on 70 percent of the days, but I am taking this day, and the beginning of this cleanse, as an opportunity to commit to practicing at least some Reiki, if not a full treatment, every single day. By announcing it publicly I will be inspired to keep true to my word. The website of Pamela Miles, a prominent Reiki master, helps by providing the above badge to share on your blog.

So what are the benefits of self-Reiki everyday? Here is a list of the most common benefits Pamela Miles has seen in her practice:

  • Improved sleep
  • Improved digestion
  • Less anxiety
  • Less pain
  • Improved focus and memory
  • Improvement in depressive symptoms
  • Reduced side effects from medications and medical procedures
  • Faster recovery from injuries and surgery
  • Mood stabilization
  • Enhanced resilience to stress
  • Improved self esteem
  • Greater social ease and satisfaction
  • Greater sense of meaning.

You can see more about how Reiki benefits people here. She explains how Reiki balances us and allows our natural healing systems to take effect. It helps us shift from operating in a state of stress response to a state of rest response.

In my own case Reiki has helped me manage nerve and anxiety issues. As you can see in my first post, up until recently, I wasn’t feeling well at all. Aside from chronic fatigue I was dealing with a lot of nervous system issues. Between October 2013 and June 2014 I was averaging either a panic attack or nervous breakdown each week. I would wake most days with a different part of my body tingling or numb. I always felt strange nerve sensations. Sometimes I had trouble getting my fine motor skills to work properly. My limbs constantly felt weak. Sciatica pain abounded. Once in awhile my vision would be a bit blurry. My digestive system faltered as well. It’s not surprising that parts of this list read like an MS* faq sheet. These symptoms are all nervous system related!

With time, patience, and a steady practice of Reiki, along with homeopathic treatment, I am feeling like my old self again. Once in a while I’ll have a bit of sciatica recurrence, or a strange sensation, but the majority of the symptoms have disappeared and the severity and rate of recurrence of the others has greatly diminished. These minor flare-ups usually come after a stressful day or when I haven’t taken time for myself and self-care.

Reiki is a simple practice that allows you to take healing into your own hands(literally). It isn’t a cure-all and doesn’t replace the importance of seeing a health practitioner, but it will greatly improve your quality of life and sense of well-being. For those who don’t have the time or resources to get a regular treatment, getting certified for self-treatment is an excellent option. I encourage everyone to give it a try 🙂

*Author’s note: At my Reiki Level II certification there was a woman who was diagnosed with MS 24 years ago. Discouraged by the lack of hope offered by doctors she pursued alternative therapies like acupuncture and reflexology. She tells me that thanks to these interventions, as well as a clean and balanced diet, she has been able to live an active life with occasional flare-ups, but relatively few symptoms compared to the picture the medical establishment had painted for her. She currently enjoys Reiki as another tool in her toolbox to help support her central nervous system. This note is not intended to state that allopathic medicine doesn’t have its merits at times, but rather to offer some hope to those who have been offered little to none.

The Medicinal Power of Mushrooms and Immune Support

Mushrooms popping up last week in La Pedriza, Spain.

Toadstool sighting last week at La Pedriza, Spain!

I currently live in Madrid and, as in most of the Northern hemisphere, it’s mushroom season.  Each autumn the allure of those tender toadstools entices countless inhabitants  of the city to make their way out to the Sierra with baskets and knives in hand, dreaming of succulent sautes and other seasonal dishes.  For me mushroom season conjures up images of tasty food, but also a strong and healthy immune system allowing one to handle flu season with grace.

Each week I pick up a box of organic vegetables from a farming couple who happened to make an outing last week.They were collecting boletus edulis, or porcini mushrooms, but also had shiitake for sale.  As Gabi, the husband, began to wax about the magic of mushrooms; their versatility and flavor in culinary uses, the joy of collecting them and eventually their medicinal properties, I remembered an incredible mycology-oriented treatment I had been blessed last year.

If you’ve read my first post or the About section of this blog, you know my immune system wasn’t functioning well last year.  In September my WBC had already dipped to 2.7.  On November 14th, 2013 I received a concerned call from the laboratory saying I needed to see a doctor the following day.  I had a blood test that day that showed my white blood cell count was far too low, with a WBC of 1.78, lymphocytes measuring 837/µL and neutrophils measuring 748/µL.  I followed their advice and went in the next day for another test, the results were similar: WBC 1.79, lymphocytes 639/µL, and neutrophils 915/µL.  The low range values expected are 1000/µL and 1800/µL respectively for lymphocytes and neutrophils.  The doctors warned me that if I had a fever I should get to a hospital immediately and that if my numbers had been closer to 500/µL it would have been wise to check into a hospital.  The dangers of neutropenia or worse loomed in my head as I made my way home with plenty of warnings and fear, but little practical advice on what to do or how to heal.

“Let food be they medicine, and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

Being no doctor, it was difficult to say how accurate their statements were, but it was alarming to say the least.  Fortunately, a friend had told me about an MD turned homeopath/TCM practitioner who was kind and reasonably priced.  Immediately I made an appointment.  After an hour and a half interview about my constitution, emotional states, medical history, and current woes I was sent home with a homeopathic remedy and a supplement made of maitake, reishi, and shiitake mushrooms.  Being trained in TCM, she was well aware of the ancient wisdom regarding the power of mushrooms to boost the immune system.  Dr. Eliaz, an expert in integrative medicine, sheds more light on this here in an article from the Rodale Institute.  In just one month both my lymphocytes and neutrophils were back up to acceptable levels.

After a year of taking a holistic approach towards health my energy levels are up and going into autumn my immune system is in much improved shape.  I am grateful to actually be able to hike and spend time in nature this year, observing the fall fungus take root in the renewed moisture of the woods. Rather than worrying about my health, it is a blessing to have the clarity of mind to think about all of the possible mushroom recipes out there instead.

This post is anecdotal in nature and is not intended to be used as medical advice or suggest specific treatments or methods.  Please do not attempt to use mushrooms medicinally without consulting a medical professional first.