Fashion was never my thing…even in second grade.
If the seasons were people, this year’s Spring would be a late-bloomer. I’m getting a little fidgety waiting for some daffodils and tulips. Can you blame me? I’ve spent most of my life expecting Nebraska Spring to prove that winter doesn’t last for-EVER.
The thing is, I can totally relate to a season that takes its time showing up. I’ve always been a little late to the party myself. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been hopelessly behind in personal fashion, trendy fads and hairstyles (but that didn’t stop me from trying to style my own hair for second-grade picture day).
And for someone who’s always in a hurry and gets described as impatient about once a day, it surprises me as much as anybody that it took me so long to figure out my vocation. For Spring and me, it’s been fits and starts the whole way. One day we’re radiant and hopeful, the next, we’re plunged into gray and gloomy.
I didn’t figure out this herbalist thing until way after 40. By then, my younger sister was already retired, my brothers were well into their careers, and my friends were accomplished teachers, attorneys, dentists, and the types of professionals I was encouraged to be as a kid.
Then, like a fluky Spring snowstorm, the defining moment of my life came along out of nowhere. Instead of losing all hope of finding my calling, treatment and recovery from breast cancer planted the seed for my herbalist roots. Sitting in the chemo room watching the pink stuff draining into my veins, I hit the proverbial rock bottom. I finally gave myself permission to start healing all the wounds that got me there. Like those seeds in Yellowstone, the ones that need an intense fire to germinate, I needed a trial by fire.
It took me a few years to get it all straightened out, but some perennial force has kept me going and growing. I dug up buried emotional and physical pain, pulled it apart and used it as compost to grow into an herbalist. All those years of pain finally make sense. I like to think of my healing and recovery as the life experience I needed to appreciate the suffering my patients carry with them.
Yeah, I took my time, tried on a couple suits that didn’t fit. Raised three kids I’m seriously proud of. It hasn’t been a wasted life by any measure. And now, I get to put it all together with a lifelong curiosity and love of learning, into my work as an herbalist who’s just emerging after a long winter (and some seriously bad hair days).
Winter really doesn’t last forever. Maybe just another week…
Like mother, like daughter, when it comes to health
“Overall, I’m liking the cleanse a lot more than I thought I would, and I feel really great,” said the email message from my daughter – my Starbucks-drinking, Chipotle-eating, meal-skipping daughter. This is the same girl who turned up her nose as a kid when I dished out green vegetables.
When they were growing up, my kids always thought I was a little weird, trying new foods, practicing yoga, not like other moms. “What’s she doing now?” they must have been thinking. Now my daughters are asking me to send them herbs at college and gently offering tea and chinese herbs to their sick roommates. And this cleanse thing has apparently caught on…
It started when she put in a request for “that cleanse stuff” over the Christmas holiday. I thought she was humoring me, since her sister and I were making plans to cook yummy Winter Cleanse recipes over break. But this was serious business, I soon learned.
I humored her back by sending a list of cleanse-friendly foods, herbs and recommendations like ‘get a massage’ and ‘let yourself rest’. I figured there way no way was she gonna take this seriously, so I didn’t bother to lecture about sticking to it, the importance of discipline and how to forgive herself for sneaking chocolate.
To my surprise, she emailed me a 300-word description of her cleanse experience that sounded like the perfect testimonial for everything she’s ever heard me say about health.
Now, she’s one-upped me by downloading an app to track daily percentages of protein, carb and fat consumption. She’s using words like bean burger and ‘getting creative about cooking’. Seriously. Ask anyone. This girl hates to cook.
It just goes to show that your kids, no matter how much they object to your healthy choices and green foods, really do listen and pick up a few pointers along the way.
And we learn from them, too. Time to download that app.
Getting grounded in old growth lends new perspective – photograph by Erin Horner
My 15-year old daughter and I couldn’t decide what to do for Spring Break this year, so we compromised. She wanted an ocean and I wanted trees. A tall order for a land-locked place like Nebraska. So we recruited her buddy to join us, found a couple cheap flights and spent a week with some old friends in San Francisco, one of my all-time favorite cities.
Since we’re city people, after 4 days of driving the twisting, turning highways of Northern California, a trip to Muir Woods, named for naturalist John Muir, seemed like a great escape.
The two girls giggled their way down the cool path of this awesome redwood forest, snapping Instagram pics and pointing like the rest of us at mammoth trees the width of small houses and ‘approximately the height of a six-foot person stacked head to toe 45 times’, according to the National Forest Service website. It was as easy and natural as if we were walking Omaha’s own Fontenelle Forest on a Sunday morning.
You don’t have to vacation a thousand miles away to get that lift of spirit that vacations bring. But it helps. Standing next to a couple of these trees, nestling up against their surfaces worn soft by the touch of visitors through the decades, none of us wanted to move anymore. We could have stayed there all day, soaking up the quiet, solid energy that made us all feel so grounded. Knowing those trees were hundreds of years old put our own few years of life into perspective.
I wish I could personally thank John Muir for making it his mission to preserve Muir Woods for my daughter and her kids and grandkids. It made me wonder if I’m doing enough to keep something I treasure safe for generations to come. Heavy thoughts for a Spring break getaway. But hey, I did get my trees.
A pair of worn jeans is like herbal medicine. Tried and true.
A pop song I heard on my kid’s iTunes last week got me thinking…so, here I go again…
Everyone’s got that favorite sweatshirt or pair of jeans they keep for weekends at home. You know, the ones you slip on when you wanna feel comfortable and relaxed.
Over time, the color’s faded and the newness has worn off, but you’re not completely at home unless you’ve got that soft, worn fabric against your skin. Do you remember why you stopped wearing those jeans in public?
My guess is that something new and trendy came along and made them look dull in comparison.
Something similar happened to herbal medicine. The comfort of our grandmothers’ folk healing was replaced by a trendy, shiny thing called modern medicine.
Traditional ways of staying healthy and healing at home were relegated to the back of the closet. Somehow, we convinced ourselves that newer was better. In the process, safe, natural, remarkably simple methods of prevention and natural healing were written off as dated and out of style.
Isn’t it time we put some old-fashioned common sense back into health care? Let’s take a page from fashion by pairing the best of today’s chic new healthcare with classics that stand the test of time.
Herbal medicine blends well into today’s eclectic cultural sensibilities. It’s more than just vintage, thrift-store medicine or trendy ‘folk’ healthcare. There’s powerful healing in that simple cup of tea your grandmother brewed for you.
What could be more comfortable than medicine that grows in your own back yard, right?
I’ve never celebrated Chinese New Year. I had to Google ‘Year of the Water Snake’ to figure out what to celebrate tomorrow, February 10th, the first day of the Chinese New Year.
One website told me not to sweep the floor or clean on Sunday because I might sweep away my good luck for the year. I’m not to use knives or scissors or I may ‘cut away’ my good luck. And red is the color to wear, particularly something brand new.
Easy enough any day of the week.
You know what I like about these cultural holidays? They remind me that people everywhere have their own special ways of honoring what’s good about living. And in a world where there’s so much bad news, I like to stay plugged in to joyful and optimistic thinking wherever I can get it.
The Chinese say that good health starts with good thoughts, or at least that’s how I interpret 5-Element theory. It’s certainly been true in my life. I’ve always been optimistic, but I learned a valuable lesson during cancer recovery. My intentions become my reality.
So this Chinese New Year, I intend to show appreciation for kindness, have more fun, see the humor in life, and expect abundance. Doesn’t that sound more interesting than “lose 10 pounds” or “get in shape”?
Mo Horner explores her 100-day journey of meditation.
Since last Fall, when I committed to sit it out for 30 minutes a day, I’ve discovered something profound about meditation – it’s profoundly difficult to slow down my twenty-first century, tech-driven, high-speed brain.
For 100 straight days, I’ve been sitting, and squirming and itching to get up. At least 75 of those days, I needed some serious self-talk to stay in my seat. After all, in my everyday life, I’ve been trained to be ready at any moment for an incoming text, call, email, Facebook post, breaking news, or something requiring ‘immediate attention’. We all have. We’re in constant fight or flight mode, mobilized for everyday life like it’s a crisis we’re facing moment to moment.
Trying to meditate feels like slamming on the brakes in a NASCAR race. I’ve spent years trying to handle everything quickly, at a moment’s notice, raising kids in a soccer-mom culture and trying to keep my sanity without keeping up with the Jones’s.
And that’s exactly why I plan to keep sitting in meditation…on the floor, in a chair, on the couch…collecting my thoughts, and setting them aside for some emptiness and peace. I’ve become too accustomed to speed and instantaneous response times. I’m ready for the slow lane, and meditation is teaching me how to gently pull over and coast for a little while every day.
Do you have a daily practice that nourishes your health and happiness? I want to hear about your experience. Email me at email@example.com with your story.
Toulousse, My Relaxed Cat
Tonite, it took every ounce of will power to sit in meditation for 30 minutes. I spent so much time today working up close and personal with my laptop without taking decent breaks that I gave myself a tension headache. Which got worse as the day went on, until at meditation time it was shooting pain into my temple.
Talk about distracting. So, for the last 7 minutes, I let my cat curl up on my lap and did the quietest, most meditative thing I was capable of right then. I scratched her fuzzy little chin and thought of nothing else but her soft, smooth, warm fur and her soothing purrrrrr under my fingers.
I believe some of the benefit of meditation comes from just ‘being’. Being quiet. Being still. And ultimately, being happy. Well, my shortcut taught me this: pets are great tension-relievers. My headache vanished. As far as I’m concerned, mission accomplished.
My cat and I were happy for seven straight minutes. That’s what I call bliss.
Today’s blog is written by someone special to me, but more importantly, the person who inspired me to begin my 100-day meditation countdown. I hope his story sparks an idea for change or growth in your life like it did in mine.
I am a philosopher by nature. And I have no explanation why.
Maybe it’s my astrological destiny (Sagittarian). Or possibly it’s some evolutionary bi-product of an innate coping mechanism. Or simply, it could be my own way of attempting to understand this sometimes complex, confusing and confounding journey called life. Crazy.
Qi Gong, an energy healing practice, combines three elements for success.
Whatever thereason, I’ve gathered a collection of axioms I believe to be true. I keep them stored tidily away in my philosophical travel bag that follows me every step of the way. And when the need arises, I open the bag, sort through this pile of philosophical meanderings and find the one that fits.
One such “truth” that has served me over the years is the realization that everyone has something. By something, I mean issues or problems or dilemmas. Whatever the name we wish to assign, it still comes down to the premise we all have something.
And if we’re fortunate to live long enough, sooner or later one or more of these “somethings” will cross our path. I’m no exception.
Four years ago one of the se somethings bared its teeth and proceeded to firmly sink them into my behind. For about three of these years it did not let go. It was an uphill battle on a downward slope to think, to function, to live.
Since then I’ve managed to regain much of what I feared gone thanks to the miraculous work of those at Four Winds and the amazing healing power of herbal medicine. While the worst (I hope) is behind me, I’m not so dumb to think the next something isn’t laying in the bushes in wait.
Enter Qi Gong (chee gung). One hundred and twenty-two days ago I added this daily practice of Chinese energy healing to my life.
The “why” is simple. I want to live. Healthy and strong. Happy and long. And in my heart of hearts I know it’s possible through obvious lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, etc…) integrated with my new BF – Qi Gong.
Funny name. Great results.
You might ask, “Where’s the evidence, Sherlock?” Elementary, dear Watson.
My vitals from a recent check-up looked like this: Heart rate 72, BP 128/82 and temperature 98.6. No big shake until I compare it with my norms: Heart rate 80, BP all over the map and temperature 96.8. For the record, I’ve never had a body temp spot on with the norm.
It doesn’t stop there. On a physiological level, I’ve noticed improved sleep patterns, a decrease in digestive dysfunction, less anxiety, better circulation, improved skin color, fewer allergy-related headaches and there’s talk of decreasing my daily dosage of a required medication.
Physical improvements have been evident as well, including better balance, fewer body aches and wonder of wonders, an increased appetite that’s allowed me to add six much-needed pounds to my six-foot, two-inch frame.
And it’s all been so simple. Not easy, but simple. Not easy, because there are days where my heart isn’t always in it. There are days where my knees creak and my mind is cranky.
Over four months straight of waking each day, and regardless of my being or circumstance or mood, I’ve dedicated 20 minutes each day to the practice.
Twenty minutes. That still leaves 1,420 minutes each day to do what needs to be done.
As I asked Mo, “If we can’t dedicate 20 minutes to our health every day, what does that say about us?”
Note: The writer, Ken Kreiker, started his Qi Gong practice with Master Chen’s Tai Chi Qi Gong 18 Movements DVD, available at Four Winds or www.wudangtao.com. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.933.6444 for more information about upcoming beginner Qi Gong classes.
Persistent, daily practice is the real key to change
Almost two months ago, I started taking a rich, syrupy, herbal concoction made from whole roots, barks, leaves, berries and various other plant parts known to enrich, soothe and strengthen the nervous system and combat fatigue. One tablespoon every morning and evening in a cup of tea. It keeps in the fridge and has the feel and taste of an earthy, creamy dark blend of coffee, only thicker and without the kick.
About a month ago, I spiced that up with a daily dose of meditation, determined to sit 30 minutes every day for 100 days until my birthday.
Altogether, they compete for 31 minutes of time I probably would have spent in a technology haze. The quiet time is kinda nice, and my family seems almost protective of it, apologizing for calling half way through or honoring my practice by not objecting to the time it takes out of our evenings together.
What am I getting out of all this sitting and sipping? Honestly, I’m not completely sure yet.
Well, there IS that one thing….my blood pressure is consistently down by 30 points. Oh, didn’t I tell you? Stress is a major component in high blood pressure for many people. This was a stressful summer and probably the reason I didn’t notice it creeping up on me. Then I got quiet, sat still and sure enough, I could feel that pounding sensation in my chest. There were other signs I ignored, but meditation made me mindful again, and has gradually brought my BP down to a healthy range.
I’m still not sure what I’m getting out of these practices. But something is happening in my closet. I mean, suddenly, I’m re-discovering clothes that had shifted to a dark corner, because they hadn’t fit for a few seasons. It took me a while to figure this one out, but its gotta be that my evening snack ritual has been interrupted by a time-out.
Oh, and my tummy feels better than it has in a while. Everything around my belly button is working like it’s supposed to. I hadn’t noticed it was a problem, until it wasn’t. Funny how that works.
I guess it’s like a friend said the other day about natural healing: it’s not a pill, it’s a practice. I must have needed some healthy, daily practices that remind me to nourish myself. A cup of tea, half an hour of nothing but pure, simple breathing, and a subtle shift of energy starts.
Check out the Nebraska Zen Center, where I spent three hours this weekend learning about Zen meditation practices. My meditation coach, Sarah, encouraged me to explore techniques to enrich my practice. I’m happy to share my experience – contact or email me at email@example.com.
If I was a quitter, Day 18 would have been the last day of meditation for me. A tense, twisted knot in my upper back was nagging at me, my concentration was shot and my mind was all over the place. I was exhausted from a busy week of catch-up and it was the perfect excuse to say “I’m done. I gave it a good try.”
Then I remembered a phrase we use in herbal medicine to describe exactly what was happening to me: healing crisis. It’s the point where all your efforts to change and grow feel like they’ve come crashing down on you. Up close, it looks and feels like you’re having a personal crisis, in mind, body AND spirit. You tell yourself it’s getting worse, not better, this isn’t what you had in mind when you started. You wonder why you even tried and the effort seems like a waste.
Having made a public commitment to meditating EVERY DAY, for 100 days in a row, I had no choice but to push through, tolerate the discomfort, and give myself a pep talk. And then something unexpected happened.
Day 19 wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was a whole lot more relaxing than the day before. My back loosened up, my thoughts calmed down and 30 minutes flew by. Ok, not exactly flew by, but my impatience with sitting and ruminating was clearly letting up. Slowly, my healing crisis has eased up over the past couple of days.
Last night was Day 22, and those 30 minutes were sort of….nice. Yeah. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this.