Category Archives: The Great Mystery

The more you look around you in the world the more you can’t help but notice how impossibly, beautifully perfect everything actually is. Is it not a miracle that one single cell can grow into a complete human in nine months? That a human exists at all? That the trillions of bacteria in our digestive tract actually work for us? It really is THE GREAT MYSTERY.

Lifehack to Making changes – What Are You Resisting?

Let me be the first to say that making changes in life really sucks.  That’s a technical term. There are many reasons why making changes is difficult – you have your routines, you making changes means the people around you also have to adapt and shift, etc… But I believe the biggest reason that making changes is so difficult is that human brains are tricksy and the change you want to make is actually just a thin veneer over the change you NEED to make. Let me explain.

Your life is the way it is because that is the easiest way for it to be right now and the way that “works” even if there’s something about it that clearly isn’t working. When you look at your life there are areas that are easy, areas that are messy and areas that are downright dysfunctional but all of those parts of your life are doing *something* for you.  No matter how crappy parts of your life might look, they are giving you something positive (even if you complain about it constantly or feel like you need to change it). If it wasn’t giving you something positive  you wouldn’t be doing it that way.

Lifehack – Follow the Resistance

It’s easy to look at the end points that you want to change – I want to lose 10 pounds, get my groove back, have a better relationship with the in-laws, learn to really communicate with the kids, etc… Those are the goals.  To get to those goals there are things you have to change and somewhere in there is a change that you’re resisting.  Especially when you’ve had the same goal for a long time (like that same 10 pounds has been waiting to come off for five years).  Somewhere there is something that you’re resisting doing, resisting looking at, or just not seeing.  The most important thing you have to do when you’re making changes is to follow the resistance.  This is where the real meat of the matter lies.  The problem is that sometimes it can be hard to find the resistance, and as it turns out there is a  way to find that resistance and toddlers already know it.  It’s to just keep asking “why?”

Just keep asking "Why?" Making changes is hard, but it's easier when you know what REALLY needs to change.

Just keep asking “Why?” Making changes is hard, but it’s easier when you know what REALLY needs to change.

Just Keep Asking “Why?”

That sounds really simple, but it isn’t. Here’s an example that I have had the opportunity to explore recently.  One of my clients has an issue with her weight – we’ll call her Jane Doe. She is a mother of four, has a full time job, and a happy marriage. Her family is financially comfortable but doesn’t have a lot extra.  She eats well all day, exercises and has an active job but then falls apart in the evening and gets cravings for salty-crunchy, that are incredibly hard to resist.  We had been working together for some time and just kept getting to this same block.  She was beating herself up for not being able to get past this, for not having the will power, and for not being able to just make it change. After a few months of futility, we sat down and had a heart-to-heart to follow the resistance. Here’s what happened (slightly paraphrased because the whole conversation gets really annoying before it actually resolves).

Amy: “Why do you binge on the salty-crunchy in the evenings?”
JD: “I can’t stop myself”Amy: “Why?”
JD: “I just can’t – it tastes too good”
Amy: “Why do you need something to taste so good?”
JD: “It makes me happy. It’s instant pleasure”
Amy: “Why?”
JD (clearly annoyed now): “It just is – it’s easy and makes me happy”
Amy: “Why do you need something easy that makes you happy?”
JD: “everyone needs pleasure in their lives”
Amy: “Why is your life not giving you pleasure?”
JD (kind of angry with words coming out in a rush): “I work so hard and then come home and have more work. I clean, I cook – my husband helps but between the two of us we’re always running kids here and there, spending money so they can do their stuff, there isn’t really time or money left over for me, so this is what makes me happy.”

Then she cried.

You know you reached the resistance when you cry. Or get angry, or shout and scream, or storm out of the room.  THAT is the resistance.  THAT is the thing that is lurking underneath that really needs to change.  It isn’t the weight, or the binge eating, it’s the lack of time and energy for her own happiness.  Is it easy to change? Nope.  Is it going to require a big step back to find a solution? Yup. When she figures it out will it make a way bigger impact on her life than the silly 10 pounds would?  You bet.

What You Resist Might Just Be What You Need To Change Most

The funny thing about making changes is that it’s all linked up.  There is the thing we might want to change (the 10 pounds) and then the change that we really REALLY need to make for our life to work (JDs lack of time for her own happiness). The change we want seems to always hinge on the change we actually need in the big picture – it’s like some wonderful cosmic synergy  that happens. I tend to call anything along this vein The Great Mystery. It’s like the universe keeps bumping us up against the things that will help us the most if we can just get to the bottom of them.  The really hard part is getting to the bottom of them. So – did Jane Doe just make some time for herself and la-di-da 10 pounds fell off and everyone lived happily ever after?  Um… No.

Making Changes: Resistance is Tricky

No – Jane certainly did not make time for herself and those 10 pounds melted away.  Here’s how the rest of the conversation went:

Amy: “Now we’re getting somewhere! What else could you do that would make you happy?”
JD (genuinely angry now): “You don’t understand.  We don’t have time, we don’t have money. The kids have gymnastics, soccer, summer camp and tutoring and it eats all of the money and I have to run them around to these things. There just isn’t anything left over.”Amy: “Why do you have to run them around?”
JD: “Because they have to do those things – they love them and I want them to have every opportunity.”
etc… etc… etc…




There was a lot more back and forth in which Jane got incredibly frustrated with me, got angry, got indignant, called me a bunch of names for being insensitive, and ended up crying again.  At the end of the day we were friends again, but there was a lot of messy, dark, ugly ground to cover before we got there.  The whole conversation is too cumbersome, but the bottom line was that Jane was beating herself up against a made up idea called “good parent” and to be a “good parent” meant giving up everything that makes you happy so that the kids can have all of the things they’re supposed to have.  That one isn’t an easy fix at all.  But, by managing to fix it not only Jane’s life would be better but her whole family dynamic is better too.

Jane just had an appointment after about 6 months of silence after the above conversation.  I really wasn’t sure if what we did helped or if I’d made her angry enough to go somewhere else.  As it turned out it was a great thing – and also still a work in progress.  Jane ended up sitting down for a conversation with her husband who, as it turns out, felt exactly the same way but instead of turning to food he turned to alcohol.  The two of them tried to shift things around and give each other more breaks and more space, but time management wasn’t really solving the problem.  At this point they sat down with the kids to have a conversation.  Then the floodgates opened.

The kids were stressed out – they could see that mom wasn’t entirely happy and dad was distant and all of them felt guilty for it in different ways (kids always seem to think they cause any problems around them).  Sitting down and talking about it was stressful for the family but got a lot of simmering issues out in the open.  It also revealed that what the kids wanted more than gymnastics and summer camp was time with their parents. The kids really missed the sit-down dinners they used to have before everyone started running in twenty different directions.  They missed the lazy Saturday morning brunch with waffles and they wanted to go camping again and roast marshmallows on the camp fire.  To get those things back, everyone would have to dial back their extracurricular activities.

This wasn’t easy – the kids liked the stuff they were doing, but at the end of the day they liked time with their family more. Did this help Jane?  Not at first.  The things they wanted to do were all food-intensive (as family activities tend to be).  Jane actually gained weight at first because the brunch was all carbs, the sit down dinners were all comfort food and they only managed to go camping once but it was an absolute festival of hot dogs on sticks and popcorn over the campfire and marshmallows galore. As the time went by though and Jane relaxed into a little bit more leisurely schedule, things started to shift. Jane was feeling happier and less rushed and over-scheduled.  She felt like she was enjoying her kids more and not just seeing them as to-do items.  After this six months, the weight was actually starting to come off.

Best of all, Jane said she was actually enjoying her life in a way that she didn’t realize she was missing. Her slow creep into losing her own joy had been gradual enough as to go unnoticed by her and everyone else.  She would never have said at the beginning of that conversation that she wasn’t happy.  Her resistance pointed to a problem that she wasn’t seeing or acknowledging and by doing the hard work of actually addressing that problem, she is seeing a huge reward.  Jane came back to say thanks – how awesome is that?

If you notice that you are making changes, or trying, and you’re coming to a block somewhere that doesn’t seem to move no matter what you do, maybe it’s time to follow the resistance.  Get into it and find the big thing hiding underneath – your life will be better for it.



Why You Really Need To Know About Purple Nutsedge

If you already know about purple nutsedge you’re probably not a fan, simply because it’s been named the “most costly weed in the world” – this, by the way, is not meant to be a flattering distinction.  There is so much more to this weed and as it turns out, purple nutsedge has been intimately linked to humans for literally thousands of years.

Here it is! The tenacious purple nutsedge, also called nutgrass or Cyperus rotundus. Thanks to wikimedia commons for the image.

Here it is! The tenacious purple nutsedge, also called nutgrass or Cyperus rotundus. Thanks to wikimedia commons for the image.

The reason I’m so impressed with this is partly because the plant itself is kind of awesome. It’s been found on every continent, thrives in poor soil or fertile soil and is the bane of sugarcane, cotton and soybean farmers everywhere. It’s a little bit unstoppable and is resistant to most chemical herbicides. The most important point for me about purple nutsedge, or nutgrass  is that it is useful to humans in every way it’s possible for a plant to be useful. Instead of trying to burn this out of our fields we should embrace it for the myriad benefits it can provide (not that corporate farming cares at all about the myriad benefits of this “weed”)




Purple Nutsedge In Caveman’s Teeth

I know that sounds hilarious, but no joke.  Someone took the time to analyze paleolithic era dental plaque, which actually showed that not only did paleo people have a deep and detailed knowledge of plant life pre-agriculture, they also relied heavily on plants for nutrition. Not only that but there is evidence that they roasted and boiled the tubers, which kind of makes me love my ancient ancestors even more.  If you want to read more about how this was deduced click here for the research or here for my blog post on Primal Docs.  This plant has been interwoven in our ancestry and evolution for thousands of years (these plaque samples were taken from fossils dated between 17,000 and 15,000 BCE), so we are probably pretty intimate allies. The important part here though, is how you can also enjoy the benefits of this awesome weed.

What You Can Do With Purple Nutsedge

If you want to be like your caveman ancestors, or follow a caveman diet then this might be a good place to start! Nutsedge or nutgrass has bulb-like tubers that form out of the roots that grow laterally, helping to spread the plant. The tubers are shown in the picture below.  Also the plant is easy to recognize because it has a triangular stem, so if you cut a slice of the stem it’s shaped like a triangle.

Purple nutsedge tuber or root. This is the part you eat!

Purple nutsedge tuber or root. This is the part you eat!

This amazing plant is used for:

  • Food – the tuber is bitter, but packed with trace minerals, nutrients and especially the essential amino acid lysine, which is antiviral against the herpes family and essential for many bodily functions. The evidence suggests the tuber could be boiled, lightly heated on open fire or roasted.  The tuber is white and juicy when young and black and fibrous when old. Older tubers may require chewing and then spitting out the fibers that you can’t chew through (who wants glamor when you’re back yard foraging anyway)
  • Medicine: (Traditional Chinese Medicine Uses)– This plant is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a potent qi tonic (that means it makes pretty much everyone feel better) called xiang fu. The tuber is harvested in autumn (look for the harder black ones), steamed for a short time then sliced lengthwise and dried in the sun. These dried strips can then be made into a tea that helps resolve grief and depressing which appears as depression with excessive sighing. The tea also helps regulate women’s menstrual cycles, resolve stomach pain from anger and generally open and regulate the emotions.  Isn’t it fascinating that a plant with so much power to help depression is growing unstoppably everywhere in a time when depression and sadness are rampant within society? I *love* the divine mystery.
  • Medicine: Ayurvedic Medicinal Uses – Ayurveda is the ancient system of medicine in India and they also consider this plant to be of utmost importance. Purple nutgrass, called Motha or Mutha, is used to stimulate appetite, to soothe the stomach, to kill digestive parasites and also to ease joint pain. In fact the essential oil is highly anti-inflammatory and is both a sedative and pain killer. For more technical details look here.
  • Medicine: Modern Research – This miraculous tuber has been found to be antibacterial, antioxidant, antimalarial and anti-diabetic. That’s pretty hard to beat from any plant.
  • Essential Oil – An essential oil can be harvested from the tubers that smells peppery and spicy and is used extensively in the perfume industry. It’s also a potent pain killer.
  • For Your Teeth – The antibacterial properties of this tuber also explain the shocking lack of cavities in the paleolithic fossils that have been discovered.  Eating the tuber kills the bacteria Streptococcus mutans, which contributes to tooth decay, so paleo teeth were protected by purple nut sedge in their diet.
  • For Weaving – If all the rest of it wasn’t enough, the grass is sturdy and can be woven into mats, baskets and rope if you’ve got some time on your hands.

So – maybe you’re not as excited as I am about caveman plaque or herbal remedies or even fragrant, peppery essential oil.  But my god it’s astounding that when the world is depressed and angst-y and generally going through some kind of identity crisis there is a literally unstoppable, un-killable, pesticide resistant plant called purple nutsedge  that can help with all of those things.  I wasn’t sure if I could find any and I literally walked five feet out of my back door and there was some mixed in with my lawn.  It makes me feel so supported and so loved and so generally caught up in wonder that the earth really does provide everything we need for the time we’re living in and the human condition.  All this even when we don’t necessarily treat the earth with the respect she deserves.  Thank you to the Divine Mystery. Thank you for purple nutsedge.



It is your job to remember the divine mystery! This image from NASA's WISE telescope

Love, From the Divine Mystery

It can be so easy to lose sight of the wonder that we are surrounded by each day, the divine mystery as I call it, when we are also surrounded by piles of paper, bills, to-do lists and frustrating situations. I find myself sometimes overlooking the incredible gifts that have been given to me, and I so often see my clients doing the same thing. In fact, many will give me variations of this sentence: I have a great partner, relatively speaking we’re comfortable and our lives our easy. I don’t know why I feel so sad/lonely/anxious/frightened.

The Divine Mystery. A 300-year-old supernova remnant created by the explosion of a massive star. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/SAO

The Divine Mystery. A 300-year-old supernova remnant created by the explosion of a massive star. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/SAO

Somewhere in our human brains it seems we are hardwired to love misery, or at least to be so habituated to it that we seek it out as a familiar place.  There are so many ways to counteract that tendency, but it requires active participation on your part. You have to notice when you don’t feel good and actually find the things that bring you joy, solace, peace, wonder and gratitude.  One of those things, for me, is the reminder about just how amazing and awe-inspiring the gifts we have been given truly are – how generous the divine mystery really is.  I stumbled across this quote from Rob Brezsny’s book Pronoia: the Antidote for Paranoia. Something about it genuinely resonates with me – helps me to see how much I have truly received in my life – I hope it does the same for you.




Love, from the Divine Mystery (via Rob Breszny)

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN LOVED?

Have you ever been loved? I bet you have been loved so much and so
deeply that you have become nonchalant about the enormity of the grace
it confers.

So let me remind you: To be loved is a privilege and prize equivalent to
being born. If you’re smart, you pause regularly to bask in the astonishing
knowledge that there are many people out there who care for you and
want you to thrive and hold you in their thoughts with fondness.

Animals, too: You have been the recipient of their boundless affection.
The spirits of allies who’ve left this world continue to send their tender
regards, as well.

Do you “believe” in angels and other divine beings? Whether or not you
do, I can assure you that there are hordes of them beaming their uncanny
consecrations your way. You are awash in torrents of love.

As tremendous a gift it is to get love, giving love is an equal boon. Many
scientific studies demonstrate that whenever you bestow blessings on
other people, you bless yourself. Expressing practical compassion not only
strengthens your immune system and bolsters your health, but also
promotes self-esteem, enhances longevity, and stimulates tranquility and
even euphoria.

As the scientists say, we humans are hardwired to benefit from altruism.

What’s your position on making love? Do you regard it as one of the nicer
fringe benefits of being alive? Or are you more inclined to see it as a
central proof of the primal magnanimity of the universe? I’m more aligned
with the latter view.

Imagine yourself in the fluidic blaze of that intimate spectacle right now.
Savor the fantasy of entwining bodies and hearts and minds with an
appealing partner who has the power to enchant you. What better way do
you know of to dwell in sacred space while immersed in your body’s
delight? To commune with the Divine Wow while having fun? To tap into
your own deeper knowing while at the same time gazing into the
mysterious light of a fellow creature?

Are you astounded yet? All of this beauty, from the divine mystery. Served up just for you to enjoy. The Cat's Eye Nebula Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI Are you astounded yet? All of this beauty, from the divine mystery. Served up just for you to enjoy. The Cat’s Eye Nebula Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI

Happiness  (and gratitude – remember how linked those two things are?) is an active process – you can tap back into those feelings on purpose. You have the power, at any moment to choose to dive into the divine mystery; into wonder and out of boredom, fear, anxiety or sadness. The hardest part is remembering that you have a choice. That can be one of the hardest things in the world when you feel like you’re at the bottom of a well, trapped in the darkness all alone.  This is where your own toolbox of helpful things comes in – your joy list, and your techniques that help you to get outside of your head for a little bit. So let’s add a new technique to that list:

ThIngs I Received Without Having to Be Worth It:

I know that sounds a little odd, but stop to think about it for a second. I feel like when we’re overlooking the wonder in our lives we forget how much the universe actually doles out to us without any effort on our part. We feel like nobody cares or it’s all so hard or that we don’t have enough.  It’s time to change that.  Every night before bed, or every time you feel your mood starting to nose-dive, write down at least three things that you have received from the universe today that were truly precious that have nothing to do with you earning them. Three random gifts from the divine mystery.

Can’t think of any? Try these examples: Sunshine on your face – the sun shines on you whether you’ve done anything to earn it or not. It’s like a gift. Smiles from strangers, boundless love from your animals, dogs you meet on the street, birds singing in the trees. Moon light, the yellow happiness of dandelions, edible weeds growing on your lawn, the smell of coffee, the sound of rain, air in your lungs. You have a heart that beats without you having to think about it. Your body goes through the mysterious process of sleep. You can dream and imagine and create. Your brain can perceive or create colors. Your body grew, on it’s own without any direction from you, out of a sperm and egg. If that isn’t evidence of the miraculous I don’t know what is. The divine mystery is generous with you constantly. It’s your job to remember.

It is your job to remember the divine mystery! This image from NASA's WISE telescope

It is your job to remember the divine mystery! This image from NASA’s WISE telescope



Eat From The Earth: Foraging for Your Food

I am a big fan of plants and herbs, a big fan of the outdoors and a big fan of food – so let’s face it – foraging is pretty much my favorite thing.  Why you might ask? Why would I forage for food when there are so many shiny, waxed fruits and veggies at the supermarket? It’s a fair question.

Here is why I’m passionate about foraging for my food and why I think you might be too:

  1. Supermarkets are boring: Everyone agrees we’re supposed to eat lots of fruits and veggies every day. And many of us try to do that, but here’s the problem – we end up eating the same 5 – 10 kinds of fruits and veggies almost every day. Frankly, that can be more than a little boring.  I can’t be the only person who has gone to the grocery store and walked down the same aisle thinking “organic kale, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, bananas, apples, parsley, ginger, peppers. Yep – same as last week.” It’s not that there aren’t some exciting and wonderful foods out there, it’s that they’re hard to grow on a large scale, hard to transport, and hard to sell because plenty of people haven’t heard of them. Shake your diet up a bit and start to forage – this is the planet’s gift to those of us savvy enough to enjoy it!

    The uniformity of grocery store tomatoes. Try foraging! © Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

    The uniformity of grocery store tomatoes. Try foraging! © Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

  2. Foraging is the perfect excuse to be outside: I *love* being outside, but there are only so many walks around the neighborhood, trips to the springs and hikes I can take in a week before I’m looking for something else – why not bring a field-guide and gather some food too?
  3. Foraged food is sacred food: There is something so magical about being connected to the earth, and connected to the place your food comes from.  This can be as simple as farmers market and visiting local farms, or it can be a little bit deeper and more vital than that.  Foraging – finding food in your natural environment – gives you a profound sense of just how much you are supported by the earth, by creation, by the divine mystery at all moments.  It is literally finding nourishment everywhere. Think about that for a moment because it is truly a profound idea to find nourishment all around you. This is a tangible gift to you for no reason at all – only because you are alive and have the eyes to see it.
  4. Foraged food is the best for nutritarians: Remember the nutritarian idea? It’s the notion that you choose the most nutritionally dense foods possible at all times.  Herbs, weeds, the plants that have difficult environments and survive because they are sturdy are generally the most nutrient dense plants out there and your body will thank you for the introduction to them.
  5. Your taste buds need some excitement: I’m just guessing here, but you probably know what spinach tastes like.  And green beans, and carrots and maybe even rutabagas. But you may not know what cleavers taste like, or the tart little pods that grow on some native clovers, or dandelion blossoms, or rose petals or juniper berries. These fresh, unique flavors can give you a whole different experience in your salad. They can enliven your dinner, your cocktails, your day.  Why be dull?
  6. You want to survive the zombie apocalypse: Well, don’t we all really. 🙂 Might as well build those survival skills now while there’s nary a zombie in sight.




Food Foraging Tips:

  1. Positive identification is key: When you’re first starting with foraging and just getting into it, be sure to choose foods that only look like themselves and can’t be mistaken for something else.  As your experience level grows and you get more used to looking at plants in detail then you can start in on the little more difficult foods.
  2. Expect the Unexpected: We are so used to the flavors that we are used to – it’s easy to forget that there is an infinite variety of taste experiences out there. Just because it’s green and leafy doesn’t mean it tastes like lettuce.  Likewise, just because it has a totally different flavor than you’re used to doesn’t mean it isn’t great food – you just have to begin to create space for it in your mouth.
  3. Start with Yard Food: Yard food is exactly what it sounds like – food foraged from your yard.  Why? Well, it’s pretty convenient for one, and there’s the added bonus that almost everyone knows what a dandelion looks like. Yard food is familiar food.

    Yard food! Gorgeous, sunny dandelion. © Ichtor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

    Yard food! Gorgeous, sunny dandelion. © Ichtor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

  4. Prepare to be Fascinated: If you’re anything like me, you’ll find an interesting clump of plants (usually in a place where lawn is supposed to be growing) that you recognize.  Right next to that interesting clump, there will be another clump of different plants that are also interesting, and perhaps you haven’t seen this clump before. You will find that when you start looking there is an entirely engrossing world in your yard just waiting to be discovered and all you need is a good guidebook.
  5. All you need is a good guidebook: Try foraging in your yard a few times, and if you feel the fascination kick-in then it’s time to invest in a good guidebook or field guide.  There are plenty of them out there – and many are specific to the area where you live. Of course I will keep writing about this because I love it, but I probably can’t write enough to keep pace with your fascination.
  6. Find a foraging-friendly friend: Everything is more fun when there’s two of you, and once you start doing some serious tromping around in the woods and fields and roadsides it can be nice to have company. I feel 100% confident that you will start tromping around seriously, so we may as well use the buddy system.



Positive Remembering: Amazing Lifehack for Trauma

You have the capacity to change the past through positive remembering, no matter how horrific it was or how much you’re still troubled by it. This amazing lifehack for trauma is so simple and yet so effective. Your brain is amazing.  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

You have no idea how much your brain is capable of and what it can actually accomplish – it genuinely is the greatest, most wonderful tool you will ever possess. Your brain can actually change and adapt to do whatever you ask it to do – including re-write your history.  The darkest, scariest, most nauseating parts of your history as well as the annoying, the humiliating and the humbling.  Your brain is the tool you need to heal those old wounds and to get happier because of it. Let’s call it Positive Remembering, and it’s such a powerful lifehack to cure a bad past.

All of us have bad memories from our own lives – some of those are little snapshot memories of one particular incident (like almost stepping on a snake in the woods) and some are entire chapters (like that whole relationship with He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, or that little thing called “childhood”). For many people these memories are there, but not called upon. Stuff happened and they’ve moved on and it doesn’t really matter. For others these memories are part of waking life – popping up at random times and interfering with emotions, happiness and even health. Positive remembering is the key to reducing the impact of those past traumas on your life now.

Positve remembering changes your mental stories. Once Upon A Time... It’s all just a story – why not make it a better one? Practice positive remembering

Positive remembering is a way to free yourself slowly from these negative memories and re-frame the whole experience into something less harmful, less emotionally charged and to allow some healing to happen.

Positive Remembering in the First 24 Hours

The first 24 hours after a trauma is a powerful time to impact the way your brain holds and stores that information.  In those 24 hours if you can focus on the good things that are happening, the people who love you, the help you received, the blue of the sky while you were flat on your back, the wonderful things in your life. By doing this the overall impact of the trauma will be greatly diminished because your brain lays down that memory differently and with less emotional charge. Of course this is also the hardest time to focus on the good things, and for many of us the traumas that concern us were years, if not decades, ago. Never fear, positive remembering works for long-past memories too.




Changing Your Past To Change Your Present

If you know that some negative part of your past is still there, haunting you then it’s time to take some proactive steps to changing that situation.  Nothing you do can change the past, but the great news is you don’t have to. You just have to change the way you think and feel about the past. We’re going to call that Positive Remembering. Here are some of the tools you can use to change those memories.  Try to use one of these, quickly, every time you are confronted with a negative memory and soon that memory will lose it’s power over you:

  • Feel Your Body – Notice what reaction your body has to the memory. Often you’ll clench your jaw, tense your shoulders, your heart rate will accelerate or your stomach will start grinding because your body is re-living the stress, anxiety, sadness or fear from that moment.  Consciously bring your attention to that part of your body and instead of focusing on the memory, focus on relaxing that body part. You can pretend there is a warm, soft light shining there, or the feeling of a warm blanket, or just imagine that part turning to water or melting.  If it’s your heart rate think of something that would calm your heart rate down like lying on a beach or getting a massage.  I know, there is a little bit of a “go to your happy place” feel to this, but if your body lets go of the tension from the memory then you’ll start to re-wire your brain to let go of some of the tension too.
  • Banish The Boggart – For anyone who isn’t a Harry Potter fan, a boggart is a type of creature that takes the shape of whatever you fear most (your memory). To banish it, you must laugh at it in a genuine and meaningful way.  This produced all kinds of hilarity in books and movies as the boggart of a hated teacher was forced into a hideous and embarrassing drag-grandmother ensemble, thereby giving Harry and friends a great laugh.  Much like boggarts, memories can be changed too. If you had a horrible car wreck that still wakes you up in cold sweats, you can positive remember it: picture the same scene but in bumper cars and give the whole thing a cartoon “boing” noise.  Make the whole thing as ludicrous as possible.  This works even with the really scary memories too. Just be creative – what would make that scene silly or ridiculous. Every time you have that negative emotionally charged memory, banish it with your newer, sillier version. It’s really hard at first, espcially if those memories are still raw but the more you practice the easier it becomes and the less that memory bothers you.
  • Give Yourself a Gift – Memories are yours to play with. Nobody says they have to actually look like what happened. They can look like whatever you want them to.  So why not give that story a happy ending?  Chances are in your bad memory you  needed something that you didn’t have at that moment. Positive remember it! If you’re remembering childhood trauma you may have needed a big hug from a kind adult and a teddy bear – so just add that part in. Any time that memory pops up, just add in the part where you get what you need at the end.  Sure bad stuff happened, but start telling your brain that at the end you got what you needed and your brain will start believing you.

Positive Remembering: Your Memories are Just Stories

I know this sounds kind of silly and ridiculous, but the point is that the things in your memory are over – they aren’t happening right this second.  Right this second you’re just fine. You are breathing, your heart is beating, you’ve had enough food and water to stay alive until this moment.  Whatever that bad memory was, it didn’t actually kill you and at the end of the day that means it’s all kind of okay (I believe at the end of the day it’s *always* okay even after the whole death thing, but for the sake of brevity we don’t have to discuss that part today).

Essentially those memories are just stories you tell yourself over and over again so lets just change the story into something you can live with, something that doesn’t make you feel hollow, something that will let you heal and move forward. Positive remember it and start to get out of the clutches of negative memory. It’s your story – so make it whatever you want it to be: RE-member it differently.  You’re not trying to sell yourself on this new version being the truth, you’re just softening up the whole picture every time it comes up and by doing that, you also soften up the effect it has on your overall level of joy. Positive remembering helps you rediscover the joyfulness buried under the rubble.



MTHFR mutation, or How to Know if You’re a Mutant.

So, everyone kind of freaks out when I use a word like mutant because it sounds so sci-fi and X-men-ish but the MTHFR mutation doesn’t give us anything nearly so exotic as superpowers, more like just more of the usual problems. The thing is, we’re all mutants in one form or another. We all have a tremendous degree of genetic variability that gives us the amazing and awesome diversity of looks, personalities, traits and oddities that make us human. These mutations, or genetic variances, can make our enzyme processes work differently; meaning more slowly, more quickly or not at all. This is why some people are still doing great after five cocktails and others are bleary-eyed and drooling.

MTHFR gene mutations. Here portrayed, wildly inaccurately, as mutant carrots.

Behold the mutant carrots. Muah hah ha… Don’t worry, MTHFR mutations aren’t quite this funky.  Thanks to simply-sharon.com for the great photo.

For the most part, genetic variance creates relatively small changes because there are so many overlapping systems in the body. It’s all part of the great mystery – our bodies are designed with a plan A, plan B, plan C and probably the back-up super-secret plan X just to make sure everything goes right.  There are, of course, a few places where no matter how many overlapping systems we have, our bodies can’t compensate for how many little things have gone wrong.

One of the places this can happen is in the various genes for a process called “Methylation.”  Methylation, as you might have deduced, is the process where your body adds a -methyl group to some other molecule to help it become more active.  One of the most important places this happens is in the gene that methylates folate (the B vitamin) into it’s active form.  This group of genes are called “methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase,” or MTHFR for short. If you have too many genetic variances in these genes then you may not be able to activate your folic acid or other B vitamins.

MTHFR Mutation Problems Include:

  • High homocysteine levels in your blood and urine – this increases your risk for heart disease including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
  • Increased risk of neural tube defects and preeclampsia if you become pregnant.  Neural tube is your baby’s brain and spinal cord so it isn’t generally an area you want to be defective.
  • Improper neurotransmitter production – this can lead to depression, anxiety, mood disorders and complex psychiatric illness.
  • Increased risk for the eye disorder glaucoma.




So – none of these complications are good things.  Generally they’re not issues you want to be dealing with in your life and certainly not a combination of them (bad enough to be depressed, but to be depressed with heart disease sounds worse). This leads to two questions, which naturally I will endeavor to answer for you.

Who Should Test for MTHFR?

MTHFR has a lot of variability and different people notice it in different ways. Usually I suggest testing for people who have had anxiety or depression since childhood, for people who have parents, siblings, children or themselves with spinal cord defects that might be related, or for people who have anxiety, depression or mood disorders “in the family.” This being a genetic mutation we usually see it show up in parents, aunts and uncles, siblings and children so if many people in the family are struggling then it’s time to look at your genes. Also if your homocysteine tests high at your doctors office even if you’re taking B vitamins then there’s a good chance there’s a problem.

How Do I know If I’m a MTHFR Mutant?

Great question! The best way to know, is to test. Your doctor can run a complete genetic analysis which will give you all of this information and is by far the best option if you have insurance.  This would also mean you could get a prescription methylfolate to help your body compensate.  If you don’t have insurance then there’s a great not-too-expensive way to do it at home, which comes with the added bonus of learning just how much neanderthal you have in you (I’m 3%!!!).  It’s called 23 and Me, and it’s an at-home saliva DNA test kit that gives you all kinds of great information about yourself like your neanderthal percentage, your ancestry, and also more serious things like your disease risk, certain gene markers for serious disease and also genetic differences that may cause you to react differently to certain drugs or chemicals.  All in all it’s pretty nifty.

Once you get your DNA info from 23 and Me, then you can plug it into the neatest service ever, which is donation based, called Genetic Genie.  Genetic Genie can run a full methylation analysis (for a suggested donation of $10).  I can tell you from looking at mine that this gives you an overwhelming amount of info and lots and lots of great ways to compensate for any genetic oddities you might find.

What Do I Do if I Have A MTHFR Mutation?

The short version is don’t worry, and take a methylated B vitamin.  This means the folic acid should be methyl-folate or some variation thereof, including L-5-Methyltetradydrofolate, L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolinic Acid, or 6(S)-5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid (the longer the word, the better apparently).  The B12 should be Methylcobalamin, and you may see something extra in there to just add extra methyl groups like trimethylglycine or betaine anhydrous.  Also, you should NOT take regular folic acid or anything that isn’t a methylated folate, simply because all of those will compete with the methylated folates and just continue the problem.  It isn’t always this simple because there are additional mutations that can interfere as well so some people have side effects when they take methylfolate, which you can read about here. If you find out you have an MTHFR mutation it’s not the end of the world, there is plenty we can do. It’s a good idea to check your kiddos too, or just switch them over to the methyl forms of B vitamins, and also if you have other genetic relatives who are struggling to pass on the good word about methylated B vitamins and your own new super-mutant status.



Why Should You Eat Seasonably?

Sure sure, you’ve probably heard that you should eat seasonably. It seems like there’s always a new trend with food – eat five colors a day, eat Dr. So-and-so’s diet, only ever eat grapefruits, etc…  Some of these trends just happen to be good advice that gets popular because it’s actually good advice  (some are just, well, trends).  When you see the grapefruit swap out for cabbage or soup  but everything else about the fad diet is the same you can bet it was probably a fad without a whole lot of anything to back it up. But what about eating seasonably?

Eat Seasonably! Eat Seasonably Calendar from eatseasonably.co.uk. For the full size version, please click the link below.

Seasonal Eating Calendar from eatseasonably.co.uk

Eat Seasonably (The Basics):

This isn’t anything fancy – it’s literally just eating the foods that are in season in your area when they’re at their peak.  This means you’re eating a whole lot more Spring foods in Spring, like asparagus and early greens. More Summer foods in Summer like peaches and melons and you guessed it, more Fall foods in the Fall. Bring on the pumpkins!  This makes sense in a lot of ways:

  • You Get the Best Flavor Eating Seasonably. Eating the foods that are in season right now means that everything you eat is at it’s peak freshness and maximal nutrient value.  You are getting the best of everything as it’s ripening and NOT getting the limp produce that’s been shipped across the globe unripe and hung out in airplanes and trucks for days before getting to you.
  • You Help The Earth. Eating the foods that are in season in your area right now, means you’re more likely to be eating local produce that doesn’t have to be shipped and that’s grown by local farmers in your own community. Not only are you contributing to your local economy, but you’re also reducing the pounds and pounds of produce that are shipped all over the globe every day.
  • You Get the Best Nutrition. Produce that ripens fully before it’s picked has had the best opportunity to absorb as many nutrients as it can from the earth. It’s developed it’s antioxidants more fully and so is nutritionally a richer, more complete source of the things you need.
  • You Participate in the Great Mystery.  Here’s the thing – there is a design in this universe that is so much bigger than we are.  Some people say it’s coincidence, but I say it’s too good to be coincidence.  The foods that are ripening in the summer when it’s hottest also happen to be the foods that have the most cooling effects on your body (think watermelon and cucumber).  The root veggies that mature in the fall help your body to nourish itself deeply in preparation for the cold to come in Winter.  The garlic, onions, horseradish and spicy foods of Northern climates help to thicken your blood to prepare for cold winters while the Jalapenos and peppers of the Southern climates thin your blood to help you weather the overly-hot summers.  Coincidence? I think not. When you eat seasonably you allow this great mystery into your life.




Your environment is meant to nourish and sustain you and help you exist in that little piece of the world.  So sure, you could buy more frozen peas or frozen corn or grapes shipped from Chile (nothing against you folks in Chile), but what are you missing here at home? Is it possible that your next Texas summer might be easier because you’re eating your local Texas produce as it ripens through the year?  And think about the animals “ripening” as well.  There’s a reason that we eat turkey at Thanksgiving and it isn’t just tradition – this is the season where turkeys are in their prime and we can derive the most benefit from their addition to our table. Eat seasonably this year and see what changes for you.

This past year I’ve been experimenting with my body to truly follow my instincts for foods that are ripe right now.  I can tell you there was a good three weeks where all I really wanted was watermelon and water with cucumber slices in it and I let myself follow that urge.  It’s possible that it’s coincidence, or that this summer wasn’t a horrible one, but I genuinely feel like I was able to enjoy the summer more and get out an do more because my body was able to withstand the heat with more grace.  I wasn’t quite so close to my pass-out point all the time.

Now that we’re coming into fall I’m craving roasted root veggies and pumpkin smoothies and all the wonderful things that it doesn’t make sense to eat in the summer.  I’m craving FALL FOOD. There are so many ways to know what’s in season in your area, but by far the simplest and most pleasurable is to just visit the farmer’s market.  Your local farmer’s market will have fresh produce from farmers who probably picked or harvested it within the last 24 hours.  No sitting around in trucks or spoiling in the supermarket – this is fresh and seasonal and I think will help your body to live in the world a little bit more easily.

Seasonal Food in Texas Month-by-Month:

Here’s a great list from the National Resource Defense Council of Texas seasonal foods month by month which also has a farmer’s market finder.

http://www.simplesteps.org/eat-local/state/texas

Happy Eating Everyone!