Smoke Exposure & Boosting Your Preventative Measures




Our mindset and dietary choices can either help us or harm us during
extreme environmental conditions like living under wildfire smoke.


It’s been 72 hours since the first sign of smoke rolled in over our home in Newberg, Oregon and commenced the current nightmare situation we and our fellow Oregonians are experiencing.

No filter. This is our house on September 9, 2020.

I am exhausted – not sleeping well, my endocrine system is all over the place, I’m in fight/flight mode, I have been exposed to smoke, and I am on an emotional roller coaster.

My husband and I had to evacuate our charming, historic farm house in the Chehalem Valley on Wednesday with our toddler and puppy in tow because of poor smoke ventilation. It was heartbreaking to have to pack and leave. But we are situated a couple miles downhill from the Chehalem Mountain/Bald Peak Fire and the airspace above our property was completely overtaken by dramatic rolling smoke clouds and eerie orange light – the sky was dark and ominous – from the surrounding wildfires. Yes, it’s been feeling like the apocalypse as our whole western side of our beautiful state is up in flames!

I have been addicted to my CALM app. I’m listening to a meditation on anxiety right now.

One of my greatest gifts is my ability to reframe. I am resilient. I can get anxious and fall to my knees in one moment, but, with a little time, reflection, hope and faith, I can recover and react in a more calm and mindful headspace.

I have an education in holistic nutrition – from a functional medicine perspective in traditional clinical nutrition, but also a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective. I know how to consider the whole being and how to take preventative care at all times and during all life phases or conditions.

So, after 72 hours of sinking inward, I have processed what I need to process about our current situation and now I am in holistic care mode.

There is so much that is out of my control right now. The only thing I can do is be proactive about the things I can control. Assessing what I know about fight/flight, stress/anxiety and a toxic environment (hazardous air pollution), I can make some powerful decisions to help keep me and my family as calm and safe as possible.

The Calm app is a great start. Worry and anxiety wreck havoc on the immune system. In fight/flight we know that we are not being chased by a tiger. But, when you are living in unpredictable conditions – like being surrounded by wildfires – well, you might as well be running from a hungry tiger. So, how can we ease the fears? Taking deep breaths (it’s hard when the air is heavy and toxic). But, create a clean space wherever you are – one room in a house, in your apartment, or in the evacuee’s case, in your hotel room. Set up a good, portable HEPA air purifier if you have one. Stay inside! Don’t burn candles or incense. Minimize your time outside. And do your best to meditate and stay calm. It is important for your heart health and general well being.

It’s not okay to exercise outside in this air pollution – so find other gentle ways to workout and move. Exercise helps in mindfulness, stress reduction and promoting a healthy heart and lungs. So maybe go gentle and do some stretching and light yoga at home. This all depends on your current health situation, assuming you do not have any chronic health problems. If you’re not sure what to do, ask your healthcare provider for advice on activity at this time.

One of the most powerful tools we have control over is what we eat (or what we don’t eat). Avoid sugar! It is super inflammatory. Choose healthy macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Now is not the time to start an elimination diet or to fast! Drink plenty of clean water.

Certain nutrients can help protect your body when you have some exposure. When you are living in the extreme conditions we are in, then some exposure is inevitable. Beyond limiting exposure, boost your health by adding these nutrients to your diet:

Vitamin C. Vitamin C is the ultimate anti-inflammatory agent! It’s an essential antioxidant. Smoke inhalation causes inflammation from oxidative damage to tissues. Antioxidants are nutrients that prevent damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are created as your body metabolizes food or when you have been exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation (or, in our case, wildfire smoke).

Vitamin C is the ultimate antioxidant. If you choose to supplement, know it is safe to increase your dose up to what’s referred to as “bowel tolerance” (you want to avoid too much or else you will have loose stools) – at 3000 to 6000mg/daily in divided doses. Please talk to your healthcare provider before prescribing supplements for yourself, especially if you have a medical condition or if you are taking any medications.

Foods rich in Vitamin C:
Fruits: citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit) – skip juice, too much sugar; kiwi; mango; papaya; pineapple; strawberries; raspberries; blueberries; cranberries; watermelon and cantaloupe.

Vegetables: broccoli; Brussels sprouts; cauliflower; green and red peppers; spinach; cabbage; turnip greens; and other leafy greens; sweet and white potatoes; tomatoes and tomato juice; winter squash.

Other excellent sources of antioxidants:
Allium sulphur compounds:  leeks, onions and garlic
Anthocyanins: eggplant, grapes and berries
Beta-carotene: pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach and parsley
Catechins: red wine* and tea – especially GREEN tea!
Copper: seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts
Cryptoxanthins: red capsicum, pumpkin and mangoes
Flavonoids: tea, green tea, citrus fruits, red wine, onion and apples
Indoles: cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower
Isoflavonoids: soybeans, tofu, lentils, peas and milk
Lignans: sesame seeds, bran, whole grains and vegetables
Lutein: green, leafy vegetables like spinach, and corn
Lycopene: tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon
Manganese: seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts
Polyphenols: thyme and oregano
Selenium: seafood, offal, lean meat and whole grains
Vitamin A: liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, and egg yolks
Vitamin C: see above
Vitamin E: vegetable oils (such as wheatgerm oil), avocados, nuts, seeds and whole grains
Zinc: seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts
Zoochemicals: red meat, offal and fish

* wine can seem like a great “stress reliever” but keep in mind wine is alcohol and alcohol is super inflammatory, so, when trying to boost your health when there’s dangerous air quality, select other high antioxidant options at this time. And I’m a winemaker – trust me.

Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 supports the immune system and is especially important when dealing with smoke inhalation, especially for those who have been diagnosed with a deficiency. If you live in the Pacific NW, chances are you’re deficient or should at least supplement, unless otherwise recommended by your healthcare provider. Recommended dosage – 5,000 to 10,000 iu/day with meals, unless otherwise instructed by your healthcare provider.
 
Glutathione. Liposomal glutathione detoxifies acetaldehyde and other smoke toxins and can prevent damage from inhalation. You should get this from your healthcare provider (most especially a naturopath or holistic practitioner).

Selenium. Selenium is another antioxidant that can help fight free radical damage and moderate cellular oxidative stress. Recommended dosage – 200mcg twice/day – unelss otherwise instructed by your healthcare provider.

Herbs. Green tea, ginger, and turmeric are highly effective in inhibiting the activation of carcinogens in environmental smoke. 
 
The biggest take away here is choose foods rich in antioxidants, select supplements to support your diet – but remember that it is not necessarily safe to supplement without the guidance of a healthcare provider – this is because some underlying conditions could have dangerous contraindications with certain supplements.

As helpless as you might feel during such uncertain times, making healthy, clean choices for you and your family can really feel proactive. Always choose organic when you can – you do not need the additional toxins from pesticides. Take a deep breath. We’ll get through this!

“Wine O’Clock” & The Winemaking Mama

 

Woman with wine and a pile of clothes

Well – I think I may have finally come up with my podcast title – The Winemaking Mama!  I’ve been working on my vision board and mapping out what I want it to be… the name was the thing I was struggling with the most!  I can’t do “Pirate Princess Diaries” or “Pirate Princess Chronicles” because of Disney, mostly.  So, we’ll see if The Winemaking Mama makes the cut!

My husband likes the full title – Wine O’Clock & The Winemaking Mama…  That’s probably too long.  Short and catchy are always recommended.  But I digress…

I’m not writing today about my future podcast.  I’m writing about something much more difficult to unpack – women and the wine o’clock habit – and how it has become a problem for many women.

Exhausted mamas, I see you.  I’m one of you.

Many of us find ourselves wiped out by early evening (heck, by early afternoon!) and we find our way into the kitchen right on time for wine o’clock.  We look forward to it all day.  We need it.  It’s a kind of reward for the weary.

My husband and I are both in the wine industry.  For years I have participated in the enophile’s delight of discovering delicious wines from all over the world.  Wine o’clock could happen at any time of the day.  But there’s something about the happy hour time when wine o’clock falls in for most – it’s to unwind.

For us, drinking wine at the end of the day was not initially about needing to relax but, rather, about exploration and participating in our professional passion – enjoying wine.  We would geek out over special bottles, cool bottles, esoteric bottles, surprising mainstream bottles, and so on.  Over time, with a new child and mounting life responsibilities, the luxury of drinking wine for appreciation too soon morphed into our needing the time to unwind.

The thing with wine consumption for me – I would always mean to have just one glass.  I would tell myself – one glass only.  Or as my grandmother liked to say, “one and done!”

Moderation is key.  I was pretty good about keeping to my imbibing guideline.  Some days were more difficult than others.  Those days included better bottles we were not willing to waste or hold on to for multiple days, or multiple bottles that made their way onto our kitchen counter that we wanted to try.  So one glass would become two, or three, or a bottle.

By the time we decided to start a family, I was committed to an alcohol-free pregnancy.  I was an older mom-to-be so I felt it was imperative to cut out all the “no no’s” from my diet – including caffeine and alcohol.   And I did it.  Save for a few glasses of Champagne in my third trimester.  It was easy because I didn’t have a taste for wine when I was pregnant – white wines tasted like vinegar to me and red wines were just too much.  I could handle a little Champagne, but, it was kind of wasted on me because my palate was not in its prime form with all of those pregnancy hormones surging through my body.

I had no taste for or interest in wine after my baby way born, either.  I didn’t drink during his first year.  I believe I sipped on a few glasses here and there, but, I could not drink an entire glass of wine.

When the coronavirus hit in March, my baby was fifteen months old, and the stress of our lives and our world drew me back to wine o’clock.  It started off innocently enough, with just sips.

My husband and I embarked on a virtual world tour while sheltering in place – and we cooked up dinners with recipes from cities we’d “visit” and we’d pair our international meals with wine.  At first, I just sipped.  As the pandemic continued to ravage the world, my sips stretched out to a glass, then two.  I had the will power to maintain my two glass maximum.  But because I didn’t have much of a tolerance for alcohol anymore, I would feel groggy and worse for the wear.

The wine o’clock happy hour did not last long.  Here we are at the end of June and I’m back to sipping no more than a glass, as max.  And not every day.  I sip on wine maybe three days a week.

This isn’t about my exercise of self control.  This is about my body’s rejection of something I have loved for years, something I MAKE professionally.  My craft is winemaking!  How surreal to make wine professionally but no longer to have the desire to drink it with the passion, curiosity and pleasure I once had.

I guess this is my new mantra:  I’m a winemaking mama that doesn’t really enjoy drinking wine anymore – beyond sips for personal discovery and professional evaluation.

This is important because I’m not just a winemaking mama.  I own my own wine business.  I market and sell my wines to stay in business.  Many of my customers are wine o’clock women.

I have considered the philosophical “liability” of producing and selling alcohol – many times.  I’ve sat with my feelings of  guilt and discomfort about it – many times.  I have loved ones in my circle with drinking problems and with alcoholism.  I have issues with loved ones who make choices that impact me and my family negatively.  And I try to be compassionate towards those I love who have problems with alcohol consumption.

If you open up Facebook  you’ll see many conflicting articles getting tossed around – especially if Facebook recognizes you as a wine professional or enthusiast.  Some will say drinking wine will extend your life, drinking wine is good for heart health to drinking any amount of alcohol is toxic.  You get marketing coming from every angle.  How do you know what’s true?

I will put on my holistic nutritionist hat and say that alcohol causes inflammation and should be consumed mindfully based on your bio-individuality.  Some people should avoid alcohol at all costs.  Alcohol is safe for the majority of adults.  Finding moderation for your body type, life stage and other bio-individual requirements can be assessed by a healthcare professional.

Today, a new Facebook ad found its way into my feed – “Wine O’clock a Habit?” sponsored by SoberSis (www.sobersis.com).  The attractive woman on the video looked like one of my fellow woman’s college alumna in a preppy hot pink t-shirt, pearls and a ball cap.

I’m sometimes a sucker for good click bait.  So I scanned some of the posted comments and then clicked.

What struck a cord with me was the normalcy of the behavior this woman addressed.  She was describing herself, but she was describing me and many of my women friends who would start the day with good intentions, following mindful practices throughout the day – working out, drinking green juice, thinking good thoughts – and but still finding the that glass of wine at the end of the day.  She describes the delicate way wine o’clock controls you.

Psychological connection to wine o’clock gets unpacked and SoberSis has tools to help women break the habit.

This post is not a constructive critique of or endorsement for SoberSis and her tools.  It’s about the conversation about women and wine o’clock and an important word she’s using that is not just a smart marketing tool, but a real connection (best way semantics can work out) – and that’s using the word sis.

Women do a pretty good job with reaching out for help.  Women do support groups better than our male counterparts.  Women seek out community and… sisterhood.

I must admit, it makes me a bit sad when I see the need for this type of program.  This isn’t about Alcoholics Anonymous.  And I’m not even suggesting a pay-to-play platform for managing a drinking habit is the answer for anyone.

I am simply relating to the problem.  I am humbly exploring my role in this problem, as a winemaker and wine marketer and wine seller.  In a perfect world I could make, market and sell my wine to women without any concern, assuming my customers all practice safe and moderate drinking practices.  But I know better.  I know that some women really struggle and secretly wish they didn’t have wine stocked up in their homes as they wait for wine o’clock to come each day.  Many of these women wake up in the morning feeling horribly hungover and full of regret.  Many will say – no more.  Today I will not drink wine but then will arrive at wine o’clock with a full glass.

I’m not sure what to say right now.  Because I know there are many sides to the wine o’clock women out there.  Some really have fun and feel good about their decisions to imbibe regularly at their special designated time.  It’s a feel good ritual no matter how many glasses are enjoyed.

I hate preachy talk about drinking and I avoid it at all costs.  To quote my favorite online yoga guru Adriene Mishler (yogawithadriene.com) – “find what feels good.”

I want to remove all judgements about wine o’clock.  I’m not sure how I feel about SoberSis’s unpacking of wine o’clock.  If her platforms helps some women find healthy balance and happiness and good health that is a win.  I hope her message isn’t about making wine consumption a shameful practice.

This encourages me to continue my own exploration of what it means to be a winemaking mama.   I can sit with my previous feelings of guilt and concern and reframe them into cultivating positive wine o’clock experiences.

Perhaps I’ll launch a healthy “Wine O’Clock Wellness Circle for Women” group for my podcast subscribers!  This may need some word-smithing.  But you get the idea.  It can be an invitation to come right where you are right now and be well with it.  No shame.  No guilt.  But healthy balance for what feels right for you.  If one glass feels right, you are welcome; if four glasses feels right, you are welcome.  You just have to be present with your choices and clear about your intentions to bring joy and a little to your life.

Perhaps I’ll invite Adriene to do a yoga opening and lead a gentle mantra about “finding what feels good” when treating yourself to that glass of delicious wine and even have SoberSis chime in about balance and retaining the control you want with your wine enjoyment.  I think there’s a lot of potential here to pivot a little, to change the narrative and move from habits that no longer serve us.

This is not for everyone and it’s not meant to judge or shake a finger at those who love their wine their way – I feel compelled to keep reiterating that point.   It’s really about Yoga Adriene’s mantra – “find what feels good” – and if you should so happen to shift from your feel good place to another – you can find community and sisterhood as easy as online.

 

 

 

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MOANA for the MAMAS

disney, white, figure, character, happy, cartoon, design, smile, animation, tale, fairy, toy, story, background, model, snow, walt, musical, cute, seven, icon, grimm, art, children, red, decoration, concept, beautiful, illustrative, holiday, graphic, male, studio, film, business, mouse, movie, gnome, print, pixar, young
Stock photo of Disney’s Moana

I have had a bone to pick with Disney for a long time.  Perhaps it was the women’s college I went to that nurtured my strong feminist heart to challenge anything that put girls and women into precious and demoralizing boxes.  

The Disney Princess franchise has long been an entity that I have struggled with – from the earliest messaging for young girls to wait for your prince to come – or worse – recognize the need to be saved by your prince.  Further, young girls have learned to put  intellect, ambition, interests and talents aside for the good of the more important support role required to land a man.

Ariel had to LOSE HER VOICE (!!!!) in exchange for the chance to follow and meet a goofy bro with a cute dog.  Her prince was nothing special.  He certainly lacked anything akin to the precious gift Ariel had – her voice and her talent to sing.  It’s creepy messaging for young girls, confusing at best, but demoralizing, really.

Belle was an improvement.  To begin with – the books.  I was a book nerd and an English Literature & Creative Writing major (undergraduate degree) when “Beauty & The Beast” was released.  For once, the Disney Princess did not need saving, and in stark contrast the princess, who wasn’t a princess at all, saved the man, er The Beast.  It doesn’t get all warm and fuzzy here, though.  Look at the qualities of The Beast.  Feminists have long critiqued Disney for setting Belle up with a poor romantic choice.  The Beast locks her up.  He is rude and scary.  Creepy, really.  I’m going to save the character analysis and leave this one here.  It’s still a story about a girl’s pursuit for love and her happy ending – marriage.

I wanted to love “Pocahontas”.  Finally, a Disney Princess who wasn’t another white girl.  Her song – Colors of the Wind – became my first Disney anthem.  It felt like real progress.  But, once again, there were many flaws in the female heroine storyline.

Here is the summary for the animated film:

Pocahontas is the animated tale of the romance between a young American Indian woman named Pocahontas and Capt. John Smith, who journeyed to the New World with other settlers to begin fresh lives. Her powerful father, Chief Powhatan, disapproves of their relationship and wants her to marry a native warrior. Meanwhile, Smith’s fellow Englishmen hope to rob the Native Americans of their gold. Can Pocahontas’ love for Smith save the day? (From princess.disney.com)

This is far from the reality of Pocahontas’ story.  The real Pocahontas’ name was Matoaka, which had been concealed for fear the English could do her harm if they knew it. She was about ten years old when John Smith came into the picture.  She converted to Christianity, took the baptismal name Rebecca, and married John Rolfe.  As for her biggest colonial contribution, she aided her husband’s tobacco farm.

Colonists had been trying to grow tobacco for years, but without success. Now suddenly, with Pocahontas present, John Rolfe succeeded in growing a crop Europeans would buy. Tobacco culture required very different techniques from European crops, and women were the agriculturalists in Chesapeake Algonquian society, so she was the one who understood both the crop and the environment.

Taken from Time Magazine’s article “The Full Story of Pocahontas is Rarely Told.  Here’s What We’re Missing” by Karen Ordahl Kupperman, March 12, 2019.

We get continued improvements – like “Mulan”.  She’s a strong female character.  But, Disney cannot help but enforce the only “happy ending” available for female heroines – finding love.

Here’s Disney’s summary for the animated feature film “Mulan”:

Fearful that her ailing father will be drafted into the Chinese military, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) takes his spot — though, as a girl living under a patriarchal regime, she is technically unqualified to serve. She cleverly impersonates a man and goes off to train with fellow recruits. Accompanied by her dragon, Mushu, she uses her smarts to help ward off a Hun invasion, falling in love with a dashing captain along the way.

Thank goodness for the dashing captain.  Sigh.

“Frozen” produced another powerful girl-power anthem – Let It Go.

The film has it merits.  Obviously, it doesn’t offer a diverse landscape of characters.  I have Nordic heritage so I can appreciate the snowland magic of Arendelle, which was based on several locations in Norway.  It’s about sister love, which I love.  Romantic love gets squashed when the love interest turns out to be a fraud and the heroine has the sense to let him go.  So, from a feminist perspective, “Frozen” gives young girls something else…

Then came “Moana”.

Sigh of complete relief and joy!  I came to know Moana at the start of the coronavirus shutdown.  Songs from the film were among favorites on my toddler son’s playlist.  We felt something visceral, in our bones – the way I felt something from Colors of the Wind and Let it Go.  But better.

“Moana” is everything.  I could gush about her and this film all day long.  I have been obsessed.  She is natural beauty so luminous – by far the most beautiful Disney Princess, in my humble opinion.  Her inner beauty is palpable.  From the adorable opening scene when baby Moana meets the ocean.

I cried throughout this movie.  I realized Moana is for mamas!  I mean, yes, it’s for children, it’s for everyone.  But it really is for mamas in a special “we’ve been waiting for this” kind of way!

The soundtrack is so soothing and body-electric-heart-warming.  I soon learned the songs we loved so much were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (genius behind “Hamilton”).  I love this man.  I want to become his friend.  I want to thank him.  I want to nominate and vote for him for President.  Because he gets it.  Clearly this man embodies change, clarity, inclusion, love, strength, and how the power of music can teach and heal.

Here’s the storyline for the animated film “Moana”:

An adventurous teenager sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.

This is teenage angst at its best!  There is no weirdo love story that gets pushed into the psyche of little girls’ faces like stuffing shit food down the throat of a goose for foie gras.  This is pure.  This is about the environment and healing mother earth, Te Fiti.  This is about presenting a very different lens about a Polynesian people – not as ignorant natives or entertainment for white people – but as a long line of mighty voyagers!

I got chills up and down my spine springing goosebumps up all over my skin during so many moments of watching this film.

Moana’s grandmother is the consummate crone who, upon her death, transforms into a beautiful stingray, her spirit animal.  Every scene with Moana and her grandmother is breathtakingly and achingly beautiful.

I like “The Rock”.  I mean, I really didn’t have much opinion of him.  But, after seeing him personify demi-God Maui, well, I love Duane “The Rock” Johnson now, too.  He is perfection in this story.  I had no idea he could sing!  My toddler jams to his song “You’re Welcome” written by Miranda.  The rapping is a welcome pure delight.

This mama has serious opinions about Disney Princess films.  Especially since I have a little boy, I don’t want him to see the stereotypes portrayed in most of these earlier films.  I want him to see girls and women as strong, capable and not the second gender.  Little boys need strong, independent female heroines as much as little girls do.  They need to learn from better examples that the earth doesn’t revolve around them and their male privilege.  Male heros in Disney tales need to be better.  They don’t need to rescue females.  They need to include females, work alongside females and even be able to take a backseat to females.

The messages in Moana are clear.  It’s about heart.  Sometimes hearts are stolen and turn us inside out.  Pure love can return and restore a heart and heal.  We can restore our earth and help her heal herself – she has enormous power to do so.

Just look at air quality maps during the coronavirus pandemic that show clarity and improvement when toxic daily function of humans is put to a halt.  We have the power to restore Te Fiti so she can heal herself, regenerate and spring new life.

There must be a Moana in all of us.  We all have a path and a purpose.  We all go through the sometimes painful process of finding our own identities.  This often happens multiple times during the course of a lifetime.

In fact, I am going through my own Moana moment in the course of my life, working through my still new identity as mother.  Yes, Moana is for mamas!

Her songs have awakened a longing inside of me to break away the crackling shell of what life has turned me into – tired, anxious, confused, sleep deprived, unsure, feeling unstable and even depressed and angry.  There’s a lot of Te Fiti in me right now, too.

When we stop force feeding girls the one tired storyline about white beauty, or victim heroines, or happily ever after love stories – we’ll feed girls with nourishment to love themselves for who they are, for exactly how they look, and to encourage them to follow their hearts, to help foster the yearning that evolves into a life-long journey of discovering identity, of soul searching, of becoming.

Here’s my anthem: I am Moana (Song of the Ancestors).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LUNG ENERGY SUPPRESSION in 2020

2020 golden metal rat painted texture on plasticine
2020 is the Year of the Metal Rat in Chinese Astrology.


Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath in.  Relax your eyes, your jawline, your shoulders.  Now breathe out, slowly.  Clear your mind.  Let go of your running thoughts.  Try.  Take another deep breath in, slowly, letting your belly expand and fill up with your breath.  Hold it there, in your belly, for eight seconds.  Keep your mind still, empty.  Breathe out, slowly.

Now, eyes still closed, take another intentional breath in, expanding your belly and filling it up, slowly, full of care.  Imagine your lungs.  A pink, clear, healthy, expansive, powerful engine in your torso, capable of harnessing your life force as it relates to the world around you, taking in clean air from the atmosphere – your most basic instinct and complex mechanism required to exist on our planet.  Each breath moving clean air into and out of the lungs, facilitating gas exchange with the internal environment by bringing in oxygen and flushing out carbon dioxide.  Exhale, slowly.

We take our breathing for granted.  We take breath for granted.  First, simply taking the time to concentrate on your breath through meditation for ten minutes each day can actually extend your life.  Consider the health choices you make to protect or damage your lungs – smoking tobacco or marijuana?  Consider the environment – do you believe we need to protect the Earth, do we need our lawmakers to address global warming and other issues contaminating our planet?  Consider an outbreak of a new, highly contagious and deadly virus that causes severe acute respiratory disease.  Consider a police officer’s knee on the back of a restrained black man’s neck, suppressing his breath until he loses consciousness and dies.

Breathe it in.  Exhale it out.

Five plus years ago I studied holistic nutrition and the program I completed leaned heavily on the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  I was especially interested in the study of “Five Element Theory”, an ancient practice utilizing the five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal, water – to diagnose, treat and heal humans based on their innate, unchanging element association.  The theory may be used to help form a diagnosis when there is conflicting signs and symptoms associated with the five elements.  Additionally, the elements are useful for assisting patients with nutritional therapy and working through emotional issues.  The Five Element theory is based on the observation of the natural cycles and interrelationships in both our environment and within ourselves.

Everyone has a “dominant element” based on behaviors and physical aspects – color below the eyes, sound of voice, odors, smells, emotions, seasons, body type, development stage, environment, and organs.  And it never changes.

For example, my element is Water.  It always has been and always will be.  It never changes from the day you are born to the day you die.

According to TCM, the element of Metal is associated with the Lungs.

5 element theory

According to TCM, Metal/Lung is associated with the nose (breathing), grief, autumn, dryness, crying, the color white (as it appears when light hits the face, casting a subtle shade below the eyes – this has nothing to do with skin color or pigment), and the west (directional).  Too much sadness and grieving can harm the Lung.  “Letting things go” is a healthy way to stimulate Lung function and get rid of physical and emotional baggage.  The Metal/Lung is associated with boundaries.

I meditated on this. 

What are some of the specific causes of sadness and grieving affecting our collective Lung?  Inequality.  Racism.  Sexism.  Intolerance.  Hate.  Greed.  Violence.  War.  Self-serving Ego.  What else?  How we treat others.  How we treat our planet. 

Keep going.

Note:  If you decide to meditate on this too, add your own ideas and expand on the causes.  Breathe it in.  Exhale it out.

How has the sadness and grieving of the world harmed our collective Lung?  What do we need to “let go” to stimulate our collective Lung function and to rid ourselves of physical, emotional baggage?  How do we create healthy boundaries?  What is essentialism?  What needs to go?  What can no longer be tolerated or accepted?  What has to change NOW? How do we remove these toxins to our existence so that we can heal our collective emotional wounds and put an end to the sadness and grief of the world?

How are these painful circumstances of 2020 actually leading us to clean air, repaired, healthy breathing for the collective Lung?

Breathe in.  Exhale out.

2020 was supposed to be a year about clarity and “perfect vision”.  For so many – this was going to be a big “make things happen”, “take action” year.  But before we knew it, we found ourselves in the midst of a frightening pandemic with a dangerously contagious coronavirus that attacks the lungs.  This virus spread across the globe quickly and shut down our country.

Still in the course of the pandemic, we found ourselves in the midst of a national civil rights crisis – turned movement – following a horrifying episode of police brutality in Minneapolis after a video revealed a police officer forced his knee to the neck of restrained George Floyd, a black man arrested for a minor offense.  Floyd could be seen begging for help with his now immortalized, haunting last words… “I can’t breathe.”

Take that all in.  Now Breathe.

According to the Chinese Zodiac the Year of the Metal Rat began on January 25, 2020 and runs through February 11, 2021.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

The metaphysical world is part of quantum physics, part of the micro and macro energetics of the universe.  When you begin to understand concepts like quantum physics, lightyears, gravity, black holes, organic chemistry and microbiology – well, you recognize that some people rely on the concept of coincidence to offer a pass for a concept which they cannot understand or explain.

Science shows us the most elegant mapwork of our universe, our galaxy, our planet, our microscopic world down to tiniest particulate matter – the unseen particles that have grave impact on climate and precipitation that adversely affect human health in ways additional to direct inhalation.

As big as we can imagine and as tiny as we can fathom – there is a specific energetic order and energy to everything.

Breathe that in.  Exhale that out.

All matter here on earth is material born from the death of stars.  Who or what created this is where religion and philosophy offer opportunity for opinion, faith, or whatever you feel.  But, make no mistake, the order of the energetics that make up atoms and particles and compounds and structure and dimensions and stretches of light and distance – it is all very ornate and complex like fractals, DNA, negative or positive ions, galaxies, star nurseries, black holes, or the incredible respiratory system of two lungs located near the backbone on either side of the heart with millions of cells that make up trachea, bronchi, terminal bronchioles, Alveolar ducts, sacs, and alveoli… a marvelous and perfect system that functions so that we can breathe.

Some people operate on a higher level of consciousness than others – depending on how they are raised, how they are suppressed, how they are traumatized, how they are restricted, how they are taught, how they are elevated, how they are wired, how they are willing or encouraged to grow.  That said, some people will get this immediately.  And some will recoil with discomfort because they don’t understand or “agree” with what I’m putting down.  Restrictive ideas or beliefs are tied to what often holds us back or prevents us from expanding our consciousness.

I can no longer put energy in those who are just unwilling to grow, change, evolve, elevate or expand.

Breathe in. Exhale out.

These traumatic episodes came to be in the Year of the Metal Rat for a reason.

I do not subscribe to a single metaphysical concept.  Let me be clear.  This has nothing to do with my faith or religion.  Because this has nothing to do with faith or religion.  This is about opening up to ancient concepts that draw us closer to the universe, to nature, to the health and order of our planet, and to the choice to act in kindness and compassion or hate and oppression.  It’s about yin and yang equal and opposite energies that combined bring together harmony – and you can call that whatever you want.  It’s bigger than one philosophical concept or regional, cultural understanding.  It’s bigger than that.

Breathe that in.  Exhale that out.

Here’s more about what I learned about the Chinese zodiac Rat and Metal combined and how it relates to the year 2020.

There is a lot of content available about Chinese astrology.  Again.  This is not about religion.  This is not about paganism or atheism or the need to be right.  This is about a formulaic way ancient Chinese philosophy engaged the study of energetics, nature and metaphysics to offer deeper consciousness towards our physical world, nature and human experience.

The Rat is the very first sign from the twelve animal cycle of Chinese astrology, and for this reason 2020 is considered a year of new beginnings and renewals.

According to many predictions around the Chinese calendar, the year 2020 is to be quite challenging, especially health-wise, but also financially with obstacles, impediments and unpredictable situations, which will mainly occur during the first half of the year.

How is this measured?

“This situation is caused by the negative energy of the annual ‘Flying Star 5’, the star of destruction and disasters, which will have a strong influence during the Metal Rat year” (thechinesezodiac.org).

Quick explanation.  We’re connecting, once again, to Five Element Theory.  The “Flying Star 5” is an important concept in Feng Shui, the Chinese practice of creating sacred and clean or clear space to address aspects of human life and balance.

Xuan Kong Fei Xing is a discipline in Feng Shui and is an integration of the principles of Yin Yang, the interactions between the Five Elements, the Eight Trigrams, the Lo Shu numbers, and the 24 Mountains, by using time, space and objects to create an astrological chart to analyze positive auras and negative auras of a building.

When “Flying Star 5” appears (there are 9 flying stars in Feng Shui) you can expect plague, lawsuits, catastrophe, disloyalty, the worst amongst the others, and death.

Breathe in.  Exhale out.

“The vital force of the planet is weak, which is why this year you might feel stressed even by the smallest of things.”

“During the first half of the year you will have more free time and you will be able to rest and make plans for the future.  You will consolidate the relationship with your life partner and you will spend more time with your children.” (thechinesezodiac.org)

Does any of this sound familiar?  When the world shut down and social distancing turned to #shelterinplace – we received the fullness of this prediction.  More stress.  More free time.  More rest.  More time to make plans for the future.  Consolidated relationship with your life partner.  More time with  your children.

Personally, all of that was my reality from March 13th to the present.

The year 2020 is also under the influence of “Flying Star 2” which is positioned in the south, causing all kinds of health issues.

“The Metal Rat year is difficult and full of obstacles for the Water Chinese zodiac signs (Rat, Pig), but the other signs will also encounter many hurdles throughout the year and so they will need to be more cautious than ever.” (thechinesezodiac.org).

Wash your hands for 26 seconds or while reciting the alphabet.  Wear masks when you must leave your house.  Only leave your house for the essentials.

Breathe in.  Exhale out.

“Metal signs (Monkey, Rooster) will face many difficult moments and they will be forced to fight fiercely for their rights…  The Year of the Rat has ups and downs, but nothing of worth ever comes easy.  During the first half of the year the health of the Chinese zodiac signs will be much improved, their energy and zest for life coming back in full force.” (thechinesezodiac.org)

Take that in.  Breathe that in.  Exhale that out.

Going back to the appearance of  “Flying Star 5” with expected plague, lawsuits, catastrophe, disloyalty, the worst amongst the others, and death…  it’s clear how that corresponds to the Covid-19 pandemic and related economic disaster.  But it is also clearly related to the homicide of George Floyd.

His murder is undoubtedly related to the plague of systemic racism in America.  His murder is going to be related to lawsuits, or law and order, or the legal system and a huge, sweeping change that has been a long time coming!  His murder was a catastrophe that hit even harder during a global pandemic.  Disloyalty is now a clean and clear line drawn as seen in protests that sprung up all across the globe as a result of Floyd’s murder – you are either loyal to the cause to end systemic racism and the homicide of black people in America or your are disloyal and not a part of the movement towards change.  This divide is certainly bringing out the worst in some and this, too, will come to a head.  It took the senseless death of a restrained black man to finally erupt and wake up so many who had been sleeping.  Many black lives have been taken by law enforcement and racism.  Seeing millions put on face masks and risk a pandemic for something greater than the individual, something greater than life or death – to break the chains of racism and equality in the most exhaustive, enough already, we are at a breaking point way – is inspiring.  And it’s about time.

Breathe in.  Exhale out.

So, when we think about 20/20 and perfect vision and a year of making big things happen, well, I don’t think the year is a wash.  I think we’re getting exactly what we envisioned.

In a Biblical sense, the plague and deaths and catastrophe points to the end of days.  Yes.  I believe it is indeed the end of the world… as we know it.

It took a pandemic and a heightened video evidenced murder of a black man to wake us up and to begin to heal the collective Lung.

Imagine the gift of having a ventilator in a hospital room.  Imagine the tragedy of not having access to one and being left to die.  Imagine all the healthcare workers who had to suit up and work in the front lines trying to save lives, many losing their own.

Let us all take a moment to breathe in for those who have been sick or died from Covid-19.  Exhale slowly.

Imagine being a black person hunted down by racists or being brutalized by police.  Imagine a knee on the back of your neck, after dealing with sickness from Covid-19, surviving a pandemic, but not surviving a police officer’s unnecessary force that stole your very last breath.  Imagine 8:46 minutes of gasping for air and struggling to mutter, “I can’t breathe”.

Let us all take a moment, 8:46 minutes to be exact, to breathe in for George Floyd.  Breathe for him.  Breathe for every black person murdered by systemic racism.  #blacklivesmatter

Exhale, slowly.

So we move and change and learn and grow – we must revitalize the vital force of the planet.  This year is the opportunity to heal the collective Lung.

Return this meditation to the Lung.

How has the sadness and grieving of the world harmed our collective Lung?  What do we need to “let go” to stimulate our collective Lung function and to rid ourselves of physical, emotional baggage?  How do we create healthy boundaries?  What is essentialism?  What needs to go?  What can no longer be tolerated or accepted?  What has to change NOW? How do we remove these toxins to our existence so that we can heal our collective emotional wounds and put an end to the sadness and grief of the world?

How are these painful circumstances of 2020 actually leading us to clean air, repaired, healthy breathing for the collective Lung?

Breathe in.  Exhale out.

Thank you for taking the time to read along and meditate through this exploration of 2020 The Year of the Metal Rat and Lung Energy with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mother Line

Silhouette of a young mother lovingly kissing her little child o

It’s been a journey.

I have meditated and prayed and cried a lot since mid-March.   And I had been morphing and grieving and adapting into “mother” all of last year, which also put me on a course for an unexpected emotional journey.

Last fall I had nearly lost it.  I was beyond overwhelmed trying to make up for losses with my business in the first half of the year during the most challenging part of my postpartum recovery.  I wrestled through the angst and discomfort of postpartum depression.  I have been sleep deprived, still, since my third trimester.  My mental health has been rocky, at best.  I have been traumatized and have finally, I think, moved on from the PTSD of a birth plan gone wrong.  I have been physically injured and will probably never regain normal movement in my right hip.  I struggled through my ninth wine harvest.  And still the expectation was for me to tread on, move forward, keep on.

I never felt so weak – physically and emotionally.  I found a practice that worked for me.  An anthropology based practice on the sacred feminine archetypes.  I know it sounds “woo woo”.  For some it is totally woo woo.  It’s something that I related to in a way that religion or spirituality just could not deliver when I need to transfer negativity into positivity through action.  There are many ways to succeed at this – and I found a way that worked for me.

I leaned into the workshop on “awakening the warrior goddess”.  It was energy work, it was meditation, it was the one thing that helped me to shift.  Seriously.  It isn’t the kind of practice that delivered immediate results.  It has a ripple effect that is palpable and powerful for transformation.  I could not shift into my new mother role without digging deep inward to find myself, to reclaim myself.  I had been lost.  I needed to step into the fulness of myself.  I needed to feel something big.

The feminine archetype practice is all about sacred women’s space.  Warrior goddess awakening is about moving big energy.   She is “high love, high wisdom and authentically connected to sacred heart”.  There are so many warrior goddess archetypes to connect with – Athena or Nike (Greek); Anut, Bast or Bellona (Egypt), Morrigan (Irish), Durga or Kali (Hindu), Pele (Hawaiian) or Freya (Nordic).  In my practice, I connected with Freya and in my meditation I was with her in a Nordic winter landscape of fjords and falling snow.  Sacred warrior goddess helps us to connect to our heart, to guide your warrior actions in the world, it’s pure power, life force and always heart-aligned.  Completing the practice opens your power chakras and sends you forward more able to trust the unfolding of the practice, more able to see how things will shift in an alchemical way, more able to experience that ripple effect in the physical world from these deep practices.

All of this was taken from the powerful Rewilding For Women workshops presented by founder Sabrina Lynn.

And what a ripple effect!  By January I was no longer trapped and stuck in a hamster wheel of being unproductive, frustrated, ineffective, exhausted, depleted, and so on.  I wasn’t in the midst of an identity crisis.  I found a life coach for mothers – Mother Nurture.  Finally!  I was creating tangible goals for myself!  I was a more positive version of myself.  I was figuring out work-life balance that had so recently been a painful struggle.  I had my amazing therapist to help me through the emotional and mental blockages that were finally coming down.  I had a dream team to help me grow and fearlessly move forward in my physical and emotional world.

Then the pandemic happened.

We did our best to navigate the uncertainty and sudden change.  My husband still worked but worked from home for a couple weeks until that work was done, and then used vacation time.  My business crashed.  The shelter in place mandate and public space closures flatlined my sales channels.  I lost 80% of my business in distribution sales.  I had to pivot and luckily found myself busy processing online orders.  While this was very helpful it wasn’t enough to save my business – not even close.

I applied for SBA emergency loans.  I applied for small business grants.  For weeks… crickets.

Warrior goddess archetype work prepared me to deal with this battle.  I put on my warrior helmut, but on my armor, strapped my sword across my chest and charged on as best I could.  I need to stay focused, aware, positive and I needed to be productive.

I also gleaned wisdom from favorite podcast personalities warning not to let this sacred time go to waste.  So often we complain that we don’t have enough time to do what we want or need to do.  I used this time wisely.

We dealt with the emotional chaos of stay-at-home quarantine by exploring the world as if we were still able to travel.  We traveled to places also hit by the coronavirus and reported live on Instagram what those places were going through.  It made the world smaller, it made the experience less isolating.  We cooked our dinners with recipes from our virtual travels and we read poetry by poets from the nations and cities we visited.  We called it our #shelterinplaceworldtour and it was really therapeutic.

Eventually, we tired of the work it took to put on our stay-at-home-tour each night.

My husband and I had wanted to set up a comedic podcast for months.  We launched that!  It’s based on a goofy conversation – one of many we have.  We’re both writers.  He’s a legit actor.  I’ve done some acting.  Together, we created this goof-ball “fraudcast” about a fellow who takes us on his misguided adventures – The Uninformed Bon Vivant.

These things have helped.

But then my husband’s job was furloughed.  Once again we found ourselves having to shift.  And the shifting has been uncomfortable and painful at times.  It’s challenging raising a toddler in this pandemic.  I try to remind myself what those sage podcast hosts warned – if you don’t pivot now when you have all the time in the world, you will go back to the life or the aspects of your life that you don’t want as soon as things return to operational.  You must take action!

Something in me was hurting.  Rightfully so.  This pandemic has touched everyone in some profound way – either through job loss, business loss, illness or death.  There is a mourning process to life in the covid-19 pandemic.  And like all loss, one must process the natural grieving milestones of shock/disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression and acceptance/hope.

I was somewhere between anger and depression when I found myself in such great struggle.  I was preparing myself for setting the course to close my business once and for all.  I was coping with the struggles of parenting while trying to keep my business afloat. I was angry with politicians.  I was angry with people ignoring the “shelter in place” mandate, risking others lives.  I was exhausted and emotionally drained.  I was frustrated with my partner who seemed, to me, oblivious to my time management needs to keep my business afloat (I’m a one woman show trying to sell, market and make 1600+ cases of wine) along with nursing, putting our little one down for his naps, stopping my work flow to make lunch, etc.  This pandemic has been challenging for families and marriages, and communication can be tricky when everyone is treading through life  with a “deer in headlights” lens to an unusual new normal.

I found my way back to “Rewilding for Women”.

Intuitively, I selected the “Mother Love” deepening practices for my second workshop.  Mother Love addresses our innate creation, mothering and nurturing – the innate knowing in our bones, the deep, wise woman knowing.  The practice connects us to Great Mother – an archetype known as Gaia, Mother Earth, Hera, Mother Mary, etc.  She is a beautiful, wise, loving woman.

This work allows us to pull from our circle of women – aunties, grandmothers, medicine women – the keepers of feminine mysteries and deep, sacred, ancient energies.  Working with Mother Love connects us to the earth below us, connecting us to the wisdom of the seasons, cycles, birth and death.  It starts at our base chakra (womb energy) and works its way up to our heart chakra.  Great Mother is always there.  All of this aids in nurturing your highest self, allows you to tap into “womb wisdom” – the wiring our bodies have to create life, to get pregnant, to make milk – doesn’t matter if you are a mother or not, or if you never plan to have children.  It’s about our wiring, our deep wisdom, our creative life force.  It’s not about our relationships with our own mothers.  This is not personal or material.  It’s big, unconditional love.  Mother Love is always there to help bring big, unconditional love into your body through healing, awakening, opening and “de-armoring” the heart.  Great Mother removes blocks and obstacles.  The practice invites you to lean into her big open arms so she can give you her big love.  This work then invites you to clear and heal your mother lines, healing ancestral wounds.  This is quite powerful work!

Again, with ripple effects!  When you clear your personal line energetically and dissolve chords that cannot hold highest good, the light, the unconditional love – we are very “potent creative beings”.

I printed out Sabrina’s suggested follow up word to deepen the practice.  The most helpful practices were getting out in nature, laying down on the ground to connect with Great Mother for 21 days, and writing a letter to my mother/grandmother/children from the energy of the workshop.

This kind of work isn’t for everyone but it really can be.  It has been essential for me.  I am still in the energetic cycle of my “Mother Love” work and calling on my mother line (both grandmothers and then all sets of my parents grandmothers, and so on) for guidance and support, spiritually.  I am leaning into what I am to learn from this sacred practice.  And I am open with curiosity about which feminine archetype I will be drawn to workshop next – the Dark Goddess, the Sacred Lover, the Medicine Woman or the Feminine Mystic/Priestess.  These, along with Warrior Goddess and Mother Love, are the six traditional faces of the feminine.  You can find these archetypes in religion, mythology, history and so on.  They have been with us forever, they are always with us, and they are all a part of us.

I think Sabrina Lynn is a genius.  She is so articulate, so wise, so generous.  She is a teacher and even embodies Great Mother for us all to lean on for guidance and love.