Consistency Most of All (Vata Season, Part 2, Daily Habits + Rituals)

One of the main principles of Ayurveda is that like increases like and opposites balance. If you have an excess of Vata (air + space) in your body, mind, and emotions, then you’re likely moving from activity to activity, not finishing things, are all over the place with your thoughts, and your daily health & wellness routine is non-existent. You may experience sleeplessness, heightened anxiety, and irregular hunger, eating, and digestion. So what would be helpful is not more of the same.

To balance all that mobility and flighty thinking/eating/doing, we need to bring in some earth qualities, which can be found in Kapha dosha. Basically, we need to slow down, tether our mind, body, and emotions with regular practices (as well as the grounding, nourishing foods I mentioned in last week’s post). We need the heavy, dense, slow, constant qualities of earth to soothe and stabilize our overwrought nervous systems.

There’s actually quite a growing number of Ayurvedic teachers who feel our modern way of life has nearly everyone in Vata excess. In that case, most of us would benefit from these habits.

So what does Ayurveda recommend specifically? Here are three helpful habits to begin balancing Vata.

Set a routine: Wake with the sun, eat, and sleep at the same times every day. It might seem boring, especially if you’re a person with a Vata-dominant constitution or are experiencing high Vata. It might seem exciting and preferable to do whatever you want, whenever you want. That only contributes to the imbalance. As much as is possible, get yourself on a schedule and do your best to stick to it.

Morning practices: Meditate, pray, walk, or do gentle and nourishing physical practices like yoga or Qigong during early morning hours. Resist the urge to open up your email, jump on your phone and start scrolling. Set aside the first hour or two of waking up for you to receive and enjoy spiritual and/or mental nourishment, and warm your muscles and joints with a gentle physical practice. This will give you a sense of calm and ease that will stay with you the rest of the day.

Do oil self-massage, or abhyanga, every day either before or after showering. Here’s a short how-to video on abhyanga by Kate O’Donnell. If you have dry skin, you can use sesame oil ( I prefer refined sesame oil), or if you have sensitive skin, you can use almond, sunflower, or coconut oil, as long as you don’t have allergies. Coconut oil is a cooling oil, so it is preferred for hot weather or those with mostly Pitta constitutions. If you are in the US, you can purchase high quality massage oils, including ones with herbal blends, from Banyan Botanicals. Abhyanga nourishes your body and mind, increases circulation, moves stagnant lymph, improves vision, tones the body’s tissues, and more. Read in depth about it here.

Because Vata needs consistency, I encourage you to start slow and build your routine over time. Maybe this week you can establish a wake, sleep, and eat schedule. And after you become consistent with that, add a morning meditation. After that becomes regular, add abhyanga. If you attempt to do everything, you may become overwhelmed and do nothing. Better to begin small and make things as easy as possibly for yourself.

When The Wind Blows (Vata Season, Part 1: Food)

I sit at my desk in my library and watch the maple tree dance outside the window. It’s a mild October day, and the wind is blowing fast from the South. In Ayurveda, Vata (the combined elements of air+space) is increased when the weather is windy. This means I might experience heightened anxiety, feeling uncertain, unstable, and fearful, and I have a tendency to spend more time wrapped up in my thoughts.

My digestion is always aware of a windy, Vata day; if I haven’t eaten properly, I will most likely experience gas and bloating, especially in the afternoon (2-6pm) which is Vata time of day. I may also be awake sometime between 2-6am worrying about everything and anything.

How can one feel best during Vata season (which tends to be Autumn) or in Vata weather (cool or cold, moving/windy, dry, light)? Think about nurturing and nourishing yourself. Your digestion needs some TLC to counteract Vata’s effects. Food-wise, you need warm, soft, nutritious foods with plenty of liquid to keep your digestive system purring and prevent constipation, gas, or bloating.

I’ve included a short list below of suggested foods/prep methods as well as a skip it list. Also check out Dr. John Douillard’s LifeSpa Fall/Winter Grocery List to print out and stick on your fridge. I’ve had this list on my fridge for several years. It can help you figure out what kinds of ingredients to cook with.

Please remember that Ayurveda respects the individual. Everyone is different. For example, you may be able to eat plenty of beans or a raw salad with no problem, and your partner may need to give them a break for now. Pay attention to what you eat and how food makes you feel at different times of the year. You have sovereignty over your own health and by paying attention, you can experience a greater level of wellbeing.

The Eat It List

  • Eat warming, soft foods, root vegetables, and brothy soups and stews.
  • All the winter squashes and pumpkins–yum!
  • Meat, eggs, and fish are all good this time of year (if you eat them).
  • Cook your vegetables. Steam, roast, sauté your veggies or put them in soups or stews.
  • Make fruit compotes or crisps, bake your apples.
  • Hot cereals are encouraged for breakfast! Baked or stovetop oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat. Try a new recipe, a different grain (if you tolerate grains).
  • Yes to dairy or non-dairy milks, yogurts, cheese, etc., depending on what you tolerate.
  • All nuts and seeds are good (only if you’re not allergic, of course).
  • Drink warm or room-temperature water. Cold water and food slows your digestion.
  • Teas and drinks with warming spices and moon milks, golden milk, raw hot cacao are comforting.

The Skip It List

  • You may need to skip legumes this time of year, especially larger beans & peas, as they may cause digestive distress.
  • Skip cold, raw salads and veggies (unless you have a strong digestion).
  • Same for cold smoothies, protein shakes, etc. If you can’t give up smoothies, bring the ingredients to room temperature before drinking.
  • Dry, cold snacks and treats like crackers, chips, hard cookies, etc. may promote constipation

My recommendations for Vata Season foods are suggestions based on my own experience as well as what I’ve learned studying Ayurveda in the last four years. Please only do what is right for you. You know your body, what you can or can’t tolerate, what you’re allergic to, etc. Please consult your healthcare provider with any concerns or questions about food choices.

By following a seasonal diet, based on the part of our planet that you live in, you will become more aware of and connected to the natural world, which we are all part of. And you may experience greater balance and wellbeing for yourself. If you’d like to read more, check out Banyan Botanical’s Seasonal Guide for Vata Season. Next week, I’ll talk about daily habits for Vata Season.

Food Saved Me, a book review

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog ad-free.

I’ve enjoyed Danielle Walker’s cookbooks and followed her journey on Instagram for years, so it was a treat to read her new memoir, Food Saved Me. Her story was especially interesting because I also live with food intolerances and chronic health issues.

The book is laid out in a linear fashion: from before she first became ill to the present time. She shared her experiences in her clear, sweet Danielle style: very personal and vulnerable. We get a behind-the-scenes look at a young woman who was hit with ulcerative colitis and, with the support of her husband, sought for answers and relief from Western and alternative medicine, herbal and other supplements, and dietary changes.

Her success as a cookbook author started in her own kitchen as she tirelessly experimented and learned how to make delicious dishes, including childhood favorites, with whole, unprocessed foods and without a long list of foods that trigger flare-ups. If you like cooking, cookbooks, and food blogs, you’ll love reading about how she became a household name–especially among those of us who have dietary restrictions.

She takes us through both the times of sunlight and dark despair. And although she is adamant that what she eats has made the biggest difference in her health, she doesn’t hide the fact that medication has been necessary at certain points.

At the end of the book are helpful lists of both recommended foods and those to steer clear of, as well as several recipes. And her husband, Ryan, has a helpful and encouraging note for the partners of those with chronic illness.

I loved this book because Danielle is very open and honest about her own journey. And I also appreciate that it’s a message of encouragement and hope that a person with an autoimmune disease can get through the difficult times, learn to thrive, and learn to cook and eat delicious, healthy food as well.

If you’re interested in cooking or food blogs, you’ll enjoy this book, but you’ll also want to read it if you have dietary restrictions. Or gift a copy to someone who does! Food Saved Me will be released on Tuesday September 14th.

  • I received a free e-book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

How To Make Herbal Tinctures (Wellness Wednesday)

Herbal tinctures are a form of plant medicine used by Western herbalists. Whether you’re a clinically trained herbalist, a folk, community, or family herbalist, tinctures are easy to make, easy to use, and effective.

My formal herbal training so far has been based in aromatherapy (Western) and Ayurvedic herbalism (Eastern). Ayurveda differs from Western herbalism in that it usually requires rather large doses of bitter or otherwise not very palatable herbs. (If you can get Americans to swallow several grams of powdered herbs in hot water a few times a day, it’s a small miracle. Let’s face it, we’re wimps.) I usually put powdered Ayurvedic herbs, such as Triphala, Shatavari, and Dashmula, into capsules with my capsule-filling machine.

Large doses can make sense because most herbs are gentle and subtle compared to a tiny pharmaceutical pill. And sometimes a pharmaceutical option is what we need. But for all the times when it’s not, we can use plant medicine, along with other modalities, to work with our bodies and nurture them back to balance.

When it comes to Western herbalism, tinctures are an easy way to take medicine. Just put the drops in water and drink. My number one tincture, my favorite plant ally, is St. John’s Wort. Depression runs in my family, and it’s something that’s always with me, along with its friend, anxiety. Sometimes it’s just a small shadow in the corner and sometimes it threatens to take over. But it’s always been something I address in natural ways.

And before I talk about St. John’s Wort any further, if you’re thinking of trying it, make sure you read this article that lists side effects as well as contraindications with many pharmaceuticals. Educate yourself about your own health and always check with your health care professional before taking any new drugs, herbal or otherwise.

St. John’s Wort may reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate depression, anxiety, PMS, menopause, ADHD, can improve sleep, and more. My experience with it has been excellent, but I don’t take any pharmaceuticals and was aware to look out for possible side effects when I started taking it. (I never experienced any side effects.)

OK, so how do you make a tincture? Here you go!

Easy Tincture Recipe

1 clean pint mason jar with lid

bulk dried St. John’s Wort or other bulk dried herb

vodka or other flavorless alcohol

Label or tape

Fill the jar 1/3 to 1/2 full of dried herbs. Cover with vodka and screw on the lid. Label and date the jar and put it on a dark, dry shelf. Check it every day or so, giving it a gentle shake, topping up the jar with more vodka so the herbs stay covered. Let it sit for 4-6 weeks, shaking every once in a while, then strain through cheesecloth into a clean jar or into clean dropper bottles. Label and date the jar or bottles.

Health Disclaimer: Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits of herbs, essential oils, flower essences, or other plant medicine I write about on my blog have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition. The words in this post are my own opinions, based on my own experiences. Please see your health care professional before you take any supplement and if you need medical treatment of any kind.

Friday Favorites

You made it! It’s Friday and the weekend ahead is perfect with possibility. I’ll share a few resources that have inspired me lately in hopes that your heart will be encouraged.

Online Challenges:

Have you heard of #Last90Days Challenge? Rachel Hollis started this challenge so that we can all end the year strong. You can listen to this episode from the Rise Podcast to hear Rachel share the story behind the challenge and talk about her 5 to Thrive. I am participating this year and would love to know if you are as well!

If you’re into drawing, you can join Inktober, an online challenge to improve your drawing skills. Check it out on Instagram and follow the hashtag!

And if you’re into watercolor painting, Wildthorne is doing an art journal challenge and giveaway. Even if you don’t paint, check out this gorgeous Instagram and website. Alan gave me one of their handmade paint sets last Christmas and it was my favorite gift!

Cookbooks:

Since I am a new Ayurveda student, I bought a few Ayurvedic cookbooks to help me with my learning process. Here are two that are great for beginners that I’ve been cooking from the past couple of months.

Eat Feel Fresh: A Contemporary, Plant-Based Ayurvedic Cookbook by Sahara Rose Ketabi. This book is beautiful! Every single page has photos of flowers, gemstones, Sahara Rose, delicious food and of people and places in India. All of the recipes I’ve made so far were easy to follow and came out successfully. The coconut lime quinoa is a keeper!

The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook: A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well by Kate O’Donnell is so easy to cook with! The recipes are practical and simple with short ingredients lists and clear, light, and lovely photos. This one has recipes that you will make over and over because you don’t have to put much work into them.

Podcasts & Books:

Yep, Brendon Burchard’s podcast, The Brendon Show, definitely inspired me lots this past week. These episodes on Social Media Strategy and Email and Social Media Marketing were two I listened to at least twice.

In Episode 200 of What Should I Read Next podcast, Anne and her producer Brenna interviewed 8 guests of past episodes to see what recommendations they read, which ones they didn’t, and what was new in their reading lives.

I loved this episode of Just the Right Book podcast, Roxanne Coady interviewed Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. I immediately downloaded the book for Kindle and am enjoying it immensely!

And I must mention this book: The Abundance Project: 40 Days to More Wealth, Health, Love, and Happiness by Derek Rydall. I realized this summer, that I had some mindsets that were holding back my personal and business growth and success. I’m about halfway through and am going slowly, doing all the practices, taking notes, and intend to read it and his former book, Emergence, over and over, until the principles take root and become a natural part of my thinking, emotions, and actions.

Readers, I would love to know: what has inspired you this week?

Setting Intentions for Your Home and Your Life (Wellness Wednesday)

Outer order contributes to inner calm.” Gretchen Rubin

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris

Good Intentions

There are so many wellness habits we may be working on this fall to improve the quality of our lives: sleep, exercise, or mindfulness, or diet. It is absolutely necessary to build these healthy habits for living your best life. Today, though, I want to focus on another area that is just as personal: your home.

Your living space should reflect the kind of life you want to live. This means being intentional about what you want your life to look like. Have you ever spent time visualizing the home you want to live in? Have you written down words that reflect how you envision it? Do you want a warm, welcoming peaceful place to enjoy your life, and time with family and friends? Do you want to feel at ease and comforted whenever you walk through your door?

I set my intention years ago when I decided that I wanted my home to be peaceful and comforting to me so that I enjoyed being there every day, and so that my family and friends wanted to be there too. And I highly recommend that you take some time to think about the kind of life you want at home and write down a list of ways you want it to be. Stick it to your fridge door or inside a cabinet door so you can see it often.

Two Habits

Since I wanted a peaceful, comforting living space, I had to form two habits: 1. I had to clean my house regularly (bathrooms, kitchen surfaces, dusting, vacuuming, mopping), and 2. I had to regularly tidy and get rid of things I no longer used. This second habit is the key to easy, fast cleaning and an organized, tidy home, and it actually comes first.

Until I met Alan and moved into our very large 1850s house, I always lived in small apartments and houses with not much room for storage. So I got used to looking over my belongings and giving things away/taking things to Salvation Army every month or so. My mom did this regularly and I saw the wisdom in it. I always have a bag started with things we are finished using, wearing, reading, etc.

The More Stuff You Have, The Harder it is to Clean

You might think cleaning your house once a week is impossible, but what is behind the resistance? Does the task seem overwhelming to even think of? Is the overwhelm related to the amount of stuff you have accumulated in your home?

Think of the top of your dresser, for instance. Is it covered with stuff? Piles of clothes, bottles of makeup, loose change, trinkets, and knick-knacks? Do you find it easy to dust that dresser top? How often do you get around to it? I’m guessing if it’s covered with stuff, you don’t get to it often because it’s such a pain to take everything off to dust it. 

If you were able to put all the clothes where they belonged, put your bottles in a basket, and maybe just had 1-3 knick-knacks displayed, it would be a breeze to dust that dresser! To quote the title of Mari Kondo’s book, it really is life-changing and magical to tidy up.

Litmus Test for Tidying

Do you know what you own? I like to be able to locate anything I own without searching for it. When I can’t find something, I know it’s time to spend a few days tidying, and getting rid of things I don’t need anymore. This allows room for what is coming next in my life. If I am holding on to stuff I no longer need or use, this is symbolic of holding onto the past and not being willing to move forward in life. I don’t want that! No matter how good the past was, I want to have room in my life for the goodness and abundance that is coming next.

How to Tidy To Change Your Life

Marie Kondo recommends focusing on one category at a time. And if you have a whole day at a time to do this, then go ahead. Gather all the clothing in your home, pile it on your bed, and start deciding. But if you have a busy life, are a chronic pack rat or just don’t like to clean or tidy, I recommend focusing on one room at a time.

For example, start with your bedroom. And then break that down into manageable bites, like doing one dresser drawer each day. Then move on to your closet and do the top shelf first, and work your way down, one day at a time. After a week or so, depending on how many drawers and shelves you have, you’ll have a whole room done.

If you do it the KonMari way, she has you pull all the things in one category (like clothing) out from the space you’re going to tidy and hold each item in your hand. If it sparks joy, it’s a keeper; if it doesn’t, you can give it away to a friend or to goodwill, sell it, or recycle it.

After you’ve gone through the clothes from one drawer and decided what to keep, you can learn how to fold them using the KonMari Method: I learned this on Youtube. There are videos here and here. Even underwear and socks can be folded neatly!

When you first learn to fold this way, it will seem slow and awkward, especially if you could win a lifetime messy folder award (like me). But once you experience the thrill of opening your drawer and seeing all of your clothes at once, you will never go back to just stuffing stacks of clothes into a drawer. It actually is a timesaver!

Cleaning is Easy Now

Once you’ve gotten rid of excess stuff, you can tidy daily and pick a regular day or night to clean. If you have kids, they should each learn to tidy and clean; you’ll teach them healthy habits that will benefit them their entire lives.

On cleaning day, I like to do my bathroom and kitchen surfaces first, then dust furniture and shelves, vacuum, and mop. People often think because my home is clean that I enjoy cleaning. The truth: I don’t! But I do enjoy the result. And I like the sense of control I feel. I may not be able to change certain things in my life today, but I have control over the beauty and order in my home. And you do too!

If you’ve tidied using the KonMari Method, or some other way, share about it in comments!

My Favorite Books About Tidying and Housekeeping

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

In this book, Gretchen shares 9 reasons why you want a clean, well-ordered living space.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

This is the classic that everyone should read. Marie shares her revolutionary method with plenty of how-tos.

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider

I read this as a young mom and it was very helpful for me to be more intentional with my home and family. She has helpful forms you can use and many natural cleaning recipes. If you are a parent, read this book!

Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson

This is like the bible of housekeeping. If you need to know how to iron something, how to get a particular stain out of a tablecloth, how to clean every kind of surface you can imagine, or why you should even clean in the first place—you will find it all within these pages. I read this as a very young person and think every home should have a copy.

Aromatherapy Blends

Cleaning Day Blend

Place drops in diffuser, fill with distilled water and diffuse for 1-3 hours

2 drops Bergamot 

3 drops Lemon

2 drops Cedarwood

Aromatherapy Mopping Blend

Apply drops to bottom of steam mop or spray mop

6 drops Lemon

3 drops Tea Tree

2 drops Lavender

Courage, Dear Heart (Wellness Wednesday)

We were getting ready to drive to a music gig near Keuka Lake, filling water bottles, ironing clothes, and packing snacks when I spotted the mail basket. I rifled through the pile and came across a letter addressed to me from the U.S. District Court. Oh no!!! (Oh, yes.) It was a jury summons–but this was worse than usual: for a period of at least a year, several times per month, an hour and a half drive each way.

At the moment I felt like freaking out, but we had a three-hour performance that afternoon, so I read it over once and set my freak-out aside until after our show. By the evening, my chest felt tight, by the end of the next day, I had a sore throat and my shoulders and neck were sore with tension.

I filled in the online questionnaire and gave a valid excuse why I couldn’t serve (my business can’t survive without me), but I have to wait three weeks to find out if I still have to go.

So, now I have a choice to make: I can live each moment until then in fear, worry, upset, dread, and panic, or I can find ways to act and think differently–with positivity, joy, and courage.

Gretchen Rubin’s Third Commandment from her Happiness Project is “Act the way you want to feel”. Does that seem too much like “Fake it till you make it”? But think about it: Where will those good feelings come from if we don’t take the energy we have and transform it into something better?

If you don’t happen to wake up happy and positive each day, do you just let that dark cloud of gloom hanging over you ruin your whole day? I’ve absolutely been guilty of this. I’ve also had days where I wake up super negative but do the things I know will propel me out of my funk.

The first scenario is a passive one: I just go with whatever happens, just feel whatever feelings I feel and act however I feel. The second scenario is active: I take what I have and make something better out of it. Do you know these are both decisions?

You and I can either decide that we will let our feelings run us OR we can decide that we will run our feelings. You are more powerful that you realize! You have the power to make or break your day!

But what about if you’re already an anxious person (like I am) and you happen to be in an extremely anxious season? The Fall seems to heighten anxiety for me and I know I’m not alone. We don’t have to take it! (Does this remind you of a certain Twisted Sister song?)

I wanted to share a list of things that help me calm down. Some of these I am learning in Ayurveda School, some of them I’ve learned in the HSP class I’ve been taking, some I’ve learned as an aromatherapist, and some I’ve discovered on my own. They all help, but there’s just one catch: We have to actually do the things!

Get up before the sunrise.

Practice meditation/pray.

Journal and write your manifestations. (Listen to Rachel Hollis in this podcast episode on why.)

Visualize how you want your day to go, walk through any known difficulties and decide how you will handle them. (Thanks, Brendon Burchard, for your awesome High Performance Planner!)

Develop a daily yoga practice. It could be 5 minutes or 90 minutes, but practice. There is nothing else like it for calming the mind, connecting the mind and body, and grounding you.

Drink herbal tea/coffee substitute. You know what? I don’t love most herbal teas, but I drink it because it calms me down. Lemon balm has been daily go-to. However, I just found a new caffeine free gluten free herbal tea that satisfies my coffee craving without the jitters. If you’re a coffee nut like I wish I could still be, you gotta try it: Teeccino Dandelion Coconut Roasted Herbal Tea.

Go for a walk outside. I always feel refreshed and my nervous system feels soothed when I do.

Eat lots of plants.

Have a gratitude practice. This could be in your journal in the morning or at night.

Keep a positives journal. This is new to me, but the teacher of the HSP class said sensitive people focus on the negative too much and need positive things to keep them grounded. Make notes of what good things happen in a day, things you love, moments of happiness, and then read through these when you’re feeling anxious.

Read poetry. YES!!! If you think you don’t like poetry, start with children’s poems and approachable poets like Mary Oliver and David Whyte. Poetry speaks to and nourishes the soul, the emotions I would say that if you’re a sensitive person, like I am, you may not be able to read some poetry that tends to be chaotic, angry, and violent. I tend to gravitate toward poems that express reverence for nature and that speak to the inner life of a person. These are a good place to begin:

Devotions by Mary Oliver

The House of Belonging by David Whyte

Favorite Poems Old and New by various

Get enough sleep.

Get a massage whenever you can and do self-massage daily. Even if you don’t get to a full body self-massage every day, which I highly recommend, at least do a foot massage right before bed. Some warm sesame oil and a drop or two of Lavender essential oil massaged into your feet will send you into blissful slumber.

Practice positivity. Focus your thoughts and speech on “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” This is found in Philippians 4:8.

Spend time processing your day: thinking about and journaling about it. According to my HSP teacher, sensitive people need about two hours of alone time each day.

Take one day off per week. Does this sound impossible? I know, it’s pretty difficult for me as well. When I do it, my life is better. We all need adequate rest and time for recreational pursuits. Work on this one and I will too!

Use an aromatherapy diffuser near your desk while you work and in your bedroom at night. Turning it on for an hour or two at a time is a wonderful way to calm down your mind, emotions, and your whole body. Calming essential oils like Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Black Spruce, Cypress, and Mandarin are a few to try, either individually or blend a few together.

That’s my list. I hope you find some useful tools to help you handle bouts of anxiety. I would love to hear about what things help you when you are feeling anxious.

And, finally, here is an aromatherapy blend to use in your aromatherapy diffuser.

Calming Blend For Anxiety

1 drop Vetiver

2 drops Black Spruce

2 drops Red Mandarin

3 drops Lavender

PS: Today’s title was taken from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: “But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”

The Art of Attentiveness (Wellness Wednesday)

This week, for Wellness Wednesday, I’m focusing on attentiveness. Charlotte Mason, my homeschooling mentor, called it “The Habit of Attention”. Many call it mindfulness. If you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with wellness?”, that’s a great question because it means you are paying attention and letting curiosity get the better of you!

What started me thinking about paying attention is this online class for HSPs (Highly Sensitive People) that I’ve been taking. I’m learning lots about how to thrive rather than simply survive as a person who processes life differently than most. I’m discovering what my strengths and weaknesses are as a person with this trait and how I can navigate the high levels of emotion that come with it, how I can conserve and replenish my energy, and how to ask for what I need. 

It’s kind of crazy that it’s taken me this long in my life journey to begin learning these things, but as the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” And one thing that stands out from this class is that in order to implement my newly acquired tools and techniques, I need to learn to pay more attention.

It Starts With Me

First, I need to pay attention to myself. This is a bit of a challenge for me because I lived most of my life in a culture that was all about service to others. I still absolutely believe in service to others, just not in a way that leaves me completely out of the equation. Even Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, which implies self-love. 

I need to ask myself, “What do I need?” when I’m starting to get tired, upset, overwhelmed, etc., rather than to just keep going until I get to meltdown mode. And “Do I have this to give?” when someone asks something of me. If I’m already in a depleted state, I’ll be giving from a negative, resentful place. If I can live from a place of love and compassion toward myself, I’ll be much more loving and compassionate toward others.

Focusing on the Good in Others

Second, I need to pay attention to others. And by this I mean to focus on the positive qualities that each person has. HSPs can nitpick, obsess, and tend to focus on negative things, especially when tired and emotionally overwhelmed, which is a lot of the time if we aren’t paying attention to our needs. I need to make lists of the good things about those I love and know and repeat those things to myself and say them out loud to them. 

By sharing the things I admire and appreciate about others with them, it will encourage them and reinforce the truths about who they are in my own brain. When I’m with my husband, my kids, or my friends, I need to focus on their words, on their faces and gestures, and savor the moments we have together.

Nature

Third, I need to pay attention and connect with nature. Put on my shoes, step out the door, look, listen, breathe, feel, and notice. What do I see? What sounds can I hear? Does the sun feel hot on my back or the wind feel like it’s pushing me while I walk? What kind of bird is singing in the apple tree? Where is that tang in the air coming from?

Slow Down

And this is the kicker for me: In order to cultivate the art of attentiveness to myself, others, and to the world, I NEED TO SLOW DOWN!!! My smart husband is always telling me this and until I started this class, I inwardly resisted. “But I have so much to do! I’ll never get things done if I move around like a snail.”

During week one, the teacher said, “HSPs need slow mornings”. She said if you start the day off at a clip, your emotional brain revs up, is on high alert, and you quickly lose “energy points”. That explains why I’ve been tired within a few hours of waking up for most of my adult life.

At my teacher’s suggestion, I’ve begun a daily meditation and mindfulness practice. Waking up and meditating first thing in the morning has been a huge help to me this past month. I used to jump out of bed and start on my to-do list, but now I take a few minutes to pay attention to my breath and that sets the tone for the rest of my day. It’s training me to notice my needs so that I don’t overextend myself emotionally and physically. I can give to my family, work better, and still have energy left to enjoy life. And this is living well.

Books

Want to read more about slowing down and paying attention? Here are two non-fiction books on the subject plus a book of poetry that you might be interested in.

The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker

Lost In Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal

Thirst by Mary Oliver

Blend

And here’s an aromatherapy blend that will help you focus and cultivate attentiveness. Place drops in diffuser, fill with distilled water, and diffuse for 1-2 hours at a time. Best during the daytime hours.

1 drop Cardamom

2 drops Cedarwood

3 drops Lemon

If you would like to tell us how you’re learning to be more attentive, please share in the comments!

Moving Toward Morning

We just finished the first week of September and I feel all the things: a little melancholy that summer is waning, excitement for the start of a new season, and the sense that I am myself as this is my birthday month. Transitions–endings and beginnings blurring together–are always difficult, even when you are looking forward to the new.

I don’t know how the weather is where you live, but here in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, we are experiencing pleasant weather in the high 60s to mid- 70s (Fahrenheit). Although it still is warm, there is a tinge of a chill, and the nights fall a little earlier with each passing day. My daughter began eleventh grade this week, my stepson twelfth grade, and I am in my second month of Ayurveda school.

How I start my day determines how successful the rest of it will be, so I wanted to talk about morning routines. What does yours look like? Mine varies quite a lot. On Sunday, my wake-up time depends on whether my husband and I have a music gig or not, but most of the time I can sleep in.

Monday through Wednesday during the school year, I get up to drive my daughter to school. My choice is to either get up at 7 and launch directly into making breakfast/coffee/tea, and then drive her to school, or I can get up early at 5:30ish and meditate, journal, practice visualization and affirmations, exercise or do yoga, shower, and then start making breakfast, etc. The latter is my ideal.

Even the rest of the week–Thursday through Saturday–if I get up early and get all of those important soul-nourishing pieces of the morning done before the rest of the house wakes up, I feel amazing! I have a positive outlook, feel confident, and am ready to face the day. This way I can begin work, meet the needs of my family ,etc., without resentment or trying to figure out how to squeeze in a workout.

It might seem crazy to contemplate getting up an hour or two before everyone else. That obviously means going to bed earlier. As a certified lifelong night owl, it is challenging for me to stick to this. And I am not religious about it. If I don’t have a good night’s sleep, am not feeling well, or if I go to bed late because of work or a special occasion, I don’t get up super early and I don’t beat myself up about it. But as soon as I can realistically get back into my morning routine, I will.

So my hat is off to you if you’re already an early bird and rise before the sun to do what you need to in order to make your day a success. But if you’re like me and are still moving toward your ideal morning, that’s great too! The best thing is to ask yourself why would you want to do this and then write down a good long list of reasons why. The more reasons you have, the more likely you will continue working toward your goal. If you can display your list of reasons somewhere visible to motivate you, all the better!

Design the morning that works for you, at this stage in your life. And like I said in my Facebook and Instagram Lives on this topic, please, if you’re a young mom with a baby or toddler, or you’ve got an elderly parent or sick family member you are caring for, or anything else that is super demanding, this is not the time to begin a new routine, to get up early, etc. Be extra gentle and kind to yourself and take time for yourself when you can.

This particular advice comes from this episode of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happier Podcast: In order to get your family on board when you are starting new habits, be consistent! They will get used to it sooner if you stick to your routine.

And since I am always looking for ways to share what I learn about aromatherapy with you, here are two diffuser blends that are great for mornings. They are motivating, positive, promote confidence, perseverance, and a bright outlook.

Morning Blend 1:

1 drop Basil

2 drops Cedarwood

3 drops Lemon

Morning Blend 2:

1 drop Tulsi

2 drops Cedarwood

3 drops Orange

Alright, I’d love to hear about your morning routines: what works, what doesn’t, and what new habits you’re incorporating into your life this September.

Ayurveda and Abundance (My Journey)

After completing nearly 43 trips around the sun, I know that the direction we are supposed to take at different points in our lives can seem unclear and even confusing. I mostly make choices based on what my intuition tells me and that usually serves me well. But once in a while, absolute clarity presents itself while I am decision-making and that is what happened to me recently.

And when things become clear, I can often see a thread of seemingly unconnected incidents, inklings, conversations, and thoughts can be connected and lead to a decision or new life choice.

So what am I even talking about? MY PATH TO AYURVEDA! It started when I enrolled in aromatherapy studies in early 2018. Various lessons referred to Ayurveda and everything I read made sense, seemed balanced, and like something I would want to learn about.

While studying for some aromatherapy classes late winter/early spring, I read about Ayurveda self-care tips and listened to a podcast (LifeSpa with John Douillard) that benefited my digestive health in a big way. I bought a few of the recommended herbs, began taking them after meals, and guess what? My digestion is about 98% better than it was before I started taking them. But more about these herbs in another post…

Then, about three weeks ago I began thinking of what I could add to my aromatherapy studies to round out my consulting services. I really wanted to be able to offer clients a whole life approach for helping them with their wellness goals. Traditional life coaching programs didn’t seem to have what I was searching for.

One evening, I typed in “holistic life coach” or “wellness coach” and stumbled upon Ayurveda programs. I signed up for a free three-hour course from Kerala Ayurveda and loved it. Right after that, I signed up for a three part mini-course from Cate Stillman at yogahealer.com. I recommend both of these schools based on what I learned in their free courses. I became obsessed with Ayurveda training and began researching other online schools. Of course, I had one minor obstacle: I couldn’t afford to enroll in any of them.

Around the same time, I had my friend Laurie Petrisin over for lunch and a painting afternoon. While we were painting, she shared how she listens to Wholetones by Michael Tyrell during prayer/meditation. Being curious, I looked up free music on Spotify that was in different frequencies and found several playlists. My favorite is 528 Hz, the frequency of transformation and miracles. Apparently it’s the same frequency that the sun emits!

I began listening to a playlist of 528 Hz when I was in the car and for a few minutes every day. I also purchased two books about abundance, which I am currently reading and gleaning much wisdom from, and will share with you when I’m done.

In my head, I knew Ayurveda school was out of the question right now because of my financial situation, but in my heart I felt full of anticipation and joy, like I was a child expecting Christmas morning to come. Really, I can’t explain it other than I wanted this so much and kept focusing on Ayurveda school and looking for free or inexpensive courses I might be able to take in the meantime.

Then, a couple of Saturdays ago, the idea of scholarships popped into my head. So I typed “Ayurveda scholarship” into the search bar. The first few results were unsuccessful, but I landed on Yoga Veda Institue which had a scholarship application. This was crazy because when I searched for aromatherapy scholarships and herbal studies scholarships last year, I never found anything. I though alternative health studies had no scholarship programs. I thought wrong!

So I spent a couple of hours on the application and clicked “Send”. For the next day and a half, I was full of anticipation and excitement and butterflies in my stomach. Late on Sunday night, I got an email from Yoga Veda informing me that I had received a 75% scholarship for their two year program!!! I was over the moon with gratitude and I still am! What made me so incredulous was that I was able to make the change in my mind and heart from “Oh, that only happens to other people” to “Why not me?”

If you have no idea what Ayurveda is, check out Cate Stillman’s book Body Thrive, which I’m reading right now and watch her free video mini-course at yogahealer.com. She brings an ancient tradition like Ayurveda into the 21st century and takes away a lot of the “woo-woo” that might lead you to dismiss it with a modern, skeptical wave of the hand.

Anyway, so the takeaway points here are: 1. That we all may have dreams that might seem impossible. But if you begin to stir up the inner desire for that dream and visualize where you want to go/what you want to do, listen to positive messages on the abundance mind and heart, who knows what might happen? Because, why not you, right?

2. My journey to Ayurveda was a process of hearing about it, learning about it, seeing an aspect of it work in my body (the herbs), finding out that there were programs, listening to music and messages about abundance and growing my faith level to believe it could happen to me, and then applying for the scholarship while facing the possibility of rejection. While I was living it, I didn’t see the dots connected, but looking back the path is clear. That’s always the way, right?