Two months ago, I was sitting on a plane heading from Baltimore to Florida to visit my in-laws. The evening before, my husband and I had just attended our first of eight classes of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program taught by Gina Sager, MD, RYT. As part of the class, we were encouraged to do daily ‘homework’ which consisted of listening to a 45 minute guided meditation CD. Forty-five minutes?! was my first thought. How on earth am I going to find 45 minutes each day to meditate and simply “be”? Despite my reservations, I was committed to exploring the possibility of finding this sacred time to nourish myself.
This brings us back to the plane. It had been a full day of seeing patients and then quickly transitioning to packing and going to the airport. The only uninterrupted stretch of 45 minutes we would have would be on the plane ride itself. My husband and I nestled into the last row of the plane near the window, and once we were safely in the air, I plugged in the headphone splitter and queued up the file for the guided Body Scan experience.
I admit that I had some assumptions and expectations even before listening to that first meditation CD. Having dabbled in guided imagery, yoga and various forms of meditation over the years, I expected to enter into MBSR training with the ease and comfort of an advanced student. HA! Meditation class is not set up like Advanced Placement Algebra, I quickly learned. Every attempt at sitting still with one’s self is a humbling and awe-filled experience.
So there I was wedged into the back of an airplane, headphones in place and ready to relax. The Body Scan CD begins with a focus and awareness of the left toes. OK, no problem, I can appreciate my left toes and focus on them for a few breaths. See? Easy and comfortable just like I predicted. Oh, but wait – now you want me to switch my awareness to the top of my left foot? Why don’t we switch to the right toes because I really think the flow would work better if we alternated left to right. Ugh – alright, I’ll follow along, but I really would have designed the sequence differently.
And so my thoughts continued to wrestle back and forth as Gina’s gentle voice guided my attention up the left leg. It is taking a really long time to work our way up this left leg. How is there going to be time to give proper attention to all of the other parts of my body and eventually reach the head? My mind tried to skip ahead and predict what would happen next while alternating with a review the day and thoughts of what would occur on our trip. And eventually when we did finish the full sequence, my husband and I slipped off our headphones, looked at each other and agreed, That was hard.
I often hear this same sentiment reflected back to me from patients when I suggest adding 5-10 minutes of mindfulness to their day. It’s hard to sit still. What am I supposed to be ‘doing’ exactly? I feel really uncomfortable when I have nothing to do. And I reply that what I am asking of them is not easy, yet it is an essential aspect to healing that is likely more transformational than any supplement or remedy I could recommend. Mindfulness creates space for bodily sensations to be explored, emotions to safely surface and the breath to be appreciated and acknowledged.
The gifts of a regular meditation practice in my own life have been subtle yet palpable. Taking time out of my day to truly pause allows me to remember the micro-moments of space that exist between each thought or reaction I may have. In that almost imperceptible space, I have the capacity to choose where and how I focus my attention. How empowering! If my mind wanders towards planning the future or worrying about the past, as soon as I realize where my thoughts are, I can bring them back to the present moment. And with this shifting of thoughts and redirecting of my attention has come more ease in listening to my heart and accepting what I find there.
I now expect to never be “good” at meditation because there is likely no such thing. I do, however, welcome the continued benefits of a regular practice which – according to research – can positively shift brain chemistry to prevent and address a multitude of health conditions. As a ‘medicine,’ mindfulness is free, does not have to be refrigerated and has no adverse side effects! For an easy introduction to meditation, visit www.calm.com. Happy sitting!
I AM A CREATURE OF HABIT.
Most nights after dinner, I predictably reach into the freezer where my stash of dark chocolate lives. I break off a square or two and relish in the temporary satisfaction of bitter and sweet. And too often, I become distracted with something else while eating my chocolate and forget that I even experienced something enjoyable…which sends me back to the freezer to try again. A vicious cycle that is perpetuated by a lack of being present.
During the Spring Detox, I take a break from chocolate. The moment of pause as I reach for the freezer door and practice the mantra “I am on a detox” calls me back to the present moment. It is not as much about the chocolate itself as it is about interrupting the habit when remembering “I have a choice.” Habits are simply a slip in mindfulness. The Detox experience shifts our routine just enough to call attention to our choices – both with food and other expressions of self-care.
Register Now for the Spring Detox beginning Monday April 20th.
I LIVE IN A CITY.
As a city dweller, I have the great fortune of being able to walk to work. However, that walk can have toxic consequences. On any given day, I will inhale car exhaust, the fumes of workers tarring a neighborhood roof, or wafts of cigarette smoke left behind by another pedestrian ahead of me. While I do not seek out these exposures, they (and many others) are part of our environment and over time the effects of them can build up in our bodies by causing inflammation and weakening our immune response. Our overall toxic burden is reflected in the amount of toxic exposures we accumulate through our lifetime and how efficiently our livers and other detox pathways respond to that load.
Seasonal detox programs ramp up the liver’s ability to clear chemicals and reduce the physical stress of city living. Lighten your toxic load this spring and support environmental health from the inside out. REGISTER NOW for the 10-day Spring Detox.
If you live in Baltimore, you can create a cleaner city by attending one of these Spring Clean-up Events: CLICK HERE.
I AM A WOMAN.
Women’s bodies are a sensitive environment of hormonal signals which influence patterns and rhythms guiding mood, metabolism, energy and sleep. Disruptions in these rhythms arising from stress, chemical exposures, or medications can impact fertility, increase risk of cancer, trigger weight gain and aggravate anxiety and depression.
I come from a family with a strong history of cancer. As I age within my own body and learn more about the effects of endocrine disruptors present in our environment from plastics, cosmetics, cleaning products and more, I choose the path of prevention by limiting my exposures and actively detoxing twice per year (Spring and Fall) to assist my body in eliminating substances that confuse and complicate my own natural rhythms.
Routine detoxification allows a woman’s body to reestablish balance and repair cellular damage. Sign up for the Spring Detox to learn more about choices you can make each day to optimize your hormonal health.
REGISTER: (443) 226-7665 / firstname.lastname@example.org
A Guided Experience in Wellness Through Mindful Nutrition.
COST: $150 / $140 for past detox participants
TO REGISTER: email@example.com / (443) 226-7665
DETOX PLAN INCLUDES:
- Detox Program Guide
- Detox Friendly Recipes
- A Medical Food designed to enhance Detox Pathways in the Liver
- Herbal Tea Blend to support gentle Detoxification
- Daily E-mails to encourage a Mindful Detox Experience
- An On-Line Forum to share your experiences & ask Dr. Emily questions
Dr. Emily’s Spring Detox is designed to bring awareness to your relationship with food while supporting other pathways of healing the body, mind and spirit. The program is adapted from Thorne’s Mediclear Detox Plan with a modified and progressive Elimination Diet. This is not a “colon cleanse” type of program and participants will be eating REAL food throughout the entire detox.
Past participants reported feeling “a greater sense of clarity, lighter and more joyful” after the cleanse along with “improved mood, better sleep and less anxiety.”
This Spring Detox is not recommended for individuals who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, breast-feeding, or who have liver or kidney disease. Contact Dr. Emily if you have questions about the Spring Detox.
Prevention is one of the hallmarks of natuorpathic medicine. When cold and flu season arrives, I dig in to the fundamentals of our medicine which are centered around strengthening vitality and removing any obstacles to healing. However, the holiday season does not lend well to what we all know will help prevent viruses from taking hold of our immune systems: getting good sleep, avoiding sugar, reducing stress, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. HA! Instead we are faced with a giant cookie platter from our neighbors, too much to do with too little time, and eating on the run or eating out much more than usual. Thankfully, there is still hope for seeing our way through to a healthy New Year by weaving wellness practices into our winter routine.
Not everyone exposed to a cold or flu virus gets sick. Increase your chances of out-smarting the buggers and reducing your susceptibility to infection with these simple practices:
MINDFULNESS: I recently began seeing a patient who lives a very stress-filled lifestyle that holds little time or space for just “being.” I encouraged her to start carving a 5-minute window in her day for silence away from the phone and computer. “But what am I supposed to be doing during this time?” she asked. “That’s just it,” I replied. “The intention is for you to stop doing and just be.” This practice has been challenging for her, but she has stayed committed to her goal of reducing stress to improve her health.
A 5-minute window of breathing and simply “being” can be enough to start calming stress and reconnecting to the present moment. You can practice mindfulness in the car by simply driving without the radio on or set a reminder on your computer during your lunch break to chime when it is time to practice breathing. As you sit down to dinner, you can allow for a few minutes of mindfulness before eating. Where can you find 5 minutes that may add up to a healthier holiday?
WRAPPED IN WELLNESS: There may not be hard and fast science to substantiate this health tip, but I will still offer it as valuable from personal experience. Those of you have known me for a while may notice that once cold weather arrives, I wear a scarf daily. Protecting your throat, the back of your neck and warming the area over the front of your chest (where your thymus gland sits) may ward against what Chinese medicine practitioners call a “wind cold invasion.” The neck and throat are energetically vulnerable areas of the body and by keeping that area warm, the body can direct energy elsewhere to protect us from infection. Wearing socks around the house (as opposed to walking around with bare feet) may have similar benefit.
HERBAL TONIC SUPPORT: For those patients who have a pattern of contracting respiratory infections repeatedly during the winter months, I recommend certain botanical remedies to boost the body’s natural immune response and keep the white blood cells on a strong surveillance mission against invaders. Examples of these herbs include:
- Astragalus: With a strong traditional use in Chinese medicine, Astragalus is a wonderful tonic for supporting optimal functioning of the immune system. It is generally not recommended during an acute infection.
- Eleutrococcus (Siberian ginseng): One of my favorite adaptogen herbs which supports the body in literally ‘adapting’ to stressful situations, Eleuthrococcus also boosts the function of T-cells in our immune system.
- Mushrooms: Cooking with medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake throughout the winter months will be a nutritious way to fight off infection and strengthen your overall immune response.
The information in this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Please consult with a healthcare practitioner before introducing any new herbal or other natural therapies to ensure safe and appropriate sourcing and dosing.