Yes, I am that person who leaves one bite of peanut butter at the bottom of the jar and jams two lone rice crackers back into the pack, tucking them away in the cupboard for safe keeping. This behavior baffles my husband. “Just finish it,” he insists. “But I want to know that I can come back for more,” I explain. “Even if it is just one bite.” I want to feel like I have enough.
My personal stories about “enough-ness” have been rising to the surface as winter progresses. Am I investing enough time into my business? Am I doing enough to protect the planet and the healthcare rights of my patients? Am I allowing enough time for self care? These thoughts come with vulnerability and a ruffling of self-confidence. I want to tuck them away with my crackers or stuff them down deep like the last scrape of peanut butter, but by noticing them and the anxiety that accompanies them, I can choose to meet them with calm assurance and grounded curiosity.
When I pass by wilted gardens and leafless trees on my walks through the neighborhood I am reminded that Mother Nature is settling into winter’s scarcity and navigating the lack of sunlight and warmth without fear. She is modeling for us how to accept what is as enough. Mother Nature says, “I’ll take the cold and the wind and the rain and I will transform it all into beauty once spring appears.” With this awareness, I feel suspended between gratitude for winter’s simplicity and impatience for the rewards waiting for us on the other side.
I don’t know if there is such thing as enough, but the stories we tell ourselves about not having enough, not doing enough or not being enough can pull us into a place of comparison, guilt and shame and away from self-acceptance and abundance. It is time to change the story. Let our collective story be one about the wealth of resources within us and around us and the capacity for those resources to transform our own lives and the communities where we live, work, love and pray.
Let us learn from winter how to allow what we have, what we do and who we are to be enough for growth, change and transformation to all take shape in the most miraculous and surprising of ways. Let us root into Love as the renewable energy source that restores and sustains us.
So you can go ahead and eat the last cracker – there will always be enough.
Living around the corner from Baltimore’s most beloved holiday tradition – also know as Hampden’s Miracle on 34th Street, I have come to associate the darkest days of the year with the wonder and whimsy that glows throughout my neighborhood as soon as the sun sets. Colored lights strung from house to house guide me like a beacon during my brisk winter walks home from the office.
However, the approach of the Winter Solstice and the holidays that follow can mark a challenging time for many individuals struggling with anxiety, depression and physical health concerns that worsen in the cold weather. Add in extra time with difficult family members and the season of merriment and cheer can quickly become an emotional roller coaster of expectations followed by disappointments.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi
So what is the remedy for losing sight of the gifts that winter has to offer? Go inside and leave the light on.
This year, I am inviting you to join me in the practice of ‘wintering‘ which I am defining as a quiet navigation into the deepest and darkest parts of ourselves guided by a flashlight, compass and a kernel of Hope. Wintering leaves space for saying ‘no’ and comes with cups of warm tea and bowls of hot soup. A cozy blanket and a good book await you along with a sturdy pair of boots to tromps through a fresh batch of new fallen snow. As you breathe into the stillness that you discover in your mind and in your heart, imagine flickers of light illuminating the path that leads you back home to yourself again and again.
Winter is a time for homecoming. Whether you are celebrating the holidays in the home of your youth or with friends and family several states away, may your own inner light stay bright enough to arrive you into the New Year with a renewed sense of safety, peace and love for self and others.
Securing our roots as we face the winds of change.
As predicted, the wind gusts started to howl a little after 3pm on Saturday. What had been a balmy mid-November day just an hour before, with pedestrians shedding layers to soak in the warm sunshine, quickly shifted into an eerie scene of street signs rattling and ground cover taking flight. While this sudden drop in temperature and change in weather felt jolting, we had also had time to prepare – we had been warned. Jackets, hats and scarves were well within reach, and by taking a little time to don the proper attire, we could safely face the elements with comfort and ease.
And then there are times when it feels like there is no warning. Sometimes we get the wind knocked right out of us, losing our bearings we are left feeling vulnerable and alone.
Over the last two weeks, I have been holding space with many of you who are healing your way through this wind storm. Heavy-hearted, fearful and anxious, you have shared your stories of grief and shock. You have also held space open in your hearts for something new to become possible. You have committed to your own healing and self-care as an act of Love. In fact, this is what you have been preparing for all along…to learn how limitless your own Love can become.
Every choice that you have made to nourish yourself with healthy foods, to pause for two minutes of mindfulness, to walk those extra few steps each day or to give attention to kind thoughts about yourself or others has been rehearsal for the moments in life when you feel so pulled away from your place of center that you wonder how to find your way back again. Your wellness practices are your breadcrumbs – follow them with the same trust and faith that you summoned when you first laid out this path for yourself to remember your way Home.
The trees did not need a weather report to prepare them for the storm system that blew through this weekend. They rehearse daily for these events by nestling their roots deeper into the ground and stretching their limbs further into the sky. In their strength is flexibility and in their grace, resilience.
In the weeks and months to come, let us dig down our roots and rise up to meet the wind. May we find Love in the center of all that we stand for, and may our collective healing begin once again.
“Is coffee good for you?” asked my Uber driver as we made our way along I-295 heading for the airport. “Well, it depends on the person,” I replied cautiously – in the way I often do when I’m trying to gauge the inquirer’s actual level of interest in the Pandora’s Box-like question he or she just posed. I was also trying to buy myself time to tame the ultra nerdy part of me who gets excited talking about cytochrome P450 enzyme pathways and genetic variances that influence how quickly or slowly an individual may metabolize caffeine, thus determining how impacted a person might become after exposure to the drug. As we neared the Southwest terminal, my driver humored my inner nerd as politely as possible and seemed ready to tone down his consumption level in exchange for possible relief from anxiety, insomnia and irritability.
And am I really the best person to ask about coffee? I am probably one of the only people on the planet who can lay claim to having lived in Seattle, Washington for 5 years and never purchased a Starbucks venti grande! My un-American behavior was not guided by a moral compass but by the unnerving symptoms of intense anxiety and digestive upset that followed after my high school explorations of coffee – my body quickly teaching me that coffee is my poison. I could have tried to override it as many individuals do and suffer through the symptoms in exchange for 2-3 more pseudoproductive hours in the day. After recently completing my 23 & Me test and discovering that I inherited a bum lot of gene variances making it difficult for my liver to break down caffeine, I am really glad I didn’t push it.
The same pathways that detoxify caffeine in the liver also break down estrogens, so if I was a coffee drinker, I would be more at risk of developing fibrocystic breast disease and uterine fibroids. And while it may be my poison, studies show that coffee consumption may delay or prevent Parkinson’s Disease. Moral of the story: the research about caffeine intake and risk or prevention of chronic disease ultimately depends on the person consuming it.
Dear Owner of this Body,
I couldn’t help overhearing you and your friend chatting yesterday over lunch (a salad of all choices?!) about Dr. Emily’s Fall Detox. I admit, I was a bit intrigued as your friend raved about her experience during the Spring Detox. And word from down below is that Old Man Liver is gearing up for a 10 day vacation!
What is in this for me, I wondered? I decided to do my own research and did you know that sugar is eliminated during this Detox? You can’t be serious about this!
How would you get through the day without that granola mixed in vanilla yogurt in the morning or your pudding cup at lunch? And pa-lease do not forget that coveted bowl of ice cream before bed! Surely your daily array of treats are worth trading off for the afternoon energy crashes, the unpredictable mood swings and mounting dental bills? Those 10 minutes of sugar rush are worth every bite even if your family cannot rouse you off of the couch for dinner.
What would you do without me in charge? EAT KALE?! Half of your decisions each day are based on satisfying my cravings. And before you go digging around on WebMD and see the negative press about sugar linked to cancer, diabetes and dementia, let me just say that I didn’t mean for it to get so out of hand. I will try to tone it down a notch… really…
Well, if you must go through with this, think of all the good times we have had and try to drop me a bit of stevia every once in a while.
Patiently awaiting transformation in ourselves and in our world…
My husband and I started composting last year. And while I wish I could say that I rolled up my sleeves, bought some worms and a turn-crank plastic bin to keep in the backyard, the truth is that we subscribed to a wonderful local service called Compost Crew who picks up our bin each week and does the dirty work for us. Now every time we have to clean out the fridge or dispose of a bulky cauliflower stalk, I sigh with relief that the moldy leftovers and other food scraps will not go to waste. Through a process as old as life and death itself, that which is no longer viable gives way to growth and creation.
As the summer heat intensifies and the smell of decomposing food in our bin ripens, the discomfort in my senses is only magnified by the radio reports each day highlighting the break down of trust in our communities and a focus on that which separates or divides us. And yet, there is another story brewing. It is the story that you are telling – the healing story that begins with a break down of old beliefs around your relationship to your body…to your pain…to your diagnosis. This story is as personal as it is universal as grief gives way to peace, grudges give way to forgiveness and anger gives way to love.
Summer is a natural time of connection – when the heart lowers its shield and embraces opportunities for building community and deepening in love. What you focus on grows. May summer offer you time to cultivate joy and light-heartedness so that come Fall, we can collectively harvest an abundance of wellness for our communities and our planet.
One of the blessings and responsibilities of being a part of an emerging profession like naturopathic medicine is that we need a strong and unified voice in order to move the profession forward. That is why for the past nine years I have joined with fellow leaders in the naturopathic field along with naturopathic medical students to participate in our annual Lobby Day in Washington DC hosted by the AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians). Each year, I bring the stories and concerns of my patients to the offices of Maryland legislators in an effort to increase access to naturopathic care and promote use of non-pharmaceutical options for managing chronic health conditions – with an ultimate goal of lowering healthcare costs. With issues like the opioid epidemic and the rising healthcare costs for seniors on the forefront of national healthcare attention, the time to acknowledge the role that NDs can play in emphasizing disease prevention and lowering rates of chronic disease is now.
This year we thanked members of Congress who have supported our efforts to have Naturopathic Doctors included as enumerated providers in the Veterans Health Administration (VA). While this is still an evolving process, more steps have been taken over the past year to make this an eventual reality. Connecting Veterans with naturopathic care will expand the range of drug-less options available for managing chronic pain and PTSD.
We also requested support for a Medicare Pilot Project that would study the impact of naturopathic care on lowering the rates of cardiovascular disease in seniors. Over 83 million Americans have cardiovascular disease and half of those individuals are seniors. A study like this could demonstrate the cost effectiveness of naturopathic medicine and our impact on improving quality of life.
As Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski nears her retirement, I would like to acknowledge her tremendous support of naturopathic medicine and contributions to our legislative efforts. In 2013 she introduced a Senate Resolution creating the first ever Naturopathic Medicine Week and in 2015, she submitted a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs on our behalf calling for inclusion of NDs as a provider type within the VA. We look forward to honoring her legacy by advancing naturopathic medicine in Maryland through continued advocacy, excellent patient care, and community health promotion.