50 Shades of Midwest Intimacy

fifty shades of greyThe countdown began as the media and modern day America prepared for the opening day of 50 Shades of Gray.  Talk shows buzzed and parties planned; romance business blossomed on this February Valentines weekend.  I noticed the parking lots full at the local theater where they were showing the film multiple times in as many theaters.   Marketing wise, what a brilliant idea – sex, love and romance – big movie and even bigger hopes and fantasies of many of the fans.  I didn’t read 50 Shades of Gray until I had several clients reference it.  I have to admit, I didn’t read it to the end.  When I found out there were 2 more books following the main characters and  got the gist of just how steamy and edgy it was, I could just imagine the rest.  It didn’t take long to “get engaged” as I scoped out a few more sections at the end.

From E L James’s book, Fifty Shades of Grey; Ana is thinking during a visit to her mother: “What does Christian know of love?  Seems he didn’t get the unconditional love he was entitled to during his very early years. My heart twists, and my mother’s words waft like a zephyr through my mind: Yes, Ana. Hell what do you need?  A neon sign flashing on his forehead?  She thinks Christian loves me, buth then she’s my mother, of course she’d think that.  She thinks I deserve the best of everything.  I frown.  It’s true, and in a moment of startling clarity, I see it.  Its’ very simple: I want his love.  I need   Christian Gray to love me.  this is why I am so reticent about our relationship – and because on some basic, fundamental level, I recognize within me a deep-seated compulsion to be loved and cherished…..and because of his fifty shades, I am holding myself back.”

Ana goes on to say that all is meaningless without his love and expressed her fears that he may not be capable of such love because of the abuse he experienced in his complicated relationship with his mother.  Still, the sex is amazingly fierce, creative and prolonged.  The scenes are filled with passion, youth, fantasy, and hope.  I’m engrossed again…but wait!  Today is Valentines Day, the day many couples will relate with each other in countless ways – beautiful and messy  as the case may be.  Most couples that I work with are seeking love and acceptance and priority – that feeling they are Number 1.  When dreams fade, symptoms and problems begin.  It can be a long and windy road once the bumpy road of frustration/conflict begins.  But Wait!  Can this relationship be saved?  Can my dreams be once again resurrected?   Can we once again feel the attraction or the passion or the warmth of positivity; that state of being that embodies trust and well-being, creativity and safety of soul?  Many relationships fail – their intentions and abilities to do the work are not able to create a new style and foundation.  The passion of the beginning, the unknown, the unbearable state of excitement and anxiety – the brain bathed in the love cocktail of endorphins and dopamine.  Not all couples fall into this intensity of emotion but all experience the illusion of creating something good and feeling happy withing their relationship.  Intimacy is that combination of confiding (sharing our thoughts and emotions) and physical touch.  Sexuality is the connection glue – powerful.  The combination of being open to explore each other’s bodies and minds and respecting one another’s differences.  Most of us Mid-westerners were not brought up in these open/affectionate households.  Stoicism  – a family trait in many of our family lineages still rules.  Being reserved, private and role-oriented.  This worked to help us survive; it doesn’t help us thrive.  We need to THRIVE!  We can do it!  But we can’t do it alone.  In my practice, I see a common theme of misunderstandings and resentments that zap the zing out of a healthy sensual life and creates symptoms we do not want to have in our life.  When they persist, we get sick…one way or the other so to speak.  We all deserve loving relationships and to get our needs met.  The book I routinely suggest is Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson.  There, you can test yourself and learn the inside scoop on why our early childhood, stress and negative beliefs impact us so much.  Just like Christian Gray, he had many shades and shadows to his life.  Just like Ana, who was attracted to his complicated energy to experience “the wild side” of love and sensuality, sex and maturity.  I have yet to finish the Shades of Gray series  – to see the evolution of these 2 characters of fiction who have touched and inspired many, both positive and negative reviews to take note of these sides to our humanity.sensual-touch

I encourage couples to have massage tables, use fantasy and role play, experiment with passionate essential oils, and have or learn to have fun together.   Many of us never learned that as kids – that was not on the top of the survival tool kit.  Fun can be learned – I’ve seen it done.  Start with intention, a beginners mind and avoid all judgement.  If there are negative emotions, see them together as a sedgeway to learning something new.   Seeking therapy is one tool but there are others as well.  The first step is doing a Couple Check up.  Know about your relationship!  There are several on-line resources for this as well as resources for learning how to “spice up” your sexual relationship in a healthy and loving manner.  Search couple check up and Better Sex.com., goDesana.com/newpath (romance oils)  Awareness has turned on America and beyond.  Let’s use this for the good and keep the chatter going.

Balneotherapy -Mineralizing for Mind and Body

What is the connection between mental health and the ocean?  I recently embarked on a new path of study; that of aromatherapy and the use of essential oils to help support positive mental states.  I quickly learned that there are  many uses of aromatherapy to help support physical health.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve been able to integrate some of this knowledge and  help others learn and benefit from using these essential oils for health and wellness.  Recently, I embarked on a professional aromatherapy  certification class that will require  extensive study and travel.  New endeavors require courage and energy which is one of the reasons I am seeking ways to strengthen mind/body.   I will need it all.  The good news is that it is available to us.  Balneotherapy refers to the art and science of bathing for the treatment of various disease/disorders.  The aim of these treatments may be to enhance the immune system and stimulate lymph and blood circulation.

Many people feel drawn to the ocean, plan vacations there, dream about beaches and imagine warm salty breezes while out on a sailboat.  Negative ions abound in the ocean.  When water and salt connect, the negative ions in the water molecules surround the positive ions in the salt, and the negative ions in the salt are surrounded by the positive polarized particles of the water molecules.  This changes the geometric structure of the water and the salt, and creates something entirely new, a third dimension.  The water is no longer water and the salt is no longer salt.  The elements have liberated themselves from their restrictions, given up their polarities and become a third substance, a whole new synergy.  These last statements are gleaned from my recent Aromatherapy training in El Paso, TX.  Alexandria Brighton, a noted herbalist, aromatherapist and educator at this conference highlighted this new synergy.

himalyan salt image

What is this new synergy?  When you combine Himalayan crystal salt and natural spring water Sole is created.  After 24 hours, the water has reached a 26% salt saturation level and is ready to use.  A teaspoon or perhaps a little less when you are beginning, is all you need to start the day.  This is best used on an empty stomach .  Bio-chemically, the stomach and intestinal activity (peristalsis) is stimualted and within minutes, which in return stimulates your metabolism and digestion.  Electrolytes are created which improve the body’s conductivity and stimulates the circulation.   Salt allows the current to flow.  Every single element within the salt has its own vibration pattern that resonates with the vibrational  patterns in our body.  People of any age can benefit from Sole; a drop for a baby and gradually increase as children grow up to the suggested serving of one teaspoon.

Dead Sea Salts were used therapeutically in ancient times.  King Solomon presented the Queen of Sheba with Dead Sea Salts upon her visit to the Holy Land.  Numerous medical studies have documented the efficacy of the minerals in these salts in treating and preventing various diseases such as psoriasis, acne and rheumatism.  The skin, being the largest organ of the human body absorbs the minerals, vitamins and other substances into the body and is known to help circulation and metabolism.  The regulation of sodium and potassium in the fluids of the body is essential for healthy body and mind.  This balance is regulated by the Adrenal gland, which in turn affect healthy function of the kidneys.  I didn’t know that the kidneys are responsible for controlling 28 chemicals in the body.   Visually, I imagine what that must look like in the body.  The dance of the fluids.

kidney balance image My background is in helping people understand their behaviors and in a sense help balance and regulate their emotions.  Intimate relationships all have their own dance made up of  attraction, experience, history and emotion; love being the heart of the matter so to speak.   In researching  the Dead Sea and the Himalayan Salts, I began to realize the vital role of our own body’s relationship with nature and creation.  We are energy, have long experience and history with the earth and filled with the influences of our emotions and behaviors.  Love still lights our hearts with meaning and has amazing energy.  Our brains continue to evolve – the pace is breath-taking.  Balance is a huge challenge for us today and often overlooked.  That is one reason adrenal fatigue and burnout is more prevalent today than the past.   My interest in balance connects now with the kidneys.  How amazing.  Just as we need the healthy balance of  feeling  loved and being able to love others.

Dead Sea Salt contains 10 times more minerals than ordinary sea salt.  They absorb essential oils with ease and can be used in the bath or a foot soak at home.  Many essential oils work well this way.  There are a few that are not recommended for the bath so check the information before using them.  For example Lavender and Marjoram would be effective bath oils to help ease hypertension.  Pamerossa, Geranium, Ylang Ylang, Bergamont and Roman Chamomile are oils to help with stress and anxiety.    For travel and jet lag the recipe for a foot soak is 1/4 cup Dead Sea Salt, 4 drops Basil, 8 drops Lemon and 2 drops of Pepperment.  Use warm water 100-104 degrees F and soak 8-15 minutes.  the recipe for Depression and/or Anxiety foot soak is 1/4 cup Dead Sea Salt, 15 drops Bergamot, 5 drops Neroli, and 1 drop Sandelwood.   Using a mister spray with Neroli during the day can help keep your mood positive.

If you can take a trip to the Dead Sea or go to one of those fancy European Spas that utilize balneo-therapy treatments, I would invite comment!  For those of us living in the Midwest, October reminds us of  what is to come and ponder ways to endure through the winter.  Consider a trip to your personal spa room in your home and try one of these foot soaks or bath experiences.  It is important to note that doing these soaks regularly is the key(2-3 times per week); just as a balanced diet is to our digestive system.  Enjoy the ions!

Website to learn more on the goDesana website:  www.goDesana.com/tinajohnson

Brain Revealed and All Those Tests

Calling all you impulsive, compulsive  or anxious people.  For that matter, everyone else can jump into the bus as we all have a lot to learn about this brain of ours.  I’ve been in the mental health field for over 25 years and have weathered many changes, career shifts and passion shifts, I  find myself again at a marvelous crossroads.  I use the word marvelous because the vision of  the everyday person getting savy with their brains is sweet to me…(I’ve cut back on sugar, the mind creates diversions)  Sweet because knowledge and accessible strategies are now available.  We still have a long journey ahead but it is on the road.  I begin with the second brain assessment that is mentioned in Dr. Amen’s book,”Unleashing the Power of the Female Brain” which I have been referring to in the last several blogs.    Falling in love with your brain means having a working knowledge  about how your brain works.   This test is the thinking test – no distractions allowed.  Thirty minutes of focused concentration.  “I can do this, I can do this.”  My rather seasoned mind reflected  both concern and curiosity.  The last time I considered taking the ADHD test in a clinic I worked at was in the 90’s which was conveniently put off for another day.  This test examines emotions, thinking style, concentration and problem solving.   My brain felt exercised by the end; with some harried moments between the tests.  Think fast Zumba class of the mind.  Mind boggling.  The reward for my brain gymnastics was the results page.  I was expecting some kind of grade; where I did well, where I didn’t etc.  This was not the case.  They covered the four areas mentioned above and labeled you in terms of what may create more balance in your brain and the strategies you need to strengthen it.   In my case, I was labeled the Empathizer, great in understanding others, but stress sensitive to the world around me.   Novelty problem solving was the term used  which I think is one way to imply challenges in step by step organized process of negotiating life.  I am researching this as this is a different type of approach to evaluation; positive and novel which, for my brain type is pretty awesome.

There is an app that was recommended  for me and I noticed it was a free one: MyCalmBeat   This is an exercise in calming the breath and can be done multiple times a day to increase awareness and tune into your body which strengthens your brain!  Back to that.   I almost always teach specific breathing strategies to clients in my practice.  Breath is one autonomic system in the body we can control.   No matter what stage in life you are in, managing breath is managing stress and a key to life, love and mental health.  I have decided to follow up on the strategies suggested for me to sharpen and balance.  We’ll see what happens.

Know Your Brain Type – Yikes!

We can’t see our brain…the 2.7-3.1 pounds of brain tissue that floats around in our heads guiding our every movement and thought.  I imagine that there are those who as children were fascinated by biology and dissected all kinds of things to find out how body parts worked.  I think I bribed someone to help me open up the frog in 7th grade.  I simply didn’t want to know, and my stomach, known as the second brain, gave me plenty of signals to avoid these types of situations from then on.  Would there been another way to help us sensitive students to look and see without getting sick?  The digital age may have been just the ticket for me.   Consequently, my perception of the biology of my own brain was limited.  Like many, my mind and body didn’t have a healthy relationship.  I was more driven by impulse and emotion.  What I felt like doing vs what may have been the best for me, meaning my body, mind and spirit as a whole.

I’m continuing my research on Dr. Amen’s book “Unleashing the Power of the Female Brain”.  In my last entry, I highlighted the positive attributes of woman’s brain as well as the related challenges that are associated with them.   Dr. Amen refers to the brain being involved in everything you do.   “It makes the healthy choices or unhealthy choices that make you feel good or bad.  When your brain works right, you work right.  When brain is troubled, you have trouble in your life.”   I was inspired today to clear my glasses and use Dr. Amen’s research tools to further examine my own brain type.   I want to know what’s inside this brain of mine – open my eyes as clearly as is possible to learn ways to change and improve my brain functioning.  The vision of energy, logical thinking, creativity, confidence, and flexibility dance in my mind’s eye.   I took the long test to determine my brain type.   It wasn’t as pretty as I hoped.

Impulsive-Compulsive-Anxious.  There, I said it.  With this assessment came a list of strategies and action ideas to help me improve my brain.  Instead of being a embarrassing label (automatic negative thought) I see this as an opportunity to grow and move through the inner resistance of accepting all parts of self.   To fully accept yourself, you need as much awareness as possible.  This, of course varies with each person.  What is awareness?  This is the subject of  spiritual and philosophical experts now and in ancient times but what I mean here is the ability to see more through the eyes of your heart/soul; where our truth lives.  Connecting can be the tricky part.   The media today is filled with stories on reaching our potentials, maximizing what we like, minimizing what we don’t, and finding love either within ourselves or with others.  The brain has all the  gadgets and switches necessary to make all these decisions.  I’m in awe of this brain of ours.

My assessment indicates decreased activity in the pre-frontal cortex (PFC), commonly associated with low brain dopamine levels, increased activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus, commonly associated with low brain serotonin leverls and increased activity in the basal ganglia, commonly associated with low GABA levels.  My strategy?  Balance serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain through natural means, avoid stimulants, and exercise the brain with tools and techniques that enhance cognitive flexiblity, forethought and relaxation.  OK, then.  I have my mission.  I encourage anyone interested to take this assessment.  amensolution.com   It cost me $1 for a 2 week trial.    There is an action plan included in the assessment.  Good base to start on the your goal to healthy brain envy.  I may look for a poster of a healthy brain as my pin up for the year.  More on the action plan later.

Awakening to your female brain

“The female brain can change the world. ” says Dan Amen MD, founder of the Amen Clinic and author of the recently published book, ” Unleashing the Power of the Female Brain”.   The female brain can change the world.  Now, if that were really true, what would happen?  I launch my scenario building mind to visualize a world of collaboration and understanding, conscientious thinking and with love and nurturing energies all around.  Butterflies and birds.   I envision women and men working together to share the wealth and raise educated and happy children.   There would be clean environments and thoughtful sacrifices when the situation called for them.   What if?  I take a deep cleansing breath then slowly open up my eyes to the current climate.  November in North Dakota, gray and formidable, the wind biting from the northwest, the opening day of deer hunting season.   Most women “manage” through these times, attend to details and control their impulses to drive off  to some fantasy driven  destination.  This correlates to the attributes that Dr. Amen gives women to help them live longer lives.  They are empathy, intuition, collaboration, self control and “a little worry.”  Empathy is the capacity to put yourself  in the shoes of another and act accordingly.  Intuition is the inner knowing, feeling, seeing, sensing that is interpreted uniquely by each woman.  “I feel it my bones” was a common expression I heard growing up.   There are many references to wise woman, woman’s intuition and a plethora of information about ways to develop and appreciate your intuitive parts.  For me, it has been recognizing and connection with that part that I had not been awake to.   Collaboration is the ability to work with others to get something accomplished.  Think of the role of mother figuring all the details out and organizing activities, making decisions and setting priorities.  The art of  negotiation with children and adults.  This requires an ability to think in the gray zone and make compromises.   I’m right, you’re wrong is not usually the most efficient path.  Self control is the ability to wait and be patient with self or others depending on the situation.  One of the most compelling movie memories for me was in Out of Africa.  Meryle Strep and Robert Redford.  She stood on the road as her husband left on his horse knowing that it could be a long time before he would return.  She had to carry on despite the challenges.  I can still recall the tears as she learned about the fate of her long awaited lover and the tears of learning of his fatal airplane crash.   I had just finished graduate school and was going through divorce.   Waiting for life.   These attributes can also have their difficult side.  Empathy can turn into co-dependency or living through the lens of other people or things.  Intuition can turn into mind reading and assumptions that may not be true.  It is important to do fact checking in these times.  Collaboration is the putting into action of solving problems or tasks while keeping in mind the emotional dynamics of the group whether it be family, work or organization.  Sometimes, navigating and the desire to make a win win situation can turn into pressure which can evolve into a state of compassion fatigue and stress response.   I encourage clients to be aware of these tendencies and identify them when they emerge.  It’s empowering to know that there is  a light at the end of the tunnels of life’s difficult challenges.

The phrase I appreciated in this book was “Be concerned, live longer and be happy” vs the “Don’t worry, be happy” motto of the 80’s.   There is research related to taking a more cautious approach to life vs the high risk, live for today attitude of life.  So, there is a positive spin to an anxious mind.  Know your brain type!  More on that later.  Meanwhile, time for a little vitamin D, fish oil, and dose of humor for the snowflakes that are falling.

Brain Envy – It’s all about the Brain

Is it possible that our daughter’s today  will  have shorter life spans?   Recent research from the Univ of WA suggests that women’s life expectancy increased only 2.7% compared to men at 4.6% between the years of 1989-2009.  This same study suggested that in 661 US counties life expectancy stopped improving.  For men, the number of counties reporting this decline for men was 166.  Dan Amen, in his book “Unleash the Power of the Female Brain”, states “It’s tragic that in a country as wealthy as the US, with all the medical expertise we have, so many girls will live shorter lives than their mothers.”   Comparatively, Austrailia saw an increase in life expectancy of 12 years in both men and women.  These numbers were eye-opening to me.   Why? Because I have a daughter and I care about anything that will help her and future generations  evolve  forward.   Dr. Amen has some ideas to change this trend by educating more women and men about brain health.   I have known about Dr. Amen for several years and have had clients in my therapy practice that have been patients in his clinics.  He has presented at some of the national conferences that I’ve attended and is persistent in getting the word out to many groups of people, such as  the NFL and their legal issues with brain injuries and football players.  Dr Amen has done  extensive research with athletes in relationship to head injuries and helping them recover.

This blog targets women’s brain health and how crucial it is that women begin to understand the importance of keeping our brain healthy.  We can’t see our brain.  It’s easier to see the wrinkles, feel the muscle or joint pains, sense the tightness/fit of our clothes and be motivated to do something.   Sometimes we will notice the brain fog, fatigue, mood,  concentration, sleep or memory issues and are likely to chock them up to the inevitable effects of getting older.  Mood swings, anxiety or depressive symptoms can sometimes be explained away by other causes.  Often, it is the condition of our brain that determines how we function.  Do we have a healthy brain or one that has used its reserves and is symptomatic?  We live in a country that has stress for its middle name.  We feel it, read about it, watch it, text about it and sit at our computers an write about it.  The effects of brain stress are everywhere too and include most physical problems, emotional pain and cognitive symptoms such as not tracking as well, forgetting and concentration problems.  Anyone that has managed ADD/ADHD or anxiety/depression in their lives has felt some of these symptoms “just naturally”.  Caring for the brain is even more important to keep our “Brain reserves” there for when we need them ie times of crisis and change.

When a client comes in for any type of counseling/therapy I will assess how they are doing in the realms of physical health, psychological functioning , social connections and spiritual health.  Dr. Amen calls refers to the “Four Circles Approach” and states that each of these areas needs to be optimized to ensure brain health.  This is an example of an integrated approach to a health problem.  This is, of course, not the way we are used to having our healthcare managed.  It does take extra time, thought and involvement with the person to come up with a plan that is customized and unique.  He also uses a fancy, high tech brain scan called a SPECT scan that they have used to examine brain activity and show their patients what their brain is doing and how it relates to their problems.

I find this research and data fascinating for the future, especially now, as we evolve and enter a future that is technology driven.  Warp speed.  I hear those words of Captain Kirk in the old Star Trek series as he gives the order to “go fast”.   Our bodies still need the basics, so to speak, and it is vitally important that we take care of our brain in the care of the body.  How do we do that in times of warp speed stress?  This is our challenge and our quest! Here are 4 positive suggestions to consider:

1. Fall in love with your brain.  Learn a little bit about it.  Just like your outward appearance it needs to be appreciated.

2. Examine how you think.  How active is your inner critic?  How is the flow of your thoughts in a given hour?  Just notice.

3. Value the love connections: Who do you love and who loves you?  Who do you associate with?   Do you feel deprived, angry, satisfied content?  Just assess.

4. Explore your spiritual life.  Let your intention be your guide.

These suggestions are linked with the four circles assessment approach to improving brain health.  After all if the brain works right, you work right.  More on the brain later.



Yoga – The New Mood Therapy

I recently completed a course on yoga and mood management.  This course just happened to be at an Ashram on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.  I left Fargo’s airspace at -20 and walked into an air temperature of 75.   That was a mini mood elevator in and of itself but the real punches came as the week progressed and I experienced evidenced based teachings of specific methods and strategies to effectively manage mood – meaning alternatives to medications prescribed for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.  I was surprised and impressed with what I was learning.  I was aware of the general wellness/healing effects of yoga and had practicing on and off since 2000, when the psychiatric hospital I was working with asked me to facilitate yoga for the hospitalized patients.  I had the no pain/no gain philosophy from Jane Fonda and exercised to deal with stress  – which often meant being rather numb to my actual body – I just moved and tried to get in that zone I thought where the feel good juices were.  I noticed many shifts in my life following my introduction to yoga and there is no direct evidence that they are connected but what I noticed was an awareness shift to my own body.  The body contains wisdom beyond our conscious minds.  We are often to absorbed in our conscious chatter/distractions of daily life that disconnect us from our own innate body wisdom.  Our culture is a mind based one;  its often like our life is in our heads and we loose that intimate relationship with our bodies that we were born with.  Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga for Depression,  states that we in this country are accustomed to thinking of mental health from the perspective of  illness -how best to understand and treat our symptoms.  Yoga is a practice of preventative and positive medicine.  I recently saw a video of a 93 year old woman still practicing and teaching yoga with no intention of stopping “until I can’t breathe anymore”.   Weintraub says that just as the immune system is strengthened against the common cold and other viruses with daily practice, the emotional body is strengthened as well.  In physical practice our emotions can find a balance from the highs and the lows.  In my life, I have struggled with negative thinking – almost like I had an addiction to reacting with  negative thoughts to my experiences.  Many of these thoughts were very subtle….ask me then and I would probably have told you that I was an optimist.  Many of our thought patterns are learned from our families of origin.  Our temperament and personality are formed related to our experiences in life and our resulting beliefs about ourselves.  What we have learned is that our bodies are intimately connected with our thought patterns.  Emotions out of balance cause much of our human suffering.  The good news is that the  pursuits towards liberation of the ancient yogis gave  us keys to decrease and sometimes eliminate our suffering through a regular breathing and yoga practice.

My husband and I had limited experience in this idea of healing pain  on the yoga mat nor had ever regularly  practiced specific breathing strategies to regulate our moods.  What we realized during this week of training was that these relatively simple exercises had amazing and might I say profound impact on our own body/minds.  Through the process of  self observation and acceptance of the way things it is possible to see yourself as bigger than the immediate sensations.  “I am not my feelings”  Rather developing a perspective  that self is bigger than transient emotions/physical sensations.   Depression and anxiety disorders are all wrapped up in negative thoughts and emotions and its difficult to see the big picture or even a different one.  Many people take daily medications to treat these issues – then they have side effects and only limited understanding of what is happening to them.  Daily practices of breathing and simple body postures can be as or more effective than these medications.  Some people are able to reduce their need for medicines, others can eliminate them.  Weintraub focuses on bring the emotional body back into balance we once had when we started off in this world.  One easy breathing practice that I will suggest to try is called the 3 part breath.   This is a powerful breath that I now teach to all the clients I see.  You begin by focusing your attention to your breath.  As you inhale slowly, through your nose, imagine the air going to the bottom of your rib cage.  Your belly button should rise just a little.  Imagine the 3 parts of your lungs, the bottom, middle and top.  Fill your lungs with oxygen as if filling a pitcher of water.  On the exhale, do the opposite.  Focus on emptying out the top part of your lungs first, then the middle and finally the lowest part of your lungs.  Push your belly button towards your spine to ensure all the old air is released.  What is interesting is that after only a few a these breaths, calmness is reported by almost all of the people that have tried it.    The good thing about teaching is that I also do it with them – always an energy boost for me.  Try it right now!  Then close your eyes and notice how you feel.  For more information on yoga and mood management consult the website YogaforDepression.com.  I welcome any feedback on your journey.  There are many paths to feeling better.  This is one of the best.

The Scarf of Many Colors –

Christmas on the prairie  – The image of community, music, families, food, snowy weather….what?  My thoughts are interrupted with a wave of irritation, nudging me out of my Christmas daydreams.  Sounds of the early morning train are heard, voices from a television, the dry heat in the room, and the tasks of the day ahead.  “Breathe” I tell myself.    I take a moment to process an incident that happened at the Blenders holiday concert at the Fargo Theater the night before.   It was a sold out concert and I was sitting in one those single seats that were open when I got tickets.  My family was scattered throughout the balcony.  The music was glitzy, festive and loud and it was great fun for Dec 23.  In preparation  to leave, I looked down to see if I had gotten everything and noticed that my scarf was missing.  I looked everywhere up and down the aisle.  People were milling around trying to get out of the theater.  This was no ordinary scarf to me – it was a beautiful, multicolored; of fine quality, given to me by my brother on his trip to Italy.  Consequently, my reaction was  emotional and I searched my mind for answers.  My father joined in the search, my son reacted with alarm that I would have left my seat during intermission leaving any belongings “out in the open”.  “Someone stole it.”  I finally came to the conclusion that someone else had noticed the “fineness” of this scarf and eased it off the chair and into their coat.  My keys were still in my pocket so I felt relieved about that.  The Blenders concert?  ND tradition of wholesomeness and good clean fun and merriment, not to mention an environment of comfort and trust that everyone there is on a similar wavelength.  There was a trickling down effect as my thoughts and emotions experienced the event; ones common to a loss experience of any kind…denial  how could this happen at a concert?  It’s not right.  How dare someone do this to me?  What is happening to Fargo?  I walked down the stairs distracted and caught up in the mini drama of my situation.   Somewhere along the line that night I allowed logic to explain to my mind that all was not lost, that this too shall pass and that attachment to an item of clothing doesn’t make good sense.

At my age, I acknowledge the ability to process  emotions without being so judgemental towards myself.  I am reminded how lightening fast our minds process emotional events and how habitual we humans can be.  This  can be quite handy when we need to defend our lives (see the car sliding through the stop sign, feeling the rush of adrenaline and take action) but not so adaptive when letting our habitual, often negative mind have its way with us in the form of negative thinking.  Eckhart Tolle, author of  The Power of Now points out that the greater part of human pain is unnecessary; that it is self created with the unobserved mind in control.  Losing the scarf allowed me to re-visit my spontaneous, reflexive self and allowed me to do a reality check on how I see the world – Are my thoughts fear based or trust based.  It didn’t take long to analyze that one; such a small event yet such an impressive bit of information to go forward with.   Going forward is one of our choices at any given moment, despite the circumstances that life bestows upon us.  The challenge is just how does one do that in the face of stress or pain.   I will never know the real story of how my scarf was recovered but it was.  I was called the next day to inform me although no one knew anything more – a rather non-dramatic ending to the mini-drama of the night before.    Still, this incident reminded me to keep my eyes open to what life puts front of you – and the value of awareness and  cultivating emotional balance strategies.   However or whoever or whatever happened, I am grateful for yet another one of life’s lessons.

Essential Oils – Power for the mind and body

The cleaning and air freshener aisle of the grocery store:  just imagine for a moment the intensity of the aroma blends and how your body react , whether you notice it or not   I once visited a friend for an overnight stay.  She had a new plug in vanilla gardenia air freshener.  I tried to be North Dakota nice and just ignore it but I later “secretly” unplugged it so I could sleep without the wafts of fragrence of unknown origin impacting my system.  My awareness and knowledge of these things have been limited over the years – I appreciated aromas, the descriptions on wine bottles about aromas and spent money at mall to smell good…until now.   Recently, I was introduced to the world of essential oil.  For 2 days, I learned, experimented and witnessed the positive effects of these high quality oils and wondered why I hadn’t awakened to them before.   HIstory is full of references to these precious oils carried by camels or carried by ships in the east.   Frankincense and myrrh are essential oils that are still valuable today as well as others such as balsam fir, birch, eucalyptus, geranium and scotch pine.  There are health benefits  for these oils that I had no idea about; so conditioned to what I’ve grown up with.  The concept of returning to history  to combine ancient knowledge with current scientific knowledge to extract and produce these oils is impressive.  Here are a few facts known about some specific essential oils.

Did you know that balsam fir  oil can be an excellent aid for muscles and joint pain; that it can help at a deeper level of the tissue to tone and strengthen?  It is very gentle and can help release psychological tensions which so often are at the root of physical illness.

Basil is considered on the best aromatic nerve tonics for its ability to ease nervous tension, stress, anxiety and depression.  It can also be quite helpful with insomina and migraine headaches.

Carrot seed oil is referred to as the hidden gem in the essential oil world.  Its very effective in its detoxifying abilities and liver support…very helpful in regeneration by stimulating growth of new cells and tissue following an illness.

Coriander – This oil is associated with invigorating qualities to aid in low physical energy and fatigue; very helpful in recovery from childbirth or illness.  Diabetics benefit in the support of balancing blood sugar levels.

Geranium – This is one of the best oils for easing anxiety and depression.  It is wonderfully balancing and uplifting and effective for all female complaints such as infertility, PMS, hot flashes etc.  It also helps to balance the adrenal cortex.

Quiescent  – This is a blend of Basil, Black Spruce, Lavender, Neroli, Patchouli, and Vetiver and one of the best for anxiety and stress.  It helps with ADHD  and supports greater focus and relaxation.

Kids’ Wellness – A blend of Eucalyptus radiata, lemon, Ravensara, Tea Tree, Thymect..linalool.  This oil was created for young children and those with a compromised liver.  This blend is effective for prevention and protection during cold and flu season with added immune support is essential.

Joy and Abundance – A blend of Black Spruce, Cinnamon, Ginger Root, Jojoba, Nutmeg, Orange and Patchouli.  This oil would be wonderful in a spray mist around your home and work spaces to enhance your life and create positve energy.  Similarly blended oils were considered more valuable than gold in ancient times.

The author of Nature’s Farmacy  and Essential Oil Benefits Book is Lorene Davies.  The above information was obtained in part from her presentation last weekend and her books.  The sampling of oils I included is just that – a tiny  slice of nature’s pie.  I was curious about how these plants, herbs, spices, seeds, rind, bark, leaves, twigs and flowers were synthysized  into usable oils that create a healing inside our bodies, a relationship between humans and plants that I’d not considered before.  I grew up with Vicks  cold rub, aspirin  and antibiotic shots/pills.  I still use the Vicks rub with eucalyptus and try to avoid treatments that involve going to the walk in clinic for a prescription.  This is a new perspective on personal health care; one that I’m experiencing as very positive and empowering.   In my practice I teach clients the four levels of learning.    The first level of learning is awareness of unawareness.  You didn’t know what you didn’t know.    The second is learning something new about it.  The third step is practice what you learn and the fourth step is implementing these new teachings under stress rather than return to the old ways of thinking and doing.   Each of us has their own level of openness to learn about new ideas.  Resistance to change is a powerful human trait that is most likely linked in some evolutionary way to cope with life.  Being more open to change is challenging our fears of the unknown and strngthens our brains.  Resistance is more connected to inertia and stagnation.  I encourage myself and others to fight inertia and step beyond what they think they have always thought.  How does this apply to essential oils?  For me, I’m experiencing these steps and the learning curve process.

More interesting facts about essential oils:

Quality matters:  its important to know where and how the oil is processed.

Tea tree oil is one of the mot studied as is lavender.  It is a proven immune stimulant and effective in fighting all three types of infection; bacterial, viral and fungal which according to Davies makes this a distinct powerhouse in the world of health care.  It is effective for sore throat, colds, flu, sinusitis and many other yeast,fungal or other chronic condition.

There are a variety of applications including using them in the bath with sea salts, diffusion in the air, inhalation and using internally, massage, misting spray and using them topically.

Lemongrass can be extremely effective for stress-related conditions and for times of nervous exhaustion.  It is energizing and soothing and good for dispelling negative emotions such as anger and frustration.  Lemongraass has also been known to ease headache pain and is excellent support for tendon, cartilage and connective tissues.

Lemon oil is an amazing cleanser and purifier.  Instead of that extra coffee in the afternoon, put a couple of drops on a cloth and inhale.  This can awaken and stimulate your system.

Peppermint and fennel can be used to help treat menopausal symptoms.  A drop of peppermint  on the back of the neck or in your drinking water can help with hot flashes.  Fennel oil is known to stimulate estrogen production and helps in muscle tone and skin elasticity.   Understanding more about how essential oils can aid in  menopause and PMS remedies are worth researching if these are your issues

Jojoba message oil – pronounced ho-HO-ba) is a rich, nourishing oil for the skin.  It is similar to human skin oil and is healing and balancing to the skin.  It is effective for the entire body and skin care.

My intention – considering myself a wannabe expert with some challenges finding more time in my schedule, I again ask myself this question.  What is the intention in my learning and understanding these healing practices?  Questioning yourself is part of the learning process and very good for the brain.  I often suggest to others to regularly write down  10-20 questions without censoring.  Its a good practice, one that Leonardo Da Vinci lived by. My intention is to learn more and practice using these essential oils in therapeutic ways.   Davies states there are countless ways to use essential oils and can evolve into being essential in your life, enhancing energy and sense of well-being. I would also add that it creates options in caring for mind, body and spirit.  Savor the sweet aromas that are in your life today.