2018 Yang Earth Dog

Anoir Chafik

2018 brings in the year of the Yang Earth Dog.

February 16th marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year which also marks the changing of the seasons. We are shifting from the dormancy of Winter to the upbeat energy of Spring. 

First let's talk about the Yang. There is Yin and Yang which are opposite, interdependent, transform into one another. Yang is the balancer to Yin and vice versa. Yang is light, energy, movement, action. Yin is darkness, rest, stillness and flow. 

Next, Earth is one of five elements. Earth is as it sounds. Very much grounded, peaceful, still. Earth connects to the Spleen and Stomach. This means that the element is connected to digestion, our muscles, rumination and thought. When the earth element is balance we see people being thoughtful, attentive, connected and grounded. When the earth element is out of balance we see people worried, anxious, with poor digestion and brain fog. 

This year with the earth element being in force we are all prone to both the balancing aspects and the imbalances of earth. It will be extra important to exercise, eat well, avoid foods that can be damp in nature. The most prominent damp foods are things with sugar, dairy, greasy or alcohol. 

The year of the dog comes once every 12 years. The dog is sweet, loyal, kind who values routine and justice. The dog can also be obsessive, overprotective and anxious when they are out of their routine or feel that something is unjust.

Dogs want what they want, when they want it. Yet when they are loyal to someone they are willing to forgive them over and over again. Dogs love their packs and can thrive in community. However they can be prone to groupthink and losing themselves amidst certain ideals. This year one of the biggest themes we will see is division between packs or groups. Many people will be aligning with community with a similar mindset and who feels aligned in regards to how one person things. It is important if you are part of a community to keep coming back to why you joined. If the community is no longer aligned with your goals and values it is important to split off from the pack. This will feel harder in 2018 with the nature of the year pushing us towards groups.

For more detailed information check out The Scholar Sage + Lillian Pearl Bridges

Justice in January

We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. Injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience at the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
— MLK Jr. Letter from a Birmingham jail 1963

The health and wellness world often veers away from tough and political topics. Because there is a notion that tough topics cause tension. In the healing and wellness world must not do anything to aggravate tension. In fact, as a wellness practitioner we are looking to significantly reduce tension. As with our political tensions, we hold physical tensions in our bodies, as MLK Jr. says this tension is merely bringing to surface a hidden tension that is already alive.

Companies that make money promoting health and wellness do not want to appear partisan or too radical. However, when we ignore the radical, we are ignoring the root.

 
Photo by George Alexandru

 

 

The term radical often has a cultural understanding of extreme or 'out there'. If someone identifies or acts radically it appears to be away from representing the middle. But the etymology of the word suggests otherwise. Radical is similar to radish and the meaning of the word means "of or having roots". In a political sense it means "change from the roots.". Change from the roots, doesn't that sound powerful?

If a plant has a disease on it's leaves, can we treat only the leaves with a simple spray and cure the disease? Or are we simply masking the symptoms or tension while ignoring what may be at the roots?

 

This is important because in Chinese medicine we are always seeking the root cause. Yes, one patient may have headaches - and maybe there is a simple Chinese medicine diagnosis like... Liver Qi Stagnation (basically stress). But WHY do they have the headaches? WHY do they have the stress? Perhaps they are eating a food that causes a chemical stress reaction which causes the headaches. Or perhaps they are deeply unhappy with a job and that brings stress which brings a headache. 

However, we are doing a disservice to all when we are not able to have an open discussion with someone we do not agree with.

I am a firm believer in tough conversations at the right time. We can obviously always push off a tough conversation... with the reasoning of it not being the right time. That's not what I mean. Both parties have to be willing enough to be there to sit, and talk and listen in whatever form this conversation needs to happen. Even ending with the same thoughts, opinions and feelings the act of coming together to hear one another out is a form of healing. 

Tough conversations can be messy, painful and very uncomfortable. Practice that. Practice sitting with what is messy, painful and very uncomfortable. When you need breaks, take breaks. When it's absolutely not the right time, don't do it. When you regress and cannot put yourself in that situation, let yourself regress. Then, when you're ready enough, time and time again, keep showing up. It's Winter, it's time to do the shadow work, dig in and let the messy, dark, painful, uncomfortable happen. 

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
— MLK Jr. Letter from a Birmingham jail

Reposted through Women Empower www.allgirlsempower.com

2017, A Year of Every Big Life Change

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two housed as they are in the same body.
— Mary Oliver

Dearest readers,

2017 has been A YEAR for me, for our world.

For me, I have had immense progress and also hardcore stagnation. Mostly 2017 was incredible change. The greatest lesson I have had to learn over and over again how to come back to center as change spins around me. Cheers to more change, more centering in 2018

2017 in Summary

It is the first full year I have lived without my dad.

This has been an accomplishment. Existing in the world without my dad brought about a deeper way of viewing the world and more grief than I thought possible. But it is not simple grief, it is complex, and quiet and tender. The tears, the heartbreak, the sinking feelings sneak in just when I think I have a chance of being “past” it. It is continually hard for me to admit that the loss doesn’t disappear. The pain of being without my dad in the world does not go away. But life goes on. There is still joy, and hope and creating. And the missing him, that stays too.

 

I moved back to my hometown.

This has been both a privilege and comfort. Yet, there is a sneaky undertone of defeat. See, I tried to branch out beyond Berkeley. I sought out life among the orphans of NYC. I traveled. I sought out what is available in the world. I spent years exploring San Francisco and enjoying the perks of a small city. After all the exploration, after my dad died, Berkeley opened its reliable arms to be. In 2017 I got to come home.

 
lauren bride

 

I got married.

After building a new home in my hometown, I got to marry the sweetest man. Along with a wedding blessed by incredibly artistic, openhearted friends I shared a day unlike any other. There were so many tears. It opened my eyes to the true community I have, the rare moment you get to see it all in one room. The marriage, is like the final coat of paint on a house you have spent years building. The shift into matrimony is the final touch on a lot of hard work and now we have an even more structured foundation to live in.

 

I left one business to start another.

After buying a clinic called Service Workers Acupuncture Project three years ago. I left due to some changes in the lease and dove full force into Well in the West (Thanks for being here btw!). This has become a community, an advice column, a source for herbs, physical health advice and much deeper healing. I can feel the path opening up broader and wider. It is as if a two lane highway has expanded into a freeway. The road will only go faster, with more traffic from now on.

 

I healed my adrenals.

Even before the death of my dad, my adrenals were low. After working in Community acupuncture for a few years I was running on low. When my dad died, they went kaput. With a lot of supplements, dietary shifts I have learned how to nourish myself again…more… deeply. This year has been deeply infused with my own healing. There has been no other option.

 
callie.puppy

I got a complicated AF puppy

This little doggie has taught me more in three months than I thought possible. At five months old this puppy lived under our bed three days, we didn't get her off of our property for two weeks. Now she is eight months and has dog friends, loves going on hikes and is curious but not friendly to new people. She has taught me about fear, boundaries, healing, growth, expansion, brilliance… She is still not a “normal” dog, but she is on her way. Her world is expanding everyday. It's hard to explain the gamut of emotions I feel for this little creature. Above all she has been one of my greatest teachers.

 

I guided women through three transformational seasons, Winter, Spring, Fall.

I learned that the seasons embrace us, always. We have to learn how to embrace them back. Living with the pacing, the nutrition, what is available to us moment to moment, has taught me how to develop a resilience. Resilience calls for acceptance of what is happening. So often we reject when life slows us down, we get sick we still go to work. A loved one dies, we keep calm and carry on. We are deeply tired in winter, we go forth and drink all the coffee to stay well. We are launched out of our comfort zone and we curl into a ball.

As we sit back and enjoy the ride, the shifts and changes of each season hug us, they guide us, they nudge us. Living life more aligned to these tenants has been gently life changing, for me, for my clients… for communities we share the knowledge with.

 

I have remembered my artist self.

If there is one thing that adult life can beat out of you, it is the deep knowing that you are a creative artist with a lot to do and say. Art can be integrated into business, daily life. It can be a way of seeing things differently, accepting them, challenging them…art is all about making work about what we see in a creative and new way. I forgot this piece of myself a long time ago. Surrounding myself with all the people I love best, I have seen this in my friends living as professional artists. As well as all the people with day jobs who are lovely and holding tenderly their brilliant ideas, their creative streaks under the surface. We are all artists. Let's keep telling our stories.

 

As I sit and reflect on all these big changes. A LOT can shift in 365 Days. Looking forward to the 2018 reflections. Wishing you all a year of big change and growth. 

Self Care under Fire

Here in Northern California we are facing incredible amounts of wildfires which have devastated Napa and Sonoma Counties and are greatly affecting the surrounding areas. 

Here are some ways to care for yourself with herbs, nutrition and ways to care for those affected.

 

SELF - CARE

Get a mask - N95 or P100 - this category of mask will block out the size of particulate that is in the air. Most bay area stores are completely out. Order online to get shipped ASAP. If anyone has a better suggestion, I'd love to know how to get a mask faster. 

Get an air purifier. These fires could be out soon, but there will be residual particulate in the air that can affect you and your Lungs. There are all types, but the best according to The Sweethome is The Conway - linked here for $230 on Amazon. Higher end or budget pick listed on this post by The Sweethome.

Support your Lungs with Nutrition - the Lungs are a crucial part of our immune system and they are greatly supported by our digestion. 

To eat

  • some sour flavors - with this dryness, our Lungs need support keeping moist. Sour helps to astringe moisture - citrus is one of the easiest ways to get sour. 
  • some pungent flavors - radish, onion, garlic, ginger - this can help dispel toxins that are accumulating in the Lungs. 
  • pears - are a superfood for the Lungs - AND they are in season - they help to moisten the lungs. Eat raw or make poached pears. Here is a great recipe with some seasonal spices.
  • white unprocessed foods - pears, apples, onion, garlic, white rice, white sesame seeds, lotus root, lily bulb - all of these have medicinal effect in Chinese medicine specifically to support the Lungs
  • warm cooked foods - support your digestion with soups
  • fermented foods - eat fermented to support your gut health which in turn supports your immune system

To limit / avoid - 

  • sugar
  • dairy
  • refined foods

Herbs

cordyceps - Root and Bones has a great product but is sold out at the time of this post. You can search on google. Mountain Rose herbs is a great supplier.  Or check with your local herb store.

  • SF - Rainbow Grocery or The Scarlet Sage
  • Oakland - Five Flavors Herbs or Homestead Apothecary
  • Berkeley - Lhasa Kharnak

If you are having specific symptoms I recommend you check in with an herbalist or acupuncturist to create an herbal formula specific to your needs. I provide herbal consults. If you are interested you can sign up here. Or contact me for more details. 

How to Help

There are a lot of people to help right now and ways. There are options, do what you can with what you can.

With your dollars

Community Foundation of Napa County

Napa & Sonoma County Fire Relief

The Milo Foundation - their animal sanctuary was evacuated and they need dog food, cat food, cat litter, dog and cat bowls, financial donations, foster families and more. 

With your time

Foster an animal through The Milo Foundation or Hopalong

Bring Supplies

SO many medical offices, small businesses are taking donations and collecting them to send up. Check in with your community and see where you can bring helpful supplies!

I will do my best to update this list as things move forward. 

Healing Hurts - Charlottesville

Wounds don’t heal the way you want them to, they heal the way they need to. It takes time for wounds to fade into scars. It takes time for the process of healing to take place. Give yourself that time. Give yourself that grace. Be gentle with your wounds. Be gentle with your heart. YOU DESERVE THAT.
— Dele Olanubi

The tragedy in Charlottesville is a sharp reminder that there are so many hard edges, so much hate, so much scarcity, so much fear, so much division in our America. It has been a struggle to for me to find the right words and to take the right action. I spent time this week posting and reposting the work of many incredible people I follow who have been advocating for a world without white supremacy that unites to take action against hate.

As a healer, in my struggle to find words I have done what I know how to do, examining America as a living, breathing, heart beating body. Upon examination, I see our political system as broken limbs and our leader as a head completely detached from any symptoms of pain. I see America's heart as broken, like two charms separated into two pieces with a zig zag down the middle. Our continuous struggle to mend the broken heart charms but separation, scarcity, fear, otherness getting in the way. 

I have been thinking about healing the body, the thing I know how to do for myself, the thing I know how to help others do. If America were my patient what would I do?

Charlottesville is a gaping wound. The wound is deep, gushing, threatening the lifespan America's body. It is raw, exposed and bleeding out. We need help to save us. 

I have been struggling to find the right words. How to fight, how to heal, how to stay soft but firm. How do we heal this wound in time? What if time runs out? What if the pulse stops, there is no more breath in our country? How do we move forward in the midst of hate of close minded white supremacists, when our country was founded by people who had the same oppressive values? 

America has changed, healed and evolved since it was founded. But these old wounds are re-surfacing and coming to a head. It's painful, it's frightening and it needs to come out so that we keep talking about it. I know what I would say if America was my patient. I would say "better out than in." This does not mean that I support acts of violence or that I am rooting for my patient to experience pain. It means that when things lie dormant, under the surface they can be more dangerous, more powerful than when they are exposed and visible. As a practitioner when I see things come to the surface and show as symptoms, they are finally treatable. 

Let us keep hope as these terrifying and horrible actions surface that we continue conversations that need to happen. Let us see the symptoms and TAKE ACTION to treat what is happening. 

Resources are listed below. Please please please take the time to check them out. 

RESOURCES:

Want to be a white ally but need help? Join & support Safety Pin Box

BUSTLE - How to Help Victims of Charlottesville RIGHT NOW

Tema Okun on how to end White Supremacy Culture in Organizations

"This is a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture that show up in our organizations. Culture is powerful precisely because it is so present and at the same time so very difficult to name or identify. The characteristics listed below are damaging because they are used as norms and standards without being proactively named or chosen by the group. They are damaging because they promote white supremacy thinking. Because we all live in a white supremacy culture, these characteristics show up in the attitudes and behaviors of all of us – people of color and white people. Therefore, these attitudes and behaviors can show up in any group or organization, whether it is white-led or predominantly white or people of color-led or predominantly people of color."

Put your money towards businesses owned by POC, Women, LGBTQ and other minority groups. Our country runs on money and money deeply expresses our values. Not only spending your money but also following these people and reading their posts are an incredible way to support the America you want to live in. 

Late Summer Wellness

It’s August ya’ll and we are in the secret FIFTH season! Did you know there are actually five seasons. What else could there be besides the Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter?

In Chinese medicine we have a very short and VERY important fifth season. For you it just blends in between summer and fall, but LATE Summer is actually it’s own thing.

Late summer has organ pairings – it’s own emotional symptoms – physical symptoms AND ways to take care of yourself through the shifting weirdness.

If you are starting to feel…

… a bit more worried, or just beginning to have your eye on the fall… yup, late summer shifts from freeform joy of experience into a bit more method and rhythm

…hmmm, maybe some digestion issues – definitely late summer. It’s season of the Stomach and Spleen, your digestive rulers.

…a bit more needy, wanting more touch, cuddles, and closeness… yup, that’s late summer too.

…cravings for sweet. Yum ice cream! Yes chocolate! Yay cookies! Sugar, sugar, sugar!

To have a healthy season...

…slow your roll from the fast pace, expansive, fun fun fun, go go go rhthym of pure summer. I mean it, literally, slow your roll. Schedule a little less, start to hibernate a tiny bit more and just slow down.

…start eating more warm & cooked food. Seriously. Summer it’s ok to go ham on the sushi and watermelon but late summer wants some digestive love. Eat more cooked foods.

…get a massage. Ahhh, you know the neediness, the touch? That’s your Spleen, it connects to your muscles and if you are deficient a massage can be the perfect way to give your Spleen the late summer self care it needs.

…ah, ok sugar. Sugar, sugar, sugar. Time to work on digestion, microbiome and a balanced nutritional intake.

 

To grasp this season a little bit deeper, reflect and get a delicious Late Summer recipe - consider checking out this Late Summer ebook

Grief in the Season of Joy Part V. Fin.

The thing about grief is that it gets better. It gets easier, it lessens, it lets off the gas. And at the very same time it doesn’t.

Remember the resume bullet point? (If not, go back to Part II) I had qualifications on being a professional handler of grief. I was until my dad died. Since then I have been knocked over, ribs shaking, snot-dripping crying like when I was a little girl. I have not had tears that have overcome me since I was a child, maybe a teen.

This newly experienced depth of emotion as an adult has shocked me. It has made me feel out of control, and like a small and vulnerable little girl. It has also reminded me that no matter how you prepare yourself, brace yourself for the worst thing to happen, it does not protect you from the pain. Nothing can.

The thing is, I am still a vulnerable little girl. She is there to remind me that life is hard, it hurts and sometimes I really want my dad.

IMG_1275 2.JPG

Back to things getting better. It does get better, or something. Days keep passing. The sun keeps rising. And life goes on. I have learned that something that seemed impossible one evening has full potential the next morning. 

After enough nights of sleep and sunrises that marked the passing of time, all of a sudden it was spring. Finally, after six months I was ready to go visit the place where he died.

I had craved being in the place that he died since the day after his death. The woman who called 911, who found him face down, who heard his last words, “I’m just walking.” She gave us a great gift. She found our family and told us her story.

I wanted to walk his last steps, to see where he took his last breaths. And it was more beautiful and perfect than I could have imagined. Seeing this beauty of the place he finished his steps on earth has gifted me more peace, trust and acceptance. In his last steps he walked up a small hill towards an oak tree. In the Spring, I followed the path he took in his last footsteps. The feeling of being beneath the oak tree was a sigh of relief. The oak tree had been there for his death and for perhaps hundreds of years prior. Suddenly his death felt like it was part of something far beyond his time in a human body. It was part of a greater ebb and flow of life. 

Nayyirah Waheed the mourn

I have a general trust in the order of the world. There is something about life lessons teaching us what we need to know, when we need to know them. I have realized that even when we are good and we learn the life lesson, it doesn't prevent the pain, the grief, the sorrow that comes with loss. There is nothing that takes away the humanness of the experience. That is probably my greatest lesson to share.

For now, I hope to enjoy the rest of Summer, the season of joy. To let my heart crack open with it’s aches, pains and tenderness. To let it all wash over me as an intensive lesson on duality, death, life, love and moving on.

Grief in the Season of Joy Part IV.

I got really lucky with who I got for a dad. My dad was great. He was imperfect, and he would be the first to tell you that. He could totally be an Eeyore, and was known to both have a spark in his eye and drag in his step. He epitomized contradiction. His humanness, his lack of filter, and his big radiant heart, he was incredibly loved.

His memorial service was huge. It was about 500 people and I stood on stage and shared intimately, vulnerably, heartfelt feelings without breaking into sobs. In that moment on stage I felt so cared for, so held, and definitely not alone.

So much of Grief with a capital G has been the feeling of being alone. My dad left me alone. And I’m not alone. I have great friends, amazing family, a beyond supportive partner. It doesn’t take away the aloneness of grief. Everyone wants to, so badly, but they can’t. No one is the person who died. No one can bring back the one person you want to make you feel not so alone.

People who have recently lost someone have a certain look, recognizable maybe only to those who have seen that look on their own faces. I have noticed it on my face and I notice it now on others. The look is one of extreme vulnerability, nakedness, openness. It is the look of someone who walks from the ophthalmologist’s office into the bright daylight with dilated eyes, or of someone who wears glasses and is suddenly made to take them off. These people who have lost someone look naked because they think themselves invisible. I myself felt invisible for a period of time, incorporeal. I seemed to have crossed one of those legendary rivers that divide the living from the dead, entered a place in which I could be seen only by those who were themselves recently bereaved.
— Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

 

Joan Didion saved me. I read A Year of Magical Thinking five months after my dad died. She so perceptively encapsulates the feelings of insanity that come with losing someone you love. She made me feel less alone.

I write this fragmented, imperfect reflection on grief because it helps me. If you have lost someone and you feel so very alone, I want to gently remind you that you are not alone. No one will have your specific pain for your specific bond with the person that you lost. You may only really be seen by those also recently bereaved, but you're very much, not alone.