A Secret Grave, an online serial murder mystery

I have a friend, Nicole Schindler-Jeffords, who is fabulously talented and creative. She is an artist who paints portraits in oil. She is also a published novelist and a born storyteller. She has many circles of friends. I’ve known her for at least a decade through the Austin ecstatic dance community.

Here’s are two of Nicky’s self-portraits:

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Self, by Nicole Jeffords

Continue reading

Book review: The Nature of Consciousness: Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter, by Rupert Spira

I occasionally receive books on spiritual topics in the mail, with nice cover letters from publishers or marketing people, because I apparently was added to some mysterious mailing list, perhaps of “bloggers who write about spiritual topics.” I (rarely) review books or films on this blog, as I don’t have much time to read them, being engaged in an intensely focused study and practice of biodynamics (a bridge between meditation and healing, as I’ve come to think of it).

I asked members of my long-time spiritual book group if they wanted to read and review some books I’d received, and Harry Lundell chose this book.

Here is Harry’s review: Continue reading

Core Transformation is a process that amplifies well-being

Sometimes we believe we have to do something (or not do something) before we can experience a sweet state of being such as peace, love, feeling one with everything, etc.

If only I wasn’t so nervous, I’d feel more confident about a troublesome situation.

Core Transformation is a process where you can learn to experience a pleasant, desirable state of being (maybe even more pleasant and desirable than you can currently imagine!) without having to do something to get there.

rainbow, The Well, ATXThat’s right, you can experience these states regardless of what happens (or doesn’t happen) because your mind creates states of being. You can learn to work with your mind and be way more than 10 percent happier! Continue reading

Preventing illness, recovering quickly

One of the most widely read posts on my blog is about recovering from a virus and recovering from adrenal exhaustion. People find it by googling because they’re trying to get well.

I want to share some good advice on preventing colds and the flu, based on what is known now. The immune system is an area of interest to researchers, but without a lot of solid conclusions, so far. What I’m sharing here is the best we know now, simplified, and now of course is when it counts.

You can prevent a lot of illness by managing your life in a way so that you experience less stress. Take care with your work and relationships, whatever stresses you. Know what you can handle and don’t be afraid to set healthy-for-you boundaries. Remember, stress turns on the bad genes as well as lowering immunity. Continue reading

Riding the energy of the New Year into life skills

Happy New Year from wellbodymindheartspirit!

It seems natural to me that after the indulgences of the holiday season — after all the parties, feasts, special foods, and alcohol consumption lasting from Thanksgiving through New Year are over — I want to simplify, clean up my habits, rebalance.

This is the energy begetting New Year’s resolutions. January is the soberest month, after all!

But how best to work with that energy? I’ve learned from personal experience that most of the time, those good intentions don’t last a whole year. (One exception: I did meditate nearly every day for a year, back in 2010, when I launched this blog. The following year, I was so sick of the daily discipline, I became quite irregular at it. Back on track now, figuring 5 out of 7 days is just fine, and 7 out of 7 is awesome!) So it’s good to think about how you know when you are done. How can you be successful actualizing your intention? Is it related to a specific time period, mindfully learning a new habit that you then do mindlessly, achieving a particular goal, or something else?

I’m riding that energy to use the first two weeks of January to clean up my diet. I’ve resolved to go dairy-free through January 15th. Then I plan to do challenge testing of dairy products, partaking of them again and noticing how they affect my body. My nutritionist, Olivia Honeycutt, will help me through this, building on the food records I’ve been keeping for the past several months.

I’ll probably start with the fermented stuff, yogurt and kefir, which may be easier to digest, and then go on to test cheeses, also fermented, and finally the hard-core dairy products I like, cream and butter. (I haven’t drunk milk in many years, so that won’t be an issue.)

After those two weeks, I’ll have a better idea of which kinds of dairy and how much (if any) my body can handle well.

It’s not that I’m sick (I was, before going gluten-free 7 years ago). Now I’m experimenting with which tweaks to my diet make me feel even better.

I’m also using this period to cut grains out of my diet. I’ll be experimenting after that with ways to prepare grains in ways that don’t rob my body of minerals from phytates and that maximize digestibility (soaking and sprouting first). I miss the texture of grains sometimes, like rice and quinoa. The cookbook Nourishing Traditions has tips on how to prepare grains (and everything else) in healthful ways.

Sugar and honey and other sweeteners are also going by the wayside during this period, except for that daily small piece of 85%-cacao dark chocolate. When it comes to chocolate, I know well how little resistance I have when there’s more sugar in the chocolate. I wanna eat the whole damn bar! 85% is barely sweet and thus non-addictive. I can eat a small piece daily and make a bar last two weeks, getting the benefits of the cacao (antioxidants, magnesium, endorphins) without overindulging in sugar.

I decided I might as well go alcohol-free too. What the heck, right? I have become fond of some red wines and could (and did) drink a glass almost daily. After that, I may cut back to drinking wine only when dining out. Alcohol can be addictive, and apparently it’s never too late to develop a drinking problem, which I definitely don’t want.

Another good resolution is to get the first hour of my day in good order. For me, it’s brushing and flossing first thing, followed by drinking a glass of water with gelatin and apple cider vinegar, doing 10-15 minutes of yoga (vinyasa, easing into each stretch for at least 15 seconds), then meditating for 15-60 minutes, and making myself a morning cup of healthful tea, mixing matcha, puerrh, yerba mate, ginger, turmeric, nettle, reishi, etc., as needed for energy and healing. (I learned the value of this from Tim Ferriss, the supreme life hacker who wrote The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef.)

After doing those things, I go about my day. Every day can be different in my line of work (massage therapy), depending on the number of clients and their needs, working in different locations. It’s nice to have a routine (that I hope will become mindless, like autopilot when I wake up) of healthy habits to start each day.

I am also interested in lowering my stress levels. As a massage therapist, relieving others’ stress and tension is my job. What about my own? Meditation helps, but it’s time deliberately set aside from the daily grind, sitting on a cushion and meditating. What about during the day, when I’m running errands, stuck in Austin’s notorious traffic, running late for a meeting, returning stuff, standing in line, experiencing inner and outer conflicts, hearing terrible news about what’s happening in the world that I can’t do anything about?

I decided late in 2014 to investigate the HeartMath program. I bought a device that attaches to my iPhone (the Inner Balance for iOS pulse sensor) and downloaded a free app (Inner Balance). I plug the device into my phone, attach the clip to my earlobe, and watch an expanding/contracting mandala on the screen to pace my breath. Auditory cues let me know if my heart rate variability is in the low, medium, or high range. (HRV is an indicator of coherence in the autonomic nervous system that correlates with entrainment/harmony of physiological systems. Coherence correlates to feeling positive emotions, so you could call this an attitude adjustment device. Here’s more information if you want it.)

The goal is to be in the high range of coherence as much as possible. As with games, you can set the pace, move up to higher levels, change images, get scores, and more. There are also computer-based devices available.

I quickly noticed how my thoughts affect my coherence level. If my mind wanders to news of a plane crash or nasty politics or war or a crime (I’m sure you’ve experienced this too), I move into the low range. If I bring my attention back to my heart center, I move into the high range.

I plan to do at least one session every day until I can, at will, without the device, reliably switch from stress to a positive emotion and maintain it for as long as needed.

(Not that negative emotions are totally bad. Of course when someone I love is suffering or dies, I will feel grief, anger, etc., and I have memories of difficult times in my own life. That’s life. But when it’s about something distant from me that I cannot personally do anything about, who does it serve for me to feel bad? Not me, not those I most care about. One thing I can do is to support effective organizations that are making the world a better place.)

And there you have it. These are my intentions for 2015, my expression of the “new beginnings” energy that accompanies the turn of the year. First, a two week diet clean-up. Next, an intention to create a new habit for how I spend the first hour of every day — and I’ll be done once I’m doing it regularly. Thirdly, I will use a device to increase my experience of positive emotions —and stop when I can reliably do that at will, without the device.

I will check back in later this year, and again at the end of 2015, to let you know how these intentions and practices have panned out in actuality.

Hope you have a wonderful year and that 2015 showers you with love and abundance and worthy challenges!

Moving toward a more traditional diet

I’ve been working with local clinical nutritionist/acupuncturist Olivia Honeycutt for a couple of months, tweaking my diet so I can be healthier and have more energy. She gave me some forms for noting what I eat for meals and snacks, when I eat, how much water I drink, how many hours of sleep I get and the quality of my sleep, bowel movements, etc. We get together every couple of weeks so I can share my forms. She looks them over and makes recommendations of little tweaks I can make to improve my health through diet.

Although I was already eating very little grains and legumes and no gluten before I started working with Olivia, I’m eating more of a traditional diet now.

It was a bit difficult to move past the belief that more fat is good, because for most of my adult life, fat has been considered the cause of heart disease and obesity. Especially animal fat. Fat = bad for decades, and now fat = good (especially animal fat, coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil). I went out of my way especially to avoid Mexican restaurant food cooked with lard, and now it’s considered healthy! (It’s also tastier.)

Yet here I am, eating butter, ghee, and/or bacon grease daily. I did not want to gain weight, but I have. It’s actually fat turned to muscle, because my clothes still fit. To lose weight eating like this, you eat more fat earlier in the day.

Epic barsThe great thing about fat is that it satisfies. If I’m working for hours doing massage, and I don’t have time to eat, consuming fat will stave off my hunger for longer than anything else I could eat. It’s fuel. I’ve tried eating various fat-laden foods such as almond butter, coconut butter, Epic bison/lamb/turkey/beef bars, avocados, and some organic extra-virgin coconut oil when my hunger is getting the better of me. It works.

One of the biggest adjustments is that from tracking my water intake, I learned I wasn’t drinking enough water. Now I drink 16 ounces upon arising (with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar). My water bottle holds 27 ounces, and I empty it daily. Another 16 ounces in the evening brings my total to 59 ounces, close enough to my goal of 60 ounces a day, or about half my body weight in ounces. I don’t count the caffeinated tea I drink because tea is a diuretic.

Also, I like to drink a glass of water about 10 minutes before eating because it helps me avoid overeating. It’s so easy to confuse hunger and thirst! When my thirst is sated, I’m not as hungry.

Because I work out 3-5 times per week with kettle bells and do physical work as a massage therapist, Olivia has me eating a palm-sized amount of protein at each meal. I am not an athlete, but I get to eat like one! I’ve been making chicken liver paté from different recipes for the past few weeks to get some beneficial fat-soluble vitamins found in liver. (Here’s my favorite recipe!)

I don’t eat much canned or processed foods, except for sardines. I eat raw honey, rare beef, and fermented food and drink such as sauerkraut, refrigerator pickles, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, Kevita, wine, cider, or cheese nearly every day.

I’m looking forward to obtaining some natto, having become aware of the vast benefits of consuming adequate vitamin K2 for appropriate calcium utilization (i.e., in the bones and teeth and not in the arteries and brain). There’s a supplement that also has K2

I’m learning to soak and dehydrate nuts. (Well, just walnuts, so far.) The cookbook Nourishing Traditions has been helpful. This diet is similar to the Paleo diet, is influenced by the Weston A. Price Foundation‘s dietary principles, and also by Olivia’s understanding of diet and health from her acupuncture training (having to do with heat, cold, dampness, herbs, seasons, constitutions, etc.).

I try to eat half a beet and drink a cup of dandelion tea (leaf or root) each day for better liver function. I eat dark green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and tropical fruits. And high-cacao chocolate (over 70 percent).

I also make bone broths, especially in the winter, for the calcium. I save chicken, beef, and lamb bones and veggie scraps in my freezer. Sometimes I just buy bones. I have a big plastic container to store them in, and I also add the water from steaming veggies to this frozen stockpile of nutrients.

When I’ve got enough, I put the contents into a stockpot, add water to cover and a splash of apple cider vinegar and a moderate amount of salt, and cook it at a simmer for a day or two, skimming foam off the top when it first rises.

The resulting broth is flavorful and extremely nourishing. I drink a cup a day when I have it and also use it as a basis for soups and stews. See my post on making turkey vegetable soup with bone broth!

In summer (because it’s too hot to make broth), and when I’ve run out of broth, I consume a tablespoon of gelatin every day for the protein. It thickens smoothies, makes my hair and nails grow thicker and faster, and is good for joints and reducing cellulite. I get the Great Lakes brand sold on Amazon.

My gut seems to be working better despite recent stressful difficulties. I take L-glutamine supplements, which help with gut issues and have many other benefits.

Check out my Products I Recommend page for more recommendations for books, supplements, and products to improve your well-being.

My experience with functional movement

If you’ve friended me on Facebook, you might be aware that I’ve been taking classes in functional movement since August, so four months now. I thought I’d post something  about what it is, what I’ve been doing, and my results.

What is functional movement?

Functional movement refers to fitness and the movements we use in everyday life. As opposed to yoga, for instance. Continue reading

How to live a more satisfying life

The best first step towards changing the way things are is to fully accept the way things are.

Michael Giles has written a book called Action of Mind: Essential Steps Toward a Satisfying Life. Neatly divided into three sections — Open Mind, Focused Mind, and Big Mind — the book offers chapters on topics like intent, stillness, setting and achieving satisfying goals, the unknown, and your purpose.

He acknowledges that reading the middle section (Focused Mind) will help readers understand better how to achieve specific goals they’ve set for themselves, yet he recommends reading the first section (Open Mind) first to get better results by being grounded in the present moment. The third section asks hard questions and deals with some of life’s difficult-to-accept realities.

I’ve known Michael for the past several years. I met him through NLP. Michael is a master practitioner of NLP and a hypnotist (a term he prefers over hypnotherapist) and coach for the last 13 years. Now he’s a working graduate student in the field of social work, an active member of the Texas National Guard, and father of Reyna, with another child on the way. He’s worked hard on creating his own satisfying life, and in this book, he shares his wisdom.

I’ve known Michael also as a long-time practitioner of martial arts. Michael started studying karate at age 12 and holds multiple black belts. Familiar with the Taoism and Buddhism, he  practices and teaches tai chi. These practices, and meditation, have greatly influenced Michael’s perceptiveness, intelligence, and response-ability, which show up in his book.

Michael draws on NLP, hypnosis, martial arts, his own personal history, and story-telling to share his insights and exercises for living a more satisfying life. Here are some excerpts from his book, little nuggets that hint at the wisdom that follows, written in a style that suggests a coach talking directly to a client:

Nothing will guide you as wisely and creatively as your shadow. Your deepest feelings of hurt, fear, or doubt can serve you when you sit with them.

Visualization can be a very helpful element of hypnosis, self-development, or just getting over that threshold into the success that you want. In my experience, it is good to see yourself doing what you want to do and being what you want to be. I have found that affirmations are most helpful for receiving and achieving while visualization is most helpful in the doing and the being.

Whenever a problem is solved, it is because we have received a gift from the unknown. A more prosaic way of stating this is that solutions are pieces of information that we were ignorant of until we found them. If we know the solution to a problem already, then the problem is not really a problem. It is only a problem while we do not know the solution. It travels from the category of “unknown” to the category of “known.” Therefore, the unknown is the source of all our problem solving, positive change, and personal evolution.

Michael has done a great job of communicating his insights and teaching readers about something that really matters to all of us, living a life that is satisfying.

What I’m reading, April 2013

Taking stock of books I’m currently reading, just read, or soon to start:

The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff by Jeanne de Salzmann. My Fourth Way  group undertook reading this book aloud together. De Salzmann was one of Gurdjieff’s long-time students. She wrote about his teachings in a straightforward way, making them understandable and accessible. Her heirs found her undated notes after she died at 101 and published them a couple of years ago.

The book is about waking up the Essential Self. There are many, many passages I could share, but this one is from early in the book:

Gurdjieff taught the necessity of self-observation, but this practice has been mostly misunderstood. Usually when I try to observe, there is a point from which the observation is made, and my mind projects the idea of observing, of an observer separate from the object being observed. But the idea of observing is not the observing. Seeing is not an idea. It is an act, the act of seeing…it is an experience that can take place only if there is no separation between what sees and what is seen….

Next up for my book group is Practical Work on Self, by E.J. Gold. After that, we’ll be reading Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson: All and Everything, by Gurdjieff , which will probably take us two years, accompanied by a commentary.

On my own, I’m currently reading Gurdjieff: Making a New World by J.G. Bennett, about Gurdjieff’s searches for ancient wisdom (which has me using Google Maps to get familiar with the geography mentioned — Gurdjieff traveled from the Caucasus region to Egypt, Ethiopia, Tibet, Siberia, Italy, and points between in his searches, done on foot, horseback, and by rail before 1915).

Before starting Beelzebub’s Tales, I plan to  read In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching by P.D. Ouspensky, an account of his teachings by an early student.

I’m also interested in reading J.G. Bennett’s book Enneagram Studies to learn more about Gurdjieff’s understanding of the enneagram. He used the enneagram symbol extensively, but I’m not sure how it relates to the system of understanding the fixations that keep us asleep.

It’s not hard to understand the attraction of someone who believes wellness must include body, mind, heart, and spirit to the Fourth Way of Gurdjieff. I like the format of my group: We take turns reading, engage in discussion, do exercises.

I’m interested in Gurdjieff’s teachings, but I wouldn’t call myself a follower. I’m more of an explorer seeking wisdom. By the way, although he was fluent in Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Russian, and other languages, Gurdjieff didn’t write in English, and apparently a lot of what he wrote was embellished for teaching purposes and not necessarily straightforward, so to understand his teachings, it helps to read what his students wrote.

I do think he was a remarkable man and urge anyone interested in his life and teachings to at least see the film Meetings with Remarkable Men, or read his book of the same name, an account of his search for ancient spiritual wisdom.

Another book on my nightstand is called mBraining: Using Your Multiple Brains to Do Cool Stuff, by Marvin Oka and Grant Soosalu. It includes recent findings in neuroscience about the head, heart, and gut brains and how using these multiple brains can increase intuition and wiser decision-making. The authors’ background is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), cognitive linguistics, and behavioral modeling.

Our modern culture emphasizes the head brain. We try to think our way out of problems. Farming and civilization have been around for 12,000 years, and we are still killing each other. We are now ruining the planet we live on. In my opinion,  more intelligences are direly needed! I would surely like to have more resources, to use my multiple brains appropriately and experience less conflict, more intuition, better decisions…

So how do you tell which brain is operating? How do you know which brain is best suited for a given situation? How do you know when they’re not working together? How can you strengthen the brain you use the least? How can you ensure all three brains are in alignment for important decisions, relationships, and well-being?

Read the book and learn!

I’m in a different book group reading a book unrelated to the above books except as it applies to my quality of life. We are reading Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence to become knowledgeable and mindful about the role of money in our lives. We use a study guide (available for $5 from The Simple Living Network) developed for groups using the book to start on the path toward financial freedom. We meet seven times.

So far, I’ve added up my lifetime earnings (way more than I thought), started tracking every cent that comes in and out, started an inventory of my possessions, calculated my real hourly wage, and come up with a way to determine whether my spending is fulfilling and aligned with my values.

The authors have gotten feedback that after implementing the nine steps, people have reduced their expenses by 25 percent within 6 months and say their quality of life has gone way up. I’m finding this very helpful since I’ve transitioned from being an employee with a regular paycheck to being self-employed.

I’m also making my way through a couple of bodywork books, which I’ll write about another time.

If you’re reading this, you’re a reader. May you find books that nourish you!

Anne Lamott on how to become yourself

lamottI love Anne Lamott. I follow her on Twitter (oh, my, she’s fierce and funny!) and have read her wonderful Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and other books. She’s open about being a screwed-up human being, and she has a lot of wisdom to share and the writing skills to convey it truthfully, with humor.

Somehow I stumbled upon a post she’d written for O, The Oprah Magazine (does anyone ever say, “I got my copy of O in the mail”?), that I want to share.

Excerpts:

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?…

I had to stop living unconsciously, as if I had all the time in the world. The love and good and the wild and the peace and creation that are you will reveal themselves, but it is harder when they have to catch up to you in roadrunner mode. So one day I did stop. I began consciously to break the rules I learned in childhood…

Dealing with your rage and grief will give you life. That is both the good news and the bad news: The solution is at hand. Wherever the great dilemma exists is where the great growth is, too. It would be very nice for nervous types like me if things were black-and-white, and you could tell where one thing ended and the next thing began, but as Einstein taught us, everything in the future and the past is right here now. There’s always something ending and something beginning. Yet in the very center is the truth of your spiritual identity: is you. Fabulous, hilarious, darling, screwed-up you.

Actually, not on purpose, I’ve left out the funniest parts! Read more and enjoy: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-To-Find-Out-Who-You-Really-Are-by-Anne-Lamott/2#ixzz2Q5EhI88x