The Less Messed-Up One

happy girl in a fieldFor folks in the healing arts in any capacity, there is this interesting dynamic that can play out with others: People expect you to be the Less Messed-Up One in any situation, and to be nearly perfect in the way you handle all your interactions and your own self-care. (And like we always feel like this woman pictured here!) When we can just come out and name that, it is so obviously ridiculous. We are all just people on our journeys! Generally healers, counselors, etc., are attracted to healing because they need it themselves, and are learning to give themselves that healing as they work with others. The patient and the practitioner are mirrors to each other, and when this relationship goes well, they both learn and grow together, integrating more and more of their wounded material and living in greater and greater harmony. The shadow aspect of this is when healers ignore their own pain, challenges and needs because it is easier to focus on and help others than help themselves, all the while hiding behind a mask of being already healed and having things figured out for themselves. This can even play out as having relationships with people who are actively addicted to drugs or alcohol, so the dynamic of being the Less Messed-Up One and The Compassionate Helper, is happening at home, at work, and socially.

There is real value to helping others when we ourselves are hurting sometimes – it is only when it becomes habitual and unconscious that it is negative. I have a profound memory of two different friends calling me up a week or so after my mom died in 2009, each with their own problems they needed support with. One had just been rebuffed by a potential love interest and the other was facing felony charges for having been caught with a bag of hallucinogenic mushrooms in his pocket, and they both felt pretty awful. I had been so enmeshed in my own pain and my mother’s pain in the last days of her life, as well as my responsibilities caring for her as she took her passage, and helping to organize the funeral and do the paperwork and so on, that to have the focus placed elsewhere for a while and get to nurture loved ones who were struggling with something completely different felt like a much-needed breath of fresh air. I was able to return to my own life and my own grief fortified and nourished by those interactions, feeling myself more deeply a part of an interconnected web of life, death, love and support – tasting the sweet, bitter complexity of life and not turning away.

That is a positive expression of getting to play the healer in our other relationships. It is when we over-identify with being a healer and being the Less Messed-Up One that a multitude of challenge can arise. A big challenge is that we can be too nice. Waaay too nice! It is not actually nice to be too nice – to do elaborate favors for people, allow debts to go unpaid, to be overly flexible and accommodating with one’s schedule, to let people walk all over you. It should go without saying that quickly leads to resentment. The resentment we feel in such situations is really towards ourselves, though, not the other person, since it is our own responsibility to stand up for ourselves. You have needs too, healers. You deserve to get paid, to get paid on time, to take days off and do nothing useful or helpful to others at all. And, it doesn’t hurt to be a little irresponsible every once in a while. You can set time aside for this, and set it up so no one needs you during that time and no one expects to hear from you. (I personally make a practice of this on a weekly basis – but I had to learn the habit from other small business owners who insist on the necessity of this for the sake of increased productivity, not from healers, who often tell their patients to take time out but don’t do it themselves(!))

Of course it is inappropriate for healers to talk about their own problems with patients during an appointment (the focus is on the patient; they are paying for this time), but healers can be real with themselves, and acknowledge their own humanness openly.

party picSomewhat on this theme, I went to see some great music in San Francisco last night and was up until the early morning. Do I do this regularly? Hell no – I’d be an absolute wreck! There is nothing like an erratic sleep schedule to quickly turn me into an emotional basket-case who cries over every small thing and feels overwhelmed by ordinary circumstances. Supporting folks to create regular routines for sleeping and eating is something I do in my practice all the time, and it REALLY works. Am I a hypocrite for breaking my routine last night? I don’t think so. I see it like this: I would be a hollow shell of a person, and a fool, if I never shook up my routine and stayed up late to see awesome music. If our focus is on our health at all, we must strike a dynamic balance between firmness/adherence to our regular healing practices and spontaneity/fun/special times that feed our soul.

Often we skip right to self-judgement when we see ourselves doing something that feels contradictory. I would suggest repeating nineteenth-century poet Walt Whitman’s famous words, “Do I contradict myself?….I am large, I contain multitudes.”

by Mollie Moorhead

A Fall Favorite: Quince – Apple Butter

quince 1 quince 3Quince grows abundantly here in the sunnier parts of the Bay Area, but many people have no idea what to do with these ancient and unusual fruits from the Near East, which were often planted by Italian and Portuguese immigrants when they came here in the last century. Berkeley and Oakland backyards are full of quince trees that fruit every autumn. Related to apples and pears, but hard and dry until cooked, when they soften up and release an intoxicating floral aroma, quince makes excellent jam, sauce, and compotes. Because I like to keep things simple whenever possible, my go-to quince recipe, below, is about as simple as it gets.

In Ayurvedic terms, quince is higher in the earth element than many other fruits, which we sorely need in the autumn when vata dosha is dominant. To counteract quince’s dry, astringent quality and render it more easy digested, we always cook it with some liquid and some fat (ghee is perfect) and add some spices to kindle the digestive fire. For anyone still suffering from summer heat and diarrhea, quince makes a wonderful, gentle remedy.

Quince-Apple Butter!

Ingredients

Apples

Quinces (equal parts quince and apple is good but not necessary, any proportion I’ve tried worked fine)

3-4 dates

juice of one lemon

raw sugar to taste

powdered cinnamon and ginger

ghee to taste

Method

Wash quinces and rub the fuzz off the skin with your hands. Quarter the quinces with a big, powerful knife and use a paring knife to remove the seeds from each section, then chop into smaller cubes. Place cubed quince in a saucepan as you go, sprinkling each new addition with lemon juice to keep them from browning. Do the same thing with the apples, then add the dates, chopping each date into a few small pieces and removing the seeds. Add a splash of water, a nice sprinkling of raw sugar (don’t use honey), powdered spices, and a nice blob of ghee (butter or coconut oil also works). Cover and cook on medium, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning, adding water in small amounts as needed. You may want to turn the heat to low at a certain point. All in all, cook for about 30 – 45 minutes. Once the fruit is uniformly soft and saucy, taste and re-season if needed with sugar, spices, and ghee. For best flavor, enjoy hot or room temperature.

Quince – apple butter can be stored in the fridge for several days, or if you have a large quantity and enjoy canning your seasonal bounty, add a touch more lemon juice and sugar to assure high acidity, and process according to your usual method or the instructions that came with your canning equipment.

Depression Help

fall leaves moody picIn fall and winter, as the wheel of the year turns from light to dark, from life to death, outward to inward, folks can feel downright DEPRESSED, though I prefer the word “melancholy” or the description “lack of motivation”, or any other more specific terms that don’t immediately pathologize these normal feelings.

I usually enjoy fall and winter quite a lot…I love sitting by the fire, I love the chill, dry wind of autumn, invigorating me head to toe, whipping through my hair. I love winter food – baked squash, soupy coconut curries, chicken soup, oatmeal, chamomile tea with honey. I love knitting. Some winter evenings, my partner and I sit and knit together and listen or NPR, or she will knit and I’ll play my flute. (Before we were together, I of course did these things with my cat or with a close friend or two). And yes, I know I am an 80-something trapped in the body of a 20-something.

Sometimes though, regardless of the season, I can experience melancholy and/or a lack of motivation to do the myriad things one must do to maintain life. It can feel really heavy at times. This is not clinical depression, which may need more support from others and stronger, more specific therapies (herbs, pranayama practices, talk therapy, prescription medication, shamanic journeying, etc. Reach out and get help if you think you might be clinically depressed), but what I would consider an extremely normal part of almost anyone’s life. How could we POSSIBLY be happy and motivated all the time?

I’ve put together a list of small things that have helped me immensely with this melancholy and lack of motivation throughout my life so far. Maybe they will also help you or someone you love:

1. Do the minimum amount of stuff you really have to do – make this a very short list. Finish the assignment that is due tomorrow to the best of your ability, or return those two new client phone calls. And then, even though you may not want to, shower, get dressed, and show up for the stuff really need to show up for – the stuff you have already committed to that people are counting on you for, like work or school, or certain social engagements like your best friend’s birthday party. Then, when you start to feel better, you won’t have made your life situation more challenging just because you were feeling crappy for a while. You life situation will be the same or better, usually.

2. Give yourself some sort of treat every day. This can be really simple, like permission to take a nap, or do some self-massage with warm oil, sit in a hot tub for a while (here in the Bay, many people have these amazing natural wood hot tubs that they love to share with their friends and family. Otherwise, most spas and gyms have hot tubs they rent for a small fee). If you want a sweet treat, resist the urge to subsist on sweets alone – eat real food – but give yourself permission to thoroughly enjoy that ice cream or that big cookie from your favorite bakery once per day. Maybe you even really WANT to go to yoga or dance class but haven’t carved out the time lately. If you are feeling depressed and unmotivated, and the thought of going to a movement class actually perks you up a bit, just do it, push aside all other obstacles and do it now. You will thank yourself later.

3. Allow some time to be MOODY. Feed your soul. After you have done that minimum of stuff to maintain your life’s order, so it’s not a mess once you start to feel better and want to return to your normal activities, allow some time to just do whatever you need to do for your SOUL, not your head, not to be “productive”. Get back in your pajamas and write in your journal. Listen to that moody singer-songwriter girl-with-guitar (or whatever), and cry, sing along, or dance around your kitchen, Watch the movie version of Hamlet or some other soulful, dark story. Have a nice dose of catharsis. Play any instruments? pick up your guitar or grab your drum and just freakin’ play. Don’t PRACTICE, just play, and see what comes out. It doesn’t have to be pretty. guitar

4. Spend some time outside every day. This may be obvious but sometimes we forgot.

5. Get up a bit earlier. Rise with the sun. Horrifying to some, I know. But when you rise with Grandfather Sun, he gives you his blessing for the whole day. You harness the sun’s energy to support you in all that you do.

sunrise

That’s what I got, y’all. There are many other things that could be added. It’s infinite, actually. But if you struggle with this stuff and haven’t tried these suggestions, try one or two and see how you feel….let me know.

by Mollie Moorhead

How Simple Can it be?

I have spent the morning getting my patient paperwork more in order. I have still mostly been using my school’s graduate paperwork, which of course is what I was trained in and and am accustomed to. There are some things I like about it and some things I don’t. In many ways, it is much more geared towards a practitioner working in their clinic than someone working in private practice, however, and it has been time for a change-up for a while. While in school, my new patient paperwork usually took about 8 hours. In the beginning, it was more like 12, but it got easier and more familiar as time went on. Eight hours is too long for me to spend now that I have a choice, because essentially I would have to bill people for that time, and schedule it in, and then heaven help me if they don’t show up. It just puts so much pressure on the relationship I have with new patients – on them keeping their appointments and continuing to work with me over time. I want people to show up and for us to work together over time so they can see real improvement in their health, but I want low pressure relationships! Ayurveda is already so powerful and can feel really strict for people in the beginning. Paying for individualized health care can be a lot of money to some people; it depends on one’s financial situation. Anything I can do to keep costs reasonable is of primary importance to me. We all have to pay the rent.

I am having to be super low-tech about this paperwork writing project; I don’t have Adobe document writer or anything similar, and that has held me back for a while, which is silly because I have always been scrappy and things don’t have to be perfect anyway. For typing, I use OpenOffice (it is free! Microsoft Word costs $200! (I have no problem paying money for awesome stuff to people I want to support; that does not include Microsoft.)) Anyway, my back end paperwork is in an OpenOffice document now, and it is so simple and clear and easy. I feel like I just built a nest for myself and all my new patients to work together in.

It is funny to be a creative, nature-loving person in this world where so much has to happen on a computer. I know many of you relate to this. We do our best, doing the things that don’t come as natural to us. And it is so rewarding when it comes together! Worth celebrating. frolic pic edited 2

The paperwork for new patients to fill out before their first visit is my next step. I have rough drafts but nothing final. Stay tuned, and we can find our way through the twenty-first century together, bringing the ancient medicine with us!

Before Acupuncture, there was Marma

marma foot picI just completed a marma therapy training at the California College of Ayurveda that has me SO STOKED to bring this great healing work back home to Oakland. Because hardly anyone has heard of marma, here is some information:

Marma is a body therapy that originated in India thousands of years ago and spread all over Asia, taking on different flavors as it moved to China, Japan and so forth, eventually giving birth to modern acupuncture and acupressure. In the style of marma I just studied, they say that a light, gentle touch has the opposite effect as trauma, so we use a light touch on the marma points to stimulate and restore the healthy, free flow of prana (qi, life force) where it has become blocked and stagnant.

massage pic edited

In classical Marma, we have 107 points – the mystical 108th point being the mind itself, go figure – whereas there are hundreds of acupoints. (I am not sure how to get an accurate count because some sources say there are 365 acupoints, others say 2,000, etc. Folks are always adding points anyway.) Another difference is that Marma points are bigger than acupoints, and we stimulate them with fingers and thumbs usually, or through pranic healing, which is similar to reiki. In pranic healing, we work on the subtle body directly, prana – to – prana. The practitioner’s hand may rest on a point on the recipient’s body, or hover above, it doesn’t matter, because it is our “subtle hands” we work with, not our physical hands. Needles are used traditionally and in modern times as well, but one must be a licensed acupuncturist to do needle insertion.

This may sound esoteric but learning it was so simple and natural, and receiving it feels soooo good, even from other students. There is no way to harm someone doing marma in this way, and no “wrong” points. A marma point that is very tender is one we want to give some attention to in order to restore the healthy flow of prana. A point that doesn’t feel tender is not harmed by getting some attention, however. My teacher Dr. Halpern said again and again, “A treatment is only going to by good or great. You can’t use the wrong points.”

For some people who are very ill and fragile, even light touch can be excruciating and many medicines are too hard for them to digest. Pranic healing makes a natural choice for treatment in such situations, because we can work directly with normalizing the flow of prana in a way that is very gentle and meditative for the patient. We can learn to do pranic healing and marma therapy on ourselves even, really making it accessible and for “the people.”

Marma and pranic healing, like acupuncture, are healing and appropriate for treating any health condition, as a stand-alone or adjunct treatment, depending on the situation. For optimal results, treatments occur daily in acute conditions, three times a week in moderate conditions, and once a week or less for maintenance/stress reduction/preventative medicine. Treatments can be from a practitioner or can self-administered, and really, a mix of both is ideal.

So…come/go get some marma!

by Mollie Moorhead

Why We Retreat

walking in fieldSince I am co-facilitating this meditation and yoga retreat in Calistoga in a couple of weeks, I find myself reflecting on retreats in general, in a certain amount of awe at their profound impact and value.

There are things to be said for learning something new while staying in your normal life – living wherever you live, with whomever you live with, driving your car, going to work, doing the laundry and cleaning the toilet – all the while learning and integrating new material. I have done this a lot myself. Sometimes it is just what we need.

monks feet

There is also a lot to be said for going away to a different place to learn and integrate something new, especially if we want to make big changes in our lives. When we go to a retreat center, an ashram, or some other controlled environment focused on growth and healing, we are immediately removed from most of the structures in our lives that support our bad habits. For instance, what if a person has a long-term habit of watching TV until late at night every night, even though they really want to get some stuff done, like finish some songs or paintings that have been in the works for a while, lose the weight gained over the holidays a couple years ago, or fix up their old bike and start riding again? All the time is getting gobbled up watching TV, and maybe they know that, but habits are hard to break! We all know this. What if then this person decides to spend a week on retreat at a Zen center a couple hours away? There is no TV at the Zen center. No internet. No opportunity to stay up late, lights out by 9:00. Sometimes this is hard at first, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we don’t really notice it, because the environment is so different. Sometimes these old temptations are just….gone, in the new environment.

The challenge is returning home of course. Then this person has a choice. But, they now have the experience of what it is like to be away from this habit. They have actually built new connections in their brain! They KNOW now what it is to do sometime relaxing, conscious, and healthy in the evening. They don’t have to guess or imagine it anymore. Now, they can choose to bring it back home with them in a way that feels good.

Sometimes after being away on a retreat, people find they simply cannot go back to living their old life in the old way. It just doesn’t feel good; it fits like the shoe they outgrew when they were twelve.

mossy river

Another wonderful thing about going on retreat is that it usually involves leaving the city. Maybe the setting is in a prairie in spring, or in the arid rolling hills and pine forests of Northern California, maybe on a cold, lonely sea coast, or a redwood forest, a tropical island surrounded by turquoise water, or perhaps Death Valley in winter. Whatever place it is, it has such gifts for us. Natural places remind of us our own nature. They rekindle our sense of wonder and childlike joy and allow our minds to become quiet (quiet as far as minds go, anyway). A flowing creek will wash away our negativity and cynicism. Sitting in silence with others in these beautiful places stills us so deeply, stills all our rushing and excess thinking. It can dispel our desire to gossip or seem clever to others. How can we be arrogant or overly critical standing in an ancient redwood grove, resting on a boulder in a great river, or staring up at a sky filled with stars?

When I go walking in the woods near my home, I try to not just to see and hear, but to really soak in the natural splendor around me, so I can take it home. So when I am stuck in traffic on the freeway, or crowded into a commuter train, or in a drab waiting room, I have a deep well inside of me to draw nourishment from. This is one form of wealth, this well of rich images and sensations. It reminds me who I really am and what is really important in times I might forget.

cabin picGoing on retreat is a bigger version of my regular woodland walks. It is a space where some deep healing can occur. Of course, one can create their own solitary retreat, but many people find they prefer some direction and structure, and that they enjoy the quiet company of others. We are essentially pack animals, after all.

My first yoga teacher training was also the first retreat I went on. I was 21 at the time, and on the cusp of some life changes. I felt I needed to do an intensive retreat-style teacher training because I wanted to see what it might be like to live a healthy and conscious lifestyle all day long, and at night too. I had no idea what that might look like! I had some good influences in my life, but I didn’t have them with me all the time. I was defaulting to some version of what I saw my friends and coworkers doing – working too much and drinking too much. I was not unhappy, but I was getting restless with such a life. Three weeks studying yoga in an intentional community on a mountaintop was a dream come true. I was exposed to so much in such a short amount of time. I had never seen people silently bless their food before eating, or consistently eaten such wholesome, whole foods. All these relatively young, attractive people got up early and went to bed early also, willingly, of their own volition, something I had also never seen before.

ayurveda food pic

When I returned to my old life, everything was different. I found it very easy to get up early and practice yoga on my own for an hour before work, when before it had seemed insurmountably difficult. I also wanted different foods. I didn’t know how yummy and simple to make sprouted brown rice and sauteed kale could be, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. That might sound boring to some, but my tastes had changed and that meal became a favorite, so flavorful and delicious to me.

I still go on retreats with relative frequency, each time returning to my regular life with renewed clarity, vigor, and purpose. I have long thought the time would come when I would have the honor and pleasure of leading others on retreat in turn, because it is something so precious to me that I’d love to share. So…now it is happening; I am co-leading this small retreat, along with my colleague Shannon O’Bryan, whose experience and wisdom I am benefiting from very much. (Click here for more info about the retreat itself, and to register: MAYACAMAS RETREAT REGISTRATION). It is going to be a really lovely and rejuvenating time that we’d be honored to share with you.

Calistoga Retreat!!!

Unplug & Unwind with us!

MAYACAMAS RANCH HOMES RETREAT

calistoga pic

Come and join Shannon O’Bryan and Mollie Moorhead for a truly transformative weekend retreat from July 10 – 13.  Vedic Meditators and those learning meditation for the first time will travel to the picturesque and serene setting of Mayacamas Ranch in Calistoga, CA to experience deep rest, profound bliss, learn advanced Vedic knowledge, eat delicious Ayurvedic Cooking and connect with other beautiful people in our community.

You will learn and practice a technique called rounding – repetitions of simple yoga asanas (postures) and yogic breathing followed by meditation. Under careful supervision, rounding can facilitate months of stress-release over the course of a few days and can yield deep levels of rest and profound meditation experiences allowing us to go back into the relative world as newly revived and infinitely adaptable versions of our highest Selves.

For those learning meditation for the first time, the retreat will provide the optimal setting for total immersion into the practice of Vedic Meditation, a simple, effortless daily meditative technique. You will receive personalized instruction in 4 sessions over the course of a weekend and will participate in group lectures and activities as well. Your program will begin on the evening of July 10th and run through lunch on July 13th.

All students will enjoy group meditations, delicious meals, diving deeper into the Vedas and deeper into the beautiful pool, and the breathtaking views of Calistoga. In addition to our rounding program, each course participant will have the opportunity to sign up for body work treatments, private consults, and to learn more about Ayurvedic cooking and living a life that is more attuned with nature and mindful in every way. Mollie Moorhead will guide us in learning simple, Ayurvedic techniques that will quickly become a part of your daily routine and a part that you can’t imagine how you have lived so long without. We will give instruction on how to cook and exercise according to your constitution, helping each of you to come Back to Balance.
We strongly encourage all participants to unplug for the weekend. Use this time to heal, nurture yourself and digitally detox. We have become much to reliant on our electronic devices. This retreat will be a million times more powerful if we all unplug, come enjoy the present moment and truly connect with ourselves, each other and all of the gifts nature has to offer.
Each day will provide opportunities to explore the beautiful land that surrounds Mayacamas. All retreats offered at Mayacamas are geared toward finding a Mindful Wellness Program to bring into your daily life long after the retreat has ended. We make every experience a very personal one and align each exercise to where you find yourself in the present and where we can bring greater balance to each individual. Learn how to make every day a mini-retreat.

Click here to register:

MAYACAMAS RETREAT REGISTRATION

COST

(All fees include 3 farm-to-table meals a day, a daily program of yoga, breathwork and meditation, hikes, swims, campfires, lectures and other group exercises, as well as lodging)
  Shared Accommodation….$750
  Single Accommodation…$1100
  Camping (Provide your own tent & gear)…$400
  Single Day Rounding Immersion (No overnight stay)…$150
EXTRAS
Abhyanga Oil Massage…$75
Marma Treatment…$75
Ayurvedic Health Consultation…$150
Private Yoga Class…$125
OUR TEAM

 

mollie pic - CopyMollie Moorhead (Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist, Certified Massage Therapist) is an excellent Ayurvedic practitioner and a certified massage therapist. She originally came from a background in meditation and yoga, having studied with several highly acclaimed teachers, and has lovingly maintained a regular home practice for many years. She is also a certified teacher of Yoga and based in the East Bay. Mollie will help us to find a diet that works beautifully for our constitutions and unique life styles by guiding us through the preparing and cooking of nourishing Ayurvedic Cuisine and lectures helping to bring us back to balance. Mollie will also be offering the gift of Abhayanga Oil Massage over the weekend for a small extra fee and will be guiding everyone on how to give yourself this same love and attention every day. She has such a pure spirit and love of life that is completely infectious… we will all be walking out of this weekend feeling those same effects within ourselves

shannon picShannon O’Bryan (Meditation Teacher, Marma Therapist, Life Coach) is the new Wellness Program Director at Mayacamas Ranch Homes. All of her teachings have sprouted directly from ancient Vedic Knowledge that is steeped with tools for helping to bring us back to our most natural states of Being. Shannon received the highest standard of training from the world’s foremost masters of Vedic Meditation and although passionate about bringing Sundara Meditation and other mind/body healing modalities around the world, she calls the Bay Area her home. Shannon will guide us daily through yoga asana (postures), pranayama (yogic breathing) & help us to learn and maintain a daily meditation practice. She will also be giving lectures throughout the weekend that will help us to cultivate creativity and stay inspired throughout our daily lives. Passionate about bringing mindfulness and present moment awareness into everything we do, Shannon will offer some great exercises and techniques on how to get out of “endgame” thinking and start enjoying the NOW.

These are a few of my favorite herbs…..OATSTRAW

Oatstraw (Avena Sativa)oatstraw tea

About: Oatstraw is the green tops of the oat plant and has many of the same nourishing properties that the oat grain does. It is a wonderful general tonic herb that is supportive in a huge array of health conditions, but has a special affinity for calming the mind and nourishing the nervous tissue. It is exceptionally high in minerals and therefore helps build healthy tissue throughout the whole body. It is often used in herbal formulas to treat pms, painful menstruation, anxiety and depression, adrenal fatigue, and also to build the bones (can even help reverse osteoporosis!)

Ritual: Use a heaping palm full of the dried herb in 1 quart of just boiled water, steep covered at least 30 mins or as long as overnight. Strain and drink throughout the day away from meals. Can be combined with other herbs, as you like.

Precautions: None noted. This is not an herb you can overdose on, it is more like a food you take as a liquid. As such, it is quite nourishing and rather heavy so can dampen digestion if taken right before a meal or in too large a quantity at one time.

oatsraw herb

My experience: Oatstraw is one of those herbs that is just really there for you when you need a friend. Plus, it tastes delicious, so people enjoy drinking it. I’ve given it to a few clients in herbal formulas that have been helpful for them. I like to steep it overnight and pour it into my water bottle to drink throughout the day, adding some natural salt if I’ve been sweating a lot, or other gentle tonic herbs such as nettle. I got really worn out by the end of school, and have been taking an adrenal tonic I made(as a tincture, for convenience) which consists of licorice, oatstraw, tulsi and ashwagandha. After several months of taking this formula morning and noon, without trying, I was able to quit drinking caffeinated tea in the morning, as had been my habit for a while. I wasn’t trying to quit drinking caffeine; I really loved my morning tea! I just didn’t need the caffeine anymore and seem to be happy with a hot cup of tulsi or fennel infusion instead. Now, I can’t IMAGINE ever asking myself or someone else to give up caffeine without first building up the adrenals with some sort of adrenal tonic herbs.

by Mollie Moorhead

oat field

Tips for Spring

plum flowersSpring is a time to release the old and to gently cleanse so that we can truly blossom outward into our best selves. In the winter the energy is turned more inward – even during a mild winter, and in the spring, that switches. This happens inside of us, and it happens with plants – in the winter, roots grow more, in the spring, the above-ground parts of the plants grow more.

Try implementing 1-3 of these suggestions into your routine and notice the difference:

1. Drink some hot or warm lemon water first thing in the morning. This is balancing for all three doshas, but especially helpful for pitta. It gently supports the liver and gallbladder, like a mini cleanse every morning and leaves you feeling refreshed and renewed.

2. Eat and drink nettles. Nettles are one of our best herbal allies in the spring and fall. Forage for them in the regional parks if you enjoy doing that, or buy them fresh at the farmer’s market. They are available as a dried herb at herb shops and natural grocery stores as well. Toss the fresh leaves into stir-fries or any other dishes, or make tea from the fresh or dried plant (1 oz herb: 1 quart of water.) Nettles are exceptionally rich in minerals and help to nourish us if we feel tired or depleted, and are good for nearly everyone. They also have natural anti-histamines, and have been traditionally used to help heal from allergies of all kinds. I have used them with success in that capacity. A note about nettle stings: Use gloves and long sleeves if harvesting yourself. Ask permission from the plant before picking and give thanks, and give thanks again when pulling the leaves from the stem at home. Even with bare hands, this usually prevents stings entirely. If you do get stung, that’s great, it helps prevent and treat arthritis. One of this wonderful plants many gifts to us.

3. Move you body some more. I don’t mean bootcamp fitness. Just go for a walk. Or if you normally take one yoga class per week, take two, etc. For goodness’ sake, do something you enjoy. This is the time to spread your wings and walk the damp, warming Earth with vibrancy and openness. Ayurveda teaches us that exercise should warm us up and create a light sweat, but more than that is not helpful for vata, and can also be too much for pitta. People of kapha nature can exercise more intensely.

4. Clean your closet. Lighten your load. Get rid of stuff. Shake out your rugs. Make room for the wonderful new things which are coming your way. People feel sooooo good when this is done.

5. Continue eating primarily warm, cooked food. Ayurveda teaches us that too much raw food injures digestion and can create a whole host of challenges for us. Traditional people always cooked most of their food. Feel free to have a side salad or sprinkle some fresh sprouts or fresh herbs on your food. That is all the raw that we need.
green hill

Foraging for Loquats

 

 

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Loquats are an often – overlooked Bay Area treasure, a treasure people almost anywhere else seem to know nothing of. And they are ripening on trees in yards all over the East Bay RIGHT NOW.

Though used in Chinese Medicine traditionally, I haven’t found any information about loquats from the perspective of Ayurveda specifically, so I have relied mostly on my senses for guidance in understanding this dreamily delicious fruit. In this writing, I would like to introduce you to my beloved loquat and share some practical information about finding and processing the fruit as well as its uses.

What are loquats like?

Though the name suggests otherwise, they are in no way similar to a kumquat.  Loquats are delicate and perishable. They are more like an apricot, but juicier, with a thicker peel and a different type of seed. And unlike most apricots, loquats taste amazing right off the tree, no cooking required. They are sweet-tart, juicy and tender. (Though loquat cobbler/crisp/pie/etc. is sublime and extremely simple to make as well and I’ve included a recipe at the end.)

Loquats bruise easily and I imagine shipping them would prove a challenge, and I have never seen them in a grocery store. I recommend to eat them within a day or so of picking. To eat them raw, when they are almost orange and perfectly ripe, you can squeeze them between thumb and forefinger and squirt the fruit right out of its skin and into your mouth. They usually contain several smooth, large, round seeds that are easily spit out. Raw, the peel is not so delicious. Sitting around with friends eating loquats outside in the spring and spitting the seeds is wonderfully fun, and perhaps our answer to watermelon in the temperate Bay Area. Or it could be. As I mentioned, not so many people know or care about the lovely/lowly loquat.

I did a bit of internet research and found that loquats are originally from China, but spread all over Asia and the Middle East in the distant past. I can only speculate how they got to Oakland, so speculate I will: We have had a large East Asian population for almost as long as we have had an Oakland. One would imagine that when folks immigrated here, they simply brought their beloved loquat seeds or cuttings with them and planted them in their yards when they crossed the Pacific, just as European settlers brought many seeds and even plants with them when they came.

Loquats and Ayurveda

Loquats are primarily sweet and very juicy when fully ripe, which makes them loquat 2balancing for vata and pitta and aggravating for kapha. The challenge is that no fruit is balancing if consumed in excess, and tends to cause gas, bloating, or other symptoms. I find it best to pick the fruit first and eat it out of a dish in order to know how much we are actually consuming. Eating a large amount of fruit right from the tree or from a large pale leads to excessive consumption almost automatically. There is a slightly tart (sour) quality to loquats, especially if not fully ripe, which can aggravate pitta in excess, but I have not observed this occurring in myself or others, maybe because we know to eat them when they are ripe and sweet.

Loquats are a traditional Chinese cough remedy, nourishing the lungs and other mucous membranes, and are used to make cough syrup all over Asia. The leaves and the fruit both. I tried my hand at this and ended up with something more like apple sauce because I pureed it and didn’t strain it. It was delicious in its own way, so we canned it and ate it throughout the year. Like many fruits which are more wild, when loquats are cooked, they taste spiced even if you don’t add any spice at all, especially when baked.

Foraging for Loquats

Loquat trees are beautiful with graceful leaves that never fall, but they grow quite large if not pruned regularly, and the top branches become unreachable even with ladders and extendable fruit pickers, even standing on top of a wall or a horizontal beam on a fence. The birds have a feast! I can always spot well-pruned little loquat trees in the yards of Vietnamese and Chinese families, picked clean of ripe fruit. The tree is wise and doesn’t ripen all at once, but bit by bit, giving us an opportunity to process and eat all the fruit with ease. I often see older Asian people harvesting from them in season, sturdy shopping bags bursting with fruit resting at their feet.

If you find an absurdly large loquat tree heavy with fruit, chances are high that its people simply acquired the tree with the house and have no interest in it whatsoever. A knock on the door and/or a nice note with a call-back number usually verify this. One time an unenthusiastic loquat-tree owner caught me sitting on the top of her wooden fence, picking the fruit that hung over into my friends’ back yard. I would recommend avoiding that scenario if you can. Not that she cared, she said, “Ugh! They are so much work to eat. Take all you want.” (She was even Asian, as if to defy my expectations entirely!) I imagined her buying anemic-looking, pre-cut vegetables in plastic containers. Indian food in vacuum-sealed packets.

Eat real food, food warmed by the sun and bursting with life-force. Go pick some loquats. Here is a recipe:

Loquat Cobbler

Ingredients

1 pie-dish full of loquats

½ cup butter or ghee

raw sugar to taste

rolled oats

Ritual

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse loquats and cut each fruit in half with a paring knife, and pop the stones out into a separate bowl to compost later. No need to peel the fruit. Place the halved loquats in the pie dish until it is comfortably full and sprinkle moderately with raw sugar and toss. Then sprinkle with rolled oats and plop spoonfuls of ghee or slice butter on top of the cut fruit. Bake uncovered until fragrant, bubbly, and the fruit is tender and the oats have a golden color, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly and enjoy this wonderful gift of the early springtime.

by Mollie Moorhead