From the Sounds of Silence to Perpetual Motion

Just a few snaps since the beginning of the year...

And it’s time to write. And write. And write. This is a long one for a lot has happened in the last five months...

I’m sitting at a writer’s retreat house in the Eastern Sierras right now and finally putting “pen to paper” after a few long and transformative months. A couple months back, I was invited to stay here to photograph for the retreat’s marketing materials. Even after making a huge life decision to move out of the Bay Area and with the move scheduled for a couple of weeks from now, I decided it was important for Brennan and I to go on this little trip. Given our ten year wedding anniversary is June 3rd and we'll be unpacking and living in a trailer for our anniversary, we also decided to celebrate our ten years together here in this spectacular place. I also went forward with a previously planned trip to Mercey Hot Springs with friends (and a couple of blissful days alone with Brennan). What I’ve discovered in the last few months has been life-changing and I want it to be a part of what’s taught at The Healing Farm and The Healing Farm | Retreats in addition to the nutrition and exercise components.

Something I’ve learned through meditation (and lots of self-exploration) is to not let my emotions and ego rule my life and decision-making and to also go a little more with the flow rather than letting situations, planning and fear rule my life and schedule; something my new “boss” echoed when I was racing around trying to make a big decision and freaking out a bit a few weeks ago. Made me feel like where I was headed was in the right direction (thanks, Steven).

My “boss” you ask? For someone who’s been self-employed and has started two businesses, this is pretty freaky to say! So let me explain what has happened since my last heart-wrenching blog entry!

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE

My 50th year ended with some major challenges (see my previous blog post for more details). I was writing a business plan for The Healing Farm and had planned for a big women’s retreat to keep the business moving in a direction which would give me more experience and more visibility for The Healing Farm | Retreats. I was keeping my head above water until Mayacamas Ranch (the retreat property at which I was to hold my last retreat) burned down. It was three weeks before my 51st birthday, the end of the wedding photography season and I was in the intense Renaissance business plan writing program twice a week. Try finishing a business plan while trying to resuscitate the women’s retreat and also go away for the holidays. Not an easy end to the year.

2018 rolled in with the month of January:

  • Making the decision not to move forward with rescheduling the retreat since I couldn’t find a location that I truly felt could accommodate my specifications and having to let my retreat team and guests know of this decision
  • Starting to try to work out the financial losses with Mayacamas Ranch (huge!)
  • Finishing the business plan + graduation

Thankfully I had all of my photo projects behind me, I split the “best business plan” award at graduation and presumably had a “plan” for moving forward with The Healing Farm business - after all that’s what a business plan is for! I should have been rearing to go to start working toward making 2018 the year I took a leap of faith forward with The Healing Farm business! But one gorgeous Saturday, I went to a shoreline cleanup event with the Trident Project which is a non-profit a business friend started to build awareness about pollution in our oceans.

Something happened that morning as I realized the enormity of the planet’s peril. I spent an hour working on about a six square foot patch on the East Bay shoreline. Picking up tiny pieces of plastic, styrofoam, hypodermic needles, plastic straws, plastic portable flossing devices (I’m all for flossing, but let’s get rid of those things. They are EVERYWHERE), plastic caps, etc. This didn’t even include all the micro-fibers which is what my friend who is in the sailing clothing business wants to build awareness about. I had about a ¼ mile, maybe ½ mile walk to get back to my car and I couldn’t move beyond a snail’s pace. I got home and slept for two hours and when I woke up I just couldn’t get my energy back. And the next day was the same. And the next day was the same. I entered into what I might now call a depression and deep exhaustion. I was:

  • Exhausted from running one business while starting another
  • Exhausted emotionally from the devastating wildfires which even affected my business in a big way and so many others who lost lives and homes.
  • Exhausted financially
  • Exhausted worrying about the future of this planet
  • Exhausted by our political climate and situation
  • Exhausted from writing a 45 page business plan complete with two years of financials (something is is not in my natural tool house)
  • Exhausted trying to change my life
  • Exhausted from perimenopause
  • Exhausted from my mid-life crisis which is in about year 7 (yes, really!)
  • Exhausted worrying about family illness

I just couldn’t get motivated. So I didn’t. I decided to let myself rest as long as I needed. I guess you could say I took a sabbatical. I’m sure to most people this sounds like a luxury and I admit I’m lucky to be self-employed. It was a huge financial risk and setback, but I strongly believe this kind of time of reflection should be available to all of us. It’s a crime that our workforce encourages long hours and constant work and it’s a disservice to all Americans that the majority are underpaid and overworked with only 1-3 weeks of vacation for the typical person. I’ve thought about a lot of big issues during this time of reflection and sabbatical and feel strongly that it shouldn’t be a luxury for just a few.

So this is what I did:

  • I slept as long as I liked
  • I took the time to pray on my knees
  • I took the time for longer meditations
  • I took the time to not only read Jett Psaris’ book “Hidden Blessings” (about midlife crisis), but also to do every exercise in the book and wrote them down in a journal
  • I took the time to hike
  • I only answered essential emails to keep my businesses running on pilot light
  • But mostly, I just took time to be with myself, in my house and let my mind run free

And here's what happened from my time of silence:

INTO (almost) PERPETUAL MOTION

I found the time to help care for a dying friend and her children - something that has had a profound effect on my life. I had the honor of taking her to Ocean Beach for what turned out to be her last time.

I was re-contacted by a friend who in the spring of 2017 asked if I would be interested in helping to develop a 50 acre organic farm in the Sierra Foothills.

Just as I was finishing the “Hidden Blessings” book, I was contacted by a woman who was interested in talking about partnering on a retreat property in Idaho. It wasn’t the right fit/place or timing, but she sent me a message the week I finished Jett’s book. Knowing I was wrestling with some big decisions and emotions, there was a new moon that coming Friday and with a new moon (she told me) it’s a good time to contemplate big decisions so she suggested I take some time that Friday to reflect on a big decision. Sounded a little woo woo to me and then I read one of the last exercises in Jett’s book which suggested a “meditation” in nature. More of a walking meditation. A time to go out into nature and connect in a profound way to the universe and myself. More woo woo, but I thought the coincidence was just too big. Friday came and I announced to Brennan that I was going to pack a small daypack and go to our local regional park and spend the day. I planned on hiking a three mile loop and brought food, a little pot vape pipe (yes, it’s legal now in CA!) a blanket and a backpacking chair and I had the most blissful day of reflection I’ve ever had. It took me seven hours to do that loop. I stopped and communed with nature. I felt the sun on my face. I laughed and I cried. I slept and I hiked. I had a vision of wanting more security in my life and that I wanted to be cared for and then I realized I’m cared for in an incredibly deep emotional way by my husband which matters the most (to me). I realized that although I knew we needed to move out of the Bay Area I wasn’t interested in moving outside of my beloved West Coast (unless it’s back to the Midwest with my family) and I realized I still wanted to pursue The Healing Farm, but that maybe I needed to take a different path to get there. That few hours of bliss lifted me out of that depression and malaise just enough that I could see the point of light and plan the next tiny steps to get fully beyond that dark place. The pot helped too.

And then more and more profound things started to happen.

I opened my mind up to exploring the offer in the Sierra Foothills further and took baby steps to take a realistic look at what it would be like to move and the opportunity the experience offered to help develop a small retreat property on an organic farm. Wasn’t that what I wanted The Healing Farm to be on a larger scale anyway? Brennan and I went for a night. Then we went for a whole week, then I typed up a proposal and went back a couple more times on my own and slowly it started to occur to me that it was the absolute right next step to take. I could spearhead a retreat property development at very low risk to myself and at the same time take a baby step out of the Bay Area which allows me to finish out my 2018 wedding photography season and still see my friends and family in the Bay Area which made the idea of a move not so heart-wrenching. And so it happened and we started making plans for a move at the end of May. I started working part-time for the farm a few weeks ago and love every minute of it. Every time I go to the farm for a night, I don’t want to leave. The air is clear. I can collect fresh eggs from the henhouse. I can eat all the organic produce I can get my hands on. I can envision a retreat property and hosting my own healing retreats once it’s finished (or rustic retreats while it’s in development). I can live with a little community of people who care about the land and what we eat and how to live their lives mindfully. If I hadn’t given myself that time to relax and reflect, I’m not sure I would have been ready to take such a big leap and despite the fact that we’re going to move into a 26’ trailer and will have to walk outside to get to a shower and a toilet, I’m learning to embrace living so minimally for a little while. We’ll have nature and an organic farm, two mountain rivers and three warm and sunny seasons to live outdoors. It’s going to be a challenge. For sure. BUT I’ve built up my energy reserves in the last few months and am truly ready to jump in and give this next step my all. Check out Stone’s Throw Farm CA. This will be my new home.

Embracing what came my way without fear and without judgement on myself for making what seemed to be extravagant decisions given my work and financial situation was also part of this time of reflection. After I had my “visionquest” day as I’m now calling it, situations that just seemed right started to come my way and I started embracing what felt right despite that I was feeling a little fearful:

I serendipitously realized that Jett Psaris, the author of that profound book on midlife crisis that I can’t shut up about was doing a workshop at Esalen Institute. I’d been wanting to go to Esalen for many years since it’s been an inspiration for The Healing Farm and I’ve never been! I tried to get a “sleeping bag” space, but they were sold out, so I booked a shared room and contacted a friend and Healing Farm client who I know also got a lot out of the “Hidden Blessings” book. She had recently moved to the East Coast, but she happened to be coming to the Bay Area for some meetings and we roomed together. It was a great experience. I fell in love with Esalen and really loved the workshop and listening to others who were also trying to change their lives in their midlife transition, plus I got to bond with this very special woman who was my roommate and who made some of her own big decisions that weekend. A new deep friendship (thanks, Rae!)!

I had also been wanting to experience 1440 Mutiversity - the new retreat center development in the Santa Cruz mountains. My fave publication “Conscious Company” was holding a “World Changing Women’s Summit” there and damnit! I really want to be a World Changing Woman. I couldn’t really afford it, so I reached out to see if there was a volunteer opportunity or a scholarship (something I never would have thought to do in the past since I would have thought I wasn’t worthy). We worked it out and I was so on fire and inspired by the women at this conference that it also turned out to be somewhat of a life-changing experience. I stayed at the last minute on property in one of the “bunk bed” rooms. Although 1440 is NOTHING like I envision for The Healing Farm property, it was good to get a feel for a large and new property, their programs, their food AND their accommodations.

Brennan and I have been rocking our house as we get closer to moving. We’ve loved living in our little neighborhood and house in Oakland and although I’m sad to leave, I realized I’m ready for this big shift. We’ve made the time to enjoy our last couple of months and I’ve become inspired by a whole new side of myself and my relationship which I’ve been hinting at for several months. Sex is a big part of my life and relationship and I’ve realized how important release is and I have ideas percolating for sharing this side of myself and my relationship as a future part of the retreat business so stay tuned!

I’ve made time to book some weddings, shoot and deliver some gorgeous photos to happy clients, write a mini-business plan (and had fun doing it) for Stone’s Throw Farm’s event arm of the business. I’ve held the hand of someone within the last week of her life, who was younger than me and had so much more of her life to live and have been further inspired to build The Healing Farm to try to prevent so many deaths of those far too young. I happened to be driving up to Mt. Shasta to photograph a small retreat property  (Hestia Magic  - my photos not up yet!) on the day of my friend’s death and I felt like I was channelling her spirit as I sang and cried and then I realized she had just climbed Mt. Shasta two years ago for breast cancer awareness. More seemingly perfect timing. Brennan and I made time for that little trip to Mercey Hot Springs and this current trip to the Eastern Sierras.

I feel like my wings are opening up and I’m finally embracing who I am at my core. I don’t know where this current road will take me, but am pretty sure it’s a leap of faith on the right path for who I am. Taking the time to let myself feel exhausted and depressed ultimately has helped me work to the next level of my journey and I’m slowly getting my energy back and more and more excited about the work ahead.

I visited a friend from my very first business class yesterday. In the second class of the program, she and I met a few times to be part of each other’s business start-up support system. She was tired of the rat race of the Bay Area and wanted to get out of the construction business which is something she’d always done just because it was just what she ended up doing, but she wanted something more. She wanted to follow a dream of opening up a coffee shop. Fast forward three years and I drank the most lovely cup of coffee you’ll get on this side of the Sierras at her Pupfish Cafe coffee shop in Bishop, CA. She took a huge leap of faith and left the Bay Area and a relationship to follow her dream in a place where she never imagined she would live. She looked happy and relaxed. She’s running her small coffee shop, laughed at the fact that she’s living in a trailer community with mostly retired people (we compared notes about our trailers), hikes and has developed friendships out here. I asked her how much she works and she said 50 hours a week (not bad for owning and running a business). I asked her if she likes it and she said it’s the best thing she’s ever done. She was proud of her offerings and her employees and for now is content with where she’s at.

Janette and Pupfish Cafe, Steven and Bryanna and the folks at Stone’s Throw Farm, Jett Psaris and the awesome women at the Conscious Company Women’s Summit, Sydney of Ocean’s SF, Belinda and Hestia Magic, all of my friends and family who have been supportive of my crazy dream, the brave souls who wrote business plans last fall taking two classes per week while working full time, brave Jill who fought so hard to fight her cancer but said she was “ready to leave her body” a few days before she died, the woman in Idaho who is trying to follow her dream, and the people who continue to reach out to me to ask when I’m going to host my next retreat or “where is The Healing Farm property”, I say this: Thank you. Continue to follow your dreams. Find out who you really are. Let go of fear and influence and just be. Maybe, just maybe you’ll find your way, get your energy back and have a more hopeful outlook for your life and your very short time on this beautiful planet. My biggest hope is that everything that I do in the next few years will lead to The Healing Farm property where I can share my dreams and life with you.

Reach for the stars because we are (as Carl Sagan says) all made of star stuff.

On month five and two weeks out from a major move and feeling incredibly creative and beautiful. I should listen to myself more often.....

Wild Willy's Hot Springs in the Eastern Sierra - taken the week I wrote this post and yes, I'm naked and covered in mud. LIVE A LITTLE!

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men: How to pick up the pieces and move on...

 One small sign of hope on the charred Mayacamas Ranch property

One small sign of hope on the charred Mayacamas Ranch property

“The best-laid plans of mice and men….”

We’ve all heard that saying. Even if you give something your all and feel you have all the pieces in place to prevent failure, major challenge or an unwanted outcome, circumstances even beyond your control can cause your plan to go awry. This happened recently with The 3rd Act Women’s Retreat scheduled for October 29th - November 2nd.

The fantastic speakers and practitioners were in place. We had women coming from the Bay Area, Maine, New Jersey and the Midwest. We had the perfect retreat property booked and ready to make us our specific elimination diet meal plan and we had hopes for relaxation, growth, learning and meeting new friends. Within the first day of the devastating California wildfires our much-loved Mayacamas Ranch burned to the ground and all was lost for the owners and their 12 employees. Jobs, their gorgeous property and even homes. And for The Healing Farm Retreats and all the other retreat leaders and retreat participants, we lost a very special property that was unique in so many ways. As stated on the Mayacamas website and in their fundraising campaign:

“It is my deep belief that something beautiful will emerge from this devastation.”

It is my own hope that the owners of the property have it in them to rebuild and I hope to hold retreats at the property in the future, but in the meantime I had to make the decision to relocate or postpone the retreat.

As the week went on and the wildfires continued to destroy acres and acres of land, wineries and properties at which I had photographed so many weddings over the years and as the death toll continued to rise, I was frantically trying to find another location at which to hold the retreat. I was tired, I was heartbroken and I was fearing for more and more loss as the fires burned. I finally had to come to the conclusion that it was best to reschedule the retreat and started going about notifying guests and team members and trying to contact the devastated staff of Mayacamas to figure out the financial end of the loss for my own business (at least in the short term). I am so grateful that I have developed the skills through my own growth process in the past few years to “roll with the punches” as another well-known saying goes. That hasn’t been easy in the last two weeks, but here’s what I continue to do to calm myself in trying times:

Meditation and Prayer

Just 10-20 minutes a day is life-changing. You can really teach your mind to view your worry, obsessive thoughts and sorrow as fleeting and to see this life as existing in a much bigger place than all of us. This situation was not as devastating to me as to so many others, but compounded with running two businesses, staying in touch with my marriage and going to a business plan writing class two nights a week it was hard and continuing to do the meditation practice almost every morning really gave me a sense of calm and understanding that life is so much greater than myself. There are two books that I always recommend. Both of which have helped me understand meditation practice:

Regular Exercise - Oh that Seven Minute Workout!

I’ve mentioned it countless times, but it’s because I believe in it so much. The New York Times Seven Minute workout is essential to my well-being. If I don’t workout (and meditate) in the morning the day gets away from me and it doesn’t get done and then I feel down. When I do the workout, it lifts spirits and energy levels like nothing else. When it’s hard for me to get out of bed because I’m down and I really don’t want to workout, I do my other routines (meditation and prayer, coffee and email/news and making the bed) and then it’s hard for me to justify blowing off a workout that takes seven minutes! Once I do it, I’m usually motivated enough to add-on my equal-length stretching routine derived from years of yoga. I’ve added another seven minute workout to alternate with the NYT workout too. For women over 40, keeping up your muscle mass is key to weight management and bone health, so I now alternate days and added a Pop Sugar seven minute hand weight routine (thanks for the tip Christina of Nightingale Photo!). Between these two workouts, I feel toned and healthy and it really doesn’t take long. Plus it’s a GREAT stress-reliever. Especially if you put on DJ Dan in the background!

Healthy Diet, Low or No Alcohol and Great Sex!

The past few months I’ve gone back to an elimination diet meal plan (first learned with Chris Kresser's "A Paleo Cure Book")  pretty much full time until I relieve some chronic conditions that have popped back up. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol, carbs, grains, dairy or sugar in about ten weeks. I’ve dropped 25 pounds and am looking and feeling great. If I had gone through this major challenge at the weight I was at, feeling bloated and belchy and tired and drinking too much wine on top of it, I might not have gotten out of bed while the California wildfires raged. Even though food and alcohol can be soothing when you’re feeling down or stressed and offers some immediate relief, give it a little time and you’re going to actually feel worse. We all know this, yet we continue to repeat these old patterns of comfort. Teaching yourself newer, healthier patterns of comfort (like mindfulness meditation) can really help you in a more positive way when you’re dealing with stress.

And then there’s sex. Glorious sex. Or maybe I should just say “orgasm” because not all of us have partners! There’s nothing like a relaxing evening (or afternoon) at home in bed (or wherever) and a mind-blowing orgasm to relax you and to bring you back to who you are at the core. We are sexual beings. Sex can be the best of mindful meditation. It can take you to a place of pure being like nothing else. Sex with a trusted partner with whom you have a deep connection also makes you feel secure and loved. No matter what happens in your life you can always be reminded that you are who you are at your core, the people you love the most will be with you in hard times and we all pretty much have the ability as human beings to feel this great pleasure and connection to others. It’s really darned important in my book and I feel fortunate that I have grown to not be insecure or afraid or guilty about being a sexual human being and hope to one day lead a Healing Farm retreat about this very important topic. Plus it’s fun!

Does going from devastation to talking about sex seem like crazy talk? I hope not. I hope you can see the connected dots.

I did leave one very important tip out of the above list because I truly haven’t found the time in the past two weeks (except sitting in my own backyard and riding my bike to the farmer's market) so here’s one that may be the most important of all:

Getting out in Nature

This can wrap all of the above into one really lovely gift. All can be done in nature (although the sex part is a little tricky - you may need a tent).

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” - William Shakespeare

We are all one interconnected organism on this planet and in this universe. Carl Sagan once said we are all made of starstuff and it’s true. Every part of nature is one big mixed and interconnected bunch of elements and when we go into nature we can see the awe of creation and our part in it right in front of us. Getting out into fresh air, taking a hike, camping, looking at the stars can really make us see the awesomeness of the universe and help us to understand our miniscule place in it and suddenly worries can lift and drift away.

Meditate, pray, exercise, eat what nature and human hands provide (whole foods!) and have a kick-ass orgasm all in nature and see how you feel. For those who have lost homes and loved-ones none of this will help in the short term, but keeping at it and chipping away at all of life’s difficulties and tragedies as they come our way (because they will always continue to do so) and learning how to practically deal with our challenges and emotions will help so much in the long run.

In the meantime, grieve if you need to, volunteer if you can, give money if you’re able, but most of all take care of yourself and learn what makes YOU accept and move through your own challenges more gracefully and with hope.

Paving Your OWN Way to Optimal Health - Is Functional Medicine the Future of Healthcare?

Left photo is now - gearing up for my 51st birthday, middle photo was from two years ago and the photo on the right is a photo my dear friend Laura Turbow took of me around my 50th birthday last year. I was around 20 pounds heavier in those previous photos although I have to say, I was hiding it well!

I haven't worn the pants in the newest photo above since my husband and I got married almost ten years ago. Funny thing is this blog post isn't about weight loss. Weight loss is just a happy bi-product of my ever-evolving and continuing journey to optimal health. I'm not only happy with the way I'm looking, but I'm feeling pretty great too and as I quickly approach my 51st birthday and listen to my husband's exclamations of how sexy I am. well - that's just the best!

My Health Journey with Chris Kresser and Functional Medicine

If you've been to any of The Healing Farm retreats or have read any of my early blog posts, you know that I worked with Functional Medicine practitioner Chris Kresser on the first leg of my healing journey. I agree with Chris that functional medicine could be (and should be) the future of healthcare (he has a new book coming out called "Unconventional Medicine"). This is why I'm hosting retreats based on the premise of healing from the inside out - finding what's at the core of your chronic health issues and addressing those problems in a quest for long-term healing and preventative care. It's also why I want to build the Healing Farm property. Except for some of the big stuff, like necessary surgeries (I had a ruptured appendix many years ago and would have died without surgery), cancer treatments, trauma and a whole host of other medical issues Western medicine can address, much of what Western medicine seems to do for chronic conditions and auto-immune disease is about putting a bandaid on the problem and not getting to the core issue.

If it weren't for the initial work I did with Chris, I would not be where I am today physically and emotionally or able to build The Healing Farm business as I'm currently doing. It's not that I went into his office with major issues, but it was a collection of long-term issues that seemed to be adding up and getting worse:

Add the words chronic to any of the conditions below and that's what I experienced:

  • Sinus headaches so severe they bordered on migraines
  • Massive indigestion that would sometimes keep my up all night wondering if I was having a heart attack
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Increased mood swings - especially during PMS
  • Low libido
  • Constipation
  • weight problems
  • When I added chronic back pain to the list and opted out of surgery for that, I went to see Chris

When I worked with Chris, we found a parasite and some definciencies and indicators of inflammation. He put me on some herbal remedies and vitamins and an elimination diet and within six weeks most of my symptoms were alleviated. I was so inspired by natural healing and functional medicine that it set me on my current journey today. I had the energy and brain power to start taking business classes and started coming up with the concept of The Healing Farm. I would NEVER be where I am today if it weren't for the work I did with Chris Kresser. I would have continued to go around thinking it was just my darned bad luck that my body was so finicky.

Life-long Health Changes Can Take a Long Time and There May Be Setbacks

Fast forward a few years and my weight was creeping up again, restless legs were coming back, I was popping stomach pills and sinus pills again and wondering what the heck I was doing wrong. I thought I was eating a low sugar, low carb diet and I was almost 100% dairy and gluten free. I thought maybe it was just my aging body, but as I passed 50, I realized something was wrong again. I was listening to Magdalena Wszekaki's Cooking for Balance program since I was doing a retreat on menopause and women's health and started suspecting I may have a candida overgrowth or SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth). At this point in my business start-up I'm short on funds for just about everything so couldn't go to see Chris, but started doing some of the protocols in Magdalena's program including going on a vitamin and herb regimen recommended by her functional health practitioner and started taking Mega Spore probiotic. I've lost almost 20 pounds (I lost ten pounds on Keto) and am feeling great again. Now, I have to admit, I've been on a NO CARB, NO SUGAR, NO ALCOHOL plan for over eight weeks and had done the keto-type regimen right before I started the program and was now comfortable with eating fats and definitely not craving sugar or alcohol. This made it easier.

What I needed to think about though was the fact that I had almost lost all the work I had done with Chris and I needed to really think about the reasons. When I really thought about it, I realized I was drinking a lot of white wine and completely ignoring the fact that white wine is hight in sugar. I was sneaking in sugary snacks and gluten here and there and had found my new favorite go to chips (all natural beet chips in coconut oil) were really high in carbs (which converts to sugar in your body and if I do have a candida overgrowth - candida feeds on sugar). I also had to look at the amount of snacking and portions I was eating. I'm an emotional eater. It's a vicious cycle when you're down because you're not feeling good and it makes you feel better to eat (or drink wine). Basically, I was fooling myself thinking I was doing such a great job and was really producing more an more inflammation in my body. I got myself back into that unhealthy state. The no carb, high(er) fat plan has been working for me. Once I hit my goals and feel like I'm at optimal health, I'm not planning on going without my dark chocolate or an occasional beet chip, gluten free pizza, of glass of (red) wine in the future, but once I reach my goal, I know now what my limits are and I'm pretty darned happy with a few tablespoons of coconut yogurt (no sugar added!) for a sweet snack after dinner and some yummy ginger tea in the afternoon in the meantime. 

Your Personal Paleo Code, or Whole 30 Code, or Ancestral Code, or Veggie Code, or Mediterranean Code...Find Out What Eating Plan is Best for YOU and YOUR Body.

"Your Personal Paleo Code" was the title of Chris Kresser's first book before it was changed to: "The Paleo Cure". What I liked about Chris' philosophy is that he stresses that's it's most important to find what works for you and YOUR body. Although he's more of an ancestral/paleo guy, he's not completely opposed to carbs and grains. He's all about finding what works best for your body through the elimination diet and getting to the bottom of other lurking issues through blood and stool testing and then finding the right path to true healing. My husband can eat just about anything and never gain weight. He feels great all the time and is rarely sick. His way of eating is more like a snake's. He can go for hours without thinking about eating and then eat a ton and feel fine. A dear friend feels best when she eats more of a mediterranean diet, another friend recently discovered she really likes fasting for 24 hours between meals and loves the way she feels, another friend is vegetarian but has celiac so balances her diet accordingly. She's incredibly healthy and active despite what some of us would see as deficient in some essential nutrients by not eating meat. The point is, it's all about you and your body and what makes you feel best.

But Functional Medicine is Expensive....

I was recently telling someone about The Healing Farm concept and she instantly said she's not a fan of functional medicine. I asked her why and she said it's because it's cost prohibitive to a lot of people. This is where perception needs to change both in our own minds and in our healthcare system. If I added up all of the costs of the MRI and cortizone shots for my back, the upper GI and Endoscopy for my GI issues, years of blood tests and all the medication I've taken since I was in my mid twenties, it would be WAY more than the treatment cost of working with Chris Kresser. What we pay in insurance and what some of us get in health benefits from work hides most of what Western medicine costs. If we were paying all those bills (which increasingly we ARE), it would shock us. I paid about $1,000.00 five years ago for my work with Chris and the benefits have been life-changing. If we can change our healthcare system to accept Functional medicine into the fold (I was recently told by a THF client that Sutter Health now has a functional medicine practitioner), then maybe we can TRULY change the way we heal ourselves and prevent chronic conditions. This is why the work Chris Kresser, other functional medicine practitioners, nutritionists and hopefully The Healing Farm does is so important. We need to change the future of healthcare so let's start now!

How to Add a Little Control to Your Day When Going Through Big Change? Make Your Bed!

 Our simple (and made!) bed.

Our simple (and made!) bed.

Many years ago I was working as an office manager in a small office. Since some of my co-workers were (presumably - I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt) too busy to do their dishes, I took it on as one of my duties to make sure the kitchen was clean and neat.

Once-in-a-while when I would go in to tidy up, I would find the on-site business partner already doing the dishes and I would be mortified that I didn’t get to it sooner. I would thank her and try to brush her to the side so that she could get back to her more important work and I could take over. She finally explained to me that sometimes she just liked to do the dishes. It was a task that she could accomplish easily and actually complete and it gave her satisfaction to finish up and see the benefits of her accomplishments immediately (a clean kitchen!). When she explained it, I knew instantly that she was being sincere. Her days were so chaotic and overwhelming that by completing this one simple task, she felt like she had a little more control.

Fast forward 15 years and here I am running two business and starting to write a business plan (while going to a class two nights a week). Overwhelmed can barely describe how I feel sometimes. The coping mechanisms I’ve learned in the last couple of years have helped and are these:

  • Regular meditation (10-20 minutes a day)

  • Regular exercise (7-20 minutes a day during the week and one longer workout (hike or bike ride) on the weekend.

  • Good eating habits - reducing inflammation in my body so I can have optimal energy and mental clarity

  • Take most Saturdays and all Sundays completely off and mostly electronics free with unplanned and unstructured time

  • Schedule regular time with hubby and friends

  • Cooking a proper dinner at least three nights a week

But one thing I haven’t quite gotten a handle on is feeling under control in my house. Thankfully I’m married to a minimalist so the house - for the most part - feels light and airy and clutter-free. My husband would probably disagree with me on this since we have different ideas of what is clutter-free! But that aside, I never feel like I’m under control keeping up the house. I bought Maria Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”  and then put it on my bed stand never to be opened. It DID prompt me to organize my office and closet though which made me feel better about never reading it.

I can’t afford to hire someone to clean my house for me and my husband (who also works at home) tries to keep up with light cleaning here and there, but I never feel like the house is a pristine place of calm and order (do any of us really even if we have a cleaning service? I don’t know!). Then I read Katherine Rosman’s article “Want to Have a Good Day? Try Making the Bed First”.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been a bed-maker. My mother tried the best she could to instill good housekeeping habits but when it came right down to it, she had six kids and a full time job so making sure we all made our beds wasn’t exactly a top priority so it never became a habit for me. When I married my husband he never said anything about the making the bed and he never made it, so it always remained unmade. This article, coming at a time of great change and chaos in my life, made me think about little habits (smaller than meditation and exercise) I could probably build into my life that will give me a small sense of accomplishment and control.

But how does one become a bed-maker after 50 years of being a messy bed keeper? Isn’t there a saying (or probably a book) that claims it takes 10 days to make a habit? I didn’t have time to look that up, so I decided I could just put it to the test and see if it stuck.

  • The first few days, I just tried to remember to do it and made the bed about 50% of the time. That wasn’t working.

  • Then I thought about the one thing I do EVERY MORNING without fail. Make coffee. So I decided to live with a post-it note on the coffee maker for a while to see if it would get me in the habit.

  • Oddly enough though, I decided I actually like making the bed as soon as I get out of it. Before I even have a sip of water. We don’t have a complicated bed with a ton of pillows, so it’s quick and easy and it really does feel good. I feel like by accomplishing something as the first thing I do in the day it puts me in a good mindset for the entire day. If I forget to do it as soon as I get out of bed, I have the post-it note on the coffee-maker!

  • Add the meditation and exercise onto that and I go into my work day with confidence (most of the time) having already reached a few goals I have set for myself.

So my verdict is that you really can develop a habit in ten days (check back in with me in a year!) AND this article is worth a read! Here are just a few tips from the article:

  • It’s an anchor point for your day

  • It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do another task and another

  • Wrinkle (less) sheets: take out of the dryer five minutes before they are completely dry and fit the bottom sheet on the bed to let air dry and drape the top sheet somewhere to let the wrinkles hang out (a clothing line is good for this) - BTW - I don’t care about wrinkled sheets, but I was staying at my in-laws and wanted crisp sheets on their bed when I remade it. When I went to iron them the iron wasn’t working. I remembered this article, washed the sheets again and air dried them damp and voila! It worked!

  • Folding a bottom sheet: there’s a video within the article of Ariel Kaye of Parachute Home folding a bottom sheet.

  • Top sheet vs. no top sheet? It’s simpler to make the bed without one, but then you have to wash your duvet more often (which I think is a pain), I use a top sheet and actually find it satisfying to fold it over and tuck it in when I make the bed.

Read the article if you feel you need to add more habits and anchor points into your chaotic life. Pick up William H. McRaven’s book: “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life….and Maybe the World” and good luck! Share with me on Facebook if you are a bed-maker or not and if you are successful in developing this habit! I’m still working on it, but I now make the bed most days!

Straddling Careers Mid-life

I got home last night exhausted, but exhilarated. I sat down on the couch and hubby put on some Billy Holiday and asked me if I would like for him to rub my feet and hands and I thought about what a crazy but rewarding couple of days I had just had - topped off by such a loving and caring husband. 

In my own mid-life transition, like many people, I'm straddling careers. I can't quite let go of my photography career for financial reasons (my husband is going through his own mid-life shift and is currently writing a screenplay so not a lot of money coming in right now), but I also have this dream of The Healing Farm which I can't let go of either even though I constantly have doubts about my abilities and the reality of my dream. It's a constant struggle. One that's truly both exhausting and exhilarating. 

Yesterday I photographed a wedding at one of my favorite wedding venues. It was one of those days when I questioned why I was giving up a career that I know and most of the time love. The vendor team was a dream. The couple was easy and sweet. The guest list was only immediate family (so small!). The light was astounding and as I went through the photos last night (part of my wind-down routine), I was thinking I hit a home run for the couple. But the temperature while I was shooting was 98 degrees and it was unusually muggy in wine country. The property (Beaulieu Garden which is the private family estate of the B.V. wine label family) is gorgeous, but it's huge, so by the end of the day I was a sweaty, exhausted mess. I carry a ridiculous amount of equipment with me because I love shooting quickly and using multiple lenses and I didn't have an assistant or second photographer because it was a small wedding. My body was killing me when I got home so to have a husband who understood that I needed a foot rub was beyond a dream come true.

Wedding photography has become a tough business. There's a huge amount of competition and my 50 year old body just about can't handle the physical and emotional stress that goes with photographing a wedding so after a day like yesterday as I  was ooohing and ahing over the photos, I had to remind myself there are a LOT of reasons I'm switching careers. It's also a reminder as my back pain comes creeping back every time I shoot that I want to be able to make sure the work I've done healing my body from years of stress and chronic conditions doesn't go out the window.

Added to the successes of the last couple of days were the following:

  • A few new business inquiries and meetings for the photography business
  • A fun vendor walk-though of a museum at which I'll shoot a wedding at the end of the month
  • Bookings for the 3rd Act Healing Farm retreat set for the end of October
  • I also had a fun chat with a woman whose husband told her about the fall Healing Farm retreat. She called me to say that she had actually considered switching around travel plans to Argentina because she wants to go to the fall retreat so badly. We talked about the lack of small healing-focussed retreats that don't center only around yoga or meditation, but focus more on nutrition, healing and overall well-being and practical applications for making big lifestyle changes. 
  • Another phone call I had while in San Francisco pinning up promo cards for the 3rd Act retreat was with Claire of whom I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Claire is inspired by what I'm doing and wanted to hear how I went about making such a big shift in my life and wanted to chat about how she could make changes in her own life. I love when people reach out and am so happy to think that others are inspired by the changes I'm making in my own life.

This all reminded me of a quote I posted about a few weeks back which read:

"If you believe, stick with it. Too many people give up right before the tide changes." - Jessica Norwood, Founder of “The Runway Project”

The fall retreat is all about making big changes to prepare for your "3rd Act". I'm making these hard changes in my life right now so that I can access my true potential and calling in life. I will probably write over and over about how hard it is because it is hard to make big changes. What I have consistently found however, is that difficult times and big changes also promote great personal growth and in the end it's the hardest challenges of my life that have produced the greatest results and "highs". We can choose the path that feels easier and more comfortable, but if we do, are we reaching our true potential? In the end, after all my explorations, I may end up choosing the "easy" path, but even when I fantasize about winning the lottery, I instantly build The Healing Farm in my mind with my winnings. I would say that's a good indicator that I may be on the right path and I should push myself forward and be confident that the two rewarding days I just had will become more and more frequent. That there WILL be a time when I look back to this time and laugh with Brennan about how hard it was but realize it was all worth it in the end.

Patricia and Ellie of The 3rd Act will be leading us through a practical application workshop at the fall retreat about working toward reaching your full potential to make the most out of mid and post-midlife. I'm so looking forward to being with a group of women who are inspired to make big changes in their lives to reach their true potential. Being surrounded by others who are ready to put in the work sounds like the perfect thing for me right now too. I already can't wait to meet new friends and hope you'll join me!

Don't forget to take advantage of the EARLYBIRD special of a 15% discount off your retreat cost (excluding treatments and private consults). Don't forget to enter the coupon code "EARLYBIRD" when booking your deposit for the discount to be applied. Offer expires August 15th so book soon! 

Hope to see you there!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness.

Inspiring Others

I met with my mentor, Pamela Hawley last night and was so inspired by our conversation that I woke up at 4:00 a.m. this morning, unable to get back to sleep because I was bursting with ideas. Pamela is one of the most giving and enthusiastic people I've ever met and was an instructor of mine at the UC Berkeley Business School Extension Program. I was always so on fire when I walked out of her class that when the class wrapped up for good, I decided to ask if she would meet me for a cup of coffee so I could pick her brain a little about The Healing Farm and get a feel for what she thought of the idea (and me). It was a little intimidating e-mailing her and asking so I was honored and thrilled when she not only agreed to meet with me, but she asked if I wanted a mentor. Here we are two years later and she's still dedicating time to me and The Healing Farm while running her own non-profit (Universal Giving) and writing her own blog called Living and Giving.

While I was on the train on my way to our meeting, I was reading Conscious Company magazine which is my favorite read in the world right now, other than John Muir Meditations, the Sunday New York Times and fiction novels. The magazine often interviews “conscious company” business owners and in the current issue there is an interview with Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite which is a local San Francisco food market (among other things!). Apparently Mr. Mogannam wakes up at 4:00 AM most days and uses the first couple of hours as quiet reading and writing time. I use the first couple of hours of my day for meditation, reading and exercise; but admittedly it’s more like 7:00 - 9:00 AM. Inspiration and writing time will likely never happen at 4:00 AM for me, but it sure would be nice to experience this on a regular basis!

I was inspired by Pamela and I was inspired by the “conscious company” business owners I read about in the current issue of the magazine. It’s that kind of inspiration that keeps me going in this pursuit of The Healing Farm. I told Pamela last night that as much as I long to do something easier in my quest for a new career, there is something in me that just won’t let The Healing Farm concept go. It’s burning within me. I’ve read over and over that it’s that fire that seems to be what keeps entrepreneurs going when they start a business. If the fire weren’t there, those businesses would likely not succeed. Money is not enough of a desire (Lord knows it’s not what’s keeping me going with The Healing Farm since it is a business that is not yet profitable or fully realized). I’ve written before that personal growth at this level is not an easy path. It’s that passion to help others in their pursuit of practical and natural wellness that keeps me on fire.

It’s also inspiring others while on this path, which keeps me going too. It’s something I did not anticipate at all in this process, but every once in awhile I’ll get validation by someone that I may be on the right path in my ideas and pursuit of THF. It’s that validation and the thought of inspiring others that gives me little kicks in the bottom to propel me forward.

Thank you to Claire and Rae for their lovely notes:

I met Claire briefly last fall when I was in Montana. I was having dinner with a friend and had my Healing Farm bag hanging on the back of my chair. When we finished our meal, one of the servers in the restaurant came up to me and asked where The Healing Farm was located. I laughed and said it didn’t yet exist, but told her about the concept and gave her a business card. Last Friday after I emailed the latest THF newsletter, I got this lovely email from Claire:

Hi Julie,

Been following your posts/events/blogs ever since meeting you last summer at Lucca’s in Helena, Montana.  I feel so inspired by what you are doing!  I’ve recently been searching for work that is a true expression of who I am and would be so excited to talk with you about any little possibility of you doing work here in Montana.  Or, I would also love to know how it was you decided to go for this!  What were your initial steps?  What were your biggest lessons?  What would you say to a young woman with a desire in her heart but no sense of which direction to go first?

And, just a thank you for being a person who follows her heart and emulates what is means to be brave and go for her dream.  Every time I encounter another person like you, it lifts me up and gives me a little hit of hope.
— Best, Claire

I can’t tell you how much this kind of validation helps me to keep going. Inspiring Claire, ended up inspiring me. It’s some kind of a great kharma circle. It never occurred to me that someday I might be mentoring others, but last summer the lovely Tricia in Vancouver, BC contacted me to see if I would have a few mentoring chats with her. We don’t talk as often anymore, but I had fun doing a little mentoring despite feeling like I was getting a little ahead of myself. Claire and I have scheduled a phone call for the beginning of August and if there’s any way I can help propel her forward in her own dreams, I’m going to darned well try.

I also had lunch with a mutual friend of a friend who attended the women’s retreat last January and I was commenting on how fabulous she looked. Rae told me that her lifestyle completely changed after her experience at The Healing Farm retreat. In the six months since the retreat she’s made some hard changes in diet and lifestyle, but is feeling great and credits her experience in helping her to achieve this level of well-being. Said Rae:

After my weekend with the Healing Farm, I felt empowered by information, inspired by other women who were facing similar challenges, and enabled to make healthy choices for myself.  In the six months since the retreat, I have used that momentum to create a new lifestyle that truly supports and nourishes me.
— Rae Richman

Thank you to all that have written to me in the past couple of years. I can’t tell you how much hearing from you helps me and in helping me, you will hopefully be helping others. My hope is that The Healing Farm will ultimately be a property that inspires all sorts of people to live a healthier and more fulfilled life. It’s hard work, but once you start seeing the feedback and results the feeling is so great that it’s hard to imagine doing anything else.

Join our 3rd Act Retreat this fall to hear from our speakers about how to create great change in your own life to renew your purpose and passion!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!

A Couple of Tips for Big Change: Physical and Great Life Changes

I’ve communicated a lot on this blog and in my newsletters about my own midlife crisis, why I have been inspired to facilitate two menopause retreats, and why I was inspired to put together the upcoming fall retreat focused on “The 3rd Act” with Patricia Cavanaugh and Ellie Klevins. I started my own midlife crisis in my mid-forties, when I was not only coming to the realization that having a child was never going to happen for me, but also years of chronic health conditions were adding up and really bringing me down. I was also discovering that I wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing for my career anymore. Everything seemed to be coming at me at once and adding the heartbreak of aging parents just about put me over the top. Needless to say, the second half of my forties was challenging and I realized I was in a “midlife crisis”.

I’ve done a lot since that discovery. I’ve healed most of my chronic conditions through change of diet and exercise and because of that work was inspired to start The Healing Farm | Retreat business. Since my own healing journey started, I dreamt of an affordable wellness retreat property where I could pass along practical life-changes to prevent and/or alleviate chronic illness and conditions. The Healing Farm concept was born and the “midlife crisis” started turning into my midlife “renaissance” as I started calling it. I know I’m still in midlife crisis because this personal transformation has been anything but easy, but I’ve taught myself enough tools at this point to navigate without freaking out too much.

 When a dear friend told me about the book “Hidden Blessings” by Jett Psaris, PhD I went online almost immediately to buy it. I have to say that I’ve never been into “self help” books - until I went into midlife crisis. The book “Fail Fast, Fail Often” by John D. Krumboltz and Ryan Babineaux was the first book I read that truly inspired me to not be afraid of change. I’m a creature of habit and needed to be inspired by people who were telling me that change and failing is not the end of the world. In fact, it can be the catalyst for a truer and more meaningful existence. This simple midwestern girl was suddenly inspired to challenge herself, find greater meaning, and create a legacy. If my legacy wasn’t going to be a child, then damnit, I was inspired to try to create a legacy of helping others to heal.

That’s what “Hidden Blessings” is about. Moving through midlife crisis to find the hidden gem within. It definitely doesn’t sugar-coat the midlife process, in fact when I read that most midlife crises last 10-12 years my stomach did a little lurch. That means I may not even be halfway through mine. That’s pretty depressing. But the book gives tools to guide you through and Ms. Psaris talks about midlife crisis being more of a metamorphosis rather than a crisis. This I can relate to. She quotes George Elliot:

 “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”

Ms Psaris says: “....[the guidance given] comes from my own midlife experience and that of others, draws on many traditions and schools of thought to help us respond fully to the transformative invitation of midlife. That invitation is to step away from taking life literally - and perhaps, superficially - to discover a deep and profound underlying existence. Midlife invites us to surrender the narrowly defined view of ourselves and others that prevails during the first half of life, so that we can become more complex and multi-dimensional beings capable of living the largest lives possible moving forward."

Truth be told, I haven’t yet read the entire book, but I’m very much looking forward to what the author suggests and also what the ladies of The 3rd Act will teach us about transitioning in midlife during The Healing Farm’s fall retreat at Mayacamas Ranch. I’ve been so inspired by this book that I’ve already recommended it to friends realizing that more and more as I open up about my own midlife crisis, my friends are wanting to share their challenges too. It really does help to know that you are NOT the only one.

Another thing I’ve been sharing a lot recently with friends is Magdalena Wszelaki’s  “Cooking for Balance” online workshop. As I hear more and more people talking about stress, fatigue, stomach issues, among a multitude of other things, I’m more and more inspired not only to get The Healing Farm wellness retreat property off the ground, but I’m also inspired to continue to share tips about how we can heal a lot of our chronic issues ourselves just through changing our diet. Sure, it wasn’t JUST diet that helped me to work through my long-term chronic conditions (read here about how I worked through mine), but I’ve learned it’s a really important start and Magdalena’s workshop is informative and practical, plus the workshop video/format makes it easy to follow. I watched the free intro video last fall and bought the program right away - it’s four parts with a primer and very important to watch EVERYTHING. I even watched the free intro video a second time to refresh my memory before I started the program.

Needing to understand what various foods and allergies do to our bodies from a nutritional and scientific perspective is important and Magdalena makes it easy to follow. The cooking part of it is also helpful with charts of do’s and dont’s for various conditions, recipes, food guides and how-to videos. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but if you are tired of being sick and tired, it is so worth it. Having all this information in one easy to follow format is great. It’s like one-stop-shopping for affordable and practical long-term healing (like The Healing Farm concept!). Way easier than researching it all on your own online AND cheaper (and quicker) than going through traditional western medicine and medications to manage your health issues.

One of the reasons I didn’t start the workshop for months is because I’m running two businesses. One of the important things I’ve learned in this midlife journey is re-organizing my time and priorities which is how I found the time to take the workshop. I was finding that I was obsessing over the news and reading it with my coffee every morning. It was getting overwhelming and depressing so I decided that I would allow myself to read the news one weekday morning and continue to dive in deep with my Sunday New York Times. The rest of the mornings I would dedicate to doing something inspiring and worthwhile with my morning coffee. So every morning, I set my timer for half and hour, climb back in bed with my bulletproof coffee (you’ll see why I drink coffee with fat after you take the workshop) and I listen to a small part of the workshop.

My favorite tips so far:

  • Testing for an appropriate amount of stomach acid using a simple baking soda solution (I’ve had trouble with indigestion since my twenties so this is important to me).
  • Re-building stomach acid when it’s too low by drinking warm water with lime, lemon or apple cider vinegar while your stomach is empty.
  • The importance of seed rotation and ridding your life of toxins for balance of hormones.
  • What truly are some worthwhile nutrient-dense foods (like seaweed) and sardines.
  • Adding sprouts to my salads (did you know a large handful of broccoli sprouts is the nutritional equivalent of a whole head of broccoli?).
  • An in-depth study of why my diet needs to be so low in sugar (bad gut bacteria feeds on sugar for one thing!).
  • Why fats are so important for brain health and satiation after meals and why NOT to be afraid of fats - contrary to what I’ve believed all my life.
  • A simple meditative breathing technique that I now incorporate into my almost daily meditation practice - something I’ve easily fit into my day by doing while I’m brewing coffee.

All of the information I’ve been getting through this program I’ve also learned from other sources like through my work with Chris Kresser, the retreats I’ve put on and the Keto Clarity book, but I feel like Magdalena’s program is so concise and realistic I highly recommend checking it out.

Another good place to learn about some of this is the fall 3rd Act Healing Farm retreat! Join us for a look into midlife and nutritional tips for this transition as well!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!

3rd Act Guest Blog Post: Find Out More of What We'll Cover in the 3rd Act Retreat This Fall!

I’ve been a professional photographer for 25+ years and photographing weddings for 15 – it’s a demanding job! Everyone assumes it’s all joy, gorgeous venues, flowers, and food. And it is most of the time, but photographing a wedding is not only stressful emotionally (I can’t miss a beat or a moment!), but it’s also incredibly physically demanding. Standing and running around with pounds of equipment strapped to my body for an average of eight hours on top of the mental stress has taken its toll. Plus, hours in front of a computer in a dark room has never been very joyful for someone who loves light, air, and the outdoors.

I’ve been working on transitioning into a new career for the past 4-5 years and it’s been a challenge like no other in my life. Adding mid-life crisis, peri-menopause, aging parents, and the financial burden of my husband and I both exploring new careers at the same time? Well, that’s a whole different level of challenge!

I knew I had to be ready both mentally and physically for this transition into a new life and career and that’s how the seeds of The Healing Farm idea popped into my head. For 4-5 years, I’ve been working on healing my body from the inside out, plus building The Healing Farm | Retreat business into a new career to pursue work I am passionate about for the next 20 or so years of my work life. It’s also my retirement plan (I want to live on The Healing Farm property eventually!). The seeds I started planting a few years ago are finally starting to take root and now, I want to help others prepare for the longer lives we are now living – and look forward to healthy and happy lives.

A friend of mine introduced me to Patricia Cavanaugh, founder of “The 3rd Act” and after a two-time THF retreat participant suggested I create a retreat specifically for women who are experiencing this mid-life and pre/post retirement transition, I figured these two things dovetailed beautifully into a new retreat idea. Serendipity!

I am thrilled to welcome the Third Act to our retreat at Mayacamas Ranch, scheduled for October 29th through November 2nd (my 51st birthday!). Click here for more details about the retreat, but I had a chance to interview Patricia her colleague, Ellie Klevins – who will lead the workshop and here’s what they had to say about their workshop for our retreat:

So, what is the 3rd Act?

Our work guides people (typically age 50+) to develop intentional plans for creating happy and fulfilling lives – and take full advantage of our years ahead. Living longer than previous generations, is both a challenge and an opportunity.  We need to shed old paradigms of aging, find inspiring role models, and learn new skills so we can “begin again.” Our clients are people who are approaching typical retirement age – and know they don’t want a typical retirement!

What are the outcomes participants can expect?
Realizing you are not alone in facing down the aging process. We share many of the same fears and we avoid thinking about what’s uncomfortable for us. Together we uncover those fears and identify ways to take control now.  Denying and pushing away fear takes so much energy – we free up that energy and focus it on what you can do NOW to take control.  Like healthy eating! Exercise!  And having and inspiring plan for the rest of your life!
The principles of Positive Psychology are the foundation for 3rd Act life planning.

We ask and help you answer these fundamental questions:

  • What are your skills and strengths –– and how could you  use these strengths in creating your 3rd Act?

  • What do you want to leave behind – and what do you want to bring forward as you transition?

  • How can you find fulfillment in life’s everyday pleasures?

  • Where will you find new meaning and purpose ?

  • What choices do you have now that were not available to you before?

  • How can you build community, make new friends, deepen your relationships?

And to borrow a line from Mary Oliver, explore your answers to this question: “What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

I hope you can join us this fall for this comprehensive retreat. I know I have a lot to learn and am particularly looking forward to the finance portion given by our other speaker, Catie Fitzgerald (look for an upcoming guest post from Catie!). The work I’ve done in the past 4-5 years has begun to change my life in profound ways and my hope is that this retreat can help you to change the course of the rest of your life too. It’s a journey that’s challenging, but challenging like a good workout that you weren’t looking forward to. Once you get going, you get into the groove and feel so good and empowered when you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness! 

Why I’m So Inspired and Happy to Announce The Healing Farm’s Next Immersion Retreat - The 3rd Act: Renewing Your Purpose and Passion Mid-Life

A couple of close friends, when viewing my “manifestation board” (detail above, plus read about this project here), asked why there was an illustration representing a girl in a bathing suit and cap coming out of a pool. It’s true, I am not a swimmer. I’m not a swimmer, but as I’ve gotten older, floating and spending time in, and under, water has become one of my favorite things to do on vacation. I just LOVE being in water. Especially warm water! In my 50th year, I want to learn how to swim. How to REALLY swim.

I was inspired last year by a two-time Healing Farm retreat participant who was embracing her 50th year by doing something either that she never tried before, or just something she loved, each month of her 50th year. She called the year her “jubilee adventures” and I was honored that two of her months during her jubilee adventures included THF retreats! You can read about her experience at the very challenging solo Joshua Tree retreat on my blog. Given my 50th year was fast approaching I was completely inspired by Stephanie to do my own sort of jubilee adventure year.

I turned 50 last November 2nd. Given how challenging the final half of my 40th decade was, I was fearful of 50 and not feeling so celebratory. Despite that, I threw myself a big open house 50th birthday party in a lovely location on the coast of California. I served healthy food, kicked it off with a little yoga session, encouraged my guests to wander and hike the property, and then danced until we had to leave. It wasn’t entirely perfect or what I had envisioned, but learning to let go of expectations has been part of the process I’ve been working through in the past 4-5 years; as I’ve explored how to transition out of my old career and into the new one, as well as how to heal my body and mind from the inside out. I was determined to learn to let go of expectations. It’s a challenge the German in me has faced all of my life. I’m a planner and I like efficiency, but to a fault. Through meditation (just ten minutes a few days per week), I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself and others when things don’t go quite as my idealistic vision has planned. It’s a good thing I figured that out because one of things I’ve read over and over about entrepreneurs is that you need to learn to accept unexpected change, learn how to adapt quickly, and to roll with the punches (not stress about the inevitable ups-and-downs of big change).

I was proud of myself for embracing my birthday party as it unfolded and realized the imperfection of it was the perfect kick-off to my 50th year. I started to open my mind to thinking about how I wanted to continue to embrace it. I’m going through huge changes physically (I’m now one month away from FINALLY being in full menopause) and I’m on the cusp of either making a go of The Healing Farm business that I’ve been working so hard to start for the past two years or letting it go if it proves too much stress for this time in my life. I’m also understanding and feeling I’m on the final leg of my physical healing journey too. All this makes it fitting that in my 50th year jubilee, I didn’t want to plan for what I wanted to accomplish. I thought I would just wait to see what popped up and inspired me.

Not long after my birthday, I walked in the door to my house and found my husband practicing his drumming rudiments. I’m always impressed that he can sit for an hour and practice the same beats over and over again. He’s been doing this for years and it has contributed to his discipline about a lot of things. Even though I recognize that he and I are very different (I’ll never be a perfectionist and I kind of despise “practicing” anything), I wanted to pick something in my 50th year to practice and really learn. I thought briefly of surfing because I know it’s physically GREAT for the body and it’s also meditative but decided it wasn’t realistic. Paying for lessons (not cheap) and driving to the ocean a few times a week was not practical - and I’m all about practical. Then I thought about swimming. It’s a bit more practical, I love the water, it’s good exercise, AND it’s meditative. Voila! I had found my 50th year goal and have been taking private and group swim lessons on and off since January. It’s really hard, but I’m proud of myself for sticking with it and love looking at my manifestation board and seeing that darling woman getting out of the pool in her yellow bathing suit and cap (yellow is definitely the color of my energy AND has always been my favorite color).

I’ve done several other things so far in my 50th year to challenge myself (solo travel and camping, plus writing more!) and to continue to embrace the change I want to make in my life so that I feel like I can leave a legacy behind. I want to feel like I’ve done something to contribute to helping this world, the people in it and our planet in any small way that I can. I want to continue to explore this fascinating path of “finding myself” so I can reach for a higher purpose in my life, become a practical wellness practitioner in my own general way and inspire others on their paths to practical wellness too.

It’s fitting then that the next multi-day retreat for The Healing Farm will be with Patricia Cavanaugh and Ellie Klevins of The 3rd Act. They will lead a workshop taking participants through much of what I’ve explored on my own for the last 4-5 years to get to the place of profound growth I’m in now. You can read more about the retreat on The Healing Farm’s site and I’ll also be posting a short Q&A with Ellie and Patricia on the blog so you can get a better idea of the work we’ll be doing at the retreat. I’ll also be welcoming three-time THF retreat participant, Catie Fitzgerald. With her brand-new MS in nutrition and her 20+ years of financial consulting, Catie will be covering how to transition your body and finances (I’ll be paying especially close attention to the finance portion of this retreat!) into mid and later life.

The final day of the retreat just happened to land on my 51st birthday (the retreat dates were the only dates still available this year at Mayacamas Ranch). At first I was a little bummed to “work” on my birthday; but then I let go of all of my past birthday expectations and embraced the fact that wrapping up this retreat with a group of women with whom I’ve just shared a potentially profound experience couldn’t be a more fitting end to my 50th year jubilee of unplanned exploration and learning! It actually couldn’t be more perfect and if for some reason it isn’t, I’m ok with that too!

I hope to see you in the fall and PS - that picture of me (going gray!) was taken not long after my 50th by my friend Laura Turbow who does lovely boudoir photo sessions of all women, but especially women in their "3rd act"!

 The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!

Opportunities Gained Oh So Briefly and Lost. Recognizing the Impermanence of our Fleeting Emotions.

My husband and I watched with fascination a couple of weeks ago the incredible rise and fall of Milo Yiannopoulos. If you were reading the news a few weeks ago, he's the sensationalist ultra-conservative writer/speaker who was supposed to speak at UC Berkeley only to be cancelled due to a peaceful protest by UC Berkeley students being disrupted by a few anarchists. It all created a hoopla (rightfully so) about free speech and open communication on campuses across the US, but took an ugly turn by our current president when he threatened to pull federal funding to the University. The result is that Mr. Yiannopoulos, who was hardly a household name before the controversy, catapulted to fame. Within days, he was getting major press and as a result, major speaking engagements. With fame (or a controversial figure) comes lots of people digging into the past. It's the nature of our current (and damaging) 24 hour news cycle. Within what may have been as little as 48 hours, Mr. Yiannopoulos' reputation came tumbling down from revelations of past controversial remarks. It was an amazingly quick rise and fall and it made my husband and I talk of what he must have been feeling throughout this brief, but highly emotional time. From what must have been an ultimate high of becoming so famous and sought out to everything crashing down, to what must have been an ultimate emotional low in his life (he lost his speaking engagements, his book deal AND his job within 24 hours).

Why am I bringing this up? As I read more about meditation to try to understand my OWN emotional highs and lows while growing this business, I'm trying to grasp the understanding that our emotions, although sometimes palpably and physically real to us, are really meaningless. If you come to understand that your core being and consciousness never fluctuates from before you are born to the minute you die (and maybe beyond with the transfer of energy) you begin to understand that it doesn't really make sense to dwell in your emotions - whether high or low. This is NOT easy.

The other day, I met with a property owner whom I’ve admired for years. She and her husband have built an incredible business and property in a rural location and are working hard to build the business into the ultimate lifestyle they want for their future. This is also my concept behind The Healing Farm property. It would be my home. It would be my family and it would be my plan for retirement.

When I met with the property owner we knew we wanted to discuss the possibility of holding a THF retreat on the property, but we also knew we were both open to other possible working relationships. It came to light that a position which would fit a lot of my skills was opening up and it dawned on me that it might be the perfect transition out of photography and into the retreat/property management business. For a little less than 24 hours we were bouncing back and forth with emails about the possibility of me taking on the job. I discussed it with Brennan (my husband) and he was game. I became more and more excited as the evening and the e-mails progressed. My emotional excitement became palpable. I woke up four times during the night both elated and panicked about the possibility of such great change and opportunity. The next morning, I think the emotions transferred more to self-doubt and panic. Could I really handle the job and was I really the right fit for them? I exchanged a few more detailed e-mails about the job description and setting up a second visit to the property and continued to grow more excited and more panicky. Then I got the devastating e-mail that I was not a good fit. It was gracious and kind and true and it plummeted me to depths of self-doubt and fear that I hadn't experienced since I ran my first multi-day retreat. I found all this out while care-taking a sick friend's kids and had to hold in my emotions until I got to my car. I cried all the way home. And then I cried some more when I told Brennan the news and I cried some more when I went to sleep and I cried some more when I woke up and some more when I brewed the coffee.

And then a funny thing happened. I usually make coffee-brewing time my morning meditation time so I went to meditate. I came out of meditation with the realization that what's done is done, I am who I am and if the job didn't work out then it probably wasn't a good fit. The property owners recognized and weighed the risks of my relative inexperience and my long-term commitment. I realized I should do the same. I still felt like crap and was exhausted from the emotion, but I remembered the meditation book "The Untethered Soul" talking about the problem we all have with dwelling on emotions that can come and go as fleetingly as any thought.

I think the strongest analogy I read in the book was this: Say you are dating someone and really, really starting to like them and then suddenly you don't hear from them for a few days. They aren't answering or returning your calls. You start to panic. You start to wonder what you did wrong. You start to obsess about it and start beating yourself up about it (because it must have been something you did. Maybe you had bad breath, or said something dumb). This leads to feeling down about yourself which then leads to feeling borderline depressed and physically exhausted. Maybe even tears and loss of sleep. Suddenly this person calls and apologizes for being MIA. They had some good reason or another (family emergency?) for not being able to get back to you and they want to know if you're available to see them tonight because they really missed you and would love your company. You hang up the phone and suddenly your exhaustion is lifted and you're jumping up and down all over the living room.

How does our emotion change so quickly? Because everything is impermanent. Emotions ebb and flow at any whim, but if you learn to look deep enough into yourself and your consciousness, you can learn to tap into a part of you that never wavers. You are who you are. You are always there. Same as ever. Peaceful and calm very deep within and you can learn to tap into that at any time. This is what I realized I did when I meditated this morning. I have two lottery tickets sitting on the table and I guarantee if I had checked those tickets last night and found out I was a winner or if my husband told me he sold his screenplay or any other number of things that would have given me relief from the financial burden of starting a new company, my spirits would have lifted immediately. I needed to look deeper into what was causing my incredible emotional low and it was financial insecurity. But from what I've read through interviews with tons of entrepreneurs it’s that you have to be able to take risks. Both financial and emotional and recognize how much you are able to handle. If it's not for you. It's not for you. You are who you are. There will always be emotional highs and lows and you need to recognize them, acknowledge them and then let them go. If you can't, then you need to find a different path. You're on the wrong one!

Two additional things happened during this tumultuous 24 hours. Right before I went to bed the night of the tentative job offer, I picked up a book to read to try to make my flying high with emotion self try to relax a little. The book was recommended by a dear friend who is an amazing "doer" and entrepreneur. It's called "The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion" by Elle Luna. I wouldn't be surprised if this book skyrocketed to the NYT best-seller list as the latest-greatest self-help book and with good reason. It's a fun read and well done. What I wanted to happen when I opened it up to read that night was that I would miraculously be on a page that somehow "told" me I was considering the right path with this job opportunity, but instead, this was the last paragraph on the page I opened to:

"But what you don't want is to take a job that was intended to pay the bills and suddenly, you don't have time to explore your passion, you're too tired to step into that which you were put on this earth to do. And if, for some awful reason, you forget that money is a game, a make-believe concept that some people invented, you could be led back into the complex layered world of Should. And here, the loss isn't a financial one. You are the cost. Is it worth it?"

Guess what I did when I read that? I quickly closed the book and put it to the side. It seemed to be a direct message that was the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear and then the next day unfolded in what was probably the absolute right way for my future as devastating as it was initially.

The second thing that happened was this morning after I meditated. I was still pretty down from the rejection but when I went to get my coffee, my laptop and phone, I suddenly starting to feel like the owners of the property had just done me a huge favor. I turned my phone on and a few text messages came up. One of them was from a daily affirmation service. I'm not really one for daily affirmations other than reading what's on my tea bag tabs while I wait for the water to boil, but a friend who knows how I struggle with the great changes I'm going through to switch careers and start a new business told me about it so I decided to give it a try. The message that was sent yesterday (the day of the big rejection) that I was too emotional and busy to read was this: "Craving acceptance is human, but the 'validation trap' can trip us up. You are not for everyone, Julie; find relief in that today".

If only I wasn't so wrapped up in my emotions to read that yesterday. I'm not sure it would have stopped the tears. Sometimes you just have to let them fly, but I'm glad I read it today. Today I went from waking up feeling like I never wanted to get up again, to writing this blog post and going swimming this afternoon (a skill I'm determined to learn during this 50th year of my life). I made a reservation at an airbnb outside of Anza Borrego Park for next week so I can see the desert wildflowers on my way down to my southern California photo shoots (something I've wanted to do ever since moving to CA).  While staying down there, I also plan on getting caught up on reading, exploring a deeper meditation practice, hiking long days and trying my hand at writing my memoirs which is another project for my 50th year. I was really looking forward to this time alone before considering taking the job that so suddenly came up and was planning on dropping it all to stay and start the job, but now I'm realizing it's something I need and want to do and it's something much more important to me than money or opportunity. It's a time I've set aside to continue to learn and grow and to reach deep inside myself to get more in touch with the me in me.

Yes, money is important to survive, but Brennan and I have learned to live on very little. Do I want to be more financially secure? Absolutely. But Brennan and I are both on such a great path of discovery that it may be worth the temporary insecurity. I’m willing to watch my emotional highs and lows from an increasingly detached position and place of deep peace and see what happens. Either the world will open up to us and help us navigate to our true callings or we'll end up "living in a van down by the river:" (SNL)... Really. I may be ok with either one!