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.

Guest Blog Post by The 3rd Act Retreat’s Yoga Instructor - Rachel Heron

Even yoga teachers and doula’s make big changes midlife. Read on to hear from Rachel Heron (our 3rd Act Retreat Yoga Instructor) about how yoga transformed her life and why yoga can help you in your life at the retreat!

From Rachel:

"One rainy afternoon in NYC, in late October of 1992, my life changed.  I walked into the Jivamukti Yoga Center on 2nd Avenue, full of doubt, heartache and discontent.  Various things were not going the way I planned or wanted, and I found myself feeling jaded, cynical and stuck in a rut.  A friend had recommended yoga to me months before and I finally decided to check it out for myself, not un-reluctantly, somewhat ready to be disappointed...again.

On that day I discovered a seed of grace, faith, and beauty that has remained ever-present for me in some form.  I found a way of communicating with myself that simultaneously touched a deep place of longing and also felt like a homecoming.  I found practice.

As a trained professional dancer, I understood the value of disciplined practice.  What felt so different to me about Yoga and meditation was the absence of a goal, culmination, or public presentation.  This created a significant shift in my perception, which at first was not altogether exciting.  It was hard to orient toward my inner witness, to practice without striving or reaching for something different or better or definitive.  It took a long time for me to realize, in an embodied way, that Hatha yoga (the physical practice) was a gateway toward meditation--the practice of sitting/witnessing/holding spacious awareness.

After 25 years, what I know about practice is this--it's about showing up as you are--joyful, expansive, faithful, inspired, clear, distracted, heartbroken, angry, confused, resigned, or apathetic.  It doesn't really matter because the practice is here as a way to engage with ALL OF IT.  We don't have to be better or more in shape or happier or even in the mood.  We DO have to show up to get the benefit.  We have to be somewhat willing to look a little deeper, to feel a little more, to be with our distraction and discomfort.  

I'm not saying this is easy.  It often isn't.  But it's what we've got.  We've got this body, this mind, this tender heart, and the capacity to take some action in relation to our suffering.  Cultivating a practice allows us to discover an abiding and steadfast ‘center’.  When we anchor into our practices we can notice the winds of change are always blowing--and in this recognition we may find some more space and ease and perspective amidst the ever-changing conditions.

When we anchor into our practices we can notice the winds of change are always blowing—and in this recognition we may find some more space and ease and perspective amidst the ever-changing conditions.
— Rachel Heron

Since that pivotal moment in 1992, I have followed a few different life paths, each one strong in its own right, each one essential for clarifying the next phase.  I have learned that life is deeply mysterious, non-linear, uncontrollable, and unpredictable.  I know what it feels like to make choices from fear and anxiety, and I also know what it feels like to make choices from a place of inner wisdom and guidance.  While we don't know what lies ahead, we can take responsibility for our actions and do our best to make holistic choices that support our deepest well-being.

As I was turning 40, I started getting hints that my next round of work in the world would be connecting with women at potent times of their lives.  This lead to a rich and rewarding bunch of years as a birth doula--truly a time of concentrated vitality and major life transition!  And in the midst of that work, I was continually asked by yoga students and bodywork/doula clients for something else as well--they were seeking guidance around how to be in their lives more fully, presently, healthfully--they were looking for ways to alleviate suffering.  It became clear to me that my next move was to formalize a counseling practice that could address these inquiries.  And it was just at the time when my doula energy started to wane (at age 45, staying up all night with a mama in labor is not ideal!) that the form of the counseling practice really started to blossom.

These last many years I have been refining a modality I call "Intuitive Somatic Counseling". I catalyze real, lasting change for women in transition who want to create the next phase of their life with more clarity, satisfaction, and nourishment.  The basis of this work combines compassionate listening, gentle bodywork, and strategic coaching in order to help you access your inner guidance.  In affirming your own intuitive wisdom, we co-create potent daily routines and rituals that will inspire and sustain the changes you want to make.

And this brings me back to practice... We learn to show up, to engage, and to be with what is.  We can make small incremental shifts and over time we notice something new arises.  There is sacredness in the mundane, as we bring presence and mindfulness to the myriad details of life.  In this modern age of abundant technology, stimulation, and options, it is my great pleasure to connect with women on a healing and awakening path: co-creating, exploring, and living in our vitality and radiance. "

Always Behind on any Trend but LOVE the Simplicity and Practicality of the FITBIT!

Always Behind on any Trend but LOVE the Simplicity and Practicality of the FITBIT!

I didn't get my first iPhone until the day before I was leaving for a two week bicycle tour from Oakland to LA. That was just THREE years ago and as it was, the phone was a refurbished iPhone 4. On that trip, I didn't even know about Instagram so I was using my sunglasses over the camera lens as a warming filter. To this day, I still only use the standard default Instagram filters. Pretty sad for a pro photographer, but I'm definitely not one to embrace new technologies. I know it's sometimes a hindrance, but I like my personal time to be free to hike and hang with my husband and to read books (obviously not on a Kindle). I definitely don't want to spend my free time staring into my phone (which I seem to be doing more and more unfortunately). I sometimes like to sing (to the tune of the wedding song at the end of "Napoleon Dynamite") Iiiiiiii hate technology.....!

So when I received a free Fitbit as a thank you for photographing a couple of Fitbit events, it was no surprise that I couldn't get it to work with my iPhone 4. Since I wasn't about to run out and get the latest iPhone just so I could try out the Fitbit, I watched it taunt me for over a year. Then I decided I needed to upgrade my phone when I realized I needed to up my camera phone game (since I AM a photographer). I went out and got a refurbished iPhone 6 right after the seven's release (yes, I'm cheap and figured the six's camera was probably fine).

Out came the Fitbit the day before I left for a vacation in the Pacific Northwest. I figured if I got my start with the Fitbit on the right foot (no pun intended), then I might actually be motivated to use it long-term in my weight loss goals. I was immediately addicted to the great annoyance of the very Northwest hippie friend with whom I was traveling.

I originally wanted a Fitbit because I was curious about my sleeping habits. I knew I was a light sleeper, but wanted to see just how restless I was and when I learned that the Fitbit could monitor my sleep habits, I decided it would be worth it. Way cheaper than paying for a sleep clinic/study. Plus I don't usually sleep well when I travel (especially because I drink a LOT more wine when I travel) so I wanted to compare my sleep habits on the Northwest trip to my regular habits. Surprising results: not too different after all, plus even though I AM fairly restless during the night, I'm getting way more sleep than I thought. It would be interesting to have a sleep specialist analyze my sleep patterns and that's the next step when I have the funds, but for now, I feel ok with my results.

Then I discovered the other great benefits of the Fitbit: Real time calorie in/out tracking and being motivated to try to do 10,000 steps a day. I'm a stress-eater and I've probably mentioned ten times in the past year that with the stress that goes with mid-life career shifts, starting a new business and worrying about my family in the midwest, I've gained about 15 pounds and want to lose them. Not easy at 50 even with my healthy paleo-ish eating habits. I remember when my sister-in-law started counting her steps and joked that she would walk around their condo before going to bed to get to her 10,000 step goal.

I totally get it now. Twice in the past week I've had my husband put on dance music and I walked and danced around until I got to the goal. It's made me completely and totally aware of how little I actually walk around on a typical day. I work at home so I don't even have a commute to add to my step count (I walk across the yard) and even though I stand at my desk which may burn a few more calories than sitting, it's not adding to the step count. That doesn't add up very quickly and I realized, although I love my NYT 7 minute workout, followed by my 5 minute stretch routine (great way to make sure I work and stretch every part of my body almost every day), it's definitely more of a maintenance routine than for weight loss. When I discovered the calorie-in (food log) counter on the Fitbit, it became a whole new ballgame for weight loss. Now, not only was I completely aware that I wasn't moving enough to lose weight, but I also realized just how much it takes to burn more calories than what I was eating. It really does come down to calories in and calories out for weight loss. There's just no way around it and there's no easier way to keep track than the Fitbit. I'm sure Weight Watchers has a similar calorie counter, but to tie in (with Fitbit) with the calories out equation is so seamless it's brilliant. The day I discovered the food log on the Fitbit and how easy it was to enter and keep track, I was immediately hooked.

The other night, I not only realized I needed more steps, but I also had a lot more calories to burn to cover the food I had already eaten and quite frankly the food I still wanted to eat. Hubby and I were having a fun Friday night dance party (we often do this - just the two of us) and I wanted to snack. SO I upped the ante on the movement. Not only did I dance, but I decided I would be the more active one for the sexy part of the evening if you know what I mean. So Friday, not only did I end up with 10,872 steps, but I also burned 2,149 calories to the 1,929 that I put in. real time results. If I had not had that information at my fingertips, I guarantee you, I would have eaten WAY more and would not have been motivated to move as much as I did.

The best bonus that has resulted in only 1.5 weeks of using the Fitbit is that I started swimming. I'll probably write a post about my swimming goal for my 50th year, but in a nutshell I decided I wanted to learn to swim laps. Not only would it be less stressful exercise on my aging body, but I also wanted to enhance my meditation practice and had heard that swimming was meditative. SO when I saw that just my NYT 7 minute workout and the limited steps I took in a typical day wouldn't be enough to burn the calories I needed to lose weight, I was motivated to go to the pool and JUST DO IT. It was easy enough to manually enter the swim workout into my Fitbit so I could count those calories, plus the bike ride to the pool counted too! Voila! Since I started keeping track of my calorie intake last Wednesday, I have managed to burn more calories than I have eaten every day. Today will be difficult since it's a rainy Sunday, but I hope to make it up this week - or maybe we'll just put the dance music on tonight, have some rollicking sex and I'll manage to keep up the good work (update - it worked! I burned more calories Sunday than I took in!).

For weight loss, this is probably the easiest thing I've ever done (and let me tell you, I’ve tried a lot over the years) and if I have to wear it like a leash for as long as it takes to lose the weight, but then continue so that I understand how much I really need to work to keep it off, I'll do it. To go into my 50s, building The Healing Farm business as healthy as I can be is motivation enough to keep a tracker on my wrist. Sad, but true and once I start really seeing the results, I will likely be even more ok with it!!!

Dance, walk, swim, sex and bike on! It’s all hard (except the sex), but it’s the cheap way to weight loss! The Healing Farm. Cultivating Practical Wellness.

 

 

"Let Your Heart Speak to Other's Hearts" | THF Women's Health Retreat

Thank You to All Involved in The Healing Farm's Women's Health Retreat!

"Let your heart speak to other's hearts." Found on a yogi tea bag, yes. But it's one I saved for a couple of years and had posted on my magnet board in my office. After the women's health retreat I truly found out what that meant to me in my quest to find myself and my new career journey. Obviously it spoke to me in my time of great change and I felt moved to to keep it. As I watched several women working diligently on their "manifestation" boards at the retreat and then thrilled at the results, I realized I wanted to do one too. I didn't get a chance to complete it (I barely started going through magazines when I had to run off to set something up for the next scheduled activity - or three!) so when I took my "staycation" the week after the retreat ended, I had a chance to work on this worthwhile exercise. The yogi tea bag quote finally found its place. So did the fortune cookie fortune that's been taped to my refrigerator door for a couple of years ("Your talents will be recognized and suitably rewarded.").

What the incredible group of women at the retreat showed me is that I truly do want "my heart to speak to other's hearts". On day one of the retreat when I was introducing myself and the team, I mentioned that I am not a specialist. I'm a generalist. That some of the women at the retreat would surely know more than me about health and nutrition, but what's becoming increasingly clear is that I like bringing people together. I want to bring educators and practitioners together in a beautiful setting to teach natural health solutions participants can build into their everyday lives. I want to share the joy and healing journey in my heart with anyone who will join me and I realized that I could actually do that in this new career journey. I learned as much from the women at this retreat as they learned from the talented educators and practitioners I brought together in the beautiful place that is Mayacamas Ranch. So at long last, I want to share my absolute gratitude to the participants, the team and Mayacamas Ranch!

The Participants

Thirty beautiful women and five team members. I was blown away by the enthusiasm, sharing, encouragement, breakthroughs and loveliness of the group of women who came together for this retreat. We welcomed women of all ages even though the retreat was focussing on menopause and indeed we had a wide range of ages. My guess? Maybe from early 30s to early 70s. What a wealth of knowledge coming from these wise and wonderful women. Old friendships were deepened, new friendships were forged. We ate, we hiked, we laughed and we cried. We had mothers of young children who weren't even close to menopause but who wanted to sincerely learn how they could best prepare their bodies for big changes (or who just needed to rest with clean food, exercise, fresh air and a digital detox). We had mothers of young children who were getting close to menopause, we had women who had never had children, we had grandmothers. We had cross-generational inspiration, we learned together and we had fun! We were all already talking about the next retreat so I need to get one on the calendar!

If you want to read a participant's take on the retreat, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion when I read Sarah Kay Hoffman's blog post. She wrote it the day after the retreat (even with THREE kids to tend to at home!). You can read it here:

Dr. Amy Nett, M.D., Functional Medicine Practitioner and One of the Smartest People I've Ever Met

Dr. Amy Nett Clinician with Chris Kresser

Geez this woman knows her stuff. Of course I shouldn't have been surprised that one of Chris Kresser's staff clinicians at The California Center for Functional Medicine would be so knowledgeable. At last year's retreat we had the brilliant and passionate Chris Kresser himself as our keynote speaker and were all blown away by how knowledgeable his staff nutritionist Kelsey Kinney of "Healthy Gut, Healthy Life" was. How fortunate were we this time around to listen to two well-planned and informative lectures by Dr. Nett about what you can do to best prepare your body for menopause through nutrition and also about hormone balance. I wasn't surprised that Dr. Nett added several new patients to her calendar during and after the retreat! THANK YOU Dr. Nett!

Emily Boorstein: Life Coach and Creator of the "Inner Fitness" Program

 Life Coach Emily Boorstein of the Inner Fitness Program

Life Coach Emily Boorstein of the Inner Fitness Program

This was Emily's second time speaking at a THF retreat and there's a good reason for it. I recognized through my own journey through midlife that it wasn't just my body going through major changes. I felt like in addition to Dr. Nett's contributions about the physical aspect, we needed to also cover the emotional experience of midlife. Emily graciously covered life-lessons learned through motherhood for all the mothers in the audience, but all of those lessons learned early on through her own personal growth translated well into how to gracefully and solidly tackle the emotional roller coaster that is midlife and menopause. Every time I hear Coach Emily speak, I pick up little nuggets of information that later on end up applying to (pick one or all): a wake up in the middle of the night panic attack (something I never experienced before menopause), a stewing in the shower about something my husband said that made me mad, a sitting in traffic and wanting to flip someone off or even an emotional transition to a new president. My favorite tip from Emily that I use all the time in my life is how to not panic. If I feel some kind of emotional turmoil coming on and want to react, I can now reach into my "Coach Emily toolbox", step back and consider whether this is something that is going to end the world or if it's something I can truly tackle without false emotion. I will forever be grateful to Coach Emily for her support, enthusiasm and contributions. She helped me through my true midlife crisis when I realized I was never going to be a mother and she will always be in my heart for opening hers.

Amanda Crutcher: Yoga Instructor/Yoga Therapy/Meditator Extraordinaire

Amanda Crutcher knows anatomy and ohhhh how to work with those yoga therapy balls! She cares so deeply about her participant's safety and bodies. Probably because of her Iyengar yoga background, Amanda really focusses on the physical aspect of yoga making sure her participants understand the postures and the anatomy behind them. It's really good training - especially for beginners and to prevent injury. She also brought out yoga therapy balls at her last class. From a practicality standpoint, using the balls at home (safely) is great. It's like being able to give yourself a massage and is great for deeply loosening those knots. I learned this technique at Rancho La Puerta with tennis balls, but the various sized yoga therapy balls were even better. Amanda also graciously opened up her one hour twice daily meditation practice to all the attendees. This is where her deep spirituality came out. Her calm presence and grace surely comes from her deep meditation practice. Something I hope to explore with her in the future.

Diane Gibbs: Massage Therapy and Feldenkrais

This was Diane's second THF retreat as well. Her talented hands were in great demand. Who wouldn't want a glorious massage by well-trained hands while on a retreat? Diane ended up completely booking up, so I was thrilled to bring on my dear friend (and someone who has done massage on me countless times) Angela Bausch. Thanks so much to Angela for bringing her experienced hands to our retreat!

Diane also brought her love for and practice of Feldenkrais to this retreat. As at the last retreat, a lot of the participants had never heard of Feldenkrais, but most experienced beneficial effects through this gentle movement practice. 

Mayacamas Ranch!

Once again I can't thank the staff at Mayacamas Ranch enough. Miguel once again knocked the paleo ball out of the park with his cooking, the rest of the staff was warm and welcoming and the property - even in the wintertime - was as peaceful and beautiful as ever. Seeing the milky way in the clear winter night sky, the fog in the valley on our early morning hike, the steam coming off of the pond, hearing those funny frogs loud and clear every night when going to bed - and that cozy bed! You can't go wrong with Mayacamas Ranch as your home base for a retreat!

And Then There was Karma.....

 Karma Moffit and his Tibetan Bowls

Karma Moffit and his Tibetan Bowls

How do you top off what you know may be an enlightening weekend for your participants? I always say I don't want The Healing Farm to be too hippie dippy or new age and then I bring in a man named Karma. But, I've been going deeper into my own meditation practice as I move through this midlife of mine and all its changes and have been inspired by the crystal bowls meditations I've experienced at Rancho La Puerta. Since I was introducing various forms of meditation into this women's retreat I thought it might be nice to top off the last night with a crystal bowls meditation. My intention was to have Danielle Hall of Sound Embrace perform, but she ended up being unavailable. Through other contacts I found this man named "Karma" who plays tibetan bowls. He performs all over the world and had even performed at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for a labyrinth meditation a few nights before the retreat. Now this is a man who has lived life and he didn't hesitate to tell us all about it. I love great characters who embrace life and whatever comes their way and although I might have been able to do without the high pitched conch shell blowing, it was great to be in a room surrounded by women I brought together, surrounded by deep vibrating sounds delivered by someone who has so obviously embraced life fully and taken the less-traveled path. Karma's heart truly speaks to other's hearts. I was so grateful he joined us to top off the retreat.

So what did I get out of The Healing Farm's Women's retreat? Hope and especially ENCOURAGEMENT for the future of The Healing Farm AND This Manifestation Board Illustrating my Hope for My Future and the Future of The Healing Farm.

 I think it's no coincidence that this board came out of me on inauguration day, 2017. My hope is for a bright, inclusive and healthy future for all.

I think it's no coincidence that this board came out of me on inauguration day, 2017. My hope is for a bright, inclusive and healthy future for all.

As many times as I've muttered "Namaste" at the end of a yoga class, I've never known what it meant and never bothered to take the time to look it up. Coach Emily taught us that one of the translations is "The light in me sees the light in you."  I feel like we all experienced this at the women's retreat. I certainly experienced sharing my heart and felt like my guests shared theirs with me. I think I'm ready now to take the next steps with The Healing Farm. It's still scary and I still have doubts but when a dear friend sends you a link to Sia's "The Greatest" when you express fear of the next step you listen to her heart speak to your heart and so it goes and so it goes. Let your own midlife be a midlife renaissance no matter how scary it might be. Moving beyond your fears and your comfort zone will help you breakthrough to be your "greatest". 

See you all at the next retreat! 

All of my love and heart - Julie

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!

 

 

Something YOU can Control in Many Cases - Your Health!

 From the Washington Post

From the Washington Post

As someone who may be effected by possible upcoming changes in our healthcare system, the Washington Post article in my Google newsfeed today caught my eye. It's really not just that the new administration may make changes that could effect millions of people that made me look at this article, but also that I'm trying to start a business that will help us all realize that we don't have to be so dependent on our current healthcare and insurance industries to relieve some of our chronic conditions. I suppose that might be what the new administration is trying to say by dumping the Affordable Care Act, but alas, they are not talking about prevention to avoid high healthcare and insurance costs or programs which teach people how to avoid those costs to begin with.

This Washington Post article is such an eye opener about just how much we are spending in the industry on health conditions that CAN be preventable and in many cases managed through diet and exercise. The thing is that having someone else do the work for us (procedures, surgeries, pharmaceuticals, etc) is WAY easier than doing the hard work ourselves and if someone else is paying for it - all the better, right? But the thing is we're ALL paying for it, whether through government programs OR through our escalating coverage costs through private work plans. I remember when I was in my mid-twenties and some of my chronic conditions started rearing their ugly heads. I had really good insurance through my employer. I thought nothing of going to the doctor every couple of months (thinking that I really wasn't paying for it). Getting tested for this and tested for that. Getting this prescription and that prescription...fast forward twenty-something years and I'm self employed with terrible health insurance. I had to re-think my approach to dealing with all of my chronic conditions (which seemed to be multiplying with age). 

In walks functional medicine. Digging deep with a practitioner to figure out the core issues that might have been causing all my misery over the years was the easy part (and the most expensive but still far less than what I've spent over the last twenty years). Doing the work to naturally rid myself of these conditions was the hard part. But considering I came out the other side of the treatment and commitment almost 100% chronic pain and condition free has inspired me to re-think our healthcare industry. For sure there are treatments and meds that save lives and relieve pain - if I hadn't gotten an appendectomy several years ago, I would not be typing here today! But in reading the Washington Post article it's right there in black and white that we really CAN be controlling these out of control healthcare costs if we are actually willing to bite the bullet and do the hard work. To lose the weight, to become more fit and to alleviate some of those chronic conditions naturally and ultimately at a much lower cost AND to not be so dependent on treatments and prescriptions can save all of us literally TRILLIONS of dollars.

The Healing Farm and The Healing Farm | Retreats concept is all about prevention. I want to inspire other people struggling with one, two or multiple chronic conditions, auto-immune diseases, obesity and all that comes with it, to try the preventative route. Start with an elimination diet to reduce inflammation in your body. This may help with not just your physical chronic conditions, but also your emotional state as well. Two books that I used and will always recommend are: "The Paleo Cure" by Chris Kresser (what my Healing Farm Retreat's meal plan and concept is based on) and Dr. Kelly Brogan's book "A Mind of your Own". If you are still suffering after your elimination diet, then it might be time to see a functional medicine practitioner to get some blood work done. This is the expensive part and is probably not covered in your insurance plan (something that needs to change!), but if it reveals a host of underlying issues (in my case a parasite living in my system and deficiencies in some key vitamins) think of how much money in co-pays and prescription costs you may save in the long term by figuring it out in one fell swoop and then tackling the cures naturally!

As I said, we've gotten so used to depending on our healthcare and insurance system to cure our multiple ills - but it's at a huge cost for our country. Envision healing centers throughout the country that are affordable and all about preventative measures and natural healing. It could do us all a world of good both in our bodies and in our pocketbooks!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Health!

Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue - Program Developed by Chris Kresser's Nutritionists - I Guess I'm not REALLY Going Nuts. I'm just N.U.T.S!

I've written a bit about the stress I've been under running an established business, starting this new business (The Healing Farm!), going through a personal family crisis, taking business classes, holidays and on and on. It's really amazing how chronic stress takes its toll no matter how well you take care of yourself with your diet and exercise. I would say I've been going through extreme chronic stress for at least six months - something I will strive to teach people to avoid once The Healing Farm is established, but something that may be unavoidable while I transition my career and try to start this new business. 

When Chris Kresser announced this webinar and program called "Paleo Rehab" that his two nutritionists created I felt like it couldn't have come at a better time. I signed up for the webinar immediately and then woke up yesterday morning feeling like I couldn't get myself out of bed. After completing a ten-week business plan class the night before, I needed to jump right back into room assignments and getting out final link payments for the Mayacamas Ranch retreat participants (plus I'm leaving for a week-long photo shoot out of the country tomorrow!). I was barely (and late) out of bed just settling in with coffee in hand for my morning routine of reading the news, answering light e-mails and my workout when my husband started ranting about something regarding the presidential campaign. As the "f" word started coming out of his mouth, I stopped him and said my psyche couldn't handle a rant at that particular moment. When he looked at me as if I lost my mind, I think I kind of did lose my mind. I broke down into hysterical crying.  This has happened a couple of times over the past few months so he kindly sat down with me and we talked about the amount of constant stress I have been under for the past seven months. He had some really great suggestions like "you need to start thinking about how much you're piling into your schedule" and the fact that I haven't been myself for months (among other things). When I finally calmed down, I opened my calendar and up popped the reminder about the stress webinar! Serendipity.

I decided to take it easy on myself and recognizing that my body and mind were near complete exhaustion, I read the news leisurely and decided I couldn't handle even my NYT Seven Minute workout. By the time I was done reading the news and answering e-mails, it was time for the webninar. I actually enjoyed two hours of much-needed cooking and cleaning time (something I haven't been able to do regularly for months - Brennan has been eating frozen pizzas multiple times per week for dinner for crying out loud) while I listened to Chris, Kelsey (both of whom will be speaking at the Mayacamas Ranch retreat) and Laura talk as if they were using me as their worst case scenario patient. if you went through the N.U.T.S acronym with me -  and here it is from Chris' site:

4 key factors that determine how we respond to stress

So what determines the intensity of our response to a particular stressor? Research has identified four key factors: (1)

  1. The novelty of the event
  2. The unpredictable nature of the event
  3. A perceived threat to our body or ego
  4. A sense of loss of control

Some researchers and clinicians use the acronym N.U.T.S. (novelty, unpredictability, threat, sense of no control) to refer to them. I think that’s perfect!

...I was experiencing all of the above only over multiple events and months. I was also interested to learn that as someone who is in peri-menopause, the symptoms of chronic stress and adrenal fatigue can be intensified and I'm more vulnerable. So I'm not really losing my mind then. I think I'm in some severe adrenal fatigue experiencing these symptoms:

  • Weight gain (I eat with stress and although I eat well, to make it worse, sometimes I can't keep my mitts off of tortilla chips! I get organic, but I'm guessing they are fried in industrial seed oil)
  • Chronic back pain is starting to creep back in
  • Extreme fatigue and although I'm still an overall happy person, depression seems to be creeping in
  • Brain fog - which didn't help with my ten-week course
  • Cold hands and feet (Brennan commented on "Jack Frost Nipping at My Nose" last night too)
  • Skin breakouts
  • Panic, agitation and anxiety
  • A sense of hopelessness and doubt
  • On and on the symptoms matched up with what Chris, Laura and Kelsey were discussing

After the webinar a strange thing happened. I decided that despite it not being a good time for us financially, I needed to tackle this chronic stress and fatigue immediately so it wouldn't cause long-term harm so I committed to going through the program (at my own pace). When I finally got into the office, I answered a phone call from one of the Mayacamas Ranch attendees who told me how inspired she was by what I was trying to do with The Healing Farm. As I've planned these retreats, but especially the Mayacamas Paleo Reset Retreat, I've heard from so many people around the country that this is something that is needed and wanted:

  •  A program that focusses on a paleo reset type diet in which one learns to reduce systemic inflammation, therefore reducing or even eliminating symptoms of chronic pain and illness
  • A program that is reasonably priced
  • and mostly a program that a features realistic non-intense exercise program (and after listening to Chris yesterday I was wishing I had a Tai Chi instructor coming)
  • In a beautiful place where one could go and unplug, rest, gently exercise and eat a meal plan that is non-toxic and inflammation-reducing 

This phone conversation completely validated what I've been trying to accomplish in the past year with The Healing Farm concept. I don't want to kill myself pursuing it, but if I can find the right people to build this dream with me, maybe I can make it a reality. A glimmer of hope set in again yesterday afternoon and I was again thinking of the impeccable timing of the webinar. I decided then that I still didn't have the energy to dig into final payment setup on The Healing Farm site, so went over our personal finances, sorted and filed piles of papers from my desk and then went back into my cozy home to spend the evening with my husband eating the nutritious food I cooked during the webinar, quiet time listening to music together and then a little "business time" on a Wednesday night (a little reference to "Flight of the Conchords"). 

I wish I could say I woke up feeling like a million bucks this morning, but I managed to get myself out of bed at a reasonable time, managed to do my workout and get to work at my regular hour and before tackling The Healing Farm Mayacamas Ranch booking stuff, I'm going to walk out onto the avenue in the warm sunshine to run some errands before leaving town tomorrow. I think it's going to take a while until I can get myself back to the "normal" Julie, but the smartest thing I think I can do for myself right now since the stress won't stop until end of April is sign up for the "Overcoming Fatigue" program and get some much needed guidance and support for my road to recovery. Here is the link in case you want to check it out:

 

Thank you to Laura and Kelsey (and Chris) for doing this important work!

 

 

 

Women's Health Retreat Highlights!

Wow! What a day we had for the Women's Health Retreat this past Saturday! Held at Headlands Center for the Arts in the Marin Headlands, we had gorgeous weather, terrific speakers, great exercise and a terrific group of women. Despite being the facilitator and running around a good portion of the day making sure everything was running smoothly, even I walked away from the day feeling inspired and relaxed!

I first want to thank our lovely participants for taking the time out of their busy lives to gather and to talk about a not-so-easy transition in life. You were all inspiring in your own ways, so open to discuss and so full of good spirit. Truly appreciated! 

Secondly, thank you to our speaker Marnie Reasor, CCH of Resplendent Healing! Coming all the way from Tennessee, we were all fortunate to listen to two informative lectures giving us her gathered knowledge from over fifteen years experience working on natural healing of female-specific health issues. You can see a partial list of the tips she distributed at the end of this post. She covered a lot more, so I would highly recommend contacting her for a consult!

We ALL raved about the food! Katie Powers, exclusive caterer for Headlands Center for the Arts is a passionate advocate of sourcing local and organic foods for most of her cooking. She went to her local farmer's market the day before our event to shop for the incredibly fresh ingredients she used for our two meals. I heard more than one person say they felt like they were eating freshly picked lettuce right out of the garden. She also took great care in presenting everything so beautifully for us AND took the time to talk to us about what we were eating and where it came from. Truly another highlight of the day!

Jessica Prentice of Three Stone Hearth was another highlight and dang does this woman know her stuff about whole foods and ancestral cooking! She talked to us about the nutritional benefits of bone broth (I make my own, but seriously - consider ordering some from TSH - theirs is incredibly gelatinous (read: NUTRIENT FULL) and eating whole foods all-the-while showing us how to make a chock-full of nutritional goodness spring nettle soup. I'm now kicking myself for not have the energy to go to the Farmer's Market the next morning to get nettles from Happy Boy Farms. I have lots of leftover containers of Three Stone Hearth bone broth in my fridge and would have loved making the soup this week! Asking a group of women to quietly sip our soup sample in silence so we could appreciate the flavor was not easy to do, but I think most of us were stunned into silence at the incredible flavor and obvious nutrient-dense soup. Then we instantly started talking again because we couldn't help raving about the soup! 

Topped off by a bit of light exercise, between the hike and Dr. Alicia Thomsen's restorative yoga session, I think I can speak for us all saying we walked away from the day feeling stretched, relaxed, informed and having truly enjoyed the peace and gorgeousness of Headlands Center for the Arts and the Marin Headlands. We all probably would have loved to spend a little more time on Rodeo Beach, but there was some more learning to do!


Here are some tips from Marnie and the nettle soup recipe to leave you with. What a great day!

For hot flashes

Know your triggers like:

  • Spicy foods
  • Hot drinks
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Heavy Exercise, saunas and hot tubs
  • Toxins in food and personal care products 
  • Minimize wheat, sugar and dairy
  • Large meals

What you can do:

  • Exercise moderately 
  • Stay hydrated!
  • Dress in layers
  • Keep a fan in the bedroom

Sounder sleep tips

  • Blackout curtains, earplugs, eye shades
  • Sleep between 10:00PM and 5:00AM
  • Natural Calm powder
  • Remove any blue light from bedroom (computer, phone, no wifi router)
  • Epsom salts bath or foot bath before bed
  • Alternate nostril breathing

Resources

  • Marnie's consult!
  • The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change by Christine Northrup, M.D.
  • The Natural Center for Homeopathy: Homeopathy Center.org
  • Environmental Working Group Guides

NETTLE SOUP RECIPE by Jessica Prentice as published in her book Full Moon Feast

SPRING TONIC NETTLE SOUP - Copied from Edible East Bay's Online Published Version February 16, 2015 in Soup

This recipe is adapted from Jessica Prentice’s Full Moon Feast (March 2006) and is printed with permission from Chelsea Green Publishing.

Some important notes about nettles: If you’re picking wild nettles for eating, don’t touch them with your bare hands, and harvest only the top 4 inches of the plant. In the kitchen use tongs or a large fork to pick them up. You may want to remove the thick stems from the nettle tops before cooking.

Serves 3–4

2 leeks, cut into rounds
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
¼ pound stinging nettle tops
1 bouquet garni
1 quart chicken broth, filtered water, or other light chicken stock made without vegetables or herbs
(A strong stock will overwhelm the flavor of the nettles: The broth from Three Stone Hearth would be perfect for this recipe.)
2 egg yolks
½ cup crème fraîche
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste

Sauté the leeks in the butter or olive oil. Add the stock or water and bring to a boil. Add the nettles (being careful not to touch them with your bare hands!), bouquet garni, and stock or water. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until the nettles are very soft.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and crème fraîche.

Remove the bouquet garni from the soup, turn the heat to low, and purée using an immersion blender, adding a generous pinch of salt and a grind of pepper.

Take a ladleful of soup and stir it into the egg mixture. Return the egg-nettle mixture to the soup and stir gently over very low heat (do not let it boil again).

Grate some fresh nutmeg into the soup, taste, and add more salt as necessary to make it savory and delicious

Variation: Add a handful of sorrel leaves to the soup for a lemony flavor. ✦

 

 

 

A Day (or Three) in the Life of the Paleo Reset/Yoga Retreat at Mayacamas Ranch!

I thought it might be fun to post a day or two in the life of the Mayacamas Ranch Paleo Reset/Yoga Retreat which will feature the first week of Chris Kresser's recommended Paleo Reset featured in his book The Paleo Cure

I was fortunate enough to work with Chris directly to work through some pretty major long-term chronic conditions like migraine-like  sinus headaches, chronic back pain, chronic indigestion, fluctuating weight (still haven't quite resolved that one), restless legs, chronic fatigue, low libido, etc. What I attribute to my long-term success is not just my direct work with Chris, but a big part was the paleo-reset. I learned that I have slight allergies to gluten and dairy and have to be careful with my alcohol intake. If I go overboard on any of these things, my conditions start creeping back. 

Let me tell you the reset is not easy, but you CAN get through it (it's a month of your life for lifelong changes in your health and well-being), but  as I went through it I started dreaming of being in a lovely place, exercising every day with people who were also going through the reset AND having someone else do all the cooking! That's when I hatched the plan of the first week of the paleo reset as a retreat and am incredibly happy that Chris agreed to do a keynote at the beginning of the week along with Q&A and booking signing. Then we will have one of Chris' nutritionists, Kelsey Marksteiner with us all week to cheer us on along with two lectures and private consultations by appointment AND a special appearance by Diane Sanfilippo, popular paleo blogger of "Balanced Bites" and author of The New York Times best-selling book "Practical Paleo". What a line-up!

Adding in some wonderful gentle exercise every day (or more rigorous if you choose) and some really great relaxation and pool time, it will be an ideal setting to kick off your reset and life-long changes. Just be sure to get your wine tasting in the Friday and Saturday before the retreat begins and stay tuned for a bit of direction on how to prepare your body for the reset!

Here is a sample of what our days will look like:

Sunday, April 17

4:00 - 6:00        Check in

6:00 - 7:00         Dinner

7:00 - 8:30         Keynote and Q&A with Chris Kresser

8:30 - 9:00         Book signing

Monday, April 18

6:30  -  7:00      Coffee and light snack available

7:00-  7:45        Morning mini-hike

7:30   - 9:00      Breakfast buffet

9:00   - 9:50      Beginner’s progressive yoga

10:00 - 11:30      Intermediate/advanced yoga

12:00 - 12:30      Swim clinic

12:00 - 1:30        Lunch buffet

1:00   - 2:30        Nutrition lecture and Q&A

2:30   -   6:00     Pool time or optional hiking field trip to local state park

6:00   -   8:30     Dinner

8:00   -   9:00     Evening campfire

Treatment appointments and nutrition consultation available by appointment

Tuesday April 18th

6:30  -  7:00      Coffee and light snack available

7:00-  7:45        Morning mini-hike

7:30   - 9:00      Breakfast buffet

9:00   - 9:50      Beginner’s progressive yoga

10:00 - 11:30      Intermediate/advanced yoga

12:00 - 1:30       Lunch buffet

1:00   - 2:30      Cooking Demo and talk with Diane Sanfilippo author of "Practical Paleo"           

2:30   -   6:00    Pool time or optional field trip to local organic garden and farm

6:00   -   8:30    Dinner

8:00   -   9:00    Campfire

Treatment appointments and nutrition consultation available by appointment

 

Alicia Thomsen Joins the THF Menopause Retreat as our All-Level Yoga Teacher

Alicia Thomsen

Happy to announce that Alicia Thomsen, certified yoga instructor and chiropractor has joined The Healing Farm's Women's Health retreat! Alicia is a Marin resident and yoga instructor at Yogaworks and will be a terrific addition to our retreat.

From her bio:

"Dr. Alicia Thomsen combines over 17 years of experience as both a Chiropractor and Yoga teacher bringing a unique combination of skill, sensitivity and creativity to her work. Her practice specializes in natural solutions to reduce pain and inflammation by combining the principles of Chiropractic, Advanced Muscle Reconditioning (AMR) and Nutrition."

Alicia was excited to accept the challenge of coming up with a class that focusses on women in the 45-60 year-old range faced with the challenges of keeping up with healthy exercise during a major body transition. I can't wait to take her class and hope you will be there too!

How Chris Kresser Changed My Life.

chris kresser

That's a big statement. I know. But I can passionately say it with conviction. It's why I'm so thrilled that today Chris announced in his newsletter that The Healing Farm will be producing a week-long "Paleo Reset" retreat April 17-24, 2016.

Why do I want to produce a week-long retreat featuring Chris' work? Because I want to shout from the mountaintops that you do not have to live with chronic conditions or you can significantly reduce the debilitating pain or discomfort they may cause in your life.

When I was going through the first week of my paleo reset I longed to be with like-minded people with whom I could talk things through. I wished I could consult with Chris as questions popped up. I wished I could have someone show me how to make bone or chicken broth. I wished I could have someone make it easier for me by preparing the foods that would help me change my life. So after I worked through my own reset and cured my own chronic health issues I was inspired to share my journey and change my own life with a career change. I now had the energy having lifted all of the chronic conditions that were weighing me down.

I was fortunate enough to meet Chris through a mutual friend. Through our friend (who is also my massage therapist (Angela!) Chris and his wife hired me to photograph their maternity session. Having done body work on me for years, Angela was intimately knowledgeable about all of my chronic conditions and asked if I knew what kind of work Chris was doing. When I found out about Chris' work, I immediately contacted him about my health issues. I was lucky enough to get in with him and began working with him. He was the first to tell me that living with all of my discomfort was not normal and that I could probably overcome at least some of these issues. Having ruled out an auto-immune disease (although this could still be a contributing factor) and getting rid of a parasite in my system, Chris encouraged me to try his "paleo reset" elimination diet. This was even before he had written his book which when first on the shelves was called "Your Personal Paleo Code"

What I loved about Chris' approach and the first title of his book is that he's really pretty hands-off. Even though I didn't have much money to spend, I was desperate to keep meeting with him because I was so encouraged to know that I could probably live pain-free. Chris really encouraged me to listen to my own body throughout the process and to find what worked for me. Basically after a few months, when I wanted to schedule a follow up he asked me if I was still feeling better. I said yes and he said, well then you know what works for you. Keep at it. 

It's now about five years later and I'm happily living (almost 100%) without the following conditions (most of which I had been living with since my mid-twenties (I'm now 49):

Add "chronic" to all of these conditions:

  • fatigue
  • sinus headaches (so severe most people would consider them migraines)
  • indigestion (sometimes so bad I thought I was having a heart attack)
  • low libido
  • restless leg syndrome
  • weight fluctuation
  • and finally the straw that broke the camel's back (no pun intended) chronic back pain that started about eight years ago

What was so incredible to me was that by simply changing my diet (I'm mostly gluten and dairy free) and strengthening my core, I could literally change my life. Living with chronic conditions is debilitating. I was living my life, running a business, in a successful marriage, but struggled every day to pull myself up by the bootstraps to live my life. If you had asked me seven years ago after the chronic back pain set in that I would be 49 years old, almost pain free and would have enough energy to work on switching my career I would have laughed. Sometimes I wished I could just curl up in a spot of sun like a cat and spend the rest of my life like that. That's a pretty sad state to be in. In the past year since working toward starting The Healing Farm, there have been some times when I've been so elated I would say I was having "mountaintop moments". I didn't think I could feel that way in my life any longer and I hadn't felt that way since my early 20s since the first symptoms started creeping into my life. I laugh these days and say that instead of having the seven year itch in my marriage (we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary last June) my husband and I are in our seven year renaissance. That feels REALLY good to say. Now when I'm tired, it's because I'm literally running two businesses, am experiencing a typical mid-life family crisis and well, I'm almost 50!

So, do I want to get people together for a first week of their paleo reset? Do I want to give 40 lucky individuals a chance to unplug in a gorgeous location and listen to Chris Kresser speak and answer their questions? Do I want to make the first week of meal prep easy (non-existent) for the attendees, do I want people to be able to meet one-on-one with one of Chris' nutritionists. YES. And I want to continue to shout from the mountaintops that you can change your life and it can be a simple few changes that can get you there. 

So join us for this incredible week. The hills should be green and lush from El Nino and we can all experience the beginnings of change together.  Sign up for Chris' newsletter or "like" his Facebook page to find out a special coupon code to get a 10% discount and sign up by December 1st on The Healing Farm site to get into a drawing for one free pass for the week (based on double occupancy)!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness