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!

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 Midlife Changes Affect Your Financial Planning for the Future? 3rd Act Retreat Speaker Catie Fitzgerald’s “Visiting” Blog Post: Focus on Personal Finance in Retirement

Catie Fitzgerald is a three-time Healing Farm retreat participant. I first met her smiling face at the Paleo Reset retreat with Chris Kresser. It wasn’t the first time I spoke with her though; she made a point of calling me right before she booked her spot at that retreat to let me know how inspired she was by what I was trying to do with The Healing Farm and The Healing Farm | Retreats. You could say she was one of my first cheerleaders and supporters. Catie has fascinated me ever since with her intelligence, grace, zeal for life and zeal for learning and health. She has recently completed her training to be a nutritionist in a midlife career shift from twenty years in financial planning. I am constantly impressed with her quest for knowledge and her brave midlife career shift and feel she is the perfect fit for speaking at our upcoming retreat.

It was at a small group discussion I put together at our Women’s retreat this past January that another retreat participant suggested I not only put on a retreat for those going through a shift from midlife to retirement years, but also that Catie be a speaker. As I started putting together The 3rd Act Retreat with our main workshop speakers, Patricia Cavanaugh and Ellie Klevins of The 3rd Act, I realized I still wanted a nutrition component since I strongly feel that getting a solid base to your health in your mid-years can help propel you to have the energy and focus to strive for a more meaningful and true “you” for your later years. Getting down to the bottom of chronic conditions (pain/illness and discomfort) is a key part in having the energy and capacity to free your mind to move forward. Personal finance is also key to releasing yourself from the unwanted weight of financial stress.

Catie’s expertise in both areas, as well and her own decision to make big changes in her midlife to prepare for her 3rd act should be an inspiration to us all and I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about nutrition and finance at the fall retreat. Finance in particular since I feel like I’ve already figured out the nutrition part (now it’s just a matter of sticking to it!), but the finance part is still pretty shaky for me. Especially while in the process of letting go of the “old” business and starting the new as I prepare for my own 3rd Act. Let’s hear a little from Catie!

Personal Finance in Retirement: Guest Blog Post by Catie Fitzgerald

In preparation for conducting the personal finance session at the upcoming retreat hosted by The Healing Farm (The 3rd Act: Renewing Your Purpose and Passion Midlife, I was astounded to discover that the topics I deemed important to teach in 2006 at the tender age of 41 lacked the substance required by the 52-year- old I am today.  My life has changed so much, and I’ve grown in many ways including in emotional intelligence, comfort in my own skin, and maturity (not sure what that means but I’ll leave it for now).  

My personal finance program for retirees consisted of the following learning modules:

  • Creating your retirement paycheck
  • Investing during retirement
  • Long retirement fitness (what does that mean?)
  • Reverse mortgages

The content, although accurate, is dry and lacks the visioning that I insisted all my clients go through via several activities as I helped them plan for retirement.  Why was the 41-year- old version of me able to help my clients dream of retirement but when it came to helping them live it, I fell short (if I use the courses I created for retirees as a yardstick)?

The 52-year- old version of me knows what happened.  That 41-year old really didn’t relate to the mid-life retiree. She was still building her professional life, building several businesses on the side (multiple streams of income, baby!) and had recently purchased her first house. Retirement seemed so far away from her “now” and so foreign to her modus operandi of work hard, save, and invest. She understood the mechanics of actually retiring, and she was good at teaching others how to do it, but she lacked the connection to the person who would someday in the near future live it.

Her favorite question was, “What does retirement look like to you?  What will you do with your time? Who will you interact with on a regular basis?”  She liked to share her vision of retirement as a situation in which she no longer worked for a paycheck to cover her bills and expenses and instead would spend her time in pursuit of other activities simply because they filled her soul. She declared she would continue to work in a profession of her choosing regardless of the financial return.  These “labors of love” plus her investment portfolio, savings account, and whatever minuscule social security benefits she received would provide for her financial well-being.

The mechanics covered in my courses for retirees (see above bullet points) have value in helping people enjoy a financially fulfilling retirement.  Understanding these “do’s and don’ts” will contribute to a retiree's successful navigation of the fine balance of spending and investing to prevent outliving one’s financial resources.  However, these suggested moves and strategies do nothing to invigorate, ignite, and inspire retirees to make their 3rd act something truly rewarding for themselves or the people they interact with on a daily basis.

The well-intentioned, idealistic 41-year- old I was in 2006 had some good ideas and insights. She just lacked the perspective that comes when you cross over the “mid-life divide.”  I now have the perspective of one who has crossed the “divide, ” and I look forward to sharing new and innovative ideas for making retirement and your third act an adventure worth your energy, time, and commitment.  Will you join me at the retreat in October?

 

   

Announcing Yoga and Bodywork Practitioners for the Fall 3rd Act Retreat!

Excited to announce our 3rd Act retreat practitioner line-up!

Strength Training

Our nutritionist/finance lecturer and three-time Healing Farm retreat participant, Catie Fitzgerald will be offering a special 30-minute light strength building class. Women in mid-life have some very specific needs, especially in regard to building/maintaining healthy bones, regulating hormones (i.e., thyroid, adrenal, etc.), preserving flexibility and balance, and preventing heart disease so we've included this 30-minute functional strength training class lead by Catie.

Yoga and Guided Meditation

I believe yoga (practiced safely and at your level) to be one of the best well-rounded physical activities for any body, but especially for the aging body. I don't do it on a regular basis, but sometimes practice at home on my own or using videos. Every time I get back into it, I appreciate the way it opens up and stretches my body, but also how it makes me focus. It's meditative in it's own right when you truly focus on your poses and your breathing. I'm excited to announce our yoga practitioner for the 3rd Act retreat!

I've known Rachel Heron for several years now and have traded massage for photographing her headshots and yoga poses a couple of times. She's a woman of many talents and has a truly caring practice on many levels now incorporating her more than 20 years experience as a yoga instructor and bodywork practitioner into her life-coaching practice. Although we will not be utilizing Rachel's coaching practice at this retreat, we will experience her deeply caring yoga practice daily and her talented hands as an overflow massage therapist (after Angela's schedule fills up!). Rachel will also lead us in one of our guided meditation sessions.  "Rachel's yoga classes are vigorous, deep, and anchored in therapeutic alignment principles. Her aim is to help students experience a profound inner stillness. We do this by bringing mindful awareness to our physical bodies, engaging our fullest breathing capacity, clarifying the energy body, and investigating the space between our thoughts. Students will leave class feeling alive and refreshed on all levels." You can schedule a private yoga session with Rachel by clicking here.

Bodywork

I've know Angela Bausch for many years and have gotten countless massages from her! I included in the gallery above one of the maternity photos I took of her many years ago. I think it demonstrates her joy and embrace of nature and life. It's who she is at so many levels. Angela has recently moved her practice from Berkeley to Sebastapol, but still comes to Berkeley once a week and shares office space with Chris Kresser. This is how I originally learned of Chris Kresser's work - which of course is what has set me on my current path of healing and career/life change. I feel like it all stemmed from Angela so she holds a particularly special place in my heart. Plus she has very talented and caring hands and will lead you to a blissful state during your massage sessions! You can click here to schedule a massage at the retreat. You can schedule a massage in advance of the retreat!

Guided Meditation - take two!

The entire team agrees that meditation - even a few minutes a day (I do about ten minutes a day a few times a week) is incredibly important in midlife. Meditation calms the mind. It helps you connect to who you are at a deeper level and helps to re-direct your obsessive and stressful thoughts (I think most of us have those) to a place of calm deep within. It truly is life-changing (it even reduces inflammation!) and so we're incorporating guided meditation sessions in the schedule led by different members of the team so you can get well-rounded advice on how to start (or deepen) your practice. There will also be an art meditation session led by me!

QiGong 

QiGong and Tai Chi are also great meditative practices that incorporate safe, light movement and light strength conditioning. We will be including an intro to ChiGong at this retreat and will announce the practitioner soon!

Looking forward to joining you on the mat, seeing you in guided meditation and seeing your blissful faces after your bodywork. Most of all, I hope to see you and hang out with you at the retreat!

 

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! 

"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!