Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chinese Medicinal Detox

In keeping with my current detoxification kick, I'm taking a 4-session class on detoxification taught from the perspective of Chinese Medicine. I'm quickly learning that the amount of knowledge out there on detoxification is staggering. There's ancient sources of knowledge like Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, more modern holistic approaches, and there's also, of course, Western Medicine/Science. They all have their own particular spins on detoxification, but they also have similarities that run through them.

In the second session of the Chinese Medicine class, the instructor looked at all of our tongues and categorized each of us as belonging to 1 of 4 constitutional types. (It was quite bizarre, but cool). He told me I was "definitely a 3," which is normal heat (or yang) but deficient yin. In order to increase my yin, I need to eat cooling, moistening food, and along with that I am supposed to eat "salty" foods like fish and seaweed (both of which are apparently cooling and moistening). Everyone in the class, regardless of their constitutional type, is supposed to reduce heat by eating bitter foods - many of the same foods that are known for their detoxification affect.

I also learned that the liver has two phases of detoxification. In the first phase the liver and its enzymes activities the toxins, in some case making the toxins - which had just been floating around the body or hanging out in the body's fat layers - toxic. In the second phase, the liver and its enzymes grab hold of the toxins and usher them out of the body. In order for the body to effectively eliminate toxins, both phases must operate efficiently.

When people go on dramatic fasts such as multi-day juice fasts or programs like the master cleanse, phase 1 is kicked in to high gear and masses of toxins are dumped into the body. This is why, for example, when fasting you often get a headache or suffer symptoms like exhaustion or weakness. There are simply too many toxins flooding the body for the body to grab and eliminate. I had often thought that using colonics or enemas to purge the bowel would effectively rid the body of the toxins released through fasting. However, according to the instructor of my Chinese Medicine class, purging the bowel just purges the bowel, it does not eliminate all of the bodies toxins.

What's the solution? It's quite interesting because it's based on providing the body with the nutrients it needs to support phase 2 activity. So, instead of forcing the body into a crisis state by depriving it of nourishment through dramatic fasts, a more effective way of ridding the body of toxins is apparently to nourish it so that it can operate the way it was designed to at the most optimum level. By the way, I believe that limited fasts of a day or so are beneficial for the body, mainly because it gives the digestive system a break, but that's different than a multi-day fast that, in addition to providing the digestive system with a rest, could cause a mass release of toxins.

It makes sense that gentler release of toxins into the body, one that the body could manage, would be better than suddenly releasing years or months of built up toxins. It's a like a stream with a few pieces of garbage floating on its surface. Standing on the edge of the river, you could easily fish out the individual pieces of garbage as the floated by. However, if someone upstream were to crack open a massive damn holding back a junkyard full of trash, your efforts to fish out the garbage as it floated by would be completely overwhelmed because of the sheer mass of garbage. The garbage would get by you and end up polluting the areas downstream.

It's the same with the body. We have to get the toxins out of the body, but we have to do it in a slow, steady, and sustainable way, rather than a sudden and dramatic manner. What I love about this approach (found in Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and holistic healing theories, but lacking in Western Medicine) is that it emphasizes harnessing the body's own power to heal itself. It's not about prescribing a pill here or a shot there; rather, it's about providing the body with the proper nourishment it needs to thrive.

Does this new knowledge mean that I've cut out all stimulants and other inflammatory agents and switched over to a strict diet of moistening, cooling foods? No, not by a long shot. But, I am becoming more conscious of my body's needs, and the way my choices regarding what I put in my body affect it, and I'm starting to make small changes. Change starts with awareness, and that's where I'm at at the moment - becoming more aware.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Doing some grocery shopping the other night in the natural food market near my house, I discovered these "goodbelly" pro-biotic and nutrient packed fruit juice shots. The last two days, I brought them to work and had them as a snack, once in the morning, and today in the afternoon. They're tasty, only 50 calories, and my stomach feels terrific. Not stressed out, tight, or uncomfortable in any way.

It could be that my stomach feels so great because I've been doing very little work today, focusing instead on signing up for holistic health classes and catching up with friends (a girl has to have her social life!), but it's also possible those little goodbelly shots work. I'm all about promoting digestive health, so I think I'll try a few more days with the shots and see how my tummy feels. Apparently, a lot of dis-ease starts in your digestive track, so if you have issues there, it's important to address them, and things that increase digestive health are a plus.

Not for nothing, I couldn't help but notice that goodbelly is made by Swedes. Figures.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sayonara Starbuck's (and Plastic Bags)

Yesterday was Earth Day 2008. (You know what is really amusing? My first attempt at writing that sentence came out like this: Yesterday was Earth Day 2002. Temporary Brain Glitch). In any event, as I was saying, yesterday was Earth Day. Did you participate? Take any eco-friendly action, become more eco-conscious (like learning about sterile "terminator" seeds engineered not to reproduce themselves)?

I'm excited and proud of myself because I implemented two changes this week to reduce my Ecological Footprint. Both of them are just little things, but they're positive steps in the right direction. Thinking about climate change, air pollution, disappearing bees, bats, tuna, and wild salmon, and the type of massive change and international cooperation that is going to be necessary to save the planet (and us) is too overwhelming. But, thinking about the little things each of us can do, step by step, to contribute to a more positive world, is totally within the realm of the possible. Here are the 2 little things I started this week:

1) Carrying a small reusable bag in my purse: I have an adorable little vinyl bag that I can fold up into a tiny square and keep in my purse. I've started carrying my breakfast to work in the bag, and also using it at lunch when I go out and buy a sandwich. Instead of using the paper or plastic bags all the lunch places automatically pack your food up in, I use my own bag (and even sometimes carry my co-workers food back to the office). It also comes in handy if I pick up something little - food or other things - after work. On Monday, I had a totally plastic-bag-free day. I want to build up to plastic-bag-free weeks, and eventually go totally plastic-bag free. That's one of my goals for this year.

2) Saying sayonara to my daily cup of Starbuck's: My friend Sage had the brilliant idea (she does it every day) to bring a french press to work and to store loose-leaf tea and coffee at her office. Each morning, she makes her own coffee or tea at work and uses a real mug. I've had quite a long love affair with Starbuck's but it's time to say goodbye. The coffee is not that good, it's an unnecessary expense, and most importantly, I generate unnecessary garbage by patronizing them. At a cost of $2 per cup, I spend at least $480 per year on Starbuck's, and toss at least 240 paper cups into the trash every year. That's horrible! I want to clean up my own act and start living in a more sustainable way. Today, I'm happy to report, I used no disposable items to make my coffee, and it tasted quite good!

What eco-friendly little things do you do? What could you do?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ayurvedic Doshas

I've been reading about Ayurveda lately, and I'm finding it fascinating. Ayurveda began initially as a means towards facilitating attaining enlightenment. Yogis seeking enlightenment couldn't get there with their heads aching, stomachs grumbling, and skin itching, so Ayurveda developed as a way to get the body in order. In the mind-body-spirit connection, Ayurveda focuses on healing the body so that you can be free to heal your mind and spirit.

Within the 5,000 years of Ayurvedic knowledge is lots of practical health information and wisdom. It starts with determining what of the three Ayurvedic doshas is most prevalent within you. You can think of a dosha as an element. According to Ayurveda, three elements make up the human body - Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha - and each person has a main body type that is one of those three elements. The dosha body types, in turn, have general guidelines for maintaining health and balance through such things as food choice and lifestyle. Permeating all of this is a sense of mindfulness and balance - two things I have come to believe are essential and highly desirable in life.

I, apparently, am a Vatta. I'm also apparently a Vatta with a Vatta imbalance (although I'm working to balance out!). I have a little bit of Pitta, and almost no Kapha. Vattas are air; they are in their heads, very sensitive, constantly thinking, obsessing, feeling anxiety. Vattas in balance are all of those things, but enthusiastic and grounded, something they can achieve through grounding activities like yoga and meditation.

Reading about Ayurveda and Vattas has been like an unfolding revelation. It's put the last couple of years, where I was so clearly out of balance, and then the last year where I've been working on attaining balance by exploring practices like yoga and meditation into perspective. One way of looking at it is to say that I have been trying to balance out my Vatta - unknowingly - by adding more Kapha (basically, chillness) into my life. I'm just an Ayurveda baby, so there's lots more to learn, but so far I think it's pretty freakin' cool.

Don't you want to know your Dosha? Take this quick quiz and find out. Namaste.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Guilty Pleasure

I read recently that a good line to use when meeting someone for the first time is "what's the most embarrassing song in your Ipod?" I'm not sure about that, but the question made me ponder what I had in my Ipod.

My current response to the question, hands down, is currently Miley Cyrus's "See You Again." I discovered it this weekend when I was trawling the apple store looking for new running songs, and since then have listened to it running down the East River, commuting around town on Sunday, and before Court this morning to psyche myself up. Yes, it's by a girl half my age. Yes, she has a show on the Disney Channel. Yes, I'm pretty sure she lifted the main base line from the 80s classic "I wear my sunglasses at night" (she didn't know! she wasn't born then).

Despite all of that, the song is unequivocally awesome. I dare any of you to listen to the song and tell me otherwise.

Here's a snippet of the lyrics:

The last time I freaked out, I just kept lookin down
I st-st-stuttered when you asked me what I'm thinkin bout
Felt like I couldn't breathe
You asked what's wrong with me
My best friend Leslie said, Oh she's just being Miley
The next time we hang out, I will redeem myself
My heart can't rest til then
I can't wait to see you again

You really can't get the full effect without listening, so take a listen. It's addictive.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Commute Enhancing

Many months ago, my friend Simone bought me the book You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay. The book, in the vein of The Secret, but more practical and how-to oriented, is about the power of your thoughts to create your future - the power of thoughts to create your reality. It starts with recognizing negative thought patterns, moves to identifying where the negative thought patterns and beliefs came from, and then moves into how eliminate and release them from your mind.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book to me is the author's conviction that releasing negative thoughts, and replacing them with positive affirmations, can actually heal the body of illness and disease. That idea sounds far out there in a way, but it appeals to me because I do quite strongly believe in the mind-body-spirit connection. It makes sense to me that if your mind is filled with negative thoughts and negative energy (which I felt like my post of yesterday was a bit), those thoughts and energy could impact the health of your body in a negative way. Conversely, if your mind is full of positive energy, it seems eminently sensical that the energy could have a positive effect on your body, whether its boosting your immune system or creating more dramatic types of healing.

When Simone bought me the book, I was genuinely interested in reading it, and I had a sense that messages that I was ready to hear and learn awaited me in the book's pages. But, life, work, and relationships all proved distracting (sometimes pleasantly so, sometimes stressfully). In my moments of free time, instead of picking up You Can Heal Your Life, I found myself gravitating towards other books, mainly in the contemporary fiction genre, like Wind Up Bird Chronicles and Kafka On The Shore (both of which I really liked, and would recommend).

A few days ago, however, I had a brilliant idea: Buy the book on tape! Or, more precisely, buy the DVD of the book, and download it onto my Ipod. Really, I have to give Bacchus some of the credit for this brilliance because, for Christmas, one of the things he asked for were books on tape. He's very busy with his work and spends a lot of time in the car, and wanted to use that time in productive, mentally-enriching way (or, maybe he just wanted to read Ulysses). I thought it was cute of him, but didn't think to apply it to me, because I really enjoy the act of holding a book and reading it. That's how I like to experience books.

"Self-Help" books are different than novels and other types of books. Novels, I like to escape into. I like to fully absorb them and allow them to fully absorb me. With self-help books, you're not escaping into a different world, you're opening yourself to listen to lessons, messages, and tips - things that, I have found, are sometimes better in small doses. Hence, listening to them in small pieces on the way to work, on the subway, and waiting in line at Starbuck's all work perfectly! (Btw, I don't really like the "self-help" term, and I'm not sure if it's the most appropriate term. On the other hand, any books trying to help you grow as a person are, at their core, about helping you help yourself, so maybe it is an accurate term?).

The last two mornings, I've really enjoyed my walking-subway-in-line-for-coffee commute listening to You Can Heal Your Life. I'm about half way through and I'm finding the book full of useful information and positive, self-affirming messages. I'm really excited about the book, and I'm super excited about this "new" way of using my Ipod and making the most of my morning commute.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cascade of Events

A cascade of unfortunate events, that's how I would describe the last month and a half. It started with the Italian Man - after 3 relatively terrific months (and fantastic sex) - flaking out and me breaking things off with him. Great sex and getting wined and dined and driven all over New York were fun, but, in the end, they were not worth me sacrificing my self-respect (obviously), so I had to give him the figurative boot.

Even though it was ultimately my decision to end it, it was still a little disappointing because - up until the point where he showed a side of himself that I had not seen before - I had really started to like him. I guess that's why we date though, to come to know people over time, and to learn more about what we want and need out of a partner, and what we want out of ourselves.

While that situation was playing itself out, I came down with MRSA, a staff infection resistant to normal antibiotics that is apparently raging through the gyms and public transportation systems of New York right at this very moment. (Watch out!). After a series of doctors, I finally found an infectious disease doctor who diagnosed me correctly and prescribed me with super sulphur-based antibiotics to combat the MRSA. Things seemed to be looking up. It turns out, however, that I'm allergic to sulphur-based antibiotics, and as a result, I had a rather extreme allergic reaction to the antibiotics which lasted for almost a week (because I had no idea I was feeling so gravely ill from the antibiotics - I thought it was the MRSA). By day 5 on the pills, I was so sick -- from days of fever, chills, a constant headache, no appetite, and physical exhaustion -- that I felt too weak to roll over in my bed to have a drink of water.

Thankfully, I had done some research on the web on allergic reactions to sulphur and by day 5 got suspicious enough so that I stopped taking the medicine. Within 24 18 hours of taking the last pill, I -- almost immediately -- started feeling remarkably better. It was kind of amazing how quickly I started to improve once the medicine started to clear out of my system. My infectious disease doctor, when I finally was able to reach him, confirmed that I was having an allergic reaction, applauded me for stopping the medicine, and prescribed new non-sulphur-based antibiotics.

I got better just in time to work like a dog (where does that expression come from? poor dogs) for a few days before leaving for a brief trip to Mexico, which was supposed to be a relaxing, rejuvenating mind-body-spirit vacation. The vacation itself did not live up to my expectations, but I think the real problem was that I had a number of huge deadlines scheduled for the week immediately following my vacation. Thus, I wasn't really able to decompress fully while in Mexico. I found myself walking down the beach, after just checking my blackberry, trying hard not to think about work, but unable to clear my mind. I learned some valuable lessons, of course, such as the importance of not scheduling anything, if you can help it, for the week after your vacation. It almost totally defeats the purpose getting away, when you're unable to mentally get away because of what's looming on the horizon.

Since coming back from Mexico on the 4th, I've been working non-stop, around the clock. Although I had expected things to be busy, I had no idea just how intense work was going to be. Twelve days without a break is not fun, let me tell you. Walking through the office at midnight the other night, glancing out the window at the twinkling buildings, I was suddenly brought back to a year ago, at my old firm, when late nights were the norm. It was not a pleasant memory, and I most certainly do not want late nights to become a norm once again. It's also hard feeling so disconnected; from friends, from myself. When I go through those phases, where it's work and work alone 24/7, all of the other things that make up my life - the things that matter in my life - fade away into the background and lose them, temporarily. I lose touch with my life.

As you can tell by this post, now I have a bit of a break. I finished a huge project yesterday afternoon and went to therapy for the first time in weeks. I caught up with a few friends and family members over the phone, and am now catching up through writing this. I'm going to Swedish class tonight for the first time in weeks, and aim to go to they gym tomorrow night - again, for the first time in weeks (more like months). I'm crawling out of the cocoon, as it were, bit by bit. Cocoon is really not an accurate metaphor. Swirling sandstorm of chaos filled with asteroids and other dangerous objects would be a better one. Deep, dark pit also comes to mind.

In any event, where ever it is that I've been, I've started climbing out of it. Yay! Here's to hoping the end of the week brings more sleep, friends, connections, and better health (for me, and all of you). Cheers.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Absolut Says "Bite Me" America

Oh, you crazy Swedes, now you've gone and done it. With your off-kilter sense of humor you went from vodka to immigration and allegations of anti-US sentiments in 1.2 seconds flat. Didn't anyone ever teach you not to mix stiff drinks with politics?

It's very amusing to me that Absolute picked Mexico as the focus of its ad. Seems like they could have picked just about anyone who has lost in history and plucked on their nationalistic heart strings: The Aztecs before the Spaniards; Native Americans before the Europeans; Palestinians before Israel; Israelites before the Diaspora; Russia before the end of the Cold War; Vietnamese before the Vietnam War; Koreans before the Korean War; Pakistanis and Indians before the British; Africans before cololialism; and the list goes on and on. And let's not forget the Vikings before they calmed their sea-faring ways.

I don't believe for a minute that the Swedes are conducting a not-so-covert advertising blitz aimed at encouraging Mexican nationalism and drumming up anti-US sentiments. Probably, someone at Absolut just came back from vacation in Tulum where they fell in love with Mexico and happend to pick up an inspiring old map of the region. History is interesting, after all. I for one have an old map on my wall of centuries ago when the Swedes ruled huge sections of Denmark and Norway (Go Swedes!).

Some things really should not be taken so seriously. I mean, really, don't the people worried about the US's reputation have bigger things to worry about? Isn't there a war going on?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Maya Tulum, Maybe Not

For anyone out there considering a "mind, body, spirit" vacation at Maya Tulum, down in Tulum, Mexico, I would advise you to reconsider. Having just come back from Maya Tulum, I can report that the beach and facilities were great, but the mind, body, spirit program left a lot to be desired - mainly because, with the exception of two mediocre yoga classes a day that left me more annoyed than relaxed, there was no "program" of which to speak. It was more like a regular old resort than a wellness program.

In addition, the place was managed very poorly. The general manager told us he had just fired a large group of his staff, so it's possible Maya Tulum was just having a bad week. That might explain the waiters that could not understand our orders, the long delays in getting served at meals, and the general lack of organization. It does not, however, explain the lack of seamless-ness that characterized my experience there. For example - this is a small but telling detail - breakfast was not served until 8 am each morning, the same time as the morning yoga class began. That meant that each morning you had to think about when you were going to eat, because it hadn't been organized sensibly beforehand.

When you go on vacation - particularly one you intend to be a wellness vacation - you don't want to worry about anything. You want to lay back, do you your yoga, and revel in positive energy. When things run seamlessly, you don't have to think about anything other than how beautiful the water is, and whether you want to attempt a head stand in yoga class.

Although I still had a wonderful time despite some of the sub par elements, I would not recommend Maya Tulum. It pales in comparison to last year's Bikini Boot Camp at Amansala, a place I would unequivocally endorse which left me feeling mental, physically, and spiritually rejuvenated (and totally blissed out). I do have to give props to one thing at Maya Tulum, which rocked over Amansala: the spa services. Fabian, Leo, and Sergio rocked my world in terms of providing fantastic drool-worthy massages and body treatments. I've been missing them big time since returning to my hunched-over office quarters.

I would suggest staying at Amansala and then walking down the beach for a few body treatments at Maya Tulum during your vacation. Also, stick with the male masseuses. Sorry lovelies, but unless you know the woman you're getting can channel some serious strength, and assuming you like a firm, hard rub-down (and who doesn't), I would say the male masseuses are a safer bet than the women.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Decluttering Obstacles

I'm hunkered down in my office, where I've been since returning from Mexico on Thursday, working on a deposition outline. It's slow going. Compiling my potential exhibits and drafting my questions is like wading through molasses. I have to keep reminding myself that, come Wednesday, life will once again return to a state of relative calm. Relative being the operative word, because actually April is shaping up to be a rather busy work month. Rather too busy for my tastes, I must say.

Oddly, the major thing I wish I was doing right now, instead of sitting in my office, is working on my room. About a month ago, I was suddenly hit with the all-encompassing desire to finally, once and for all, organize my existence. I had made valiant efforts at cleaning up the clutter in the past - purging - but they had been short-lived and stunted in terms of the scope of my goals. It's like, prior to a month or so ago, I couldn't really see the clutter that was surrounding me. It didn't bother me. I saw it as a positive personality trait: I was laid back, not anal, able to exist and focus in the midst of seeming chaos.

But, then a flip switched. I confess that I think it happened in part after I spent some time at the Italian Man's place. His place was so perfectly ordered and quite beautiful. His bathroom was sparkling and spotless, his kitchen was bright and airy, his bedroom was minimalist (the bed was - not surprisingly - the height of comfort). All of his furniture was nice wood, not a scrape in sight, and his apartment was decorated with striking pieces of art. In short, his apartment was put together and adult. It also was inviting and had nice energy. When I went over there the first time, I couldn't get over how nice it was, and I felt a little like a kid playing dress-up - pretending I was an adult in such an adult environment.

Then I started thinking of my place, and how, for the past two years, I had been living temporary states of limbo, first after I moved in to EXBF's place and had to give up my gorgeous studio and put most of my things in storage, and then after I moved in to my current place under an illegal sublet situation. In the beginning of March, my living situation changed for the better. I got to stay in my place as a legal tenant and because of how everything worked out, the management company loves me. Always good to have the management company on your side. In short order, I had the management company fix my shower and take care of the mouse that had been plaguing my existence. And then, just in time for Spring Cleaning, I threw myself in to ripping out the old, spackling, and painting (as some of you saw in my partial before and after pictures).

Since that switch flipped, it's all I've been thinking about. I've opted to forego drinks in favor of staying home and working on my IKEA wardrobe. Walking down the beach in Mexico, I felt a compulsion to be back home, getting my things in order. Last night, I dreamt about my furniture and how I'm going to organize my t-shirts and work shirts. And, now, today, while I should be focusing on this massive project I need to get done asap, I'm twitching in agitation, wishing I was back at home sorting my belongings into "keep," "toss," and "goodwill" piles. Twitching in agitation. I'm obsessed.

I have an obsession and work is keeping me from it. I feel like I'm chomping on a bit and can't go anywhere. On a positive note, I have made a lot of progress, and when I'm all done, I believe I will have transformed not only my physical space, but also at least part of my mental space. I think that's why I'm so obsessed. The curtains have parted and suddenly all I can see is how essential it is to make my environment mirror the calm I want in my mind. It's kind of cool - and very uncharacteristic of me - be obsessed about this. I'm excited by it.

Now, if only I didn't have to do this work... I have important things to do!