Category Archives: health

The Little Things

Love and Life are found in the little things.

I had a conversation with my mentor recently in which we discussed the meaning of Life. As we were talking, I came up with an image, of sorts, to represent what I was trying to convey.

In much of Western medical thought life begins at the top of a pyramid, which is represented by the functionality of the heart, lungs, and brain. Life. From there it trickles down to the rest of the human experience, widening as it goes.

Life pyramid 1

Life as a top-down approach.

Indeed, Life can be defined scientifically like that, but I tend to disagree. Life, it seems to me, is a bottom-up proposition. Life is defined by all the little things that make it worthwhile for the heart, lungs, and brain to keep working. Life is found in the broadest expanse of the pyramid, comprised of tiny events, feelings, and experiences.

Life Pyramid 2

Life from a bottom-up approach

For who is to say that Life doesn’t continue in the hearts of others when one’s body has decided to leave? I think it does. We have a word for it: Legacy. I call it Love.

Love is all the little things. It’s the knowing smile from across the room that makes you feel instantly relaxed, assured, and at peace. It’s the tiny hand reflexively reaching up for yours as you go to cross a street. It’s the wag of a tail when you come home after a long day. It’s the whisper of the words “good night” when you’re too tired to speak. Love is a million little things that make it worthwhile to wake up the next day. Love is also the memories we hold in our hearts allowing others to live on in us.

Love is found in the little things. It’s the immeasurable moments that collectively create Life.

Remembering to Listen: an unexpected lesson

Recently, I was in Florida for a family wedding over a long weekend. It was fantastic! But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing because I was reminded of something very important during my trip, and I wanted to share it.

Our bodies have innate wisdom.

All too often we have a tendency to ignore the messages from our bodies. I know I have. Throughout my life, I have always been able to “push through” almost anything. We’ve even championed the ability to rally when fatigued by giving it a name: a second wind. Instead of heeding the warning signs (the messages) we carry on and ask more of our vessels than they should willingly give. Like good soldiers, however, our bodies often comply, even to their detriment.

Over the weekend, Florida was hot. Hot and very very sunny. There was little reprieve in the shade unless there was a nice ocean breeze. I was fine for the first two days, knowingly keeping myself outside in the earlier hours and inside during the heat of the day. The fact that we had a scheduled event also helped, as it required more inside time.

The Sunday after the wedding, however, was not really scheduled. It included a late family brunch, which pushed the outside time into the middle of the afternoon heat. I thought I could “rally” and that I could ask my body to show up for me without concern for how hot and bright it was. I went to a Farmer’s Market during the peak hours.

My body raised a little warning flag. I didn’t listen. I asked it for a little longer, to wander the market with my mom and see some interesting things. As we walked, my body raised the flag even higher. I found myself uttering phrases like “Wow, is it hot,” “This sun is crazy,” and “I can’t believe these people sitting out in the sun like this.” The last sentence came up several times in different versions.

I wasn’t “sitting in the sun” therefore it was easier to externalize the wisdom shouting at me from inside my body: “GET OUT OF THE HEAT, you crazy girl!”

I finally heeded my body’s warning and stood in the shade wherever I could find it. It was too late. The heat and sun had already started to take their toll on me, and I now had to walk back to the hotel.

It was a short walk, with no shade along the way. I asked my body to step up and push through, promising it rest and AC ahead. Alas, rest was available, but no AC. Inside the little pool house at my uncle’s apartment complex there were ceiling fans, which helped, but weren’t enough to cool me down. My bathing suit was in the hotel a little further away, so no jumping into the pool either.

I sat for almost an hour, willing my body to cool itself down. All the while, getting sicker and sicker. I drank water, put my feet up, and rested. Nothing helped. All I could hear inside my head was the sound of my own body whimpering in a corner, as I tried to engage in conversation with my family while I rested inside the pool house, pretending everything was alright. Once more, I was asking more of my body than it could give, ignoring its pleas.

Eventually, I went back to my hotel, collapsed on the bed in the AC, and there I lay for about an hour allowing my core temperature to lower. I’m sure if I had had a thermometer with me, it would have been off the charts. Heat stroke? Perhaps a mild case. I googled it as I was lying there, begging forgiveness of my vessel. By that time, my body simply ignored me as it had more important things to focus on.

The point of this entire story is to illustrate how often we ignore the warnings signs and wisdom of our bodies. We ask a lot of them on a daily basis, and they usually comply without a lot of argument or issue. In this instance, I asked too much, and my body let me know. Had I listened to it sooner, none of this would have happened. Had I adhered to the wisdom I already knew (that I don’t do well in heat or strong sun), I never would have gone for a walk to begin with. But I didn’t, and I got sick.

It occurred to me then, that if my body were my child, I would never have asked the same of it. And it made me wonder how many of us do the same. In many ways, our bodies are like our children. They are entirely dependent on us for their well-being. We (our minds) are the parents providing sustenance, protection, and opportunity for our bodies to be and do their best. How would things change if we started to look at our vessels in this new way? Would we still eat junk food? Drink tons of caffeine and sugar?

In my opinion, we do those things in order to ask more of our bodies than we should, or than they should be willing to give. We silence them through substances, rather than listening to the innate wisdom within.

As for me, I was much better within a few hours and back to normal in less than a day, with no lasting side effects… other than a newfound respect for the relationship I have with my body and a desire to listen more and demand less.

Feeling Stressed?

Stress can be like wind on the surface of water: temporary, changing, and totally outside of our control.

We often feel stressed and anxious because of circumstances in our life that we cannot control or influence. (Usually, actually, we think we can, which contributes to the level of stress we experience.)

Therefore, it’s important to know which type of stress you’re dealing with. In my experience, there are two types:

  • surface stress
  • deep stress

This week, I’m looking at surface level stress, because it’s the one we can deal with most readily, since it’s predominantly external. For that metaphor, let’s liken stress to wind blowing across the surface of a lake, causing ripples. The water deep underneath might be calm and clear, but the surface looks like a hot mess.

It’s this stress that’s truly temporary. Additionally, 9 times out of 10, the key to alleviating this stress is to remember that the vast majority of the water (what’s underneath) is calm and unaffected by the wind.

The wind can be anything from a child’s or boss’ tantrum, to a bad hair day, or traffic, or not having enough milk for your coffee in the morning, or even…

…family, friends, colleagues and social media. Basically, it can be anything external to you.

Like the wind, it’s outside of your control and often has nothing to do with you personally. The key to restoring balance is to understand and remember these three things:

  • the surface is not the story
  • the wind is temporary
  • the calm beneath is the truth

If you can keep these simple ideas in mind, it will help you navigate any stressful (windy) situation with more grace and ease. There’s comfort in knowing that, at your core, everything is okay. In fact, I would argue it’s the best way to live. 🙂

Living Optimally

So – it’s been a week, and what a week it’s been. Yours truly has been knocked down by the flu. Not sure whether it was just the common flu or the H1N1 strain – but whatever it was, it definitely got me. Which brings me to this week’s topic: Living Optimally.

A dear friend of mine recently shared her new life mantra with me, and I love it. It’s “Be happy now.” What does that mean exactly? Well, my interpretation is that it means that she is making decisions based on that idea. For example: if there is a choice to make between two things (as many of us experience this holiday season), she might look at the options through the filter of what will support her mantra of being happy now. Living in the moment. Too often we feel obligated to accept all invitations. As such, social commitments sometimes become a chore or a task, rather than a celebration. Now – this isn’t to say that you have to turn people down, but it does put a different perspective on things. If you have two holiday parties to go to on the same night, then you have the power to make the decision to choose one or the other – or both! More importantly, however, you also have the power to CHOOSE how you are going to approach the evening. Will you look at it as an overwhelming commitment? Or will you look at it as an opportunity to celebrate relationships and enjoy the moment? It’s your choice. Be happy now.

But let’s take this back to my experience with the flu. Last week I told you about Dr. Darren and Dr. Tom’s work. A major part of their work incorporates the idea of The Five Basics for Optimal Health, which are: ‘The quantity, quality, and frequency of water, food, rest, exercise and owning one’s power.” Of course, this is nothing new to most of us – except for, possibly, the “owning one’s power” part. But that relates back to what I just said about choice. As for the other four pieces – well, they’re just common sense, aren’t they? Or are they? If they were that simple – the weight loss industry and health care industry wouldn’t be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. So, where’s the disconnect?

In my opinion, it’s that last piece: owning your power. Owning your power means making a decision. Just like my friend has done in deciding to “be happy now” – it’s the decisions that drive us either toward health and wellness, or dysfunction and disease. If we want a quick-fix solution to a life-long problem, that’s a choice. And it might mean spending the rest of your life searching for the solution – rather than choosing a long-term strategy. But what about when things like the flu epidemic take place? I considered myself to be fairly healthy with a strong immune system, but I still got knocked down. Why? Was it something I did? Could I have done something different? Was I living optimally before I got sick? The answer is no – to all of those questions. I was not living optimally, however, there was also nothing I did to cause it, and there was nothing I could have done differently to prevent it, because that’s in the past. Going forward, however, I can make different choices.

I can choose to drink better water, more often, in larger amounts. I can also choose to go to bed earlier, and sleep better – giving my body more opportunity for rest and restoration. Food and exercise will also play a role. By making a deliberate decision to incorporate more fruits and vegetables, as well as daily movement in any form, I will be providing my body with the best possible scenario to heal and become stronger. The best part is, by making these decisions I will be owning my own power. In a way, it’s both a catalyst and a happy side effect of living a healthier life. It’s cyclical, and it will fuel itself.

One more thing, though – a big part of owning my power is also making the choice not to shame myself (and feel guilt) if I should choose something defined as “less healthy.” Life is about moderation, and life is about choices. A bowl of ice cream or a side order of French fries is a choice – it’s also a choice to feel happy about it and enjoy it fully, or to feel guilt about it and remorse. THAT is truly owning your power. So, just as my friend has embraced her own power by creating a mantra by which she lives her life, so can you. Every morning you have a choice to make on how you will approach your day. And every night, when you are lying in bed about to fall asleep, you have the power to choose how you will look back on your day and your choices. It’s up to you. Once you begin owning your power, the rest will naturally start falling into place. Amazing. And it all begins with you….with your choices.

THree THings

Body – What do you choose to drink first thing when you wake up in the morning? Water or coffee? Which one is more consistent with living optimally? Coffee is fine, but when you wake up, your body has become more dehydrated overnight. A glass of water might wake you up faster than the caffeine would.

Mind – If you find yourself feeling guilt about something – it’s probably an old pattern of belief. Pause. Give yourself a break, and see if you can make a decision to think differently.

Spirit – Honoring yourself is the greatest gift. It will give you the strength to take the initial steps toward living optimally.

In Love and Light,

Martina