Cape Cod Medicine

Lighthouse BeachFor several years now I have escaped to the Cape for my one week a year vacation.  Each year has taken on its’ own life- whale watch, gluten-free dining, waterfront dining, artistry, organic, exercising/biking, thrifting, antiquing, and then some.  This year was different.  As usual, I came with no specific expectations other than to be healed by the very nature of being here.

Do you have a place that you are restored?  Where you know you can settle in, take a deep breath, and know you have a pulse that is originally yours and not beholden to anything outside of you?  For me, that is the Cape.  It takes a few days to unwind out of the crazy life of work and home, but then the wind and salt take over.

This year was different.  I had no focus.  Nothing fell into place. It wasn’t about the food, the towns, the beaches, or even the cottage that I consider my beloved second home.

This year, it was about the people I have met.  Why did they come here?  Why do they live here?  And we talked about the ever progressive erosion of the coastline, the seals and the sharks, the destruction of the local beaches making them inaccessible, and the drug crisis permeating well-to-do family neighborhoods.  What has happened to my dose of Cape Cod medicine?

I think this is what happens as you get older.  You have fonder memories than new experiences.  You have more stories to tell than to create.  My hair is gray and now I am called, “Maam.”  That just says it all, doesn’t it?!  However, I know that the wind, the sun, the waves, the salt, the ions and the sand beneath my feet are healing me as week speak.  I know that I need to be here, take deep breaths, and soak my whole self into the ocean.  I can’t even possibly soak up enough in a week to last for a year, yet the memories hold me the whole way through.

The picture above is my walk home each night from my favorite beach.  That walkway and beach access are completely gone from the ravages of weather.  I only have the picture, the memories and the stories.  -Dr. Debra

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Wind and More Winter Wind!

I love the wind in the spring when it sends in clean, fresh air…I love the wind in the fall when it moves the leaves from the trees…but winter wind, You Can Have It!  Terrifying for me unfortunately:(  But, in Ancient medical theories, the wind plays a large role in our lives according to Chinese medicine, St. Hildegard’s teaching, and Native American medicine wheels.  In botany, we learned that the wind is what strengthens the trees.  Wind coming from each direction pushes the tree making it have to handle it, deal with it, toughen up!

So why is wind so terrifying in the winter for me?  Well, maybe it is because we are more vulnerable.  No heat, pipes break…No electricity, it’s dark out…everyone is indoors, not out where you can easily reach for help.  I retreat from the winter wind- can’t boil sap [sparks flying everywhere], can’t go to the beach or walk on the trail [get too cold], can’t walk in the woods [fear of falling limbs]…these are the ideas of cement that keep me indoors and out of nature.  Today was no exception!

So, instead I cleaned.  Swept floors, did laundry, scrubbed bathrooms, and cleaned out the fridge now that my daughter went back to college from spring break and that it’s near empty from losing power in the past two storms.  I will consider this a partial early spring cleaning.  Letting go of the old to bring in the new.  I had originally planned to decorate for spring this weekend at the office and so far, that hasn’t happened.  In past years, this is the weekend to get new baby chicks [not available until end of March/beginning of April], go to Van Wilgen’s spring Garden Fest [now in April], and start my seed trays for the garden [hasn’t happened yet!].  However, I did make plans for a new hairdresser to do a new spring hairdo to brighten my days!  Now, that’s courage and progress if I do say so!

Wind…the impetus for spring cleaning…hmmm, that’s a new one.  Pushing through vulnerability, that’s the message of wind.  Take it, get strong, and move on to greater heights.  “Some strong lessons from the Spirit Keeper Waboose during the time of the North wind are that we are to accept life in it’s fullest, accept death as a natural part of life, and to accept that we need to share all that has been given to us” (Beverly Two Feathers).  Sharing, that is vulnerable, but it is important for others and for future generations.  That is why we need to share our vulnerability and wisdom, our gifts, and our talents.

So, the next time you are getting blown about by the wind, remember you are getting stronger and your vulnerability is your gift of being a wise human.  -Dr. Debra

 

L’Heure Bleue

The Blue Hour

“The Blue Hour,” is an important span of time for professional photographers and an orienting force for our cryptochromes!  You’ve probably heard of chromosomes, maybe of cytochromes, and definitely of “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon. But, cryptochromes?  That’s probably not on your radar.  Speaking of radar, cryptochromes are embedded into the right eye of every predatory bird for them to see magnetic fields for where to fly, into Monarch butterflies for their migration, and in both of our eyes necessary to regulate our circadian rhythm, that up until now was disregarded as unimportant for our existence. They are best stimulated in the presence of blue light, in “L’Heure Bleue.”

Our DNA structure, our energy producing pigments in our cells, our receptivity to color fragments for normal hormone production and our ability to navigate magnetic energy fields of the earth are all at play here.  What if I told you that light can literally change your chromosomal DNA for the better? What if the human body was designed to have color pigment receptors and messengers, respond to the fragmented colors of light, and establish normal body biochemistry on account of those processes.  Well, the science is in and that is what it’s suggesting…light is the guiding and healing force for the human body.

visible-light-new-grad-optometry-crizal-prevencia

What about artificial light?  Well, it’s not the same.  The trend away from incandescent bulbs has unfortunately brought us the compact fluorescent and more recently LED bulbs, both of which don’t even come close to daylight which is what we are designed to receive for normal health and wellness.  Alienation from the benefits of natural daylight, starlight, and the natural world was termed “Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Luov in 2005 in his book Lost Child in the Woods.  He recognized the importance of the natural world, the medicine of daylight and the brilliant colors of nature as the directive force for organized thoughts and behaviors that in the absence of nature, erode into disorganized thoughts and behavior.

When we live in our box, whether it be at home or at work, we are making ourselves sicker and sicker.  The cure…go outside!  Especially at dawn and dusk for blue light, at sunrise and sunset for golden light, high noon and starlight for orienting oneself to day, month, year and season. We need this light as medicine, to hit our retinas like a satellite signal and regulate nearly every function in our body.

Artificial lighting in addition to electronic devices are bombarding our brains and bodies with disruptive messages that confuse and deplete use of lifesaving nutrients and regulating hormones.  You need to block the unnatural and excessive amounts of blue light from electronics with filters to prevent eye damage, hyperactivity, anxiety and sleeplessness.  It is also recommended to turn off electronics at least two hours before bed to allow the brain to settle down for proper sleep with adequate amounts of melatonin production for hormone regulation and restoration of the entire body.

I took the above picture of the trees tonight right before dark in hopes of capturing L’heure bleue.  I think you get the idea of what to look for.  I hope you enjoy your view of the outdoors in your own surrounds at morning, noon and night for the benefit of your health and well being. It’s that simple.–Dr. A

Sanctuary for Solitude & Strength

tigersanctuaryI hear myself saying “I’m so tired” much too often lately.  Yes, I have stress, but so does everyone else.  Yes, I should take my vitamin B complex every day, but I don’t.  Yes, I should go to bed the same time every night without the tv on, but I don’t.  So, during my waking hours I need to regather my strength in order to get through the day that lies ahead of me. And then, I need to rest my bones.

It wasn’t until my hysterectomy that I realized I needed to carve out a little corner of the world to fully recuperate.  It was the first time my life had come to a screeching halt, and I realized that I didn’t have a distinct place to call my own.  I needed to sit and reflect, to not have to speak, and to not have to do anything at all.  Since then, little by little, I have created my sanctuary with purpose and intent for everyday life.

I often prescribe the creation of a sanctuary to patients just for the sake of sanity.  It could be a chair with a lamp and a little side table, or it could be a water fountain, a plant and a floor cushion, or it can be much more elaborate than that…imagine a royal palace with a throne, embellishments and elaborate garb!  But more than the objects, it is the intention with which you sit.  Intentional solitude, reflection, and vision with the purpose of gathering strength.  That is what you need.  Measures to emerge stronger than before.

Wear and tear is just that, the process of breaking down.  Our temple, our Holy palace for our soul, is breaking.  Actions, words, images, and injuries chip away at our shell and can damage our soul.  We need sanctuary, our version of bondo, to bring ourselves in for repair to mend the cracks and crevices to hold ourselves together enough to get through another day.  A visible scar, but nonetheless, whole again.  It’s like a broken handle on a china tea cup, after it’s crazy glued back together again it can be used, but it will always feel a bit more fragile knowing it could break again if you’re not careful.

Mend your shell, feed your soul, sit in solitude, embrace your visions and become mighty again.  Retreat to your secret lair where you are protected and be ready to emerge from the shadows of the jungle with purpose and strength.  Be strong.—Dr. Anastasio c2017

Handmade sanctuary seating is available on my website http://www.dranastasio.com [http://www.dranastasio.com/apps/webstore/].

Blizzard Niko, My Hygge Friend!

cozy-bed

It takes something like a blizzard to throw us into hygge mode!  What?  You haven’t heard of it before?  It’s the new trend in America, and one of the favorite words of 2016. Practiced by the Danes to bring happiness and contentment during the long, cold winters, hygge (pronounced Hoo-Ga), is lifestyle of cozy, warm, and fuzzy measures to be enjoyed by yourself or shared with others.  Pleasant sights and sounds in your home are embraced to take the dreariness out of being cooped up as just part of the practice of hygge for those cold, snowy days.

Are you convinced yet?  Let’s get going!   First, make a quick sweep through the house picking up and putting away anything that is laying around on the floor, on the furniture or on tables and counters.  Using a natural spray cleaner, give a quick wipe to all the flat surfaces.  Make all the beds and put fresh towels on the racks as if company is coming…shhh, it’s a pleasure just for yourself too:).  Don’t make this a long, daunting effort, but instead just a quick run through to get on to the good stuff!

Put on some warm, fuzzy clothes, socks and slippers.  Get the wood stove or fireplace going too.  Place candles and oil lamps throughout your living space that you frequent and put on nightlights in dark corners and in bathrooms with no windows.  Have some pleasant music playing such as soundscapes, smooth jazz or classical music too.

Now, to the kitchen!  I’ve already made a tray of oven hash with Herbs de Provence and Black Hawaiian Lava salt with chicken breakfast sausage and coffee.  On to the hygge foods of the day… I’ll be preparing a venison stew in the crock pot, chicken soup or hatch chili (haven’t decided yet) on the stove, and a pot of sangria-like warm drink made with the grape juice I made from last falls’ harvest, my last blood orange in the house, and the mulling spice tea sachets my son bought me for Christmas that I had no occasion to use until now.  I will use my favorite cup to ladle in the aromatic sweetness and enjoy it throughout the day (recipes will be posted on my website at some point this weekend dranastasio.com/goodfoodies).

On to the fun!  I’ve selected the activities of the day will be embroidering my pillowcases for the spring, to read my new favorite book “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zin, play one of my favorite games of mancala to enjoy the smooth and colorful flat marbles and the nearly certain joy of winning, and the movie “Crown” that has caught my attention and came highly recommended.  I have warm fuzzy throw blankets and more than enough pets to snuggle with as the day and night goes on.

Happy Hygge Day to my new dear friend, Niko!–Dr. A

 

Thanksforgiving

forgiveness

The leaves have fallen and a crisp breeze stings the eyes and nose.  Tears fall without emotion.  It is November in New England and Thanksgiving is upon us.  Walking the frost covered field at daybreak, the rustling of leaves in the brush reveals the company of forest animals.  A reminder that we are not alone.

Loneliness makes its appearance during the holidays.  A sharp reminder that the past is carried into the present.  It is one thing to choose one’s own solitude, and quite another to be left alone by someone else.  It is one thing to be the abandoned versus being the one who has done the abandoning.  The mark of loneliness is pain…emotional, psychological and physical pain.

Thanksgiving can be the day, the week, or the season for looking at who we have not forgiven for past hurts, for examining personal regrets of broken relationships, and for recognizing who we have left behind in the shadows of our lives.  Let’s face it, we are all too busy for anybody’s good.  Technology has forced time to move more quickly than we can pace ourselves on this treadmill called life.  But when you are alone and forgotten, or shunned to the corner, time stands still.  When you are alone, there is no rustling of companions in the bramble brush of life.

Forgive in silence, forgive out loud, forgive by just calling and saying “hello.”  Rustle the brush, make some noise, get close enough to take a photo of the person as if it were a treasured encounter with wildlife.  It can be a fleeting moment to forgive and rekindle relationships.  Cherish the moment with no strings attached for the future.  Embrace it and let it become what it may.  God bless you all this Thanksgiving:)

 

Waxing Gibbus Illuminated

waxing-gibbus  I don’t follow astrology… and I struggle at astronomy…but there is nothing like the stillness of a dark night lit up with stars and planets for me to find peace and serenity.  Some people find the night to be eerie and anxiety provoking, but I find it to be entrusting, allowing me to read, to write in my journal, to process my thoughts of the day, and to redirect my tomorrow.

When my work presents so many complicated issues, I take them to the night sky for answers.  I look up, talk to the ethereal world above me and wait for my answers.  There are always answers.  I toss out to the universe the litany of unanswered questions of the day, my hopes, my dreams, and I wait for my answers like I threw out a boomerang.  Only, I don’t have to duck from being hit on the return flight.  Instead, the answers land gently and with certainty.

The other day in Qi Gong class, the phrase “Crucible of Certainty” came to mind after we practiced throwing out all of our frustration, confusion, anger and irritation to the ground.  It was after breathing in strength that the core of my being knew it was my choice to fill up on what is right and good.  My choice.  I could not claim confusion or victim-hood like many people do. The energy inside of my vessel was of my choosing. I could throw out what did not belong and embrace the cosmic energy that was entrusted to me at birth.  My God given light.  Joy. Peace.

So when you are uncertain of whether your veneer has cracked, or that you have filled up on the wrong octane of fuel…sit under the dark sky of the waxing moon and understand that you are in the creative cycle of your month, that your are a co-creator, that you must observe to understand, and decide for yourself to wake with a new purpose. You contain light in the midst of darkness.  There is wisdom in the haze of confusion and despair. You are whole.

Good Night Gibbus!—Dr. A

 

 

Chilly Empty Nest

This morning I was planning ahead for dinner.  My choices were chicken kale sausage & peppers, lamb chop apple tagine, baked chicken and squash or chili.  It is the first morning cool enough for a jacket that I can remember since early summer which made me think chili would be nice for today.

I started my preparations of browning the meat, chopping the onions and peppers, draining the beans and adding spices.  It wasn’t until I put all the ingredients into the crock pot and gave it a good stir that I finally realized I could have my chili the way I wanted to!

Any time I made chili when the kids were home, I had to make different batches to suit everyone’s preferences… no beans for him, no meat for her, no beef for the other him! Luckily. I have a crock pot with inserts to make two different batches at a time.  But, today I didn’t have to do the kitchen three ring circus act!

The strange sight of my chili ingredients immersed together in the pot oddly made me realize that I was becoming whole again.  I could exert my preference without the grumblings of the troops.  I could expect to find the pot exactly as I left it without coming home to a mess of half devoured dinner and dishes littering the counter tops.  But in the coolness of dawn, I also realized that I was alone.  I missed them.  Not the yelling, the mess or the complaining.  I just missed them.  Their waking with tasseled hair and mismatched pajama combos of shorts and t-shirts of places they’ve been and events they’ve completed.  The stories of their dreams from the night before and their plans for the rest of the day.  I just kept stirring.

Predictably, tomorrow there will be leftovers, a foreign event in my home.  It has been nearly 18 years of doing for everybody else and not having anything leftover…for me.  More than a third of my life has not truly been my own only to be matched by the first third of my life as a kid not having a life of my own then either.  Where did all the time go?  What did I do with it all?  Did I do enough with them that they will have plenty of  good memories to carry them forward?  All of this while stirring.

Goosebumps when I stepped outside.  Good thing there will be chili for later.  Good thing.

chilli

 

 

Happy Hibiscus

HibiscusHave you ever known the happiness of the perfect book popping off the shelf or a newfound animal that looks into your eyes and you are instantly bonded for life?  I have had both of these life experiences before, but never with a plant!!!  Somehow, over the past few weeks, I have fallen in love with this enormous Hibiscus!

So I had to ask myself, “Is this just an impulse buy because of how unique it is?  Or, is it because it is larger than life look-a-like Rose of Sharon that adorn our property?”  I answered to myself, “No.”  I visited the plant for two weeks straight looking into every detail along the way…species, region, sun exposure, over-winter care, etc.  I talked to no less that 3 nursery attendants to ask my multitude of questions.  There must be a catch, right?

So in the middle of trying to finish a landscaping project at the office, I just had to bring this Happy Hibiscus home with me before someone else bought it and it would be gone forever.  I stuffed it into the front seat, knowing it was too big for my little car.  The flower petals wafted across my face as if to say, “Thank You!”  The leaves sat on my shoulders as if to say, “We’re going for the ride!”  I couldn’t believe that I actually found myself talking to the plant.  We drove around together to finish my errands of the day before going home to find a permanent home for us to be together forever!

No, I haven’t gone crazy:)  Sometimes plant medicine finds us (me) when we are in need of it most.  I recommend Rosehips and Hibiscus all the time as wonderful sources of vitamin C and bioflavanoids.  I always thought that Hibiscus was tropical and couldn’t live in our region.  But it can, and that changes everything onthe homestead!

Hibiscus tea can help with a range of maladies such as high blood pressure, digestive issues, immune and inflammatory problems.  The flowers are rich in vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants.  You can make a tea out of the fresh or dried flowers to drink for general restoration, or to reduce anxiety and blood pressure when needed.  [Please consult the details of use at webmd.com for special precautions and use warnings before using this plant as part of your health regimen.]

So, today my Happy Hibiscus has found a home in my life, and as it turns out, I needed it more than I knew:)   I can only hope you have the same plant experience some day.

[Herbal Happy Hour is a monthly offering by Dr. Anastasio at New England Naturopathic Center, nenaturalmed.com]