Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bleeding for Mother Earth: The Blessings of Hypericum, Calendula and Martial Training

“To know and not to do, is not to know.” Lao Tse, Socrates and my Sensei! And a variation on that theme “Do or do not. There is no try.” Master Yoda.

Earth Day 2008 finds me back in Truth or Consequences, the Hot Springs oasis in the New Mexico desert, after a month travelling in new Mexico, Texas and the deserts of Mexico. I am making my way back to the Great White North, which by now will be less white than it was when I left it. An amber coloured, full, desert moon was hanging low over this dusty desert community with the quirky name, when I drove into town last night. My friends and colleagues, Karen and Antonio, and their friend Larry, a fellow tai chi instructor, visiting from Oregon, had the Hot Springs bath already fired up, so a late night mineral water soak was the order of the evening before bed. Ah those rejuvenating mineral waters! It was truly a pleasure to once again be soaking in the same hot mineral waters that the famous Apache warrior Geronimo used to heal his wounds. What a blessing, this still unspoiled oasis of healing hidden away in the New Mexico desert..

Karen, a homeopathic practitioner and midwife, and her husband Antonio, an Ayurvedic chef, bio-diesel expert and eco-friendly builder, are masters of natural health and sustainable living. So, Earth Day 2008 began with the customary freshly squeezed grapefruit and lemon juice. Oh, did I mention that Karen and Antonio are Raw Spirits, connoisseurs of fine raw vegan cuisine, which many experts say is the most eco-friendly, not to mention health conscious diet, on the planet. In fact, Karen was the one who initiated me into the raw food lifestyle last July. Last year, after attending the sundance ceremony where I had originally met them nearly 4 years ago, I made a stop in TorC while travelling in the opposite direction than I am now heading from Arizona to Texas, and the rest is history – eating mainly raw foods seemed like a healthy and earth friendly thing to me – so said, so done! Karen and Antonio are 99.9% raw and I still fluctuate between 95 to 75%, depending on how long I’ve been away from my raw food mentors…

Karen and Antonio have taken an old adobe style hot springs bathhouse and are in the process of renovating it and transforming it into a leading edge natural healing centre. Besides renovating the Hot Springs Mineral Baths, they are adding a treatment room and creating a workshop/teaching room, and they have surrounded the property with a papercrete wall. This centre will be a retreat for juice fasting and natural detoxification using raw foods, as well as offering homeopathy, hot springs soaks and other healing modalities. It is a work in progress. After downing our fresh juices and each going through our morning routines, a healthy midmorning salad, accompanied by guacamole, raw almond hummus and beijou, a Brazilian delicacy made from ground tapioca, all organic of course, were the order of the day. Considering that I was just coming out of a three day juice fast, having recently revived my bio-lunar juice fasting routine, and knew better than to fill up on oily foods so soon post fast, I did get carried away with the ‘raw wrap’- salad, guacamole AND nutty humus, surrounded by the yummy beijou wrapping. But, oh how sweet it was, healthy, fresh, earth-friendly AND tasty!.

Following our morning meal the four of us headed off to gather flat rocks for the outdoor hot springs pool that is being added to the healing centre by a foursome of incredible brothers who are master adobe workers and stonemasons extraordinaire. Antonio had already been on site early in the morning. Larry and I had watched a slideshow of the construction of the soak pool on Karen’s computer the night before, but I had yet to see the latest addition to the healing centre. We drove past a burnt down old ranch with a sill functional windmill and past the retaining wall for the Cuchillo Creek Dam, then along the gravel road beside the dry creek, which obviously must flood at some points in time otherwise there would be no need for such a high retaining wall. Gathering river rocks is not one of my usual Earth Day activities, but hiking through dry riverbeds amid the spiny ocotillo plants, chaparral bushes and cactuses with the occasional desert hare scurrying by, seemed like such an appropriate activity for a desert EarthDay. After all, we were outside in one of Mother Earth’s harsher environments, enjoying the elements in all their glory, at the same time being physically active and making a useful contribution to the construction of the healing centre.

It was hard work finding just the right flat rocks from among the thousands of rocks strewn alongside the gravel road, and harder work still hauling the rocks over to the wooden trailer hitched to Antonio’s car. With so many rocks to choose from it didn’t take the four of us long to have gathered enough to fill the bottom of the trailer. With Karen and Antonio’s two dogs racing madly behind the trailer we took off back to town. Arriving at the healing centre with the freshly gathered load of river rocks, we set about unloading the trailer. Most of the rocks were between 20-50 lbs, easily manageable by one person, but there were a few mother rocks, and one in particular, a beautiful cream coloured slightly dimpled rock, not the biggest of all the rocks we had collected, but close to it, must have weighed at least 125lbs. Larry was inching it off the trailer, so I went over to help him. Something told me not to lift that rock, a voice I would later realize was that of the rock itself, but seeing Larry trying to get it off the trailer by himself I ignored that warning. Mistake number one. The stone masons were all working in and around the pool, and Karen and Antonio were hefting other rocks around as I helped Larry get the rock to the edge of the trailer, ready for it’s no more than 2 foot drop to the ground. Both Larry and I were convinced that the rock would roll forward and on to the reddish brown dirt below. Mistake number two. Stones are dangerous and they have a mind of their own, or so I was told later by the elder stone-mason, and I now realized that to be the case.

So heavy was that mother rock, that in less than a flash, after we launched it off the edge of the trailer, the top end fell back and crushed the middle finger on my right hand against the metal bar at the bottom of the trailer. It all happened in the blinking of an eye, and here is my first blessing, -- years and years of martial arts training have sharpened my reflexes, not enough so that I listened to that voice that told me not to help lift the heavy rock, I guess that must come with more years of training than I currently have under my belts, but enough that I almost instantaneously pulled my finger out from behind the over hundred pound rock. Many martial artists train so that they can protect themselves if by chance they are attacked unexpectedly in a dark alley. For me my years of training have been put to use in many more mundane settings – the time I slipped on the cobblestones of a road under repair in Real de Catorce, Mexico and landed on my butt without spilling my orange juice, the time when I knocked my camera off the table and caught it before it touched the ground, or when I slid on the ice this past winter and did a break fall without losing a drop of the hot tea I was carrying, and now this, my Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique! If I had not been so caught up in the numbed finger with blood spewing out at the moment I would have patted myself on the back and started counting my blessings and saying thanks to my Sensei for every time he gave me a tongue lashing when I wanted to stop training. Ooos Sensei!

Utilizing my newly developed Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique allowed me to escape with out a single broken bone, with only two inches of ripped flesh, a hanging black and blue fingernail that will soon fall off, a swollen throbbing bloody fingertip with a few gashes and several millilitres of blood spilled on Mother Earth. One of the best possible scenarios, all things considered! Again, here’s where my martial training brought yet another blessing. I learned many years ago that if I am injured in the dojo it is my fault, no one else’s. Blaming my sparring partner when I do not block, or move off centre line is just not an option. The responsibility was mine, and the lesson was for me. All those years of martial inspired wellness training kicked in on the spot. There were no tears, none of the freaking out that Karen later told me she would have expected with an injury of that intensity, no ‘Woe is me’ anywhere in my psyche as I jumped about shaking my now throbbing and bloody finger as the warm red blood spewed over my green shirt, on to my beige pants and down on to reddish brown Mother Earth. In fact my first thought was ‘I wonder why that happened?’ and my second thought was ‘I wonder why I needed to give Mother Earth an offering of my blood on Earth Day?’ My Sensei would be proud, that is, after he finished chewing me out for not listening to my gut in the first place!

On to blessing number three. All of this happened in front of the not yet finished, but still with many natural remedies inside, healing centre and not up the dry creek, in the middle of nowhere with only a collection of no doubt medicinal, but not terribly useful at the time, desert bushes in sight. Less than two minutes after I had finished making my Earth Day Offering to Mother Earth with the accompanying Sacred Dance of the Wounded Finger, I was sitting in the healing centre with my finger in a cup with a mixture of hypericum tincture, calendula tincture and cold water. Cold has never felt so good! Hypericum, or common St John’s Wort, makes a deep red tincture that is a strong antibiotic and widely used by herbalists and other healers for treating wounds, bruises and other injuries. It is best known for it ability to helps with internal nerve damage as well as to repair skin damage.. Calendula is also strongly antiseptic. It helps to stop bleeding and to assist in the healing of wounds and burns. Now, I ask, why are so few people aware of these vital first aid remedies? Why don’t all hospitals carry them, not just natural healing centres? I think back to when I slammed the same right middle finger in a car door as a young child. We were living in Jamaica at the time and my mother, who is knowlegeable about certain herbs and remedies, would have loved to know something that would have rapidly eased the pain of her then crying and Dancing with the Wounded Finger little daughter, not that those herbs are that common in Jamaica, but neither are many that are found in the local drug store!

Back to the healing centre in the desert, with the by then only slightly gushing wounded finger. Karen usually uses LM potencies of homeopathic remedies, they were all in her office, so out came a bottle of 200C Hypericum. When the bleeding had mostly subsided Karen wrapped my finger in sterile gauze covered with a natural skin ointment. Viola! Fifteen minutes after the Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique, Earth Day Blood Offering and accompanying Sacred Dance, my finger was all bandaged up and I was dismissed from further rock lifting volunteer duties for the rest of the day. Blessing number five, my now sore back tells me. Thank you to the ‘common weed’ hypericum that became the powerful tincture! Blessing number six. Thank you to the once beautiful calendula! Blessing number seven. And last but by no means least, thank you to Karen, the wise practitioner, who knew exactly what to do and which remedies to use. Blessing number eight! . Blessing number nine was knowing Reiki and using it to facilitate the healing.

When I wandered back outside to observe the rest of the rock moving activities I was given a gentle, but yet very martial like lecture by the elder stone mason, “Stones are very dangerous.” He told me, and made his point by repeating that statement at least four times throughout our conversation. “You cannot hurry. You must take your time when working with stones and listen to them. The stones will speak to you.” Wow! New Mexican Zen or what! The stone had told me not to pick it up, but I didn’t listen, and a less than an hour later I get a lecture from a man with a more than 40 year relationship with stones basically telling me to stay focused, be in the moment, move slowly and listen to the stones and to my gut! I almost said Ooos Sensei when he was done. That too was a blessing..

Well, my Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique saved my finger but ruined any thoughts I might have had about a future career as even an assistant stone mason! Oh well, maybe in my next life! But it did provide me with the perfect opportunity to shed my blood on Mother Earth, in a relatively controlled manner, and not in the way that our current global habits and patterns of greed and disharmony are causing so many people to do involuntarily around the world! The Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique, Earth Day Blood Offering and the accompanying Sacred Dance of the Wounded Finger allowed me to learn many sacred lessons on Earth Day. Blessing number ten, and probably the most powerful blessing of all.

Lesson One: Always listen to my gut, and to all the elements of nature. They do communicate with me and I can hear them, if I have a relation with them [the elements and my instincts], and if I take the time to listen.

Lesson Two: Always stay focused. Live in the moment. Move slowly and develop a relationship with whatever you are working with.

Lesson Three: Always give thanks to the Creator for the healing properties of herbs, natural remedies, martial training and the power of chi!

StayWell and Travel with Spirit, in Beauty and Truth, Spirit Traveller.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Arriving in Truth

Arriving in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico late on Monday night after driving 13 hours that day and meeting up with more people at every stop who were interested in the SmartCar ... it is such a conversation piece... everywhere i go the questions are -- Is it Electric? What's the gas mileage like? etc, etc ... So many people seem interested in the smallness of the car. I even had one man, who reallly wanted to buy a SmartCar, but was vetoed by his wife, ask me to drive by his house to show her the car. Most people have never seen a SmartCar in person.

Arriving in back in TorC is a wonderful experience. This is an incredible little desert town that has been hidden away but is becoming a mecca of spiritually enlightened people who are concerned about the environment and into natural and alternative health. Karen and Antonio are remodeling an old Hot Springs bath house and turning it into a healing centre. The town is very small and an odd mixture of very chic hot spring spas in colourful southwest style adobe buildings, lovely old adobe houses and very rundown trailers and trailer parks, health food stores, chiropractors and thrift stores. It is a town in transformation it seems.

Karen has a young midwifery student coming to stay with them for 10 days prior to heading off to her training in southern New Mexico. She is doing an exchange, working around the centre so that Karen can focus on the online courses she is developing. They are heading to Las Cruses to pick her up the morning after I arrive. I have settled in and done some writing. My computer is not happy and it's keyboard is acting up. My computer is my lifeline.

I head off to Las Cruses with Karen and Antiono. There is a major brush fire several miles of the highway. We notice the smoke shortly after getting on the highway. The huge clouds of smoke are billowing up. You can see the bluish white smoke with black clouds from miles away. It is wafting towards a nearby community ... It looks just like a cloud as it gets there. The community has no idea that there may be chemicals and toxins in the clouds that heading their way. we speculate on the origin on fo the fire. It has become a large brush fire. As we drive closer we can see the fire spreading. We take a few pictures and say a prayer that no one is injured and continue on our way.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Heading on Down the Road

Yesterday I left the Aamjiwnang reserve in Sarnia, Ont, where I had stayed overnight with my friend Ron and his wife and family. I am driving a SmartCar, so my car is loaded down, between my back packs, books, laptop, sleeping bag, blanket, groceries and karate and kobudo gear. I get to the bridge to the US and, as my father predicted, the border guard asks me, 'How do I know you're going to come back?' after he looks into the car and see the passenger seat piled up with stuff and I tell him I am not coming back till May. My response was, well, my drivers license and car registration expire on my birthday in May, so i have to be back by then. His response, "Well you could just let them expire if you're not planning on coming back."

I guess he's right. It'd be a stupid thing to do, but I could. Then he asks to see in the back of the car -- it's a Smart car. Really, there is about as much room as a very small trunk at the back... just enough for my big back pack and a few other bags. He opens the back and immediately closes it and says 'You can be on your way'. I was going to ask him what made him quickly change his mind from thinking of me as a would be illegal alien to someone who can just head on down the road, but decided not to ask. I do think that driving a green SmartCar may have had something to do with this change of mind tho... after all, it is not exactly an inconspicuous car -- and i certainly could not get all my worldly possessions in the car, even if it was packed to the hilt which it almost is.

So, driving a Smart in the US is a novel experience indeed. I have yet to stop anywhere without getting at least one comment from someone. The first place I stop to fill up in Michigan, the gas station attendant asks me what type of car it is. He already knows it is sold by Mercedes and tells me that last year someone from Canada had stopped there with a similar car and told him they were going to be introduced in the US this year, but he says he hasn't seen any since. He says he hears they get 80 miles to the gallon. I can't tell him because I operate in kilometres and litres. I tell him how much it costs to fill up and how far I can go. Wow! he says.

Well, that would not be the last wow! I would get on the first day of my trip. Everywhere I stopped the response was the same. Wow! Every gas station I have stopped at someone has asked me either how many miles do I get to the gallon, or whether the car is very fuel efficient or a similar question, to the man who pulled his car into the parking lot of he motel i stopped at last night to ask me what kind of car it was,whether it was electric, how many miles to the gallon I get and to tell me that it was the smallest car he has ever seen. Well it is the smallest car i have ever driven i replied!

I have spoken to more people on this trip than ever on any previous trip. Everyone has been very positive, with one exception. In the second service station I stopped at i went to the washroom after filling up and paying. When I came out and was walking back towards my car, the attendant says to me "Someone asked whose ugly car is that?' As she says that a big guy who had been in an aisle close by shows up. She points to him. I say -- "You mean you don't like my green SmartCar? I think it is beautiful." He says 'Your car's ugly. My Ford Explorer is beautiful." I say " I think my car is beautiful too" He says "I don't care if it costs $100 bucks to fill up, my car is beautiful, and I could just squish your car." Well, what can you say to that -- My response, 'yes, but it would leave a big dent!" as I walked out of the service station. Interesting how just seeing my SmartCar brought up alllll those issues...

This morning I was reading an online article that critiqued bio-fuel as a false solution to greenhouse gases and suggested that growing corn for ethanol in the US will be taking corn away from the food supply that could be used to feed hungry children. I've been thinking about converting my diesel SmartCar to biodiesel because although my car consumes a relatively small amount of fossil fuel, it still uses fossil fuel, and as an interim solution bio-diesel is a step in the right direction, especially if it is made from recycled biofuel. But, more than anything the article made me think that with people who still have the "Your car's ugly, mine's beautiful; I don't care if it cost $100 to fill up; and I can squish your car with my car" attitude, no wonder we've still got a long way to go towards healing this planet!

staywell and travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Welcome to 2008! Eight Tips for a Healthier 2008.

May 2008 bring you all peace, love, truth, beauty and expand your limits in all the right ways! Maybe you won't be able to do a one finger handstand like the Shaolin monk shown above but you can certainly do something or things that you have never done before!

Now, coming from a long line of people who give advice whether it is asked for or not, I could claim it is in my genes, as my father suggested in his holiday newsletter this year, but environmental health promoter and ex-molecular geneticist that I am, I am sure that my lifestyle choices and the environments I have inhabited, all those good epigenetic influences, also play a significant role in my
unsolicited advice-giving behaviour.

Whatever the reason, let me regale you with my 8 Simple Tips for a Healthier 2008:

1) Breathe Deeply -- as often as you can. Fill your lungs with the breathe of life. Allow those tiny molecules of oxygen to connect your lungs with the elements of all life on earth.

2) Eat Naturally -- eat fewer processed foods. Chow down on fruits and vegetables. Have a huge raw salad at least once a day. Drink more water. Choose seeds, nuts and sprouts as snacks. Whatever you eat becomes who you are.

3) Sleep Well -- Get lots of sleep. Go to bed before 9:30pm one day a week. Wind down before bedtime -- shut off the computer and the TV and give your brain time to relax. Keep a dream journal.

4) Move your body often -- Take a 20 minute walk in nature every day. Take stretch breaks at work ... dance when no one is watching. Do yoga, tai chi, karate, aerobics, breakdancing, belly dancing,pilates, push ups, sit ups -- whatever it takes. Go running. Stretch your limits.

5) Connect with Others and Create Community -- Smile at strangers on the street. Speak in elevators. Help old people cross the road. Talk to your neighbours. Hire a local kid to do a job that need to be done.

6) Love the Earth -- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle more ... Conserve water and energy ... Choose green cleaners and personal care products... eat organic ... celebrate the seasons ... spend more time in nature.

7) Have the Courage to Try Things that Seem Impossible -- do something you have never done before and thought you couldn't do. Take a new route when you go to work. Go somewhere different every week. Study something new for half and hour every day.

8) Follow Your Dream!! -- Find your dream and pursue it! Now is the time! The world is changing. Be part of the solution. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Be positive and thankful for what you have and who you are.

Check out two inspiring videos that have been shared with me -- videos that remind us that the world indeed is changing and our choices make us a part of the solution, or a part of the problem .... http://theshiftmovie.com/index2.html

and NEVER forget the line from that 1949 Sigman and Russell song sung by Linda Rondstadt in 1983 -- Crazy He Calls Me -- 'the difficult I'll do right now; the impossible will take a little time' ... enjoy ....

Curious about epigenetics -- check out this video ....

StayWell and Travel with Spirit, in Beauty and Truth, The SpiritTraveller