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Immune Health

There are times when, in spite of your best efforts towards wellness, that a virus takes hold and wreaks its havoc.

In spite of a balanced practice of yoga, meditation and healthy living, the death of my son was the straw that allowed the sneaky bastard in. The rhinovirus. Not to be confused with rhinoceros, but just as potentially damaging to life and limb.

The first sign was a sudden stabbing and choking sensation in my throat – I couldn’t breathe. My adenoids started up their work of seeing to this nasty, but lo, where are the tonsils when we need them most?  Sigh…alas, long ago the valiant tonsils were a victim of the fad of tonsil removal of the 1960′s.  Tonsils and adenoids being the first line of defense, I was counting on my yoga practice to keep seeing me through like it always does.

So the 2nd & 3rd day, everytime I practiced, the mucous cleared up and I could talk & breathe just fine.  Day 4 – the yoga didn’t work, I was still congested & coughing now.  Day 5 – struggled through my workday and finally admitted I was sick.  Day 6 -7-8-9…Day 6 I had to cancel out on my daughter who was counting on me for child wrangling during her baby shower, child wrangling my granddaughter is my very favorite activity.  Day 7 – not sure I left bed – oh yeah, Angus kept running me Epsom salt baths.  Day 8 – fed up started feeding my immune system spirulina and vitamin C.  All along, I have been drinking water and ginger tea with lemon & honey too.  Tried a few homeopathic remedies that brought some relief.

Now, day 9, I felt like I turned a corner this morning.  yet by late morning had such an asthmatic coughing fit I wondered what happened to people who couldn’t breathe that pass out all by themselves?  Using the yogic superpowers of observation, I splashed cold water on myself, got more water to drink for when I did stop choking and looked up more homeopathic remedies and found a new one to try.  Someone survived that one.

My husband asked if I wanted to go to the hospital.  I said no way!  I know more about the immune system than most people and know that the chances of dying from an infection in the hospital are greater than at home.  I probably have pneumonia.  So I wait, I looked up pneumonia and research on Vitamin C shows that it cures pneumonia.  The CDC says nothing cures pneumonia but it won’t hurt to take vitamins, although, they say, vitamins can interact with any medication you are on…

So there it is again – our health care system.  This is why I know so much about the immune system.  This is why I do the work I do.  Teach yoga and throw in my little health tips.  We are the unhealthiest wealthy nation in the world.  Fact.

However, my intention is to move the immune health conversation forward, not rant.  Here are some lovely facts about the immune system.  The immune system has several lines of defense, skin, those glands, lymphatic system and a bunch of different types of cells with different hi-tech names.  I will call them soldiers.  There’s this one group of soldiers that waits.  They immediately start their programming.  While the virus injects it’s DNA into the cell to produce a virus factory, the macrophages study the virus.  They capture a few in the lymph nodes and run tests.  They reverse engineer the virus and then within 5-7 days – ta dahhh!!!  Their is an unstoppable anti-virus army produced.  The lymph system keeps up the work of capture and kill then.  So this is WHY we drink lots of water.  What are our soldiers going to swim in ?  Sludge?  No!  Aimee, there may be a children’s book here for you….

The soldiers are the fastest swimmers in the world, and with your help of moving a little bit, and sleeping a lot, they can do their clean up work.

The nasty thing about the rhinovirus is, however, that it wrecks mucous membranes.  Then infection can take over.  That’s where pneumonia can show up.  However, let’s think about this one….mucous membranes can also be helped by certain healing agents.  Some I know of (off the top of my head) are Vit. A. and licorice root (not the candy!!!) and one of the best herbs for soothing mucous membranes:  slippery elm.  That’s in the Throat Coat tea that my kids loved so well and still do.  And water.

Now what can kill pneumonia infection?  Vitamin C.  Yes!  Absolutely a well-researched and proven cure.  Check it out if you like reading this kind of thing (I do!). click here

So that’s what I do when I’m sick in bed for four days.  I’m just glad I’m breathing well enough to be able to read now.  I have a renewed respect for my immune system and renewed motivation to be well.  Nothing is as scarey as not being able to breath.  I also have a renewed understanding of asthma – I am very blessed to not have it, and pray that everyone reading this will never have to experience one. (that is good for your immune health too…prayer!)


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Filled Up

I returned home from the Bhandara and can hardly move. I am so full. Love has filled me and there is nothing more to do. Well, laundry then.

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Grieving is like…

Grieving for the loss of a loved one, whether by death or separation is like being injured in an accident. Some injuries are life threatening and deep, others may be painful, yet not as deep. Everyone feels it the same and differently, both.

In grieving, I can only reflect on my own experience. My healing will take place in my own time and way.

When grieving the separation of my husband and I, I focused on myself. What was I missing that the other fulfilled? It was a focus I could work with. I could fill it myself. With help from my friends.

In grieving the death of my son, it is different. It is like a deep wound that only time, love, patience, rest and living through it with a commitment to life can begin to heal… to the point where, there may some day be, an acceptance of the wound being something I carry throughout my life.

Like a wound, I must tend to it carefully. Allow it to be and change my plans when I notice the actions that tear it open before it is ready to be moved that way.

It is some heavy weight to carry around when life asks me to go on.

What can a friend do for me? Wait and be a witness. The presence and love of a friend is all that is needed. Trust that I will heal in time. Do not disturb the wound by offering unasked for assistance. Know that you will know what to do, when it is time to do it.

Do not worry. For worry infects the wound and the relationship. Be at peace within your own self and your presence, either in person or from far away, will be a light for this wounded warrior to find her way back to living in that peaceful place too.

Let go of expectations. We expect so many conflicting things from the broken hearted. Know that all will heal – or not – and that only my own soul knows the path I must walk.

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Practices Sustain You Through Tragedy

For the last twelve years, I have practiced self care, yoga, meditation and training my mind almost daily.  An average of 5 times a week (or more) I practice yoga.  Every morning, meditation.  Every day – redirect my mind when it comes up with stinking thinking.  What is the positive thing I can focus my attention on?

When times are hard – I feel my feelings – fully –  I do not suppress them.

Now, two weeks after the sudden death of my youngest son, Jacob, age 21, I am still practicing.  These habits are so much a part of every cell of my body and brain, that I can not “not” do them.  This doesn’t mean I am not suffering over the loss.  Oh, I am suffering.  Greatly.  I feel it deeply in every cell of my body and mind.  I am aware of the effects this grief is having on my body and mind.  And I am still practicing.  Daily.  It is a habit, an addiction, this self-care.

Am I grateful for this?  Not yet.  Part of me wants to die with him, to follow him into the afterlife.  Yet, I know that there are many many more people in my life who would suffer if I did that.  I am aware of all of these thoughts while I am grieving and living still.

So every morning I wake up, once again shocked and devastated to remember his death, his too-short life and that he isn’t sleeping upstairs anymore (in my condo).  Then I get up and go sit in meditation for one hour.

I drink the smoothie my husband prepares for me (yes, he is back and making sure I eat

me, Jacob, Joshua in 2012

me, Jacob, Joshua in 2012

), then I get ready to go teach yoga.  Another habit – I have taught at least 12 classes a week for 11-12 years.  During these hours, I am me again, normal and present and directing my students on the mat.  This is when I know that somehow I will live through this time and be well again, that my life will be forever changed, my heart forever bigger and my son forever a part of all of it: mind, body & spirit.



Knocking at Death’s Door

There is a belief in some native cultures that when a beloved one dies, their closest family members seek to follow them into the afterlife.

Even though I can hear and feel my son still, especially when my mind is quieter, my body seeks to knock on death’s door. To bargain, to bribe. Let him come back or take me too!

This is why in many cultures we have family, we have community. To feed the ones who wish to follow. It is an irresistible pull. So keep up the food, the well wishes for all of us. It is not yet our time to join our beloved son/brother. In this world we must stay and complete our own purpose for living.

Thank you Jacob for the love, peace and joy that you brought to us all.


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My Son Died Alone

I am in shock as I write this.  Which is a blessing.  I never thought I would appreciate shock before.  This life has been a series of growing pains, loss, and heartache.  Through it all I still have a message to bring.  Love.  When all else fails, be with the love.

So I write this to honor my son who died alone this week.  He was very depressed.  Yet, each day he hugged me and said “I love you Mom”.  He would go to work each day because he loved his job.  He would never let a day go by without a hug and those words.  He wanted me to be happy even though he felt that he didn’t deserve happiness for some unknown reason.  Because Jacob was the most peaceful and soft person I have ever had the privilege to know.   And I did know him for a very short time.

I didn’t know him well because he was an observer and a thinker.  He loved people.  He loved people so much that he thrived on the attention of people, yet, his illness had him isolating himself too.  He was fighting depression and in his case, it was one that even fooled me who was supposed to be taking care of him.  Jacob had a very high IQ.  He knew how to convince people that he just needed to be left alone.

But what a gentle soul.  If there was any tension or a voice raised in the slightest bit of anger it was devastating to him, even as a small child.  I learned early on with him to not yell at him and to approach him with heart wide open he couldn’t take it…perhaps because anger is simply an expression of fear – and fear is the opposite of love.

Jacob was and always will be my big teddy bear son.  Not a day will go by that I will not think of his hugs and simple words I heard each morning and night “I love you Mom”.  He is at peace now.  Before I knew he was found, I was practicing yoga and a sudden feeling of his presence in light and peace filled me.  He is there now and for the first time in many years, he is at peace.


Want Love? Begin With Yourself

How do you feel about your self? That’s where we need to begin when feeling lonely. If I am not treating myself in a loving way…self care, trusting my intuition, doing things for myself that make me feel healthy and happy…how can I give or receive that from others?

If you don’t know where to start, just begin now. Do one thing kind for yourself, your home, or the person next to you. It only matters that you start. Practicing loving, kind acts to/for anyone will come back to you in the form of love and happiness. Practice now.

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One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that whatever situation you are in, it will change.  So why suffer?  In this moment if I am suffering, I recognize that it is simply the mind’s current thoughts that I am reacting to.  Sometimes I have to stop whatever I am doing to even know what my mind is thinking.  I usually have a task I am working on, focusing on.  That’s the mind’s job – to carry out the task I assigned it to do.  When an emotion shows up that is uncomfortable – anxiousness, sadness, irritability – I wonder what this emotion has to do with what I’m working on.  Probably nothing.

Oftentimes it’s my mind trying to get a break from this work, this task I have set upon.  With practice and discipline, I can accomplish many things with focus.  If I am giving in to every whim of my mind, nothing much would be accomplished.  However, sometimes it becomes a matter of balance.  We must be careful to not overdo anything.

Life is full of contrast – it is our job to guide our mind/body to balancing our activities, to realize that there is contrast and that if we are suffering now, this too will pass and there is some fun on the horizon.  But why be immersed in this up and down roller coaster of contrast?  Practice meditation, rise above the ups and downs for a couple of hours each day (some in the morning, afternoon & evening).  You will then experience a more level beingness – upsets aren’t so upsetting, excitement not so scary.  You will begin to enjoy the ride!


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Don’t You Worry About A Thing

I’m traveling and yesterday as everyday, kept reminding myself that the Master is in charge of my life.  You see, I have turned it over – my life.  Whatever happens good and bad, it is what it is.  When there’s a tight spot, I have faith that all will be well and taken care of.  Yesterday, this faith was put to the test for the entire day…

I had actually read a chapter in Autobiography of a Yogi before I left, where he was challenged by his brother to travel to another town with a one-way train ticket and tour the places he wanted to see, get enough food to eat and travel back without bringing any money, without begging for money or asking anyone for help.  Yogananda accepted the challenge, was immediately befriended by some people on the train who dragged him along to be their guest at someone’s house because the guest he had invited couldn’t make it.  He was treated to a meal with several courses, his entire day was filled with extraordinary coincidences where he was not only taken care of but lavishly.

So when I woke up with a little worry that my ride might not wake up to be there on time, I reminded myself what faith can do for you.  My “ride” showed up early.  Next…onto the airport.  I arrived 2 hours early (for international flight).  Went to express check in.  The machine wouldn’t scan my passport, so I asked the service lady for help (she had sent the previous guy to the end of the service line, so that’s what I expected).   She immediately looked at my passport and checked me into my flight.

Next, onto airport security.  The lady asked to see my boarding pass to see if I had express TSA standing.  Yes.  Shortcut through security.  Next.  Order a latte’ and wait for my flight.

The first flight flew into Denver and landed with snow falling.  I thought oh-oh, if this snowfall keeps up at this rate, maybe I’ll be stuck in Denver.  Two hours later, the flight was delayed by only a few minutes while the plane was de-iced.  We took off almost on time.  Arriving in Cancun, Mexico, the flight was about 15 minutes late, I kept hearing Arlene’s words: the last bus to Progreso is at 10:00 pm.  I didn’t know the address of where she was staying, just knew how to reach her by email (but I had no internet connection), or by phone (no phone).  I had to take a bus from the airport to downtown Cancun bus station then another bus to Merida, then take a taxi to a restaurant she was waiting for me at, to then go on to Progreso.

The airport customs line was very long.    After exiting, I found where to get a ride to the bus station and the guy in charge of these rides told me that the next ride was at 5:30, getting me to the station too late.  I told him my schedule I have to meet to connect with my friend.  He said you would have to take a taxi.   I asked how much is a taxi?  He said it’s very expensive at the airport.  Groan..  So my first 800 pesos took me on a 30 minute taxi ride to the bus station.  I went up to the window and found out that I didn’t have enough pesos to take the bus I needed to get on.  What next?  I had to walk across the street to purchase pesos.

Next – now there’s a line at the bus ticket window.  (repeat mantra).  wait.  Finally, I said – next bus to Merida!  She said – it leaves at 6:00 pm.  That would get me to Merida bus station (not the restaurant) at 10:00 pm (and not the bus station that goes to Progreso).   I need one that leaves now! I said.  She said – “want to take the Platinum”.   It’s leaving right now, let me see if you can get on it.

Everyone is nodding and looking ready to leave.  I purchase the Platinum bus ticket for 574 pesos for a 4 hour bus ride and walk onto a luxurious bus with reclining seats, private tv or music (my own personal headphones) and watch Battle Ship in Spanish for a while.  The bus arrived in Merida about 9:30 and luckily the one taxi at the bus station (already hired by a young woman), asked her if she would mind sharing.  We were off!  I showed the driver the address to the restaurant.  He shook his head and said “oh yes! I know that restaurant!”.  Again we’re off – I’m watching the time now – I had no idea the Merida was such a big city!

The driver keeps asking “this is your first time in Merida?”  I said yes.  He drove me by a couple of community soccer games, then by some beautiful mansions – what a beautiful city!  And I nervously said – we have to catch the last bus at 10 pm – as he is trying to slow down to show me some of the highlights.  (Why!? do I worry!?!!).

We arrived at the restaurant, I pay the driver, thank him and see Arlene standing out front waving her arms and clapping happily!  I can hardly believe this!  It worked.  So since leaving home at 4:30 am Central Time, I arrive at this restaurant to meet my friend almost right on time to eat some Chaya soup and drink a Chaya juice with a local guitarist playing music on stage before 10 pm.  She decided we would share a cab to the house so I could eat and  I thought – what the heck – it’s my first time in Merida!


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Why Do I Hurry Through Practice?

Why do I hurry through practice, and want to skip stuff at the end and finish earlier than I intended?

Why don’t I set aside the time to practice and actually do it?

I have heard these questions from others and in my own head.  Just today I was feeling some pain in my body and thinking that I can’t wait to done with my practice.

I realize that “wanting it to be over” is not being “present”.  I wonder… why escape the present moment?

I am now present.  I note my breath, how my body feels.  I am immersed deeply in to my practice.  Experiencing breath, energy, sensations and thoughts.

I realize great sadness and pain coming up and out of my body.  I sob for a bit, but stay with the flow of the practice, allowing the feelings to subside, and staying present to all of the sensations.  I move on.  No longer crying, just observing as I move my body and feel the physical limitations from scoliosis and old injuries.  I observe: my left side is weak (arm & leg), my left shoulder tight, my right hip tight.  All the places I feel limited by.

The pain of breaking through these limitations – I don’t want to feel it, I want to avoid the pain in the body as I break through these limitations.

Ahh, the pain body..  Eckhart Tolle speaks about the “pain body” in his book, the Power of Now.  He also addresses it in an article published. For this blog’s purpose, I will use his work to understand my experience – this pain that shows up as emotional pain is simply old suppressed emotion – it could even be older than our physical body – some emotional pain we brought into this lifetime with us.  He says that being present – presence can allow it to be released and that this is one of our greatest purposes in life.

I like this point of view, because I know that I do not have to worry about it.  It’s normal.  It’s there.  Okay.  Move on.

The physical and emotional pain, it is not the truth,  it is an illusory limitation that is stuck in my body.  With each breath, each asana, we will keep chipping away at these illusions until, until…we are free.


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