Category Archives: Health

French fries call my name….

I am on a healing path.  It is my intention to move my body back into balance, to reverse the health conditions that are troubling me, to shrink the “growths” that are in my body temple, to maintain and manage my energy, my vibrance and to feel good more often than not.

The more I learn about nutritional medicine, the use of plants and natural substances to heal and the importance of emotional wellness, the more I realize that we should be working in partnership with our doctors instead of going to them for all of the answers.  You know your body better than anyone else. This is one of the reasons that allopathic or mainstream medicine does not resonate with me.  I see little proof of it making a difference other than in emergency/crisis situations. I was given all sorts of allergy and asthma medications from age six to 26 and I am sure those drugs caused various kinds of damage.  I mean, we’ve all seen the pharmaceutical commercials for new meds and heard the long list of side of effects at the end. I’m not against hospitals but would love to be a part of a movement to make them better.

Part of my contribution to this movement is to share what I am learning and to be as transparent as possible about my challenges.  It is not an easy path, but there are no magic pills and no quick fixes. Healing Naturally is more of a video diary that I’m making public.

This short video clip speaks to how there are some days where fried food seems to call my name.  It’s as if we were old loves unable to part from one another.  It’s as if I was somehow wired to want these things cooked in high heat and lots of oil.  The logical part of me knows it’s programming, socialization and habit.  The emotional part of me knows it’s about memories of a huge cast iron skillet on grandma’s stove frying up everything from chicken that looked and tasted better than any restaurant to hot water cornbread soon to be dipped in honey.  I know how good I feel when I’m eating lots of fresh living foods, when I’m eating fruits and vegetables, drinking my fresh juices and smoothies, but this stuff is like a monkey on my back.  It’s hard to understand why because there are physical consequences when I slip.  I’m staying inspired because I confronted sugar addiction, wheat and bread, dairy and candy and none of that bothers me anymore so I know I can do it. I just need your prayers, your affirmations and maybe a 12 step fried fish and french fry support group.

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Healing Naturally: Self-Exposure and Nakedness

bright sunThe morning is here.  The sun is peeking through the curtains as if to say let’s do this, you’ve slept enough already. The blueness of the sky has returned, the clouds seem happy to not be filled with rain and the air looks deceivingly warm. It is not warm. I am in the Blue Ridge Mountains where snow fell in October just the other night. It is 31°F.  It is October and I am not mentally prepared for winter.

Winter preparation means preparing my mind for massive amounts of self-love and discipline. It means massaging my heart just as good as I massage my kale and enrolling a serious circle of accountability to support me in my healing protocol. The journey is a blend of adventure and routine.  Letting go of old habits and forming new ones, especially new ways of thinking, is not for the weak.  Although I at times feel weak, I know for sure that I am strong enough to accomplish my personal and professional goals. Oh, and then there’s the work to prepare for the book release, but that’s another post for another day. Today is Sunday, a day I shall use for going within.

I am revisiting my video blog, Healing Naturally, as a way to keep myself accountable and to practice sharing consistently.  I started out strong then stopped posting even though I was still recording posts.  Exploring and exposing my fears, anxieties and areas of weakness just didn’t feel cool.  Authentic sharing requires lots of courage, a willingness to be naked and let it all go.  Well, I made myself the promise of a huge break through by the end of 2014.  I intend to live and love boldly. The break through is not going to happen with me standing on the sidelines, hiding under the covers or sitting quietly in the corner pretending to meditate. Nope, my purpose was revealed to me at 10 years old and I’m about that life of honoring it. Look for posts once or twice a week on my youtube channel.  Please comment on youtube, LIKE, subscribe and share your story too!

Stressed Out: Healing in the Midst of it All

Toni Shining the LightI’ve reached a new level of “healing” with my body.  I am detoxing, eating to live, exercising, meditating and de-cluttering my car, my closets and my files.   I don’t know what’s going to happen next but I’m channeling the prayer warrior skills of the elders from St. Marks Baptist Church, a place where the old folks would moan the spiritual hymns.  It smelled of Avon perfume and sweet potato pie and was filled with women and men from the deepest parts of Louisiana.  I am choosing to believe that I can heal  and if there is surgery needed I  will have a speedy recovery.

Part of my healing approach involves minimizing stress and anxiety.  Right now, many of us are functioning at a heightened state of awareness as we see injustice being replayed on our television and computer screens.  It’s hard to fathom how our ancestors coped with all of this nonsense.  Although the church no longer functions as the safe haven that it once was, I am understanding why it was so important to our grandparents.

I am finding it impossible to be signed in and not read, watch and listen to every single thing about Ferguson. I am finding it challenging to not think of my heart as an aching machine with I think of Mike Brown’s friends and family. I am finding it difficult to not cry at least 2 to 3 times a day. Behind on work  and deadlines, important meaningful work that I believe makes a difference, I find myself needing to check out–often. 

New research revealed that the shorter lifespan of Black men can be partially attributed to the pressures they deal with in society. I know, I know it seems like common sense, but there is now scientific proof  that racial discrimination causes a reaction in the body and impacts stress hormones in a myriad of negative ways. This same stress affects Black women and children as well.  It’s the build up of micro-assaults and the cumulative affect of dealing with them that creates health issues and conditions that can lead to early death.

This morning, I signed onto Facebook and saw that an old friend and classmate who I love and adore is on the ground in Ferguson.  Within 20 minutes I felt a knot form in the upper left quadrant of my back. I was immediately reminded of the importance of feeling my feelings, not trying to stuff them and why we must let the tears fall. I did a prayer for him and his safety.  I then repeated the following:

I release all pain. I release all stress. I release all fear. I release all anxiety. I release all worry. I release all anger. I release all resentment. I release all fear. I release all pain. I release all fear. I release all pain. I am filled with good, with love, with light, with faith. 

Sunset in Yamoussoukro

One of my little “sisters” works in a conservative corporate environment in the south and is dealing with daily microaggressions that have intensified now with recent events in the news.  My recent conversations with her reveal classic stereotypes about Black women and textbook examples of the stresses that women face.  She is expected to be strong, to carry more work than others, to not be emotional, to work without acknowledgment and to not complain.  When she complains she is perceived as angry.

The strong Black woman stereotype is another issue for us to address because many of us internalize it adding even more weight to our wellness challenges. I no longer try to be strong.  I admit when I feel powerless and frustrated while at the same time clinging to the idea that I/we can overcome any challenge as long as we believe it’s possible.  Managing stress means being present to how I feel at any given moment, monitoring what I ingest mentally, emotionally and energetically and establishing practices and rituals that support me feeling peace within. I just don’t have the luxury of being able to not manage my emotions. Stress shows up as physical reactions (i.e. illness) in my body and it is my intention to be well. Insomnia, binge eating or loss of appetite can be a reaction for some women. In my body, anger, rage, fear and worry each trigger symptoms like physical joint and pelvic pain, nausea, a weakened immune system, tension in the back and hips, edema, even more painful PMS symptoms and worsened monthly cycle issues.

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This month I am channeling the prayer warrior women of my childhood.  Here are a few of the things that I do to stay as grounded as possible.  Check out the list below:

1)Slow down and take a minute to just breathe and pay attention to the breath. There are plenty of breathing exercises on youtube where you can learn how to breathe properly if you want to go deeper.

2)Do a body scan.  Go from the bottom of your feet to the crown of your head paying attention to the places where there is tension and letting it go. Wiggle your toes, move your hips, breathe into your back, relax your tongue and loosen your facial muscles. When we’re busy we often forget to check-in on our bodies.

3)Listen to inspirational audio.  It might be religious or spiritual, it may be motivational or meditational, but find audio that helps you to tune into ways of thinking that benefit you and your health.

4)Take walks, exercise and/or dance. Movement helps us to release tension.

5)Stay in touch with loved ones.  It’s easy to feel isolated so stay connected to those who love you and make you feel safe.

6)Don’t hesitate to seek out support or professional help if the pressure gets to feel like too much to bear or if it’s consuming you. I see a counselor who is also an energy healer rooted in spiritual healing practices and I sometimes go to a monthly healing circle she facilitates.

 

 

4 Quick Tips & Lessons From My Healing Journey

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Let’s start with a few take-aways from the healing process so far:

1)Take care of your mind first. Don’t beat yourself up when you have to ease up on your plan.

2)Create a community of supporters who are fully enrolled in your being well. It may only be 2 or 3 other people but identify people to help you be accountable and inspired.

3)Be prepared to let some people go while on your journey. Some folks are a hindrance to wellness because the new you makes them uncomfortable. Bless them with love and create distance.

4)Own your choice to heal naturally.  Thicken your skin. Be prepared to speak the truth to whomever needs to hear it. Set those boundaries and honor your own inner-guidance.

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As a foodie and lover of all things tasty, I never imagined myself being so in love with the food lifestyle I’ve adopted. I’ve bought a 9 Tray dehydrator, a Vita-Mix and a food processor. Then I turned into an 8 year old on her birthday when my mom sent me a NutriBullet.  I was so excited when I opened that box.

Still with all of these tools and equipment, I’m discovering that the first priority on my wellness journey is me.  It’s not my diet or food plan, not the exercise, herbs or the acupuncture, but it’s me.  When I say me I mean my mind, my attitude and my beliefs about getting/being well. One of my accountability partners is battling lupus like a fierce warrior. She’s incredibly physically fit now and committed to her work out activities, but today realized that her mind was a priority and the gym was secondary. She chose a peaceful walk in the park instead of her normal routine. Choosing peace sometimes means missing a workout. Once we’re centered we can actually get the true benefits from our healing activities whether it’s food or exercise.

Julia, an acupuncturist/ healer at Third Root Community Healing Center in Brooklyn often speaks about how important community is to making health changes and healing the body. Walking this wellness journey with women who have just as much at stake as me has made such a huge difference in my life. Having that exchange with one of my wellness partners this morning reminded me to focus on peace, to choose a few hours of quiet.  My circle has served as a protective shield from loved ones who either with good intention and sometimes judgment say/think some of the darndest  things about my choices.

DoNotJudge

People can be impatient, unknowingly insensitive and selfish.  Unless one has been on a healing journey of their own, I’m finding that it can hard for them to have compassion. The phrases “but you look so good” and “but you don’t look sick” is so far from a statement of support. A person may not look ill and they may not carry the disposition of a “sick” person but it does not mean they don’t still need the same amount of love, support and encouragement on their wellness journey.  There are so many women suffering quietly from symptoms triggered by tumors and cysts, lupus and other autoimmune related dis-eases, diabetes, sleep disorders, severe food allergies and insensitivities, fibromyalgia and the list goes on.  This is more evidence as to why random kindness is a good idea. You never really know what another person is going through.

The changes I have made in my life have not been easy. It has affected my friendships, my interaction with family and loved ones, my social life, what I eat and how I eat it, my work and my schedule.  I am reading and watching youtube videos for one to two hours a day so I can learn as much as possible about how to heal myself. I still have to navigate through a corporatized medical system that is designed for crisis care but not prevention and health care. Then I have to figure out how to afford staying alive while making time for the rest of my life. Oh, and don’t forget eating right and exercise.  It’s possible to reverse most conditions but it is not without dedication and sacrifice.  It can also be the unpopular choice. Still, I am choosing life.

Growing up on the standard American diet (i.e. SAD), being medicated (asthma/allergies) for the first 25 years of my life and having no awareness of how stress and sadness impacts the body all resulted in a toxic body and a compromised immune system that I am now patiently committed to healing.  I choose wellness. I choose me. I choose life.  I’ll continue to share insights that I’ve gained and please check out my video diary:  Healing Naturally.  It hasn’t been as easy to share as I thought it would be but I’m committed to doing posts at least once a week:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U0tczpnNKk They will post on my Youtube channel:  www.youtube.com/user/ToniB104.

Be well.

Food Will Test You: 5 Things To Do To Support Your Dietary Changes

So the waitress places every single fried food appetizer near me.  That’s how last week’s adventure began. Me, with nine other visionary social entrepreneurs at a fancy Thai restaurant getting the shakes as I reminisced on the fatty goodness that lay before me.  I don’t over eat anymore because I cannot.  There is no room for the food and it causes pain if there’s too much in there. I do, however, rationalize my greatest pleasure on earth:  food.  Even when it is blocking me from my goal:   healing my body.  I am a human raised in the United States of America, the home of the quarter pounder, the foot long sub, the double-decker deep dish pizza.

Fried Spring Roll Temptations!

Fried Spring Roll Temptations!

I was one of ten Echoing Green Fellows selected to be a part of a week-long inflection retreat. It actually felt more like an “intensive” than a retreat but it was absolutely powerful.  The experience was mentally challenging like a good work out that makes you feel exhilarated from the sweat but a little sore from the muscle stretching. This was the first time I ever clearly articulated and outlined my dietary needs.  In my memo I admitted to my awkwardness and made a series of bold requests including the suggestion that if my dietary needs were overwhelming for the planners that I would prefer to organize my food myself.  To my surprise the response could not have been more supportive.

The week had all kinds of tests with regard to food choices. The only time I did not feel confronted was while in my hotel room making green smoothies.  I made one to drink in the early morning and one to take with me for late morning. Here are five things I did to make sticking to my diet a little easier:

1)I requested a refrigerator from the hotel in advance.

2)I rinsed off parsley, dandelion leaves, organic apples, and chard ahead of time and stored the greens in a small insulated freezer bag and carried the rest of my foods in an insulated grocery bag I got from Whole Foods. I had a couple of bananas, a bag of hemp seeds, and spirulina, as well as a few snacks. It also helps to have a knife or buy one upon arrival.

3)I communicated as directly as I possibly could and outlined exactly how I wanted to be treated. I clearly stated the awkwardness that can come with being the one who is “different” and I wanted to avoid the weirdness that can occur at restaurants by handling food planning in advance. This left me feeling incredibly empowered.

4)Drinking a smoothie early morning and having another before lunch helped to not only fill me up but the nutrient rich drinks also helps to reduce cravings.

5)I had snacks in my bag so when the urge for crunch, for salty, sweet or chocolate came up I was armed and prepared.  There are the inevitable moments of someone offering to split their fair trade chocolate bar spiced with cayenne and cinnamon but filled with sugar.  There are those plates of afternoon cookies that do the devil dance when they bring them out warm. Even though I didn’t eat them all, having an arsenal of snacks in my bag calmed my anxiety around slipping.

Last week’s tests were made easier by Maggie, the event coordinator and logistics point person.  Her attention to detail was a gift, but I know this is only the beginning.  I am now operating from a space of integrity with myself and my body’s needs. I am learning to be gentle myself while still being firm about what is good for my healing and what is not. Some of what I’m doing is temporary but I now see a lot of it as a lifestyle change. I know a lot of smart people ruining their organs, their insides and diminishing the possibilities of a high quality of life as they get older. I also know what it feels like to put something in your mouth knowing it may trigger bronchitis symptoms, a rash or abdominal cramps. Change is not easy but damn if it don’t feel good to feel good! I am releasing the need for pain.     greensmoothies

I raise my glass of greens to each of you.  The toast? May this summer inspire the motivation to honor the changes you have been wanting to make. I am wishing you the best on your journey. Remember it is a process. Love yourself, be gentle with yourself and forgive, forgive, forgive…yourself while focusing on one new habit at  a time!

My Summer Video Blog— HEALING NATURALLY:  FOOD WILL TEST YOU  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A86tINF5DGM

 

 

Headed to Wellville

Headed to Wellville

The journey to Wellville as naturopath Dr. Morse likes to say can be a long but rewarding road.  There are pictures of my mom rubbing Vick’s vaporub on me as a baby while in the crib.  There are also photos of a six year old me with knee high socks and a little bulge on my right leg. That’s where I stored my tissues while playing. Then there are the memories of tests, shots, medication and ER visits. These visuals not only help to remind me of what I have endured but also how far I have come.

This was a month before I had to quit softball due to allergies and asthma. Oh, she was so happy to join the team.

This was two weeks before I had to quit softball due to allergies and asthma. Oh, look at  how happy I was to join the team.

As I sit in my bed this morning, I’m meditating on healing the imbalances in my body–shrinking the tumor, dealing with anemia, a highly acidic system and physical pain. The side-effects of pills have caused other concerns and discomforts that inspired my renewed commitment to being gangsta about my health. The plus side of my approach to health care is that I didn’t catch the flu once this year or last year and no shots were needed. I fought off three or four colds and none of them lasted more than a day or two.

 

A friend recently asked, “How’s your eczema?” I looked at her while lifting my skirt to show her my legs and asked, “What eczema?” We laughed, shared food stories and I closed my eyes in gratitude.  Twelve years ago the eczema was so bad I had to wear burn bandages on my calves for a month to keep my legs from being infected.  Lifestyle changes included stress and energy management, cutting out gluten and refined sugar, and eating a more alkaline diet.  The proof is not in the pudding but in my skin.

Many naturopathic doctors and healers say that we are own healer and doctors are here to support us on that path.  I am learning so much about myself and my body.  What I recently thought were asthma symptoms were actually symptoms of acid reflux and an overly acidic body.  I believe that the pills I’ve taken for pain over the years have damaged my stomach lining.  Indeed, none of these are unique issues and millions of people suffer from the same thing but my research tells me that left unresolved these are the things that turn into cancers and other diseases. If my system has been the way it is since I was a baby then it is time for an aggressive, proactive approach to changing and healing it.

As an empath and highly sensitive person, I can feel when people around me are out of balance. I can feel the stress of others and can sense when someone is about to crash, especially those I love.  I can feel sadness and if I talk with a person for even a brief while I know the state of their hearts.  I can even feel when death is in the air and I know when someone does not want to be here.  Many of us can feel these things but are often too busy to notice. I, however, have no choice.  Of course, all of this feeling helps to complicate healing so my wellness journey has required I go deeper than I planned.

A sensitive digestive system is very common to people who share my sun sign, Virgo. There are other sensitivities that I have that are very common to artists.  I’m easily over-stimulated and have had to incorporate a number of rituals in my life to prevent overwhelm. Meditation and prayer are not something to do, they are my lifeline to staying well and as critically important as is drinking water.

The wellness journey reveals a lot about what you are made of but it also speaks to the character of other people in your life. You discover that there are friends and loved ones who will actually judge you for your condition.  There are those who severely lack compassion and others whose self-absorption is exposed as they only notice what they need to get from you while never truly acknowledging how you feel.  What others are going through is secondary to their work and goals. It’s not that these are particularly bad people.  It’s just that they have “character issues” and things to work through. Your life lesson may be connected to your physical health while their lesson is more deeply tied to spiritual wellness, character development and relationship.

I had a few health scares this year that have shaken me to my core but I now wake up with more gratitude than I ever thought possible. This journey has helped me return to my creative center because it is a major key to balance in my life. The peace has helped me lose weight without trying and it has challenged me to transform my life spiritually. I have released so much baggage this year, honored boundaries and finally learned to say yes to me by saying no. My relationship is healthy and supportive and I don’t have one toxic friendship in my world.  Now, as a former drama queen that is the real miracle.

Little Toni lunching with the ladies @ Disney Land.

Little Toni lunching with the ladies @ Disney Land.

Raising my glass of green drink to you this morning.  Let’s toast to the miraculous, to healing our hearts, our minds and our bodies. Yes, I focus on the good because positive energy is healing. I speak words on a higher vibration because that is where I want to live. I smile because I am truly happy but this path to Wellville  is a trip so please keep me in your prayers.  I love you.

Resource Sharing

Here’s some of the stuff I am exploring this month:

http://www.drmorsesherbalhealthclub.com/

Dr. Jamie Koufman’s book:  Reflux Cook Book  http://www.refluxcookbook.com/

Dr. Jamie Koufman’s book:  Chronic Cough Enigma http://www.amazon.com/Chronic-Cough-Enigma-recognize-neurogenic/dp/1940561000/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401280410&sr=1-1&keywords=chronic+cough

Q&A 224 Dr Robert Morse:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApG8AXFVk7c

Staying Well Part One Nutrition (this series has 4 parts):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j382ND_1TZA

A 30-Day Challenge for My Soul

When Dara, the owner of Sacred Brooklyn, suggested I sign up for the 30-Day Challenge, I paused and said, “Ok.” It seemed like a perfect way to begin 2012, a year that for many represents a time of great transformation.  Some believe 2012 presents the possibility for cataclysmic events and dramatic change so I thought, “Let’s get prepared. “

Initially, the 30 days of free yoga seemed to be the main reward for completing the 30 Day Challenge, but 28 days in, I know for sure that the benefits are much more profound than a free yoga class.   Ironically, an article really critical about yoga circulated heavily throughout the blogosphere.  Concerned about this crazy-yoga-everyday-for-30-days-thing Toni is doing, a few loved ones brought the piece to my attention.  The article was imbalanced, made generalizations and did not speak to my experience at Sacred Brooklyn.   I could, however, write an article with a similar amount of criticism if I were to share my opinions of the way some teachers of Bikram yoga approach the practice of teaching, but that’s for another day.  Right now, I want to share the beautiful and surprising ways that my 30-Day Challenge has helped me deepen my relationship with myself:

  • Daily yoga means daily planning.  I had to plan my juicing, my eating, my sleeping, my commute around the city, washing my yoga clothes, packing my yoga bag, my performing, my meetings and appointments, my work, my phone calls, my social life—all around yoga.   This landed as odd for some people in my life, but others were impressed even inspired.
  • I also discovered how little self-love I practiced when it came to eating and consuming enough food.  If work came up, work would be the priority not making sure I ate.  It’s difficult to exercise without food because food is energy and fuel for the body.   I have an immune system that demands special care so it is just not possible to exercise everyday and not eat consistently.  Now, my 30-Day Challenge for February is the practice of eating small meals and snacks four to six times a day.
  •  One of my biggest life lessons has been around the concept of boundaries and being able to say no.  The lesson has been about me knowing how to prioritize myself, my time and what I need to do for me.  As a person who has often felt responsible for others, for the world’s problems, I have struggled with this issue off and on for years.  This month I have left meetings, shortened lunches, rescheduled studio sessions and appointments, ended juicy phone calls, passed on invitations, rearranged deadlines—because I had to go to yoga.  This is a new year and definitely a new me!
  • My motivation for practicing hot yoga when I started Bikram four years ago was for physical reasons, but I’ve maintained my practice because it is good for my mental and emotional health.  A passionate, heart-driven, super-sensitive, overly emotional creative, I also have a tendency to live inside of my head.  Yoga in the hot room gets me grounded, present and into my body so I am living with my feet on earth, with my heart and mind connected in a more balanced way. A mind is a terrible thing to waste and can be a dangerous place if it’s not properly taken care of.  The clarity that this 30-Day Challenge has provided feels so good.
  • Too often our health challenges can be so frightening that we exist in a frozen state of worry where being in action gets really hard.  The balance between surrender and making it happen can be a fine line to walk.  I’ve been dealing with fibroid tumors and all of its related symptoms, as well as, sensitivities and allergies I’ve had my entire life.  A woman’s body experiences so many shifts and changes every seven to ten years.  It’s sad how little these major experiences that are so common are discussed in the public sphere.  I feel like I’ve been in school learning about a body, my body, things that I should already have been taught.  Going to yoga class through the physical pain and other challenges required such mental focus and deliberate intention. Accepting the days where I had to give 80% because 100% wouldn’t have been safe was a practice in patience, acceptance, discipline and most importantly, humility.

I’m sure that as the challenge comes to a close, more benefits will be revealed to me, but the discoveries have been paradigm shifting.  There is absolutely nothing easy about taking on a “challenge”, but once the hard part is over life gets a little easier.  Maybe ‘easy’ isn’t the right word here-life gets better.   We get to know ourselves better, we better understand ourselves, our ways, our habits and beliefs, and when we can be honest about where we are not honoring ourselves we begin to treat ourselves better.  2012?  We 30-Day Challengers are ready for all 365 Days of you. We accept you, embrace you and powerfully step up to the other challenges in our lives. Namaste.

Sacred Brooklyn