Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: November 2017 (page 1 of 2)

The Subversive Act of Gratitude

For years I’ve been curious about Thanksgiving and the idea of gratitude. One of my earliest posts, Thankshaving, (which hilariously looks a lot like Thank-shaving instead of Thanks-having) attempted to parse through this. I’ve remained a student of this idea of gratitude for years. This year, I think I graduated to 8th grade in the subject, as I’ve begun to realize what a powerful act it can be to cultivate a sense of thankfulness in any situation.

Thanksgiving is the day we sit around the table and say what we’re thankful for, the stuff that we readily forget for the other 364 days of the year. Our homes, our families, and our jobs move high on the list because we often only complain about these things, but on Turkey Day, we are glad to have them and cannot imagine life without them.

On the 4th Thursday of the eleventh month, we corporately and individually declare what is right in our world. Hidden beneath our gratitude, we find a layer of acknowledgement that life isn’t perfect, and we still find space to be thankful for what is good. It’s our way of saying, what I have, and what I am, is enough. Maybe, even, (probably!) more than enough.

In our culture, one that tells us how we aren’t beautiful enough, or successful enough, or loving enough, this is a radical act. We’re led to believe that we’re constantly without enough time, money, friends, power, control, and love to be worthy of our existence, and yet, on a day full of White Carbs of Happiness, we have the power to look at the Black Friday ads and say, “liar.”

When you begin a month full of shopping from this posture, you hold all the trump cards, my friends. You can play the right and the left bower as you see fit. You are free to enjoy a month of giving and receiving because you get to do so as a response to – not a source of – gratitude.

No one really disputes the consumerism of our society, specifically in the month of December, yet it continues to progress. Some propose downplaying all the gifting, and taking a “minimalist” approach (which I appreciate and even integrate). But I’m not sure it actually gets to the root of it. It can slightly shift us from the financial burden and the overcrowding of our homes, but it doesn’t return us to center. Making enough holiday gifts can keep us in the same rat race of earning our worthiness as the old fashioned way of buying it. In fact, now it’s so trendy to reduce the holiday consumption that we’re adding more stress by needing to find that perfect amount to spend and give, so that it’s not too little or too much.

I’m really digging the idea that moving from gratitude will provide much more peace and joy to our Christmas season because we’re not trying to do it right. The perfect gift isn’t necessary, because we’re practiced in saying “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.” We’re moving from a place of enough. We already are enough, and any gift we give is just gravy on the taters (and stuffing and turkey).

This year, as the children write their wish lists and I start my Amazon (and local!) purchasing, I’m finding a new kind of excitement about the season. I can’t wait to look for the things my kids enjoy, and not because I need to provide them perfect presents or risk ruining their childhood. All of heaven knows they don’t need anything. Gratitude reminded us: we are enough. We have enough. We’re simply celebrating our enoughness, and the result is joy.

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The Early Holidays Hypothesis

On Tuesday (note: November 14), I came home to find JJ hanging the Exceptionally Large Wreath on the front of our house. Let’s reiterate: November 14. We’re still a week away from Thanksgiving. He even turned it on. He strung lights around the top of my kitchen cupboards (which, admittedly, give off a certain beauty when they glow in the evening.)

He’s not alone. November 1 my FB feed LIT UP with the premature Christmasing. Some folks get excited about the carols every year, but others, who aren’t chronic pre-season celebrators, also indicated that they were feeling particularly festive about the holidays already.

Of course, Theory A is that the Economic Machine that is the retail industry is behind it all. I’m sure they’re happy to see the early elfing, but I’m not convinced this to be the cause. Every year we hang stockings around the big box stores by Halloween and every year the culture decries the overstepping of boundaries, but this year I’m catching a different vibe from some people. The Thanksgiving Die Hards still want the Turkey to be featured first before moving on to eggnog, but I hear hints in their voices as well that they’re ready for the feasts to begin. I feel like our culture is yearning for the holidays without retail assistance.

The holiday season, the final two months of the American calendar year, holds a lot of meaning to nearly everyone, no matter if a person holds to the Christian religion that centers on Christmas. It’s a time traditionally allotted to family and friends; we finally get around expressing gratitude toward the people we love and appreciate through gifts, cards, or – more popular now – experiences and moments. It’s the season of gathering, not just the harvest but the people with whom we hold close ties. For those who hold negative feelings about the holidays, it is often evoked by a lack of these ties, or broken connection to people foregone.

In short, the holidays are about connection. Whether it’s connecting to family, to friends, to God, or to the community around us, it’s a season where we remember that we belong to one another.

I cannot think of a time (post Civil war? post WWII?) where our society has felt the quakes and rifts so strongly. (Of course, I wasn’t alive back then to compare. And I’m not a studied historian. And data will be hard to come by.) Yet when we look across the landscape and the headlines, we’re seeing bigger and bigger divides, not just by political party, but also by race,  gender, and even within religion. We’ve seen an uptick in uprisings centered around the ways in which some have been historically mistreated because they’re not white, male, and Christian. The Woman’s March, the stand against Nazis in Charlottesville, the #metoo viral awareness movement – these are just the headliners of the ways 2017 rustled our feathers and asked us to dig deep into our collective unconscious and ask hard questions about who we are and what we believe to be true about other people. (At least, they should. If not, than that’s why these things keep arising.)

Add to the mix of divisive topics and issues, we’re living more of a solitary existence now than ever. At least partially to blame is our dependence on social media to “connect” which leaves us feeling lonelier than ever. (Add a dose of FOMO and your loneliness compounds.) We desperately want to be seen, understood, and included. Our society and our networks are highlighting the ways in which we feel forgotten, excluded, and sometimes, just plain terrible.

So we find ourselves one year after one of the most heated elections, in a collective heap, tired of the fighting, tired of the yelling in all caps, tired of the anger, tired of trying to move through our routines as if everything is fine, just fine. The holidays seem so alluring.

Finally, we’re forced to come together (because it’s the holidays and we love each other, dammit!). The holidays require that we all try. This season elevates the other – giving instead of receiving, hope and love instead of competition and winning. It’s as if we’re begging for a reason that we have to love the ones with whom we often can’t stand, those with whom we don’t get along, and those who don’t understand us. Give us a reason, and we’ll try harder. They’ll try harder. That reason, unconsciously, might be the holidays.

My forecast for the next month-point-five: a season of unparalleled generosity. I see us collectively longing for goodness and doing what we need to make this world a little better, despite our differences, because we all feel it. We feel the strain of our past year and we’re ready for something softer. I think the busy parking lots will have a few less angry people. I anticipate hearing more stories of people rallying around causes, specifically in our own immediate communities. I foresee pantry shelves getting lined because people know that they have to be the change they want to see, and giving just feels good.

Let’s run with it. If we know what we’re craving, than we can find a way to meet those needs. We can go to all the Home for the Holiday events and support our downtown merchants, wishing family businesses to have a prosperous year as much as Amazon. We can make sure our less fortunate neighbors stay warm and fed.  Search extra long and hard to find a thoughtful gift for the family member who wouldn’t talk to you last December. Call friends who you haven’t heard from in a while and invite them for one of your own holiday traditions. Whatever it takes for you to fulfill that connectional craving. If you’re looking for a reason find goodness around you, use the holiday season to go create it. 

Swords get heavy after a while, and I imagine everyone is ready to set them down for a feast. We can take a big breath against fear, and let love have the run of the house. Because it’s the holidays. Already.

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5 Things for Your (Immune) Flusher

I’ve been home with a sick kiddo the past few days and I’m hearing from those around me that they’re feeling under the weather as well. Because I find myself repeating myself with advice, here’s my family’s protocol for this time of year. Reminder, this is written by a crunchy mama and a yoga teacher with a little bit of study of the body, but not a doctor. These are basic boosters, not a replacement for practiced medicine. There’s a need in the world for a good Z-pac for a sinus infection (and for everything good and holy, utilize a probiotic when you take it), and a balanced life makes space for all types of treatment.

  1. Stay home. Seriously. The world will not stop without you at work and your child will still learn how to multiply. An added bonus: the entire class won’t end up with the same gunk. I really feel like we’re fighting stuff off more often than we need to because of circulation. It’s totally inconvenient to stay home and watch The Price is Right, but you or your kiddo will recover more quickly and fully than trying to shoulder through.
  2. Supplement. What we put into our bodies changes the interior landscape. If it’s true the morning after a trip to BW3’s, it’s true when you’re trying to fight off a bug. My herbalist hippie sister, my Ayurvedic-influenced yoga teachers and the cyber-world of natural remedies agree on a few staples:
    • Echinacea. Most popular by the tea form, get as much in you as you can. My sister makes a tincture of this, preserving it for the winter and making it possible to take it by the teaspoonful instead of by the gallon, but you have to have this soaking for 6-8 in advance. (Talk to Angie if you want to put in an order or ask about dosing.)
    • Elderberry. This can also be made into a tincture, but I (and my children) prefer the syrup form. It includes lots of other natural immune boosters and the honey used to preserve it is soothing on the throat. I use the recipe by Wellness Mama. I stumbled upon a store bought version at Kroger yesterday, so it’s available to those who don’t want another DIY project.
    • Fresh ginger root. This is a naturally anti-everything (virus, bacteria, fungus… this is why you traditionally finish your sushi with ginger: it kills anything still alive that could make you sick). We’ve regularly added about an inch of ginger root, sliced open, to a teapot full of simmering water so it infuses into whatever tea we drink. (Note, this is not tasty for some teas, but it’s trial, error and preference). But a simple “tea” of infused fresh ginger, lemon, and honey make the kiddos pretty happy. Note: if you bring the water to a boil with the ginger, the water is more “spicy” and the heat of the ginger is really alive. But if you only take it to a simmer, it’s less assulting to the tastebuds. I actually prefer the boiled ginger, I think it’s more effective, but that’s probably psychosomatic.
  3. Eat wise. Listen to what your body is naturally craving, and find the best form of it. Often, when I’m under the weather I crave french fries (which might be a conditioned response, as my mother is the same way!) – but after an unscientific FB poll, it seems likely that my body is craving salt, which makes total sense, especially after a stomach bug that tends toward dehydration. The key here is to listen to your body like you would a child: it knows what it needs, but perhaps it’s not craving the best form of that need. Around here, we eliminate foods that cause inflammation, and specifically to our bodies, these are foods with white flour and sugar. We push the soups made with a homemade bone broth (let’s be honest, that boxed kind is mostly water and salt – not exactly helpful), and for upset tummies in the morning, a banana or a cooked apple tends to go over well. Some traditional sick-foods have pure roots; the red jello your mother forced upon you, before Kraft made a business of it, came from the practice of including gelatinous bone broth. I know, cherry sounds like it tastes better, but it really doesn’t serve to do anything but add sugar and little bit of water into the system.
    In the recovery stage, I prefer kitchari, understood in Ayurvedic wisdom to be the easiest thing to digest and full of medicinal qualities. I like Dr. Claudia Welch’s recipe.  And water, water, water. Tea, tea, tea. (Decaf, herbal, with a spot of honey for those sore throats.)
  4. Sleep. When my children ridicule me, they say, with scrunched faces and high-pitched mocking voices, When does a body heal itself? While you’re sleeping, because I’m reminding them all. the. time. I say it because it’s true! When awake, body has to engage in so many other activities – moving the eyes to focus on TV, walking to the bathroom, talking (or, whining, in my household’s experience). Even your brain has to work harder to process things. Imagine your brain as the commander of a small army, and staying awake and doing things is like asking that commander to also move around the furniture while plotting the next siege. Totally unnecessary. Give your entire being a chance to recoup and focus on the task at hand: getting you back to 100%.
  5. Heat it up. Real quick: a fever can be your friend. It’s your body’s natural way of killing off what isn’t supposed to be there. Kind of like the reason we cook our meat to certain temperatures. So a low grade fever is actually telling you of the status of your immune system. (Sometimes things get dicey and we need to help the body bring that down with meds, and that point of discomfort is between you and your medical professional.) Alls I’m sayin’ is, don’t make the fever the bad guy. Instead, learn from what your body is doing. I find a good hot bath (with some epsom salts) at the early stages helps my body naturally get out some of these toxins in the form of a good sweat.
    Some people, when they’re not quite to the place of illness, like to run or have a good, hard workout for the same reason.  If you’re not feeling up to a jog, don’t rule out movement all together. Your body’s system for removing pathogens is the lymphatic system. It’s like your personal sewer system. Here’s the thing: the lymphatic system doesn’t have it’s own flusher. This gunk gets transported out only through secondary pumps, the heart and the lungs. So when you feel those early signs of your immune system going on alert, get the heart pumping – even if it’s a brisk walk or a simple yoga flow – and get the breath moving. Put some emphasis on moving at your lymph nodes (at the neck, under the arms, in the hips. Twists are excellent.)

So there you go. There are million other natural remedies to fighting off the pathogens we encounter, and probably a thousand reasons why any one of these might or might not be helpful to you. There are homeopathic remedies, essential oils, and varied other things to add to the mix, but these are my non-brand specific ways of naturally trying to restore and maintain our health.

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