Saturday, March 19, 2011

FULL MOON: hearts breaking open

My heart, like so many of yours, is breaking for our world. While I feel full what sometimes feels like never-ending grief, I am also keenly aware of the beauty and resiliency in communities coming together, mobilizing actions, and taking care of one another. It's so vital that we stay grounded right now. Grounded in the reality of the crisis and grounded in the reality of what opportunities arise for healing and transformation during a time of such uncertainty. The day is just dawning here and I woke up before light to write what’s on my heart. I’ll tell you a true story and then offer some practices to help support us during these times. (I've also added some new recipes to the previous post)

As the radioactive fallout moves across the pacific, it falls into the beautiful sea, where life began from magical teeny tiny stuff. We’re watching our great mother be poisoned and nuclear is forever. My little human mind can hardly even comprehend the scale of time of nuclear toxicity, though my body knows it well. My own knowledge of how to care for the body and spirit in the face of radiation comes from a profoundly personal place. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when I was 21 years old. Thyroid cancer is pretty rare and has a fairly high survival rate; it also is most common in people with radiation exposure, with spikes in children post- Chernobyl. The year after I was diagnosed, a class action suit was filed from very sick residents of the San Fernando Valley (it’s true, I’m a valley girl, for sure.) against Rocketdyne, a nuclear lab which has had leakages since the 50s. After two hellacious surgeries, I had what is the common treatment for thyroid cancer: Radioactive Iodine 131. I took this tiny pill, had a Geiger counter pointed at me, and was quarantined for a three days, because I myself was radioactive.

14 years later, I am still dealing with the toxic fallout from the treatment for cancer. I bow to cancer and I bow to the spirit of radiation, both big teachers for me in my path as a healer. I know that touching what felt like the bottom of the ocean of my own mortality at such a young age deepened my capacity for compassion and holding the suffering of all beings, grew my fiery passion for justice, and broke open my heart even further to connect with the earth herself, who like me, is a body capable of receiving both love and toxins. Someone recently sent me an email, which said, “Toxic is the new normal.” Yes, we’re exposed to junk all the time- EMF, heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides and even more so if you’re poor or a person of color or someone living in the global south.

It can be hard to not get mired or paralyzed in fear or freak out. It can feel like you are going crazy, living in this world, in which the dominant culture invalidates our experiences and instead offers empty options to numb ourselves with or buy our way out of fear. I just want to say, and maybe I am just talking to myself, that it is normal and so human to be scared, sad, uncertain, shut down, angry, and overwhelmed right now.
I invite you to ask yourself if your feelings of fear or grief can allow you to feel even more connected to everyone and everything, to the whole sparkling web of life? Can you extend your compassion as far as it can reach and also extend it to yourself, at this moment, living in this time of great anguish and uncertainty? And can you let it break your heart right open, so as you feel your pain for the world, you can sense that it is rooted in your love for the world and your love for life?

Last post I listed some nutritional and herbal remedies for these times and so now I want to offer some practices to help us keep on keeping on.

1. Get Present: easy to say, harder to do. A way to come into presence when it's hard is to slow down and take notice of what's inside and outside of you, without judgment or the need to fix or do anything. Be mindful of your consumption of media and how it makes you feel. Breathe.

2. Gratitude: When big waves of fear arise, or any emotions that feel overwhelming, inviting yourself to make a list of things you're thankful for can set your heart right again. This morning I am so grateful for my most precious magical dog curled up at my feet, a cup of nettles, contra dancing, running water, the sounds of the crows in the pine tree out my window. A good way to begin this practice is just to notice the things immediately around you and make yourself count 10-20 things. Place your hand on your heart and feel that pumping muscle and just how much you actually love this intense planet and all the beings here.

3. Gather: be with people. Make soup or a potluck with people and rather than get worked up in a collective freak out, create space to cry, laugh, or make rituals. Make plans for emergencies with your neighbors. Reach out to elders, marginally housed folks, people with disabilities in your buildings or neighborhoods to assess needs in case of emergency. Make a list of all the amazing skills all the people you know have, and then find new friends who have skills that might be missing. Find out about vigils, protests, rituals, or workshops in your area. (see below for some in the bay area and New England)

4. Grieve: I mentioned in the last post the importance of letting the rivers flow. I invite you to create a container with some people, perhaps around a bowl of water, and take turns going in the center of the circle to let tears, fears, or whatever comes come. Also, I love the buddhist practice of tonglen, which is to breathe in suffering and breathe out love, healing, or gratitude. Rather than turn away from the pain, we can experience our own capacities to transform suffering into love.

5. Give: make food for people. give yourself extra love and nourishment with baths or walks or a day off. if you have some extra, give money to doctors without borders or social justice organizations. Make offerings of your tears or songs or prayers to the earth, the sea, the creatures, the people. Give yourself respite from taking in news or images from time to time. Give your time to what's important.

6. Grow: allow your heart to get bigger from being stretched. Grow out of some old patterns. Maybe now's the time to stop eating sugar or stop using your microwave or spend less time on the computer or get involved more or rest more. Grow roots and tendrils, letting yourself grow towards others in solidarity.

7. Gentle: be kind and easy with your self. these are tough times and there's no need to go at anyone else's pace or be in anyone else's process. take a little time each day to tend to the tenderest part of you as if it's a baby. or a toddler. or a kitten. whatever works for you to bring out your kind, nurturing self.

7. keep Going. we're all in this together.

Happy full moon!
May this serious moonlight bathe the planet and all beings in healing, love, and balance and may our fears and grief connect us with everything, everyone and most of all with our love and reverence for life.

with much love,



San Francisco: Elm Dance
Sunday 3/20 5-7pm Justin Hermann Plaza (canceled in the event of rain)

New England : Vigil at Vermont Yankee
Sunday, 3/20 1pm

The Herbal Highway with Sarah Holmes
3/17 show all about herbal and nutritional support for radiation

see below- Joanna Macy's site has links to other health information. Take care not to get too overwhelmed in all the things you should be doing. Keep it simple and remember that we all need seaweed, miso, etc...let's share.

Information on stopping US Government subsidies and loan guarantees to nuclear industries, including bills that are before Congress now.

Joanna Macy
information on workshops in the Work that Reconnects

Monday, March 14, 2011

Recipes for the Great Turning

It's not the full moon, but I wanted to write to tell you all some things. As the day begins to dawn here in the still snowy woods, I wake up with both a heavy heart and the feeling of the sap rising. I don't know quite how to comprehend the magnitude of the earthquake in Japan and the nuclear fallout (on top of the sad, but sadly unsurprising turn of events in Wisconsin. )
It's so easy to shut down with all that's afoot, but we gotta keep going. I'm writing this morning with some recipes, as I hear the radiation is traveling across the Pacific and we've got plant allies who can help support us in these times.

To bring us courage and nourishment, as well as support our bodies in times of nuclear exposure, we can turn to our plant friends, our human friends, the kitchen, and our own inner resources. The ingredients and recipes below contain powerful medicine to help our immune systems cope with the toxins we ingest and breathe daily, and specifically with radiation. They are simple, relatively affordable, and effective ways we can feed ourselves and our loved ones in belly, heart, and spirit.


1. SEAWEED*: eat nori, put wakame, kombu, and hijiki in your soups and stews, make crunchy kelp brittle with it. The iodine in kelp helps protect your thyroid and other glands from radioactive uptake and in general is one of the most magical, medicinal foods on earth, grown by the O.F. (that's the Original Farmer also known as the Sea!) (see where to get seaweed at bottom of post)

2. MISO: good medicine full of live cultures, amino acids, minerals, and protein. I'd recommend making a big pot this week, having a bowl everyday and feeding it to all your friends, neighbors, and weirded-out co-workers (like one time when I brought my lunch to work and someone said it looked like a terrarium). recipe follows below.

3. MUSHROOMS: strengthen your immune system with some shitake mushrooms, sauteed or in soups. Mushrooms are the genius healers of the forest- they know how to bring everything (on earth and in the tiny microcosm of your body) back into balance.

4. Eat vegetables, especially DAIKON radishes and BURDOCK root- stick them in your soup too or make a shredded salad (recipe below). Daikon has been used for drawing out radiation, post nuclear fall out- it's cooling and detoxifying. These will make your liver fall madly in love with you.

5. WATER: DRINK it. lots of it. take BATHS in epsom salt and baking soda (1 lb of salt, with a bit of baking soda 2x week). Cry. (see #8)

6. IMMUNE support: do the things you know boost your immune system- sleep well, eat garlic and Vitamin C rich foods, and go easy on the sugar, please.

7. FERMENT (thank you Shoshi!): buy or make homemade sauerkrauts & kim chi or trade with someone who does. This weekend some friends and I had a fermenting party and made buckets of crunchy apple, juniper berry and cabbage kraut, pickled ginger beets, and spicy kim chi. it's fun to massage vegetables in community. These lively foods have the probiotics your gut needs and wants and are deeply nourishing and restorative. my favorite (and very roughly used) cookbook on this subject: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz

8. LOVE: send prayers, love, healing thoughts for those who need it most. Instead of freaking out or shutting down, let your anger, fear, and grief flow- it's what makes us human and feel connected to what's going on in the world right now. Crying is a potent way to detox, friends.

9. HERBS: if you want to get herbal, some great allies are nettle tea, cilantro (eat a lot of it or take a tincture- it helps draw heavy metals out ), and milk thistle (helps your liver process toxins). Also Yarrow Environmental Essence from FES is a beautiful formula to support the body in environmental disasters.

Magical Medicinal Miso* Soup
Saute one onion, sliced thin til translucent. Add water, seaweed of choice (I like Kombu and Wakame), shitake mushrooms (dried or fresh), burdock root, carrots, and any other hearty roots you like. Simmer for 25 minutes.
I like to add shredded or sliced ginger near the end, so it's strong, and some garlic. You can also add greens, like kale or spinach.
Because you don't want to boil your miso, I usually put a large dollop of miso paste in my bowl and then pour the broth on top to dissolve it.

Drink bowls and offer bowls to all your loved ones and neighbors, kiddos and pets, family and friends.

*I live about 20 minutes from the best miso factory ever, South River Miso, which is made in barrels with lots of love and magic.

Get your Daikon
Easy Shredded Salad
Shred 1 carrot and 1 daikon radish
Mix with sesame oil and a little umeboshi vinegar (also a great medicine!), sesame seeds, whatever fresh herbs you've got on hand (I love mint or cilantro), and a little tamari. Eat and feel alive and well thanks to the plants, the sun, the water and the farmers.

Sesame Kelp Brittle
Another seaweed recipe courtesy of the folks at She Sells Seaweed, given to me by my friend Angie.

~1/2 Cup Brown Rice Syrup
~1/4 Cup Olive Oil
~Dash of shoyu soy sauce
~1 cup sesame seeds
~1/2 Cup crushed Almonds
~1/4-3/4 cup or to your liking of finely crushed kelp (set oven on low heat and bake kelp for 10 min or until crisp and grind in food processor)
~2-3 tsp of fresh finely chopped ginger root

Heat syrup, oil and soy sauce in small sauce pan. When mixture begins to foam up add seeds, nuts, kelp, and ginger, and stir thoroughly.

Line a large cookie sheet w/parchment.

Spread mixture onto parchment and then cover with another piece of parchment and roll out flat w/rolling pin (or glass or jar!). Remove top parchment.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes
-- and then for the last few minutes check every minute until golden. Remove from oven and rip away parchment after 5-10 minutes. Break into pieces and enjoy!!

Finally, in times like this, we tend to wildly swing from a state of overwhelm to shutting down, as we try to make sense of something incomprehensible. While the larger consumer culture encourages us to carry on, business as usual, and sometimes that can feel so necessary when the grief and suffering is so immense, it seems to me that that allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable is good medicine. I'm again so grateful for the work I've done with Joanna Macy, who outlines these principles in the Work that Reconnects:
  1. This world, in which we are born and take our being, is alive.
    It is not our supply house and sewer; it is our larger body. The intelligence that evolved us from star dust and interconnects us with all beings is sufficient for the healing of our Earth community, if we but align with that purpose.

  2. Our true nature is far more ancient and encompassing than the separate self defined by habit and society.
    We are as intrinsic to our living world as the rivers and trees, woven of the same intricate flows of matter/energy and mind. Having evolved us into self-reflexive consciousness, the world can now know itself through us, behold its own majesty, tell its own stories--and also respond to its own suffering.

  3. Our experience of pain for the world springs from our inter-connectedness with all beings, from which also arises our powers to act on their behalf.
    When we deny or repress our pain for the world, or treat it as a private pathology, our power to take part in the healing of our world is diminished. This apatheia need not become a terminal condition. Our capacity to respond to our own and others' suffering--that is, the feedback loops that weave us into life--can be unblocked.

  4. Unblocking occurs when our pain for the world is not only intellectually validated, but experienced.
    Cognitive information about the crises we face, or even about our psychological responses to them, is insufficient. We can only free ourselves from our fears of the pain--including the fear of getting permanently mired in despair or shattered by grief--when we allow ourselves to experience these feelings. Only then can we discover their fluid, dynamic character. Only then can they reveal on a visceral level our mutual belonging to the web of life.

  5. When we reconnect with life, by willingly enduring our pain for it, the mind retrieves its natural clarity.
    Not only do we experience our interconnectedness in the community of Earth, but also mental eagerness arises to match this experience with new paradigm thinking. Concepts which bring relatedness into focus become vivid. Significant learnings occur, for the individual system is reorganizing and reorienting, grounding itself in wider reaches of identity and self-interest.

  6. The experience of reconnection with the Earth community arouses desire to act on its behalf.
    As Earth's self-healing powers take hold within us, we feel called to participate in the Great Turning. For these self-healing powers to operate effectively, they must be trusted and acted on. The steps we take can be modest undertakings, but they should involve some risk to our mental comfort, lest we remain caught in old, "safe" limits. Courage is a great teacher and bringer of joy.
May all beings everywhere find nourishment, healing, well-being and resiliency and may we find new, sustainable ways to be here on earth.

What are your favorite recipes for resiliency and courage?

Take care everyone.


East Coast:

West Coast:
Rainbow Grocery