Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reaffirm

Every night before I go to bed, I always read for at least ten minutes.  The current book I'm reading is one for The Pagan Review titled "Living in Gratitude" by Angeles Arrien.

This book is broken down into monthly sections - last night I finished up February (Attend to the Heart) and March (Compassionate Service).

I was shocked at how fitting a few of the quotes were after yesterday's blog and so I'm sharing those here:

  • We are strong-hearted whenever we demonstrate courage in our lives, such as by standing  up for a friend who is being treated unjustly, or by intervening when someone is being bullied. Courage means standing by one's heart or core.
  • Open-hearted people demonstrate more compassion, kindness, and generosity as a result of the delight they take in maintaining their sense of adventure and wonder.
  • When our hearts are clear, we know where we stand with the important people in our lives.
  • When the four-chambered heart is full, strong, open, and clear, it is healthy, and gratitude comes to us naturally. We choose to live a meaningful life filled with integrity and purpose, one that offers unlimited ways to be thankful and to express our gratitude to those around us.
  • When we are half-hearted, we operate from "shoulds" rather than wants. Often, half-heartedness signals when we feel duty-bound and believe we have little or no choice in what we do. 
  • Half-heartedness can also indicate that we have outgrown certain interests, people, or circumstances.
  • We often move into denial when we are weak-hearted so we won't have to see things as they are. 
  • When we are weak-hearted and in denial, we normalize the abnormal and abnormalize the normal.
And then in the chapter for March: Compassionate Service these beauties pop up:
  • Those things that have been gestating and incubating in winter reveal themselves in spring, and it is during this burgeoning time that nature mirrors back to us new possibilities and the exaltation of life.
  • Spring is the season of hope and the irresistible impulse to grow and create.
  • We have the ultimate opportunity in spring to restore and embody our natural goodness, to harness our luck, and to become better people.
  • We need to summon the courage to begin a new phase in our growth; then we can start with something we are confident we can achieve.
I have to believe that I began reading this book at just the right time, and these quotes came along just when I needed them the most.

What an affirmation of being on the right path!

Though where I live there is snow on the ground and the fog is so thick this morning I can't even see most of my backyard, spring is definitely in the air!  Today our temps are forecasted to hit almost 60 degrees. I expect the snow will melt and the fog will burn away.

I guess you could say the snow inside me is melting while the fog is burning away too.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Waking up to change

If anyone else is having a year like mine, I believe you could readily agree that whether the world ends or not, this is definitely going to be a year of change.

 My year started off quite literally with me finding out the person I thought was my best friend wasn't. From there I discovered that other people I considered to be really good friends, really weren't much more than acquaintances. I learned that while I was being asked to plan certain events for "the group" to do together, some of them were off planning the same thing with others with no intention of following through with the plans they had me made. Does this sound like high school? It sure did to me.

While I couldn't figure out why on earth this was happening, it did end up teaching me an incredibly valuable lesson. One that I hadn't fully realized until just today.

 Let me back up a bit and tell you a little about myself. I'm a mother. I'm a giver. I always have been. Even before I had kids of my own to mother, I mothered others. In fact in high school, my first day of freshman year, a boy I didn't know, walked up to me with a purely terrified look on his face and grabbed a hold of my arm.

 "Will you be my mommy?" he asked.

 I said yes and put an arm around him and helped him find his locker.

 The nickname stuck, and grew. All throughout high school, I had people calling me mom -- even students older than me, and occasionally teachers who picked up on my motherly ways. When someone had a problem, they came to me. When teachers saw a student with a problem, they came to me and asked me if I could help. I was often told I was an "old soul" and "wise beyond my years".

 I was also a planner. Had an event that needed to be planned? I was there for you and could snap my fingers an have creative miracles appear at your feet. Or so people thought, they never realized the amount of sleepless nights and back breaking work that went into pulling these things off. And why? Because I never let it show. For me, showing that doing something was wiping me out or taking a toll would have been showing a weakness, and that would never do. I had no weaknesses. Not that anyone knew.

 High school came and went, and then so did my first marriage. By the time I finally started college I had twins less than a year old. It took me 6 years, another marriage, another child, and another divorce, to finish college but I did it. And again I did it making it look easy. When people asked me how I managed to work, raise 3 kids on my own, and go to school full time, I told them, "Simple. I didn't have a choice." And as far as I saw it, I didn't. I needed to be able to take care of my kids and the way to do that was to get an education and a good job.

 When I met and married my third husband (been with him almost 13 years now), I ended up having to give up that good job that I had worked so hard to get. And why? Well between the two of us, we had 7 kids. Try to find a decent babysitter who didn't want $35 an hour for that situation! So once again, I gave up myself to make sure everyone and everything else got taken care of.

 Why it took me this long to realize I keep giving up my life for others, I really have no clue. And honestly it didn't even really start to hit me until my birthday just a couple of weeks ago. I generally don't have parties for my birthday. I stopped after several years of my "friends" being too busy to celebrate with me. But I decided it had been a long time since I tried, I was sure the people who were now in my life that meant so much to me would be there for me, particularly after having such a rough time of late -- 2 of my siblings had passed away, followed by an uncle, my mother had a stroke, my granddaughter broke a leg, and several other incredibly stressful events. So I went ahead and planned the party. A few friends RSVPed that they could make it, and unfortunately some of those had to cancel - one due to his own mother being in the hospital - and I definitely know how that feels! The other one had an emergency creep up when her daughters car decided to just plain break on her. We had a Nurturing Necessities meeting that day, to which some friends/board members brought me a special made pizza and then unfortunately one of them had to go back to work.  The rest of my birthday consisted of my husband, a son, and one friend who was able to come spend some time with me. To her I am very grateful.

 I'm grateful to all of them actually. I'm grateful because it started a real eye opening time for me. It started me thinking. Once again, here I was doing the same things. Pretending that I wasn't working hard to make others happy, pretending that I was able to handle everything just fine. Pretending that it didn't hurt when several of them couldn't even answer about celebrating my birthday with me. Why was I pretending? I don't have a single clue. Even I can no longer justify what I have done for years.

 I am a caring person. Honestly, I am. I do lot of volunteer work, my most recent projects include laundry for a local homeless shelter, The Polar Plunge, a donation to a fundraiser my daughter is doing for Out of the Darkness, oh and I do just happen to run my own non-profit organization that helps provide used clothes and baby items to families in need. I feel tons of compassion towards others, sometimes probably too much, and I often forget that there are tons of people out there who don't feel any at all. But being a caring person means I don't want to hurt other people's feelings, even if it's by telling them they hurt mine. See? Once again putting others before me, even when they don't deserve it.

 So...what is it I've learned? I've learned a few things actually. I've learned the only one person I should even attempt to count on 100% of the time is myself. I've learned that others aren't going to put me first, (or even second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth), if I'm not willing to do it myself. I've learned that with some of the other changes that seem to be in the air, I have to learn to rely only on myself.

 I have some long distance friends that are working very hard to become self sustainable and self sufficient, and that is something I am working a lot harder on in my life, with my family too. While that mainly applies to material things in life, such as energy and food, I have learned it needs to apply in all areas of my life.

 I need to become self sustainable and self sufficient MYself. I learned that when I need someone there for me - whether it's to comfort me or celebrate with me, the only one person I can ever truly count on is ME. I need to become self sufficient in all areas of my life, my work, my hobbies, my spirituality. That doesn't mean I'm cutting myself off from others. Not entirely anyhow. It does mean that when I make a decision though, it's because it's something I want to do. Not something someone else wants me to plan so they can blow it off anyway. That way when they don't show up, I'm not disappointed! If people want to join in, fine, but I won't be counting on it.

 I've learned I have to stop living my life for others. That definitely doesn't mean I'm stopping my volunteer work either. I enjoy my volunteer work, and I honestly enjoy helping people - that often - I don't even know. It does mean that I will say, "no" when I really want to, and not "yes" because I feel I should. I've learned not to set myself up for disappointment.

 I know this is going to be a big change for me, one that may even feel lonely at times, but I can't imagine it will ever feel as lonely as it did knowing the majority of my "friends" couldn't be bothered to spend a few hours with me on my birthday. I'm also sure that as the year rolls on, I'll find there are other benefits besides (I already know I'm going to save money!). I believe this will give me the chance to work on my spirituality, along with other areas of my life as well.

 I'm confident that this change will bring about more, better, changes. I'm sure this will open the time and possibilities for me to try new things, experience new places, and who knows what else. All I know is that whatever it brings, I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wisdom of the Plant Devas: Herbal Medicine for a New Earth


Wisdom of the Plant Devas: Herbal Medicine for a New Earth by Thea Summer Deer.
Bear and Company Books: 2011.

http://store.innertraditions.com/isbn/978-1-59143-085-8?id=3609&displayZoom=1&selectedTextTypeKeynames=18

As someone who is really hoping the year 2012 brings about at least some sort of change in our society, the title of this book caught my eye on a couple of different levels. “Herbal Medicine” first drew me in, as I personally am trying to bring a more healthy, natural component to my life.

“New Earth” caught my attention since I am really hoping this year does indeed bring us a new kind of earth. Changes need to be made, and while this year has already kicked off with all kinds of changes in my own personal life and those of my family and friends, we know there is a long way to go.


I got to start off this book with a great interest, and luckily, it was able to live up to – and keep – my interest throughout.

While only 13 herbs are covered in this book (I truly hope there will be another one that covers more herbs), they are covered so in depth, it is well worth it.

Each herb gets it’s own chapter broken down into different sections as follows:

“The Story” gives us the herbs mundane information about the history of the herb, it’s name, and it’s uses – medicinal and culinary.

“The Divination” gives us the herbs more magical information.

“The Deva Speaks” is basically a meditation, almost prayer like, to use while working with this herb. Some of the herbs also have poems or recipes that are under this section as well.

The herbs covered in this book (by their common names) are: borage, calendula, comfrey, sacred datura, ephedra, lavender, lemon balm, red clover, rosemary, sagebrush, self-heal, sweet basil, and uva ursi.

There is also a glossary titled, “Herbal Actions”, in this glossary it defines the different special effects the herbs can have. Each type of effect also includes a listing of the herbs from the book that produce the specific effect.

Finally the book ends with a great resource section that includes” “Books and Educational Materials”, “Field Guides”, “Organizations and Associations”, “Teachers and Practitioners”, and “Herbal Suppliers”.

Thea writes from the stance of a person who is very knowledgeable on the subject, but does speak down to, or over the heads, of her readers. Her style is informative and casual, like having a conversation with a friend over a cup of tea.

Using this book as a guide, will help you to plan a garden that not only can help you connect more to nature, it can help heal you when you are ill, and feed you when you are hungry. In this age of “doomsday preppers” – this book is a great guide to help you become self sufficient and sustainable by growing some of your own food and medicines. It goes above and beyond the physical however, and provides you with information for the emotional and spiritual aspects of your life as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Getting healthy

Trying harder to get a bit healthier this year, I've got well over 2 years on the nonsmoker path now, time to start worrying about things as well! So been trying out some new healthier alternative products to review for The Pagan Review, and to decide what I want to incorporate into my daily life.

We all know health food stores can be a bit expensive and while I love to support the small businesses in the community, I could easily go broke in a matter of hours at my local health food store!

A couple of days ago I was searching online for chia seeds, and found some on sale at a website for about 1/4 of what they cost at my local store, so I had to check it out.

I shopped for a while, placed an order (which I got free shipping on for spending over $49) and my order arrived in a few days. I didn't think it could possibly make it as fast as it did, but it's here. Really happy with the items I purchased -- and a couple of free samples to boot.

After receiving my order I found out that referrals also earn you credits -- $10 for the friend and $10 for me! Well that just makes a good deal even better. So if you want to try the site out -- and save an additional $10 in the process, please use this link and I will get $10 too!!!

http://www.vitacost.com/Referee?wlsrc=rsReferral&ReferralCode=90204850

Thanks and I hope you like it -- I'll be going back soon to order some Larabars....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: Sea Chi Organics


Sea Chi Organics

https://www.facebook.com/SeaChiOrganics

http://www.SeaChi.com


Mandarin Vanilla Lip Balm .15 oz ($14)

Smooth and silky! Living in northern Illinois, if there is one thing I have had a ton of experience with – it’s dried chapped winter lips! Between the dry heat of a gas furnace heated house and the bitter slap of dry winter winds, our skin takes a beating in the winter months of Chicagoland.

When your lips are dry, sore, chapped, even swollen – this lip balm soothes and heals. With a slight tingle you can feel it working as it dulls the pain. Even severely cracked dry lips will heal quickly with this balm – that can also be used then to protect them from the elements.

It has a light citrusy scent that will help open your eyes with its burst of perkiness, that is countered by the calming vanilla scent.

Though this is obviously more expensive than your normal run of the mill lip balm – it is still less than a high end lipstick. If you can splurge for a bit of color, splurging to heal and keep your lips in supple shape may just be a justifiable expense. You will also find you won’t need to use this lip balm as often as many of the others on the market as the effects from a single use are pretty long lasting. Even at my lips worst, I found I needed to refreshen my lips only about a third of what I need with a regular lip balm. This does help cut down on the expense a bit too.




Peppermint Shampoo 8 oz ($33)

Oh this scent is awesome! Smells incredible and I love the lather the shampoo makes.

However, it was just way too drying for my already dry hair. After rinsing the shampoo out my hair felt terrible. It would knot up as it was now TOO clean, no oil left whatsoever to coat and protect it. It left it very rough feeling, not “touchably soft”, as described in their catalog. It stripped my hair so clean of anything I would have to condition twice to simply get the knots back out!

I tried shampooing every other day, then every third day, then every fourth day, but even though by then my hair was looking like it needed a good washing – it would still strip everything straight away.

For someone who does have really oil hair, try the sample size first, it may work for you. For someone with dry hair however, I would not recommend this shampoo.




Leave On Moisturizing Treatment and Hair Growth Formula 8 oz ($59)

This leave in treatment has a really great earthy scent that I loved.

It made my hair very soft, controllable and frizz free – in fact, far better than the previous non-organic frizz free treatment I had been using.

I found for me the best way to use it was to shampoo, conditioner with my regular conditioner, then apply the leave in treatment. Without that extra conditioner I didn’t get near as good results as I did with it.

The product works great. Though I have long hair and 1 bottle didn’t last me even a month. This could become extremely expensive awful fast.

For this product, it’s really has to come down to what are you willing to spend, and how much do you want an all natural organic product? This is one great conditioner, though I admit, I didn’t notice any change in growth rate – but it was used for only a short amount of time so that would be difficult to judge.

For some one with short, non-dry, normal hair, an 8 ounce bottle could probably easily last 2 months. But if you have longer hair, you could also easily end up spending over a $100 a month just on your leave in treatment. That’s a call each individual has to make for themselves. If you want to at least try this product I would recommend getting the trial size and use it for special occasions when you want your hair to look stunning.



All of Sea Chi’s products are made from natural, organic ingredients. They are on the pricey side (organic products generally are more expensive anyway), but these are even on the pricey side of pricey.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Blog and Article with Llewellyn

Please stop by and check them out!


http://www.llewellyn.com/blog/2012/2/getting-back-on-track/



http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/2273

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook


The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook by Kenaz Filan. Destiny Books. 2011.



http://store.innertraditions.com/isbn/978-1-59477-435-5?id=3864&displayZoom=1&selectedTextTypeKeynames=18



This book tells the all encompassing story of how present day New Orleans Voodoo came into existence. Going back in time, this book starts at the beginning, and describes the birth of the Crescent City. By drawing on traditions from numerous cultures, and combining faiths and beliefs together, modern day New Orleans Voodoo was created and has grown in popularity throughout the decades.



This book goes into great depth recreating the environment where New Orleans Voodoo took its first breath, showing the differences between other forms of Voodoo such as Haitian or African, and these differences are major. These differences are what make New Orleans Voodoo it’s own, unique practice.



While this book does focus more on the history and environment of New Orleans, than it does on how to actually practice it, this background is necessary in order to fully comprehend what New Orleans Voodoo really and truly is. By knowing its history, it makes the actual practice more feasible.



We are treated to the stories, legends, and history that have combined together over the years to bring us to our modern day.



This handbook is very informative on the history and gives the reader a broad range of knowledge to help point him/her in the right direction if they want to look more in depth for actual practices. The basics on practices are given, though anyone wanting to commit to a life of practicing New Orleans Voodoo is going to want to use some of the given resources to dig deeper. While practice is possible with the information that is given, it would be best supplemented by follow up research with one of the resources provided.



This book is also an invaluable asset for anyone getting ready to plan a trip to New Orleans, or looking to begin some research on The Big Easy.

Minawear Hemp and Organic Yoga Clothing


Minawear Hemp and Organic Yoga Clothing

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Minawear-Hemp-and-Organic-Yoga-Clothing/159770007369851

www.minawear.com

Minawear is a unique producer of hemp clothing made for yoga, and casual wear. I haven’t had much experience with hemp, so was pleasantly surprised at the softness and warmth of the material these clothes were fashioned from. The blend in this material is 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton. With a thickness and consistency similar to wool, but with out the scratchy feeling, these clothes are also more breathable than a lot of other material on the market. Softer, thicker and fluffier than just plain cotton – yet doesn’t make you overheat and sweat.

The Low Rise Clam Diggers (priced at $64), with trim were my favorite out of the 4 different products we were able to review. They have a good length to them, are well fitting and comfortable enough for yoga or everyday casual wear.

The Low Rise Drawstring pants with silk trim ($78), are also comfortable, but it seems these do tend to run a bit long. On the website you can order a custom inseam, and for the extra $2 I would highly recommend it. The length these pants came in was too long to do much of anything in, other than possibly lay around on the couch! I recommend checking the measurements on everything to ensure a good and comfortable fit – especially if you are indeed shopping for clothes for your yoga practice. Comfort and fit should be your highest priorities when searching for your ideal yoga workout clothes.

The Mini Dress with long raglan sleeves ($68) is stylish, and though probably not something you would wear for yoga, you can easily dress it up or down with accessories. It’s also warm enough to wear on cool days and can be partnered with leggings for a warmer look.

The 3 strap tank ($54) comfortable and when sized properly, form fitting with a built in bra.

The colors are all vibrant and these clothes will not only get you noticed, you will feel like you are doing something special for yourself just by wearing them. You will feel as if you have been wrapped in luxury with the feel of this hemp and organic cotton blend against your skin.

Personally, I feel the mini dress and clam diggers are the best value, and you will have the easiest time finding the proper fit for these two items. I do want to emphasize checking on measurements before ordering. You want to get the right size the first time around so you will be able to enjoy your new clothes as soon as they arrive instead of having to exchange them for a different size.

The only issue I found with the Minawear line was the lack of different sizes. While most items are available in S, M, L, or XL, I was unable to find anything on the website that said what these actual sizes stood for – which is another reason to check your measurements before buying. Send an email to customer service to find out which size should fit you best. It seems to me the sizes may run a bit on the small side, and if you’re a larger size person – you aren’t going to find much here for you – which truly is a shame. Larger people do also perform yoga, and should be able to feel comfortable while doing so also. Perhaps with the cost of hemp material the company feels it wouldn’t do enough business in plus sizes to justify the expenditures, I don’t know, but with the growing popularity of yoga, and the number of people trying to get healthier and lose weight, perhaps it’s something Minawear will look into in the future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook


The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook by Kenaz Filan. Destiny Books. 2011.



http://store.innertraditions.com/isbn/978-1-59477-435-5?id=3864&displayZoom=1&selectedTextTypeKeynames=18



This book tells the all encompassing story of how present day New Orleans Voodoo came into existence. Going back in time, this book starts at the beginning, and describes the birth of the Crescent City. By drawing on traditions from numerous cultures, and combining faiths and beliefs together, modern day New Orleans Voodoo was created and has grown in popularity throughout the decades.



This book goes into great depth recreating the environment where New Orleans Voodoo took its first breath, showing the differences between other forms of Voodoo such as Haitian or African, and these differences are major. These differences are what make New Orleans Voodoo it’s own, unique practice.



While this book does focus more on the history and environment of New Orleans, than it does on how to actually practice it, this background is necessary in order to fully comprehend what New Orleans Voodoo really and truly is. By knowing its history, it makes the actual practice more feasible.



We are treated to the stories, legends, and history that have combined together over the years to bring us to our modern day.



This handbook is very informative on the history and gives the reader a broad range of knowledge to help point him/her in the right direction if they want to look more in depth for actual practices. The basics on practices are given, though anyone wanting to commit to a life of practicing New Orleans Voodoo is going to want to use some of the given resources to dig deeper. While practice is possible with the information that is given, it would be best supplemented by follow up research with one of the resources provided.



This book is also an invaluable asset for anyone getting ready to plan a trip to New Orleans, or looking to begin some research on The Big Easy.

The Best of Wah! CD. Sounds True. 2006.


The Best of Wah! CD. Sounds True. 2006.

http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/The-Best-of-Wah!/59.productdetails

Although this CD is already a few years old, it was my first experience with Wah – an artist, who by now has been performing with her band for over 17 year. Touring nightclubs and yoga centers, Wah has built her own special following.

Her music brings us peace and contentment and can have multiple uses in our daily spiritual lives. Perfect for yoga, pilates, or light meditation, this is a versatile CD, that can also be used in ritual or other spiritual practices.

The tracks on this CD include:

1. Bola Ram
2. Gopala Hare
3. Is it Love
4. Opening
5. Gayatri (luscious chill mix)
6. Hare Krishna
7. Raksha Ma
8. Heart Sutra
9. Opium
10. Om Mani Padme Hum
11. Stay in My Heart
12. On Namah Shivaya
13. Shree Ram/Om

The CD insert lists the lyrics to the chants, and often translates and explains the significance of the chants which makes it easier to follow along and comprehend the meanings behind each of these songs, building on this musical experience.

If you aren’t familiar with Wah – this is a great way to introduce yourself. The songs on this CD were chosen from her repertoire from the previous decade. This selection showcases some deeply spiritual chants.

The music is calming when needed, and even a bit groovy at times, to give your heart an extra boost. Wah’s voice is soothing and smooth – an experience in itself.

It doesn’t matter what your religion or pathway is, experiencing a connection to your high power through music and song is a positive experience. This CD from Wah can help you connect not only to your higher power, but to your own higher self.