Prayer before eating

I still often eat too quickly, a leftover habit from childhood when I was forced to clean my plate even if the portion was too big or I didn’t like the food. To help me slow down, I recently created this prayer, which I read aloud as I chew. Feel free to use it or as the basis for creating your own. It’s perhaps simple and silly, but reminds me to be mindful and grateful as I eat. Feel free to share with me any original prayer you find useful.

Thank you, mama Gaia

As I eat this food

Offered to my body

As sustenance in gratitude

Thank you plants, animals,

Sun, rain, and soil

And to the insects, bacteria, fungi,

And all the people who toil.

I offer this food to my body

Through my lips, teeth and tongue

Thank you, gums, throat, stomach,

Intestines and duodenum.

I ingest with awareness,

Appreciating my organs digesting

And processing this fuel

As I sit chewing and resting.

Organs, blood and cells

Separate nutrients and deliver

Everything where it needs to go

Like water in a river.

Thank you

Photo by gratiturtle 2019

Packing for life as a global nomad

It’s funny how my packing priorities have changed as the months of globetrotting roll by. When I first started this sojourn, I packed mostly clothes because I was afraid I would get tired of the same clothes all the time. Now, seven month later, I’ve ditched most of my clothes and instead carry a fleece blanket and a child size pillow. Because sometimes the bedding provided in Airbnb’s just isn’t so comfortable.

I learned from my friend Dion to pack everything in plastic bags. Clothes and bedding go in kitchen bags and everything else goes in small plastic zipper bags. That way everything is protected if something spills or the pack gets rain-soaked, etc.

It’s much easier to unpack by pulling out a bag of stuff than just an armful of clothes. The bags are also just good to have to use as laundry, storage, etc. In some countries, it’s been nearly impossible to find small “ziplock” type bags. And even if you’re careful with them, after about six months they will start to get holes.

Very small plastic storage containers are also valuable to bring along. Face creams and some shampoos come in heavy jars and bottles, so I transfer them to lighter ones. The small square boxes are nice for stacking. I only brought two and wish I had more because I can’t find them anywhere. They are great for kitchen items like salt that might not be provided by your lodging.

So here’s some of what I still carry because it’s useful: tweezers, scotch tape, spool of thread and needles, small scissors, headlamp, two washcloths, vitamin B liquid, flip flops, small first aid kit, earplugs, sleep mask, travel pillow (in addition to sleep pillow and pillowcase). Nylon tote bag that rolls up into a tiny pouch. Rose face spray kept in the fridge because I cool spritz feels wonderful Yoga mat! And this plastic massage ball for rolling knots out of my back!

The most unexpected useful thing is small felt pads to stick under chairs so they don’t squeal when I move them. I wish all my upstairs neighbors had them, so I carry them to use where I’m staying.

Clothes: 3 merino wool shirts, 1 sweater, 3 pants, pair of merino wool tights (I will never ever part with these), 2 shorts, 2 skirts, 2 tank tops, 5 t-shirts, 2 blouses and 1 sundress. Bathing suit, windbreaker/rain jacket. Hat. 10 pairs of socks and underwear. I buy new items at thrift stores and then can swap them out for seasonal changes or when I find something I like better. Except …I carry my merino wool even in the summer because it doesn’t seem easily replaceable. Dion told me those items would be my best friend and he was right. You can wear them repeatedly and then hand wash them and they don’t smell. And they are warm.

Gratitude is good but reverence is better

My daily practice:

Visualize radiant warm light of sun in your heart

Feel vividly its brilliance and warmth inside you

Practice to carry the light at all times and keep checking it

See the same light in all beings

I have enormous appreciation for everything I see and experience during the day. Blessing things or concepts by saying a mental “thank you” has helped me become more present and mindful when viewing things. Especially in nature, I can stop and examine a butterfly of the sunlight though the leaves and start to find gaps in the mental chatter. Eventually, those tiny gaps get bigger and more frequent.

Examples I say mentally or out loud:

“Thank you for people helping each other”

“Thank you for this excellent weather”

“Thank you tree for creating oxygen”

“Hello bee. Thank you for pollinating flowers.”

Sometimes I direct my blessing to a particular object and sometimes I sent it out to the Field. I find the phrase “thank you” to be more effective than just “what a nice day.” Something about the phrase “thank you” changes the narrative in my brain to include something larger than myself. Not something outside myself, necessarily, but a vibrational field that I am a part of.

Doing this slows mind chatter that wants to judge and make up stories about everything. “Just be here, witnessing this” eventually became accompanied by the revelation that I am lucky to be wherever I am on this glorious planet. So deeply fortunate.

It is possible, though, to feel gratitude and still feel isolated or detached as an observer. Mentally saying “thank you” or writing in a gratitude journal can be robotic, even cold. Ho, hum I’m so thankful for my family and job. Blah blah blah. That’s why so many discontinue the practice. Stick with it, even if you don’t see or feel improvement. Because eventually you will jump the plateau and experience not just gratitude but reverence.

And let me tell you, that is what makes all the difference in enjoying life. I giggle and laugh often now, just at the sheer marvelousness of everything.

When I can move into feeling reverence, everything becomes not just special but sacred. The deeper feeling is a prayer, sent out into the Field or Matrix of whatever you want to call the vibrational field connecting all of us. Everything becomes wonderful, even the messiness. It is all part of this phenomenal and miraculous experience.

Why we all may be dissociating right now as a normal reaction to societal trauma

How can we not feel like our heads are spinning with all the news we hear? Right now America has refugees being locked up and treated poorly, growing white supremacy and fascism, increasing “natural” disasters but refusal to curb reliance on fossil fuels, loss of women’s clinics and rights in several states, frequent mass shootings, and increasing homelessness and poverty. As well as a President who says horrible things, makes threats and seems to lack compassion. It’s overwhelming and many days I have the thought “This is awful! I can’t take much more.” I know I’m not alone because I see all the people screaming out on Twitter. It is a throbbing mass of desperation turned into outrage.

Feeling constantly on guard, threatened, angry, helpless, anxious, worried, and fearful is a state of TRAUMA. I experienced physical and mental abuse as a child and have been diagnosed with PTSD so I can tell you there are maybe differences in the severity or the immediacy of the threat, but the tendency to want to detach from reality, be numb, or go into a daze is the same. I currently have many symptoms of depression: loss of interest, no appetite, dark or hopeless thoughts, not being able to make myself do things I need to do, not caring about appearance, brain fog, etc. But… it’s not depression. It’s dissociation. And it’s pretty understandable if you may be dissociating too

Our emotional lives these days are exhausting. I hurt knowing that mothers in the detention centers don’t know where their babies are. I feel a twist in my gut every time Trump is accused of another rape. I feel deep aching sadness at every shooting. I fear for the safety of AOC and other brave women who are speaking out. I feel empathy for flood and fire victims. I worry about friends who are struggling. We all are pretty emotionally drained.

Doctors are quick to put people on antidepressants and anxiolytics when this state of wanting to “make it stop” may simply be a survival mechanism. I’ve been on one psychiatric med that made me into a zombie and another actually caused me to have a nervous breakdown and I lost my job as a result. So don’t think these drugs don’t have serious consequences. Try them if you want, but understand that there is nothing inherently wrong with you. You are NOT mentally ill just because you feel down or gloomy or empty. You are human and complex and whole. You struggle because you care. And that open heart is a beautiful thing. It is a strength, even when it hurts or seems hard. Keep the heart open because even in the pain, we can can see beauty. Marvel in how much you have endured and surmounted. Even if you can’t see it right now, try writing about it in a journal. And soon you will realize it again.

You can argue with me that dissociation requires treatment, and perhaps it helps some. But the pressure of thinking that you have to fix the way you’re feeling just makes things worse. After earning a masters degree in counseling to try to figure myself out, I can tell you that most therapists and doctors know very little about the layers of reality that people in Trauma can experience. Yes it’s possible to be numb but also be in a subconscious state of anxiety. Anyone who has gotten drunk to try to numb pain or drown thoughts knows that you can feel good but still have an underlying layer or layers of subconscious states of worthlessness, worry, insecurity, doubt, and any number of other things. Apparently there are heavier drugs that completely mask the “shadow self” which explains why heroin, meth, and other drugs are still so prevalent. In my opinion, it’s not a “disease” to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. It is simply a desire to cope and feel better.

I am a strong proponent of the idea that out thoughts create our feelings and our state of mind. This concept of “thought” also includes subconscious thoughts and deeply held beliefs, not just the current thought in our awareness. So, those of us with deeply ingrained limiting beliefs such as “the world is scary” or “people will harm me” have a higher reaction to negative news and events. I have done a lot of hypnosis work on my insecurities and limiting beliefs, but they are still there. Rather than try to make them go away, I accept that they are my dark or shadow side. Like night and day, we all have light and dark sides. It is okay to have mood swings, negative thoughts, ugly states of mind and unpleasant sensations. But unless you psychotic, these things will pass eventually. Life coach Rudy Kenard says “mental health is our default state.” It may not feel like it when we are in a funk. When I feel down, I want to fix it, do something to make the darkness pass. And then this adds to my anxiety because it seems like there is something wrong with me. For decades I actively hated my mind for having such unpleasant recurring thoughts and memories. I tried to change my thoughts to “positive thinking” but the dark thoughts came back immediately. I was at war with my brain and it was awful.

Buddhist teachers say instead of fighting our moods and thoughts, to watch these changes in thought and sensation, letting them flow through us, rather than attaching to the desire to feel good all the time. Ironically, it is the desire to be happy that leads to a lot of suffering because we are constantly seeking to fix or improve ourselves. And beating ourselves up when we aren’t making progress or we are stuck in a state of dissociation that can seem like depression. Now that I’ve learned to just watch my thoughts, know they are just thoughts and not who I “am” and expect they will pass, I find that they do change much quicker and now I experience more positive thoughts and feelings. Even if I still am somewhat dissociated.

If you are experiencing something familiar, please know you are not alone. Many of the people lashing out on social media are doing so because the anger and righteousness feels better than acknowledging the pain. If you are dissociating, give yourself credit for being willing to face the true difficulties and complexity of existence and society. You may feel bleak or hopeless. You may want to cry and no tears come. You may know that you need exercise but you can’t get off the sofa. It’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t make yourself do some of the things you “should” do. Just get through the day the best you can. And if you can, help another do the same, or at least be understanding that they are struggling too.

You can get through this. If you feel lost or overwhelmed, there’s probably nothing wrong with you. You are coping. And I’m holding space for you.

Legal disclaimer: I am not a doctor or therapist and I am not recommending that anyone forgo medical or psychological treatment. If you are thinking about harming yourself please call a crisis hotline or go to a hospital immediately. If you feel out of control and may hurt others, also seek help.

#dissociation #depression #anxiety #trauma #mentalhealth #stress #overwhelmed #crisis #anger #shadowself #holdingspace

Varna sea garden

The sea garden park in Varna, Bulgaria stretches for miles on a bluff overlooking the Black Sea. Thousands of flowers have been planted for summer, and the thick, tall trees host songbirds. Families walk and ride scooters and bikes, and there is just this wonderful feel of relaxation. Evenings and weekends often find music and dance performances and there is an outdoor theater which hosts opera. Walking down the path or stairs brings you to the beach or restaurants overlooking the water. It is a magical place.

I’ve learned a new term here: aylyak, which means the state of being superbly relaxed, unfazed by external conditions, and receptive to the pleasures of existence.


How to enjoy being perpetually lost and clueless

I frequently see quotes on social media advising people to get out of their comfort zones. “Do something that scares you,” said more than one writer. Not so easy to do when you live in a comfortable home in a familiar city. So I decided to chuck it all and become a nomad in Europe. I am now a foreigner in a country where I only know a few words of the language, the alphabet is a puzzle, and the culture is baffling to me. I actually enjoy being surprised and sometimes baffled by Bulgaria. I approach each day with curiosity and a sense of wonder. What will I see and experience today? What can I learn? What can I bring to my interactions with others, even if we speak different languages?

During my eight months of slow travel, I have become much more present with what I am witnessing because I’m not able to have judgments about much of anything. I just see, hear, and let it flow through me, filled with appreciation at my great adventure. Rather than try to look pretty, I aim to have a kind face and a warm smile for those whom I meet. I send them good wishes silently, and I relish moments like a young girl holding the door for me with a big smile, letting the warmth of the moment fill my heart and spirit. In the crowded concert hall or on the bus, I mentally fill the space with healing Reiki and vibrations of peace. I am constantly blessing my experiences, like the realization that no one breaks into the small glass flower shops on the street that probably lacks an alarm. I haven’t heard a single car alarm since I’ve been here.

Are Bulgarians nicer or more respectful to each other than Americans? In many ways it appears so, though I don’t have the answers. I’m kind of an amateur ethnographer, making observations but not quite being able to construct theories. Mostly, I just like the differences, the novelty, that reminds me how curious it is that our planet generally functions pretty well with billions more people on it than anyone ever though could be sustained. Can it continue? Hopefully.

Countries like Bulgaria give me hope, since the population is rather poor, there is no government safety net, yet there is little crime. I am grateful to feel safe while out walking alone, even late at night. I am amazed at the vibrant culture here, with traditional music and dance performances and classical music concerts for very reasonable prices. And television stations that perpetually show orchestra, opera, and folk music. I enjoy going to the produce market to buy mushrooms from the same woman every week who gives me a big smile and adds two large mushrooms to my bag after I’ve paid. I appreciate clerks being patient with me when I don’t understand the cost of something unless I can see the numbers on the calculator or cash register. Not one person has grumbled that I should speak Bulgarian. Most instead try to say something to me in English, like thank you or goodbye. These small things show me that Bulgarians are generally very patient and tolerant people. Perhaps it is conditioning from the communist years or perhaps it is lack of religious influence with its shame and judgment. Whatever it is, I find it very pleasant to be in this environment. I wish I had some enlightening revelation from my time here, but I simply feel happy and that is pretty wonderful.

#nomad #travel #slowtravel #Bulgaria #challengeyourself #dowhatscaresyou #mindfulness #minimalism #simplicity #happiness #being #now #presentmoment

Repetition in meals can help the environment

We hear a lot about the amount of food that is wasted, especially in America. A huge factor in this is the idea drilled into us that we have to have something different for every meal. So the lasagna made on Monday sits in the back of the fridge until it gets thrown out. I eat the same things nearly every day. Part of that is necessity because I have digestive problems and food sensitivities. But part of that is just realizing that if I eat the same things, mostly vegetables, I throw away very little. I don’t have to do meal planning and very little prep.

I have gained a new appreciation for simple “salads” that don’t have lettuce. Here: pickled beets, sauerkraut, spinach, seaweed, sheep cheese, flax oil and olives. That’s it. Best eaten with chopsticks, in my opinion. That way things don’t fall off the fork. (Sheep cheese is my new favorite: it is really mild and creamy and compliments everything better than feta or goat cheese.). Nothing against lettuce: sometimes it’s just nearly impossible to get all the grit off of it and I don’t like that surprise crunch when I eat dirt. Maybe I’ll get used to it.

Confession: I’m a terrible cook and if I eat simply, I can’t ruin a recipe. Another win.

As a nomad, I often only have a very small fridge or space in someone’s fridge, depending on where I’m staying. So I have to be very selective about what to buy and how much storage it takes. This makes repetition a necessity, unless I want to eat out a lot, which I don’t, mostly because restaurant food tends to be greasy and the portions are too large.

In the Balkans, there are lots of produce stands where vendors sell local fruit and veggies every single day. I am happy to give these hard-working people my money rather than grocery stores or fast food chains.

I read somewhere that if all families adopted a mostly plant-based diet, huge progress could be made toward solving the climate crisis. It will still take government regulations and less reliance on fossil fuel, but reducing beef consumption would slow rain forest destruction and cow methane, which sounds silly but is apparently a huge problem in the atmosphere.

I have been following Dr. Gundry’s lectin-free diet for over a month now. At first it was frustrating because it narrowed my entire diet to about a dozen things, and so I was hungry all the time. But now I appreciate the simplicity. I know that these few foods are nutritious and won’t give me gas or a stomach ache. It helps me resist temptations to have a slice of pizza that I know I will regret.

It feels good to know that my food minimalism has many benefits. If you are stressed, short on money or time, give yourself the gift of accepting “leftovers” and repetition in your diet. It just requires changing your thoughts when your brain says “not again, I just had that.” I remind myself that food is not entertainment. It is fuel, and maximizing nutrients and minimizing waste and effort is now more satisfying than variety of flavor.

#solutions #foodwaste #plantbaseddiet #vegetables #salad #meal planning #ecocrisis #minimalism #nomad #greenlifestyle #food #nutrition #lectinfree #drgundry