Green Power Detox Soup

This soup has become my new favorite soup this month, as I trudge my way through a month of soups to detox and heal my gut issues. Feel free to adjust it any way you like, season it how you like, and give me feedback. I would love to try it your way also!

A little warning: I’ve never been one for exact measurements while cooking. For as organized as I can be and Type A as I can get, cooking doesn’t seem to fall into that category! So, that being said, I encourage you to not be too picky with the measurements either. It’s soup. It won’t matter. It will still be amazing and tasty and most of all, good for you and your belly! I also don’t use garlic or onions, because they are triggers for my intestinal distress. I am sure they would make a great addition as well. Also, you can experiment with other greens such as spinach, collards, etc..  Sometimes I also sprinkle hemp seeds into the seeds for a protein and nutrient boost. It also adds a nice nutty flavor.  Feel free to experiment and see what works best for you.

INGREDIENTS: (Organic as much as possible, or you can afford!)FullSizeRender-1

*Frozen or Fresh Broccoli (one bag frozen, or one head fresh)

* 2 Zucchinis

*Kale (handfuls, as much as you like)

*Dandelion leaves (as much as you like, but it can be quite bitter.)

*One box or approximately 32 ounces of Vegetable Stock or Chicken Stock (I have used both. For this batch, I used Chicken. Sometimes I need the extra protein, and the collagen for my leaky gut)

*Curry seasoning to your preference level. I use approximately a tablespoon.

*Smoked paprika to your preference level. I use approximately a tablespoon.

*Sea salt or Himalayan salt and fresh pepper to your taste.

* Turmeric to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put Broccoli and Zucchini in soup pot, add Stock of your choice. FullSizeRender-3
  2. Bring to a simmer until broccoli is fork tender.
  3. Add kale and dandelion or any other greens of your choice.FullSizeRender
  4. Let the soup simmer until the greens are tender.
  5. Add seasonings of your choice and turn off heat.
  6. Let sit for 10 minutes and then blend using an immersion blender, or regular blender until smooth.FullSizeRender-2
  7. Enjoy!! I usually put a spoonful of ghee or coconut oil in my soup as well.

 

Health Benefits of Ingredients:

Broccoli has so many benefits; It is a very good source of dietary fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), potassium and copper. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin B1, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin and selenium.

Zucchini is an outstanding source of manganese and vitamin C. It also contains fiber, vitamin A, magnesium, folate, potassium, copper, and phosphorus.

Kale is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese, and copper; a very good source of vitamin B6, fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin E, and vitamin B2; and a good source of iron, magnesium vitamin B1, omega-3 fats, phosphorus, protein, folate, and vitamin B3.

Dandelion leaves contain vitamins C and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese. Other nutrients present in dandelion greens include folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.

Turmeric is a wonderful natural anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, helps to digest fats, reduces gas and bloating, and is good for the skin.

Who needs a multi-vitamin when you can just eat this soup? So chock full of nutrients and minerals!

 

 

Intentions and Affirmations moving into 2018

Namaste Beautiful  Shining Lights!

For those of you who are new to this ancient Sanskrit word, let me take a second to explain it to you. It is a very sacred and a deeply spiritual word with several meanings. Many of you have heard Namaste in a Yoga class, but do you really know the meaning of the word? In the literal translations it is broken down like this: “Namah” breaks down to salutation, and “te” breaks down to you.  So, basically, “Salutations to you”. I have also heard/read the spiritual translation as “The divine in me, sees and respects the divine in you.” I, of course love this translation especially.  When I traveled to Nepal, India, and Bali last year, I heard and spoke this word dozens of times a day with my hands at my heart and bowing to each soul who looked at me. It was the greeting you heard everywhere, by everyone, usually followed by a “Hello”. I fell in deep love right away! So much respect for each other. What a concept!

So anyway, here we are, the first day of 2018. I have to be honest, New Years Day has never really been a huge deal for me. I tend to view my new years day to be my birthday, personally. That day truly is the beginning of a new year, but besides the point! 2017 had so many ups for me, and so many downs as well. Highlights of course being the above mentioned trip full of yoga, meditation, connection, and spiritual growth that has propelled me forward; teaching yoga and meditation three to five times a week, beginning ESOL (English speakers of other languages) training for volunteering with the Literacy Council in my county, (which I start in ten days with a woman my age from Honduras who wants to learn to read and write English); beginning a two year training with my Meditation teachers to become a certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher; being a guest on another of my teachers radio shows discussing yoga and meditation as a form of healing in recovery from trauma; finding an amazing therapist to deepen my healing process as a child of neglect and abuse which has led to many years of shoving emotions and trauma into the pits of my belly; and speaking of belly, starting an intense elimination diet to try and heal 30+ years of digestive disorders; which includes eliminating all forms of sugar, (now at just under 7 months sugar free!)  So many lows as well: accompanying my love, Kevin to Buffalo and being with him and his family as his father passed away from cancer; two car accidents (both minor enough, but insurance rates increased regardless that they were not my fault), Kevin’s intense relapse from recovery (thankfully the bottom he needed to propel him forward! And he is crushing it!), Trump being elected into office and watching my rights and country slip fast before my eyes, and again, cutting myself off of sugar! This has been amazing to eliminate, but I can not believe the vicious grip sugar possesses over me. I mean it is intense. Finding out that you are truly an addict to a substance is insane, especially when it is more than legal! It is in every food in America, damn near. It is eight times more addictive than cocaine, so snicker away if you think it does not qualify as an addictive substance. And then challenge yourself to cut it out and then we’ll talk! All in all, I had a pretty decent year.

That brings us to today and the upcoming year. I strongly discourage “resolutions”. I never set them. I feel like they have this sense of attachment of failure and unrealistic goals meant to “change” something about your self that is bad or wrong. They are a sick trap, only causing self esteem issues and the overwhelming sense of pressure and impending disappointment, because most only last a few weeks to a few months, before we slip back from new habits of promises. Life is a constant growth process, and it should really have a more positive light around it, other than the negative feeling of a resolution or “need” to resolve or change something negative about yourself. I personally like to set intentions for my day, and repeat affirmations about myself that uplift me. What is the difference between an “Intention” and an “Affirmation” anyway? I looked both up on Wikipedia, because my explanations may be an around about confusing blurb of words! So here goes: an Intention is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future. Intention involves mental activities such as planning and forethought. And an affirmation is a declaration that something is true. For an affirmation to be effective, it needs to be present tense, positive, personal and specific.

So, for example, when I get up and really start to think about my day ahead, as I am grinding my coffee beans, this is when I decide how my day is going to go. (Of course, the coffee helps!) I can choose to be grumpy, cold, tired etc…or I can set my intention on being mindful and present, happy and content with all the gifts I am lucky to enjoy each day: food, clean air and water, a loving partner, a roof over my head and a wonderful community who supports me.  I can decide to concentrate on being more patient, more accepting of how things are and that I have absolutely no control on other peoples lives and choices they make for themselves. I can intend on being more compassionate in every situation that is presented to me that day. I can intend on working on being kind to every one and showing them the love that I truly have in my heart just waiting to be expressed to someone who will stop long enough to give me a hug or a smile.

My affirmations that I repeat to myself pretty regularly, are  I am statements:  I am so fortunate to have food, clean air and water and a loving partner. I am generous and kind with my time and love to serve others in need. I am patient and accepting of what life throws at me. I am part of a loving community, and really communities, that support me and I support them. I am loving and positive and forgiving. I am embracing what life gives me and accepting of the challenges I am given, realizing they are opportunities for learning and growth. I am grateful. Truly grateful. I am LOVE!

I have many intentions for this blog going forward. Life shifted my priorities this last year, and I focused where I needed to. But moving forward, stay tuned for new things. I plan on sharing a recipe page for new ideas you can incorporate into your life. Fresh, organic, sugar free, easy and beyond nutritious. Guided meditations and yoga practices. Meditation and Yoga daily challenges and support. And who knows what else?!

So, in short, the next time you step on your mat and you hear the teacher suggest setting an intention, maybe you will look at it in a different light. Maybe you might think about doing this when you step out of bed. Maybe throw in a couple affirmations for yourself while you are at it. Remembering that positivity brings positivity. Showing yourself some love and appreciation, reminding your self of the things you are and that you are grateful for, can only help to shift the mind into a more consistent positive outlook. Trust me, if we all tried this even for a little while, maybe we can bring some change to the world. It can’t hurt.

Namaste! I deeply bow to each one of you who are so kind to read my words!

 

 

 

 

A time of reflection on recovery

20171120_185422Namaste friends and bright, shiny lights! I have been purposefully absent the last few months, to quietly reflect on my journey and where I am headed. SO MANY things to catch up on, and reprioritize my life and path.

First off, I am STILL on the paleo/whole 30 track. Five months of no sugar of any kind, no grains or corn, no dairy, no legumes or processed foods. Only organic meats, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some fruit. I have also been taking probiotics, some supplements, digestive enzymes, and a host of Ayurvedic herbs that I got while in India and visited an Ayurvedic doctor, to heal my leaky gut issues and food intolerances. I will admit, it has been very hard to stay true to the course in some ways. I have already been gluten and dairy free for many years, so that was easy. Cutting out all of the hidden forms has been tough, as well as all corn and rice and soy, which I stayed away for the most part anyway. The HARDEST part is sugar. OH MY GOD, was I addicted. Was? AM! It is ridiculous the amount of cravings I still have after all these months. Recently I read sugar is 6 TIMES MORE addictive than cocaine! Which, I have never tried, but dammit, I can only imagine. The problem is, sugar is in EVERYthing. I mean it. Go read one label in your food pantry or fridge and you will be shocked. I can not believe the dreams of doughnuts, chocolates, cakes, muffins…etc I dream about. The funny thing is, I never really ate any of that stuff for the last many years to begin with. I never added sugar to my foods I cooked or ate.  But, cutting it all out made me realize how much was in food that I ate at restaurants and hot bars, such as the ones at Whole Foods. Really? Whole Foods, really? WHY are they of all people adding sugar to food they are serving for health conscious folks to eat?? Because we are all dependent on it. I recently read that humans back in our ancestors days ate an average of 10 pounds of sugar a year. Americans now eat an average of 130 pounds of sugar a year! That is SICKENING! And, in turn, making us sick. I could go on and on about the percentage of obesity, liver disease, diabetes, cancer, etc in our society, but I don’t think I need to. Think about it; How much sugar do you eat daily? Have a “sweet tooth?”. I know I did. And apparently, still do! I pray for the day the cravings dissipate and I no longer dream of sweet shit I can’t eat.

The results of all of this torture, you ask? Well, naturally, I feel amazing! My stomach is healing, resulting in less gastric pain and all those nasty side effects, although I still battle horrible bloating at times and distress. I am realizing that I need to cut out fruit for a while, as I have been studying the levels of fructose in some of my favorites. I don’t feel this will be a permanent descion, but while I am getting to the nitty gritty of my detoxing, I think it is necessary. I will keep several lower fructose containing fruits such as oranges and papayas, but have to cry to think about saying goodbye to apples and grapes for a bit. I also am sleeping so much better! I have more energy. MY SKIN is amazingly clear. With the exception of a horrible breakout two weeks ago, my skin has been so clear! I made the mistake of trying Cassava Tortilla chips, which made the claim of being grain free and paleo approved. I got overly excited and destroyed a bag of them, so grateful for the snack and satisfying my amazing corn chip fetish I gave up. Well, dammit, the next day not one, but FIVE zits popped up one right after the other, as the cassava made its way through my system. Turns out, this root vegetable from South America, contains five times the amount of sugar that a white potato contains when digested. I was so bloated and miserable, on top of my skin erupting. Not to mention, heartbroken! No break for me, I suppose. Anyway, I continue on this path to repair my system and will one day, start to introduce certain things back in to see what I can and can’t tolerate. However, I doubt sugar will ever be welcomed back in, now that I have finally figured out what was destroying my skin and complexion.

And that is not the only reflection on recovery I have been making. I have been in a relationship with my love, Kevin, for almost two years now. This past January he went into recovery from alcohol and drugs. He stayed sober for 5 months, and was amazing at it. I was surprised how he made it that far on his first attempt, with the lack of support he surrounded himself with; meetings and groups, kept the same toxic friends he used to party with, and a job full of addicts and triggers. After losing his father this past May to Pancreatic cancer, I started to watch the signs of a relapse heading his way. I gently suggested more meetings and grief counseling, offered by Hospice. He assured me he was “strong”, yet I could see it in his face and body language. The struggle was impossible. The reality and grief hit, and one night I came home after teaching a class, and he was drunk. Not just drunk, but REALLY drunk; car in a ditch, throwing up drunk. I was upset of course, but relieved because it finally happened. The anguish of anticipation was impossible. That night began a long struggle that lasted nearly two months. I moved out, breaking my own heart, but could not watch the pain and suffering and knew he had to hit rock bottom and seek help for himself. The next two months were scary, painful, heart wrenching, and just plain stressful. I shut down too; disconnecting from friends, not writing on this blog or Facebook, and doing nothing but reading and getting on my mat daily. I couldn’t do anything to help, and that was torturous. I believed our relationship was over, and that crushed me. It also propelled me to my path of recovery from co-dependancy and now on the path to recovering from childhood trauma and abuse.

I am SO happy to report that Kevin did hit rock bottom; calling me at midnight one night, while in a blackout, to take him to the ER to check himself in, because he could not quit drinking on his own. That led to a detox unit, and then almost a month in a rehab facility in Florida. He has been home for two months now, clean, sober, healthy and WELL into his sobriety. His work has been Intensive Outpatient Therapy, counseling, meditation, and AA meetings, as well as the Buddhist version of AA; Refuge for Recovery. He also goes to the gym and yoga multiple times a week, if not every day. He quit his toxic job, and will start anew somewhere else in the near future. He is working with an amazing sponsor and is even facilitating meetings now. He volunteers weekly at several different establishments, and we both started training  to volunteer for a minimum of a year with The Literacy Council of our county, teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I of course, moved back in and our life together is fresh and beautiful…and Healthy!  ( AND a work in progress!) He cut out all toxic friendships and has been creating new circles of friends; his Tribe!  I could not be more proud of him!

Well, in all of that reflection and preparation for him to come home, I decided to seek out counseling so that I could be ready to take care of me and to know how to support him in a healthy way. I was so fortunate to find an AMAZING therapist, who is helping me to transform my own life. As we went through all of the things that were going on, we also started to uncover my traumatic past. I am realizing that I am in recovery from Adverse Childhood Experiences, and that I am a pro at stuffing down traumas and have been suffering for almost the forty years I have been alive. I truly had NO idea how much this has affected my daily life. I am the victim of neglect and physical,verbal, and emotional abuse, and have brushed it off for the majority of my life, never really giving it the credit it deserves for causing relationship issues and protective walls that I have put up over the years. I had a pretty dedicated marijuana dependency for the last 24 years, (although I would have never admitted I “depended” on it, but in reality would have probably suffered anxiety attacks had I ran out before quitting for good several months ago!) using it to battle anorexia and eating disorders in my teenage years, insomnia, and situational anxiety in recent years. DON’T get me wrong, I don’t thing marijuana is a bad thing or evil drug and I support it fully for those who use it for various reasons. However, I have been off it completely for the last 10 weeks, and couldn’t be happier.  I look back at the last two decades and realize how I started to depend on it, crave it even. I no longer feel drawn to use it anymore, and am truly enjoying clarity and a clear mind and body. My yoga and meditation practice thank me too!

Doing your spiritual and personal work takes a lot of courage, and is where True Yoga begins. It is not just doing asana on a mat. It is going within to study the self and to find the true nature of ourselves. I like to think of it as putting on an oxygen mask, so that I can turn and help others put their oxygen masks on. What kind of teacher or practitioner would I be, if I didn’t practice what I preach from the front of the room? Not an authentic one, I can tell you that. Discovering my true self and trying to love myself deeply, despite all the shit that has been coming up recently trying to discourage my walls from coming down, or as my therapist calls this part of me “My Protector” from preventing this growth from happening, has been a REAL challenge. The fighter in me, and protector of me that has helped me through all the years of trauma, has gotten me to this point in life and it it terrifying to think that I am going to change and soften and become more vulnerable. EEKK! That word scares the shit out of me. I have described vulnerability as a weakness so many times, when deep down, it’s all I have ever wanted to be. A most wonderful quote from Brene Brown, a freaking GENIUS, that has been helping me is “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

When I first started meditating, I couldn’t make it two minutes without crawling out of my skin. SO many detrimental thoughts of self judgement screamed at me, in my mothers voice: “You’re doing it wrong. You’re so stupid and worthless. Can’t you just do something right? Why do you think you’re good enough to meditate?”…I started going to meditation centers to have to be forced to sit longer and loved the guided meditations! Somebody else’s words and voice to focus on other than my own! The more I have done this, the more I can sit. I sit every day now, sometimes up to an hour to an hour and a half. No guides, nothing but my sweet breath and whatever thoughts want to arrive. I have learned that through Insight meditation, if thoughts arrive and won’t go away, then they become your focus. I love this form of meditation! I have learned so much about myself this way. Learning why my thoughts come up and what they are really trying to tell me. I am healing and solving deep seeded issues this way. Is it easy or comfortable? Hell no! But, my truth is there. My breath and heartbeat are there. Love for myself is there. Healing is happening.

And with all this being said, I had the honor of being a guest on a local radio show last night, hosted by friends in my local Meditation Sangha, at Asheville Insight Meditation. One of my Dharma teachers, Eddie LeShure and his lovely partner, and a fantastic Yoga Instructor, Margaret Kirschner, host a show focusing on all types of addictions and recovery. The show is called A Mindful Emergence, and the title and topic of the show is called “Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Healing Potential of Yoga and Meditation.”  you can listen to the podcast recording here:Show 98 with Jill Phoenix  

Although I did not get into the details too much about the abuse and neglect, and stories of the traumas I suffered, we did touch lightly on them. The focus was more about the solutions and not the problems or issues. I didn’t want to get too deep into traumas and stories, as that is what my counselor is for! I have a hard enough time accepting that I am a victim of serious abuse and neglect, but to actually share stories of certain events can be a bit too much. I can say that having a bi-polar and schizophrenic mother, who made me the target of her mental disorders, was no easy walk in the park. I was beaten frequently, sometimes with random objects and fists, had boiling water poured on me, denied hospital visits after dog bites and random other incidents requiring medical attention, endless amounts of verbal and emotional abuse due to her delusions, ridiculed and harassed about my looks and weight, leading to many years of anorexia and self image issues, kicked out of the home as an eleven year old at midnight in the low income and dangerous neighborhood we lived in-left to fend for myself to find shelter and food, even put in a car with her as she threatened to kill both of us, barreling towards and through a four lane highway. ( No idea how we survived that one, but we did! Thanks to the magic of the universe!) I could go on and on, but the point is, I am not alone in what I suffered from. I also know, I am strong and lucky to not have inherited any of her mental disorders. I feel so much empathy for those who have suffered much worse, let alone sexual abuse, which I can say I am so grateful I did not suffer.  Yoga and meditation are what literally saved my life and made me feel love and respect for myself. My journey through recovery of co-dependency, anorexia, and low self esteem has not been an easy one. Being comfortable in skin you were ashamed to be in from an early age is a tough battle and to learn to accept traumas and to allow yourself to become vulnerable and to actually trust others is not easy, when all you know is to protect yourself at all costs-even making yourself an impossible partner to be with because the defense system is always in place. Trying to control the chaos of your life and those in it, is a terrible way to live and quite frankly, is exhausting. Yoga has taught me to let go. Trust. Breathe. Love. Be who and what I am. And the journey is so worth it. The road may be bumpy and rocky as all hell, but I have never been one to have it easy, and I made it this far, so why would I want it any other way?!

If you are a survivor of ACE, or other traumas, I can’t recommend enough seeking help and guidance. Whether through therapy, yoga and meditation, and/or support groups, the important thing to remember is it was not your fault and you are not alone. You are not responsible for other peoples illnesses and actions and abusive behavior. Some how I was fortunate to have always known this, and I am not sure why. I have always accredited it to one of my past lives as a guardian angel whispering in my ear that my parents actions were not my fault and that they were ill. Not everyone is that lucky. But, there is help out there in endless ways and support is there. Please do yourself a loving favor and seek help. This life is a beautiful one and you deserve to be and feel love.

Thanks for reading and listening. This blog is a healing journal for me and my path as well. It is so nice to have an outlet to share. Namaste!

20171120_185550

A year of reflection-Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Namaste and and thanks for taking the time to read this. As I write this, my 200 Hour Teacher Training Certificate sits overhead, with the date July 31, 2016, written on it and signed by my mentors and teachers. Really? A year ago already? Seems completely impossible that time has flown by at the pace it has. Even more strange, is that I ACTUALLY teach yoga to other people…like, a LOT of people! I am so fortunate to be able to be a part of the amazing community at my local studio, Asheville Community Yoga, where not only do I practice and have taken classes for the last two and a half years, but have now also have taught at for 11 months. When I first stepped into this studio, I had just separated from my ex-husband of 11 years, which was a very toxic relationship that lasted so many years longer than it should have. I had worked on establishing a 3 acre mini farm, complete with a  2200 square foot organic garden, that I had spent 9 years amending soil, building beds, maintaining a greenhouse and established blueberry and asparagus beds, on top of the annual garden beds. I had two dogs, chickens, and ducks. When all of this ended, shortly after my older dog and souls companion Love, died, my ex and I re-bonded over her loss and once the initial and eventuating waves of grief started to pass, we agreed our time together needed to end. I moved out. What the hell now?? I was living in a condo close to downtown, house sitting it for people who lived in New Orleans. So grateful for my new life, but I had no earthly idea what to do with myself. I started drinking tequila, at first as a retaliatory move, as my ex was an alcoholic and I chose to try and set a good example at home by not drinking. ( major failed attempt, but my heart was in the right place.) I started to drink a bit just to “catch up on not partying” for 11 years. I started going out and drinking more and more, not that I ever REALLY drank THAT much, but I found myself almost relying on tequila to sleep. I was feeling anxious and nervous. I was TOTALLY alone for the first time EVER in my life. No one around, no roommates, and worse, no dog by my side. Our remaining dog, Reba, came with me at first, but she is a country girl and condo living in the city did not suit her. She was always at the door whining and begging to get in the car, and he missed her too. A very hard descion to bring her to the only home she ever knew, came just 5 days after moving out. No chickens or ducks to feed, nothing but me and my thoughts.

Just three days after moving out, one of my best friends, Lisa took me to ACY to take a class together. I have been practicing since 1998, but almost always with a DVD. I went to several studios in town between 2006-2009 , taking a class here or there, but never with consistency, with a good friend, Chenin who was not only my friend and massage therapist, but an amazing yoga teacher. The day Lisa and I went to class, I felt this HUGE shift in my heart. I had found MY studio. I was welcomed by the most authentic smile and “we’re glad you’re here”.  I had never really experienced that sort of welcoming to a studio before. Sure, you get the “Namaste and Welcome”, but I don’t mean the welcoming that comes with a verbal expression. I mean that when she said that to me, she MEANT it from the heart. As I stepped onto my mat every day after that, and I mean EVERY day-sometimes two classes a day-a few times, three classes a day- my heart began to heal. I cried so many times on my mat-sometimes, I had no earthly idea why, the tears just came. I felt release like no other way I have let go before. Sometimes, I straight out sobbed-head on the mat and a towel underneath, so no one could see, and just let it go. I cried for losing my sweet Love. I cried for losing my Reba. My dreams, my idea of self sufficiency and living as much off the land as I was able to create. (my dream since I read The Little House on the Prairie  books as a little girl.) I cried for failing at marriage, for the second time. (NOT that I wasn’t happy or relieved, because I was immensely! Just upset at the idea of “failing” at it.)  I cried because I felt like I had no home, or family. I was lost, and had no idea what or who I was to transform into next. And, sometimes I laughed-hysterically-at something a teacher said, because I felt he was talking right to me. Pulling me out of my shit and reminding me that I was human. I knew he was talking in general to a room of 30-60 people, but in my heart, he was talking to me. The shift began.

I took so many classes because I didn’t know what else to do. I almost felt down right uncomfortable in my own body, and space. Sometimes I would go to a class, then go for a mountain bike ride, maybe another class or hike, come home have a dance party-just to get all the anxiousness out of my bones-sometimes the tequila would creep in and then I could relax. But, I knew this was not how I wanted to treat these new feelings creeping in.  And yet, it was the thing that took the edge off so I could sleep-which wasn’t exactly happening a lot during these first few months of my new single and free life.

The more classes I took, the more the anxiety started to fade. ( I just want to touch on anxiety for a brief second: I have never experienced anxiety or depression before now. In fact, the first bout of anxiety or “panic attack” happened during a massage, literally on the table. I had no idea what was happening and it was terrifying. I couldn’t breathe, I got dizzy, my heart was racing, thought I was going to pass out. My sweet friend Heather reassured me of what was going on and didn’t leave me until it passed. She had been working my low back and hips, where emotions are stored and apparently I had a lot going on. These went on for several months-more on that in a minute-but damn, do I feel for and have a better understanding of what people go through with anxiety. It can be down right debilitating, and extremely scary. In a way, I am almost grateful to have experienced it, because I think it will make me a better teacher in the end.) All this time, taking classes, going through the motions of getting the divorce, dividing up assets, trying to be friends with my ex, which only added to all the stress, my mind was wandering to the place of “I just need to get out of here for a while to be by myself”.  So, I started planning a trip to Nova Scotia, solo, in my 1973 VW Bus, Joplin. I used to travel a lot by myself, but it had been almost 12 years since I had done that. Hence, the anxiety. A solo trip for a woman may do that anyway, but throw in the fact you are driving a 44 year old vehicle, prone to mechanical issues, and not having a mechanic. Which I also have done a lot, but got used to having a mechanic travel with me. The anxiety of the thoughts of “Can I still do this?” and “What will I do if something happens?” kept me awake. I got on my mat, even more.

So, fast forward: I went on the trip, one year to the day that Love died, and nothing happened-well, except, that EVERY thing happened! The anxiety vanished, for good. Oddly enough, this anxiety came to a screeching halt the day I spread some of her ashes at the very top of the Province, overlooking the ocean. My heart started really healing. New possibilities flooded my brain. The lightbulb started to brighten in my mind: “Why don’t I take the teacher training and just dive deeper into my practice?” I had no intentions of teaching others, but more for me and when I traveled. The thought just hung out for a month or so, really reflecting on it. The trip totally changed me, reminding me of impermanence and that nothing ever stays the same. I was growing, changing, becoming who I wanted to be again, and trying to follow my heart instead of my head, for once.

A couple weeks after I returned from my adventures, which side note- if you have never been to Nova Scotia, get your booty there! It is breathtakingly beautiful and serene and the people are the nicest I have ever met!- I came home and walked into the studio and was once again home. Asheville Community Yoga is a non-profit donation based studio, where teachers donate their skills and time and students pay what they can, if they can, on a sliding scale. True Karma Yoga-Service for Others. The studio was expanding, doubling their size and in order to raise money, they held a 24 hour Yogathon. I was so in! Long story short, (too late for that at this point!,) I did 20 out of the 24 hours because I had a concert ticket and went to the show and came back, with even more donations from friends trying to buy me a drink at the show, but drinks and yoga all night wasn’t gonna work, so they gave me their money for the cause instead. Holy doors blown wide open for me!! I remember the exact moment during the middle of the night, in the wee hours, where the descion was made-I WANT TO TAKE THE TRAINING!!

I came to the studio two days later, after catching up on sleep and recovering from the Yogathon, only to be greeted by Michael, the teacher who influenced so much of my healing path up to this point, with “How are you feeling?”  I said “Amazing! I think next time we should do 48 hours!” He said” Great, I’ll teach the first 24, you teach the other 24 hours.” I smiled and said, “Well, actually I think I am going to do the Teacher Training now. ” He smiled and said, ” I know. That’s your path.”

And that is just what happened. I signed up, paid the deposit, and waited the four months until training started. In the meantime, I was on my mat more and more. I started REALLY trying to meditate. As frustrating as that can be! The weird energy and vibrations of not sitting still were still inside me, so I decided to occupy my time with the marvels of online dating! Holy shit, what is that all about anyway? What a weird time consumer! I thought I would do it for a week-you know, see what was out there and why not get a free ego booster at the same time? There are some strange ass people out there! I had never really dated, since I spent a collective 16 years out of 22 years, in relationships, and dating is so not for me! However, oddly enough, I did meet Kevin online. Of course, I wasn’t looking for a relationship because training started in a month, and I was just bored and entertaining myself, to a degree. We met at a local brewery, just as friends as he has a son and I was specific about no kids. We discussed this online that friends are necessary in life too, and honestly I was ready for some male energy back in my life. I have four brothers and always had a big circle of guy friends, and was missing that, so we met. Well, dammit, I walked in and made eye contact with him and he had this smile come across his face, and I knew this was not going to be just a friend. Even though I reiterated at the end of our one beer together, “Just friends. I don’t do kids, sorry but thanks for understanding.” Let me tell you, this man is persistent! He agreed to that, but relentlessly pursed me, asking me to events and hiking etc for a month. I was truly busy that December with traveling and working, but none the less we hung out about a month later, and have been inseparable since.

He was right by my side the day training started. He was by my side through the whole thing. And holy shit, does he deserve some credit!! I had NO IDEA what was going to happen in training. I feel like someone grabbed me by the ankles and turned me upside down and started spinning me in circles. The emotions came to the top, years of stuffing them down and telling myself I was fine and over this and that-but oh no, here they came! So much stuff came up and I was ready to deal with it.  My poor, sweet Kevin took the brunt of a lot of it. I broke up with him a couple times, and tried to keep him away as I dealt with it. But, I told you he is persistent! He was right there the whole time. Supporting me every step of the way, and still is. We had a three month breakup right after training ended, because I was so caught up in my new path and had decided during the final month of training that I did indeed want to teach, and that was my focus. My drinking had started to subside as I dove deeper and deeper. But, his didn’t, and why should it? This was my path and not his. I tried to tell him just that-My path was simply leading me somewhere else, and his path was different. I taught for four months and then took off for a month to travel though Nepal, India, and Bali with one of my best friends, Lauren, who was also in my training. Being gone for a month to study Yoga and Meditation only strengthened my love for my path -and my love for Kevin. We talked everyday, though messaging and sometimes a video call. He was changing too. It was pretty intense. I awoke one morning at 3am in a hut on the beach in Goa, India, to a picture text from Kevin-holding a rose quartz heart I gave him when we broke up earlier in the year, and a White AA chip. I rushed to the beach and called him. He explained that he was ready to make serious changes in his path, and had taken the major first step! I was in shock. I was also so impressed and amazed and inspired by his courage to make major changes in his life. And he is making changes. Taking better care of his own health, eating better and practicing yoga and meditation, as well as his biggest love, hiking and foraging for wild mushrooms and other edibles from nature.

So, here we are, together-walking our own paths that now are a lot more parallel, than criss crossing each other. Not sure how that happened, but I am so incredibly grateful to have a true partner who supports me and encourages me. It is beyond AMAZING to be on the other side of the mat-looking out at the sea of beautiful lights and faces, shining right back at me. Walking their own paths, and sometimes crying or laughing on the mat. I GET it. I have been there. Sometimes, I still have tears. No judgement or criticism-just release. It fills my soul to see people looking at me, listening to my words, and following my guidance through their practice. Words really can’t describe what it feels like to be a small part of someones yogic journey. It is truly a passion I have craved to have for my whole life. To be truly passionate about something is amazing and exhilarating, but to be able to share what I have learned about connection with your own inner divine self, and your breath and feeling into your own body, is such a beautiful and fulfilling feeling. I can’t imagine how many people I have been fortunate to share with to this date, but I have tracked my hours teaching. As of right now, I have 197 hours that I have actually taught as a Certified Yoga Instructor! I can’t wrap my head around that, feels literally like yesterday. I still get nervous. I actually like that I do! It’s humbling. I get so excited to see people coming back over and over, or recognizing me out in public as “their yoga teacher”. WHICH is a little weird..I’m a yoga teacher yes, but the whole “you’re my yoga teacher” thing is a little strange, but the recognition is nice and hearing that they like my classes or whatever they resonate with that brings them to the studio and allows me to bring my yoga to them, is so empowering and beyond encouraging to continue walking this path. The ups and downs, the twists and turns, the bumps and the smooth road, are all worth this work. AND it is work. And FINALLY work isn’t an ugly four letter word!

 

40th Birthday Adventures in the Redwoods!

Namaste Bright and Shiny Lights! I returned home on Wednesday, the 19th, from a week in California, celebrating my 4th revolution around the sun, and what an AMAZING experience I had. I have had to sit with the experience until now, just to let it all soak in to really absorb the time we had. My love, Kevin and I flew out on the 12th to San Francisco and arrived around 11 pm that night, just late enough after working all day, that we made it to our hotel and went to sleep. We woke up on the 13th bright and early, as I wanted to see the sun rise over the Golden Gate Bridge, that we were less than a mile from. Silly girl! Mornings in San Fran are cloaked in fog, so we literally saw one part of the bridge and drove through the fog to the other side. Regardless, it was amazing! We drove up Highway 101 just until we got to the Muir Woods on the other side of the bridge. The woods are so beautiful and maintained so nicely, but it was so crowded, even though we were there early. My guess is that people who are visiting San Francisco make it to this part and say they saw the Redwoods.  Which they have…just little Redwoods:) Kevin kept saying how huge the trees were, and they are in relation to our trees in North Carolina. I kept smiling and giggling a bit, saying they are “cute and so small”. He kept giving me this “what the hell do you mean small?” look. I just told him he would see what I meant. None the less, we spent about two hours meandering through these beauties and hugging many as we went.

We left Muir Woods and began our journey up 101, but made a stop in Santa Rosa to see a friend of Kevin’s who moved from Asheville a year a half ago. We had lunch and gathered our supplies, food and coolers, and continued our journey.  Traveling through the mountains was a bit surreal. I had been here before, in 2002, with my beautiful Love Dog, who passed away in 2014. It became a bit more emotional for me, but in a great way, as we pulled off the Hwy, onto The Drive Thru Tree Road, in Leggett.  Love and I had stopped here on our pilgrimage from north of Seattle where we lived, to our new home in Asheville. Kevin’s eyes became so wide and full of excitement as soon as we pulled into the park. Finally! BIG TREES! Now he was starting to see why I giggled in the Muir Woods! As soon as we pulled in, we started pulling over to hug these beauties. Unless you have seen them in person, no picture or description can fully give you an idea of just how huge these guys are. ( Not that that stopped the hundreds of pictures we took, trying to capture them in one picture!) Then we pulled up to MY TREE! The Chandelier Tree, as it is called. Love and I stopped at many a tree back in 2002, trying to find one that my 1976 Volkswagen Bus would fit in. None worked, until this tree. Some friendly people took my camera, which was one of those junky disposable things back in the day before everyone had one on their phone, and snapped our picture.   Being here again was so surreal. Luckily it was later in the evening, and we almost had the tree to ourselves, with the occasional visitor here and there. We spent almost an hour here, wandering around, and just taking it all in.

For me, this was really the start of a most meaningful journey. I wanted to return to these woods for several reasons; Obviously a huge connection with the sweet and gentle giants. (In 2002 I tried like hell to stay here in the woods, volunteering or trying to find a job to stay, but that wasn’t the plan at the time, I suppose. Asheville was calling too, and it won!)  I also promised my sweet Love on her last moments on Earth, that I would spread some of her ashes here, and keep the rest so that one day hers and my ashes would be mixed together and we would return to these woods forever. I know that sounds a little kooky, but she was the Love of my life, hence her name. She and I had a most magical connection. She was my partner, my daughter, my sister, my mother, my best friend, and my protector and guardian. This trip was our first together, after only being in each others lives a couple months. She took right up to her job as my protector. No training, just the wolf in her knew I was her person and it was her job to protect me. Over the course of the next few days, memories of our time here together flooded my mind, as I revisited several places she and I explored all those years ago. After leaving the Chandelier Tree, we drove north through the rest of the scenic hwy, bypassing other pull offs for now, as night had fallen and all you could see were these gorgeous shadows of the giants. It was getting late and the time change was messing with our bodies. We pulled into our camp site at the Prairie Creek Redwoods National Park around 11 pm. Holy memories! I was able to reserve the same campsite, #14, that I had in 2002. I could literally picture Love in the site we shared. It looked exactly the same as it did 15 years ago! We had a fire and set up our tent, and went fast to sleep.

We woke up the morning of my birthday, and the morning could not of been more perfect. Beautiful 60 degrees and sunny. Kevin wouldn’t let me do anything, so he made me a lovely cup of coffee and a fire to start the day. As he prepared my birthday breakfast for me, I was able to have a beautiful yoga practice as I set up my mat between two beautiful redwoods in our camp. My first as a 40 year old! Amazingly enough, unlike some stories I have heard, on this morning of my 40th birthday my eyesight still worked and my flexibility had not disappeared overnight! (insert sarcasm!) After breakfast, we took out to find the road that Love and I hiked on, as dogs are not allowed on any trail system in the Parks. (due to bears, panthers, mountain lions etc..) We pulled out of the park and somehow my memory kicked in and we found the 3 mile scenic road through the woods! We quickly had our minds blown wide open as we were really getting to see the big trees for the first time, as it was dark pulling in the night before. We giggled and got out of the car and just started walking around, playing in the trees, as many had huge holes in the trunks, providing a playground to enjoy. I found a beauty of a tree with a huge hole in the base, able to really explore what the inside of a redwood looks like. It is amazing that they can have a hole like that inside the trunk, and still be alive and thriving! I had a beautiful moment before I spread a bit of Loves ashes inside the tree.

We continued up the road, stopping ever so often to just be amazed by our magical surroundings, stopping at the Remembrance Grove, where a beautiful memorial was set aside with a plaque and bench to sit at and absorb the beauty around us. My sweet Kevin lost his father to cancer at the end of May, and he brought his fathers ashes with us. He took a moment and spread some of his father at the base of the plaque, in the sweet sunlight shining down, almost to say his father approved of this spot. His father never made it to the West Coast, so it was extra beautiful to honor him here. After this, we made it to the top of the road, where a trail system split off into different trails. We chose one and set out for a hike. It is really hard to hike and not fall on your face when your gaze is straight up the whole time! Good lord these things are tall! Funny how you can remember them being huge, but then when you are in them, memory doesn’t do it justice. Redwoods are the tallest trees on the earth. Many reach close to 350 feet and above. The tallest standing now is 379 feet and just under 30 feet in diameter! They can also live 2500 years or more. Wrap your head around that! Better yet, start saving up for a trip out there, these are a MUST SEE!!

We hiked for several hours, after stopping to meditate together in the Cathedral Tree Grove and then made it back to camp and made a most beautiful dinner, which again, Kevin would not let me lift a finger! He also gave me a beautiful skirt, handmade, and a pair of Redwood earrings he bought at the Muir Woods. I am not a materialistic person and don’t want or need “things”, but damn he is really good at gifts! Also, a beautiful pair of Amethyst earrings were waiting for me when I got home. He’s such a great gift giver! (that is NOT easy either! Not that I am ungrateful, I just don’t want or need “stuff”.) We had a great fire and went to bed. Funny side story: a little bit of a restless night for us and we had trouble getting comfy. At one point we made it to the car to try and sleep upright for a bit, and then around 3 am went back to the tent….Without the KEYS! Yikes! Woke up to see them safely locked in the car, between the seats! We were to check out and move spots that day and tried to contact AAA. A long wait for them to even answer the call. The volunteers at the Visitor Center called the Park Ranger on duty, and he arrived shortly. I had noticed that someone else apparently had the same problem at some point, as it was obvious the rental car had been “unlocked” before, as a bit of a dent and paint missing on the passenger door. Officer Wright went to work on the same door and unlocked the car within minutes!! Be nice to your Park Rangers! He was a super cool and friendly guy!) We drove out of the campground, in time to see the beautiful Elk hanging in the field, literally in front of the Elk Prairie Campground signs.

On to Gold Bluffs Beach, for the next couple nights. This was a very short drive to the next campground, but first stopped in Orick to get a few supplies. We drove past a HUGE herd of  Roosevelt Elk on the way. Had to be at least 40, that I was able to count anyway. So beautiful and majestic!  We got to our site and set up our tent, and went running down the sandy dune for the beach! EXCEPT, that after the first few steps we realized the beach was literally covered in sand spurs!! And the sand was ridiculously hot!! The sand is black and about burned our feet right off! Not to mention the sand spurs now buried in our feet! I am sure that whoever witnessed our actions had a great laugh at our expense!! But hey, that’s what I am here for, other peoples amusement:) I am sure they all did the same thing anyway!

The cliffs are a beautiful golden color, and this area was famous during the Gold Rush days. Signs described that although the are was full of gold, the labor to separate the gold from the back sand was too much, and they abandoned the area after a short time. We drove a couple miles to the Fern Canyon area, and set out to explore. Holy wow, is this area unbelievable! These ferns literally lined the canyon, on both sides. Dripping water and moss accompanied the ferns, as we hiked through the several water crossings and climbed over downed trees. The ferns can be traced back to the Jurassic area, 325 million years ago! They even filmed part of the Jurassic Park movie, The Lost World, here and you can see why. This was definitely a highlight for both of us.

We enjoyed two nights on this beach, meditating and practicing yoga in the surf. We both  got to witness whales and sea lions out in the water, literally from the beach! It is amazing to be in a packed campground and on the beach, but both days we had the whole beach to ourselves. Gorgeous sunsets and lots of smiles from both of us. We spread more ashes on the beach before we left.

As we departed the campground and the park, on our way back to San Francisco, we took our sweet time and traveled through The Avenue of the Giants. And Giants they are! These are some of the tallest trees that line the 32 mile stretch that parallels the Hwy 101. Meandering through the Giants, we stopped to have a picnic lunch and walked through different trails. Stopping to visit the Corkscrew Tree, where Love and I had visited before, the Grandfather Tree, The Big Tree, and The Founders Tree. As we hit the last of the Avenue, we stopped in Myers Flat along the Eel River. Another spot Love and I visited, as I spread the last of her ashes here. Kevin had tried to swim in the Pacific, which I still laugh at his attempts, despite my warnings of just how frigid that water is! But, he did get to swim in the Eel River, which was still a bit too cold for me! So awesome to just sit on the bank and watch his pure joy as he swam in West Coast water!

We both were sad to leave the area, but had to get to San Francisco for our flight the next morning. We made it to the Wharf at Pier 39 at 9:30, just in time for my seafood dinner for my belated bday dinner! West Coast Oysters! How I miss them! Such a great way to end our trip, as we walked the Pier and saw the Golden Gate Bridge all lit up. We did just drive over it, but it looks different from a distance. We made it to our hotel and barely slept, as the alarm woke us up way too early to head out.

We did fly out and made it to Dallas, where we missed our connection home. We were booked on the next fight out, the following morning..which means I officially spent the night in Texas. I get to cross that state off my list of states visited, and now only have Alaska and Hawaii remaining. This was not my plan! Texas is not a state I wanted to visit, just for personal reasons, but oh well! It was really a blessing we missed our flight, as about 10 minutes before we landed Kevin looked at me with a pained look in his eye, and told me he was feeling really badly. Poor thing barely made it to the bathroom as the motion sickness kicked in. Or at least that is what I thought it was. He was in excrutinag pain and vomiting almost all night. I was terrified we were going to be in the hospital in Dallas. He thankfully was able to pull it together enough the next morning to make it on the plane and get home. Not sure what really happened, but he will be visiting a doctor this week to find out, since all the discomfort really never disappeared. ( Keep your fingers crossed for him!)

Oh yeah, I was also able to hold strong to my Whole 30 diet! And I have religiously stuck to my Yoga Every Day Promise as well! Granted, some days have only allowed a 10-20 minute practice as we were on the go so much, but discipline is important to me, so even 10 minutes counts.

Have a beautiful day! For more pictures, please visit my Jill Phoenix Yoga page on Facebook!

29 days down…1 to go!

Namaste beautiful lights! 29 days ago I began the 30 day countdown to my 40th birthday, which is Friday. I am writing this today, because I am the best gift giver to myself, and tonight I fly to San Francisco to spend the week camping in the Redwoods with my love, Kevin. I unplug this evening, but pictures will be aplenty!

29 days on the “Whole 30” diet guide, which is basically how I prefer to eat anyway. Organic vegetables, fruits, meats, and some nuts. That’s it. I will admit that this is the first time I have cut out all sugar from my diet, along with corn. I don’t eat grains, beans, or processed food anyway, due to my sensitive digestion. No sugar is really hard! It is literally in everything. However, now that we are in the rhythm and Kevin has a much better understanding of how I really have to eat, it is much easier. He has learned a lot about my eating habits over the last year and a half, but I think now he REALLY gets it! And, I even caught him reading labels at the grocery store the other day! Unprompted!! I am so proud! So, we have been eating lots of beautiful meals of fresh and organic produce, from our local Organic CSA. Organic meats from the local farm that pastures their animals. Fresh berries and fruits, as local as I can get. And nuts. I feel great! I knew I would once I got back to the discipline of following a paleo diet, which I have for almost 6 years now. Over time, I slipped here and there, especially the month I was in India and Nepal and Bali. You sort of have to eat what is provided, or you don’t eat, so I slid and threw my poor belly off.  I have so much more energy. My belly hasn’t bloated since the first few days off sugar and corn. Not only do I usually look a few months pregnant shortly after eating, but it can feel like two alien beings are duking it out in my belly after eating. Painful and gassy. Not for almost a month now! And my skin! Oh, my poor skin. Totally clear except one tiny pimple that appeared. Usually I get at least one or two painful cystic “zits” every month. The culprit of a food allergy, but never sure what caused it. I am starting to think it is sugar, but who knows. Even the dark circles I have had since birth, are a bit lighter, and some days don’t even notice them.

One other thing that I have changed in my diet, since February 6th, is not one drop of alcohol. Not one. And I am never going back! I had a few drinks on my trip, and while I was away in India, my love became sober to change his life. In support, I too, quit drinking. I was already on that path, as I dive deeper and deeper into a yogic lifestyle. It just doesn’t make sense to purify every other sense of my being, and then to put alcohol into my system. I was married for 11 years to an alcoholic, and rarely drank anyway, but after we separated I began the “retaliation drinking lifestyle”. The “I can drink now that he’s not around.” Well, before you knew it, tequila and I became fast friends. I found this drink did not make me sick, spinny, or give me hangovers. And I loved the taste. Well, you know it’s not a great sign when you receive three flasks in a year as “gifts”. Holy shit, what kind of yoga practitioner was I? A tequila practitioner was where I was headed. I lost my taste for it, thankfully on my trip, so when Kevin texted me while I was on retreat in Goa, that he had quit, I was beyond thrilled! I am not only proud of myself for these positive changes, but I am thrilled to have a partner doing the same things for HIS own health, not because I am doing it. It feels amazing to walk this journey next to him, supporting and holding each other up, to a higher and more pure standard and way of life.

I also have held true to my commitment to 30 days straight of yoga. Yep. Not one day off. Every. Damn. Day. And I feel more committed again, more discipline for my practice. It has helped strengthen my home practice.  And I LOVE IT! I feel amazing! Stronger. Leaner. More Positive. Healthier.

So, that’s it, right?  29 days down, 1 more to go and that’s it? NOPE!  I plan on 90 days of this plan, even for life if possible. I understand that sugar will creep in here and there, but for now, 90 days is my commitment. I am starting an herbal cleanse when I return home next week, to continue to battle yeast and candida in my system, and to get the proper reset before I try to reintroduce certain foods, to see if they trigger negative reactions. We’ll see, and you know I’ll keep you posted.

So that’s it for now. Stay tuned. Yoga in the Redwoods this week!! Pictures to come. Bring it on 40, I am ready for ya!

Love, Light, and Blessings!

 

Photos