Questions on Healing

This entry may be a bit of a ramble…bear with me. Do you ever have that feeling that you may have just stumbled upon something, but can’t name it? I’ve been feeling that a lot lately. Life is becoming a huge and confusing revelation.

If you read my last post then it probably comes as no surprise that the idea of healing would become important to me, but that is only part of the story. Last year I began working with refugees and my main responsibility was to administer a virtual therapy project. What began as very promising only produced moderate results which was at first disheartening, but got me to thinking. Was it a problem with psychotherapy or the fact that therapist and client were not able to be in the same room? Does the healer/needer of healing relationship pose a problem in terms of power dynamics? How can we mitigate that without blurring boundaries? How necessary are bounderies? Our refugees tended to be from the same region…what does collective healing look like? If the problem was psychotherapy then what would be a more meaningful alternative? What role can nature play? What role does ceremony play? What role does activism play? Does sharing one’s story in this context help or harm? Can that even be measured? Continue reading

On Death and Dying

This is actually a post I meant to do long ago, but couldn’t find the right words. I’m glad I waited because I had the honor of seeing a presentation done by someone who does death midwifery and home funerals. The amazing woman who does this was one of my classmate’s at Sacred Journey School of Herbal Wisdom and she introduced the concept to us on the first day of class. For months I thought that meant that she specialized in still- births, and because I didn’t want to think about death I didn’t inquire any further. I can say with confidence that after 5 months of this class my fear of death has diminished greatly, and I was dying (pun intended) to hear her final project presentation about using herbs in deathwifery. As expected I was blown away. She spoke about how the modern funeral industry has taken the beauty and ritual away from death and has turned it into a vulgar and very scary thing. As a death midwife she gently guides the dying to the other side (preferably at home) and helps them come to terms with their passing. She spoke of sacred rituals, spirituality and love and reassured us that death did not have to be so terrifying, in fact if we came to terms with it we could truly find healing. These are ideas I’ve toyed with in the past, but to have it laid out in such a clear way was incredibly helpful and therapeutic. They are offering a very affordable workshop in June and I am so bummed that I will be out of town that weekend, but I’m sure there will be more. This is something I’d actually consider doing as a calling, which came as a surprise because just a few months ago I was one of the most death phobic people around. Actually, maybe it does make sense because phobias are obsessive thoughts, but that is a whole other story.  Continue reading

New Melodies

I’ve been debating writing this post for the last couple of days…to try and explain my recent silence. I wasn’t sure how appropriate it was to share such a personal story on a blog, but then I stumbled on this stanza from a Tagore poem entitled “Closed Path”:

But I find that thy will knows no end in me. 
And when old words die out on the tongue, 
new melodies break forth from the heart; 
and where the old tracks are lost, 
new country is revealed with its wonders.  Continue reading

I’m a Mutant. Are you?

Hello stranger! I’ve been dreadfully  neglectful, but I promise I have a good excuse. I was invited to go to Sweden to engage young adults about the Drug Wars and subsequent violence in Mexico. I am considering writing a post about it, but I try to keep my work seperate from this blog. It just means that I have been very busy and jet-lagged and did not have the energy to write anything until now.

In that time I learned something very interesting about myself that could change the course of my health journey. Prior to leaving the country I went in for some more blood tests to check my liver, thyroid antibodies, and take a genetic test to determine whether or not I have something called an MTHFR mutation. Honestly, I was really concerned about my liver and thought about it every time I had a drink in Sweden (but I still drank. At least I’m honest). So after a hellish journey home (Damn you, UNITED!) and a couple days rest I showed up at the Dr’s office to get the results. “Your liver is fine, you don’t have any thyroid antibodies, but you do have a genetic mutation and actually it is a double mutation.” I automatically thought of that three-eyed fish on the Simpsons and was surprisingly unattached to the news, but I must’ve looked concerned because she went on to say that it was really quite common (I believe she used the word rampant)  in Mexicans and people of Mediterranean descent. I asked if it affected life expectancy and was told that it affected quality of life more, but could be managed with a “clean lifestyle”. Continue reading

On Bathing

I come from two cultures that are a little obsessed with cleanliness and bathing. The Jewish people were some of the first to document the ritual bath or mikvah and I’ve met few Mexicans who don’t shower every day. I think it comes from the Native Americans who took great pride in keeping clean only to be wiped out by the mugre (filth) of Europeans.

As a kid I took a bath every night before bed without fail. I remember whining and trying to get out of it, but my mother was adamant. “But so-and-so doesn’t have to” I’d wail, “Cochinos!” (pigs) she’d exclaim scandalized and turn on the faucet. Of course once I was in I loved it and would sit in the tub until my fingers were white and wrinkled. I don’t think I even took my first shower until I was ten and even then bathing was the norm until college. I’m guessing this isn’t that common which is too bad because a hot bath really does make everything better. Continue reading

What They Don’t Tell You…

I’ve been doing this gluten free/ dairy thing free thing for about three weeks (with some hiccups) now and for the last five days have not had a drop of alcohol. I am not doing this because I am some sort of masochist (though I am beginning to wonder), but rather because my health is suffering and my doctor said it might offer some relief. She did not warn that it could get worse before getting better, but through simple google searches I found that what I am going through is fairly normal. So I would like to take a break from what I usually blog about to talk about gluten withdrawal and the not-so-magical parts of getting healthy. Continue reading

New Year

2012 was wonderfully strange. I often felt like I had been pushed into a house of mirrors. The highs were incredibly high and the lows were frighteningly low. I got to travel to South America, ride a caravan in the footsteps of Martin Luther King with Mexican activists, present my short stories to a class, do a lot of public speaking, get paid to work with inspiring people, organized political events, made tons of new friends, and started a journey to better health. I watched as cancer tore apart the bodies of people I love, the heartlessness of the US medical system, and witnessed the horrors of war. Surprisingly, it made me a more hopeful person. Continue reading

Feel Good Herbs

I will be the first to admit that I am pretty tightly wound. Sure, I can be a good time and my sense of humor teeters on the absurd, but underneath all that I’m a bundle of nerves. I have suffered from insomnia since I was an infant and get really stressed out with too much external stimuli which when coupled with a wreckless restlessness means that… I’m a bit of a loon really. All this stress has meant that I have suffered from digestive issues or a “nervous stomach” for most of my life. Luckily, I have a Mexican grandma!

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(Me, as an anxiety-prone Mexican child) Continue reading

Decolonized gut?

I don’t have the best record with this blogging thing. I’ve started several and always seem to abandon them after a week, but I have a feeling 2013 is going to be my year so I’ll give it another go. Some big things have happened in the last six months: I graduated from university, began working with an amazing non-profit, moved home for a spell to be with my father as he went through chemotherapy and radiation (and beat cancer!), and finally have decided to take my own health seriously.

This is why I decided to come back to blogging…I have some serious changes to make. As many a  24 year-old  in the 21st century living in the United States of America I’ve done some hard living. Long nights, stress, unhealthy food choices, and too many substances combined with a distrust of most doctors (and crappy insurance) is starting to catch up with me.

I’m lucky to live in Austin where there are plenty of alternatives in terms of approaches to health and wellness and found an integrative practice that focuses on nutrition and treating causes of poor-health rather than just masking symptoms.  After over an hour and a half with the doctor it was recommended I take several blood tests and avoid dairy and gluten for the time being. I was also perscribed some multivitamins and given tips on breathing exercises. Quite different from my other experiences with doctors! I walked out feeling pretty empowered, but later on the reality of these dietary changes began to sink in. It didn’t help that this news came two weeks before Christmas and I have been travelling non-stop since. It has been pretty terrible actually…everyone around me is munching on holiday food and drinking egg-nog while I eat dry vegetables and meat because it seems that everything contains gluten or dairy. A lot of this is just bad timing. Travelling means a lot of eating out and I am sure things will get easier with time. Right now though I am dreaming of  this…

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And I know there are some gluten-free, dairy-free alternatives to this, but it just isn’t the same.

I still plan to include Latin-American recipes using as many local and seasonal ingredientsas possible, but now I am going to have to be extra creative. I’ve enrolled in an intensive herbalism course that begins in January so I also hope to include some of that information. Afterall, my interest in herbal medicine comes from the older Mexican women in my life and only intensified through my travels.

I haven’t been this excited for a new year in a long time! I knew the world wasn’t going to end (more on that later…)!