Confessions of a North American Opium Admirer

“Oh! just, subtle, and mighty opium! that to the hearts of poor and rich alike, for the wounds that will never heal, and for ‘the pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel,’ bringest an assuaging balm; eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath; and to the guilty man, for one night givest back the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure of blood….”

– Thomas De Quincy Confessions of an English Opium-Eater  Continue reading

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The High Price of Wellness

I’m not incredibly wealthy, but I am well-aware of my privilege as a white, college-educated woman. I grew up very middle class and thanks to the Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan (which I wrote about here) I am debt free.  Because I am training to be a clinician I have invested quite a bit of money in health and health education and though I dislike spending lots of money I look at it as a business investment because who wants to take advice from an unhealthy clinician? I also am fortunate to live in a place where I’ve been able to barter, use high quality sliding scale services and get very reasonable payment plans and even then all of my money is going to classes, herbs (building an apothecary), cooking supplies, water filtration (dude, getting fluoride out is expensive) and the occasional functional medicine appointment. Is my health worth it? Of course, but I could not justify the expense if I did not also think it would eventually lead to financial gain. Is that screwed up? Yea! Gah…capitalism…but let’s leave that rant for another day.  Continue reading

Talking to Plants

I learned A LOT in herb school, sometimes there was so much information that I thought my head would actually explode, but there is one simple thing I feel you must learn before you can even consider being an herbalist. You have to develop a relationship with the plants you work with. Developing that is what turns it into an art; you wouldn’t call a house painter a muralist or a bricklayer an architect so I hope you wouldn’t call someone who puts plants into useful little categories an herbalist.  Continue reading

The Vine that Ate the South (and My Heart)

I ventured into the deep south for the first time last August on the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity.  I was just this snot-nosed kid from El Paso who somehow managed to get on this bus comprised mostly of very brave Mexican activists who were following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. and being invited into the warm congregations of  African-American communities along the way. It was surreal, beautiful and humbling and I didn’t feel worthy. Everytime I think of that trip I get goosebumps. What an honor.  Continue reading

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 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

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…)!