Thursday, June 28, 2012

Creating a Healing Garden – 9 Healing Herbs You Can Grow Yourself

By Gaye Levy

Herbs have been used for centuries to sooth and to heal.  According to Wikipedia:

Herbs have long been used as the basis of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, with usage dating as far back as the first century CE and before. Medicinal use of herbs in Western cultures has its roots in the Hippocratic (Greek) elemental healing system, based on a quaternary elemental healing metaphor.

With such a long history of use, herbs most certainly have a place in the survival garden. With that in mind, today I offer a few suggestions to get you started in creating your own healing garden.

Healing Herbs for the Healing Garden

Basil:  People don’t usually think of basil as a healing herb and yet traditionally, it is called the “king of herbs”.  It is used medicinally as a natural anti-inflammatory and is thought to have mild antiseptic functions. Some healing uses are for flatulence, lack off appetite, nausea and cuts and scrapes.

It is also superb on spaghetti and in pesto but then you already knew that.  Basil is an annual plant so you will have to start anew each year.

German Chamomile:  Chamomile is one of the most popular herbs in the Western world.  Its flower heads are commonly used for infusions, teas and slaves.  These in turn can be used to treat indigestion, anxiety and skin inflammations.  As a tea, it serves as a mild sedative to help with sleep.

Feverfew:  This perennial is a member of the sunflower family and has been used for centuries in European folk medicine as a remedy for headaches, arthritis, and fevers. The name feverfew comes from a Latin word meaning “fever reducer.”

It’s  many uses include easing headache pains – especially migraines.  This is done by chewing on the leaves.  A tea made from the leaves and flowers is said to relieve the symptoms of arthritis.

Lemon Balm:  Lemon balm is a member of the mint family.  Considered a calming herb, it has been used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion.  Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits, help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings.

As with many other herbs in your healing garden, lemon balm promotes relaxation and a sense of calm.

Parsley:  While not one of my favorites, there is nothing like a sprig of parsley to take away bad breath.  It is no wonder that this biennial (meaning it lives for two years) is used to decorate and garnish plates in the fanciest of restaurants.

When brewed as a tea, parsley can help supplement iron in a person’s diet, particularly for those who are anemic. Drinking parsley tea also boosts energy and overall circulation of the body, and helps battle fatigue from lack of iron.  Other uses?  Parsley tea  fights gas and flatulence in the belly, kidney infections, and bladder infections.  It can also be an effective diuretic.

Sage:  Did you know that the genus name for sage is “salvia” which means “to heal”? In the first century C.E. Greek physician Dioscorides reported that sage stopped bleeding of wounds and cleaned ulcers and sores. He also recommended sage juice in warm water for hoarseness and cough.

In modern times, a sage tea is used to sooth mouth, throat and gum inflammations.  This is because sage has excellent antibacterial and astringent properties.

Thyme:  Back during medieval times, thyme was given to knights before going in to battle.  The purpose was to infuse this manly man with vigor and courage.

These days, thyme used to relieve coughs, congestion, indigestion and gas.  This perennial is rich in thymol, a strong antiseptic, making thyme highly desirable in the treatment of wounds and even fungus infections.  Thyme is a perennial that does well, even in cooler, Pacific Northwest climates.

Rosemary:  Long ago, rosemary was known as ‘the herb of remembrance.’ Even today, in places like Australia and New Zealand, it is used as a symbol of remembrance since it is known to help sharpen mental clarity and stimulate brain function. You might recall that many statues of the ancient Greeks and Romans show men wearing sprigs of rosemary on their heads – signifying mental acuity.

The needles of the delightfully fragrant rosemary plant can be used in a tea to treat digestive problems.  The same tea can also be used as an expectorant and as a relaxing beverage that is helpful for headaches.  Other healing uses include improving  memory, relieving muscle pain and spasms, stimulating hair growth, and supporting the circulatory and nervous systems.

Lavender:  I saved my personal favorite for last. Of course it helps that I have an abundant amount of fragrant lavender in my yard.

A tea made from lavender has many uses with one of the foremost being it’s ability to have a calming effect on a person’s mind and body. To that end, lavender can promote a sense of well-being and alleviate stress. It is also useful for dealing with various gastrointestinal issues such as upset stomachs and and flatulence.

Because it is a strong antiseptic, lavender tea, when applied topically, can help heal cuts, wounds and sores. It can also be used to mitigate bad breath.

How to Make an Herbal Tea

The process of making a pot of herbal tea is in itself healing.  Perhaps that has something to do with the proactive effort involved in doing something positive for one’s own self and well-being.  And luckily, brewing an herbal tea is easy.

To make an herbal tea, first bring some cool water to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, fetch a non-mental container that will be used to brew the tea.  A quart mason jar works nicely or this purpose.  You do not want to use a metal container since the metal may interfere with the purity and taste of the tea.

Add 2 tablespoons of fresh (or 1 tablespoon of dried herb or crushed seed) to the empty pot or jar for each cup of water.  Then, and this is the important part, add an extra 2 tablespoons of fresh (or 1 tablespoon of dried) herbs “for the pot.”  So, for example, if you are making 2 cups of hot tea, you would use 6 tablespoons of fresh herbs or 3 tablespoons of dried herbs.

Pour the boiling water over the herbs and let them steep, covered, for about 5 minutes give or take.  There is no  exact time since everyone’s strength preference is difference.  When ready, strain the herbs and pour the tea into a cup.  At this point you may want to garnish your heavenly – and healing – cup of tea with honey, citrus fruits or addition herb springs.

For iced tea, increase the quantity of herbs in the basic recipe by 1 1/2 to allow for dilution from the melting ice.

The Final Word

In reading about these herbs, you may have noticed that many are reputed to have the same or similar healing qualities.  Do they work?  I can personally vouch for Rosemary and Lavender which I have used as both a tea and as an essential oil.  I leave it up to you though, to be the final judge.

One thing that is true is that with a little time and for a nominal cost, you can grow the makings for healing teas, infusions and balms in your own garden. Add a dose of sun and some rich pitting soil and you will be set to go.  Just keep in mind that while perennial plants will flourish over the winter and will be there for you the following spring, annual plants must be reseeded or restarted every year.

If you would like to learn more about the healing properties of various herbs, the University of Maryland Medical Center has an excellent web site with a lot of useful information about herbs and other alternative medicine topics.  Click on “herbs” then scroll down the right to the particular herb you would like to learn about.

Also note this disclaimer:  I am not a doctor and anything I write should not be construed as medical advice.  If you have a serious condition, consult a physician or nurse practitioner if one is available.  And if not, consult a reliable reference such as my favorite, The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


About the Author

Gaye Levy lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable, self-reliant and stylish lifestyle through emergency preparation and disaster planning. She does this through her website at, an online preparedness blog that provides lifestyle tools, tips, and thoughts to guide you through the back door of life in the 21st century. With an emphasis on prepping and survival, she writes about and shares practical, thoughtful, and inspirational tools for survival in uncertain times.

Backdoor Survival is currently listed on the Survival Top 50. In addition, Gaye is a frequent guest on the Preparedness Radio Network and the soon to be author of a book on 21st century preparedness. Also known as SuvivalWoman, Gaye  speaks her mind and delivers her message with optimism and grace, regardless of mayhem swirling around us.

You can find Gaye through her website at Backdoor Survival, or the Backdoor Survival Page on Facebook, and as Survival Woman on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

7 Reasons Love is Good for Your Heart

No other organ in the human body can measure up to the heart’s social reputation. References to the heart paint our pop culture — sonnets (“How do I love thee?”), songs (“My Heart Will Go On,” “Hungry Heart”), everyday idioms (“heart of gold,” “broken heart”). Most of the heart’s fame, of course, comes from its connection to good old L-O-V-E.

So it’s a bit of scientific serendipity that the act of loving another — be it your mom, your spouse, your pup, your BFF — actually improves your heart health.  Read on to find out how and why a little lovin’ helps your ticker.

Spending Time With a Loved One Lowers Blood Pressure

Not like you need another excuse to veg out with your best friend or cozy up with your significant other, but here’s one anyway. A study in the journalPsychosomatic Medicine found that people who spent time with their romantic partners experienced a greater dip in blood pressure than those who hung out with a stranger.

Researchers correlated the blood pressure drop to sweet silence — less talking and more “perceived emotional support,” like the kind you would get from someone who knows you really well, so you could easily experience the same benefits from hanging out with your partner in crime as you would with a marital partner.

Your Heart Gets a Workout When it Goes Pitter-Patter

When you lock eyes with the person who makes your heart race — whether it’s a new crush or the love of your life — your brain releases hormones such as dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, which make your heart beat faster and stronger.

These short-lived spikes can train your heart to pump blood more efficiently, similar to the way aerobic exercise would (though to a lesser extent, of course). Yep, you still need to hit the treadmill no matter how much love you have in your life.

Hugs Are Good for the Heart

Could a hug a day keep the doctor away? When you partake in a warm embrace with someone you love (like a parent, child, or spouse), your body releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, which has the power to reduce stress hormones and lower blood pressure, according to research from the University of North Carolina.

Laughter Makes Your Blood Flow More Freely

Have you had a good laugh yet today? Call up a good friend or family member, stat! Recent research from the University Of Maryland School of Medicine presented at the 2011 European Society of Cardiology (ESC) annual conference found a link between mental stress and the narrowing of blood vessels, which can restrict blood flow and lead to atherosclerosis. Laughter, however, had the opposite effect. So get the pals you love most together for a good chuckle more often.

For the study, participants watched segments of a funny movie, like “There’s Something About Mary” on one day and a stressful movie such as “Saving Private Ryan” on another day. The stressful film caused vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels, while the comedy caused the vessels to expand.

“The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium [blood vessel lining] after laughing was consistent and similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic exercise or statin use,” Michael Miller MD, a professor of medicine and lead investigator, said in a release from the ESC.

Lower Cholesterol by reading Love LettersLove Letters Can Lower Cholesterol

Feeling love is one thing, but writing about it appears to be a completely different way of reaping the health benefits. In two randomized, controlled trials published inHuman Communication Research, healthy college students who spent 20 minutes writing about their affection for loved ones (friends, relatives, and/or romantic partners) experienced significant drops in total cholesterol (the mean cholesterol levels reduced from 170 mg/dL to 159 mg/dL), while students in the control group, who wrote about random topics, did not. Try it out!

A Positive Attitude Reduces Heart Attack Risk

Research published in the European Heart Journal shows that having a positive outlook on life can protect against cardiovascular disease.

The researchers defined “positive affect” as feeling joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm, and contentment, all of which may stem from having people you love in your life. Researchers measured each participant’s level of positive affect based on a 12-minute in-person interview and checked health records over the following 10 years to look for incidences of cardiovascular disease.

They found that people who scored even a single point higher for positive affect had a 22 perfect lower risk for cardiovascular disease. They also found that those with higher positive affect were more likely to be female, less likely to smoke, had lower levels of total cholesterol, and lower levels of hostility and anxiousness, suggesting that a positive attitude contributes to better health overall, according to the study.

Holding Hands Calms Nerves

Holding hands with someone you love has a calming effect on the body, according to a study published inPsychological Science.

Researchers recruited happily married couples and placed each woman in an M.R.I. scanner, preparing her to feel a mild shock to the ankle. Of course, the women were anxious. But feeling their husbands’ hands (the husbands reached into the scanners) reduced the women’s brain activity associated with anticipating pain. The study also found that a stranger’s touch provided comfort, but less so than a spouse.

High stress and anxiety are linked to high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and other factors that can contribute to heart disease, such as weight gain. In the stresses and worries of everyday life, this research lends new meaning to the phrase “helping hand.”



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Monday, June 25, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Skip Breakfast

As usual, your mom was right. Most of us can recall our mother's voice each morning, sternly reminding us to eat breakfast. After all, she would say, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." Well, she might not have known just how right she was.

Not only do we need energy to start the day, but researchers have learned that breakfast also affects our mood and our waistlines. Those of use who regularly skip breakfast are likely to gain more weight, mostly because we make it up later in the day by eating more.

Eating breakfast has many benefits to your health and skipping this important meal can reduce your weight loss success and your general well-being. And there are many other reasons why you shouldn’t skip breakfast if you are trying to lose weight.

1. Lowers your metabolism

One of the worse things about skipping breakfast is that it lowers your metabolism. Your metabolism is your body’s ability to burn calories and is often referred to as your body’s furnace. Eating regularly helps to keep the ‘fire burning’ and by skipping breakfast you are essentially letting the ‘fire’ burn out. While this is a bad idea at any time of the day, it is particularly bad first thing in the morning as your body has been fasting all night and breakfast helps to kick start your metabolism and provides you with energy for the day ahead. Keeping your metabolism firing is essential for burning fat and calories when trying to lose weight.

2. Lowers your concentration levels

If you have ever missed a meal, you will know how had it can be to concentrate on even the simplest tasks. Regularly skipping breakfast lowers you concentration levels and makes it hard for you to perform at your best. Not only will your concentration levels be affected but your memory and coordination as well. Definitely bad news if you have a job that requires you to use all three!

3. Lowers your energy levels

When you skip breakfast and don’t provide your body with any fuel, you also don’t provide yourself with any energy. We all need to eat a certain amount of calories a day to ensure our bodies are getting enough energy. When you don’t provide enough fuel, it is very hard for your body to do everything it needs to do each day. This will leave you tired and lethargic, and you’ll find it very difficult to get through the day, not to mention exercise.

4. Lowers your blood sugar levels

Skipping meals and not refuelling your body for a number of hours can lower your blood sugar levels so low that you will experience hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemia occurs when the amount of sugar (or glucose) in your blood drops below 4.0mmol (this is a measurement used by medical professionals to measure the amount of glucose in the blood). When this happens, you may experience sweating, dizziness, nausea, and shaking. Regularly eating meals will help to prevent this and boost your metabolism at the same time. Maintaining good blood sugar levels is very beneficial to your weight loss journey.

5. Mid-morning cravings

One of the worst side effects of not eating breakfast is that come mid-morning you are so hungry you are more likely to fill up on high fat, high sugar snacks with no nutritional value. These snacks are also high in calories and can throw all your good work out the window. Eating breakfast (especially a healthy one), helps to control cravings and keeps you full and satisfied, meaning you are more likely to eat a healthy snack at morning tea to tide you over til lunch (and keep your metabolism burning to help with your weight loss).

6. Leads to overeating for the rest of the day

Skipping breakfast not only leads you to choose the wrong foods at morning tea but can lead to overeating for the rest of the day. When trying to lose weight it is easy to believe that once you have eaten the wrong thing, that there’s no point in trying until tomorrow. A healthy breakfast helps to set you up for a good day ahead and makes it easier to say no to unhealthy foods.

7. Stops you losing weight

As mentioned earlier, skipping breakfast lowers your metabolism and your ability to burn fat and calories. When you lower your metabolism, it is much hard for your body to burn fat and calories, hampering your weight loss efforts. Small, regular meals, starting with breakfast is a great way to fire up your metabolism and keep your weight loss on track.

8. Makes exercise difficult

Another side effect of skipping breakfast is that it makes you tired and lethargic and this makes it very difficult to find the energy or motivation to exercise. As you know, regular exercise is essential if you are trying to lose weight. Exercise requires energy and the best source of energy is regular, healthy meals, including breakfast.

9. Makes you grumpy

There’s no nice way to put it – being tired, lethargic and hungry makes you grumpy! Skipping breakfast, especially if you don’t eat until lunch time will make you grumpy and agitated, which is not a great combination if your work requires you to be around other people? It’s hard to be nice when you can’t concentrate, are fighting hunger pains and don’t have the energy to stay awake.

10. Makes it difficult to stick to your plan

When it comes to weight loss, stick to your plan is very important and it is difficult to do that when you are hungry and chocolate is calling you. If you want to stick to your weight loss plan, you need to make breakfast a must. It not only kick starts your metabolism but makes it much easier for you to make smart food choices for the rest of the day.

11. Any breakfast is better than no breakfast

Many people think that breakfast needs to be some healthy, ‘hippy’ type meal. Anything you eat at breakfast is better than going hungry. If you don’t have the time to eat breakfast at home, try keeping something at the office to eat there or try getting up a little earlier (easier said than done!). Smoothies and milk shakes are also an option for those with little time.

Skipping meals is never a good thing and if you are trying to lose weight, it is far better to eat small regular meals to boost your metabolism than to skip meals, believing this will help you lose weight. If you have been skipping breakfast to help your weight loss goals, stop now! Start adding breakfast to your eating plan and you’ll be amazed at how much better you will feel and the difference it makes to your weight loss journey.



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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Knowing How Far You’ve Come: 8 Tips to Celebrate Your Growth

by Joanna Z. Weston

It is laughably easy to forget to stop and take stock of how far we have come in our lives. Our world focuses so much on what we lack—be it money, beauty, prestige, or romantic success—that it is far too common for us to get trapped in the loop of needing to have, be, or do “more” before thinking that we might be good enough. I, for one, do it all the time.

A year and a half ago I was unemployed with no idea what to do next. I’d spent my life until that point ignoring the conviction that there was something I was meant to do. Since I didn’t know what that calling might be, I played it safe by getting a library degree.

I was pretty good at library work, but I was never passionate about it, which made me an unremarkable candidate for the few remaining library positions after the economy crashed.

All of this left me sitting at home, miserable. Unemployment, combined with a particularly nasty winter, led to a terrible flare up of my lifelong nemesis, depression. To say that I was despondent that winter would be a gross understatement!

Of course, I can now see that this was a blessing. That terrible winter pushed me to realize that something had to change, and fast. I was finished playing it safe, and ready to figure out my dream!

Since then, I’ve identified my true calling (to become a life coach), sought training, and now I stand on the cusp of living my ideal life. But is that how I see the situation most days? Of course not.

More days than not, I find myself focusing on how far I still have to go. I see the programs I haven’t implemented yet and the website that isn’t quite perfect, rather than taking the time to marvel over the fact that I have so many ideas and a website at all.

And you know what? Failing to acknowledge how far I’ve come robs me of a lot of joy and a lot of pride. I may not have everything figured out in my new business, but I’ve come a long way from where I was a year ago.

I would be willing to bet that you’ve made huge progress in the last year, as well, but are too focused on what remains to be done to see it. I invite you to start giving yourself credit for a lot of hard work and achievement.

Some tips to help you see how far you’ve come:

1. Sit down and breathe.

It’s hard to hear the truth when a thousand voices and worries are circling through your mind. Taking just five minutes to sit down and let the voices become quiet can make a huge difference.

2. Ask yourself, “Where was I this time last year? Five years ago? Ten?

I can guarantee that you will be surprised by your answers. Change comes slowly, so it can be hard to see it, but it’s always happening, whether we see it or not.

3. Review your notes.

If you keep a journal or blog, reread some of your old entries. You’ll find written evidence (in your own hand!) of just how far you’ve come when you see what was upsetting you back then.

4. Make a list of your accomplishments from the last year or the last five years.

I don’t care how small or insignificant it seems, write them down! Then look at that list and reflect on just how much you’ve done.

5. Ask a friend or loved one.

We can be our own worst critics, so sometimes those close to us have a clearer view of how much we’ve grown than we have of ourselves. If it feels awkward to ask someone to tell you nice things about yourself, offer to return the favor.

6. Track the personal, not just the professional.

Remember that not all progress is related to your career. How have your relationships, your spirituality, or your self-knowledge improved?

7. Celebrate the little things.

As you go about your day, try to notice when you take even the smallest step toward your goals, and be sure to honor that in some way. Even just writing it down in your journal will give you that moment of recognition.

8. Realize that it’s never done.

We all want to reach the top of the mountain and feel that we have achieved something. We want to be finished, but that’s never going to happen; our lives are a constant work in progress, which is the way it ought to be. Trust me, you’d be bored if you weren’t constantly changing and growing.

Whatever you are working towards, and however far you still have to go, I encourage you to take the time to truly bask in everything you have achieved thus far.

It doesn’t matter if you are moving fast or slow, only that you keep moving! And the best way to ensure that you continue to do that is to cherish each step along the way.

About The Author: Joanna Z. Weston is a life coach who is passionate about helping those recovering from depression to build a life they can love. You can find her reading, snuggling her cat, wandering the streets of Boston on her bicycle, or blogging at



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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

9 Foods You Should Never Buy at Health Food Stores


As a moderately health-conscious woman, I always check the labels when I go grocery shopping. Well, almost always.

For some reason, when I head into health food stores like Whole Foods, I just assume thateverything in there is healthy, so I don't need to waste my time reading nutrition facts -- I can just toss whatever I want in my basket. And really, when half the products have some form of "organic," "all natural," or "gluten-free" on the packaging, can you blame me?

I'm not totally off base with my reasoning. Whole Foods promises on its website not to sell any products with "artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats." So I already know I don't need to check the labels for any of those.

But, just because an item is in a store like Whole Foods and free of all that artificial stuff doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy. There are plenty of unhealthy health foods out there ready to help me pack on the pounds. To find out which so-called health foods are the worst offenders, I asked a team of nutritionists to head to their local Whole Foods stores, scrutinize food labels, and report back on the items they'd never drop in their carts.


If you have a gluten intolerance, that little "gluten-free" label can be a literal lifesaver. But if youdon't have a gluten intolerance, you're really not doing yourself any favors by avoiding the ingredient. "Gluten-free does not equal healthier," says clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas, BS, CCN. "These products just replace wheat flour with brown rice flour, which isn't much better for you." She adds that many gluten-free products can be loaded with sugar and starch. "You're getting tons of carbs, and very few nutrients, with these packaged foods," says Metsovas.


What could be bad about tea? If it doesn't come from your own teapot, be warned: "Bottled teas are often sweetened with sugar, and many of them are essentially just uncarbonated soda," says Andrea N. Giancoli, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Need proof? Honest Tea Honey Green Tea has a whopping 18 grams of sugar. And even the Classic Green Tea has 9 g of organic cane sugar.

And while it is possible to find bottled teas without added sugar, you're still missing out on the main reason to drink tea in the first place: the polyphenols. Polyphenols are the antioxidants in tea that can help you with a whole host of beauty and health issues -- but they're in short supply when your tea comes in a plastic bottle. A recent study supported by the American Chemical Society found that a typical cup of brewed black or green tea has 50 to 150 milligrams of polyphenols. But the average bottled tea has only 3 to 81 mg. And since polyphenols aren't listed on nutrition labels, you have no way of knowing how much your bottle has.


In general, the convenient pre-made salads are healthy. The dressings, however, are another story.

"Salad dressings can be filled with sugar," says Metsovas. She's spotted ones with up to 50 g in one serving! That's bad as it is, but there's another problem with a skimpy salad and sugary dressing. "Dressings with high sugar cause your blood sugar to spike, so you'll be hungry and craving more sugar soon after you finish," she says.

If your only options are dressings with a lot of sugar in them (and you can't eat your salad dry), Metsovas says you're better off skipping the salad and grabbing a sandwich instead, since it'll keep you feeling full for longer.


Shouldn't six grains be better than one? Not if those six grains had all their nutrients stripped out of them, which is often the case with foods labeled "multi-grain." The real term you want to look for is "whole grain," says Giancoli. Whole grain means the product hasn't been refined.

What's so wrong with refining? Essentially, refining grains chemically bleaches the flour, removing the natural vitamins and minerals at the same time, says Elaine Wilkes, PhD, NC, MA, LEED, author of "Nature's Secret Messages: Hidden in Plain Sight." After the bleaching process, the flour is "enriched" with synthetic nutrients, but it's really not the same as the original whole grain nutrients. Wilkes describes it as "dead bread."


You'd never consider a can of Coke to be healthy, but the promises of "natural flavor" and "organic sugar" on bottles of sodas like Izze and Jones Soda make them almost seem OK, right?

First of all, Wilkes says "natural flavors" are a joke. "If a label contains 'natural flavors' it doesn't mean that it's natural or healthy," she says. "Artificial and natural flavors are manufactured at the same chemical plants as other flavors. They have nothing to do with nature." The natural flavors won't really harm you or your diet, but they're certainly not helping you either.

Then there's the sugar. Even natural sodas can be loaded with the sweet stuff. For example, Izze Sparkling Natural Soda Sparkling Ginger has 29 g of sugar. And while it may be "organic cane sugar," Metsovas says, "'natural sugars' prompt the same blood sugar response as 'non-natural sugars.' They're all equal in my mind." Giancoli agrees: "We should be decreasing our sugar intake," she says, "not replacing it with different types of sugar."


OK, maybe this one shouldn't be too shocking, but Giancoli says, "a cookie can be vegan, but it's still a cookie." Translation: While that cookie may not have any butter or lard in it, it can still have plenty of fat (via vegetable oil) and sugar. Metsovas does concede that vegan or organic desserts are "technically healthier, since they typically contain fewer refined ingredients." But, she adds, "you'll still put on weight even if it's natural fat and sugar."


While these are generally better than traditional, non-organic canned soup, they can still be packed with sodium (and possible BPA). For example, Amy's Organic Chunky Vegetable Soup has 680 mg of sodium, more than half your recommended daily allowance. Giancoli says to look for canned soups with less than 400 mg per serving (and to watch out because many cans actually have two servings). Then you can add herbs like oregano, thyme, and basil to boost the flavor


You already know that juice "cocktails" are loaded with added sugar, and that juice and smoothies in general pack a big calorie punch. But those 100 percent organic drinks are still a tempting alternative to a bowl of fruit, especially when you're on the go.

Giancoli highly recommends limiting yourself to a 6- to 8-ounce serving at a time (so keep an eye on your portions, especially with smoothies). The reason: Juice has concentrated fruit sugar, which means more calories but less satiety than if you were to just eat a piece of fruit. Plus, all that sugar (even though it's naturally from the fruit) will make you crave more sweet stuff later in the day, says Metsovas.


Yes, baked chips are healthier than their fried counterparts, but there is a catch. "Fried chips make you feel full faster because there's more fat in them," says Metsovas. "If you're not mindful, you can eat a lot more baked chips because they have less fat." This wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that more chips (baked or otherwise) means more carbs, which means a higher number on the scale.

Thankfully, Metsovas has a solution for when you just have to have your baked chips: "Try to have something mixed in with baked chips, like raw almonds. That way you'll get some fatty acids in your snack that'll help you feel full."

Some of their picks (like the vegan cookies I chow down on almost daily) I had to admit I knew weren't good for me. But there were other health foods I was shocked to learn were actually really unhealthy. Keep reading to see what I mean and be prepared to re-think how you shop at Whole Foods and other health food stores.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Foods That Look Like Body Parts They're Good For

There’s no question that maintaining a nutritious diet can help keep your body healthy. But when it comes to which foods can specifically benefit which body parts, science remains surprisingly sketchy. But nature gives us a big clue as to what foods help what part of our body!

Here are 10 foods that mirror the body parts they provide nutrients for—for example, brain-boosting walnuts actually look like a brain. Coincidence? Maybe. Though these healthy foods are beneficial to the whole body, the list below is a fun reminder of what to eat to target specific areas. Remember, these are best & more powerful when eaten raw.

A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. According to science, eating carrots greatly enhances blood flow to the eyes. Carrot gets their orange color from a plant chemical called beta-carotene, which reduces the risk of developing cataracts. The chemical also protects against macular degeneration an age-related sight problem that affects one in four individuals over the age of 65. If one tries to pop a pill of beta-carotene it doesn’t have the same effect, says scientists at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA.

Tomato has four chambers and is red in color, so also the heart is red and has four chambers. Research has confirmed that tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and it is indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes resembles the alveoli of the lungs. The lungs are made of branches of ever-smaller airways that finish up with tiny branches of tissue called alveoli. These structures allow oxygen to pass from the lungs to the blood stream. A diet high in fresh grapes has shown to reduce the risk of lung cancer and emphysema. Grape seeds also contain a chemical called proanthocyanidin, which is thought to reduce the severity of asthma triggered by allergy. One reason that premature babies struggle to survive is that, these alveoli do not begin to form until 23 to 24 week of pregnancy.

Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are similar to those of the neo-cortex. Scientists claim that walnuts help in developing over three dozen neuron-transmitters within the brain enhancing the signaling and encouraging new messaging link between the brain cells. Walnuts help warding off dementia. They also extract and break down the protein based plaques associated with Alzheimer’s diseases, according to a study by Dr. James Joseph of Tuft University in Boston.

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and are shaped exactly like the human kidneys (hence their name). Kidney beans provide a variety of minerals and vitamins, and so are generally beneficial for your health. If your kidneys are healthy, kidney beans can -- when consumed as part of a balanced diet -- contribute to your kidney health. If your kidneys are diseased, you might need to moderate your intake of kidney beans.

Celery, Rhubarb, Bok-choy and more look just like bones structure. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are made up of 23% sodium and these foods have sodium in them. If you don’t have enough sodium in your diet the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Avocados and Pears are good for the health and functioning of the womb and cervix of the female and look just like these organs. Modern research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances the birth hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight and can even prevent cervical cancer. It even takes exactly nine months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit, just like a human baby! There are said to be over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods.

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Studies have shown that Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the sperm count as well as overcoming male sterility.

Sweet Potatoes resemble the pancreas and can actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics. The oblong sweet potato bears a strong resemblance to the pancreas, and also promotes healthy function in the organ. "Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which is a potent antioxidant that protects all tissues of the body, including the pancreas, from damage associated with cancer or aging," says Somer.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries. An Italian study found that women whose diets included a lot of olive oil had a 30% lower risk of ovarian cancer. The reasons are unclear, but the healthy fats in the oil may help suppress genes predisposed to causing cancer.

Grapefruits, Oranges, and other citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts. The similarity between round citrus fruits––like lemons and grapefruit––and breasts may be more than coincidental. "Grapefruit contains substances called limonoids, which have been shown to inhibit the development of cancer in lab animals and in human breast cells," says Dr. Moulavi.

Eating a Banana will cheer you up and put a smile on your face. This popular fruit contains a protein called tryptophan, when digested it gets converted into a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is a mood regulating chemical in the brain. Banana can be termed as an antidepressant drug, since it adjusts the level of serotonin production in the brain.

Onions look like the body's cells. Research shows onions clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. 

Ginger looks like the stomach and it also aids in digestion. Indians and Chinese have been using it for over 5000 years to calm stomach and cure nausea, and motion sickness. It also slows down the growth rate of bowel tumors.

Mushrooms when sliced in half resembles the shape of the human ear. Mushrooms improve hearing abilities, since they contain Vitamin D, which is healthy for bones, especially the 3 tiny bones in the ear that transmit sound to the brain.

Broccoli – the close-up of tiny green tips on a broccoli head looks like 100 of cancer cells. A team of researchers at US National Cancer Institute found if a weekly serving of broccoli was enough to reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 45%.

Ginseng root looks like a human body, and it is a holistic cure for nearly all ailments. 

Honorable Mention

Red wine, which is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, including powerful resveratrol, looks like blood. "When you drink it, you're really loading up on the healthy stuff that protects against destructive things in the blood, like LDL cholesterol, which can cause heart disease," says Somer. "There's also a blood-thinning compound in red wine, so it reduces blood clots, which are associated with stroke and heart disease." 

Here is a list of our links.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to Avoid GMO Food

Sources of GMOs  Ninety percent, that’s right, 90% or more of ALL corn, soybeans, rice, canola and cottonseed oils, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified! Often found in processed foods, GMOs are also found in fruits and vegetables and in alarming quantities in animal feed.

  • ALL processed food items contain at least one or more genetically modified ingredients.

  • Your favorite breakfast cereal is another item with a high level of GMOs.

  • Dairy products from cows injected with rbGM, a GM hormone

  • Meat and eggs from animals that have eaten GM feed (i.e. corn and soy)

  • Food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®), and rennet used to make hard cheeses

  • Flaxseed oil and vegetable oils

  • Honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen

  • Non-food items that may contain GM ingredients include cosmetics,  shampoo, bubble bath, soaps and detergents, Pharmaceutical companies use Aspartame in some laxatives, supplements and children’s vitamins.

Dangers of GM Foods  A study published in the Journal of Biological Science revealed numerous health hazards from GMOs and pesticides, specifically liver and kidney function, and the heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reported several studies indicating serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, increased food sensitivities, autism, arthritis, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods. Children, newborns and pregnant women face the greatest potential hazards from GM food.

Are the Fruits and Vegetables You Buy GM (genetically modified)? There are unique codes for organic, conventionally grown and genetically modified items. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, you’ll notice a PLU code on the sticker which is usually 4 digits. The numbers on the sticker can tell you if the item is genetically modified!

A fifth digit may be prefixed to the code. This fifth digit indicates whether the fruit or vegetable is organic (prefixed by the numeral 9), or whether the fruit or vegetable is GM (prefixed by an 8).

PLU Codes

  • Conventional  Grown with chemicals. The PLU code consists of 4 numbers

  • GM  Genetically modified. The PLU code is prefaced with a number 8

  • Organic  The PLU code is prefaced with a number 9

  • A conventionally grown apple would be: 4021

  • A genetically engineered (GE or GMO) apple would be: 84021

  • An organic apple would be: 94021

Processed foods are genetically modified foods that don't carry PLU codes. Ingredients in processed food, specifically corn, canola oil and soy are genetically modified foods.

Other Foods that May Contain GM Ingredients  Infant formula, peanut butter, protein powder, beer and alcohol, salad dressing, bread, cereal, cereals, crackers, cookies, chocolate, candy and chewing gum, fried food, chips, margarine, mayonnaise, hamburgers and hotdogs, veggie burgers, meat substitutes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, tofu, tamari, soy sauce, soy cheese, tomato sauce, baking powder, vanilla, powdered sugar, enriched flour and pasta.

How to Avoid GMOs

  • Educate yourself on how to avoid GM foods

  • Shop at your local farmer’s market

  • When eating at a restaurant, ask what oil they cook with

  • Read the list of ingredients. Specifically, avoid these risky ingredients:

    • Soybeans (soybean oil, soy protein, soy lecithin, soy milk, tofu, and other soy-based ingredients)

    • Corn (corn oil, cornmeal, cornstarch and other corn-based ingredients)

    • Canola (canola oil) and Cottonseed (cottonseed oil)

    • Sugar Beets (listed as “sugar” on the list of ingredients)

    • Most Hawaiian papaya

  • Buy only certified-organic products labeled as “100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients”

  • Look for “verified non-GMO” labeling

  • Use this page from my website

9 Powerful Life Lessons From Studying with a Monk

by Robert Piper

When I was 18 years old, I suffered from anxiety and stomach problems. A compassionate physician and practicing Buddhist referred me to a Taoist monk who specialized in meditation and martial arts. I ended up healing myself of anxiety and stomach issues by doing meditation, and went on a great journey of self-discovery.

Here are 9 lessons I learned while studying with a monk:

1. Keep trying until you get it right.

The most important life lesson I learned was trying something three times (maybe even four times) before you stop trying and move on. Also, this monk taught me that, even after multiple tries, you should work on different angles to approach things that are difficult.

If you keep trying, you’ll eventually get where you’re going.

2. The answer to your question is inside of you.

As part of the original monastery training, a monk didn’t answer direct questions from a student unless it was a well thought-out question. A Chinese proverb says, “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”

Some forms of Zen Buddhism use a very similar style of training. An old saying (by Taoist monks) goes like this: “In making a four corner table, the teacher shows the student how to make one corner. It’s the student’s job to figure out how to make the other three.”

They did this because they were preparing a student to deal effectively with problems in the real world.

I traveled to South Korea one time, and I found it fascinating how much you have to rely on your intuition when you don’t speak the native language of a country. I remember one instance, I had trouble explaining to the cab driver where my hotel was, and he didn’t speak English. So I had to get out of the cab and ask several people until I could find someone to tell the cab driver in Korean how to get to my hotel.

In life, whenever we try new things, we have to go into new places with only a small amount of information. The real world doesn’t give us all the answers. The greatest teacher is inside of us.

3. Real wisdom in life comes from doing something and failing.

Prior to starting meditation, I used to get upset when I’d try something and fail.

I’ve been in sales since I was sixteen. I remember going to work and getting so angry with myself because I didn’t get a sale. If I ever got rejected, I’d get upset with myself, and I’d want to quit my job. But I just keep failing over and over—until I became good at it.

I remember, when I first started doing meditation, I ran into several problems. For example, at first it was difficult to calm down; but if you stick with it, its gets easier and easier. I tried for only a few minutes, and then every day, I added more time onto my meditation.

When we struggle, we learn about ourselves and what we need to do to become stronger.

4. When you start to do meditation you recognize the egotistical mind.

Everything in the ego’s world is the result of comparing. I compared myself to other salesmen and would blame myself because I wasn’t making as much money as them.

When I started doing meditation, I began to build separation from this egoistical mind, which is consistently making these comparisons. A lot of us try something and get rejected, so we give up. Even worse, we blame ourselves for a long time and get depressed. When I started to do meditation, I began to identify my ego and was able to build separation from it.

That’s what happens when we meditate: We separate from the part of ourselves that dwells on comparisons, and start learning to live a life that isn’t driven by our egos.

5. We must be both compassionate and resilient.

The monk wouldn’t meet with me to train unless I called him a minimum of three times. I hated this part. I used to call and call and he would never answer. But this is how life is. How many times do you have to call or email someone to get something done in the real world? It’s usually several times.

Most of us blame ourselves when we try once to do something and fail. At the time, I hated this part of the training, but now I think it was the most important life lesson.

There’s a Taoist proverb that says, “Cotton on the outside, steel on the inside.”

It reminds us to be compassionate, but not weak.

6. Patience is a virtue.

The monk always made me wait—and I dreaded this.

For example, when I got to his house to train, he’d make me wait for a minimum of a half-hour, sometimes longer. We’d go out to dinner on Friday nights and he’d show up at the restaurant an hour late.

He’d tell me to meet him at a particular restaurant at 7:00. I’d get there and find out that he wasn’t there. So I’d usually be sitting in the restaurant by myself fumbling with my phone, acting like I was texting someone, while worrying about what everyone at the restaurant was thinking about me.

Keep in mind, it’s not like I could call him; I don’t think the guy ever turned his cell phone on. Then he’d show up at about 8:15 and act like nothing happened.

His first question was always, “How’s your mother and father?” (Of course in my head I’m thinking, “What do you mean, ‘How’s my mother and father?’ I just waited here for an hour and fifteen minutes.”)

But after a few years of this, it never bothered me; and not only that, it spread to every area of my life. Because of this training, I can honestly say that I very rarely get upset about anything. I never get agitated anymore when I have to wait in a long line or when someone cuts me off on the highway.

Patience is the gift of inner calm.

7. Detach from your ego.

At first, it’s hard to sit at a restaurant by yourself. You’re constantly worrying, thinking that people probably think you’re a loser because you’re sitting by yourself. But the reality is, you will never be happy if you care about what people think you!

Prior to starting meditation, I’d get upset over just about anything. Now, nothing really bothers me. Recently, I was in the airport and there was a several hour delay on my flight. I just used that time to do meditation. Ten years ago, I would have become extremely upset. An airplane delay would have ruined my day.

When you let go of your ego needs, it’s easier to accept and even benefit from whatever comes at you.

8. In Taoism, they say, “No self, No enemy.”

It’s the enemy within that causes all of our fears, worries, and insecurities. If you come to terms with this enemy within, it will impact every area of your life. It’s the identification with the “self/ego” that causes all of life’s problems.

How many times do we not go for something because of fear? Think about all the fears that we have conjured up in our minds that stop us from being truly happy. If you can conquer the enemy within yourself, you won’t have an enemy outside yourself.

9. Happiness come from within, and also comes from outside.

I learned this from observing the Buddhist Physician I met. He used to do meditation in his office before he would interact with his patients. He was one of the happiest and most compassionate people I’ve ever met.

By creating happiness inside, he was able to increase that emotional state by spreading it to others.

We must cultivate happiness from within, and work to spread it around to everyone we interact with. The monk used say, “Everyone has a purpose or a mission in life.”

We have to find happiness within, and also find our purpose on the outside.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Piper is a meditation instructor & the creator of He studied with a Taoist monk for 9 ½ years & traveled to Asia & Australia in search of other meditation teachers. Robert is currently writing a book on meditation to make it more accessible for stress relief, health & happiness.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How I Took 10 Years Off My Face

- By Mara Kofoed 

It's just too effective. It's too dang transformative. 

No, we are not talking about all that happiness and love stuff. 

We're talking about how to look younger. How to reduce wrinkles. How to say goodbye to that haggardly, dry-patchy, red, splotchy skin. 
And how to stop googling "how to unclog pores." 

You better believe I have tried every product on the market. All of them. Prescription products, too. And so-called natural wonders. And Clarisonic-dermabrasion-chemical peel "miracles". 

But nothing - nothing - ever changed my skin more than this… 

I went dairy-free. 

This single tweak in my diet has changed my skin and appearance so dramatically that I feel like a new woman. 

It all started when my doctor did an allergy test and said I had a dairy sensitivity. Who knew? I sure didn't. I never had any of the common symptoms, other than a lot of inflammation on my face (and likely throughout my body, unbeknownst to me.) 

Since going dairy-free, I actually look in the mirror sometimes and can't believe that I have THAT skin. I have the skin that I always stared at and coveted on my gorgeous European friends. It may not be quite exactly like theirs, since I have years of damage from bad skin, but for me, my skin has never been clearer, brighter, and happier, and I'll take it. 

And - pinch-me-now - sometimes I don't even wear foundation like all those women I secretly envied. 

Now, getting there required a cold turkey approach. 100 percent. If I ever have a morsel of dairy - I'll admit that it's hard to resist ice cream sometimes - I just brace myself for my old skin. It comes back in a jiffy. The next day I'll look at the mirror and see the pores. I'll see the uneven color. I'll see the inflammation. I'll look older. 

If you're not totally happy with your skin, I can't recommend enough going dairy-free. In fact, some doctors believe going dairy-free could be a way to beat acne all together. According to Dr. Frank Lipman, "in 2009, a systematic review of 21 observational studies and six clinical trials found clear links between acne and dairy. Two large controlled trials found that cow's milk increased both the number of people who got acne and its severity." (You can read Dr. Lipman's very informative article here.) 

Be warned that you might feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop eating dairy (headache, anxiety, jitters, and depression are all common side effects). I did. I felt like a drug junkie. Not that I know what that feels like. But my doctor said that's what I should expect, and I was committed to carrying through with it. My advice is to stock up on almond milk and coconut milk ice cream (the peanut butter swirl is amazing.) Believe me - things may just get a lot better! 

Note: Going dairy-free worked for me, but make sure (as always) to consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet. 


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Monday, June 11, 2012

Coke Cans May Require Cancer Warning Label if Ingredients Not Changed

By Ethan A. Huff -

Back in January, the state of California added to its list of cancer-causing chemicals an ingredient commonly used in flavored soda beverages, which has sent major shockwaves throughout the processed food industry. And according to numerous reports, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and even Whole Foods are having to alter their soda beverage recipes in order to avoid being required by the state of California to label their products as causing cancer.

The cancer-causing chemical in question is 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, a byproduct formed during the production of caramel color, an additive commonly used in processed cola beverages. According to theCenter for Science in the Public Interest(CSPI), caramel color produced using ammonia or ammonia-sulfites creates both 4-MI and 2-MI (2-methylimidazole), which have been shown to be carcinogenic (

CSPI last year petitioned the U.S.Food and Drug Administration(FDA) to remove its “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) status from caramel colors produced in this way, but the FDA refused, insisting that caramel color with 4-MI is safe. But Californians apparently believe otherwise, as they overwhelmingly voted to have 4-MI added to the list of toxic substances covered under California’sSafe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65.

As a result, corporate beverage giants are having to change the way they produce caramel color in order to maintain levels of 4-MI that are below the threshold limit. In the process, they are having to spin the story publicly to make it seem as though 4-MI is not dangerous, and that altering the beverage formulas will not change the taste, color, or consistency of their beverages.

But a 2008 study published in the journalArchives of Toxicologyfound that 4-MI is toxic, and that it is linked to causing clonic seizures, hyperactivity, impaired gait, chronic inflammation, focal fatty change in the liver, carcinoma, leukemia, and adenoma, among other conditions. The study essentially confirmed that 4-MI is carcinogenic (

If it is possible to make caramel color without 4-MI, why have beverage producers continued to knowingly produce the toxic variety?

In a public statement, Coca-Cola denied that 4-MI is carcinogenic, and openly called the cancer warning mandate “scientifically unfounded.” But the science speaks for itself, particularly in beverage products made by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo that have been shown to have high levels of both 2-MI and 4-MI. CSPI covered this extensively in its petition to the FDA:

It is no big secret, in other words, that 4-MI is an “undesirable” byproduct of the caramel color manufacturing method long-used by both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. And yet these companies have continued to rely on this method, despite obvious awareness about its toxicity, even though less-toxic methods were most obviously a viable alternative.

The CSPI report names Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc.’s Dr. Pepper, and Whole Foods’ 365 Cola as having unsafe levels of 4-MI that will have to be reformulated. The same report says the amounts of 4-MI contained in these beverages before the reformulation is responsible for causing roughly 15,000 cancers in the U.S. every year.



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Friday, June 8, 2012

The Spiritual Warrior – Learning Through Adversity

By Chris Bourne

I’ve faced many challenging and difficult situations in my life. It seems prior to awakening, my life was nothing but struggle through adversity: continually confronting and overcoming challenges. Since awakening, many things have changed. I’ve learned the art of divinely surrendering to the flow. Of accepting life as it really is.

Has this made life any easier?

Not at all! I love the complexity, challenge and opportunities in life; the chance to learn and grow. Overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles is what stirs our blood. Whether man or woman, cultivating the warrior spirit can be of great service to us all…

The divine blend

Frequently there seems to be a view in spiritual circles that the path to Enlightenment is one of softness, gentleness and light; that unconditional love is only expressed through the softness of the divine feminine. This is an illusion! The soul has seven key characteristics, only one of which, is the surrenderedness of the divine feminine. (see… Seven Rays of Divine Impulse).

The masculine warrior energy is the counterpart to the softness of the divine feminine and in truth, both sexes need it. It is just as vital for creativity and without it, we probably wouldn’t do anything effective at all. To be truly enlightened, is to be able to unleash, and allow to flow, all of the authentic characteristics of our soul, without limitation, control or hesitation.

Of course the warrior has gained much negative connotation in life because of the distortions of it. Its energy has been used through the ages to gain power over people, to control and imprison them. This is a gross distortion of the energy, the purpose of which is to invigorate, uplift and liberate. It is to breakdown lower harmonies yes, but not to create some other limiting status quo. Rather it is to continually provide new possibilities for growth and advancement. This authentic yearning is in everyone of us, male and female alike, and to deny it is to deny who we are.

Invoking the spiritual warrior energy

If we truly want to be fulfilled in life, it is going to involve us learning to work with our warrior energy. For those who do not frequently feel the arising of this powerfully passionate and creative yearning, it might mean invoking the warrior energy by doing things that activate adrenaline. It could be taking part in sports like the martial arts for example. If you’re young and fit, it could be something like mountain climbing.

If we’re older and less agile, that needn’t stop us, a power walk in nature might be for you. Anything to get the lungs and heart pumping. Maybe watching emotive films would help – films like “Lord of the Rings” and “The Matrix” for example.

Once the energy is flowing, you’ll definitely feel it! It’s the kind of energy that wants you to jump and leap; to scream and shout.

When you feel it arising, the key is not to deny it, but to find a positive vehicle for its expression. Letting the energy come through, but in a harnessed way. We need to ‘open the internal pipe’ through which it is channeled by feeling it and working with it.

Denial is dangerous

You may feel the pipe too constricted within you and it may cause you initially to tighten as it flows. That’s when the warrior energy turns into frustration and anger. If this happens, keep working with it. Work with people who’ll let you be who you are without judgment. When it happens to the friends in my life, I get them to don boxing gloves and spar (either with me or a punch bag). It’s simply amazing how liberating and enlivening it can be!

The key is not to suppress the warrior energy or try to make it dissolve before you are ready; denial is dangerous because the energy simply goes inside leading to repression, deep seated frustration and stress.

Keep finding the appropriate vehicle. We will each have a way appropriate for our lives and when we’ve discovered how to harness the energy, we become more at ease with it. We don’t tighten when it arises, we don’t get angry or frustrated and we certainly don’t use it to control or intimidate people. Arising anger is directed positively rather than at people.

In so doing, it becomes a powerfully creative force for good in our lives. It gives us the courage to surmount the seemingly insurmountable. In these often chaotic times of great change and challenge, it is the energy that can break down the limiting constrictions of the past and unleash positive force for growth. It is this energy that can open the breathing space for a higher harmony to emerge.

Tips on harnessing the spiritual warrior energy

Here are some tips gained from working with people on how to harness the spiritual warrior in you:

  • Invoke it: if you have trouble raising the warrior in you and you feel any strongly creative and manifesting juices are lacking, then watch for the subtle rising of passion and bring attention to it. It could be something as simple as dancing in the rain or it could be getting up early and power walking to the sound of the dawn chorus. Or it could be dancing passionately to your favourite boogie box tunes. Whatever generates that feeling of empowered invigoration

  • Unleash it: denial is not a river in Egypt! If we try the ‘spiritual identity’ approach and put on the ‘Buddha-like-behaviour’ if it’s not how we’re truly feeling, then we’ll build either deep seated frustration or bubbling anger. Better to find a way of letting it out, but without directing it at anyone – unless they’re a willing facilitator

  • Contain it: if the energy is running strongly through your ‘veins’, then building and holding it, so as not to let dissipate too soon will be of benefit. The key is not to get lost in it. Not to let it control you. Feel it, but then contain it within your consciousness. It’s something that comes from experience.

  • Channel it: once the warrior energy is there, the key is to watch for productive and constructive ways to channel it. If you’re holding it within you, those opportunities are bound to materialise as a product of your conciousness. It could be through physical exercise, but it could also be some for of challenging action that requires commitment and courage – confronting a friend, relative or acquaintance with naturally arising confrontational news for example. It could be through the creative arts or caringly passionate sexual intercourse.

  • Master it: the warrior spirit is one that requires much attention and care in its mastery. It is influenced, suppressed or harnessed through many of our daily activities from the food we eat to the colour of the clothes we wear. Of course it’s gotten pretty bad ‘press’ through the course of history, but make no mistake, those that work to harness it in a productive way will find it works creatively for you through the daily events of your life.

For more info, refer to this popular article…Healing the Wounded Dragon

In the eyes of the Spiritual Warrior

You know when you’re looking into the eyes of a spiritual warrior. They’re eyes that have seen it all: the pleasure and the pain, the success and the heartache. They’ve been broken and bowed by it all, yet they didn’t stop, they didn’t give in.

When you look into the eyes of a spiritual warrior, you see eons of earth shattering experience, humbly expressed through an immovable sense of self belief and presence. It’s definitely not something that arises overnight or simply springs up without courageously clearing the path before it. It is one that arises from patience and persistence. Something, that at a soul level, we each carry in abundance.

About the Author

At the age of 40 Chris was involved in a life threatening car crash in which he thought he would certainly die. This precipitated total inner surrender and a rapid reconnection with the conscious life force through all things.

He found himself suddenly able to experience and contemplate through multiple dimensions of reality to see the deeper purpose of life itself. He began to remember his true reason for being here.

He explains…

“During the crash, time seemed to slow right down and I was guided back through key moments of my life. I was realising that every moment in our lives has but one underlying purpose – to reveal an aspect of truth about ourselves to ourselves. I was beginning to dissolve every belief and value our society had conditioned within me.”

“This was my initial awakening to the magical unifying consciousness of the soul. Over the eight years that followed, I was guided through four other inner ‘Gateways’ of consciousness. I have since come to know the process as the five key expansions on our journey of Enlightenment and ultimate Ascension into multi dimensional living – our divine birthright”.

Prior to the crash, Chris had a rich an varied professional career in industry, in teaching, as an Officer in the Army and finally as a web development entrepreneur before being initiated on his spiritual path. With a Masters Degree in Natural Sciences from Oxford University, participants in the work are finding his integration of grounded scientific understanding and profound spiritual realisation deeply engaging and transformative.

Openhand Foundation

Catalysing our Spiritual Evolution