Body as a Vessel

I was in an emotionally-charged spiritual group meeting last night and had the following download.

Though I am a broken vessel

I am the perfect container

for the Divine to shine forth

and provide guidance and support

to me and to all who come to me

I am full only with Thee

there is no other experience

substance or distraction

that can take Your place

I am fulfilled.

Have you thought of your body as a vessel? This language is familiar to me as I grew up in a Catholic school/church system, but as I read back over what I had written, I was surprised. It didn’t come from me. I “know” that the body is the vessel for the soul…a container, but last night was the first time I had thought of (and felt) the body as a container for the Divine. It was a new perspective. It doesn’t matter what condition the container is in…it can be somewhat damaged physically, emotionally, or spiritually, but it is always the perfect container for the Divine to act through.

I think when we feel down, we collapse inwardly. It is harder to find the Divine within during those times. We tend to see the Divine as outside ourselves and pray to It/Him/Her for relief and assistance. But when we are happy, or in a state of equilibrium, it can be easier to serve and connect with each other, and from that place, we feel the Divine as part of ourselves.

We do have a responsibility to take care of this container. That is part of the job of life. But even if we feel a bit “cracked” or “broken,” we know that we are full of Divine love and wisdom to be in service to each other. So how do you take care of this vessel? What do you do to keep it together?

For me, I do the best I can to take care of myself. However, there are times where I don’t feel like I am enough. Insecurity is a huge burden, and I think I feel the collective crisis as well. When I feel insecure, I don’t feel like I am able, or worthy, to put myself out there as a source of comfort or hope to people. The message last night was clear, though. It doesn’t matter what emotional burdens we have or what insecurities we are facing if we trust and surrender to the Divine, we become fulfilled.

 

 

 

Gluten-Free is Not For Me

So many people are arguing for a gluten-free diet for better health and well-being. I am sharing my experience with a gluten-free diet in the hope that it serves as some food for thought before you make a lifestyle decision that could be harmful to your long-term health.

First, some background. I have been a vegetarian since I was 21 or so. I never liked meat. The smell, taste, and texture were appalling to my young self…still are. I still don’t understand why people keep trying to create veggie burgers in a lab that are more meat-like. Hello…we’re vegetarians because we don’t like meat. Anyway, to get back to the subject, about five years ago my brother says to me, “You should try going gluten-free. I have and I feel so much better and have all this extra energy.” I agreed to try it. So, for three months, I didn’t consume any gluten. I ate rice crackers and rice chips, rice itself, and a spackling of other grains, which I usually eat anyway (quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth).

At around that three-month mark–I remember this so clearly–I was standing in my daughter’s room and my heart was pounding so fast I felt terrified that I was having a heart attack at 43 years old. I was dizzy, clammy, and cold. I immediately made an appointment with the doctor that day. After my initial consultation with the nurse and the processing of some bloodwork, the nurse comes in and says, “The doctor recommends that you eat.” I said I do eat, a lot actually. My blood sugar was in the mid-forties and the doctor wondered how I was still walking around and talking coherently. The only change I had made to my diet was going gluten-free.

I will tell you the decision to remove gluten from my diet has affected me to this day. Granted, I should never have made a decision like that in such a blasé kind of way–dietary decisions need care and attention.  I have never had blood sugar issues, but now I do get shaky and have rapid heart rate symptoms if I don’t eat regularly. In other words, a change in your diet can cause an irreversible effect to one’s body and/or physiology.

There are studies linking a gluten-free diet to the development of diabetes, and certainly research those, but I think it is important to rely on your own intuition and experience with food. How do you feel after you eat a particular food? Keep a food journal to see the immediate and long-term effects of what you eat. I think the old adage “all things in moderation” is key. Also, I tend to bake a lot, so I know what is in my food. Processed, preserved, fast foods are to be avoided. That is for sure. Please do not make sudden sweeping changes to your diet, especially over a long period of time.

As an Ayurvedic practitioner, I know that health is based on the particular needs of an individual…it is not a “one size fits all” approach. But we are inundated with information that says, “this is good for you” and “this is bad for you” all backed up with sensible, logical scientific data that often is retracted by some new information at a later time. We cannot choose what we consume in this “herd” approach. We all have different metabolism rates and nutritional needs.

Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old (at least) science that helps us determine what our individual (physical, energetic, mental, emotional and spiritual) needs are. Give yourself the proper nutrition, heal your digestive system, and you will coast in great health and well-being. To get your personal nutrition and lifestyle assessment, email me at justina.namaste@gmail.com.

As for my brother, I’m pretty sure he was back to bread after a few weeks. No need to worry about him.

In Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for this life…my family and friends, students and sometimes strangers that offer a smile when I’m feeling down, the studio, my yoga practice and the beautiful yoga tradition I am so privileged to belong to. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I am also so grateful for books! This holiday, I offer you the beautiful, inspirational words of Swami Vivekananda that I read today:

Therefore, stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future. “Let the dead past bury its dead.” The infinite future is before you, and you must always remember that each word, thought, and deed, lays up a store for you and that as the bad thoughts and bad works are ready to spring upon you like tigers, so also there is the inspiring hope that the good thoughts and good deeds are ready with the power of a hundred thousand angels to defend you always and for ever. From a lecture “The Cosmos: The Microcosm” delivered in New York on January 26, 1896.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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Healing is Holistic

What is the number one therapy? Change your life. Oh, but how do we do that? If we have a goal of reducing stress, losing weight, reducing our depression or anxiety, we typically go through a process of mentally trying to figure it out, or we kick in our willpower and forge our way ahead. Unfortunately, using these methods, we run out of steam very quickly and fall back into old habits.

The sages of the East have long known that we are multifaceted beings. Specifically, in yoga philosophy, it is known that we have three bodies ( the gross body, the subtle body, and the causal body) and five layers or sheaths (the food sheath, the energy sheath, the mental/emotional sheath, the intelligence/discrimination sheath, and the bliss sheath). Sometimes, you will see the layers represented visually as a spiral. These sheaths intertwine and interconnect. To achieve our goals of health and well-being, we have to take care of each of these layers.

When I work with clients, I  assess, and bring attention to, all of the layers of their being to promote the desired result. For example, it is documented and scientifically validated that if one does not breathe deeply and diaphragmatically, there is a greater occurrence of anxiety. So sometimes, to treat anxiety, I need to teach clients how to breathe as well as modify their nutrition and provide tools to calm the nervous system.

Also, we are all different in our needs, and one method that works for one may not work for another. The treatment modalities of yoga therapy and Ayurveda are centered on the individual, not on the particular imbalance. This is why it is best to find a guide for your health and not simply grasp at answers that you find on social media or the Internet. Self-care means taking care of each layer of ourselves, constantly assessing how we can nourish ourselves.

The physical body, the outer-most layer, requires nutrition and lifestyle modifications that are specific to one’s physiology. The energetic layer requires breathwork training to keep the nervous system calm and less prone to episodes of fight or flight. The mental/emotional layer requires meditation, prayer, and study to understand the root of one’s state. Unfortunately, we are not taught how to manage our mental and emotional life. There is no class called “Acceptance 101” or “Managing Life 101.” We do try to manage the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows on our own, usually by using rationalizations or intellectual analysis, unfortunately, a lot of times in isolation. Finding healthy nourishment for the mind (mantra, affirmations, inspiration, loving community in which to share) is essential. Practices in developing one’s intuition help build internal trust and resilience, and we find a healthy level of discrimination from which to operate. Finally, connection to the spiritual, one’s concept of the Divine, helps to move through one’s daily struggles in a posture of surrender. It is very stressful to believe that we are alone in this world, solely responsible for ourselves, our happiness, and our well-being.

Once we understand our duty to all of the layers of our being, accepting the ebbs and flows with equilibrium and grace (a practice for sure!), then we become more compassionate with ourselves and the world.

Fortunately, the sciences of yoga and Ayurveda supply the tools we need on our journey of self-discovery. The purpose of these philosophies is to establish a way of living that removes pain and suffering so we can live in a state of joy.

If you are interested in working with me to find your joy and balance…shoot me an email at justina.namaste@gmail.com, and we’ll work together to find the best fit.

Thank you for your interest in my work and my blog.

Namaste.