Hello and good evening on this (Northern Hemisphere) Winter Solstice, celebration of the return of the light, longest night and time of deep introspection and reflection. Winter takes us into our dream time by forcing us to surrender to darkness, long nights, a colder, contracting climate and a general need to use our energy differently or pay the price by getting burnout, low mood, depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D). How well we can accept and surrender to these changes will make a huge difference to our sense of wellbeing.
We have a tendency in our western culture to try to override nature's rhythms, and yet when we do, we are going against the natural cycles of life, our environment and our physiological responses to longer periods of cold and darkness. One scientific article I recently came across says the following:
"The best way to get through a winter is to eat as much as you can, grow a thick winter coat, reduce your body temperature and find a hole in the ground where you can hibernate. Too easy for some animals, but not for us humans who don’t acclimatise to the cold as well as we can to the heat." Somewhat impractical on many levels, but perhaps an indicator that the body knows best. In winter we shiver to create heat, we get goosebumps and our hairs stand on end, both bodily responses acting as a physiological reaction to create a kind of 'fur coat' to insulate us naturally from the cold.
In another article on the LiveScience website, the following comment is perhaps of interest:
"It's possible that warmth helps people with warm relational creativity, meaning they may feel psychologically closer to other people and more generous toward them. In contrast, cold may stimulate referential, or distant and cold processing, as people may feel more apart from others." These observations were taken from studies looking at the impact of climate on creativity and human behaviour. I find it fascinating that it's acknowledged that we are creatures affected by changes in the seasons in both body and mind, and yet we often seem to struggle with accepting that on a personal level.
So why do we find it so hard to slow down in winter, and when we do, why are we so uncomfortable? Longest night is tough, let's not lie! All of that darkness, and little of the clear blue skies and warmth of the earlier parts of the year, little of the lightness and openness we feel when reflecting nature's own rhythms. This December is uncharacteristically warm, last night the birds were singing at 1am, buds are shooting on the trees, and nature, like me, doesn't know what it's doing, So when we find ourselves reflecting on the Winter Solstice, how can we use this time to go deep and mine for gold in the depths of our psyche? How can we befriend stillness?
The underlying energy of Winter Solstice is reflective. It is the spiritual journey of Persephone and her time in the underworld with Hades. In the classical mythological telling of this story, Demeter, Persephone's mother was so enraged about the kidnap of her daughter by Hades, that she made the earth barren until she finally got her daughter back for 6 months of the year by negotiation with the Gods. In our personal psyche, we must become our own saviours and learn to embrace the winter until spring returns and we are energised once more for new growth, new beginnings, and the planting of visions and dreams. What promises can we make ourselves before emerging into spring once again?
This is a time for assimilating all we have learned in the last six month cycle of the year. Write in your journal what lessons you have received, be grateful for the opportunity to reflect and gather wisdom from these teachings. The Winter Solstice is seen as the sun's birthday, a time of rebirth; we too can consider this a time to focus on the forthcoming cycle of light and new growth. For sure, there will be more time of cold, damp days, darkness and introspection, because nothing in nature moves as quickly as we seem to demand, so on this day of rebirth, why not create for yourself a small ritual of honouring the deep inner wisdom; a wisdom that can be easier to see when we are less 'busy' and less active all the time. Light a candle and leave it burning (in a safe place) overnight. Write down all you are willing to release and burn the paper in the flame of the candle. Make sure it only applies to you and to your wishes, for it's never wise to try and influence the decision or actions of another person. Then, when you're done, focus on all you wish to grow in the coming weeks and start to dream into those feelings, hopes and desires.
I wish you a rich and deep Solstice, whether in solitude or in company. I wish for you peaceful dreams and deep inner-standing. I wish for you love, contentment and a comfort with stillness that allows you to truly begin to know yourself.
*ART BY NOA KNAFO - see more at www.noaknafo.com
I found this recipe whilst browsing Pinterest a while back and finally got to try it for myself this week. For those who enjoy a plant based diet, or those who simply love food and want to find alternatives to dairy and cheese, you really must try this wonderful, simple dip!
Sweet potatoes are much lower on the G.I index than standard potatoes. Below the recipe you can find a few of the reasons why they are so good for you (taken from the wonderful Food Matters TV website) - try it out and do let me know what you think. One of my vegan friends said it made her life complete!
half tsp garlic powder
1 large sweet potato
quarter cup of coconut milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tamari soy sauce
half tbsp sriracha or chilli powder/flakes
3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
3 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
1. Helps To Keep Disease At Bay
Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin B6. A vitamin which helps to reduce the chemical homocysteine in your body. High homocysteine levels have been linked to degenerative diseases including heart attacks.
2. They Are A Good Source of Vitamin C
That orange color isn't just for show! These brightly colored spuds are packed with vitamin C, offering support for your immune system, bones and teeth, digestion and blood cell formation. It also helps to accelerate wound healing and improves the appearance of your skin by producing collagen.
3. Supports Your Bones
It's not something we'd typically assume, but sweet potatoes contain small amounts of Vitamin D. A nutrient that helps to build healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin, and teeth, as well as support the thyroid gland. 100g of sweet potato also contains 33mg of calcium, a critical component of a healthy skeletal system!
4. Boosts Your Energy
A source of slow-releasing carbohydrates, sweet potatoes provide us with sustained energy. But they also contain iron! You may be aware that we need the mineral iron to have adequate energy, but iron plays other important roles in our body, including red and white blood cell production, resistance to stress, proper immune functioning, and the metabolizing of protein, among other things.
5. De-Stress With These Sweet Spuds
A good source of magnesium, sweet potatoes can help you to relax and de-stress. It's also necessary for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function. Yet experts estimate that approximately 80 percent of the population in North America may be deficient in this important mineral!
6. Supports Your Heart And Kidneys
This tuber contains potassium, an essential electrolyte that helps to regulate your heartbeat and nerve signaling, whilst supporting healthy blood pressure. Potassium also helps to relax muscle contractions, reduce swelling, and protect and control the activity of your kidneys.
7. They Won't Spike Your Blood Sugar
Unlike refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, candy and other sweets. Sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index, slowly releasing their natural sugars into the blood stream. So you won't go on a sugar-induced rollercoaster. This helps to ensure a balanced and regular source of energy for the body, reducing fatigue during the day and excessive hunger pangs.
8. They're Loaded With Antioxidants
That rich orange color is a sign that they're high in carotenoids, a type of antioxidant, that are the precursors to vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes, a boosted immunity, and protects you against the effects of aging. They're also powerful antioxidants that help ward off cancer! Studies at Harvard University of more than 124,000 people showed a 32 percent reduction in risk of lung cancer in people who consumed a variety of carotenoid-rich foods as part of their regular diet. Another study of women who had completed treatment for early-stage breast cancer conducted by researchers at Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) found that women with the highest blood concentrations of carotenoids had the least likelihood of cancer recurrence. So impressive!
9. You Can Eat Them In Many Ways
They're one of the simplest foods to cook and incredibly versatile. You can roast them, puree them, steam, bake or grill them. Add them to stews, soups, salads, and even desserts! Regardless of how you have them, add a little fat/oil to get the most nutrients.
10. They're Anti-Inflammatory
Anthocyanin and other color-related pigments in sweet potato are equally valuable for their anti-inflammatory health benefits
11. They Support Healthy Wound Healing
The plant nutrients in sweet potato impact fibrinogen in the body. Fibrinogen is one of the key glycoproteins in the body that is required for successful blood clotting. With the help of a coagulation factor called thrombin, fibrinogen gets converted into fibrin during the blood clotting process. Balanced amounts of fibrinogen, thrombin and fibrin are a key part of the body's health and its ability to close off wounds and stop loss of blood!
12. Spuds With Anti-Bacterial Properties!
In sweet potatoes, researchers have long been aware of one group of resin glycosides called batatins (including batatin I and batatin II). But only recently have researchers discovered a related group of glycosides in sweet potato called batatosides (including batatodide III, batatoside IV, and batatoside V). In lab studies, most of these sweet potato glycosides have been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Cool, right?! We're excited to see what else this line of research discovers about this impressive yet humble root vegetable!
Did you know about these benefits of sweet potato? There's always so much to learn when it comes to nutrition and the health benefits of what you eat. Fresh, wholesome food continues to amaze us!
How often do we use our word against ourselves? How often is our self talk shockingly negative, or perhaps even more tricky an aspect to manage, subtly derisive? I am struck recently by the loop of dialogue that can run inside us that either silently repeats and reinforces all of the negative programming we run from childhood, or yells at us like an evil nemesis all of our failings and shortcomings, as if that were the cross we bear that we will eventually nail ourselves successfully onto. What's more shocking is that if we are not mindful of this, we will be the ones nailing ourselves to that cross, no-one else can ever do that to us, or for us. In the same way, we are the ones who can take ourselves successfully out of these traps too, no one else can do that to us, or for us. So, knowing this, why do we fall into those traps in the first place?
Childhood is the most powerful programming we can ever experience. We are young, vulnerable and impressionable, a heady combination indeed! So what we see, hear and learn in these formative years has a huge impact on who we become, however that's not to say that this should be a story we continue to tell ourselves if it keeps us small and disempowered. In doing so we enter the 'blame game' - the"you made me do this/be this/act this way." It could be argued that this is fair to a degree, but them limiting thereafter. What we tend to do in the wake of our conditioning is seek out relationships and situations that replay this pattern which then confirms our world view. You see how we get stuck? Once we bring awareness into the picture, we can begin to take responsibility for changing that pattern and here is where the real liberation starts.
Healing can only happen when we first acknowledge the story, the pattern and the core wounding. Then we bring it to light, understand it, forgive it, and move it transforming it. If however we continue to use our word against ourselves "you're stupid/fat/ugly" "what do you think you're doing?" "you are so hopeless/fucked up" etc, then our bodies, spirits and psyches hear this, believe this and repeat the things or the dramas that prove this. How fabulous to know this! Change lies within our own ability to re-program our internal dialogue. Speak kindly to yourself and watch how this changes everything, because it can, and it will. We are the ones we have been waiting for!
Welcome to my new blog. Many of you who know me will know that I have hosted a blog for years now. My previous blog focus was very much on sexual activism, freedom and sexual healing. Now, as I move into a new phase of my life, so I release the old and call in the new. Life changes, we evolve and we bring all of these parts of our journey with us as we change; indeed they make up the infinite possibilities of our being-ness. I may have grown and changed but those experiences shape me, whether for good or for bad, well that's my choice. Some things in life are challenging, and it's fair to say that whilst we're in those situations, we often cannot see the wood for the trees, as the saying goes. However, once we allow ourselves to pass through those rites of passage, the gifts we receive through having managed to survive the challenges can be truly healing. Here you will find elements of my story that you may relate to, both the past, the present and my envisioned future. I hope that in reading you may find some inspiration. And of course, please get in touch if you would like to co-create your own dreams into being. Wishing you all a beautiful day, Steph
CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
Welcome to my healthy living blog.