Originally published on www.allwomenalltrails.com
Names have been changed for privacy.
I’m 2 months post-trip with the YMCA GOLD (girls outdoor leadership development) program. I’m drinking coffee and sitting quietly on the couch. The sun is out, but there is a cool breeze blowing through. I hear birds and cars driving by, and if I walk out a few blocks, I’d have a clear view of Mount Rainier 60 miles south. Rewind a few weeks, and I’ll paint a different picture…
I wrote and re-wrote this blog several times after returning from the adventure. I certainly can’t say the trip was a failure, but it was tough, really tough, and I came back mostly perplexed, a little defeated and pretty depleted. As the days and weeks pass, I’m gaining more and more perspective about what I learned from the experience, and I can only hope the participants are experiencing something similar.
The trip was a beginner camping and hiking trip with eight 11-13-year-old girls: six days at Mount Rainier! Sounds fun, right? Well, as I’m coming to learn, outdoor education for youth is what we call ‘Type 2 Fun’… fun that comes in retrospect after a physically and emotionally challenging endeavor. It can feel like hell in the moment, but you somehow look back fondly upon it and feel glad that you did it.
My co-leader (also named Laura) and I spent 2 days doing pre-trip prep, packing and paperwork. On a Sunday morning, the participants arrived. Everyone seemed shy at first, scared to step closer into the circle we created for the get-to-know you games. The morning pack-out process took about 4 hours, plus another hour to kill while awaiting a minibus to arrive (quick turn-around from a group arriving at the end of their trip). We knew we were loading everything onto that bus and driving off, just the two Laura’s and the kids… not to return until Friday!
Our problems started right away, and didn’t stop until after the last child had been driven home on Friday night. One girl in particular (I’ll call her Alice), was homesick from the get-go. She spent the packing hour crying—not just little tears, but full-on sobbing. Her mother had convinced her to leave the house by saying she could pick her up on Wednesday. Several other participants made it known early on that they were NOT interested in hiking or camping. When we asked ‘why do you think your parent/guardian sent you?’ they couldn’t think of a reason. Just a shrug and an eye roll. As we turned onto I-5 South to Mount Rainier, Alice had a 30-minute break-down, screaming, ‘We have to turn the bus around! I need to go home! I need to see my mom!’ Laura attended to her as best as she could, and I drove on. We had prepped for homesickness, but this was a little more than we had anticipated.
We arrived at our campsite, Cougar Rock, a few miles north of Longmire Ranger Station on the Paradise side of the mountain, around 4pm. The campsite was perfectly comfortable, and we had a peek-a-boo view of the mountain from our loop. Our Leader-in-Training (Jessica) helped the girls set up the tents (we call them ‘mids’, short for pyramids, because the are set up like a circus tent… 4 pegs to stake down the corners, and a pole in the middle.) We cooked a big mac ‘n cheese dinner, and sent the kids to bed. (Alice had another hour of crying after dinner, but we worked through it, using all the tools we knew.) That night, the rain poured down, and the mountain disappeared behind clouds for the rest of the trip.
This is the part where I want to start listing everything else that went wrong that trip… the weather, the homesickness, the diarrhea in the sleeping bag incident, the chipmunks and mice trying to get into the tent, the moodiness and lack of participation, the wrong campsite reservations, no service to do our scheduled calls, the tears, the cramps, the vomiting… see where this is going? Laura and I spent 14 hours each day dealing with one issue after another, with barely a moment to check in with each other or take a breath. We’d crash into the tent with a quick, ‘you good?’ and roll over. I spent most nights tossing, wondering if the tents were leaking, or when the crying would start. Is this starting to sound like a nightmare? Laura and I entered into what felt like a daze, just going, going, going.
During our prep days, we built a curriculum focused on appreciating the outdoors, learning to be part of a team, leadership, and having fun. Despite the issues, we had time each day where we could do a quick lesson or activity to achieve these outcomes. Our classroom time included discussion of group norms (trust, inclusion, honesty, etc). We also had a lesson on race and ethnicity led by our fearless leader-in-training. As much as they disliked the classroom time, the discussion did help to bring the participants together as a team. They started having fun together, and the more free time we gave them, the more they ran around and enjoyed themselves. We also included ‘solo time’ where the kids practice a breathing exercise, then find a spot on their own where they could draw, journal, or just sit and be. (After the first practice, they began requesting this on subsequent days.) In addition, each student had a chance to be leader of the day, cook, clean-up crew, camp master, and group journalist. The fun happened in the in-between as the group became more comfortable with each other. There was singing, laughter, games and late nights talking in the tent (with a few shushes from us, the tyrannical leaders).
By Wednesday, we had handled the cramps, the chipmunks, the rain, and turned Alice’s homesickness around. We carried on with the itinerary. We muscled our way through the mid-week campsite transition, and enjoyed (well, I enjoyed, but the students had their ups and downs) hikes each day. One that stood out for me was the Grove of the Patriarchs. This hike was 1 mile, and took us through a grove of 1,000-year old trees. Alice said, ‘it’s pretty cool that these trees are older than the constitution!’ The other girls ranged from mildly interested to apathetic. We learned that ‘whine breaks’ were an integral part of any hike-- 30 seconds to let out all the complaints, and that hikes included lots of stops for blister care, snacks, shoe tying, and waiting for the caboose to show up.
We secured a sweet spot next to a river at the new campsite (Ohanapacosh), and the group enjoyed free time playing cards and wading in the river. The weather was clear by Thursday, and their moods lifted. Preparing for the pack-out on Friday, the girls celebrated knowing that we were getting Domino’s pizza on our drive home. We also hit it big with s’mores over the campfire.
The last night together, we got the group together for the ceremony including ‘Courage Chords’ and ‘Letters to Self’. This is a time for them to reflect on what they learned and to celebrate in each others’ successes. At 11, introspective isn’t a word I would use to describe them, but they still had moments of connection, appreciation and laughter. Laura and I crawled into our tent that night with a sigh of relief, I finally had one good night’s sleep.
We returned to the Seattle YMCA at 2pm on Friday with matted hair, wet tents, dirty clothes, and tired (but not completely broken) spirits. I stepped off the bus and sighed. The staff saw this and gave me a knowing look, like ‘we’ve all been there’.
As the afternoon of clean-up came to an end, the girls’ parents began arriving. Everyone’s faces lit up, and they began talking about all the fun they’d had. Perplexed, I wondered what their take-aways were going to be. Is this the kind of experience they will look back fondly upon? Will this make them want to ever hike or camp again? I know that at age 11, I wasn’t a huge fan of hiking, but by 16 I couldn’t get enough. I have to take solace in knowing that this must have given them perspective. Maybe it won’t hit them until years later, but if even one girl learned something, I’ve done my job.
I went into this trip nervous but hopeful. The course director described the group as ‘a leaky boat’, and we spent the first 3 days bailing it out. Laura, a more experienced trip leader, said this was the hardest group she’s ever facilitated. My hope is that if I can handle that, every trip after will be better.
One girl in particular, Melanie, had been removed from an abusive situation three months prior to this trip. She was (understandably) grumpy and moody the whole time, not interested in participating in activities. My attempts at gaining her trust throughout the week fell flat, aside from one moment where she opened up to me about the verbal and emotional abuse she experienced at home. I teared up as she told me what she had been through. On the last night, however, she was the first one to say something positive about each participant. And at our closing circle, she seemed sad to leave… the first bit of a breakthrough that I had seen. I can only hope that this trip was the beginning of her path to recovery.
Also, Alice wrote in her review, ‘I learned to be away from home.’ The fact that the hours of crying and melt-down could be summed up so succinctly was comical to me. Though I won’t be there to see it, I can only believe that the students took something from this experience. I know I did, and I know the lessons are still surfacing for me as I process the trip. If there’s such thing as Type 3 fun, maybe that’s what I’d call this :)
Originally published on www.allwomenalltrails.com
This post is a follow-up on the job I took as a youth trip leader for the YMCA’s BOLD/GOLD program. After the interview process in February, there was nothing to do but wait and get nervous! My training began in early June with a 2-day Wilderness First Aid course: 16 hours of study and scenarios for attending to basic wounds to more serious scenarios, including CPR. With each group of youth, there are two instructors, one of whom must have WFR (wilderness first responder) and one with WFA (wilderness first aid).
The following week we began our 7-day intensive staff training. We met at the YMCA’s Cascade People’s Center in downtown Seattle to get a first look at the rest of the leaders… scrappy, creative, outgoing, and many of them YOUNG. Coming to this both as a shy person, and later in life (late 30s), I felt like a square peg in a round hole. Many of the staff live out of their cars in the brief breaks between their 7-22-day trips. So I was already ‘weird’ for having a career and an apartment. Gasp… I even have a savings account!
The first day (Staff Rodeo) was a storm of paperwork, drug testing, learning to drive the minibus, and 4 hours of Teen Abuse Prevention training (we are mandatory reporters for suspected abuse).
I learned a few things that the YMCA does that stood out for me. First of all, they have a 3-tier program for accommodating different socio-economic status. Parents don’t fill out any paperwork, but simply decide which tier they can afford, and then pay that (very discounted, discounted, or full-price). Donors pick up the tab for those families who can’t afford full-price. The YMCA also run girls, boys, and coed trips. The participants choose where they feel the most comfortable. So, for instance, a trans-gender youth could choose any trip they feel the most drawn to. This began my understanding of how potent an experience with the YMCA youth program could be for children and families.
The next day we simulated the first day of students arriving in the lawn behind the center. You meet with your trail group, start the ice breakers and name games, discuss ‘non-negotiables’ (safety contract), and move inside for the ‘duffel shuffle’-- the swapping of gear, deciding what to leave behind, and packing your bags. The acronyms abound…. ABCDEF of packing the bag (Accessibility, Balance, Compression, Dry, E for I don’t remember what, Food above Fuel and Fun.). This can cause anxiety for youth, since many of them come with barely anything and will be borrowing gear OR will be told to leave half of what they brought behind. Plus even as an adult, I still had a vague feeling of ‘what am I getting myself in to?!’
The building is crammed with clothing and gear for youth and staff to borrow. Then we packed a lunch (a square sandwich smooshed into my round Tupperware) and board the buses to the Olympic National Park.
We arrive at Mora campground late in the evening, find tent-mates, set up camp, and start dinner at 9pm after ‘Chow Circle’ (link arms, announcements, moment of silence, quote, and an elbow squeeze that travels around). There are over 50 instructors-in-training plus the staff. It’s an introvert’s nightmare. It’s cold, damp, and after dinner we continue with the learning activities… instructor check-ins and ‘Courage Circle’, a bonding activity of the leader’s choosing. The campground is loud with activity most of the night, and I sleep thinly.
The next morning starts with 7am breakfast and 8am on the field to start the learning! They prepped a big pot of ‘cowboy’ coffee. You just dump a clean rock in the pot to sink the grounds. Somehow it’s nearly as good as my Seattle-strong pour-over at home.
The next 3 days consist of 8-12 hours of ‘classroom’ time outdoor in the cool drizzle. We learn about the tenants of the YMCA’s Bold/Gold programs (youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility), JEDI (justice, equality, diversity, inclusion), and dive deep into group management, risk assessment, team development, and conflict resolution. We learn about the stages of group development (forming, norming, storming, re-norming, performing). We practice everything breaking into partners, or small groups, every moment challenging my introversion and worry that I will not be able to absorb the lessons. We play field games, team-building games, and at one point we practice SOLO TIME (my favorite!) We discuss social norms, ethics, and the boxes of gender, socio-economic standing, age, sexual orientation, religion, and race. Most of the activities are practices we could use with youth to develop their understanding of the diversity of the human population and expand their social awareness and sensitivity.
On Sunday, we headed out for the backcountry training. My trail group consisted of 8 women (2 leaders and 6 in training). We packed group gear, and drove a short distance to the coast. Our hike started at Rialto beach, lush with wildlife, epic scenery, and endless fascination. I was feeling more at home (I packed a bagel for lunch, which fit nicely into my round Tupperware), and the smaller group is a much more comfortable situation for me. I’m also confident with my backpacking skills, so it felt like a familiar challenge. We only trudged for 2 miles, but on rocky sand, it got the blood pumping. Due to a high tide, we climbed up and over a landmass that could easily have been circumnavigated 4 hours later.
We found a flat spot to set up tents just beyond the driftwood on the beach. We packed bear canisters (more for the raccoons than the bears, we later learn). We had a little down time to explore the crazy beach land formations and epic tidepools. I was enamored with what a cool ‘classroom’ this would be for young people.
The next three days consisted of a collaborative learning curriculum where we each signed up to teach lessons on topics we know well (Leave No Trace, tides, fire starting, pooping, first aid kits, map reading, self-care, staying warm, bear hangs, knots, difficult conversations with youth, etc). We ended our time with a Courage Circle around the driftwood fire on the beach. We put on Courage Cords (bracelets with the ends melted together to commemorate our experience) and writing a letter to ourselves. This is how we would end a trip with youth, reflecting on our experiences. I don’t remember exactly what mine said, but it will be mailed to me later in the summer. I know I included ‘You will be challenged. You will be humbled. This will be worthwhile. You will make a difference in a young person’s life.’ I hope these things are true for me, but I am sure that the YMCA experience will be impactful for the youth who attend these outdoor leadership programs.
On the second backcountry night, a raccoon ran off with my mess kit (bowl, spoon, mug). Should my new Tupperware be round or square? This is an interesting moment to choose my path forward.
Originally published on allwomenalltrails.com
Over the winter, I had what you might call a ‘crisis of faith’. Even though I felt like my career as a health coach and massage therapist was in line with my values, there was something missing...
On a whim, I went to LinkedIn and put ‘outdoor’ in the search field. A quick scroll brought me to a position ‘Wilderness Instructor’ at the YMCA’s Bold & Gold (boys outdoor leadership development and girls outdoor leadership development) program. “Do you want to make a difference in the world? Do you want to see places in the world that leave you speechless? Do you want to be a part of a supportive inclusive community that embraces differences as something special?” Yes.
And the Wilderness Instructor Position was described as: “This is the person leading, inspiring, and providing a physically and emotionally safe space for our students on our 8-22 day wilderness based expeditions. We are looking for backpackers, climbers, and mountaineers who want to share their experience with young people. If you are a talented educator who thrives in an outdoor setting then click the link below to apply. ” Yes, I thought, YES.
I thought about it, and sent an inquiry to the hiring director asking if I should apply. Although I have been backpacking and hiking for years, I haven’t had any formal outdoor leadership training, nor have I worked with youth or professionally lead any expeditions. The director sent a thoughtful email back to me, and we discovered we had a personal connection: his wife was my teacher during my training to become a health coach. This connection awarded me an ‘in’, and he invited me to apply!
I painstakingly compiled my experience into a resume and cover letter. This included a lot of guesstimating about how many personal trips I’ve planned and executed (a lot), and going back 20 years to when I was a camp counselor and worked briefly at an outdoor education school as a challenge course facilitator (these positions feel like a lifetime ago). I was also reminded that I have a BS in Environmental Science from a liberal arts college (the only thing I remember from that is learning the words ‘crepuscular’ and ‘riparian’). My cover letter passionately described my longing for meaning in my work, and my desire to get back to a calling I’ve felt since my youth. The interview took an hour, and challenged me in ways I wasn’t expecting. Questions like, “What do you think are the main two challenges youth face today?” and “What would your enemies like about you and your friends dislike about you?” and “If there was a billboard with your face on it, what would the quote beneath it say?” and “Tell me a joke.” Have you ever worked with underprivileged youth? No. Do you have any experience in a classroom setting? No. Have you ever lead a mountaineering expedition? No. Can you train an outdoor rock climbing curriculum? No.
But I have been planning and preparing backpacking trips for my friends and family for years, I have my First Aid/CPR certification, and understand Leave No Trace protocols. I have a passion for sharing the outdoor experience with others, and I think young girls can be empowered and emboldened by learning outdoor skills. In fact, I feel like if I don’t pursue this now, I will regret it. This is my year. It’s coming 18 years late (many instructors are in their 20s, right out of college, and I’ll be 38), but it feels like something I have to try. I’m prepared to love it or hate it, but I have to try.
The hiring process includes getting a food handler’s permit (which seems comical for outdoor cooking), attending a week-long YMCA leadership training in June, getting my Wilderness First Aid certification, and filling out a spreadsheet of my experience to determine my daily pay scale ($75-$150/day). I’m not in this for the money, but for the experience. I am excited and terrified. It feels SO aligned, I can barely contain myself. Summer can’t come soon enough, but in the meantime, I’m scared for it to come! I will be responsible for the safety and wellbeing of a group of young ladies. The reality is slowly hitting me, and I am humbled that I will have an opportunity to take on this potentially life-altering challenge.
I've heard every excuse in the book for why people don't get massages: 'I don't deserve it', 'I don't have time', 'I can't afford it', 'I'd rather spend the money on my kid'... etc. Does this sound like you? Let me give a little perspective as to why everyone with a body needs/deserves massage.
1- Massage is basic healthcare. We have muscles, tissues, tendons, lymph vessels, skin, a nervous system, and so much more in our bodies that need upkeep. Do you brush your teeth every day? Go to the dentist? Then why wouldn't you do the basic maintenance required for the rest of your body? Massage treats the physical, mental, and emotional body, helps your tissues heal and re-sets your nervous system! Plus it's way more pleasant than going to the dentist.
2- Allocate resources to self-care. The way we spend money is really about prioritizing. When you really want or need something, you make it happen. I like to think of massage as part of my monthly budget, and I make sure to fit it in. Look for package discounts or sliding scale if you need it, but if it's a priority, it will happen.
3- More time. I've had many clients report that after their massages, they feel like they have MORE TIME. I believe that when we do activities that slow us down and bring us into the present, back into our bodies, and away from 'plan, go, future' mode, time has the appearance or effect of slowing down. We bring ourselves into the present moment, and that's all there is, just present moments extending out forever. One client even figured out a complex problem that she had been working on at her desk for hours before coming in for a massage. Once she slowed down, the solution arose without effort.
4- Be more resourced for others. Some people who I witness as being the most 'self-care challenged' are those in care-taking roles themselves (parents, healthcare providers, teachers...). They are in the habit of giving, giving, giving, their time and energy to others. This is, of course, a noble endeavor! But constant giving with no receiving comes at the risk of burnout and exhaustion. When you take time to be more resourced, your cup will feel fuller and you will in return take better care of those around you with less resentment. If you are depleted, can you really give your best self to others?
Unless you really can't stand the thought of being touched (this is true for a small percentage of people), than you deserve massage.
Restore vs Resolve
At the start of a new year, there is a lot of buzz about resolutions. We're in the middle of winter, we're tired from the holiday craze, we're cold and ready for a nap. For me, it's not a time where I want to grab life by the horns and tackle a self-improvement project. It's a time to go inward, rest, and nurture the body, mind and soul. It's a time for restoration, not resolution. This is one reason why I don't do New Year's resolutions.
Resolutions tend to fail
The other reason why I don't do resolutions is that they usually DON'T work. In fact, Forbes reports that only 8% of people achieve their New Years resolutions, and Business Insider says that 80% of resolutions fail by February. Struggle to keep yours?? You're not alone.
My experience with health coaching may help to shed some light on this phenomenon. The biggest problem is that people tend to set goals that are too vague, too big, or too complicated. Maybe you want to lose weight, eat healthier, exercise, travel or learn a new skill. While these are great things to aim towards, most of us don't even know where to start. When setting a goal, it's helpful to break larger goals into smaller steps, and to make your goals more specific. Ever heard the term SMART goal? The letters in this stand for:
Specific (set parameters)
Measurable (how much or how many specifically?)
Achievable or actionable (attainable, and I'm ready)
Reasonable (I know I can do it)
Timely (set a timeframe)
A goal that fits these parameters is much more likely to be achieved than one that isn't. For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, try making the goal SMART by saying, "I will eat 3 healthy lunches per week for the next 2 weeks." Or "I will limit my fast food intake from 4 times per week to 1 time per week for the next month." Or "I will only make pizza at home adding vegetable toppings instead of ordering out during the next 3 football games." Or "In the next week, I will find an online nutrition course that fits in my budget of $_____". See how these goals are specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and timely? Try this with one of your goals and see if it makes it easier.
Try making a one-time goal of doing something you've never done before. Want to watch a sunrise? Get up 3 minutes before the sun rises, step outside, and face east. Done and done! Want to try a new class? Search online for 3 minutes, sign up, and go! Done. Want to make a new dish? Google the dish's recipe, make a list, get the ingredients, and decide when you're going to do it (like, Saturday dinner). Check!
Recommit to YOU. The more you can focus on taking care of yourself and your health and wellbeing, the more successful you'll be in all areas of life, including healthy relationships to yourself, your friends and family, your home, your job, and your food. For me, this means getting a massage, going to acupuncture, doing 10 minutes of yoga in the morning 2-3 times per week, only drinking alcohol on the weekends, and reading a book that is good for my personal growth (like "Steering by Starlight" or "Intuitive Eating"). These aren't goals that just came around because it's January, but a constant, consistent path towards self improvement. I know that I'm always working on goals, big or small. January or not. And I'm taking time to rest and restore.
Still not sure? Contact me for a free 30-minute consultation. In health coaching, we break things down into a 12-week plan, starting where you are, and moving slowly towards your goals with accountability, presence, and forgiveness.
I'm so excited to roll out my newest massage treatment: my Pure Bliss Massage! This will be an elevated experience on all levels. It will work out all your tension, nourish your skin, deeply relax your mind and body, and leave you feeling truly blissed out.
Signature Pure Bliss Massage
This 100-min treatment includes a full-body deep relaxation massage with organic shea cocoa cream, jojoba oil, and CHABA (CBD) cream with optional aromatherapy. You will enjoy a fluffy down comforter on a warm table, and will be covered in hot towels and heating pads. In addition to the deep relaxation massage, your treatment includes reflexology and craniosacral therapy. After your session, you get a 5 minute nap on the table after which you'll be served tea and a hot towel infused with lemongrass.
Introductory rate: $150
'As the lucky recipient of a Pure Bliss massage, I HIGHLY recommend it! Everything about it was simply amazing, my favorites being the soft table, hot towels, delicious scents (cocoa and vanilla), relaxing hand massage, and peaceful craniosacral therapy. Laura's calm demeanor further relaxed me, and she was so attentive to my level of comfort the entire time--yes, for 100 marvelous minutes! I'll be calling her a 'blessed blissologist' from now on!' - blissed out DBM
'I wish I could eat my skin I smell so good!' - blissed out BJ
Allow 2 hours for this treatment. And I don't recommend planning anything productive after your session :)
Don't have time for a 2-hour bliss-out session? Apply the 'Bliss' upgrade to any shorter treatment for only $20. You'll get the hot towels, heating pad, shea cocoa cream, aromatherapy and CHABA. It's a mini-bliss-out when you can't do the full thing.
To book the upgrade, just choose the 60, 75 or 90-min Bliss treatment from the booking website.
Click here to book your Pure Bliss Massage..
This summer I had the opportunity to practice the oft-touted phrase of ‘let go and go with the flow’. My partner, Josh, and I had spent the past few months planning and preparing for a section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I had a 3-year plan to complete each of the 70-150 mile sections in Washington state by 2020. This year we were planning to hike Rainy Pass in the North Cascades to the northern terminus in Manning Park, BC, Canada. I had been pouring over the maps and trail books, studying campsites and water sources, securing Canada border crossing permits, buying supplies and food, calling ranger stations to discuss conditions and permits. My parents flew into town and had lodging secured at the beginning to drop us off and the end to pick us up. Can you guess where this is going?? Yes, we didn’t get to go. Two days before the start of the hike, the section of trail was closed due to wildfires burning near or on the trail. (If you live in the area, you are probably keenly aware of the devastating season of fires we’ve experienced along with the coinciding poor air quality).
The first night I saw the PCT announcement, I have to admit that I didn’t sleep much, woke up in tears, and cried through most of my work day. I felt both angry and sad, along with a feeling of responsibility for the people who had made plans around our trip (mom, dad, Josh and sister). I was wallowing in the loss of a plan that I had spent so much time and energy perfecting. I was so upset; I could not let go. This trip had been my passion for the summer, preparing for this very section of trail, which was now completely off-limits to me due to circumstances way beyond my control. I also didn’t feel confident planning an entirely new trip at this point with only 2 days to prepare, so the sense of loss was heightened.
Here’s the pattern: attachment to a plan, preparation for the plan, loss of the plan, grief. In Buddhism this is described as ‘samsara’: in figurative terms, a cycle of grief, suffering brought on by impermanence and our own attachments.
I know about this cycle, but it doesn’t make the experience of it it any easier. I had to re-group. I discussed the options with my family and decided to re-do a section of trail that we had done 3 years prior, from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass. This, in fact, was the only section of trail that you could currently do to completion due to wildfires burning state-wide. Granted, this plan meant that I didn’t get any closer to my 3-year goal of section hiking the WA PCT, but I had to start focusing on the array of positives that came with the new plan: mom could hike 3 days with us, less threat of smoke and fires, revisit a section we loved, get into my favorite alpine lake, etc. I had to focus on the ‘lotus in the mud’. When I focused on what I had lost, it was all grief. When I shifted my mindset, it was more positive. It took a few days to get there, but I was able to see it for what it was. Had we left two days earlier on the section we had planned to do, we would have been in danger, and most likely evacuated by firefighters part-way in.
In what you could see as irony, or perhaps fate, the trail we did hike took our boots through a burn area from 9 years before. This section took on a ghostly beauty. I know that fires (to some extent) are a natural part of a forest ecosystem, in fact some species of pinecone only release their seed under the stress of wildfire. I was in awe of the abundance of wildflowers growing up from the earth. The tree trunks left standing were white and black with char. But the fireweed, a vibrant purple, was thick and thriving. I appreciated the metaphor for my current situation. Things beyond our control often sweep our grand plans away, and we’re left to see the fireweed making its way in the undergrowth.
What are some of your wildfires?
The Obsession with Control
When one understands
The Truth of Impermanence,
One will cease to be obsessed with
While we all may have trouble sleeping from time to time, extended periods of sleeplessness (either trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep, aka insomnia) can be a real bummer. I suffer from insomnia occasionally, and have discovered that it goes in cycles, either hormonal or seasonal, and can be stress-induced (like after a death, move, or break-up). I’ll go over some common reasons for insomnia, plus a few simple tips for managing it more effectively. One thing that really helps me is to remember that insomnia is not life-threatening, and the more I stress about it, the worse it gets. Each cycle ends eventually, and there are ways to mitigate the negative effects.
The most common causes for insomnia are:
Poor sleep interacts cyclically with many psychological conditions. Insomnia can either be a cause or an effect of anxiety, stress, or depression; and may cause feelings of panic, dread or hopelessness. I interviewed a naturopathic doctor (ND) who specializes in sleep disorders (Catherine Darley), and learned that many doctors have little to no training in sleep. (When I saw my primary care doctor, her only advice was to try an over-the-counter sleep aid.) Of course, it can’t hurt to start with your PCP, but if you aren’t pleased with the results, continue to seek help from other sources until you are satisfied!
Here are some tips to treat mild/occasional insomnia:
Instead of sharing tips and tricks for getting through the holidays, I wanted to just say that in my experience, holidays can magnify the stresses of everyday life, whether it's around time, family, food, money, travel, work, expectations, etc.... in addition to that, being out of your routine can throw off sleep, eating, exercise, you name it. So I won't share my '10 tips for a successfully unstressful holiday'. There are no quick fixes for stress-- it's a life-long journey to be resourced and to understand what you can do for self-care and stress-management year-round.
I realized that a lot of stress in general and especially around the holidays is either an attachment to the past; positive or negative (ie nostalgia OR resentment), or an anxiety around the future (near or distant). The absolute best thing you can do for stress is to re-enter the present moment-- every sight, sound, taste, and sensation of it. Breathe in, breathe out, label everything that crosses through your mind as either a thought, emotion or sensation. Does this sound familiar? It's meditation in action.
Instead of sharing any profound wisdom about the holidays, my best offering is to re-post my deep relaxation practice. Do this type of relaxation and you will reset your brain, body, and emotions, and may find it easier to enter the present moment with ease.
This isn't one more thing on your to-do list, it's one less thing to do.
I recently took a fascinating class on Cannabis and CHABA (Cannabis Health and Beauty Aids) taught by Jen Chan, an LMT and leading activist in the field. CHABA are topical cannabis products that contain less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis). Because of the extremely low levels of THC, these cannabis topicals won't make you high or make you test positive in a drug test for THC. In 2015 Washington State passed a bill (RCW 69.50.575) that takes CHABA off the controlled substance act pertaining to marijuana... that means they can be sold unregulated in retail stores and LMTs can legally use them in their practice! See the law here.
The active ingredient in CHABA is CBD (cannabidiol), a cannabinoid that has analgesic (pain relieving), anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmodic properties, and none of the intoxicating properties of THC. Project CBD claims,
"Extensive preclinical research and some clinical studies have shown that CBD has strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, anti-tumoral, and neuroprotective qualities."
In other words, there are so many things CBD can treat! Topical CBD products usually come in a cream or gel form. They act directly on the area applied to stop pain at its source (if you're a nerd, read about the Endocannabinoid System here).
Cannabis health & beauty aids may assist in the treatment of chronic and acute pain, arthritis, headaches/migraines, skin conditions (rashes, excema, psoriasis), bruises, sprains/strains, anxiety, depression... they've even been shown to help with nausea and pain of cancer treatment, and to minimize the effects of Parkinsons and MS. Doesn't that sound great??! More medical research needs to be done to prove all of these, but the current research is promising. Come try it out for yourself!
I am a lifetime learner and researcher in happy, healthy, fun living.