Monday, February 28, 2011

Rebecca Burgess Makes Me Happy - Clothes that Heal

Yesterday I joined mystic Rebecca Burgess and herbalist Cheryl Fromholzer as they pioneered the emerging yet ancient field (love that!) of medicinal dyes for our clothes in a local workshop. entitled "Healing Clothes: Making Dyes & Natural Medicine." Ancient because it's been done for 2500+ years, mostly documented in the Ayurvedic tradition. Modern because it's low carbon footprint, super-eco and, well, sexy. Above is a dress by a New York designer named a.d.o. clothing that Rebecca introduced me to - herb-dyed in indigo, organic loveliness. As used in the dress above, we worked with indigo, madder root, turmeric, nettle, rosemary and fennel.

I noted during the workshop that nearly all the medicinal properties of the dyes we discussed included lymphatic cleansers. Hello? Doesn't that make sense in some higher order system that what we wear against our skin would also work on the system immediately beneath our skin, namely the lymph that scours our cells, seeking the bad guys, turning them out, sending all the fluid love back to the heart? We all need a rigorous lymphatic system, as that keeps us taut and pert (we, the women of 40+, particularly need this).

Why does working and learning from Rebecca make me so happy? I have a few ideas: perhaps it's her charisma and buoyant energy. Always good to surround oneself with people like this. Perhaps it's her naturally-dyed clothes offering: a gorgeous alternative to the conventional, toxic clothing world. Or her way of educating us to lessen our carbon footprint in a way that feels accessible and less sanctimonious than, say, riding a bike to work (how do I do that with 2 kids to drive to school 5 and 10 miles away?).

Rebecca lives a radical concept: wear clothing from within 150 miles for one year. She is a mystic from another world, as many of you know from my previous posts. We've hosted her here in Oakland a few times previously. Check out her Fibershed Project right here. Oh, and what could be better than her explaining it herself....

Gathering Thyme is a gorgeous space in San Anselmo. Cheryl is a co-founder and opened her beautiful space last October. We sat in a circle, talking about the medicinal properties of the luscious colors we were to use that day in our dye baths, including....
  • Turmeric - our most potent anti-inflammatory. Rebecca chatted about the ancient Ayurvedic tradition of wearing robes dyed in turmeric for skin disorders or for obstinate bladder infections, and sleeping on turmeric sheets. Sounds far better to me than sleeping on flame retardants. Cheryl taught us about how it protects the liver as well. Take as a capsule, sprinkle turmeric powder on your food or sleep on turmeric-infused sheets. Rebecca talked about drinking turmeric drinks while traveling in Bali.

  • Next came Madder Root.  Just damn pretty, let alone powerful at dissolving kidney stones and getting rid of parasites.

  • Indigo was the third feature.  In Ayurveda, indigo was used to help people become more conscious, to treat a condition called "moha," or unconsciousness. In other words, indigo opens the upper chakras and opens your reality.  Also used for preventing malaria or any mosquito-borne disease - folks would wear silk dyed in indigo.
Rebecca turned me onto a local designer, Ocelot, who offered this yummy combo of madder root and indigo. Looks like a painting to me.

Charlotte, who assisted Rebecca, made a lovely prayer flag out of the dyes we used today. Each swatch below is a different natural fiber such as silk, hemp/cotton, raw silk. I'll end with that.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Feelin' Testy (Testimonials, That Is)

Thought I'd post a few testimonials, since we women are famous for not seeing the bigger story to our story. Indulge me with a little shameless promotion since I'm short on time today. Even though I'm short on time, I'm not short on gratitude: huge thanks to the lovely women who said such nice things below (plus some less nice things - keeps me humble). xoxox

Dr. Gottfried has been seeing me since 2005 when I first came to her with terrible menstrual cycle issues.  I would often find myself on the floor of the bathroom in a cold sweat purging everything in the first few days of my period.  Most Western doctors over the years tried to alleviate the problem by putting me on the pill...not only am I opposed to taking drugs just to mask a symptom, but the pill wreaked havoc on me emotionally.  Dr. Sara was at Kaiser at the time, and she spent so much time listening and discussing various options with me that I left feeling like I'd been to a spa rather than the circus of Kaiser.  The answer wasn't in a prescription at all, and for the first time I was given a clear and basic understanding of what was happening to me.  I continue to see her now we've got the menstrual cramping under control.  As I age and my body changes, it's so wonderful to have a doctor that I can trust to give me the whole scope of healing possibilities - not just a prescription for pain killer.  I know that I'm in good hands.  I know that she stays up to date on all research, supplements, diets, etc. so I trust that as I'm changing, she's constantly updating her skill set.  I still see my Kaiser physician for the routine exam, but whenever I encounter something that doesn't feel right Dr. Sara is my first call. -- Michelle C of Emeryvile, CA

I went to Dr. Gottfried almost two years ago because I felt completely depleted and did not feel like myself much of the time. Though I thought I was having perimenopausal symptoms (sleeplessness, night sweats), I hadn't sought help. She spent a lot of time talking to me about my whole life picture to determine what the best plan of action was for me. After taking that into consideration and some testing, she prescribed low doses of bioidentical hormones as well as some  other supplements to get my hormones and energy back on track.  Within a few weeks at the most, I felt so much better! I'm forever grateful for her expertise and attention to me as an individual. A lot of traditional western medicine treats patients as if we're all the same.......but all cases are different and our own bodies are constantly changing. During perimenoupause, It's a process of tinkering and refining, and she's great at guiding one through this process. -- Madeleine T of Oakland, CA

I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Sara!  She is not only a very caring and warm human being, but also she's an extraordinarily compassionate doctor.  It's no small matter that she has the most amazing education and credentials (Harvard trained), and is an experienced yoga teacher.  She truly combines the best of Eastern and Western medicine approaches, and she stays abreast of the latest research on nutrition, diet, supplements and clinical tests, thus offering her patients the very best care available today.
Sara will work tirelessly to help figure out the health challenges that most doctors would have no answers for.  She has really helped me get to the bottom of a variety of troubling symptoms related to my stage in life--insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, stress.  Her recommendations have helped me become more balanced and focused, sleep better at night, and feel more serenity in my life.  In every session, she is always ultra-prepared and spends lots of quality time addressing your needs, desires, concerns, etc.  She has a truly holistic view that takes into account each patients individuality.  Especially if you've had any health concerns that your regular doctor has not been able to adequately address, I encourage you to see Sara!  She's the best. -- Sarah H of Richmond, CA

I am overwhelmed with my experience with Dr Gottfried.  My intuitive senses sent me there, but not knowing what to expect.  I was attracted to the word "integrative" in searching for a doctor.  The technological advances in modern medicine are life saving and amazing.  I am dependent on modern medicine and grateful.  This being said, I sensed a lack on being treated as a whole.   I had one doctor for OBGYN issues, one doctor for thyroid disease and a pulmonary doctor.  Having a different doctor for each different body part and disease really started to bother me.  We are not just the sum of our parts.  Dr. Gottfried strives to find the complicated balance for us.  This is alot of work and not just as easy as taking a prescription.  I had always taken good care of my self, but still felt terrible.  I went to Dr Gottfried thinking that I felt terrible because of menopause and that I needed bioidentical hormones instead of the typical prempro prescription I had been given for years.  After listening to my history and complaints, Dr Gottfried recommended lots of testing.  I really did not know where this was going.  Well, here is what happened.  I found that my thyroid was not being treated properly.  I found that my adrenals were shot.  I found that the hormone thing was just the tip of the iceberg.  Again, lots of work, but I decided to follow through with Dr Gottfried.  My first reward was sleep!  I had not slept in years.  I actually hit that deep sleep that my body had lost touch with.  I realize that the repairs and chemical balance that our bodies achieve in sleep is critical.  As an added plus, I see the true definition of 'beauty rest'.  I found out that I did not have to walk around with that feeling of anxiety in my chest.  I am still working on all my adrenal, hormonal and thyroid problems.  Dr Gottfried's approach of treating all these as a system and recognizing the need for balancing everything together is what is working.  Don't think this is easy.  We don't all react the same and Dr Gottfried is constantly throwing new information out there.  I am just beginning, but have confidence that someone is listening.  Hugs to Dr Gottfried -- Patricia P of Castro Valley

Let's post some of the less favorable too. When you're difficult to get into to see, maybe it's time to go more virtual. That's my line of thinking....

She is extremely knowledgeable in hormone balance and very helpful with lifestyle suggestions and referals.  Very difficult to get in which can be frustrating, but worth the wait. - Michele S of Oakland, CA

Friday, February 25, 2011

Shuffling My Roles

Was inspired by the luminous Kathleen Bloom of the Meditation Project to go a little nuts over Wordie, an online program for making word collages. Here's one on my roles. Rather liked the juicy result, but realized I forgot "mom." Oops. I keep forgetting that part, and how intrinsic it is. But not in a "I'm-such-a-bad-mom" way that I tend to fall into; instead: that was interesting. What's up about that? How do I get more explicit about bringing my role as mom into my work, integrating it more deeply and fluidly, beyond just: "I've got two kids, and I must leave now to pick them up from school."

BTW, what else have I forgotten? Oh, wife. Raw chef.

Here's another (like me, a bit more random and deliciously chaotic) composed of the attributes inspired by my Firestarter Sessions with Danielle Laporte. She makes me feel alive, connected to inner aliveness, like I want to go running.

Going into mom/wife mode now, unplugging, signing off until the other side of Shabbat. Peace out to you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bitch Slap Values That No Longer Serve

"Bitch slap" sounds violent, not a word a mom should use. So, of course, it's just my type of word. Particularly for the musty, patriarchal beliefs that I stuffed into my backpack way back in my youth. I'm wondering how many of them I'm still dragging through the mud. I'm trying to shed, right? Get rid of the toxins. What could be more toxic than old values that no longer work for me?

Here's the short list. With some deets today on #1. More to follow.
  1. Old belief: Work harder. Struggle is a necessary part of life. Right? Wrong! Where does this get me? Burned out. Tank empty. Check out Mama Gena's recent missive on this subject, which she brilliantly titled, Discipline of Pleasure. Or maybe I titled it that way in my brain. I find her idea a welcome respite from the deeply ingrained idea that I have that if I'm overwhelmed or don't have enough room for the women who want to see me as a patient or my kids want me at their school more, I need to WORK HARDER. Here's my alternative: choose pleasure. When I'm looking at two options, say add hours in my schedule to keep up with demand or meet a girlfriend for tea - I want to develop a discipline around the pleasure option, girlfriend! (Thank you, Rebecca Elia, for inspiring this idea in particular). Create more art in my work life so that it doesn't feel so demanding and square-peg-round-hole. 
  2. Do it ALL myself. Don't ask for help.
  3. Do the work I'm good at (I'm particularly good at doctoring, surgery, research). Problem is - these things don't enliven me. They don't amp up my vitality. Well, doctoring does sometimes. But be an academic clinician? Or slave at Kaiser seeing 30 patients per day? No, thanks.
  4. See patients in person. That's how we've always done it in medicine! Provide counsel via phone? Internet, webinars, ebooks? Crazy pants!
  5. Stay in a collaboration that is troubled until you know for sure.
  6. Be more selfless as a mother. Fountain unconditional love at every opportunity. I saved the best for last.
Join me as I work on these beliefs and get them the hell out of my life. Teach me how you do it.

Here's the thing: I have a weird imperative to learn addictively about the human body, synthesize it with ancient systems of knowledge, and then share it with the world. It's my gift. The old patriarchal values are just getting in the way. Most of them I sucked up unconsciously in pursuit of my education. But, damn girl, it's been 22 years since Harvard Medical School Give it up! It's like fake fat - if it's not making you feel good or adding to your greatness, let it go.

Curious about your list. Please share in comments section. Even more curious how you plan to cleanse them out of your person and what you'll replace them with. And credit goes to Rebecca Elia, MD for coaching me along on this transformation.

Wait, isn't "bitch slap" rather patriarchal? Love it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

For Mamas Who Rock Business

More from Danielle Laporte, the woman who is most rockin' my world and getting me to move more authentically toward my true strengths in my work and home; that is, the aspects that increase my vitality. Inspired wisdom, particularly the part about "forget about balance."

for mamas who rock business from Danielle LaPorte on Vimeo.

I'm on page 64 of her FireStarter Sessions, and it's worth every bit of the $150. Get yours right here and light your fire.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vote Now: Monday Mystic

Just finished my sacral releases, in my nightgown, of course, 'cuz it's President's Day.

Need your help with a little something: there are so many mystics to choose from today, I'm having difficulty choosing just one to blog about. Please vote in the comments section for one or more. We got farmers, professors, moms and entrepreneurs in the mix.
  • Regena Thomashauer, aka Mama Gena, Creatrix of the Mama Gena School of Womanly Arts
  • Marta Dansie, gifted designer and blogger
  • More Danielle Laporte, because you know self-realization rocks, and you know I can't get enough of her brilliance.
  • Brene Brown, PhD, a refreshing professor from Texas who is an expert in vulnerability and authenticity.
  • Clarissa Pinkola Estes, an oldie but goodie.
Vote on which one for my next Mystic Monday blog! Or suggest others! Particularly momtreneurs! And I'll get right on it! Thanks so very much. xoxox

Friday, February 18, 2011

Prayer for Overwhelm

I want to shred the rad, but I'm a bit weary today. Need a little intervention, a dose of burn-out prevention. Not sure what flavor. Please renew my spirit and particularly my good humor. When I feel frustrated and like a victim/martyr: fill me with hope, the present moment and get me out of the blame game, the pain body. My mind goes there so easily, as Annie Lamont says - "My mind is a bad neighborhood I try not to go into alone."

When I feel like I have no more juice to give, remind me that the juice flows from You.

When I get confused and feel my juiciness is finite, teach me that You provide an infinite well of inspiration.

When I feel lazy, teach me that there is much work to be done and many folks need my assistance.

When I lose faith or fall off the path, damn - again, remind me that I am filled with enormous talent and genius.

When I forget what I am doing and why, help me recover the pleasure, the discipline of pleasure, and the deep satisfaction of my path.

When I lose my faith, show me the way back home, back to You. With humor and pleasure, as that makes it all good.

Inspired and paraphrased from Naomi Levy, A Prayer for Overcoming Burnout. Share a prayer with me in the comment section!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What I Do: Organic Gynecology & Bioidentical Hormones

Often I get asked what I actually do with clients and in workshops and coming next month in WEBINARS! Here it is, inspired by Danielle Laporte's Burning Questions, and squeezed between seeing patients today and picking up the kids from school. Enjoy! Join the Love Train!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Organically Fit: Togs for The Dailey Method & Yoga

I was imagining the rolled eyes at The Dailey Method, which is the exercise I favor and find better than working out with a trainer. But if you aren't sporting the latest Lululemon during your workout, you're a bit of a freak.

Whatever. I think they know by now I'm a bit of a freak.

On the other hand, I knew my yoga posse wouldn't mind me busting out my yoga moves in organic cotton. They're used to that. Seekers, self-experimenters, searching for meaning and a good organic yoga pant.

So what to wear. For a whole year. Got the jeans, got the organic cotton thongs. But technical gear for my time-starved exercise routine?

There's the old reliable Blue Canoe. Yawn. Sorry, but while it feels good, the design looks remarkably similar to 7 years ago when I bought it while breastfeeding. Fortunately I did find one top worth mentioning (and, if you are a beloved patient of mine, you're seeing it on me at least once/week): Athena.

Fortunately when a girl runs low on options and lives in Oakland, we can hop the bridge to San Francisco. Clary Sage Organics on Fillmore? That's more like it. Here's a top I like. Their togs are designed by owner Patti Cazzato and constructed in Richmond and SF. Even better, they are made from organic cotton here in California. And the design is so good: hip yet a little vintage. Stretch where you need it. Vintage Swim Girdle, anyone?

Covered up with a little Mist Henley organic magic? See you in class - I'm the one with the mis-matched organic socks that do not have "The Dailey Method" patterned along the bottom.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mystic Danielle Laporte: There's a Bigger Story to Your Story

I'm madly, crazy, over-the-moon in love with a new mystic named Danielle Laporte. She is rocking my integrative, hormone-infused world and getting me totally reconnected to integrative medicine, and how to firestart the health of others on a larger scale.  That's her line in the title: There's a bigger story to your story. Danielle has a tremendous gift to see the Big Story and reflects it back to you.

Here's an inside line: Light your own fire right here with her $150 Fire Starter Session (FSS). Prepare to be transformed. Danielle's is an evocative path, treading new territory in the online experience of deep authenticity.

Here is a sweet little sample of what Danielle calls The Burning Questions. You get these also if you book Danielle for a $1000, one-hour 1:1 session (BTW, you can do that too, and deduct the $150 from the FSS).


1. When someone at a party asks you what you do, what do you say?  (And how do you feel when you say it?) 

2. How do you make your money? What are your revenue streams? What makes you the most money?

2.5. How much money would you LIKE to be making? 

3. What do people thank you for most often? What do they come to you
for, or say about you most frequently ("positive" or "negative")?

4. When do you feel powerful, passionate, free, incredibly useful, excited, inspired? 

5. What do you think your form of genius is? What are you amazing at (work or life-related?)

Let me know your answers and I'll show you mine!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Organic GYN Goes to Portland for Baby Shower

Been to an organic baby shower? Me neither!

I'm in Portland, helping to throw a baby shower for my beloved sister, Anna. That would be her diaper cake, made by a friend, above.

I've taken my organic show on the road twice now: first to Point Reyes at New Years, and then to Tahoe over MLK weekend. It's rather easy to wear, eat & schmear organic in Point Reyes but Tahoe is another story. Jury is still out on how easily organic I can be in Portland but I'm hopeful.

Anna is pregnant with her first baby, so my other beloved sister, Justina, together with our mom are throwing Anna the shower. Mom has done the heavy lifting of planning and purchasing all the food.

I brought Anna an organic wool sleeper for her baby (in the color "natural." naturally). When i presented my small gift, she gave me a grin and thanked me. She's trying to go along and be a sport, about my latest experiment but really it must feel a bit irritating.

Most of the food we're serving which is heavy on the Ina Garten crowd-pleasers such as Arugula salad with roasted potatoes, tomatoes and green beans and from-scratch herbed crisped crackers plus mini cupcakes from Saint Cupcake in Northwest Portland - not organic. Savignon Blanc and mimosas made from Proseco from Trader Joe's - not organic. Carrots for the crudite platter are organic! I'll be eating those with Yogi Tea.

"Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that's all that's happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness--life's painful aspect--softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody's eyes because you feel you haven't got anything to lose--you're just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We'd be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn't have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together."  - Pema Chodron

Anna bought a cute little maternity dress from Nordstrom. I'll be wearing my usual organic uniform: organic cotton jeans, organic wool socks, organic cotton thong from Etsy, organic cotton Athena top from Blue Canoe (I actually adore this top - rather sexy for being organic!), organic wool cardigan in a color that almost matches the Athena top, organic cotton bra from Rawganique. Not so fancy but it's a thrill for me to have my little uniform and not stare with despair for long moments at my closet about what to wear. I only have 3 outfits! Keeps the packing easy!

I'm also sporting an organic tampon; perhaps TMI as my 11-year-old is fond of saying.  But seriously - think about the dioxins in your Tampax right up next to your precious vaginal lining where you have bazillions of blood vessels and vulnerable, important nerves. Your G-spot prefers to be toxin-free!

Anna knows me well and wisely ferried me to my fave organic vegan cafe, Blossoming Lotus, upon arrival, and commanded me to purchase a weekend worth of food because the plan was takeout toxic Chinese for dinner last night. She knows how I feel about MSG. I enjoyed raw pesto portabello pizza while my darling family of origin ate hot and sour soup with white rice and sesame chicken.

Forecast for Portland my entire stay? Rain. That's another gap in my organic wardrobe - along with being poorly equipped to snowboard organically, I also haven't yet sourced any organic rain jackets. Leave me a comment if you've figured this one out!

Overall, this shower is a lesson in letting go, loosening my grip on how I think others should be (WTF! That cupcake is toxic!) and staying on my modest organic path without being too pedantic, self-righteous or smug. Or irritating. Or maybe even insufferable.

"I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us...It was all about letting go of everything." - Pema Chodron

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Organic Socks Gone Wrong

I'm one month deep into the Organic Experiment, and have been woefully underreporting my adventures. Apologies. Yet, I'm having many rich moments of bliss, and... well, many shrunken things. While I feel I should be sharing the baseline toxic load data I've collected, I'd like to start with a story about organic socks gone wrong and lessons learned.

That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. It is the ordinary state of affairs. Everything is in process. Everything—every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate—is always changing, moment to moment. -- Pema Chodron

I shed a lot of clothing as I prepared for my year of wearing organic, which continues to delight me endlessly. Found a like-minded soul - Bindu Wiles - who captured the bliss of limited choice in her "Shed Project." Bindu, a white chick from Brooklyn who happens to be a Buddhist had the brilliant idea to pair down her belongings to 100 items only, over 8 weeks last fall, and rather than just wax poetic about her solitary journey, she invited the broader community to join her. Read about her experience right here.

Why does it make me so happy to have shed so many clothes? Do the old, toxic clothes weigh down my soul like negative coping patterns and excess weight? Why am I thrilled to have only 6 pairs of undies, 3 bras, 4 pairs of pants and 6 shirts? Why does the vacuous space in my dresser and closet feel like I'm making room for more important ways of being radically and outrageously present in the world?

It's not all bliss and rapture: my first day of organic on New Year's Day began with a load of wash which included my 5 pair of organic socks. You probably know where this is headed. My darling husband agreed to put the laundry in the dryer, and sheepishly emerged from the laundry room asking about caterpillars.

"Caterpillars?!" I repeated, stunned but slowly realizing that I had blithely washed my precious hand-knit organic socks, made from the kind sheep at local Petaluma sheep farm, Windrush, in hot water.

"I opened the washer and there were these weird 2 inch furry caterpillars staring up at me," reports my sweet husband, David Gottfried, "and they looked curiously like the socks you so happily knit a month ago. Now one finger doesn't fit inside. Sorry, Babe!"

Caterpillars. We all had a good laugh and a reminder about impermance. The Organic Experiment is in process and I'm down a few socks, an expected part of the flow of daily, ordinary life. Weren't those socks just on loan to me?   

The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A Death! What’s that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you’re too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating …and you finish off as an orgasm. -  George Carlin

Gottfried Center for Integrative Medicine's Fan Box

About Me

My photo
I'm an organic gynecologist, yoga teacher + writer. I earn a living partnering with women to get them vital and self-realized again. We're born that way, but often fall off the path. Let's take your lousy mood and fatigue, and transform it into something sacred and useful.