Real Stories from Wise Women
Monthly Q & A
In a modern culture where life moves quickly and society gives you quick fix instructions on how to take care of your mind, body & spirit there becomes nothing more important than honest conversations and authentic connections with a loving community of like minded sisters. This monthly Q&A shares the stories from some of my favorite wise women who have peeled back the mask of quick fix self care to discover the truth of their own body’s wisdom. This month, I welcome Jennifer Houston to the blog. Jennifer and I have crossed paths over the last few years through creative collectives and women’s circles. We both share a love of empowered wellness and are most recently connected thru our (Australian Shepherd) pups who share the same lineage.
Like many women, I’ve been on a challenging health journey for decades - one that has paralleled an emotional and spiritual journey to wholeness. There have been so many times when I have simply cursed this earthly body of mine for fighting against me for so long. But I’m lucky. On this path I have also met many wise and caring healers and helpers who seem to arrive just at the right moment. Manya Williams is one of them.
My awareness that things weren’t in balance began when I was 13 and discovered (after three separate tests for mononucleosis) that I was gluten intolerant. Fortunately, my allergist had spotted the signs of fatigue, sore throat, and skin issues early and a 10 day elimination diet confirmed it. I became the strange girl at lunch with the lettuce wrapped sandwiches (so ahead of the health curve on that one!) who couldn’t enjoy cake at birthday parties and pies at holiday dinners. I felt better, but still struggled with an upset stomach and environmental allergies from adolescence well into my early 40s.
Truthfully, looking back I know my immune system was compromised from the get-go. Formula fed from birth, I had chronic ear, nose, and throat problems that finally led to a tonsillectomy at 10 and endless rounds of antibiotics from toddlerhood until adulthood. In my 30s I found naturopathic medicine, which helped me work through a nasty Candida infection and for several lovely years I thought I had finally managed to gain some equilibrium.
The arrival of my two children and the stress of juggling working motherhood once again threw me into imbalance, and I found myself back in the health struggle I knew so well. It was compounded only a few years later by the heartbreaking process of divorce. It was then that I began my secret inner mantra: MUST...NOT...STOP...EVER. I was launched into a survivalistic, fight or flight existence that had me gritting my teeth and plowing through life with a hot poker at my back. I didn’t stop until my body finally forced me to. I was exhausted beyond belief, my hormones were a mess, and my battle armor was showing signs of weakness.
Back I went to the naturopaths, acupuncturists, and holistic practitioners for more testing, supplements, and diet adjustments. A perfectionist, I was furious with myself for not being able to figure it out OR stick to the intensely restrictive regimens they recommended. Worse, my inner critic was having a field day pointing out all the places where I had failed.
When I met Manya, I was a full blown skeptic about ever getting to “normal.” “This is just the way it is,” I told myself. “So stop whining and just deal with it.”
Our coaching sessions exposed not only my inner critic, but also uncovered the sense of powerlessness and confusion that had separated me from my own innate body wisdom. In our first session, Manya sat quietly across from me, listening closely as I talked about my struggle, my frustrations, and my ultimate surrender to just feeling crappy most of the time. As I talked, a warm Cheshire cat of a smile spread slowly across her face. “This isn’t going to be as hard as you think,” she said. Really? I was stunned. And curious.
Over the weeks we worked together, I had several powerful revelations:
How you’re metabolizing the present moment determines whether the food you’re eating nourishes your body. The Ayurvedic questionnaire Manya gave me revealed a Vata imbalance that had me feeling anxious, restless, and unable to focus all of the time. I was reaching for foods that only made it worse - chips, crackers, coffee, sugar. The truth was that I was addicted to that imbalance as a source of false energy. Manya suggested subtle changes that had remarkable results. I added ghee and coconut oil into my diet, switched to eating only warm foods and vegetables, and sipped water at room temperature. In only a few days, I felt a difference. Food seemed kinder somehow, more nourishing and gentle. My stomach problems settled and I felt calmer.
Your lymphatic system is your best ally. I had noticed a puffiness for several years that just wouldn’t go away no matter how much I exercised or dieted. The health of the lymph system is central in Ayurveda, carrying toxins from the body. Manya saw this immediately and had me using a dry brush before showering to stimulate the lymph system combined with some simple herbs and oil massage. The puffiness began to go away within a week. I felt lighter and had more energy. Yay for that.
Your devotional practice gives you clarity, self-compassion, and resilience. Most of all, in the midst of the busy-ness and pressures of life, I often sacrificed self-care. What at first seemed impossible (Me? Get up before dawn?) has become the biggest gift of all...20 minutes each morning before the sun (or anyone in the house) wakes up, I give myself time to sit on a cushion and chant, move, and practice simple breathing exercises to get calm, clear out, and ignite my energy for the day. Somehow life doesn’t sideline all my intentions as much when I’ve given those sweet moments to myself. Manya calls it self-devotion, and that is so poignantly true.
I’m still working with these subtle changes and micro practices to help me build a new foundation for wellness based on self-kindness, intuition and awareness. Most of all, I feel myself reawakening and finally integrating as a spiritual being who is happy to be having an earthly, physical experience. And that feels really, really good.