Traveling with a Reproductive Illness

Travel can be such an amazing experience, travel when you have a reproductive illness, however, can be a pain in the ovaries. Literally. Not just from the stress of travel itself causing flares but because of the toxins that pop up where you’re staying which also cause flares.

If you’re not sure exactly what products and places to look out for check out my blog Endometriosis Aggravators to get an idea.

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A few of the things I bring with me to places I stay-vinegar for cleaning, epsom salt for soaking in the tub and removing toxins

I’ve made a list below of some of the things I bring with me to help avoid flare-ups….

  • Toilet paper-many toilet papers are made with dyes, fragrances and chlorines that no doubt get through the skin and into our bodies. I also try to be more environmentally conscious and choose recycled paper.
  • Dish soap-There is usually a toxic dish soap in the homes I rent. Although one rental had organic dish soap it still had a fragrance that was bothering me so I replaced it with a non-scented dish soap.
  • Paper towels-For the same reason as the tp because I dry my food like celery with paper towels if I don’t have a clean kitchen towel.
  • Berkey water filter-their travel size is well, best for travel for obvious reasons. With all the things in our water these from nickel to medicine, having a traveling filter or even drinking bottled water is better than drinking out of the sink.
  • Vinegar, essential oil, baking soda-for natural cleaning. You could also get cleaner like Seventh Generation I recommended the unscented kind.
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Epsom salt bath at one of my Airbnb’s 

Tips:

-Unplug Glade plugins and any other air fresheners-these are often the most toxic things in a home and should be immediately unplugged. If you need something to freshen the home you are staying try sage or an oil diffuser with essential oils.

-Rewash towels and sheets with your own laundry detergent-this helps get any toxic detergent or bleach smells and toxic fragrances out.

-Open windows when you get there to air out the place.

-Bring something small to make it your own-I like to have a plant with me that helps to make me feel like I’m at home and comfortable.

-Unpack & move in right away-this helps with less moving stress and helps you to feel more at home.

-I would bring a blender over a juicer if I HAD to choose for space reasons and just juice through a nut mylk bag after blending.

-Get products without fragrances. Even when they are organic ‘natural’ fragrances, they can still be toxic.

-I also try to get a bathtub everywhere I go because they’re great for stress relief and detox from any toxins you’ve ingested especially if you add some epsom salt to it.

Living/staying in someone else’s house brings certain amount of stress with it but one of those stressors shouldn’t be toxins.

Please let me know if you try any of these tips and find them helpful 🙂

What helps you to stay flare-free on the road?

 

 

The Story of Us

 

What happens when you shoot two Sagittarius South Nodes in the butt with cupids arrow? You get two souls who spend their entire existence roaming the earth together in search of a home. That’s been us, since the day we left Chico, California where we met in college over ten years ago. It’s always been like that, every two years or so, the both of us get the idea to try something, somewhere new. Usually for me it’s been on the coattails of Mando’s jobs. They have been my safety net, what’s allowed me to go to cities where I might not otherwise go because I didn’t think I could rely on myself or my salary alone. It was easy for me to follow him and his jobs without ever really having to take a risk.

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Me and Mando in my college bedroom in Chico, California

But in January of 2018 the traveling pair I once belonged to, split after moving back to the same city where we met and fell in love. I saw the irony, as I drove down the no-so-secret road out of Chico, leaving my college town once again. It couldn’t have been more of a de ja vu-I was headed back to live at my Mom’s house only, she wouldn’t be there this time…

Our breakup wasn’t all that surprising though, conversation and well, overall life, prior to the breakup was not exactly going well. To be exact there had been three parent deaths, one chronic illness, an infidelity, financial and emotional dependency, an alcohol addiction (yet to be acknowledged), and a partridge in a pair tree. Well, everything except that last one. To make matters worse neither of us were aware the depth of trauma pain we’d endured individually and also as a couple.

Although I recall one particularly solum yet insightful day driving up north before moving to Chico, I declared in an exhausted haze, “If we keep fighting like this, we have to break up. It’s not healthy.” I was hungover, my face sticky and dry from the booze and from crying, my throat coarse from smoking pot to take the edge off the hangover.

Given the state of our relationship and the state of health and wellness I found myself in, it as no surprise I drove left our apartment in Chico and never looked back. I was however, thwarted by how cruel Mando was about our separation . How he’d said that he just couldn’t handle all my pain anymore, over the phone and how easy it seemed to be for him to move on. I didn’t realize until later that his cruel behavior mirrored that of avoidant-attached behavior. He was avoiding the pain of a more thoughtful breakup by being quick and heartless about it. 

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Mando and I at an art exhibit by Yayoi Kusama at the Prado Museum in Spain, 2011.

There was one good thing that came from all of this- I finally had something other than my Mom’s death to obsess over. I was almost happy to have the grief of the breakup take its place. Many times though it wasn’t grief I was feeling it was anger-anger at being abandoned, anger at being left to deal with my own life at such a difficult time during it. Anger at the lies, the betrayal, anger that I felt that I was just too much for him, my life, my problems were too much. Some of this anger was justified, some of it was displaced from not wanting to dedicate myself to my own reparenting.

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After moving back to my mom’s house to live with my sister and aunt, I spent a lot of hours agonizing over the breakup. At home, at work, with anyone who would listen. I would recount that ways he wronged me and hurt me over the years. How his cheating while he lived abroad in Nicaragua was part of the reason I was sick. How he was a narcissist, spoiled, sexist and held expectations too high for me fulfill. How he’d pulled away from me when I got sick and how could he do that? How could he never see me as a sick person with compassion and get angry at my limitations. It got to the point where it felt like the words were just pouring out of my mouth like word vomit. I couldn’t shut up about it or him…I realized that my behavior was extremely anxiously attached and that it didn’t really matter what he did, what mattered was how I was handling it because how I was handling it was greatly affecting my health-I went back to my old ways, drinking to numb out, slipping on my self care routines, not eating or sleeping enough.

But as time passed and I worked with my health coach and therapist to improve my nervous system health and mental state, things began to progress in other areas of my life.  I realized many of the things I felt about Mando were things I had felt about my Dad as well. Focusing on this allowed for less time to put toward bad-mouthing him although I still secretly ached to be with my best friend again and just wanted to understand why he cut me off in such a harsh way. But I had other things to worry about, I would have just a few months left at my mom’s house, a last summer there in the backyard in the sun amongst the beautiful landscape my aunt did, the last time sitting on the cold cement in the small part of the garage to cool off, the last time watching Stella the cat chase Poppy the dog around the green bush. The last time…

I slowly began to pack up my own things and what was left of my mom’s stuff and made plans for moving on. By my birthday at the end of June I found my own room in a place of my own and was starting to feel better about being alone. It was mercury retrograde and I had hired a health coach as a birthday gift to myself and we had just began sessions together. I really felt that I was on a healing path.

And then Mando called.

He wanted to apologize for how he’d acted, how he’d ended things. So I met up with him after work and he took me on his roof in the sunset and said everything I’d spent nights, devastated wishing he would say. That he was sorry, that I had been right about some things. We spent a couple of months trying to rekindle a torched flame before realizing that what we had was dead and gone. And thank god because it had become a toxic relationship. In a spiritual session recently with my highly intuitive health coach she described our past relationship as ‘wound-mates’ and her words hit me like a ton of bricks. Always going through something painful and reeling, I didn’t want to get back into a relationship like that.

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Mando and I on a hike after moving back to Chico, California in November 2018

 

He was leaving for Poland where he would live, write and teach, because he’d become tired of the grind in San Francisco. I still had my childhood home to pack up forever and sell in Concord nearby suburban city. Secretly I knew that if he went to Warsaw I could never be with him. I had a new boundary after my old pain as part of reparenting myself and that boundary was having people in my life who were there for me when I needed them. Mando had a history of not being there when I needed him to be, of getting uncomfortable in the presence of my pain and even if it was true that I didn’t always resolve it in the healthiest of ways, I deserved to have someone in my life who could hold it without shame. I deserved to have my love, compassion and affection reciprocated.

I was staying at a friends house dog-sitting when Mando came to say goodbye before going to Poland. I cried as I walked my friends small dog home leaving him at BART to disappear down the steps and out of my life. But it wasn’t long before he contacted me from Poland and we began talking again regularly. We were speaking with honesty, for once, and it felt good because we ended without me really understanding where he was coming from. I better understand how us breaking up made sense for him at the time and that he had every right to do what was best for him, his life and his health. It was  the cruel way he went about that really tore through me leaving what I thought to be irreparable damage. We talked about how his behavior allowed for a safe way out for him without having to be honest about secrets he was still keeping. We talked about how his was avoidant-attached behavior, we’d both learned from reading the book Attached. Making me of course, the anxious-attached in the relationship. I was happy that he was taking interest in the materials I was using to reparent and heal myself. I knew that if I were to have him in my life he would have to be open to healing as well.

We were both going through a tough time, me selling my mom’s home, him getting accustomed to a new country. We were also both dealing with challenging living arrangements and alcoholism. We chatted and commiserated, he sent me pics of the vegan food he was eating out at European cafes, because of my influence. It flattered me and I had FOMO but not the kind that was devastating which I was grateful for and fit felt like real growth to me. It was nice to see but I didn’t need to be there. I didn’t miss him like I thought I would. I didn’t need to be with him.

We discussed in depth how alcoholism had so deeply touched our lives without us realizing it, he shared clips of his apartment, the dry erase board in his room where he scribbled illegible notes about us, poetry and European. We talked about how him keeping his TRUTH from me manifested in not only my illness but as terrible skin problems which miraculously disappeared once he told me the full and entire truth of his infidelity. He listened about how hard it felt to give up my mom’s home, my childhood home and he told me how older Polish women were randomly shouting at him in the streets since he’d been there.

 

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Mando and I inside an art installation also by Yayoi Kusama this time at The Broad Museum in LA summer 2019.

 

The sell date for my mom’s house was getting closer, I had done most of the packing on my own and with the help of my amazing aunt Loretta. But I needed more physical help, and honestly, emotional support as well to finish such a feat. I’d told Mando about how I needed the help and after becoming fed up with his living arrangements, he flew back to California one night, unplanned and drove to my hometown a few days later to help me pack up and move out of my mom’s house. 

After finding out from my friend that I couldn’t stay at their place closer to work, I was left with little options. I had friends in other cities I cold stay with, I would have to quit my job which I wasn’t so attached to so that was OK but I was unsure of what my financial situation would look like. While we were packing up boxes Mando offered what he had once before soon after my Mom died which was to stay with his Mom in her house up in Northern California. I was hesitant but with one day left to decided where to go, decided to take him up on his offer. The car ride up we laid out boundaries. My first firm boundary was that we go to couples therapy. Some others were centered on more independent time and making sure we had our own separate support systems.

An astrologer recently told me that if I’d asked him five years ago, there’s no way we’d be together but that because we both went through and are still experiencing massive transformations of our own, we are a better fit for each other. He said that at this point we have have been able to work through many challenging times. And WORK is the keyword of focus throughout this relationship. We have to work make things work. This can feel kind of exhausting sometimes. Especially now as I feels so many things coming to fruition in my life, big changes and massive shifts in independence and on the work and spiritual front for myself.

I’ve questioned whether it is right for me to get back together with someone who could so easily take advantage of my kind heart. I’ve wondered if I will become overly dependent again. The same astrologer who did the reading I mentioned earlier brought up our controlling nature over one another and said as long as we reigned that in we could succeed. I see that playing out today in our relationship when we’re focusing enough on our own things, career, relationships outside of us-we tend to do so much better. During the spiritual session I mentioned earlier, it was also said that, “Ashley is more Ashley with Mando.” My heart warmed after I heard this and I knew that as long as this reigned true for me, our relationship could succeed.

When it comes down to it though, the truth is, I don’t know how it will all end up. I don’t know if he’s going to cheat again. I don’t know if I’ll drink and rage again. I do know that we’re both trying our best to be honest with ourselves and with each other. I know that becoming aware of and healing the wounds of our parents, is a start. I know that I have a healthier nervous system now and am more securely attached than I was before. Something I worked on with my health coach through reparenting. It’s important for me to share aspects of my romantic relationship as a health coach not because it makes me feel comfortable, it’s actually pretty uncomfortable sharing this story, but because it has everything to do with healing my endometriosis. Part of the reason I became sick is because I was putting all of my energy into my romantic relationship and because I didn’t have the TRUTH about my own relationship. I’ve learned how important it is to my health to work through challenging issues in my close, personal relationships.

I know that continuing to create and uphold boundaries is a part of the necessary act of daily reparenting required to make my relationships flourish. I know that allowing myself or anyone else to cross those boundaries takes me away from the best and healthiest version of myself. A self I worked hard for. A self I’ve fallen in love with. Most importantly, I have support to hold me accountable to these boundaries when I find it hard to keep them. Living a life based on secrets, shame and lies may have set me up for a life of dishonesty and even for a life of chronic illness, but if there is one thing I have realized after all the grief, loss and pain I’ve experienced it’s that anything can heal.

 

Endometriosis and the Bowel

A couple of weeks ago I experienced a part of endometriosis I’d heard of but didn’t think would ever affect me. The symptoms I experienced were similar to those of endometriosis of the bowel. Because endometriosis of the reproductive system isn’t fun enough on its own, roughly 15-20 % of women who have endometriosis will also experience endometriosis of the bowel. This is when the same endometrial material that grows outside the uterus to grow on the bowel.

‘The normal bowel stretches a lot. A bowel with endometriosis is hard, it does not stretch as much. Again, that is another source of the pain that these people are going to be experiencing.’ This is exactly what happened to me, leaving me in so much pain because I needed to have a bowel movement but my bowel wasn’t stretching open wide enough to allow for one. I was seriously, very close to asking Mando to excavate poop from my butt for me. It was that bad.

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I had heard of endometriosis of the bowel but didn’t know the symptoms and was never asked about it by my gynecologist or told to look out for it.

If I had known to look out for the symptoms below, I may have caught it sooner.

Symptoms of endometrial growth on the bowel:

  • deep pelvic pain
  • pelvic pain during sex
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • painful bowel movements
  • rectal bleeding
  • inability to have a bowel movement

 

Unfortunately, when patients first come in with these symptoms doctors typically test for gluten issues or assume what they are dealing with is IBS. Because endometriosis can mimic other diseases like IBS, and even cancer, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s going on in each particular situation without proper intake questions and understanding a patients life in detail.

During my research into how western medicine treats endometriosis of the bowel  I found that much like endometriosis of the reproductive system, there is mostly confusing and incomplete information regarding the subject. I literally found the sentence, ‘what your gynecologist or gastroenterologist might not know or might not want to tell you.’

‘Might not want to tell you?’ WTF? I might be able to forgive not knowing something because of limited education surrounding the subject but knowing a pertinent piece of health information about a patient and not wanting to tell them because you lack knowledge on the subject of proper healing is INSANE.

To make my particular case even more intricate is the fact I have been dealing with hemorrhoids since I was ten years old. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum and anus that can be inside and/or outside of the rectum and cause pain and sometimes bleeding during bowel movements. It’s likely my symptoms could’ve been aggravated by my hemorrhoids making it difficult to differentiate. It looks like I’m going to have to dig a little deeper, no pun intended, to find out exactly what’s going on.

I have the choice again to get an invasive a test, this time a colonoscopy that isn’t entirely necessary, to maybe get a diagnosis that might be wrong. The last time this happened I was offered laparoscopy to find out for sure if I had endometriosis even though my gynecologist was about 90% sure that it was, and have it removed, even though there was a large chance it could grow back without proper dietary and lifestyle changes.

‘Unfortunately, colonoscopy is very, very poor at picking up endometriosis on the bowel. If you look at all the patients with endometriosis on the bowel, which probably makes up around 20 or 30 percent of patients, they cannot see the superficial disease which occurs probably 90 percent of the time. Invasive disease is probably only picked up five or ten percent of the time. Colonoscopy is a very, very poor tool at picking outpatients who have endometriosis in the bowel. Most of the time they will have nothing and then they will get diagnosed with IBS.’

In the mean time while I find the right doctors to help me, I’ll stick with the things that have helped me heal my reproductive endometriosis and hemorrhoids in the past such as the following-

  • celery juice
  • smoothies
  • lemon balm
  • nettle leaf
  • hibiscus leaf
  • rose hips
  • red root
  • aloe vera-great for soothing hemorrhoids but haven’t been able to find any
  • cucumber juice-soothes hemorrhoids and adrenals
  • epsom salt baths
  • avoiding gluten, soy, dairy, meat, fish, grains, corn
  • eating leafy greens
  • sticking to mostly plant-based diet

 

Because I truly believe that healing has more to do with just the physical, I also like to consider where/how in my life I may be manifesting illness in my body. In the days surrounding this event I had an intense session with my ancestral coach where she asked where I was holding pain in my body. I responded by placing my hand on my heart and the other on the reproductive area. For some reason I couldn’t move through the pain in that area so we moved to my heart. I couldn’t get back to that space and we decided to leave it for another session. A few days later is when I began having the symptoms.

It’s possible that I’m carrying ancestral trauma from previous generations in that area and would help explain my endometriosis. I know that my Mom had painful, heavy periods and my Grandmother as well. It’s possible that they both had endometriosis and never knew about it, were never diagnosed. I like to consider all of these things as well because sometimes, we’re doing all the things right, diet, working on building better relationships, supplementing properly, and still find ourselves hitting a wall.

The connection to what’s happening in your life and the pain in your body has shown itself more than once in my life. From the moment I read that my Dad was stressed about finances on his death certificate to the moment my ovaries ached less and less the more I address the problems in my relationship, I haven’t been able to let this deep truth go unnoticed. So just as much as plants, fruits and supplements are part of my healing plan, so are therapy, health/business coaching, working to heal ancestral wounds, alcohol recovery meetings and the like, must be part of my healing plan as well.

 

Source: When IBS is Endometriosis of the Bowel

 

Endometriosis Aggravators

There is a lot of information out there floating around about endometriosis. You may have heard that it’s the body attacking itself or that brith control is the best remedy.

What you may not know is that have heard is what is causing endometriosis and how exactly to being your path toward healing. It begins with looking at some of our favorite products and places to live work and play.

The toxins I’m talking about are known to aggravate the EBV living inside the reproductive system. In fact, endometriosis isn’t the only ailment with toxic buildup as the culprit. Women with cysts and other reproductive problems can blame a toxic load in the reproductive system caused by products and environment.

Here’s a general list of products to check on EWG.ORG (there are two different pages for cleaning products and personal products), and see where they rate on the toxicity scale-1 being the lowest rate of toxicity and 10 being the highest:

  • Laundry Detergent
  • Soap, body and hand
  • Shampoo
  • Dish soap
  • Lotions
  • Shampoo, conditioners
  • Other hair products like hairspray, moose, etc.
  • Cosmetics-lipstick, mascara,
  • Carpet cleaners
  • Glade plug-ins and other air fresheners
  • Heavily sprayed areas like parks and golf courses or chlorine-filled pools-I basically grew up on a golf course and spent a few years working as a beverage cart salesperson and can’t help but wonder the affects the chemicals had on my hormones
  • Sunscreen
  • Perfumes, body sprays, etc.
  • ‘Scented’ anything-from garbage bags to tissues try to avoid scented products even if they are organic. If they are scented there’s a big chance there’s something toxic in it unless the natural ingredients such as essential oils are listed
  • Toilet paper
  • Tampons, pads
  • Clothing-regularly doused in formaldehyde
  • Bed linens, mattresses, towels,
  • Electronics-phones, lap tops, computers, iPads, etc.
  • Cooking and baking dishes, pots, pans-solvents
  • Plastics in your kitchen like from Tupperware and other containers that possibly contain BPA
  • Paint
  • Carpet cleaners

Toxic environments are necessary to avoid as well if possible, if we want to find some healing from out symptoms. If you are eating well, supplementing properly and still wondering why you are having symptoms check to see if you are living, working or spending any long amount of time in any of these places:

  • Golf course-these are heavily sprayed with pesticides to keep the grass green-
  • City Parks/Playgrounds-Also heavily sprayed with pesticides
  • Chlorinated Pools-I think we can all see how swimming around in chlorine can’t be good for us. Luckily, now there are a lot of living pools in communities to visit where the water isn’t chlorinated
  • Having a job as a groundskeeper, housekeep or any other jobs site where toxic chemical, products or materials are prominent and being used
  • Homes currently cleaned with carpet cleaner
  • Freshly painted homes, apartments or buildings
  • Homes, apartments, buildings and workspaces with mold 

It may seem unfair that we have to do so much work to avoid certain products, swap out for cleaner ones and worry about the consequences of the frequency of our use.It seems unfair because it is unfair especially since big corporations profit off of us getting sick and continuing the use of their products for the low prices and frankly, just because we’re use to it.

The bright side of this, as I’m really trying to see lately, is that I am appreciative to have these experiences to now know the truth and to be able to share them with you so that you can make your own choices and possibly save you or a loved one a trip to the doctors or worse, an illness exacerbated by something as innocent as the liquid you use to clean your clothes.

So what can we do? For one, don’t be down and out about the present state of toxic products, environments in the U.S. We have the power to vote with our dollar and support the companies, products and DIY tips that support non-toxic living. We can avoid toxic products and find better ones.

We can ask to become aware of the instances in our lives when we can learn a lesson that will better serve us in the future. For me, it was an experience I had that provided the opportunity to see what I had learned and read put into action. A few months ago, I was in a room with a Glade plug in and almost immediately I could feel pain in my groin and head.  I was amazed by how quickly it affected me. I’ve also heard of people finding out their local park spraying schedules and avoiding on the parks and playgrounds on those days.

So what if we have made the switch from toxic to clean, what about the years of toxicity our livers encountered? Consider a safe cleanse such as Medical Medium’s Liver Detox Cleanse which can be found in his book Liver Rescue. Today is the first day of the cleanse for me to jumpstart getting rid of my own toxic load from years of using these products so I can fight the EBV in my reproductive tract head on.

Making the switch from toxic products doesn’t have to be work. Have some fun with it! Start with seeing how the products in your cabinet rate over at EWG.ORG and follow along my Instagram journey for inspiration.

Do you have any experience with toxic products/environments affecting your health? 

Do you have any clean products that you use and love? Or ideas for avoiding toxic environments?

Please share! 🙂

Information from Medical Medium

Endometriosis and the End of Relationships

Endometriosis is as much a disease of the ovaries as it can be a disease of relationships. The pain that appears imaginary to the other people in your life leaves you debilitated most times, depressed and depleted. When friends and loved ones don’t know what to say or do, or don’t understand the chronic illness, or worse, don’t believe that it exists, it can be extremely painful and can leave you feeling depressed and isolated.

It’s easy to look back on my life and see the many times when I was experiencing what I didn’t realize were symptoms of endometriosis and was unable to express what it was, how I was feeling and what I was going through. I have only now just started to become aware of the social and mental ramifications of this chronic illness.

Outings and invitations to events with everyone wondering why you’re always absent. Sure, some of it was me being my introvert self but many times in my life I brushed off the anxiety and depression I was feeling as normal. Eventually, you stop being asked to hang out, get bugged by your partner for not ‘being social enough’ and fall into a deeper depression. It can be frustrating and emotionally exhausting.

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Healing on a hike with my Aunt Loretta and my Mom’s dog=endometriosis support 

It can be devastating to watch your relationships with other people change. It’s sometimes difficult for people to be compassionate about endometriosis because no one can’t see it, you may not even look sick yet it can still have a huge impact on your health and how you feel physically and mentally in your daily life. After all, endometriosis is caused by an imbalance of hormones and when your hormones are out of whack it affects your mood and ability to cope a lot of the time.

Symptoms like pelvic pain, painful urination, pain during sex, lowered immune defenses, lower back pain, intestinal pain, mood swings, anxiety, depression, isolation, blood clotting, extremely painful periods, heavy periods, bowel changes-lose stools and excessive diarrhea, bloating and infertility, affect the other people in your life too. Watching someone you love go through something like this can also leave you feeling powerless and confused as how to help them and move forward. That’s why sometimes people leave your life or stay in it and remain unsupportive. My advice is that if the people in your life are giving you a hard time or not supporting your for what you’re going through, try to be around them less.

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The people in your life who really want to be in it and love you will do their own research into endometriosis, ask questions and make sure you’re comfortable in certain situations like love-making (something that can be quite painful for women with endo), or at restaurants because they know certain foods can cause inflammation, or in social situations where anxiety can be high.

One of the most difficult things about finding out I have endometriosis was to be accused of using endometriosis as an excuse to be lazy because many times the symptoms leave you inactive a lot of the time. It was even more frustrating for me because just as I found out what was going on with me and felt I got my chance at fixing it, some of my most cherished relationships ended. Here I was thinking that I was finally on the road toward healing and in turn healing my relationships, but that just wasn’t so.

At first this was devastating for me but over time I’ve come to realize that I don’t need anyone to understand me but me. Only I truly know what I’ve been going through over the years and if someone else doesn’t understand that, it’s OK. I don’t need them in my life. The right people will be understanding and gentle about what you’re going through. If you’re like me and have lost people after finding out you had endometriosis, try to see it as a positive thing and put the focus toward your own healing. The people who have fallen along the wayside are the unfortunate folks who lack compassion and aren’t deserving of being in your life.

You may not be surprised to learn that holistic healers see imbalanced mothering to be the emotional root cause of endometriosis. Perhaps a woman who is not giving to herself as she is to others. One who puts everyone else before her, her children, a partner and their family, a career, friends, co-workers, clients- leaving very little self care and self love for herself, concepts only now beginning to surface in American society and become recognized as vital to mental health and well being.

When it comes to those who you surround yourself with be choosey. More than ever you need people in your life who can be positive cheerleaders. People who love and support you no matter what. If you don’t have that right now don’t worry or think too much on it, be joyful and happy and receiving of the exact love and support you desire and it will surely find its way to you. Always remember, it’s better to be alone, even in your illness, than to be surrounded by negative, unsupportive people.

I’m lucky that I became aware of the unsupportive people early on in my diagnosis and that cleared the way for me to be able to see who is there. Who does care. I’m making sure to surround myself with them more. Have more conversations with them and most importantly, give back to them as they do to me. Illness or not, compassion and caring is a two-way street. Nourishing and cherishing these relationships is part of my healing because when I’m putting focus on the people who treat me well and support me and I do the same back, I’m bringing more of that into my life (self love in action!)

On the contrast, it’s important not to become defined by this chronic illness. For a while I began following all the endometriosis accounts I could, looking for support groups and spending all of my time researching and learning about the subject (this is how I cope). And while this can be great for emotional support, learning and healing, it can also be a rabbit hole. I began seeing a lot of ‘Debbie-downer’ stuff in my feed about the illness, what a bummer it was and worse, questions about supporting a life of pain and how to live with it with questions like, ‘I’m just out of college, what are the best jobs to apply for when you have endo because I can’t move around/do much?’

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Seeing stuff like this breaks my heart because I know that for most women there are answers out there to help them live a life with endometriosis that isn’t so debilitating. So I stopped following accounts that weren’t about solutions and too much about complaining. Don’t get me wrong, endometriosis can be painful as a motherfucker and a real life ruiner but I just can buy into the negativity anymore and really believe that we as a society can get ahold of this illness that affects 1 in 10 women. I’ve already proven this in with my own body. I’m not cured by any means and my hormones still need some serious balancing but I’m working on it and some months I go without any pain whatsoever which is a huge improvement for me.

Another thing that made me realize my role in this whole things was a section in a Chakras book I’d gotten a long time ago. For one reason or another I picked it up recently and turned to the section about the sacral chakra which happens to lie in the reproductive area. Many believe that whatever emotional issues lie in the sacral chakra are related to the diseases there such as endometriosis.

One of the themes of the sacral chakra is relationships. As I read the material I began to understand why my role may have played in my illness as well. Consider the following from The Chakra Bible; 

“The wholeness in the second Chakra is concerned with our ability to give and receive love-knowing that we are lovable and loved. These basic human emotions establish a positive identity for us at a deep core level of our being. When we know that we can give and receive love unconditionally, we can give emotional support to others again without condition. This Chakra is therefore also about friendship-our ability to relate to others on a deeper-than-everyday level. How do you see your friendships?”

The realization that hit me after reading this could be related to a light bulb, a shock, a hurricane or bomb going off. I was that stunted by the material, that knowing and aware that I knew it pertained to me. For as long as I can remember I’ve held my love for only those I’ve felt deserving of it. Those earning and willing to give what I expected in return. If I’ve ever gotten the slightest whiff of disloyalty, disagreement, dishonor, rude or mean demeanor or distrust, I cut off all loving flow and energy leaving me. I withhold it like a prize to the best in show. There is some good that comes of this-protection, awareness, honor and pride. But mostly it just feels lousy for the person trying to protect themselves. Withholding love, compassion and forgiveness from others will only cause you more pain.

I couldn’t ignore this new (to me) information that I’d related to my illness and what  I once saw as my failed relationships. Now I’m more aware of others’ roles in my illness as well as my own. I can take ownership of my failures and mistakes and also be aware of those who don’t hold the compassion it takes to have a special relationship with a special person like myself.

There is still so much more for me to learn and so much growth to be had. And here I am, arms open, willing, scared but confident that the right people will find me and I will find them in return. I know because it’s already happening…

Have your relationships changed since being diagnosed with endometriosis or another ailment affecting the female reproductive system? I would love to hear from you! 

*Please be aware that it’s a huge mistake to think that reading one blog or talking to one woman about her experience defines the entirety of the illness. If you want to know more, research, ask questions and know that not all endo sufferers are the same! 🙂

 

 

My First Period

When I look back on that day in middle school when I had my period for the first time, I mostly remember one thing–how terrified I was. On the bus on the way home I could feel that something was happening down there and I had the terrifying thought that I had started my period but couldn’t check until I got home. It was still another excruciating couple of blocks before I got home. I walked briskly home leaving my sister behind me in the dust, sweating through my maroon t-shirt to get home. It’s funny, I can’t remember what I ate for lunch last Tuesday but I can remember that I was wearing that maroon t-shirt. Maybe because I remember the irony I’d noticed later looking down at my once fresh, new and pristine undies that were now stained the color of my shirt.

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Me around the time I started my period in my maroon shirt. This was a total coincidence that I found a picture of me in this shirt after I wrote this blog. Or was it….

When my dread was confirmed I locked myself in the bathroom for a bit trying to figure out what to do. I knew one thing, I wasn’t going to tell many people. I was embarrassed, nervous and going through an emotional upheaval based on what little I already knew about what the appearance of this blood meant from family members, friends and the media. Not only did I not emotionally feel good, I felt physically bloated and had terrible cramps.

There are so many things I know now that I wish I knew then. The most important being that menstruating is a beautiful, natural thing that should be celebrated and that it should be known that with this monthly menstruation comes a message from your body about what is going on with your health. Something important I’ve learned through school, research, and some wonderful books on the female body, is that your body is always working for you and pain is a message from our bodies to take better care of ourselves and adopt self care habits that will ensure we are a healthy young women who would grow into a healthy adults.

When it comes to menstruating, statistically speaking, there are some women who are more prone to heavier, more irregular periods, PMS and painful menstruation than others. I believe it’s important to know where you lie on this spectrum as it helps to pinpoint what will work for you specifically for your individual symptoms whether it be affirmations and/or therapy for the emotional aspect of your ailment or specific foods and/or supplementation for the physical…

  • Women who are children of alcoholic mothers *Mother Daughter Wisdom
  • Women who have endured some form of sexual abuse *Mother Daughter Wisdom
  • Women who have a history of negative association with menstruating
  • Women with certain lifestyle and eating habits– For instance, dairy in all forms has been proven to be harmful for cysts *Mother Daughter Wisdom
  • Women who have a history of cysts, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome, multiple cysts), and endometriosis
  • Women who have lost themselves to their families, careers or illness and have lost their creative drive *Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

With every change in life there are of course many ways to look at the situation, to define and perceive it and as I said earlier, your environment can affect what you think about the subject. Here are some false things I grew up believing about periods..

  • It was going to be painful no matter what- It’s all I ever heard from family and friends and saw in the media about periods. Also…..
  • I had a ‘family history’ of heavy periods so I was doomed and serious menstrual symptoms that my Mom believed were sure to follow me throughout my life. My Mom would  apologize profusely every time my sister or I went through our ‘monthly pain’ acknowledging that it was common on her side of the family. Which may be true for many people but I am living proof that you can change the destiny of your genes.
  • Having your period was something to be ashamed of and embarrassed about-There are many places this belief may have come for me but most notably I think would be the fact that it was, and still is in many cases, the societal norm to not discuss this topic or discuss it in private. It’s not like this for every family, every group of friends or with all men in one’s life but a woman can still associate her period as something negative. The media has defined periods in a generally negative light as men say things like ‘watch out she’s on the rag’ or they blame a woman’s strong emotion’s or bitchiness on her period. While it’s true that hormones around this times cause us to draw inward and evaluate, it’s certainly not true that women are always bitchy during this time. Maybe if we were given some alone time and a break by fellow women and by strong men and we were taught to work on balancing our hormones, we would get through our cycles with much more ease.
  • Feminine products were gross and difficult to useI’m not sure if I created this fear on my own but seeing the many ‘scented’ pads and tampons surely played a part in making me feel like I needed these perfumed, and it turns out, toxic, feminine products to cover up any gross smells. I can’t help but wonder if this caused that shame I felt about this part of my life.
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Here the ad implies that having your period is a secret that needs to be kept and it’s a woman’s responsibility to keep it and keep herself clean and sexy.

Because of my fears and beliefs surrounding menstruation I proceeded to hide that I had begun my period even from my it from my best friend at the time until she ‘started’ too. And it wasn’t just me that was ashamed of having my period that, shame was everywhere I looked, on pad and tampon packaging, the way they made sure to scent everything so we didn’t smell bad, it was in their ads on TV in the faces of the embarrassed women struggling to get through their day with the dreaded curse. It the was the boys at school and the men on television who would be disgusted by the topic only commenting with the same familiar, stale joke, “Watch out for, (insert menstruating women’s name here), it must be her time of the month.”

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Midol ad from the 70s that pretty much sums up the pressure women feel to be prefect and the ignorance surrounding menstruation.

 

Outside of the men I saw portrayed in the media and in real life there were other women as well, that held judgements, strong judgements about menstruation. I remember another instance in middle school when an older female student asked fellow classmates in the bathroom if they had a tampon because she had unexpectedly started her period. When I, the only girl to offer help, reached into my backpack and offered her a pad, she laughed.

“I haven’t used one of these in forever.”

I felt mortified for not having a tampon even though at the time I wasn’t really good at using them and they were a lot more uncomfortable for me and as it turns out, toxic for everyone. After this experience I felt the social pressure to use tampons as I didn’t want to stand out and eventually they became my regular form of coverage along with a pad for extra protection because my periods were so heavy.

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This French Tampax ad, “I’m like a fish under water,” pretty much says it all.

My first impression of menstruating isn’t uncommon as women around the world hold stories of discomfort surrounding menstruating. How could it be though, that something so human something that is the very essence of creation and life, is such an untouched, unspoken subject? Menstruation is the reason you and I are here, the root of creativity, where ideas are born and achieved.

Over the years I’ve adopted some tricks that have helped me through what I learned to believe was a difficult time of the month. You women know what I mean- large bottles of pain killers, extra thick pads, overnight pads, daytime pads and tampons for light days, regular days, heavy days, extra heavy days, chocolate usually in the form of candy bars, my stretchiest pants and the lest amount of activity possible.

But now as I’ve changed my eating, and in turn, some of my lifestyle habits, many of my period tricks have evolved into more holistic practices that are outside the realm of societal prejudices toward periods. For instance, I don’t have a big bottle of pain killers anymore. It’s not that I don’t still have some painful periods days, it’s just that my diet and lifestyle changes have significantly helped with the pain and I’ve found more natural ways to ease it.

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This ad depicts what it’s like as a young woman having her period around young men and the fact that we aren’t supposed to discuss it with them and that they shouldn’t or wouldn’t want to know. 

My cravings have also changed. I still crave chocolate but not the heavily processed kind anymore and not in the form of milk chocolate which has dairy and loads of processed sugar both which are bad for cramps. These days I try to stick to raw cacao, (look for at least 70% cacao on your chocolate packages), as much as possible to put drinks, shakes and ‘nice cream’ or just to eat on its own. I’ve also learned that my chocolate cravings may stem from low magnesium  during mensus so I’m sure to check my levels before diving into too much chocolate. Sometimes having that knowledge is enough to let the craving pass.

As far as the rest goes, some habits die hard, I still love to put on stretchy pants, get on the couch with some treats and do nothing. And that’s OK. It’s actually recommended that your activities are low-impact during menstruation. I think this important fact has gotten lost in the beliefs we have surrounding menstruation.

Some people think that less activity during this time is just lazy and women are using it as an excuse. Other cultures won’t dare let a woman play a sport or be involved in certain community events because of the belief that women are unclean during this time and may negatively affect ceremonies, etc. If you think think ads like these and beliefs like these are old, consoder these excerpts from an article called “Around the World in 28 Periods” written in 2016.


“In Afghanistan during menstruation, women avoid washing their vaginas because they are told it can lead to infertility. Compounding the issue is the lack of access to clean pads. A single menstrual pad costs $4 USD in Afghanistan. Sixty-two percent of Afghani schoolgirls report using strips of torn clothing, and many hold off on washing them until nightfall to keep it a secret.”

“School girls in Bolivia can often be found carrying around used menstrual pads in their backpacks all day because they are told that menstrual blood is so dangerous it can cause diseases like cancer if it’s mixed in with other trash.”

“I got my period at 12 in Barbados. The women there use pads, and if you’re in a stall, you can smell when a woman in the next stall is using them. Back in Barbados, women didn’t really wear tampons, or at least they didn’t mention it much if they did. Women wearing tampons were seen as not virgins, and slutty. One times my cousin put a tampon in a cup of water and showed me how it expanded, saying the same would happen if I put one in. I was so freaked out!”

“The first time I tried a tampon was for a Rihanna concert. I was wearing a white skirt, and my blood flow was really heavy. I didn’t find out until after the concert that I had leaked all throughout the back of my skirt. My boyfriend came to pick me up and was like, ‘You’re bleeding all over yourself!’ He was such a jerk. We broke up.”

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This ad shows the misinformation there is surrounding the use tampons and further depicts the worry, guilt and confusion women have surrounding menstuation. 

“I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but came to Toronto, Canada, in the early 90s with my dad. When I decided to come back to Brazil, it was to dig deeper into my roots..But it’s so hard finding natural products here. you would think Brazil, being so enriched with nature, would start evoking better and healthier ways of taking care of what we put into our bodies. Recently I found what they call a Diva Cup here in Brazil. There are still not enough people aware of it; they think, ‘this is a hippie thing.'”

“In Chinese culture, women’s sexuality is not frowned upon necessarily, but it’s not talked about. I remember when I was young and moved to Canada from Hong Kong, I would see pad and tampon ads just plastered around. If you were back in Hong Kong, it wouldn’t be like that.”

As you can see, if you felt alone in your period shame you are not alone. Obviously some cultures and areas develop more shame surrounding menstruation than others but it paints a pretty general picture about how we handle the subject.

The habits that I have adopted  that have helped me to physically better the symptoms of my menstruation as well as to emotionally change my beliefs surrounding menstruating have truly been a game changer for me. Here are some things that I have found to relieve my menstrual symptoms as well as some things I avoid during this truly magical, maddening time of the month.

No-Nos

  1. Caffeine– Caffeine can worsen cramps during this time of the month because it restricts blood flow. I try having less caffeine in my diet during this week as well as the week prior to my period.
  2. Dairy-Avoiding dairy before, during and truthfully, most of the time, has helped my menstrual cycles tenfold. For more info on what may be the cause check here.
  3. AlcoholAlcohol temporarily increases progesterone and estrogen levels and stresses the liver which at this time of month is trying to flush out excess estrogen so it’s best to avoid it in the time leading up to your period and during your period so you don’t overwork it.
  4. Heavily Fried Foods-During this time of the month for women, there is surprisingly an even more hushed topic when it comes to our periods and that’s something else that happens to women, which can be symptoms similar to the flu. In other words, upset stomach and diarrhea. Avoiding fried foods can help with these symptoms.
  5. Avoiding/Lessening Contact with Men and Women Who Aren’t Supportive of these changes-Eliminating people in my life who joke about and/or don’t understand women’s bodies and have no intention of learning about them have been asked to exit stage left. It seems drastic but but having anyone in your life who isn’t willing to understand what you go through as a female isn’t worth having around. Someone who won’t pick up some extra thick pads for you at the store because they are embarrassed, someone who mocks you about your blood and cramps, these are people who are uncomfortable about the subject which is natural considering our cultural view about menstruation and can be mostly easily forgiven. But if someone continues to berate the process of femininity because they are uncomfortable with it, over time, you will come to realize that it’s not your job to be their teacher. Move on.

Do It!

  1. Eat or Drink your Greens-Spinach, kale-any type of green will do and in any form you like. If it needs to be quick and easy, throw them in a smoothie. I try to have them throughout the day, a little with each meal. Spinach in particular helps bloat so consider putting that in a juice, smoothie or juice to start your day.
  2. WaterPlenty of water helps keep blood flow regular and the body hydrated during this time. Having water with lemon is even better as it helps pass toxins through the liver & reduces symptoms related to menstruation.
  3. Eat REAL Chocolate and take a Magnesium supplement-Go ahead and give in to the craving, just do it in a way that won’t leave you feeling more bloated or even pounds heavier in the long rung. Try looking for dark chocolate that is at least 70% raw cacao (50 or above is good too if you can’t find 70%).
  4. Eat Beets-Great source of iron which is lost during this time through menstruation.
  5. Try Maca-Introduducing this dried root veggies into your diet may help with menstrual cramps and bloating.
  6. Nettle Leaf-You can get this dried or in liquid form and drink it to help ease cramps and bloating.
  7. Muellin Leaf- I use this in liquid form to help relief cramps and bloating.
  8. Acupuncture-All of my research on heavy periods has led me to try acupuncture for helping with relieving cramping, bloating and for the release of stagnant blood flow which helps you to have better periods.
  9. Eat More Sea Veggies-Another great source of iron to replenish you during this time.
  10. Take a Time Out-Since the menstrual cycle isn’t the only cycle we go through in a month, (yes, surprise if you didn’t know that we have four cycles throughout the month and menstruation is only one of them), it makes sense to rest during this time. Consider this excerpt from an article by Alissa Vitti author of Woman Code; “While bleeding women usually fall into 1 of 2 categories: those who need to curl up in a ball on the first day of their periods and those who feel an energy surge. Either way, we recommend giving your body rest during this phase and engaging in gentle movement if anything at all. Even if you feel a rush of energy, it’s not always the best to expend it right away – if you keep the energy contained at the beginning of your cycle, it will better serve you throughout the rest of the month.   Examples: stretching in bed, light yoga, walking.” For more info please check out Woman Code the book and visit floliving for all the info and stats that I can’t fit in this post. Her information is vital to women’s health in 2018 and the sooner we start our journey the better. Here’s a good Period Workout with some other great ideas for helping cramping and bloating.
  11. Reduce Stress-More easily said than done but for me, this was huge. Changing my environment, the people I surround myself with, (or if you can’t at least less contact), reducing stressful situations concerning work, family, etc. has played a huge role in my recovery.
  12. Join 2018 and Try out the New Products That Are Available to Us- As women living in 2018 today we are so lucky to have so many options for period help and period relief that aren’t toxic for us. Consider trying out some of these products created to make menstruation more of a celebration than a hassle.                          -*One thing to try is THINX, a new product promised to help ease period woes has caught my attention. This new period-proof underwear is said to save you from leaks allowing women to feel more comfortable and relaxed by having a backup plan. I haven’t tried them yet but reviewers for the undies say they can serve as complete coverage on light days and one reviewer even wore it as a bathing suit. Sign me up! Get yours at: https://www.shethinx.com                                                   *Luna Pads-Reusable pads that can be easily attached to your undies and are             washable! What a dream 🙂 https://lunapads.com/
  13. Affirmations, positives thoughts and words surrounding your menstruation-No matter how old you are, looking upon this time of month in a negative way and having negative thoughts surrounding your menstruation will negatively affect your experience just like with anything. A great affirmation that I got from Louise Hay is, ‘I love being female. I love my vagina and I embrace my femininity.’ 
  14. Hot Water Bottle-A great way to lessen cramping symptoms is using a hot water bottle. Just put hot water into a plastic bottle, wrap a pillowcase around it and place it on your lower belly for 15 to 20 minutes. It works great and is safe to fall asleep with at night compared to a heating pad.
  15. Celebrating you period especially a young women’s first one in order to set the tone for the way she looks at her menstruation in the futureTaking the first day of your period to treat yourself to some self care is a wonderful way to ease into your menstruation and to kickstart it in a positive way. Taking Dr. Christianne Northrup’s tips on celebrating a young women’s start of menstruation is also a great way to set a positive tone for her outlook on it in the future.

I’ve come a long way from that first day 22 years ago when I started my period on the on the city bus. It hasn’t been the smoothest of paths to get here but my hope is that from what I’ve learned and all there is to share about the subject that we as a country and a world, come to a deeper understanding of menstruation and how it truly is the root to all life.

What have you found helpful or hurtful to your period?

Do you think society impacted how you see menstruation?

Resources:

Woman Code by Alissa Vitti (floliving.com)

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr. Christianne Northrup

Mother Daughter Wisdom by Dr. Christainne Northrup

Nicole Jardim

Eli Rezkallah has done something amazing, he’s re-made sexist ads. Check it out for some redemption.

 

 

 

 

Adapting to Meditation-30 Days of Meditation

Meditation is something that has been recommended to me and I’ve ignored it for many years. Whether someone said it helped with anxiety or sleep, I nodded like I’d give it a try and blew it off as a practice that would work for other people but not me. I didn’t really think I needed it. I had other things I did to relax. But somehow the idea of meditation began following me everywhere I was-I was surrounded with more advice everyday from everywhere, to meditate with a growing list of benefits.

At this point, I couldn’t ignore the advice any longer. But how was I going to make this stick? It was nice that I wanted to do it but nothing had changed really, the same old challenges still stood in my way-inability to concentrate, my twitching and eye fluttering, judgement about how I look doing it and truthfully, I still had doubts that it would really work for me.

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Me on day 3 of my 30-day meditation practice using a palo santo stick to clear the energies before my practice. 

Cue the 30 day meditate challenge I created for myself to mediate everyday for 30 days. Nothing fancy, no real rules just meditate, even just for a few minutes, each day and see what results it brings. I was inspired by an Instagrammer I follow, Lee From America who made it one of her monthly  intentions to meditate for the next thirty days. Sharing my promise to myself to meditate is what helps me stay accountable and actually do it. It also helps to create community and hopefully you’ll join me in the challenge too.

To get you inspired here are some things that meditation can help with;

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep
  • Relationship problems
  • Stress
  • Addiction
  • Hormone imbalances
  • HPA-axis dysfunction (stress related health issue)
  • Creativity
  • Focus and concentration throughout the rest of the day
  • Anger, rage
  • Symptoms of endometriosis
  • Parenting
  • Children with behavioral problems (but really any kids can benefit and the younger you start them the better)

and more….

There are no rules to meditation. Here are some places to consider meditating to take the stress out of it is you don’t think you have time…

  • In your car-whether you’re just outside of your house or work or the grocery store, if you know this is going to be your only alone time for the day, consider meditating.
  • In the bathroom-if you alone time is typically during your showers in the morning, use this time to meditate. Make a comfy cushion of towels on the floor and wear your robe if you have one.
  • In a room with a divider, curtain or sign that says you need privacy-if you truly can’t get alone to mediate, don’t let that stop you either. I’m currently in a very small space and my boyfriend and I use a divider
  • Backyard, porch or garden-it may be hard this time of year but if you can get outside do, it will intensify your meditation.

Resources….

Gabrielle Bernstein- hers are free and simple and the ones I tend to use the most.

Bexlife-she’s a Mom to like, five kids so if she can set aside 4 minutes to meditate, so can you.

Calm app-It’s an application that you can get on your phone or other device like an iPad and use quite simply. There are lots of prompts and the voice is calming.

 

Do you have a meditation practice that you use and love? Please share!