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How to Get Pregnant Even When You’ve Tried Everything: The Top 15 Reasons for Unexplained Infertility and What to Do to Fix Them Fast

BY A’NDREA REITER

photo: kaylee garrett
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External Factors: The Outside Influences that Mess with Your Fertility Are you wondering how to get pregnant with unexplained infertility? Let’s talk about the fifteen external factors that could be affecting your fertility. These are outside factors that might not immediately seem related to your fertility but can be huge contributing factors. Obviously, not everyone who has these factors deals with infertility, but this is where the mindset and the external factor together can block fertility.
Not all fifteen will apply to you, but it’s very likely that, as we elaborate on each factor, one you didn’t think was an issue might resonate. Also, notice if something other than these fifteen possible causes of infertility in women comes up for you. I’m going to bring your awareness to things that can be affecting your fertility and ways to diminish or even eliminate these factors to boost fertility. 1. Stressful Job While most people think their job is stressful, I’m talking mainly about teachers, nurses, caregivers, and CEOs—those responsible for groups or teams of people. You get to work early, stay late, and give it your all. You’re great at your job. But, here’s the problem: Your brain/ego’s main function is to keep you alive. The amygdalae in your brain are two almond-shaped groups of nuclei located in the temporal lobes. They play a primary role in memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. This is where aggression, addiction, anxiety, PTSD, and, most importantly, fear reside. The amygdalae are responsible for the primal fight-or-flight reflex. This response is awesome when you’re being chased by wolves, but not so much when you’re trying something new. Your brain means well and wants to keep you safe, but sometimes it’s a pain in the ass. While we don’t live in a world where we need to run from saber-toothed tigers anymore, our brain is still triggered by stressors that it perceives as a threat to our survival. When we have too many things going on and are spread too thin, it triggers a silent alarm in our body. That’s when things can start to go haywire and this isn’t ideal if you are trying to increase fertility. The fight-or-flight response is part of the sympathetic nervous system, which means it’s automatic; and it can be triggered on a low-grade level without our even realizing it sometimes. When you’re responsible for a lot of people’s health and wellbeings, such as a teacher, nurse, or caregiver, or you’re responsible for a team in a corporate situation, your time and energy are maxed out. So while you’re thinking “I want to have a baby,” your brain already feels as though it’s taking care of way too many people and says, “Why would we add another responsibility to our plate?” It literally can’t handle taking care of another human, and that can put the kibosh on the lady parts. When you’re in fight-or-flight mode, all unnecessary body systems slow or shut down. All available energy goes to the heart, brain, lungs, and legs (in case of flight). During a crisis, you don’t need your reproductive system to stay alive. This is especially prevalent among women in the “unexplained infertility” group. When the doctor can’t find anything wrong with you, this very thing could be happening. Though it may seem like only low-grade stress to you, it’s not to your body. This continual stress pattern, over a long period of time, is exhausting. Again, not everyone in these careers has fertility issues, but 95 percent of my clients are in these fields. There’s an undeniable correlation.
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So, what can we do about it? You might say, “Okay, great, but I can’t quit my job right now,” or “I love my job. Am I screwed?” Of course, not. Are you the get-there-early-and-leave-late, give-it-your-all type? While that’s admirable and will garner you perks at work, this push-to-the-limit attitude could actually be getting in the way of conceiving or, in other words, could be one reason for infertility. Your great work ethic is awesome, but unfortunately, it can mean you’re taking care of everyone else’s needs before your own. So your lovely brain, which wants to keep you alive, says, “Um, we’re already stretched way too thin and not taking care of ourselves as it is. And you want to add something to our plate? Are you insane?!” I’m certainly not advocating that you become a sloth and only move for food and sex, but we do want to look at ways you can slowly start conserving more energy. When your brain feels that you have more space in your life, the fight-or-flight response isn’t triggered as often, and it will feel that a baby is a plausible venture. Even though you, as an evolved human, want the baby and see all the positives, you are dealing with a primal, involuntary reaction in the brain that you cannot fool. So, our initial job is to create an environment where your brain feels safe to start this process. Consider it food for thought that, when most of my clients come to me for to ask help on how to deal with infertility and get pregnant fast, they also end up changing their career in some capacity. So, I invite you to inquire in a journal entry if you’re in the career you feel you’re meant to be in, or one you feel you’re obligated to be in. More and more, I’m seeing these two areas tied together, and sometimes, it can be the reason the baby hasn’t shown up yet. You’re supposed to get a handle on that first. When we want to have a baby so badly, we tend to skip over the areas where we need to do some work or make adjustments. But that work, ladies, is what helps you move toward the baby. These roadblocks being presented to you are not to be jumped over or gone around. You must move through them. They are likely to be among the spiritual causes of infertility, a big part of why your pregnancy hasn’t happened yet. In your career, you need confidence, drive, preparedness, and the feeling of being capable. More often than not, my clients tend to be in a job that is just that…a job. It’s a paycheck, or it gives them professional accolades, but it doesn’t feed their soul. I’ll ask them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’ve only had one person answer that it was what they were currently doing. On the surface that might not seem important, but I’m finding that we are being called to step into our purpose versus a career. When we are not in that purpose—the reason we are on the planet this time around—other things that we really want can be delayed. That delay is not your body failing you; it’s trying to give you time to find your purpose before you add another aspect to your life. I have my clients explore what they’d love to do for a living if their “stories” about why they couldn’t do it didn’t factor in. I joke that, if they want to be a mime in a park, we’ll find a way to make it happen. But. seriously, if you’re harboring a super-creative person buried under an overworked CPA, it could be a problem.
There’s nothing wrong with being a CPA if that’s your purpose, but if your soul longing isn’t being fed, it can manifest in your body. I’ll get more into chakras later in the article, but, for now, know that there are seven main wheels of energy in your body, going from the base of your spine to the top of your head. They all represent something different. When I’m reading people, the sacral chakra, located at your lower abdomen, represents creativity, relationships, and children. Your ovaries and uterus quite literally represent the point of creation. So, if you are in a job that’s not feeding your soul and your creativity, that chakra can be closed and can be considered as one of the spiritual causes of infertility. That means the creating children part shuts down as well. I’m not saying quit your job and draw landscapes on the sidewalk with chalk; but finding a way to feed your soul, whether it’s with something obviously creative (painting, drawing, dancing, photography) or something that just feeds your passion (getting a yoga teacher certification, making organic bath products, flipping houses) is a key component in how fast you move forward. Stepping out of the idea of being obligated to be in a job and into what were you put on the planet to do is so important. Here are some things you can implement now to overcome unexplained infertility and convince your brain there’s room for a baby:

+ If you usually stay late at work, commit to staying late only two days a week this month, then only one day a week the next month. If you can, wean over time to zero. But even if you stay at one, that’s a hell of a lot better than five.

+ Another way to reduce stress levels and increase fertility is to cut down your involvement in committees/organizations at work. Two of my clients who are teachers were involved in several extra things besides their teaching responsibilities, such as teachers union committee, AP classes, tutoring, department head, taking master’s classes, and club advisors. These are all admirable things, but they’re little things that add up to a lot of your energy. Again, if your brain feels overloaded with all that you have to do for so many other people, it believes that it literally can’t take on anything else. Can you find a place to back off on some of these responsibilities? Ask yourself, “If I had to choose between one of these extra things and my baby, would I still choose to be head of my union?” The mistake a lot of women make is thinking, “When I get pregnant I’ll cut back.” But the overload could be the very reason for infertility, so take that action now. Put out to the Universe that you’re making space for this munchkin to show up by looking for natural infertility treatments.

+ If you want to get pregnant fast, simply show the Universe that you’re energetically choosing the baby. Find ten minutes a day (and yes, you have it) to implement some sort of grounding practice. It’s all right if you’re not into yoga or meditation, though that’d be great. Having this daily practice, even if it’s for only a few minutes a day, starts to train the brain that you’re safe, you’re taking care of yourself, and it’s okay to allow this baby in.

You can do something as simple as:

+ taking a bath with essential oils. + sitting in the park or near a patch of grass on your lunch break and connecting to the earth is among the best spiritual things to do to get pregnant. + listening to soothing music with your hand on your belly, inviting in the baby’s energy, could promote natural fertility. + having a solo dance party in your living room to “Eye of the Tiger,” Lady Gaga, or whatever floats your fertility boat.

The idea is to get you into your body and out of your head. If your schedule is maxed out, you must find a way to create space so that your brain can feel like there’s room for this baby to come in.
2. Family Pressure Many of us, from the moment we’re married, are asked, “When are you having kids?” Parents are eager for a grandchild to spoil. We’re also so steeped in tradition as a society that it’s just what you do. You have a baby after you get married. We’re almost trained to ask that question. Although family and friends mean well, their comments can seem preachy, judgy, or just plain insensitive. When we’re dealing with unexplained fertility issues, we’re already feeling insecure, and the last thing our brain wants is to feel worse about the situation. Not only are we worrying about our own feelings, but we then take on that extra responsibility of being able to tell our friends and family some good news. We plug it into our belief system the idea that “we should be pregnant by now.” The pressure of multiple people counting on us gets painful. And every time we encounter those people, we start to dread the inevitable question. Part of what keeps this pressure going is that we don’t always want our family to know we’re having a hard time conceiving and think that we don’t need any form of help getting pregnant. Though I hope this will change in the near future, infertility has traditionally been a very private struggle. So we think that if we share our issues, our loved ones will judge us or offer unsolicited advice that can be unintentionally painful. On the flip side, if we don’t address their comments, it continues to fester in us and perpetuates the problem. Social situations that were once fun turn into a tedious, defensive chore. First of all, there’s no shame in this journey at all. And honestly, the more it’s talked about, the better. Fertility is one of the few taboo issues left. It used to be like that with cancer and PTSD, but now they’re openly talked about. Unfortunately, there is still shame around unexplained infertility because we feel our body is not doing what women’s bodies have done for millennia. We blame ourselves, and sometimes forget that we can ask for help in trying to get pregnant. Remember that one in six women struggles with infertility. It’s very likely that you know multiple women who’ve dealt with the same thing. Realizing that you are not defective is so important in this journey. Just because the check engine light comes on in the car doesn’t mean the car is a lemon. Addressing the issue removes the stigma. Many of us have that family member or friend who continually asks when we’re having kids. As I said, that can be energetically draining. You put on a brave face and swallow your frustration. Every family party and dinner out with friends where you have to do this gets stored in your body—the annoyance, the frustration, the stress, the shame, the fear. Under the umbrella of the Law of Attraction is the Law of Psychophysical Response, which says that for every stressful thought, there is a stressful reaction in the body. Studies show that when we relive stressful past experiences or even hypothetical future scenarios, our bodies actually react as though it’s happening now. Every time you tell someone about it or think about it, your body is stressing in real time and this is not good for you if want to get pregnant fast. It’s so interesting! Consider the effect that these thoughts have on your body each time someone asks you at work or the next baby shower, “So, when are you having kids?” The problem with this, besides feeling annoying and hurtful, is that it’s actually impacting your body. When your body is in even a low state of fight-or-flight, it’s enough for your reproductive system to slow or shut down. Think about the primal fight-or-flight response: You need your heart, brain, lungs, and feet (in case of flight) to get out of a stressful situation. The last thing you need is for your reproductive system to be fully functional. So if not for your own sanity, do the following exercise for your body and your future baby. We take on a lot of responsibility when we’re worried about letting family down. It’s hard enough to deal with how you feel. To take on someone else’s expectations can be really overwhelming. Perpetuating these stressful thoughts takes a toll on the body and this could contribute to unexplained infertility. The good news is that, according to the same law, for every positive thought you have, there is a corresponding response in your body. It’s important that we choose positive thoughts and surround ourselves with positive people for this reason. My challenge to you is to say something to them, not from defensiveness, anger, or fear but from a loving place. You, hopefully, understand that they just want the best for you. And because they aren’t going through it, they have no idea how it’s affecting you. All they know to say is “Just relax” and “It’s up to God.” Know that, infuriating as that is, it’s coming from a caring place. But, that doesn’t mean you should have to keep swallowing your feelings about their constant inquiries. Speaking to them once about it can save numerous times of them asking. While I totally agree that it’s none of their beeswax, it saves you a perpetual headache. Swallowing your frustration can squash your energy and ability to allow a baby in. So, in this case, giving them the brush off can be an effective infertility cure. A lot of times, that family member or friend has their own neurosis that they’re projecting onto you, and you’re absorbing it without even being aware of it. For example, before she was pregnant, one of my clients (who just gave birth to twins) was dealing with pretty severe anxiety. As we worked together, we saw that her mother was projecting all her fears onto her daughter. My client was subconsciously scared of being pregnant and of life in general. We did a lot of belief work, but, to summarize here, once she realized they were her mom’s fears and not hers, she was able to speak frankly to her mom and stop the IV of anxiety and get pregnant. Some people will casually bring up the subject not knowing that it’s been a struggle that you’re sensitive about. Not having gone through it, they can’t possibly know their nonchalant comments are actually coming across as insensitive. It could also be that friends and family members are just genuinely excited for you. They can’t wait to have a little munchkin to spoil. They know you’re going to be an awesome mom and can’t wait for this next phase of life to start for you. Whatever the case may be—and it may be all three in various areas of your life—there’s a way you can approach it that will bring about understanding versus hurt feelings on one or both sides. It’s likely that they don’t know they are doing anything that’s hurtful, so if you lash out, both sides are hurt. Then there’s no lasting understanding, because to them it will seem like your reaction is coming out of nowhere. Finding ways on how to deal with infertility properly can be hard already, so getting affected by the pressure that your loved ones are injecting in your life can only make things worse. On the flip side, you don’t want to constantly be defending your position to a pushy family member. Everyone’s got an opinion, and if yours doesn’t match Aunt Susie’s, it can be a little daunting. One of my clients wanted to take a more holistic route, while her mother was pushing every intervention known to man. It was mentally and energetically wearing on my client. So, we talked about finding a way to come from a loving but clear place about what her boundaries were. Try something to the effect of this: “________ , I understand that you mean well and are excited for me. I know you love me and want the best for me and/ or are just curious, so I need you to hear this. ________ and I are in the process of starting a family. I so appreciate your love and concern, but it stresses me out when people keep asking about our baby-making status. I’m really focusing on grounding and being peaceful and present right now. I love that you’re excited to be a ________ (grandparent, aunt, etc.). Just know that when there’s good news to report, you will be one of the first to hear. In the meantime, we are exploring all the avenues that feel right for us. Thanks for your support.” While it is understandable that it’s hard to find answers on how to overcome unexplained infertility, you don’t want to admonish them. They’re your loved ones and genuinely want to see you happy. They just don’t realize how their inquiries are affecting you. Thank them for their love and concern while being clear about what you need. Remember that they aren’t doing it to piss you off or make you feel less than. And by addressing them in this way, you can head off a lot of your own frustration. That’s honestly the most important thing. We want to get you into a safe, supported, stress-free environment as much as possible. And heading off well-meaning friends and family at the pass can save a lot of energy. 3. Partner’s Energy Is Holding Back These are considered some spiritual causes of infertility:

+ It may physically manifest as male infertility.

+ He’s getting cold feet about the amount of responsibility of having a child.

+ He hasn’t achieved what he wants in his career yet.

+ He’s got some subconscious family issues going on—parents never around or father left, etc.—and he hasn’t really dealt with it.

Sometimes, we get so gung-ho about having a baby that we can unintentionally miss our partner’s concerns and sweep them under the rug. But, it doesn’t solve anything and you just have a really big lump under your rug. It’s important to step out of your situation and see if any of these scenarios might apply to your partner. Even if you are willing to work with him, many husbands/partners are hesitant to consider non-medical alternatives—especially ones that have an energy component—so it can be hard to get them on board to move forward. And honestly, sometimes, it takes them seeing you making progress with this before they’ll ease in, but there are spiritual things to do to get pregnant and help your partner’s energy move forward without going all woo-woo on them and freaking them out. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Visualize your partner in front of you, tune in to their energy, and ask:

+ Are they in a career they..

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Hair Care for People Who Care about the Planet: Organic, Natural Hair Products that Actually Work

BY MEGHAN MCDONALD

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Have you been on the hunt for clean, natural hair care that actually works? Maybe you’ve tried a few natural brands and found that they really just don’t work the same as your traditional shampoo and conditioner. Or, perhaps you’ve found one that works but it’s pretty expensive and there’s only one store in your area that even carries it. Or, maybe your hair is fussy and needs extra moisture or volume and you’ve never found a natural option for that, so you’ve never made the switch. I’ve tried so many brands and products over the years, and I’m still on the hunt for the best natural shampoo and conditioner. It seems that hair care has been the final frontier of clean beauty for quite some time now. So, when a new brand of natural hair care products, Seed Phytonutrients, popped into my awareness I thought I’d give them try. The first thing I noticed about Seed was their packaging, as it looked highly sustainable. But the real questions on my mind were how well does this stuff work and how clean is it? Read on to find out the answers and my honest opinion about the brand. Effectiveness Rating: 5 Stars First, let’s talk about how well it works. For my hair type, I tried the Anti-Frizz Shampoo and Conditioner along with the Anti-Frizz Smoothing Cream because my hair is curly, yet fine, and I tend to have a lot of little strands that never seem to know where to be. As instructed, I used two pumps of the shampoo and massaged it into my hair. I noted the refreshing and pleasant scent right away, which is all natural rather than synthetic. It’s important to note that the shampoo doesn’t exactly foam in your hair like you might be used to—but that’s not a bad thing! Most shampoos foam because of a chemical foaming agent that’s added into the formula, so when you’re looking for a natural shampoo, no foam or low foam is a good sign of clean ingredients. Next, I tried the conditioner, which felt like a luscious and hydrating mix between my regular conditioner and a hair mask, yet still very lightweight. After a few minutes, I combed through my hair, which was feeling clean and hydrated, and I realized the process didn’t take nearly as long as it usually does, a definite plus in my book! Once I dried and styled my hair with the smoothing cream, I was actually surprised by how much more defined my curls looked, and there were a lot less of those stray strands along my part and throughout my locks. My hair also felt fresh with no sign of the product build up that usually accompanies natural products. Overall, I’m highly impressed with how well this product actually works to make my hair feel clean, moisturized, and well cared for. Of all the natural products I’ve tried over the years, Seed Phytonutrients is one of the best I’ve come across in terms of how effective it is. Ingredient Quality Rating: 4.5 Stars Now, let’s talk about the ingredient quality. To begin with, all of Seed Phytonutrients products are free of parabens, sulfates, gluten, phthalates and silicones. They are also vegan and never tested on animals. After digging into the brand a bit more and speaking with Brad Farrell, one of the masterminds behind it, we learned that Seed’s commitment to quality, integrity, and sustainability runs deep. Each product in Seed’s hair care collection, which recently launched online at Sephora and is available in Whole Foods, is formulated around a specific type of seed oil—like sunflower seed, raspberry seed or jojoba seed to name a few. Each seed is chosen for a specific quality or purpose like cleansing, moisturizing, volumizing, or anti-frizz. Because there’s a serious seed science behind their formulations, this stuff works. All of the seeds used in their formulation are certified organic, and they work very closely with independent, organic farmers throughout the U.S. to support organic agriculture and preserve seed diversity. This scores major points in my book! In addition, I learned that Seed Phytonutrients prides itself on transparency. All of their products are between 93% to 100% natural. A quick search of the brand’s ingredient list in EWG’s Skin Deep Database reveals that the vast majority of Seed’s ingredients are rated a 1 on their scale of 1 to 10, which means they have a very low toxicity rating and are not hazardous for human health. In addition, they only use natural fragrances in their products—nothing synthetic. All in all, compared to most traditional brands and even some of the “natural” ones you can find on the shelves at Whole Foods, Seed’s products are fairly clean. Sustainability Rating: 5 Stars In terms of sustainability, Seed Phytonutrients definitely earns major points in that category. This truly is “hair care for people who care” as their marketing suggests. Turns out, there’s less than a 10% chance that your plastic shampoo bottles are actually being recycled even when you throw them in the recycle bin, and Seed wanted to do something about that. As a result, their unconventional and innovative bottle has two layers. The outside of the bottle is made from recycled paper and cardboard that is designed in such a way to be shower safe (genius, right?). Inside the bottle is a liner made from 80% recycled plastic, which holds the liquid. By starting with recycled materials to begin with, their packaging uses over 60% less plastic than a regular shampoo bottle. Plus, it’s even more likely to get reused again since cardboard and paper have a 90% chance of actually being recycled when you sort these into your recycle bin. Perhaps the best part about Seed’s packaging is that every bottle contains a little package of heirloom seeds inside to further their mission of sustainability and preserving seed diversity. I just love that! Price Rating: 4.5 Stars When it comes to the cost of Seed Phytonutrients, it all depends on how you look at it. Yes, their line is considerably more expensive than the drug store shampoos I grew up on; however, compared with many salon products, Seed is actually pretty affordable for how well it works! And, when you consider that every time you buy it, you’re not only investing in clean and natural hair care but also supporting independent farms, organic agriculture, seed saving and biodiversity, as well as a demand trend toward more sustainable and eco-friendly packaging, that’s money well spent in my humble opinion. Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 Stars One of the things that Brad told me when I had a chance to talk with him about Seed Phytonutrients was, “We worked really hard to formulate effective products so customers wouldn’t have to sacrifice performance for clean, natural haircare.” After trying the products for myself, I can say that they are one of the very few brands I’ve found over the years that have actually achieved this balance. So much so, that it’s possible that my hunt for a clean and natural shampoo and conditioner that actually works might finally be over. To try Seed Phytonutrients for yourself, shop with them online at SeedPhytonutrients.com and Sephora.com or in store at Whole Foods. This article is a sponsored post written in collaboration with Seed Phytonutrients, whose products and ethos comply with Conscious Lifestyle Magazine’s stringent quality and integrity guidelines.
About The Author Meghan McDonald is the co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine. She holds a Masters degree in social psychology and has conducted award-winning research into the nature of human social behavior. Meghan loves exploring exotic places worldwide and sharing about all things conscious, healthy, and whole.

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The Miracle Mushroom: The 10 Most Impressive Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane For Brain and Body

BY NOAH BERMAN & JUSTIN FAERMAN

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Most of us would love to be smarter, happier and healthier. And while there are many things needed to accomplish that, the research emerging around the highly medicinal Lion’s Mane mushroom is showing that it actually could be a big part of the puzzle. Revered in many ancient cultures and used medicinally for thousands of years, this powerhouse fungi can do everything from protect your brain against cognitive decline, boost memory, support immunity, reduce anxiety, boost mood and enhance a sense of focus throughout your day, among many other things.
Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) grows abundantly throughout North America, Europe and Asia. While native to all four continents, it has been only recently used amongst Western culture, although its value has been widely known and understood throughout Asia in regions like China and Japan for millennia. The mushroom physically looks like the mane of lion—long, white and shaggy—with rich tentacle-like dreadlocks of mushroom wisdom bursting out from all sides. It resembles spongy neuronal tissue, just like that of the brain (often in nature plants very conveniently provide visual cues to the things they are good for). It generally grows on harder surfaces rich in plant cellulose, namely trees in wooded areas. Lion’s Mane benefits have been studied fairly extensively in animal models and more recently in clinical trials with humans. While Lion’s Mane has revealed itself as a solution for various health concerns, this mushroom has rapidly grown a reputation for its brain-health benefits and mood- and cognitive-boosting properties. While there are more studies needed in humans to truly establish this as one of the great medicinal herbs of all time, there has been fairly extensive research in animal models that are showing some promising results. However, because of its remarkable safety, its use has grown widely in recent years amongst biohackers and wellness seekers, with rave reviews across the board and more research slated to be published on the way. So what exactly is so special about this superstar mushroom? Read on to find out. 1. Protects and Regenerates the Brain and Nervous System Lion’s Mane is truly one of a kind. There is no other herb or mushroom that’s been found in nature that seems to have the same effect on stimulating the production of nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). [1,2] These are two remarkable compounds that essentially stimulate the growth of new nerve tissues and brain cells. Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey describes BDNF as “Miracle-Gro for your brain.” BDNF is a powerful protein that essentially stimulates the production of new brain cells and strengthens existing ones. More specifically, when your body releases BDNF, it flips the switch on a series of genes that grow brand new brain cells and pathways. High levels of BDNF make you learn faster, remember better, age slower and rapidly rewire your brain. As if that wasn’t enough, BDNF also increases your brain’s neuroplasticity. When your brain cells get damaged or if you are facing a stressful situation, BDNF protects them and helps them come back even stronger. It causes your neural pathways to become more flexible instead of shutting down.
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And that’s just BDNF. This mushroom is also the closest thing that’s been found in nature to a solution to regenerate nerve cell functioning via its stimulating effects on the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). NGF is similar to BDNF, but it works throughout your nervous system—not just in the brain. It has been shown to repair damaged nerve tissue, cause regeneration of nerve fibers and also improve the communication between neurons and axons. It is currently being tested as an experimental treatment for depression, Alzheimer’s, Multiple sclerosis and other illnesses resulting from nervous system degeneration. [3,4,5] These compounds, among others, are also thought to help protect the brain against environmental toxins and defend against the natural effects of aging. [6] 2. Improves Cognitive Functioning, Memory and Ability to Focus If you’re looking for natural, non-toxin brain steroids, then you need look no further than our fungal friend Lion’s Mane. Mounting evidence points to this mushroom as helping to support cognitive functioning, boost mental focus and improve memory. Research in humans found positive results on mental functioning in the elderly, [7] and the mushroom’s mood-boosting properties (more on that soon) help to promote a focused, calm and peaceful state of mind. Animal models show reduction in beta-amyloid plaque [8], a major bio-indicator that this mushroom can help to restore brain health; and there is also evidence that Lion’s Mane interacts with parts of the brain’s reward circuitry, specifically kappa-opioid receptors in the brain, that are related to learning and memory. [9] The biologically active compounds in Lion’s Mane are thought to easily cross the blood-brain barrier for optimal neural-activity. It’s important to understand too that memory is innately tied to how neurons and nerves function in the brain. If Lion’s Mane has the potential to protect these through its stimulation of NGF and BDNF, then it can improve a lot of different functions, memory included. Early research is indicating this is possible and happening to varying degrees—in one study where test subjects were given extracts of Lion’s Mane mushroom, they demonstrated significant improvements in short-term memory. [10] 3. Improves Mood and Helps Relieve Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression A few recent studies seem to indicate a positive, mood-boosting effect from Lion’s Mane. Recently, a study conducted on Japanese menopausal women (they gave them either Lion’s Mane cookies or the control placebo) found positive results in supporting emotional well-being and alleviating stress. [11] Other compounds such as Amycenone (a patented Lion’s Mane extract) have been tested in mice and have been found in animal models to help reduce depression and anxiety. [12] Additional studies in mice have also shown that the mushroom boosts levels of acetylcholine, an essential neurotransmitter that’s important for mood and mental functioning. [13] Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits may also help to alleviate anxiety and depression through its powerful effects on reducing inflammation. A growing body of research is showing clear links between mental illness and brain inflammation, and Lion’s Mane has been shown to reduce the production of inflammatory proteins. [1415] And, finally, preliminary studies on mice are showing that it may achieve its effects on the mood front by upregulating neurogenesis in the hippocampus. [16] The hippocampus is the area of the brain that neuroscientists believe to be responsible for regulating things like emotional stability and memory. 4. Immune Support Lion’s Mane, like most medicinal mushrooms, contains beta-glucans and polysaccharides indicated to help support healthy immune functioning. [17]
Studies in animal models have found enhanced immune functioning, particularly via antimicrobial activity in the gut and even anti-cancer activity from use of Lion’s Mane. Because of its bacterial effects in the intestines, it has been shown to induce positive changes in probiotic gut bacteria, which in and of itself has numerous positive effects in terms of immunity. The mushroom also has beneficial effects on insulinemic response and blood sugar response [18] and seems to have various anti-inflammatory properties, all of which largely work together on various pathways in tandem to keep the body’s immune system in tip-top shape. 5. Has Anti-Aging Properties Like many herbs and mushrooms that work in myriad ways throughout the body, one of Lion’s Mane health benefits is that it shows anti-aging effects both directly and indirectly by generally supporting overall health and well-being, as well as specifically stimulating bodily processes that are connected to slowed aging. In addition to slowing aging (and increasing the repair rates) of the brain and nervous system, Lion’s Mane polysaccharides have been shown to increase the activity of superoxide dismutase (a powerful antioxidant and cell protectant) in the brain and the liver [19] and have also exhibited anti-aging properties in human cell cultures. [20] One remarkable study even found that giving mice who had been injected with a lethal dose of salmonella bacteria daily doses of Lion’s Mane extract nearly quadrupled their lifespan! [21] 6. Repairs the Gut Taking a high potency extract of Lion’s Mane on a regular basis confers many health benefits, not least of which is helping to protect the gut in a number of ways. It has been shown both anecdotally and in studies on mice to protect and heal the lining of the intestines from developing ulcers and generally help with inflammatory conditions of the intestines like gastritis, Chron’s disease and colitis. [22,23,24] One human study, focused on people with ulcerative colitis, found that taking a mushroom-based supplement containing 14% Lion’s Mane extract significantly reduced symptoms and improved quality of life after three weeks. [25] 7. Fights Inflammation When it comes to medicinal mushrooms, one of Lion’s Mane greatest benefits is that it is hands down one of the best for fighting inflammation. One way to measure inflammation-fighting capacity is through antioxidant activity. In that realm, it’s is a superstar: one study examining the antioxidant capacity of 14 different mushroom species found that Lion’s Mane had the fourth-highest antioxidant activity. [26] However, it takes more than just antioxidant activity to be an inflammation-reducing powerhouse, as there are many other pathways in the body that mediate it, including reducing excessive nitric oxide, prostaglandins, reactive oxygen species, and pro-inflammatory factors such as NF-κB, among others. It’s a good thing then, that Lion’s Mane works on all of these aforementioned pathways quite powerfully. [27,28,29] 8. Reduces the Risk of Cancer Cancer is a complex disease, and Lion’s Mane should absolutely not be considered a cure by any stretch; however, early research is showing it holds promise and definitely warrants further investigation in this area. Lab and animal studies suggest that the mushroom has cancer-fighting abilities thanks to several of its unique compounds. [3031] In fact, when Lion’s Mane mushroom extract is mixed with human cancer cells in a test tube, it causes the cancer cells to die at a faster rate. What’s more, is that this has been demonstrated with several types of cancer cells, including colon, stomach, blood and liver cancer cells. [32,33,34] Another fascinating study discovered that an extract of Lion’s Mane was actually more effective than traditional cancer medicines at slowing tumor growth in mice and also had fewer side effects. [35] But it’s also important to note that the cancer-fighting effects of Lion’s Mane have yet to be tested in humans, so more research is clearly needed. 9. Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease In keeping with its reputation as a whole-body health tonic, Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits heart health in a number of ways, in particular, by balancing cholesterol levels as well as improving circulation throughout the body. One study done on mice found that consuming an extract of the mushroom reduced total cholesterol, in addition to the bad LDL variety and triglycerides, while also increasing the good HDL cholesterol. Further studies in rats and mice have found that Lion’s Mane also improves fat metabolism systemically. [3637] In fact, in one of the papers, rats that were fed a high-fat diet while simultaneously being given daily doses of Lion’s Mane extract were found to have 27% lower triglyceride levels and 42% less weight gain after 28 days of the therapy. [38] Finally, it may also improve circulation by inhibiting platelet aggregation and preventing the thickening of arteries characteristic of atherosclerosis. 10. Psycho-Spiritual Effects If all of that wasn’t enough, Lion’s Mane mushroom has been revered all through history for its culinary, spiritual and medicinal properties documented primarily within Asia. A long-time favorite of royalty and Buddhist Shaolin monks, the mushroom has been used historically to enhance and support meditation practice to generate “Qi”—a form of life force energy essential to an effective spiritual practice and for overall health and well-being—in the body. It was also referred to in Japan as “yamabushitake,” which means “Mountain Priest Mushroom,” a reference to its known effects on centering the mind and increasing spiritual potency. What to Look for in a Quality Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplement Whenever possible, look for USDA-certified organic Lion’s Mane products or those certifiably harvested sustainably in the wild. Mushrooms always consist of an inner and outer network. The inner network is generally known as the mycelium, and the outer network is known as the fruiting body. Products grown in the wild generally have both of these parts, while products grown indoors often, but not always, contain only the mycelium. Ideally, look for a full-spectrum inner and outer network product, whenever possible. Sometimes fruiting body-only products have richer levels of active compounds; however, these ingredients are often grown outdoors (meaning that the growing environment isn’t always controlled properly). This makes it important to be sure that the source doesn’t have airborne heavy metals contamination. This can be avoided by seeking US-grown products or making sure those that come from India or China are certifiably grown in rural, pollution-free areas. Also, keep an eye out for products that use a heat-based or enzyme-treated mushroom extract as these methods help breakdown any potential anti-nutritional factors the mushroom may have produced in self-defense against predators that sometimes can slightly impede absorption. Dose As far as dosages go, depending on the extract and source, benefits can be achieved with as little as a few hundred milligrams and can exceed up to several grams daily. Benefits can also be achieved when taken every other day, rotating with other medicinal mushrooms.
Recommended Lion’s Mane Supplements

Organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom Powder

Sun Potion Sun Potion offers an ultra-high quality, certified organic, US-grown, full-spectrum Lion’s Mane mushroom, including the fruiting body, primordia, spores and extracellular compounds produced throughout the entire life cycle for maximum medicinal potency and effectiveness. Minimally processed with a beneficial enzyme for optimum bioavailability. click here to learn more

Organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom Capsules

Host Defense Host Defense offers an organic full-spectrum Lion’s Mane extract in convenient capsule form that is freeze-dried for maximum freshness and medicinal activity. Gently heat extracted to enhance bioavailability, their mushrooms are grown on their pristine farm where they can control the growing environment to enhance medicinal compounds in the product. click here to learn more

Organic Lion’s Mane Extract Powder

OM OM offers a California-grown, certified organic Lion’s Mane mushroom extract grown using a specially developed methodology utilizing organic oats to produce a highly nutrient rich medicinal mushroom. This full-spectrum product is rich in polysaccharides, beta glucans, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, antioxidants, amino acids and more. click here to learn more

Organic Lion’s Mane Tea Elixir

Four Sigmatic Four Sigmatic offers a tasty Lion’s Mane tea extract in a convenient sachet for easy use on the go. But make no mistake, this is an ultra-high quality product made with organic wood-grown mushrooms, just like you’d find deep in the forest, that packs a serious brain-boosting medicinal punch. Delicious as a tea or a non-caffeinated coffee substitute. click here to learn more
About The Authors Noah Berman is the Co-founder and Head of Product at Higher Mind Wellness. After being diagnosed with Sjorgren’s..
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The Body Clock Reset: How to Optimize Your Circadian Rhythm and Get Better Sleep Naturally

BY SATCHIN PANDA, Ph.D.

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We want to get the most out of our daytime activities and nighttime rest. The goal is twofold: First, we want to adjust our activities to the optimal times of the day that are most in sync with our clocks. We want to eat when we metabolize foods the most efficiently, we want to be active when our brain and body are functioning at their peak levels, and we want to get the right amount of sleep so that we can do it all again tomorrow. Second, we can fix disruptions, retrain and reset our internal body clock to improve our health. 
It would be a totally rational guess to assume that the first thing we need to fix is our eating pattern. But in reality, circadian clocks will readjust best when addressing our evening activities, namely limiting our access to light and enhancing sleep. The reason is because sleep is not a passive experience: The human body begins to get ready for the day the night before. Just like we start off the New Year with a celebration on December 31, sleep is the beginning of our biological day, not the end. Every day, our body battles with lots of stressors that create cellular damage. At night, we aren’t just making necessary repairs to the body; the brain is also busy consolidating memories and sending out instructions to prepare us for the next round of activity. The changes that happen at night are absolutely critical to how we feel the next day. That’s why when we are in good health and have the right amount of sleep, we wake up feeling refreshed. Hence, if you want to improve your productivity and health, you need to adjust your circadian cycle based on your day-to-day activities. The Stages of Sleep The very first thing to do if you want to know how to reset your circadian rhythm is to get familiarized with the different sleep stages. Great sleep is created when there are cycles of quiet sleep and active sleep. The quiet sleep takes place in three stages that occur in a specific sequence: N1 (drowsiness), N2 (light sleep), and N3 (deep sleep). Unless something disturbs the process, you will proceed smoothly from one stage to the next, and as you do, your body and brain perform different functions depending on your clocks. First, in making the transition from wakefulness into light sleep, you spend only a few minutes in stage N1 sleep, but your body and brain change rapidly: Your body temperature begins to drop, your muscles relax, and your eyes move slowly from side to side. During stage N1 sleep, you begin to lose awareness of your surroundings, but you can be easily jarred awake. The N2 stage, or light sleep, is really the first phase of true sleep. During this sleep stage, your eyes are still and your heart rate and breathing slow down. Brief bursts of brain activity called sleep spindles occur, as brain waves speed up for roughly half a second or longer. Some researchers believe that sleep spindles play a role in consolidating memories. Stage N3, or deep sleep, occurs as the brain becomes less responsive to external stimuli, making it difficult to wake up. Your breathing becomes more regular. Your blood pressure falls, and your pulse rate slows 20 to 30 percent below the waking rate. Your blood flow is directed less toward your brain, which cools measurably. Right before this stage ends, the muscles that allow you to be upright against gravity become paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams. However, there are some real sleep disorders—like sleepwalking and sleep eating—in which this change doesn’t occur.
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A loss of sleep during this stage may play a role in reducing daytime creativity, mood, and fine motor skills. If you always experience this on a regular basis, then you should start finding effective ways on how to reset the body clock. These three stages of quiet sleep alternate with periods of active sleep, which is referred to as REM sleep, which stands for rapid eye movement sleep. During this time, your body is still but your mind is racing. Your eyes dart back and forth behind closed lids. Your blood pressure increases, and your heart rate and breathing speed up to daytime levels. Dreaming also occurs during REM sleep. We typically have between three to five cycles of REM sleep per night, occurring every 90 to 120 minutes. Each time you move from quiet sleep to REM sleep, you complete a sleep cycle. For optimal health, you need a balance of the different types of sleep throughout the night. Adults need at least 7 consecutive hours of sleep each night. So, if you short yourself by 90 minutes or more, you lose the equivalent of one entire sleep cycle. When you sacrifice a cycle of sleep or more of REM sleep, your circadian rhythm may be disrupted. Within that 7-hour period, there is a critical 4-hour window. You may notice that between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., or in the first 4 hours after falling asleep, you get some of your best sleep. This is because these first few hours go toward paying back your sleep debt. They neutralize the urge to sleep or the tiredness you feel before going to bed. This is why it may be harder to go back to sleep if you wake up after that 4-hour period: You no longer have the sleep debt that was making you tired in the first place. The next 3-plus hours of sleep go toward nurturing your brain and body, giving them the additional time they need for repair and rejuvenation. Shift workers who have to sleep during the daytime also experience circadian rhythm disruption. Most of these individuals look for ways on how to reset the body clock. However, in most cases, they find it hard to adjust their internal body clock due to some environmental and physiological factors. Since this is not the typical time nor the optimal lighting for the circadian clock to send its signal for sleep, shift workers aren’t able to get the maximum number of sleep cycles during the daytime, even if they try to sleep for 7 hours. This is why when you nap in the daytime you can rarely sleep for more than 2 to 3 hours: Your circadian code won’t allow it. Understanding Sleep Debt Carefully understanding what sleep debt is could also be helpful on your journey to finding effective ways on how to reset your sleep cycle. As soon as we wake up, our suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) clock begins keeping track of wakeful time. For every hour we stay awake, we later have to sleep 20 to 30 minutes. Every night adults should give themselves 8 consecutive hours of sleep opportunity, and children should have 10 hours of sleep opportunity. That includes getting into bed, settling down, and then falling asleep. Children should be sleeping for at least 9 hours a night; adults should sleep for no fewer than 7 hours. Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get. So, if you slept for 6½ hours last night, you’re beginning your day with 30 minutes of sleep debt. When you go to sleep the following night, you first repay this debt from the previous night. That means even if you sleep 7 hours the second night, it only counts as sleeping for 6.5 again. That’s one of the reasons why we often sleep late on weekends: It’s the body’s way of repaying your entire debt. Napping Counts toward Repaying Your Sleep Debt A short nap during the day is one way to repay your sleep debt. For example, if you had a sleep debt from the week of 2 hours and you take a Saturday afternoon nap, it’s possible to repay that debt in one nap.
But be careful not to sleep too long: Sleep time is a function of your circadian clock and how many hours you are awake that day. A long afternoon nap will dissipate some of the sleep pressure that was building up since morning, but the longer you sleep in the afternoon, the further you may push your nighttime sleep, making it difficult for you to fall asleep when you want to later that night. The only times when napping really works against you are when you are jet-lagged, if you are a true shift worker and you want to sleep at night, or if you are really trying to move your bedtime to earlier in the evening. In these instances, it’s better to build up your propensity to sleep at night, and then reset your internal body clock the next morning. The U Curve of Sleep and Longevity There are real benefits to achieving the prescribed number of hours of sleep. From tracking a million individuals, researchers have identified a sleep pattern, known as the U curve of sleep and longevity. People who consistently sleep too little are more likely to die early than those who get the full 7 hours of sleep each night. Similarly, people who sleep as much as 10 to 11 hours are also likely to live shorter lives. Let’s Get to Sleep! How to reset your sleep schedule? The basic lesson for improving sleep or is to increase the drive to sleep in the first place and avoid the factors that suppress or disrupt sleep. In the daytime, the drive to sleep is affected by many factors:

+ Length of time one has been awake: Sleep drive increases with every hour we are awake. If you want to go to bed early, you should wake up early as well.

+ Exercise or physical activity: Physical activity, particularly outdoor activity under the sun or under diffuse daylight, increases the drive to sleep.

+ Timing of caffeine intake: Caffeine reduces our sleep drive and keeps us awake. Reducing caffeine after midday is a good general rule of thumb.

Food, Timing, and Sleep Food is another significant factor to look into if you want to know how to reset your circadian rhythm naturally. Eating late at night is not only bad for metabolism, it also affects sleep. This habit interferes both with falling asleep and maintaining deep sleep. In order to fall asleep, our core body temperature must cool down by almost 1°F. But when we eat, our core body temperature actually goes up as blood rushes to the gut (the core) to help digest and absorb nutrients. So, eating late at night prevents us from getting into a deep sleep. To have a good night’s sleep, we should have our last meal at least 2 to 4 hours before going to bed to ensure that the body is able to cool down.
Sleep Is Inhibited by Light at Night Another factor that could affect your the circadian cycle is the light that you are exposed to before going to bed. The easiest sleep fix is to maintain a dark sleeping environment. Everyone knows it is hard to fall asleep under bright light. Your circadian clock prevents this. The blue light sensors pick up the bright light to suppress sleep and promote wakefulness. However, other colors in the light spectrum, specifically orange and red, are less effective at suppressing sleep. Pay attention to the type of light that you are exposed to in the evening. We cannot go back to the dark ages or turn off all lights after sunset, but managing our exposure to light can have a huge impact on improving sleep and maintaining health. Hacking Your Way to a Better Night’s Sleep A good night’s sleep ensures better performance the next day. It puts you in better alignment with your circadian code by increasing growth hormone production while you rest, rejuvenating your brain and body. It increases your cortisol production in the morning, which helps with alertness, and balances your hunger and satiety hormones for stronger, more efficient metabolism. Best of all, it synchronizes all of your internal clocks so that your whole body is working at peak performance. If you are consistently not getting a good night’s sleep, or if you are waking up at night, try the following techniques on how to reset the body clock. Turn Down the Temperature The body has to cool down during nighttime to sleep. It’s a good idea to reduce the temperature in your bedroom to 70°F or lower so that your skin feels cooler. When this happens, blood flows toward your skin to keep your skin warm. Since the blood is flowing away from the core of the body, the core body temperature can fall and you will fall asleep much easier. Behavioral Techniques for Better Sleep

1. One helpful tip on how to reset your sleep schedule is by simply not looking at your watch/clock/phone when you cannot get to sleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night. Why? Because the light from these devices will trigger your melanopsin. It really doesn’t matter what time it is when you wake up in the middle of the night, and there’s no benefit to starting to worry about not getting enough sleep. If you need an alarm to wake up at a certain time, that’s fine: Set it and cover it so that even those lights don’t disturb your sleep.

2. Don’t create stress around bedtime or worry that you will wake up late the next day. That’s what alarm clocks are for. Relying on alarm clocks is not ideal, but as you are working on improving your circadian code, there is a place for them in your life. Instead of worrying that you won’t wake up on time, try deep belly breathing to relax your body and mind.

3. Don’t create stress about your last night’s sleep and worry that you’ll have the same bad experience again. You are in control of your sleep. By following the “how to reset your circadian rhythm” recommendations we’ve laid out in this article, it’s quite likely that your sleep will improve, bit by bit, every night.

4. Don’t create stress about the number of hours you’re currently sleeping. If you are feeling fine and restored the next day, you may not need as much sleep as others. But if you don’t feel rested and refreshed in the morning, or if you feel sleepy during the late afternoon, try some of the tips in my book The Circadian Code.

5.  Don’t use the bedroom for anything other than sleep. It’s not a study or a living room or a home theater.

The Best Ways to Wake Up Is there any room for improvement to optimize waking up? + The best way to wake up refreshed is to have enough sleep by going to bed early. + Get some bright light immediately after completing one cycle of sleep. Open your curtains or turn on your overhead light. Get as close to the window as possible. + Take a quick, 5- to 15-minute morning walk. Check your plants, check the bird feeder, play with your dog in the backyard, brush off your car. Do anything that will take you out of the house and into bright daylight. + Another important step on how to reset your circadian rhythm naturally is being consistent. Try to be consistent and wake up at the same time every day. If you are waking up 2 hours later on the weekends, it is a fair sign that you are not getting restorative sleep during the week. Excerpted from the book The Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy, and Transform Your Health from Morning to Midnight. Copyright © 2018 by Satchin Panda, Ph.D. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
About The Author Satchin Panda, Ph.D., is a leading expert in the field of circadian rhythm research. He is a professor at the Salk Institute and a founding executive member of the Center for Circadian Biology at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Panda is a Pew Scholar and a recipient of the Julie Martin Mid-Career Award in Aging Research. Learn more at circadiancode.com

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The Migraine Diet: What Foods to Eat and Avoid to Prevent Headaches

BY JAN MUNDO

photo: lama-photography photocase.com
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Diet for Migraine Prevention This article contains a complete plan for preventing migraine with diet. For twenty-five years, this migraine diet plan has transformed the lives of innumerable migraine sufferers who have followed the Mundo Program. Diet is essential to migraine management, but not in the ways you might expect. Rodolfo Low was a chemist, professor, Ford Foundation advisor, and migraine sufferer. In Victory over Migraine: The Breakthrough Study That Explains What Causes It and How It Can Be Completely Prevented through Diet, he presented the findings of his twenty-two years of clinical research.
Drawing a connection between insulin levels and migraine, he concluded that patients can eliminate their migraines altogether by better managing their blood sugar levels, for which he advised a hypoglycemic diet. This so-called migraine diet boils down to a simple formula: Eat more protein more often, and eat fewer simple carbs. Based on these ideas, this article explains what it means when people regularly wake up with headaches, why it’s important to eat protein in the morning, and what’s wrong with carb breakfasts, energy bars, and sweet snacks. Migraine and Low Blood Sugar In 1990, I found Low’s little red book in a used bookstore. Since then, the author’s ideas have formed the basis of my approach to a diet that promote natural migraine prevention more than almost anything else—and it’s shockingly simple! Dr. Low, a migraine sufferer since childhood, noticed a pattern about his and others’ migraine episodes and began doing clinical research to investigate his hypothesis: when migraine-prone people consume foods containing simple carbohydrates, such as refined sugars, corn syrup, fructose, and maltose, they get migraine attacks. (He always got them after a day spent at the movies consuming lots of candy.) For over two decades, Dr. Low analyzed how sugar, or glucose, is metabolized in patients who are prone to migraine. It’s complicated (and of course the science is always advancing), but in a laywoman’s vastly simplified terms, here’s the story: All the food we eat is metabolized, or broken down, into a sugar called glucose, which is then processed by the liver before it enters the bloodstream. Some of the glucose is used immediately, and some is stored as fat so it can be accessed later. When the pancreas is overactive (a condition called hyperinsulinemia), it secretes too much insulin, the hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the blood. As a result, too much sugar is eaten up by the excess insulin, resulting in a condition called hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia reduces the body’s energy. In order to boost energy, the adrenal glands release the “speedy” hormones, adrenaline and catecholamine. These energy boosters, which are also produced in response to stress, cause blood vessels to constrict, which causes release of lipids called prostaglandins, involved in dilation and inflammation of blood vessels in your head. The dilated blood vessels impinge upon surrounding nerves, sending signals to your brain stem and brain and…now you’ve got migraine.
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Low found that people with migraine are different than those with normal pancreatic functioning in that their blood sugar levels begin lower, rise higher, and end lower. When Low gave migraineurs a glucose tolerance test, he noticed a rapid rise pattern of their blood sugar levels and extended below-average levels after the blood sugar dropped. Low claimed that this characteristic pattern was missed in typical glucose tolerance tests, which took blood samples at half- to one-hour intervals. However, instead of suggesting that migraineurs take the test following his fifteen-minute sampling protocol to learn if their migraines were due to hypoglycemia, Low suggested that they could simply change their dietary habits and try out a migraine prevention diet. What Is a Hypoglycemic Diet? You’d think that in order to increase blood sugar levels, you should eat more sugar, right? Some doctors used to think that was true and suggested it to their patients, but in fact, it’s just the opposite. How to prevent migraines: Patients could eliminate their migraine episodes completely, Low advised, by managing their blood sugar levels with a hypoglycemic diet, consisting of balanced meals of protein, natural carbohydrates, vegetables, and fruits in six small meals, or three meals and three snacks per day. His diet emphasized protein and timing, and suggested smaller meals and snacks to avoid feeling too full to eat every two to three hours. If you are concerned that eating so frequently will cause weight gain, know that I have observed just the opposite in my clients. If anything, they report losing weight on this diet. This outcome could be due to a combination of increased metabolism, without the extreme rises and dips in blood sugar and energy, and increased activity levels due to feeling better. When your blood sugar is low, your body produces stress hormones to boost your energy, wreaking havoc on your neuroendocrine system. This sort of stress causes you to store fat and crave simple sugars and carbohydrates. When you switch to a healthy diet on a regular schedule, your body no longer gets signals that indicate you might be starving, so you store less fat. Early Protein “Early protein” is my shorthand reminder to eat protein first thing in the morning, which is crucial if you wake up with migraines. By eating early protein, you will crave fewer sweets and simple carbohydrates throughout your day and have more consistent energy. What do people eat for breakfast in the United States? Our nation has become a country of grab-and-go migraine foods, carb-loaded breakfasts: a bagel and cream cheese; a muffin, Danish, or pastry; a bowlful of sugar-sweetened cereal, granola, or yogurt; juice, coffee, tea, soda, or a sweet espresso drink. Contrast that with Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, where a traditional breakfast is either eggs, corn tortillas with beans, rice and beans, or bread with cheese and ham, and, of course, café con leche. In Europe, breakfast is eggs, a pastry, or bread with cheese, and café au lait, cappuccino, or café latte. In Japan, breakfast starts with miso soup, followed by rice with tofu, maybe some seafood, a serving of vegetables, and tea.
Why is a carb-loaded breakfast bad for migraineurs? When you sleep, your pancreas is still working, secreting insulin that is ready and waiting to metabolize your breakfast. A muffin or a bagel, which contains about three hundred fifty calories and fifty to sixty grams of carbohydrates—or the equivalent of almost four slices of bread—makes your blood sugar rise and drop rapidly, followed by adrenal and neurovascular responses that trigger migraine. A lox and bagel story: A student in my class was a busy radiologist who had a long commute, early hospital hours, and a new baby. Of course, he was sleep deprived and usually skipped breakfast or had just a bagel and cream cheese. Migraines plagued him daily and weighed down his morale. When I asked if he liked lox, a smoked salmon rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, he replied that he loved it, so I suggested that he add it to his bagel and cream cheese. To his surprise and delight, eating early protein completely eliminated his episodes—despite his ongoing stressful routine and disrupted sleep. Yes, the bagel was the delivery system, but the lox made all the difference, and he did fine with it. And that was him. Everyone is different, and I encourage you to experiment to find the early protein foods you like to help in migraine prevention. More Than Diet Here’s where the Mundo Program diverges from Dr. Low’s advice. Instead of completely eliminating sugars, this program allows for a little bit of sugar, depending on individual tolerances and the right timing. Enjoyment—of food, eating, and dining—is an important part of life. After all, the goal is to eliminate your migraines, not your foods. Why needlessly deprive yourself of something that doesn’t harm you? If you pay careful attention to cause and effect, you will decipher your patterns and figure out what, if anything, to eliminate or change. For example, if you eat a healthy meal with plenty of protein, you can probably enjoy a dessert with no problem, as long as you don’t go overboard (and have eaten protein throughout the day). That is why your Headache Diary is such an important tool, especially if you want to know how to prevent migraines naturally. You will see the effects of potential triggers right before your eyes, laid out day by day, and you’ll come to understand how the timing of what you eat, combined with everything else, affects you. Speaking of “everything else”: this is a somatic program, where you work with your entire self. So although your diet is significant to eliminate migraines, it is only a part of the story. The tension in your head, neck, and shoulders, how you breathe and use your body, how you respond to stress and feel about your life, your emotional history—you are all of that, and it all plays a role. Healthy Diet Guidelines The following Healthy Diet Guidelines provide a framework for what to eat and when, and foods to watch out for or migraine foods to avoid. It also prepares you to track your migraine diet. 1. Keep a daily record.

+ Record what and when you eat each day.

+ Keeping a daily record is the best way to discover your triggers and see if you are eating well and often enough to maintain stable blood sugar levels, a key to staving off migraine.

2. Eat every two to three hours.

+ A healthy migraine prevention diet requires you to eat three meals and three snacks per day, or six small meals.

+ Follow this meal schedule: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack.

+ The snacks do not have to be large, just a little something. You can eat smaller meals, if desired, so you won’t be too full for snacks in between.

3. Boost your protein.

+ Include protein in each meal and snack.

+ Find ways to incorporate protein into the dishes you prepare, and into your diet overall.

+ Avoid sugary foods to prevent migraine and consume protein foods like eggs, dairy, soy, fish, chicken, meat, beans, and nuts instead.

4. Reduce the amount of time between waking up and eating.

+ Eat breakfast as soon as possible after you wake up.

+ If you work out first thing in the morning, eat a protein snack or breakfast first.

+ Eat breakfast before leaving for work or doing any activities—even at home. Do not wait until you are at your desk or your destination, or until you take a break and “finally have time to eat.”

+ Adapt this guideline to your schedule if your day starts in the afternoon or you work at night. Your day begins whenever you wake up.

5. Eat “early protein.”

+ Start your day with protein to boost your blood sugar levels.

6. Kick the caffeine.

+ Also considered as one of the migraine foods to avoid, The amount of combined daily caffeine from coffee, tea, soda, medication, and chocolate adds up. It can transform an occasional headache or migraine into a chronic condition.

+ As discussed above, caffeine constricts the blood vessels in your head. When it wears off, they dilate and impinge on the nerves surrounding them, triggering a headache or migraine.

+ Do not quit caffeine cold turkey! Stair-step down. (Read that again, three more times.) To avoid getting an extended withdrawal headache, do not let your excitement about the potential of eliminating this trigger sway you to kick it all at once. (I emphasize this warning after seeing countless clients get so enthused to learn of the migraine-caffeine connection that they quit cold turkey—despite my admonitions—only to suffer horrible withdrawal migraines.)

+ Kick caffeine in stages: Substitute one-quarter of your usual amount with decaf for at least one week. Then substitute one-half of your usual with decaf, for at least one week. Then substitute three-quarters with decaf. Finally, after at least a month, you’ll be drinking all decaf. If you get a withdrawal headache during the process, substitute less than a quarter per stage and stay at each plateau longer.

+ After kicking caffeine, drink only water, decaf beverages, and herbal tea until you have no more headaches from any cause. Then you can have an occasional small caffeinated coffee or tea, or perhaps even one per day, and see how it affects you. (I didn’t include soda or energy drinks due to their high sugar and caffeine content.) Note that a shot of espresso contains less than half the caffeine found in a cup of brewed coffee.

7. Stick to a regular meal schedule.

+ Not skipping meals or getting hungry is a very effective natural migraine prevention technique.

+ Sleeping in on weekends or during a vacation can disrupt your regular meal and caffeine schedule.

+ If you will be having brunch, eat a little something first thing in the morning. The same thing goes if you are going out for lunch or dinner. Don’t “save up” your appetite.

+ If you have a meeting, class, or other activity, bring a healthy snack and your water with you.

8. Be aware of sugars and artificial sweeteners in all foods and drinks.

+ With the significant correlation between blood sugar and migraines, it is important to look for the sugar content, listed on product labels as beet sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, and sugar. Use sparingly and avoid sugars when possible by choosing alternatives.

+ Take note: Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. So, for example, if a half-cup of ice cream has twenty grams of sugar, that’s five teaspoons, nearly the daily maximum amount recommended.

+ Sugar is added to canned fruit, applesauce, and juices. Instead, have fresh or dried fruit (unsulfured), canned fruit in juice, and unsweetened applesauce and fruit juice (or sweetened with other juices).

+ Look for sugar content in savory foods as well, such as tomato, cream, and butter sauces; soup and gravy; condiments like salad dressing, sweet relish, and ketchup; canned vegetables; and frozen vegetables in sauce.

+ Low-calorie foods have less fat but often contain more sugar to boost flavor.

+ Do not substitute artificial sweeteners, found in many low-calorie products, for sugars.

+ Satisfy your sweet tooth by consuming natural, healthy foods that are slightly sweet, instead of foods with artificial sweeteners.

+ Control your sugar intake by preparing your own food—whether it’s salad dressing or dessert.

9. Do not consume “stand-alone sweets.”

+ Stand-alone sweets is my term for a high-sugar food, whether that be a piece of candy, cake, or pie, a cookie, cupcake, muffin, pastry, or an energy bar, without a protein partner, such as a meal or a serving of milk.

+ Tack sweets (dessert) to the end of a protein meal instead of having them as a snack.

+ Energy bars are considered as one of the migraine foods to avoid. Check the label: made for quick energy and loaded with carbs, energy bars are like health-food candy bars. Even an energy bar with high protein is not a meal or a good snack for a migraine sufferer because it spikes blood sugar levels.

+ Skip sweet smoothies, especially for breakfast, and even those with added protein.

+ If you want a cookie, choose one that’s less sweet, perhaps without icing or filling, like a plain shortbread, galette, biscotti, breakfast biscuit, or fruit juice–sweetened cookie.

+ Have your sweet with milk (cow, soy, rice, almond, hemp, or goat). Note: Rice and almond milk have one to three grams of protein, and soy and cow milk have seven to eight grams of protein per serving.

+ Ice cream in moderation can be okay without added coatings, sugary goodies, candies, swirls, or preservatives. Keep it simple. Watch out for chocolate if it is one of your triggers.

+ Exercise portion control. One or two cookies might not bother you, but three or more might, even with protein.

10. Opt for natural carbohydrates.

+ Eat foods rich in natural carbohydrates along with protein foods to prevent migraine—the key word here being natural—such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and pasta. Balanced meals will even out your blood sugar levels and help you digest the protein.

+ Unrefined whole grains and flours, such as 100 percent whole wheat, brown rice, steel-cut oats, buckwheat, and corn, contain healthy nutrients and fiber, which are separated out in refined versions.

+ Choose cereals that are free of added sugars or lightly sweetened with honey or fruit juice.

+ Sometimes your stomach wants the comfort of white basmati rice served with butter and nutritional yeast, or a French baguette with butter. It’s okay to mix it up, in moderation, depending on your mood and tummy.

11. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

+ Unsaturated fats called omega-3 fatty acids, sourced from animals and plants, are an essential part of the human diet. It is also a very good addition to your migraine diet.

+ Omega-3 is beneficial for people with migraines because it tones and relaxes smooth muscle tissue, the type that makes up the cardiovascular system, including blood vessels in your head related to migraine.

+ The so-called fatty fishes, rich in omega-3, include (from high to low content) herring, sardines, mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna, swordfish, greenshell/green-lipped mussels, tilefish, canned tuna, pollock, caviar, and oysters.

+ Omega-3 is abundant in eggs, and grass-fed chickens produce eggs with more of it. Similarly, grass-fed beef has higher omega-3 content than grain- and corn-fed beef.

+ Nut and seed sources of omega-3 include flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans, soybean oil, chia seeds, walnuts, and walnut oil are among the foods to eat when you have a migraine.

+ The wild green purslane, considered a pesky weed by many gardeners, is the highest source of omega-3 of any leafy green vegetable and is also high in vitamins E and C.

+ Omega-3, alone or in combination with omega-6 fatty acids, can be bought in supplement form, but it is better to consume it in food, which provides other nutrients.

+ The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids two times per week.

12. Eat magnesium-rich foods.

+ Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps control smooth muscle tissue tone and many important chemical reactions in the body. It also helps in migraine prevention.

+ The following foods are rich in magnesium: dark leafy greens, pumpkin and sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pollock, mackerel, tuna, white beans, French beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, millet, and bulgur.

+ Avocado, yogurt, goat cheese, bananas, dried figs, prunes, apricots, dates, and raisins are also magnesium rich. Note: Many of these foods also contain amines, which can be triggers for some migraineurs.

+ Dark chocolate also contains magnesium, but put it in the “migraine mixed-bag” category because it is also a trigger for some people.

13. Eat a variety of produce.

+ Eating a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits is essential for good nutrition.

+ In hot summer months, among the anti-migraine foods to eat include fresh salads and uncooked fruits and vegetables, which are cooling.

+ In cold autumn and winter months, lightly steam, sauté, or bake vegetables and make soups to keep your system heated, hearty, and less susceptible to colds, flu, and upper body tightness.

+ In winter, balance fresh produce with dried, canned, baked, or frozen, depending on availability. Purchase canned products packaged in bottles or BPA-free cans. By canning or freezing your own, you can control the ingredients.

+ Beware of dried fruits preserved with sulfites, sulfates, or sulfur dioxide. These preservatives help fruit retain its color (like those bright-orange apricots!) but it should not be a part of your diet to eliminate migraines.

14. Drink lots of water.

+ A good migraine diet plan is not complete without water. Drink at least two quarts or liters of pure water per day. Tea, coffee, juice, milk, and soda do not count in that calculation.

+ Water..

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Growing A New Body: How To Completely Restore Your Health And Well-Being At Any Age

BY MEGHAN MCDONALD

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D id you know that every single organ and system in your body—from your bones to your heart, to your brain and everything in between—will regenerate itself completely multiple times over the course of your life? You grow a completely new heart every 15 years, your bones are only two years old, your lungs and skin are around two to four weeks old, and your intestines have replaced all their cells within the last three days. So, if this is the case, why do chronic health issues persist over weeks, months and years? Why does our health typically deteriorate over time instead of improve as we age? And what are those lucky few people doing who seem to enjoy radiant, disease-free health and longevity well into old age that the rest of us aren’t? Is it their genes, their eating habits, their lifestyle, their mindset, all of the above or something else entirely? The Secrets to Longevity, DNA Repair and Deep Healing Figuring out the answers to the above questions requires a diverse background of training, skills and experience in a number of fields—from the traditional health sciences to the cutting edges of neuroscience and epigenetics, to the far reaches of transpersonal psychology, ethnobotany, energy medicine and beyond—ones that someone like Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D. is uniquely suited for. As a respected and prolific medical anthropologist who has spent nearly 30 years working alongside the world’s leading medical researchers and doctors, as well as spending equal amounts of time studying the ancient healing modalities and alternative medicine traditions of the indigenous tribes throughout the Americas, Villoldo holds unique insight into the roots of disease and the secrets of longevity that emerge from blending the best of science, psychology and spirituality. And what he has discovered in his 30-year journey is nothing short of extraordinary—that longevity, genetic rejuvenation and repair, and deep healing of virtually any and all ailments of a mental, emotional or physical nature can be accomplished through a powerful five-phase process that blends the best of both ancient and modern science. The 5 Steps to Growing a New Body  In Alberto’s new book Grow a New Body, he dives deep into the science, supplements and daily practices needed to accomplish all of the above and far more in a remarkably short period of time—as little as 7 days if his protocols are followed steadfastly and correctly. In the book, he dives deep into the 5 key phases anyone seeking to restore their body to optimal health and create lasting, lifelong wellness must undergo. Phase 1. Discovering Your Inner Healer In Alberto’s own words, Phase 1 is about addressing the most foundational roots of health and disease:

“In the West we do not have a health-care system, we have a disease-care system that recognizes thousands of ailments and myriad remedies. Shamanic medicine traditions, on the other hand, identify only one ailment and one cure. The ailment is alienation—from our emotions, from our bodies, from the earth, and from Spirit. The symptoms of this ailment are physical and emotional disease. The cure is the experience of Oneness, which restores inner harmony and facilitates recovery from all maladies, regardless of origin.                             

When our minds, our emotions, our relationships, or our bodies go out of kilter, we tend to ignore the problem until something goes very wrong—a scary diagnosis, a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, or simply an inability to function easily in everyday life. When things are a little bad, we read a self-help book or go to a workshop. When they’re really bad, we bring in experts to fix the problem—oncologists to address cancer, neurologists to repair the brain, psychologists to help us find peace and understand our family of origin. But this fragmented approach to health is merely a stopgap. To truly heal, we need to rediscover the original recipe for wellness discovered millennia ago: One Spirit Medicine.

One Spirit Medicine states that the best way to heal and maintain health is to grow a new body on a regular basis. It recognizes the body as a system, not as a collection of parts that can be medicated or replaced when they go wrong. You cannot repair the heart without attending to the gut and the brain, and vice versa. And Western science has shown us that you can begin to grow a new body in as little as seven days.”

Phase 2. Shedding the Old Ways The old ways Alberto refers to are the outdated methods of Western “disease care” medicine in favor of the new science of preventative, holistic functional medicine. In order to truly achieve radiant levels of health, wellness and longevity, we literally need to reboot our bodies and minds at the deepest levels, which requires proactive lifestyle changes that work to support health every day, not once we become sick after years of neglecting and abusing our bodies unintentionally or otherwise. There are three keys to doing this effectively according to Alberto’s research:

1. Detoxifying and repairing the gut-grain 2. Switching on your longevity genes with diet 3. Supplementing with superfoods and other holistic power medicines

The end result of this program is a completely upgraded brain and body that kick off the epigenetic repairs needed to sustain radiant health for the rest of your life. Phase 3. Resetting Your Death Clock Phase 3 is all about repairing health at the cellular level, which is also intimately connected to the mental and emotional levels in a powerful mind-body feedback loop. To do that fully, you’ll need to learn to transform dysfunctional emotional patterns founded on anger and fear, and how to supplement with certain nutrients that can help to improve higher-brain function and help you manage stress. During this phase, you’ll also learn to work with and optimize your mitochondria (the power centers of your body) along with how to reset your cells’ “death clocks” and switch on longevity proteins controlled by mitochondria that extend life exponentially. You’ll learn exactly what free radicals and inflammation do to the body and how to reverse the damage, and you’ll discover ancient shamanic techniques used for thousands of years that can upgrade your body and brain. It is infinitely less complicated than it sounds, and part of Alberto’s genius is offering easy things you can do that achieve many of these goals at once. Phase 4. Whole-Self Rebirth Phase 4 supports you in the process of letting go of old, unhealthy ways of thinking so that you can experience full spectrum mind-body healing. You’ll learn how to shed outworn narratives about your past and embrace a new, liberating personal story. You’ll overcome fear of loss and change, and discover a new purpose for your life journey. Phase 5. The Longevity Lifestyle In Phase 5, you combine everything you’ve learned from the previous four steps into action. This is where the magic happens—in just seven days you will initiate a radical healing process in the body that will speed up the regeneration and repair of every organ and system in your body with new, upgraded genetic information and proper functioning that works at the deepest levels to restore the optimal functioning of your body and mind. You will learn to change what and when you eat in order to enter into ketosis to activate the regions in the brain that will allow you to have an experience of Oneness. You will also learn to work with neuro-nutrients available at your health-food store that detoxify the body and brain and switch on the genes that create health and longevity. Lastly, you will learn how to do a soul retrieval to recover the vibrant and innocent parts of yourself that were lost because of childhood trauma. A Proven Process of Rejuvenation The Grow a New Body rejuvenation program outlined in Alberto’s new book is the result of decades of research and study both in the lab and at the front lines of holistic medicine, and has been successfully implemented and fine-tuned for the last 10 years with thousands of people from around the world. Backed by the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, quantum biology, psycho-neurobiology, functional and mind-body medicine, this book is a powerhouse of wisdom of all flavors and highly practical, real-world tested information that anyone can use to supercharge their health in a remarkably short period of time—just one week! To start the 7-day Grow a New Body Protocol, order a copy of Alberto’s book Grow a New Body for yourself at: growanewbody.com This article is a sponsored post written in collaboration with The Four Winds Society, whose products and ethos complies with Conscious Lifestyle Magazine’s stringent quality and integrity guidelines.
About The Author Meghan McDonald is the co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine. She holds a Masters degree in social psychology and has conducted award-winning research into the nature of human social behavior. Meghan loves exploring exotic destinations worldwide and learning about all things conscious, healthy, and whole.

The post Growing A New Body: How To Completely Restore Your Health And Well-Being At Any Age appeared first on .

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Solving the Mystery: The 5 Types of Dreams and What They Mean

BY CLARE R. JOHNSON, PH.D.

photo: nicolasberlin photocase.com
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Understanding Dreams: Core Techniques The saying goes that “eyes are the window to the soul.” The same thing can be said of dreams. There are many types of dreams and they reveal to us the state of our soul; they mirror our feelings and preoccupations by painting a cinematic picture of how we are experiencing life at that moment. Dreams don’t lie. They are not concerned with pulling the wool over our eyes and going along with our preferred version of the truth. Dreams are honest mirrors. We just need to work out what they are reflecting. An ancient Jewish proverb says, “An unexamined dream is like an unopened letter.”
Although our emotional response to a dream may be immediate and obvious, until we work with a dream and unravel its symbolic imagery, its deeper message may be lost to us. Dreams speak in a fabulous mixture of images, metaphors, and emotions that can be felt in the body. Have you ever woken up in the morning feeling sad, anxious, or insecure? Chances are you had a bad dream. And maybe you sometimes wake up laughing, or feeling unimaginably good? Dreams can powerfully influence our waking moods. There is only one universal language in the world, and that’s the language of dreams. When we understand dream symbolism, we open the door to our inner life. All over the world, dreams express themselves in rich, emotional imagery. This imagery may differ due to cultural context, but the symbolic meaning is conveyed in the same way. This article shows how to decipher the symbolic language of dreams, to give you an idea of how images can reflect specific feelings, events, and attitudes. We’ll look at five different types of dreams and you’ll learn core dreamwork techniques for what different dreams mean. Cracking the Code: How to Understand the Symbolic Language of Dreams We use metaphoric, symbolic language all the time in daily life. Every culture has its own collection of wise sayings, or idioms, which paint a picture of a situation: she has too many eggs in one basket; he let the cat out of the bag; every cloud has a silver lining; she got a taste of her own medicine; he’s missed the boat; we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Different dreams may have different meanings but they all love this picture-language and it is one of their preferred ways of communicating with us. But when we first look at a dream and what it means, it can seem completely mystifying. It’s actually good to approach the dream from a standpoint of not-knowing. This keeps us on our toes. It helps us to be flexible and open to the dream’s possible meaning. When we slap an instant interpretation onto a dream and cling stubbornly to this interpretation, we risk suffocating the dream. Dreams need to breathe, just as we do. This is why dreamwork is a process: there are often questions to be asked; associations to be made. The dream can be unwrapped, revealing its heart as we peel back the layers.
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Getting to know the language of dreams and what they mean is so exciting. It’s exhilarating to crack the code of a dream that’s been troubling you and experience that rush of recognition that dream therapists call the “Aha” moment. If you’re tempted to rush out and buy a dream dictionary, remember that although they can offer interesting perspectives, many give a simplistic, blanket meaning for each image. Yet every dream image will have different associations for different dreamers, and it’s vital to remain open to possible meanings. A cow will have a hugely different personal meaning for a butcher than for a Hindu, for whom cows are sacred animals. To understand our dreams, we need to speak their dense symbolic language. How do you know what certain dreams mean? In dream language, a tidal wave often relates to feelings of being overwhelmed, and a dream of taking an exam with no idea of the answers often connects to feeling unprepared in a waking life situation. A dream of being naked in public may relate to having revealed too much of ourselves. Only the dreamer can know the true meaning of their own dream, as associations are so personal, but familiarity with the language of dreams is key to understanding their possible meaning. The good news is that learning the language of dreams and what they mean is much easier than you may think, and you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Sometimes it gives clarity to a dream to see which category (or categories) it falls into. Let’s take a quick look at five types of dreams. Five Types of Dream Dreams can be roughly divided into five categories: physical, emotional, archetypal, lucid, and soul dreams. Many dreams will contain elements of more than one of these categories. 1. Physical Dreams These relate to your body: are you cold, hot, or exhausted? Do you need to pee? (We’ve all had those maddening dreams of hunting for a bathroom.) Are you ill or in pain? Physical sensations, pain, and illness that we are currently experiencing in our body can be woven into our inner movie in the form of unpleasant imagery, but if we manage to change any negative imagery while we’re in the dream, this may help to relieve the pain. A friend of mine went to sleep with a headache that she’d had for two days. She dreamed she was wearing a tight metal band on her head. In the dream, she managed to take it off, and when she woke up, her headache was gone. In a far more serious case, journalist Marc Barasch dreamed he was being tortured with hot coals beneath his chin, and it turned out he had thyroid cancer. 2. Emotional Dreams We are bound to dream about what concerns us, frightens us, or makes us happy. This is among the many important reasons why studying the types of dreams and what they mean can be of great help. Emotional dreams tend to have a psychological and personal focus. They involve clearly identifiable feelings such as sadness, happiness, loss, disbelief, surprise, horror, fear, and so on. For example, a friend of mine dreamed she was furiously smashing plate after plate in the kitchen while her husband watched helplessly. In such dreams, the setting and the action serve to illuminate the emotion that is hidden in our unconscious. The dream shows us how we really feel. When dream emotions are this extreme, they are calling out to be worked with. 3. Archetypal Dreams Dreams can contain archetypal symbols—universal images, characters, and themes that appear in all cultures throughout time in anything from legends and myths to cartoons and comic books. Archetypes are universally present in individual psyches. The “psyche” is the soul, mind, or spirit. Carl Jung believed that archetypes embody basic human experiences and universal meanings.
They are the heart and soul of many of our favorite stories, from fairy tales to blockbuster movies: we all recognize the archetype of the Mentor (for example, Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars) who trains the Hero for a quest, or the archetypal Old Hag (the witch in Hansel and Gretel), or the Trickster (Rumpelstiltskin). Archetypes can be both positive and negative, and they embody energies that are deeply familiar to us. In dreams, they often transcend the mundane level of our waking life to reveal something deeper. 4. Lucid Dreams  This is one of the most popular types of dreams. These dreams may fall into any of the other categories shown here, but the difference is that lucid dreamers know that they are dreaming while they are dreaming. Lucid dreams are often especially vivid and memorable. The lucid dreamer can also guide the dream and choose to respond to the dream scenario in a particular way: to face a fear, for example, or to realize impossible fantasies, like flying to the stars. 5. Soul Dreams  These are dreams of the higher; of spirit and soul. They often involve light, beautiful nature, or luminous beings, and have a spiritual quality. A woman I know dreamed of a glowing, energized female Buddha floating above her bed. I once dreamed of columns of blue light that seemed wise beyond belief. Such dreams connect us with a deep source of light and knowledge that we all have somewhere within. Examples of Dream Interpretation The following are simplified examples of dream interpretation, to give you an idea of the way how different dreams can communicate, and the importance of context and analysis in what do dreams really mean. Only the dreamer can truly know what his dream is about, and it’s important to be respectful of this at all times: never impose your interpretation of somebody’s dream onto them. The dream belongs to the dreamer! The radiator cap explodes off my car. Could this mean that the dreamer will have car trouble this week? Does it indicate that something is wrong in his body? This dream is a riddle until the dreamer tells us that he lost his temper badly the day before. Now it makes much more sense! We even have an idiom very close to this that expresses someone losing their temper, “He blew a gasket.” This dream is likely to reflect the man processing his out-of-control behavior from the previous day.
A dying dolphin is out of the water and is completely drying up. Why would anyone dream of a dying, drying-up dolphin? To discover more about the dream, we need to find out the dreamer’s associations, life situation, and insights. This is why “the dream belongs to the dreamer”: only the dreamer can really know what the dream is about. This dreamer was a blocked artist who felt that his creative inspiration (aka the dolphin) was completely drying up. Dreams are deep, but they’re indirect. This indirectness is exactly what can make them so opaque sometimes, even to their co-creator, the dreamer. Each of the dreams we’ve just looked at addresses deep issues and concerns, holding up a mirror to show the dreamer how he or she experiences life events. How to Unwrap a Dream: Core Techniques Dreams are like onions; their heart is hidden under many layers. Some dreams can be unwrapped over weeks, months, or even years, continuing to reveal rich new layers of meaning. Here are some quick and easy ways of reaching the heart of a dream and what they mean. Practice # 1: Re-enter the Dream  Carl Jung developed a technique called “active imagination” to focus on any inner imagery, such as memories or daydreams, or even a mood or emotion, in order to discover more about it. In terms of dreams, active imagination means that a dreamer imaginatively re-enters a dream while awake.

1. Find a quiet space where you can relax and close your eyes.

2. Bring the memory of your dream vividly into your mind. See the colors, feel the emotions again, notice the details. Take a moment to conjure up the dream scene and relive it. This is applicable to all types of dreams.

3. Now you are ready to engage with your dream; for example, by focusing on the imagery and watching it move and transform.

Practice # 2: Ten Key Questions for Unwrapping a Dream

1. Who are you in this dream? (A younger self, an observer, an animal, a different person, or yourself as you are today?)

2. How do you feel in your dream? What are the strongest emotions?

3. Do these emotions resonate with any situation in your life, past or present?

4. What is the core image or scene in this dream? (“Core” means the central, most arresting, most energized or emotional image.) This is considered as one of the most important elements in understanding one’s dreams and what they mean.

5. What are your associations with this core image or scene? Note down keywords or phrases.

6. If every dream figure and symbol represents a part of you, which part would the core image represent? Use your keywords to make it easier to connect with the core image.

7. If you were to ask the most negative or scary part of your dream if it has a message for you, what might it say?

8. Is there any light or beauty in your dream? This might be moonlight on water or a vibrant animal or person. Close your eyes and focus on it. Ask it, “What do you want me to know?” It might respond, or change into something else.

9. What does the dream want? Different dreams have different meanings but what is your dream really about? Consider the actions and emotions within it, along with any surprise events or unexpected feelings. Sometimes stepping back from your dream and viewing it as if it were a movie can help you to pinpoint what the dream is attempting to convey to you.

10. If you could go back into your dream and change the ending, what would happen?

May these 10 key questions help you uncover what certain dreams mean. Excerpted from Mindful Dreaming: Harness the Power of Lucid Dreaming for Happiness, Health, and Positive Change by Clare Johnson, Ph.D. Reprinted with permission from Conari Press, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser
About The Author Clare R. Johnson, Ph.D., is a world-leading expert on lucid dreaming. She is Vice President and Board Director of the largest dream organization in the world, the International Association for the Study of Dreams. Her work on lucid dreaming has been featured in documentaries, magazines, radio shows, and television. She is a regular speaker at international dream conferences, and she leads lucid dream workshops and courses on how to unlock the creative and healing potential of dreams. Learn more at deepluciddreaming.com

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My Journey to Rythmia Life Advancement Center: The Land of Miracles

BY JUSTIN FAERMAN

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This is a hard article to write… because, as I write, I am acutely aware of the fact that words can never truly capture the immense, life-altering profundity of what I experienced at Rythmia. But I am going to try to capture as much as I can in the hopes that those who are ready for a quantum leap in their personal and spiritual growth will get a sense of what awaits them if they decide to make the journey down to this beautiful little slice of planet Earth. So, with that being said, let’s begin.
First off, it’s important to know that there are two layers to this story: the trip to Rythmia and the trip at Rythmia. The edges of where each begins, and ends are fuzzy as there is a fair bit of overlap, but I’ll do my best to sort it all out into something coherent that captures the essence of each. The Trip to Rythmia Rythmia Life Advancement Center is a luxury wellness resort located on the northern end of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, which just happens to be ground zero for one of the world’s most famous Blue Zones. What is a Blue Zone, you ask? In a nutshell, it’s one of those special places on the planet where people live longer than anywhere else, with many breaking the 100-year-old mark and far beyond. Experts aren’t entirely sure why that is, but it has something to do with the food, the culture, and the pristine nature of the region that all combine to produce extraordinary levels of health and well-being. Great place to put a resort—and if that is all Rythmia had to its name, it would be a great reason to go. But, they do something very special here that makes all of this pale in comparison—they serve Ayahuasca, and when Ayahuasca is served, it always steals the show. Sure, longevity is great, but when it comes to life, it’s all about the quality of time spent over the quantity of years walking this earth. If you want an ultra-high quality, deeply fulfilling life, there are few faster ways to achieve that than through the intentional use of plant medicines like Ayahuasca, which is why a resort like Rythmia, which is dedicated to improving your quality of life big time, puts this sacred medicine front and center. These days, most people have heard of Ayahuasca in some form or another, but in case you haven’t, or in case what you’ve heard about it isn’t accurate, here’s a quick primer. Ayahuasca and Accelerated Personal Growth In a nutshell, Ayahuasca is a sacred plant medicine used for many hundreds, if not thousands, of years by indigenous tribes throughout the Amazon basin and adjacent regions of South and Central America for miraculous levels of healing and highly accelerated spiritual growth. How the plant does that is by sending you on a powerful, deeply transformational, and oftentimes psychedelic journey over the course of about 6 to 8 hours that typically takes you to the edges of the universe and back, with healthy doses of exploring the depths of your heart, mind, and soul. If that sounds intense, well, I am not going to lie, it is, but trust me it is so worth it.
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Admittedly, it’s not for everyone and once again, fair warning that it can be extremely challenging and unpleasant at times. But it can also be the most exquisitely beautiful experience of endless waves of bliss washing over your body for hours as your heart chakra is blasted open, overflowing with unconditional love for everyone and everything, burning away your deepest fears and anxieties forever. The fact is, you never quite know what you are going to get (and it’s usually a little bit of both ends of the spectrum), but you can always count on it being massively transformational at the highest levels. Every single person I met there was incredibly glad they chose to partake of the medicine by the end of the week, even those that had more challenging experiences. Out of our group of 60 or so people, there were miraculous healings of chronic illnesses and pain of all flavors, peace made with family members and lifelong grievances, letting go of deep trauma from childhood experiences, clarity on one’s life purpose, the lifting of long-seated, stubborn depression and anxiety, journeys into peak spiritual experiences of oneness, bliss, and the pinnacles of consciousness, and much more. When all was said and done, everyone got something profound, and no one was the same person who walked in at the beginning of the journey. Just another week at Rythmia… Nourishing Your Body, Mind, and Soul If the only thing they did is serve Ayahuasca, that would be another great reason to go; but the truth is that Ayahuasca is only half of the transformational equation they have incredibly well dialed in here. Rythmia is also a world-class destination for breathwork (which is just as powerful as plant medicine in its own way), workshops from leading spiritual teachers, and all the healing and lifestyle amenities to support the deep transformation that ensues that you could want. When you couple that with the incredibly kind and loving facilitators and staff, who make the whole experience feel like coming home to a long-lost soul family, you have the recipe for a peak experience that you’ll never forget. It helps to think of Rythmia like this: everything here is meticulously designed and continually being optimized to facilitate deep healing, deep transformation, and deep rejuvenation at every level of your mind, body, and spirit. Literally. Gerry Powell, the founder of Rythmia, is obsessed with feedback from people who come to visit and is constantly making tweaks and upgrades to the facilities and programming to deliver a beautiful, heart-opening experience that flows smoothly and effortlessly from start to finish. And it’s working. As someone who spends quite a bit of time sampling luxury retreats all around the world, I can say that my time at Rythmia was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, especially in terms of its ability to catalyze high levels of personal growth. And I have high standards too. As someone who has been committed to eating the highest quality organic food whenever possible, who practices breathwork, meditation and yoga daily, who has spent nearly a decade being personally mentored by and studying with many leading spiritual teachers (and could write a book on all of the different types of healing modalities I’ve experienced), and who has co-hosted and co-facilitated wellness retreats all over the world for 100+ people, I know what constitutes quality on many levels, and Rythmia hit the mark on every single one of them. The Equation for Deep Transformation Let’s start with the food. First off, the quality is awesome, and it’s 100% organic, which is an incredibly hard thing to pull off in Costa Rica. We spent a month traveling the country a few years ago and finding high-quality, organic food was probably the most difficult part of the trip. But somehow, they’ve figured that out here. Second, all of their food has a secret ingredient that makes it exceptionally delicious and nourishing: copious amounts of love. I know, I know, that probably sounds very corny, but stay with me for a minute. The restaurant at Rythmia is run by an incredibly beautiful and caring soul, Meg Pearson—a talented holistic chef—who radiates love and happiness out of every pore of her being, and the local Blue Zone-raised staff who support her share that same kindness and passion. And, if you have been following the latest quantum physics and noetic sciences research, you’d know that our intention most definitely affects the food we eat and actually changes it at a molecular level, affecting how healthy it is for us and whether our body reacts positively or negatively to it. So, the fact that the kitchen crew here is oozing loving kindness means you are getting very special food that is very rare to come by. Now a word of caution: don’t come expecting five-course gourmet meals. The food here is tasty, but simple. And that’s intentional—it’s actually not good to eat richly when drinking Ayahuasca and engaging in deep transformational work. Your body needs a simple, light diet to conserve energy for the internal rewiring and healing that is going on, and you want food that is going to make you feel great and energetically light. And that’s exactly what they serve here: organic food, infused with love that supports healing and doesn’t add any burden to your body. We highly recommend their organic juice cleanse option, and yes, whatever unique diet you are on, you will find plenty of options here, even for the most restricted palette. To support the healing of your physical body even further, all Rythmia visits include massages and colonics to help purify and release any tension and toxins that might be lingering in your system. While I didn’t personally get to try the colonics (I was busy experiencing waves of profound insights, bliss, and joy from all the Ayahuasca), I heard they were excellent from many people. I did, however, get a massage and that was fantastic. Costa Rica is a good country for massages. All of the ones I have had down there were excellent, and Rythmia’s was no exception—they used 100% natural and organic lotions infused with your choice of deliciously fragrant essential oils, and the therapist who worked on me was very experienced. I felt amazing during and afterwards, and it was a nice touch after the long nights of ceremony. After your massage, you are just a few paces away from their geothermal, spring water-fed hot tubs, steam room, and mud baths, featuring deeply exfoliating and detoxifying mud from local Costa Rican volcanoes. Quite frankly, after a trip to their spa center, it’s hard to feel anything but amazing, and most of it is open 24 hours, so you can visit whenever it feels right.
And finally, if you really want to go all the way with your physical healing, you can try their NovaCell program, which is a cutting-edge, research-backed stem cell treatment that has been shown to measurably reduce inflammation and confer an incredible range of anti-aging benefits. I spent one of the nights there in deep conversation with their medical director John Jacob Mubarak learning all about it, and I can confirm it’s truly a breakthrough in holistic medicine that you will be hearing a lot more about from leading universities and medical journals in the coming years and decades. Rythmia is one of the only places on the planet that offers it currently, so if you are interested, be sure to check out their presentation on it while you are down here. All of these things combined create a beautiful foundation for what are, in my opinion, the main attractions of Rythmia: the breathwork, the workshops, and the quality time with mother Ayahuasca, which take the physical healing to another level entirely and add on copious amounts of mental, emotional, and spiritual expansion. First, let’s start with the breathwork. If you’ve done it before, you know how powerful it can be; and if you haven’t, well, just know that you are in for a real treat. For some, it’s more transformational than the Ayahuasca itself, and once you learn how to do it, you’ll have it as a tool you can use whenever you want in your day-to-day life. And unlike Ayahuasca, it’s something you can safely do at home without having to take a break from your normal routines in life. But, like everything they do at Rythmia, this is not just a basic breathwork workshop. It’s an expertly facilitated, multi-sensory journey that helps to not only integrate everything you experienced on the plant medicine, but also take you to places the plants can’t. There is something uniquely organic about breathwork, which uses your body’s own energy and capabilities, to heal itself that is distinctly different from, and yet still complementary to, the plants. I saw some of the biggest breakthroughs of the whole week happen in the two breathwork journeys I participated in, and many people said it was the highlight of their experience. In short, the breathwork sessions make a great combo with the plants; and with the experienced facilitation of Christian Minson and his crew helping and guiding you throughout the process, it’s absolutely not to be missed. Spending Time with Gerry Next up on their transformational buffet are the workshops held throughout the week by visiting guest teachers like Reverend Michael Beckwith, Graham Hancock, John Gray, Anita Moorjani, and many more, including Rythmia founder Gerry Powell himself. And let me tell you: make sure to go to all of Gerry’s workshops if he is there when you are. They are absolutely not to be missed and were definitely a highlight of the trip. He’s hilarious—really, truly laugh-out-loud-for-hours-straight funny (he should really consider a second career as a stand-up comedian)—and his workshops prepare you very well for the Ayahuasca journeys. Plus, he knows a thing or two about life, having created and sold a $90 million company and overcome extreme drug addiction. He’s also very experienced with plant medicine and has one of the most lucid understandings of the dynamics of the medicine journey I have seen in a while that really adds to the experience in ways that are hard to describe. Moreover, he has a heart as big as the moon, and he takes a personal interest in the transformation of all of the guests. The Art of Being Well Cared For That’s another thing I really liked about Rythmia. It was very casual, not pretentious, and down to earth. Gerry and all the visiting guest teachers, shamans, and facilitators mingled openly throughout the week with participants, tracking their journey and transformation closely and offering support above and beyond the call of duty whenever needed. These people aren’t simply doing their jobs—they are here because they care deeply—they show up from a loving place for those who attend because they are incredibly passionate about helping others. I experience this from time to time at retreats, and when it is present, it always turns the event into a peak experience. The fact that they are able to do this authentically, week after week, is a testament to their commitment to creating miracles for everyone who attends. It’s also a testament to the power of Ayahuasca, when consumed regularly (which pretty much all of the staff do), to opening your heart in a big way and helping you transform into a very high quality human being.
And, it probably doesn’t hurt that this all takes place in a Blue Zone too. The land here is powerful; don’t be surprised to see wild howler monkeys and giant iguanas roaming through the property. After all, this is the jungle, and the jungle itself is its own healing medicine. The incredibly fresh air, the close proximity to the gorgeous beach at Playa Avellanas (which is only a short bike or shuttle ride away), and the beautiful star-filled night sky, which is absolutely unreal when seen through the lens of Ayahuasca, combine with everything else at Rythmia to make the experience a real treat for the senses that works its magic in subtle yet profound ways. Each night as I returned to my cozy bed in my cozy casita, I noticed a different aspect of the experience that I previously had missed that made it that much more special than the night before. And this is in large part because each day, I was truly a new person, having been transformed at the deepest levels from my nightly journeys on the wings of Ayahuasca. The Trip at Rythmia As amazing as everything I just described is to experience, few things can truly compare to the magnitude of what I experienced during my time with Ayahuasca. Before I dive into the nuances of what I personally experienced, there is an important disclaimer I need to make for those who are interested in what an Ayahuasca journey is like: What I experienced is unique to me, and what you experience (if you decide to sit with the medicine) will be unique to you. No two journeys are ever the same for the same person, let alone different people, and it’s important to trust at all times that you are getting exactly what you need, because that is exactly what is happening. Now, with that being said, there are often overarching similarities between people’s journeys. Common things that most people tend to experience include: visions of all kinds and flavors, healing of physical ailments, physical purging and crying, laughing and feeling waves of bliss and joy, release of long-held mental and emotional blocks, being brought to the edge of what they think they can handle, having direct experiences of one’s soul or God, deep forgiveness of oneself and others, psychedelic imagery, profound insights into the nature of reality, visiting higher dimensions, and so on. A Father-Son Journey into the Unknown With all of that being said, here’s what my father and I experienced. That’s right, I went with my dad. In fact, there were a few families there. Brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, parents and children, and so on. And even though we went together, we had wildly different experiences. My father’s intention was largely to get to the mental and emotional roots of his stubborn and intense health challenges from Type 2 diabetes that weren’t really being helped by the treatments he had been doing over the last few years. Despite his best efforts with both natural and western medicine, he felt stuck and, in many ways, hopeless as things were getting worse. It was clear to both of us that some kind of miracle was desperately needed, and when the opportunity to go to Rythmia presented itself, it quickly became obvious that this was likely his best shot. Being a fully licensed medical facility, staffed with EMTs and doctors around the clock, this was pretty much the only place he could safely do Ayahuasca. As a young, radiantly healthy 34-year-old who has spent the last 14 years deeply committed to my personal growth, my intentions were somewhat different. I chose to generally focus on expanding into the next level of my personal and spiritual evolution, whatever that entailed. Be it deep healing of unconscious blockages, or activating higher psycho-spiritual faculties I had been exploring for many years through my meditation practice, and everything in between. There was, however, a shared intention between us: that we trusted the plant’s wisdom deeply and surrendered to the experience, whatever it should bring. These plant teachers are unfathomably complex and intelligent, far beyond what we think we know; and when dealing with a power of that magnitude, it is always wise to ask for a bit of protection from your helper spirits (a tried and true shamanic practice) and to try and stay in beginner’s mind throughout. And with that, we were off. The Ayahuasca Ceremonies Every night for four consecutive nights, they offer Ayahuasca ceremonies at Rythmia. I say offer because nothing is mandatory, yet participation is highly encouraged. At around 5:30 each night, you gather with the other participants in your cohort to enter the Maloca—traditionally a long, ancestral house used by the natives of the Amazon, notably in Colombia and Brazil—the name of the meticulously kept space where Ayahuasca is consumed at Rythmia, named as such to honor the indigenous tribes from whom the medicine came. After a relaxed introduction and a question and answer session with the shamans and facilitators conducting the ceremony for the night, Hapé is offered. Hapé is a traditional indigenous snuff made from a mixture of wild jungle tobacco and sacred psychoactive plants that is traditionally consumed before Ayahuasca ceremonies to prime the mind, body, and spirit to receive the medicine. Once the serving of this medicine is complete, the Ayahuasca itself is offered next. Everyone starts with about one cup, more or less, depending on what the shamans determine that you need, and throughout the ceremonies, further doses are offered if one is feeling called to go deeper. Each night, different shamans facilitate the ceremonies; and yet they all share one core trait: they are highly experienced, highly trained masters of working with the plants, who have largely studied in the Inga lineage under the tutelage of Taita Juanito, a master Colombian shaman that carries the traditional ways of his people and oversees much of the Ayahuasca work at Rythmia. Although they each have a unique energy and style that changes the dynamics of each ceremony, one thing persists, you can intuitively feel you are in good hands, and there copious healers, helpers, and EMTs on staff with Rythmia to help ensure you are as safe and as cared for as can be. After receiving the medicine from the shaman’s, you return to your mattress to wait for the journey to begin. Some also choose to go outside, but either way, nature is never far away as the Maloca is designed to have minimal separation between you and the jungle—just enough, essentially, to keep you quite comfortable and free from bugs. Large windows encircle the space, offering glimpses into the starry night sky, and the sliding glass doors are almost always left wide open, letting the warm Costa Rican breeze seep in and allowing the purifying smoke from the burning copal resin to drift out. If you are feeling coherent enough to venture outside during your journey, it is highly recommended, but know that you will get exactly what you need wherever you decide to rest. The Sacred Journey Begins And then it begins. Over the course of a few minutes to a few hours, the medicine begins to take over your..
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Spring 2019 Issue Out Now Conscious Lifestyle Magazine
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THE KEYS TO LONGEVITY By Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D. Discover simple but powerful shifts you can make in your life that have been proven to increase longevity.   LION’S MANE: THE MIRACULOUS MUSHROOM By Noah Berman and Justin Faerman Discover the incredibly potent healing and health-boosting powers of Lion’s Mane mushroom.   RECIPE: SPROUTED GRAIN SALAD + SWEET POTATO By Kristin Dahl This vegan and gluten-free salad is a filling, fiber-rich lunch or dinner option that will keep you satisfied for hours.   MEDICINE FOR THE MIND By Kimberly Friedmutter What you think is just as important as what you eat. Learn to work on health at the subconscious level.   CREATING YOUR DESIRED REALITY By Mitch Horowitz Learn how to masterfully work different faculties of the mind to consciously create your dreams and desires.   THE KEYS TO SELF-HEALING By Dr. Jill Blakeway Discover the fascinating mechanics of reversing so-called incurable disease from the inside out.   NOURISHED BY NATURE By Catherine A. Sanderson The research is in, and the findings are quite clear: nature does the body and mind good—and quite a bit of it at that.   LOVING THROUGH YOUR DIFFERENCES By James L. Creighton, Ph.D. Conflict in relationship is only an issue if it doesn’t lead to growth. Here’s how to ensure it leads to the latter.   RYTHMIA: THE LAND OF MIRACLES By Justin Faerman If you are looking to make quantum leaps in your personal and spiritual growth, look no further.   ART: WAVES OF CONSCIOUSNESS The Art of George H. Lewis The soul-stirring photorealistic paintings of the uber-talented George Lewis are a sight to behold indeed.   CONSCIOUS EVENTS, BOOK REVIEWS, ENLIGHTENED PRODUCTS & MORE Vote with your wallet for a better (and more stylish) future by supporting these conscious, sustainable brands.
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The Mindful Open Awareness Meditation: 5 Minutes to a Happier, Calmer You

BY BENJAMIN W. DECKER

photo: ian stauffer
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The Mindful Open Awareness Meditation: What Is It? Open Awareness Meditation, also known as “open attention,” “open monitoring,” or “soft focus,” is a form of mindfulness meditation in which you allow the many things present in your consciousness (sounds and other sensory input, as well as your thoughts and emotions) to arise in your awareness and then naturally fall away as they are replaced by different sounds, thoughts, etc. This kind of meditation is considered a “yin” practice.
The ancient concept of yin and yang refers to the two fundamental sides of nature—both spiritual and physical, both feminine and masculine. This does not refer exclusively to male or female, but to the masculine and feminine in all aspects of life. Yin is the feminine aspect of all things and is associated with that which is expansive, open, and receptive, while yang is the masculine aspect of all things and is associated with that which is precise, active, and specific. Every person has both yin qualities and yang qualities, and the same is true of meditation practices. Attention is the yin to concentration’s yang. Attention (mindfulness) and concentration (focus) work together to provide a full, rounded experience of being both focused on the task at hand (whatever it may be), as well as having complete awareness of, and an open mind to, the many aspects of the moment you are in. In most meditation practices, you will be exercising some level of both concentration and open attention. The Mindfulness Sutras (or the Satipatthana Suttas, as they are known in their original language, Pali) are the primary foundational texts for what we know today as mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness refers to the experience of being totally aware of all the information your senses are processing. In the Eastern traditions, there are six natural senses that all humans are born with. This includes the five conventional senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—and the sixth sense, thought. This sixth sense of thought often comes to the foreground in mindfulness practices and in meditation generally. Our brains are built to think—thoughts are their natural product—and you will find that your brain goes on producing all kinds of thoughts even as you are meditating and trying to focus your attention on other things. What mindfulness meditation does for us is beginning to change our relationship to the thoughts occurring, especially as we gradually learn to consider them as sensory input rather than facts or events we need to respond to. Thoughts provide important information, but they are not fundamentally different from or more important than, say, the taste of pear or hearing a Mozart symphony. This can be a difficult lesson to learn because thoughts present themselves as reflections of reality. In other words, they present themselves as true. But just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true, or even particularly important. Let’s consider an example of the tricky ways thoughts can make us believe things that aren’t necessarily true. Imagine you send a text to a friend, inviting him to your birthday dinner. Hours later, you still haven’t heard back, even though this friend usually responds right away. By the time you go to bed that night, you’ve decided that he doesn’t want to come and is trying to think of a good excuse; your feelings are hurt. Then the next day, you wake up to a text from him: “Sorry for the delay. Phone died, was out all day without my charger. I’d love to come!” Just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true.
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Mindfulness practice can teach us about the nature of thinking, and perhaps even more importantly, it can teach us that we are not our thoughts. This might seem like an obvious or even silly point to make, but consider for a moment the negative thoughts you have about yourself—about your weight, your intelligence, or your career success. If you’re like most of us, you probably have a set of negative thoughts about yourself that you’ve been thinking for years and which you find yourself returning to regularly. In her book Says Who?, mindfulness teacher Ora Nadrich explains how our thoughts can hold us captive and how using mindfulness can help reframe our attitude toward negative and fear-based thoughts, mindfully replacing them with productive, supportive thoughts. We often allow—and rarely question the validity of—certain negative thoughts (for example, “I need to lose ten pounds,” “I’m not talented enough to make VP,” or “My spouse is too good for me”). If you’ve been thinking negative thoughts for long enough, you have probably come to believe in and identify with them. You think you are overweight or not good enough instead of recognizing that these are simply thoughts that you have about yourself that may not even be objectively accurate. You are not your thoughts; you are the thinker of the thoughts. We could never act on all of our thoughts, and there are many thoughts we shouldn’t act on or believe in if we want to live a healthy, well-balanced life. So, this mindfulness meditation practice will help you discern which thoughts support your goals and well-being and which thoughts are destructive or unhealthy and should be discarded. In mindfulness meditation, you practice checking in with all of the sensations and thoughts you are experiencing, as you experience them. Gradually, you will practice opening your awareness to the simulta­neous observation of the various aspects of the moment—without any expectation, without any judgment, allowing them to fluidly change. The key to getting the most out of an Open Awareness Meditation is to allow everything to be as it already is. It is in our nature to want to change or improve things, especially if there is discomfort on any level. To the extent possible, you should try not to do that during your meditation practice and simply allow things to be as they are. For example, you decide to meditate outdoors because it’s a peaceful, quiet day with comfortable weather. As your meditation begins, you hear a car drive by, your neighbor’s dog barking, and the gentle breeze of the wind. The mental perspective to hold here is that you accept and allow the dog to bark and the car to drive by, without entertaining the desire for things to be any different than they are. The thought may arise “Will that dog be quiet?” but your practice will be to let yourself have that thought without following it or dwelling on it. The sound of the car and the barking of the dog need not interrupt the meditation; rather, they can become a part of it. Of course, you should always try to meditate in a place where you will be safe and as undisturbed as possible, but keep in mind that in any meditation practice, a crucial component is to allow—even welcome—changes to the outside environment without interrupting the meditation. Simply observe, experience, and allow things to be as they are. This Open Awareness Meditation will make you more aware of the thoughts passing through your mind. Studies show that the average individual thinks anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 thoughts every single day. By holding an open-focus awareness, you create a larger mental “container” for your thoughts to pass through. Gradually, with regular practice, mindfulness will give you the opportunity to more clearly see and experience the many layers of your thinking process. What You’ll Get Out of It Today you will open your awareness to include the fullness of the moment you are in. We can compare our attention to light: If we focus our concentration on something, we might say that we are “shining a spotlight” on it. When we practice open awareness, rather than shining a spotlight on one particular thing, we might say that we allow our awareness to “shine” in all directions around us, like the glow of a candle flame. We will refer to this “glow” of awareness around us as our field of awareness.
Your field of awareness is the sum total of all of your sensory input. The practice of open awareness is an exercise in allowing your senses to experience the fullness of the present moment, becoming aware even of the subtleties that you may normally overlook, ignore, or miss altogether, like the temperature of the air around you or the faint creaking of floorboards. When we simply notice and allow things to be as they are, we naturally disengage from the impulses that would try to control or change things. This is not a practice in passivity or ignorance—quite the opposite. This is a practice in opening your mind and allowing yourself to receive all the information you possibly can before making any moves or taking any action. Notice the word allow. We do not force ourselves to pick up on sensory input; the awareness expands naturally from a practice of calm, relaxed allowing. When we are resistant to something that is happening, we have a biological tendency to “brace for impact,” which means we withdraw and tighten the muscles in our body. The mind then immediately begins thinking of all the way things could or should be different than they are. When we are open to something, we tend to be more curious about, and even more willing to embrace, the unknown, which leaves the body more at ease. This allows us to be more open to understanding and learning about what we are experiencing. With an open mind, we tend to see more possibilities and multiple perspectives on things. Open Awareness Meditation will strengthen your ability to really see things as they are and accept them for what they are. By practicing Open Awareness Meditation, you will cultivate:

1. Discernment

Open Awareness Meditation allows us to understand more about the moment we are in. The more we know in any circumstance, the more informed our decisions can be. Through practicing mindful awareness, we cultivate discernment by being more sensitive to the bigger picture and how the present moment relates to it. This increased understanding allows us to discern which thoughts we want to entertain, which thoughts we need to release, and what might be the right decision for us to make given the circumstances.

2. Decreased Depression and Increased Happiness

In studies published by Scientific American, Science Daily, and more, mindfulness meditation practices have been successfully applied as a treatment for depression and proven to ameliorate depression symptoms such as lethargy and lack of quality sleep. Other studies show increased happiness and joy. There are also reports of increased laughter after going through mindfulness training.

3. Core Creativity

In Dr. Ronald Alexander’s book Wise Mind, Open Mind, he maps out the different ways that a mindfulness meditation practice can help you tap into your core creativity and the mental perspective of limitless possibilities.

4. Self-Awareness and Better Decision-Making

We all have many sides to our personalities. As you practice observing your thoughts, you will become more aware of the tone of your internal voice and the kinds of thoughts you are having and develop the ability to intervene before saying or doing something you might regret.

5. Reduced Stress

Mindfulness practices are proven to have significant effects on reducing the physical symptoms of stress. It is well known throughout the medical community that stress aggravates just about every single health problem and illness. By reducing the symptoms of stress (like tension in the muscles and concentrated amounts of stress hormones in the bloodstream), we reduce their negative effect on our overall health.

6. Perspective

By developing mindful awareness of the various aspects of your environment through Open Awareness Meditation, that same skill naturally transitions into other areas of your life, providing a sense of proportion, big-picture perspective, and being present within a larger context.

7. Improvement in Your Life

Through the practice of witnessing things as they are, you will become more aware of your ability to change things that are not working for you. By becoming more attentive and aware of the thoughts arising in your mind, you will create the opportunity to question and reframe them.

The Open Awareness Meditation Practice: How to Do It Meditation Length: 5 Minutes What You’ll Need

+ A comfortable chair or cushion where you can sit with your spine comfortably erect.

+ A quiet place to sit where you won’t be easily disturbed (by someone walking in on you, for example).

+ A timer (if you decide to use the timer on your smartphone, it is best to put the phone on airplane mode or silent to prevent distractions from incoming alerts).

+ Your meditation notebook and a pen or pencil.

Get Started Please read through this entire meditation before beginning. Ideally, you will remember the instructions and not have to interrupt the awareness meditation to check the next step. For this meditation, you should be sitting up—or even standing. Try to have your weight comfortably balanced between your left and right sides. If you are sitting, I recommend allowing your hands to rest comfortably in your lap or on your knees. If you choose to stand, have your arms resting comfortably at your sides. The key points for posture are:

1. Sit comfortably. 2. Not so comfortably that you’ll fall asleep. 3. Sit or stand with your back comfortably erect.

I attended a lecture by Harvard Medical School professor of psychology and Buddhist scholar Daniel P. Brown in which he explained that the popular notion of meditation solely as a relaxation technique is inaccurate and actually detrimental to the powerful mind-training effects of meditation. In a state of deep relaxation, the mind tends to wander. Sitting up straight or standing with an erect spine will support your mental alertness, making for effective meditation. As you sit, you will notice micro changes in the body. These can be any number of things, such as tension rising in your shoulders as you hear an unpleasant sound, subtle changes in the breath as you settle deeper into a relaxed state or chills on your skin as the temperature in the room changes. The exercise is to practice holding a soft focus, open to experiencing all of these things at once. Please read through this entire meditation before beginning. Ideally, you will remember the instructions and not have to interrupt the open awareness experience to check the next step. Before Meditating

1. Find a place to sit or stand where you won’t be disturbed.

2. Take a moment to get into a comfortable position that you will be able to maintain for the duration of the practice with as little movement or adjustment as possible.

3. Set your intention: “I will meditate for five minutes, opening my awareness to the various sounds, sensations, thoughts, and emotions that may arise and allowing everything to be as it is, just for these five minutes.”

Begin Meditating

1. Set your timer for five minutes.

2. Allow your eyes to gently close.

3. Feel your breath as your lungs expand and contract.

4. Notice the sensations along the surface of your skin, feeling the air in the room.

5. Bring your awareness to space above your head, noticing any sounds or movement in the space above you.

6. Move your awareness to the space below you, noticing where your body touches the cushion or floor. Notice any subtle vibrations from the floor.

7. Keeping your body in a restful stillness, bring your awareness to space in front of you, as far as your senses can reach.

8. Next, notice any sounds or movement to your right.

9. Move your awareness to space behind you, filling the room, even expanding beyond the room. (Any sounds on the other side of the walls?)

10. Move your awareness to your left.

11. Envision your awareness as a glow in all directions around you, mentally scanning all directions at once—simply witnessing the moment as it is.

12. If the mind wanders, bring your awareness back to the breath as it expands and contracts, and expand your awareness in all directions around you from there.

Wrap Up It is always recommended to end a meditation gently and mindfully. For some people, this means slowly beginning to move and stretch the body before opening their eyes; for others, this means saying a brief prayer or setting an intention for their day, such as “And now, I am going to have an efficient, effective, positive workday.” Whatever way is most natural for you to wrap up, go for it. What matters is that you give yourself a moment to exit the meditation without a sense of rushing. Transitioning mindfully out of meditation helps you keep the relaxed state developed during your practice, thus extending the “shelf life” of the benefits of calmness, clarity, and openness. Take a moment to record the details of your awareness meditation. If you end up meditating for longer than the suggested five minutes, please be sure to note this. If you have time, take a few minutes to write down your answers to the following in your meditation notebook:

+ Did any particular thoughts or memories come to mind that stood out?

+ Were there any sensations that surprised you? A sound or feeling that was unexpected?

Go Deeper: Ten Minute Meditation (or Longer) Begin with the above open awareness practice, but set your timer for ten minutes instead of five. If after ten minutes you feel you want to keep going, continue the meditation for as long as you wish. I typically recommend 20 to 40 minutes for regular practice. Go Deeper throughout Your Day: Mindful Check-In

+ Do a mindful check-in at work: Take a brief moment to mindfully experience the workplace from your usual spot. Mentally scan in all directions around you.

+ Do a mindful check-in during your meals: Notice the fragrances, the sounds, and the thoughts arising in your mind.

+ Do a mindful check-in at the market: When visiting one of the places you usually do your shopping, take a moment to notice the temperature, the smells, the music, and the conversations happening in the background.

+ Anywhere you find yourself, do a mindful awareness check-in: Whenever appropriate, take a moment to close your eyes and listen in all directions around you. Be present with wherever you are, whenever you are actually there. Take it all in!

Excerpted from Practical Meditation for Beginners: 10 Days to a Happier, Calmer You by Benjamin W. Decker, published by Althea Press. Copyright © 2018
About The Author Benjamin W. Decker is a meditation teacher and social activist in Los Angeles. He is the Director of Education at The Institute for Transformational Thinking and a founding teacher at Unplug Meditation, The DEN Meditation, and Wanderlust Hollywood. He is also the former Director of Partnerships at the humanitarian aid organization Generosity.org and former Director of Partnerships at the anti-human trafficking organization Unlikely Heroes. Learn more at bendeckermeditation.com

The post The Mindful Open Awareness Meditation: 5 Minutes to a Happier, Calmer You appeared first on .

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