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Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Filtering by Tag: Spring

On Nourishment + Creative Inspiration (plus a skin care recipe!)

Katie Gordon

I made it to Oregon! I'm getting settled in and loving the Pacific Northwest. I knew being in a new environment like this would have a huge impact on my physical & mental health. Already my body feels different, my hair feels different, my sleep is noticeably better, and I'm allowing myself time to process, shift, and integrate.

The thing I noticed immediately was...I'm exhausted. When you spend so long burning the candle at both ends and surrounding yourself with stimulants (caffeine, people, noise, traffic, Netflix binges, a general addiction to busy-ness) and not nourishing yourself properly (with sleep, tonifying foods, time in nature) you don't even realize how tired you are. Slowly I was losing my creative fire because my nervous system was so depleted, running purely on coffee and external stimuli.

So many of us live with that as our reality. We don't think it can be any other way. But it can. And on my first full day here that I spent on my own, all I wanted to do was sleep, read, make tea, and sit. It was strange (yet comfortable) how quiet it was, and even though I kept feeling like I should be doing something or listening to something or watching something, I tried to let that go and just feel what it was like to be quiet. My nervous system took a huge sigh of relief and layers of tension dropped away.

I'm still integrating, but it's amazing how quickly that creative spark comes back. And how much energy is bound up in our bodies in the form of tension, pain, and stagnation. I'm really excited to test new recipes, research, write, blog, and fully dive into Wild Grace! Expect lots of new content and products in the shop...soon. For now, a poem because I'm feeling inspired by all things sea-related & a recipe for a facial mask (or masque if you want to be fancy)...

"Gather a shell from the strewn beach And listen at its lips: they sigh The same desire and mystery, The echo of the whole sea's speech. And all mankind is thus at heart Not anything but what thou art: And Earth, Sea, Man, are all in each. ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Sea Limits

For this mask/masque I chose ingredients that most people will either have on hand or can find easily in a health food store or even grow in your garden.

Clay + Chamomile Facial Mask

Combine all the dry ingredients in a mason jar, add your essential oils, cap the jar, and shake well. When you're ready to use it, mix 2 teaspoons of the mask with 2 teaspoons of water. You can also use herbal tea (cooled off), milk, or yogurt. Apply to your skin and let it dry. Rinse with warm water and a washcloth and follow with a moisturizer.

Enjoy your potion-crafting!

Spring Miso Soup

Katie Gordon

Hi All!  It's been SO long since I've posted that I don't even know how to catch you up.  So let's just skip that for now so that I can share with you this awesome miso soup recipe that my amazing roommate and I made tonight.  The original inspiration for this recipe came from my mentor and friend, Nicole. As most of you know, I've been studying Chinese medicine in conjunction with Shiatsu Anma massage for awhile now and I've been getting into macrobiotics/eating and getting in tune with the seasons.  When I stick to it, I've noticed I feel much more grounded and at home in my mind and body.  Now that it's finally feeling like spring here in New England, it seems like a good time to start talking about Spring in terms of TCM.  Just in time for Summer to roll around...

Spring is the time for us to renew our relationship with our liver, which has been working extra hard all winter to digest the fats and heavy foods that have been sustaining us for the last few months.  Energetically, the liver is responsible for establishing a smooth flow of energy through the body and mind.  For these reason, Spring is also a great time to cleanse the liver, but more on that later.  Here are some basic guidelines for spring food:

- Eat light(ly)!  Not just less, but light foods.  Think organic greens, sprouts, lots of fresh veggies (of which there will be lots in the farmers' markets now), and grains. - Simple food preparation.  Steaming and sauteeing are quick and easy ways to cook most of those fresh veggies you just picked up. - Incorporate sweet and pungent flavors to move stagnation and get your chi (or qi if you prefer) moving. - Limit intake of salty foods.  Salt as a flavor has a sinking and contracting energy, which is the opposite of what we want to do in the spring.  Side note: I know miso is salty, but it's an exception because it's awesome and good for your liver.

Keep in mind for this recipe that it's soup, so feel free to vary any amounts (I didn't measure exactly) or add in/leave out whatever you're feelin' or not.

Also, mushrooms are a superfood.  Fact.

Spring Miso Soup:

8 c. water 2-3 c. chopped and whole fresh mushrooms (I used shiitake and cremini mushrooms, chopping up some and leaving some of the shiitake whole to make things interesting) 2-3 green onions, chopped 5-6 Tbsp. red miso* pre-cooked barley** handful of dandelion greens, chopped

Clean your mushrooms, chopping up some or all, and put them in a bit pot with the water, heat to a boil, turn to a simmer, and let them simmer away for an hour or so.  You don't have to do it this long, but it makes a richer mushroom broth and also extracts more of the nutrients in the mushrooms.

Now that you have your mushroom broth, throw in the chopped green onions to simmer for a few minutes.  In a small bowl, mix your miso and some warm water until the miso is completely blended, thinning out the mixture as needed, and add it to the mushroom broth.

Add in your barley and your greens.  Honestly, I didn't measure the barley at all, so just put in however much you think looks good, let it heat, and you're all set!

Notes: *I used red miso, though you can use any kind.  Red and yellow are both great for your liver, and have a bit more flavor in my opinion.  You can even use both.  Feel free to experiment and see what you like. **To make the barley, I put 1 c. pearled barley in a pot with 3 c. water, brought it to a boil, then let it simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.  The package said it would take over an hour, but it definitely didn't, so just keep an eye on it.

Serves 6 or so.

Spring and Liver Health

Katie Gordon

Now that Spring is officially here (at least I hope there's no more snow), there are changes everywhere we look.  Flowers blooming, grass growing, birds singing, people walking around without huge coats and boots, even the Duck Tours have started again here in Boston.  And of course opening day at Fenway this past week.  Spring really hasn't arrived until baseball season starts again, so I don't feel bad that I didn't write this weeks ago :)

Spring is a season of renewal and regeneration.  A time to get things moving again and the energy of Spring is highly active.  We start new projects (i.e. spring cleaning), prepare our taxes, study for finals...there's a lot of change going on.  For some this transition is relatively easy, but for others, this high energy can result in stress, frustration, nervousness, and even anger.  Sound at all familiar?

In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with a major organ.  Spring corresponds to the liver and its complementary organ, the gallbladder.  The liver is responsible for the overall healthy flow of energy, or qi, or chi.  It regulates the movement of chi everywhere else in our body.  Since it plays such a major role in our health, and Spring is a time of renewal, it is a great time to cleanse the liver and gallbladder.

Physically speaking, the liver controls the muslces and tendons, storing blood during periods of rest, and releasing it during activity.

Energetically, the liver is responsible for creating an easygoing disposition and internal environment, therefore it is also in charge of balancing the emotions.  When there is an imbalance, we might experience mood swings, impulsive behavior and emotions, and chronic anger.  The liver corresponds to the element of Wood, needing to be both flexible and stable.

As for the mental qualities of the liver, it controls the coordination of the mind, allowing us to make connections, creating a plan and putting it into action.  At the same time, liver health is reflected in an ability to be flexible, change, and adapt, which is what Spring is all about!  As we all know, when we experience frustration, there isn't much clarity.  It's hard to think through situations, make plans, or shift in order to adapt to new conditions.

The gallbladder is connected to our ability to follow our path in life, to avoid being put off by external influences.  When our chi is depleted, we experience hesitation and timidity.

For some of us, our Liver qi starts to flow more easily when Spring hits, and much of the problems we experienced during Winter, such as sluggishness, begin to ease.   However, for others, the transition from Winter to Spring can be rough because of problems associated with qi stagnation.  Some signs of Liver qi stagnation are:

- Stress or irritability - Low energy - Depression - Muscle tightness or pain - Digestive disorders - Headaches

Spring is a wonderful time to work with these issues if you notice them coming up in your body, because these patterns  will be most noticeable and responsive during this season.  It's important to take this time for your own spiritual, emotional, and physical renewal, to examine unhealthy patterns, and to create new ones that will serve you better.

Here are some ways to get your liver chi moving:

Stretch - Since the liver rules your muscles and tendons, beginning your day with some gentle yoga or tai qi will get that energy moving as well as maintaining the health of your tendons.

Green - Eat lots of it!  Green is the color representative of Spring and the liver.  Eating fresh leafy greens will help with moving the liver chi.

Get outside - Speaking of green, there's finally some of it outside!  The best part about Spring is that it's finally warm enough to enjoy being outside instead of staying holed up in the house.  As it warms up, try doing more outdoor activities like taking a hiking or just a morning stroll.  Ride your bike around town.  Take your yoga practice outside, doing some sun salutations with the sun.

Taste sour - Foods with sour tastes are believed to stimulate liver chi.  Try starting your day with hot water and a squeeze of lemon, or follow your mid-day meal with a lassi (recipe to follow), or add a pickle to your sandwich.

Drink Milk Thistle tea -  It protects the liver from toxins and aids the liver in cleansing itself of toxins already present.

Get creative - Spring is all about creation and growth.  Expressing yourself in cooking, writing, dancing, singing, drawing, or any other form of self-expression will nourish and channel that Wood energy (remember flexible and stable) in a healthy way.

Anyway, sorry for the late post (Spring technically started March 21), but better late than never right?  I hope some of these suggestions will help ease you into the season and prepare the way for Summer (ok, I may be getting a little ahead of myself, but can you blame me?).

Katie's Lassi Recipe:

1 Part plain yogurt (start with 1/3 c.) 2 Parts water 1 tsp. rosewater (optional) Cardamom, cinnamon, ginger to taste (optional) Sweetener such as honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, etc.

Mix ingredients together and enjoy as a snack or 30 min. after a meal to aid with digestion.

A Prayer in Spring

Katie Gordon

It's finally starting to feel like spring!  It's been raining for the last few days (with a little snow mixed in), but it feels softer, the air is wetter and it feels easier to breathe.  It makes me want to sit outside under a big tree and just listen to the rain dripping on the leaves.  My body is starting to loosen up and my mind even feels like a block has been lifted.  I love the spring.  It feels so full of possibilities and light.  This year I especially have a sense of renewal.  If I think too hard about what specifically will come about, it slips from my grasp, but if I let it rest, like a bubble, hovering just out of my reach, I can still get a sense of peace from the promises it holds.  I know if I let this new life and potential unfold on it's own time, without the urgency and rush that exists in the rest of the world, wonderful things can come of it.  It reminds me of a poem by Robert Frost, "A Prayer In Spring":

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day; And give us not to think so far away As the uncertain harvest; keep us here All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white, Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night; And make us happy in the happy bees, The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird That suddenly above the bees is heard, The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill, And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love, The which it is reserved for God above To sanctify to what far ends He will, But which it only needs that we fulfill.

I love this poem because it reminds me to enjoy the present, to stop and appreciate each moment for the life it holds.  The simple pleasures in life, the feeling of wet grass under bare feet, falling asleep to the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the roof, the silence of snowfall, always seem to bring a sense of calm, peace, and clarity.  What are some of the small things that make you smile to yourself?  Once you start thinking of them, you'll notice more and more things in your day-to-day life that you appreciate. 

In a culture that values constant striving for perfection, the natural world brings balance because it reminds us that life will go on at its own pace no matter what we do, and there are forces greater than ourselves at work.  We don't know what will happen in the future, or the "uncertain harvest," all we can worry about is "the flowers to-day," what we know at this moment, and take pleasure in that.