Category Archives: Environmental Health

We are all one

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This month I am fortunate enough to start a series of classes with Elder Kaia Svien. The course aims to build upon inner resources so we can be our best selves in face of uncertainty in the world. With the beginning of a new year and a new job, the timing has been impeccable, and I feel so fortunate to cross paths again with such a wonderfully in-tune mentor and role model and a like-minded community.

In class the other night, like in life, I was so up and down. We were asked to introduce ourselves with an animal movement. While I was thinking whale and moving very slowly with my back to the circle – trying to figure out how I would express water coming through a blowhole – when it was time to turn around and share our move with the group my body went all penguin on me, which is a very happy feeling by the way. You should try it. Anyway, despite feeling elated and fortunate to be present that evening, moments later when we had to share about what we were grateful for, I couldn’t help but burst into tears. The only thing that kept coming to my mind was all the planetary and personal and collective sacrifices that have occurred along the way (some intentional and some not-so-intentional) so that people like me could live the privileged life that I lead with ample choices that I make for better or worse. They were tears of joy and sorrow, hope and grief, fear and love, but mostly of gratitude and indebtedness. After sharing what I was grateful for, I was to talk about something I loved as a child that I still love now. Once I finished cry-talking about my love for animals, like a crack of lightning, I came to realize how ridiculous I’ve been leading my life lately, and how I have lost touch with my indebtedness to those that went before me and those that will come.

Here I am in a big life transition, an honor that has only been grounding and challenging and inspiring, and I have spent more time than I care to admit focusing on the “I wish this” or “I wish that” or “I wonder if” or “if only… I did this or did that or that they did that or didn’t do this.” You get the picture. Or I will get that overwhelming feeling, “well what can you really do?”

Well in that moment of exalting my love for my dog, Yuki, as I mentioned something in me seriously clicked and it’s like I actually finally get it. It’s hard to explain. But I know now, that now is the time, and the time is now. We need each other now more than any other time, and I’m ready to be a part of the solution. I’m not just saying this (I have just said this before). I know that our time is precious and the more I spend my energy on the “I wishes” or the finger pointing or the judgment, the less time and energy I have to be the change I want to see in the world.  There isn’t enough time to continue wasting life because of fear and because we are holding back our truth. And that’s that.

So I came on here partially for selfish reasons – to sort it out, but also because I wanted to share this thought process with you in hopes that you will join me in entertaining the possibility of just being once again but in a way that is coming home to our authentic selves and not turning away from our deepest fears and desires and to the fact that we are all connected.

I can’t go without saying that I owe this recent shift in consciousness to a number of people, places, and furry friends in my life – my parents/families (that includes you, Anne!), my teachers past and my teachers present- Kaia, her teacher, Joanna Macy, my yoga teacher, Tanya – and my current supervisors and place of work.

The greatest thing I’m finding about really recognizing that I am part of a whole, is that the whole has plenty of room for all of us – for the penguin moments and for those uncontrollable tears tied to deep grief and pain. As Joanna Macy says about the pain – it is simply the gateway into which you go into a communion with the living world that is fearless.

So tonight, not without regard to the pain and suffering in the world, I offer a toast to celebrate our connection to one another and to the whole. Here is a happy feet, penguin-like kind of a song. Call me cheesy, or call me real. Today, this song’s words resonate with me and I hope they resonate with you, too. Now let’s take care of the world and one another – and for some of us that means starting at home with ourselves, our friends, and our families.

The Healthy Home: DIY Lavender Wands

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The purchase of a home changed my life. I never knew how much my perspective would shift after making such a large investment and commitment to something as basic as shelter. How foolish of me. Although I must admit, I always paid special attention to how our physical landscapes and environments influence our health, behavior, and our sense of “place.” When I lived in places that were dirty, dark, or cold I noticed a difference in my wellbeing.  When I heard yelling from the unhappy neighbors living next door, it was tougher to have sweet dreams or to go home at all.

Despite my awareness of the importance of living in a place that is safe and that reflects and expresses our true personhoods, I have often neglected taking care of my home (and therefore myself). For me, it has been easy to go on living in places filled with piles of laundry scattered here and there. It has also been easy for me to ignore dirty dishes. Generally speaking, it was not a hard choice to avoid developing the spaces I inhabited. That choice wasn’t the fault of my loud neighbor or a landlord’s requirement. It was my own choice. In addition to my lack of ambition, resources were often scarce. Excuses were always many. When can one find the time, the money, or both to make the repairs and enhancements necessary to make a home healthy and beautiful? What is a healthy and beautiful home, and why does it matter, anyway?

Well, it turns out there are many low-cost ways that can transform a space and make you feel good about the place you call home, whether you own or are just staying the night. As a renter, it’s easy to view your home as temporary, but that is not the way you have to treat your stay, and it is certainly no excuse to give up on making your home a healthy place to live. Unfortunately it took me until I actually bought a home to truly respect and honor the sense of place, security, and wellbeing that such a place provides for me.

Today I want to share a simple project that is on my to-do list that will create a feel-good sensation at home.  I find these wands to be the perfect project to look forward to as I wait  for the cold season to make its way out of Minnesota. Traditionally, women placed these bundles of joy in drawers to keep their underclothes smelling fresh and also to repel moths. Nowadays, they would be known as drawer scenters. They make a great gift and add beauty and health to any home. They are called, Lavender Wands.

The materials you will need to create your wands include:

  •  Thin string/fishing line
  • Odd number of fresh lavender stalks
  • 1 yard of ribbon optional

For basic instruction, I found this video to be helpful:

To see a more detailed step-by-step process with pictures, visit Homemade Gifts Made Easy.

Have garden space where you live or have access to a community garden plot? Check out Midwest Living’s How to Grow Lavender in the Midwest.

Can’t wait for fresh lavender to arrive? Check out lavender essential oils in the meantime. Put a drop on a cotton ball and sniff to your heart’s content. Although, be careful not to sniff too much, because while lavender offers relaxing properties, if used too much it will act as a stimulant.

A Healthy Home in the Making

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This post is three parts, one part excuse, one part teaser, and one part informative/cool.

Excuse part: While I will do my best to blog about any pertinent wellness news, I write to ask you to please excuse my quiet blogging presence this month. On March 1st, my husband and I bought our first home. Which means during the last two weeks, our free time has been dedicated to all things house-related. If we aren’t eating or sleeping, we are packing, organizing, moving, painting, dreaming, arguing, celebrating, or thinking about the move. You get the idea. You know the stereotypical, new, overexcited DIY-homeowners? That’s us right about now. I never imagined myself to be so enthralled by it all, but I am, and I am riding the wave while I can. I sense a burnout on the horizon so I’m hoping this go-go-go adrenaline will continue to motivate us through April 1st, our official move-in date. Once we are all in one place, I look forward to taking a break from the hustle and bustle and inviting you over to simply relax and ponder the meaning of our existence, you know, the usual. Or, maybe we could be wild and have a party? The possibilities are infinite…

Teaser part: So why am I including this homeowner babble on Mandala Reflections? Well, I have been itching to share some information about environmental health on this blog and now feel like I have the extra push to bring this topic to light. My thesis work for my holistic health studies degree actually started with research on environmental health and healthy homes. I gained a lot of knowledge and insight about the environment and how it affects our health and would love to share what I learned with you in smaller bites. Truthfully on good days, I can hardly wrap my head around the pages and pages of my thesis and notes, so I actually am delighted to have a reason to revisit my work, make it useful for me and for you, and perhaps encounter some more discoveries along the way.

Informative/cool part:

One important aspect of a healthy home is good air quality, indoor and out. So, I leave you with a picture of a desk that was designed by Julio Radesca based on the principles that Kamal Meattle discussed in his TEDtalk on how to use plants to grow fresh air. To give you the quick version understanding, plants help keep the air you breathe clean. Certain plants work better than others.  Julio Radesca’s desk uses a hydroponic system that feeds the plants, which keeps them alive so they can clean the air, so that you can breathe happy.

However you should know, there two things that plants cannot clean. 1) Smoke. 2) Dust. So if you smoke, understand that only you can remove those pollutants from your home.  And, always remember to give your green friends a good wash, at least once a week if you want them to keep cleaning the air for you. What is a good wash, you ask? Spray the leaves with water and pat them clean/dry with a paper towel. Be gentle. If you want to give your plant a great wash, maybe talk to the plant while you wash it. Light some candles, put on some tunes, whatever works for you and your plant. Just don’t light the candle too close to the plant…