Homemade Apple Tea Recipe for Spring Season Blues

Photo by S. Hermann & F. Richter 

You may be thinking, “Why a hot tea recipe at the start of the spring season?”. Well, if you live in the Midwest like I do, you know that weather can be somewhat unpredictable. Temperatures fall and rise so sporadically, even meteorologists have a hard time keeping up. However, it can be rather pricey to constantly adjust one’s HVAC settings between heat and air conditioning from day-to-day. These frequent changes can be a challenge for our immunity and general health. This is where I insert a nice and versatile beverage to help keep me healthy, save my pockets and warm my spirit.

More on spirit, any concoction can be enhanced with the magic touch of intention. Just stir the tea in a clockwise motion while pondering on the holistic benefits of your ingredients as if they have already began working on you. A significant aspect of nutritional effectiveness is mental receptivity. Considering the nature of our mind-body connection, choosing a more positive outlook on potential outcomes may have beneficial results on overall health and, therefore, can only serve to assist any ingested nutrients.

Apple Tea has recently joined my repertoire for cold weather enjoyment. Here is my recipe along with a few reasons why:

Photo by Brittney S. Atkinson

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan

It’s easy to overlook water as being a just the base of a concoction but it’s so much more than that. Water is a transporter, the stage that gives the other ingredients space to play their part. Especially when heated, it’s the activator that moves the flavors out to be drinkable. It’s what hydrates us.

2 Apples

I used 2 small fiji apples, each cut into 4 equally-sized pieces. Add or reduce amount depending on how sweet (or apple-y) you’d like your tea to be. Apples are not only good for the immune system, they also contribute to heart health and may prevent other kinds of diseases. Spiritually, apples are considered a feminine herb ruled by the planet Venus and, therefore, can be used for intentions regarding love and healing. Apples also go by the folk name “Fruit of the Underworld” and are used as an offering for the dead, usually during the fall.

1 Tsp of Clove

A teaspoon is a rough guesstimate as I tend to go by feel of what I might like to taste at the moment I’m making. Clove is an Indonesian spice known to be high in antioxidants and even serve to help diabetics against insulin resistance. Spiritually, clove is considered a masculine herb ruled by the planet of luck, Jupiter. For this reason, it is often employed for matters of protection, love and money.

2-3 Cinnamon Sticks

This amount is also an approximation. Add as much as you think you might like to taste. Cinnamon is also a spice packed with antioxidants and can help lower blood sugar levels. Energetically, it is a masculine herb ruled by the sun with versatile use. It is considered to assist with tuning in to one’s Higher Self as well as matters of healing, protection, success and lust.

1 Anise Star

Anise has a distinct licorice flavor so not much is needed but, again, it’s entirely up to you. If you are not a fan of licorice, feel free to treat this ingredient as optional. However, studies on the effects of anise, when consumed regularly, may prove it to be uplifting to individuals living with depression. Another masculine herb ruled by Jupiter, anise is also known for protection and purification.

Place all items in the saucepan and bring back to a boil

Set your intentions here. Stand over it, look into it, or just carry out each action of making it with joy and mindfulness. This is the magical ingredient!

Turn off the heat and allow to steep

When the color of the water begins to change to a reddish-brown, you know you’ve got a decent brew going. This may take at least 10 minutes but can be left in longer for a fuller taste. Be mindful of how you’ve packed in each ingredient as this should be considered for steep length. This is also time to further set your intentions for your tea.

Reheat, sweeten and serve

By the time you’ve decided your tea has steeped long enough, it may have cooled down quit a bit. If it’s warm where you are (or, like my husband, you’d rather have cold tea in any case) and you’d prefer a cool drink, add honey or another sweetener of choice while hot and pour it over a glass of ice after it cools down. If you want it hot, you may need to reheat the tea in the pot before pouring it into your favorite mug. No matter what you choose, I recommend a small strainer or funnel to transfer the tea as smoothly as possible and adding an apple slice from your original brew for added flavor over drinking time.

Enjoy!

Spiritual Progress Through Pandemic Activation

Do you find yourself rushing? The most sustaining results are the ones that come with real and gradual work. Not quick fixes and short cuts. If this pandemic has given us anything is time to be still. Sounds painfully false in some ways. Certainly ironic. But let’s consider a few things.

Many of us now have more time with our families and/or with ourselves. An activation to spend time more time with our friends and elderly, even if it’s just one last time. We have time to think about what we really want, how we can create and where we want to go the next chance we get.

The catch? You’ve got to take a beat and give your Self the time to even think about where you are right now and what is most important. Mind, body and soul. Don’t waste it!

Namaste.

Traditional Chinese Medicine at a Glance

Thousands of years ago, Chinese medicine practitioners had enough insight to develop the understanding we could not simply be composed of flesh and bone alone. Instead, they regarded the human body as a microcosm of Universe and, therefore, the state of our overall health and well-being is subjected to same Universal laws with harmony and balance being the ultimate goal.

Like the macrocosm of existence, the body is capable of sustaining itself through the carrying out of various cycles and activities that operate in an interconnected flow, vitalized by what is referred to as “qi” or “chi”. This is the energy that flows through and connects all forms of life as the animating force that ignites us beyond pure mechanical functioning and bodily existence.

Over time, it came to be understood that this life force energy flows in specific patterns called channels of meridians, each making their way through certain body parts and organ systems. When these pathways are obstructed due to injury, illness or stress, we face associated physiological and psychological ailments. When blocked for long periods, these issues are considered chronic. It is believed that working through these blockages via “alternative” therapies and practices, such as acupuncture, herbalism, massage and yoga, can help the flow of our energy to run smoothly and bring us back into balance.

The concept of balance in Traditional Chinese Medicine stems from Taoism. This ancient philosophy is founded on the principle that the Universe operates in an inherent flow and in order for one to live a whole and effortless life, they must live in the Tao, or The Way. The Tao, however, is just as indescribable as the complexity of Universe itself and, therefore, is physical as well as non-physical – much like the mind-body. In each case exists dual complimentary forces visible throughout nature. These forces are called yin and yang. Yin describes more feminine qualities (cold, receptive, dark) whereas yang describes more masculine qualities (heat, forceful, light).

TCM also acknowledges that there are five fundamental elements of nature that interact with each other within the principle of yin and yang and categorize our organs, systems and structures. The elements are fire, wood, earth, water and metal. Fire represents our physical warmth , creativity and feelings such as passion and happiness; associated with the small intestines and heart organ. Wood represents our ability to regenerate and restore as well as feelings of anger or contentment; associated with the liver and gallbladder organs. Earth is regarded as the measure of our connected-ness and ability to receive and digest; associated with the stomach and spleen organ and feelings of compassion . Water represents stillness and the physical moisture necessary to lubricate our systems for proper functioning; associated with the kidneys and bladder organs and feelings of fear. Metal represents the minerals we produce and need for structure; associated with the lungs and large intestine (air element in Western culture).

In a generative (yin) cycle, Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth, Earth bears Metal, Metal collects Water, and Water nourishes Wood. In a degenerative (yang) relationship, one element is being destroyed by another: Wood penetrates Earth, Earth absorbs Water, Water puts out Fire, Fire melts Metal, and Metal chops Wood.

It’s important not to perceive one process as good or bad as both construction and destruction serve the overall purpose of harmony in health and in nature. For instance, destruction is necessary in order for the food to be broken down for digestion and nourishment. Rather, it is best to avoid overwhelming extremes for excessive periods of time. Imbalance can be caused in the case of overproduction as well. For example, the overproduction of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is responsible for the condition known as Gigantism, a disorder of excessive growth during childhood that lead to a variety of other health issues.

In conclusion, TCM focuses on the maintenance of the flow of vital life force energy in the body, mind and in connection with all living beings. Surrender and accordance with natural cycles will allow for an effortless balance resulting in overall harmony and satisfaction. The approach is prevention of disease and disorder opposed to only treatment of symptoms. A complete path to wholeness.

Black History Month: A Personal Checkpoint

Here we are in February 2020. Happy Black History Month! It’s a time intentionally designated for the reflection of what African people have endured and how we have overcome. From the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the Civil Rights Movement, our culture has been embedded with the knowledge of our resilience. However, I’ve noticed how this has come with a price. The celebratory nature of this season aside, the revisiting of our historical trauma compiled with our individual experiences with prejudice year-round takes a psychosomatic toll on us that shows up in how we interact with the world, each other and ourselves. James Baldwin describes it clearly, “To be negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

As is well-known, African-American history is filled with devastating atrocities that have had lasting affects on the collective psyche of Black Americans. Not to mention the systematic oppression and displacement that continues to this day. I recall periods when my social media timeline was overflowing with gut-wrenching images, and stories of acts of violence against the black community, many of which were not historical at all but quite current. Still, in all forms, debates ensue over policies that govern how human existence should be valued, expressed or just how human some groups should even be considered for that matter.

The most frustrating of which are the dividing issues within our community that these matters create. I, myself, have been caught up in the back-and-forth with what there is to do and how to perceive our collective situation only to end up at tiring odds with the people I wish to stand by to achieve a common goal: peace. I first recognized this in 2014 after Mike Brown was killed. I had lived in St. Louis almost 2 years when I became consumed with outraged and took to the streets in protest for change. What I found, unfortunately, was inconsistency in our ability to organize and a well-intended group filled with mentally and physically overwhelmed individuals. I saw how it only added to the rage.

I later realized this discord was due to our personal relationship with this upset and minimal understanding of how to transmute it into sustainable positive change. Instead of dismantling the system, we’d only get stuck in our disagreement which only led to further frustration. My inner pre-Mecca Malcolm and Rev. Martin became at odds with each other, so after a while I decided to put my protesting on pause and look deeper into the bigger picture. Was I fighting for peace or fighting to fight?

“Was I fighting for peace or fighting to fight?”

The fact of the matter is, as rightfully dismayed as I was by our society, I knew that change was slow and it was up to me to take accountability of myself first. I reflected on the many years resisters before me marched the streets with their picket signs and chants, subjected to arrests, the pressure of fire hoses and the sickening of dogs. I concluded that in order to make change, something different must be done and that I could not preach love and respect to anyone that I decided I no longer felt love or respect for.

My inner journey eventually helped me better comprehend Dr. King’s point, ” …hate cannot drive out hate …”. I had to take a long, hard look at myself and become change opposed to demanding it. This brings me to Brother Malcolm’s point, “Nobody can give you freedom …equality or justice or anything …you take it. So I did. In spite of the outward chaos, I began to liberate myself by cultivating my own balance. My own peace.

Photo by Nappy

While I never shy away from diving deeper into the history and the truth of my people – the good, bad and the ugly – I, now, take more time in February to see where my heart is. I ask myself, “Am I truly practicing the compassion and mindfulness I study? Am I contributing to the chaos or to the path towards peace?”. I admit, it is the absolute hardest thing I have ever worked to do but I have found my personal world has changed significantly for the better since I’ve shifted my energy. I am not as quick to anger (although not perfect) and therefore less controlled by the things I have no control over. I observe more closely, show others more patience and understanding when I can, or do my best to kindly walk away when I cannot.

I am healthier in my body when when I worry less about who is offended by my presence. I have also found that when the times comes for me speak out against an injustice, my voice is stronger, clearer and I feel more resolve to take action opposed to just feeling anger that will eventually turn on me later.

Now, I am still a work is still in progress, may always be and this inner change may have no effect on changing the view of those who insist on being judgmental and oppressive. However, I strive to stay on the path of doing my work, being the change I want to see, gaining new perspective along the way and sharing it with others when I am able. That’s all I can do for now and acceptance of that brings me peace.

Blessed be.

A Note To Self for 2020

Dear Self,

You have come quite a ways – one decade after another. There have been plenty ups; all to remind me of the beauty in the world. There have been plenty of downs, all to strengthen me for the better. I am grateful for each hill and every valley.

Going forward, there is one main thing I expect and that is for us to becoming the closest we’ve ever been. I wish there to be no boundaries between us. No disconnects. No blending in at your expense. Like all relationships, I’m sure it will take time for us to reach the next levels just as it has taken time for us to arrive where we are today. I will grant you the necessary space to develop freely with compassion.

We both know that healing is spiral, time isn’t linear and life does not occur in a vacuum, therefore, patience and discipline is key. Continue to gain knowledge not just to know but to improve and to share for the knowing of others so that they may be supported on their journeys just as others have directly or indirectly supported you.

I know that you will always have purpose, even if in some moments that it is just to love and/or be loved. I recognize the grandiosity of your dreams and desires but remember that you save the world each day that you display kindness, share a positive or enlightening thought and take care of yourself in all the ways needed. You are a part of the world and therefore the world is you; as are we all.

Despite those that may cross your path and challenge you in the worst of ways, you are strong. Just recall that those people are also living in their momentary purpose and they are in your life at that time for a reason. Experience them but do not let their harshness linger on your soul and taint how you radiate who you are.

Lastly, never forget that you are divine. Even in your sadness, your anger and in the midst of your setbacks, you are magical being with the power to turn things around with the proper work. And, it is my hope that we will be so intertwined that every desire reveals itself to be pure and that every positive manifestation proves to be effortless.

I love you very much, Self. Continue to do great things.

Mote it be. Aṣẹ.

4 Listening Styles to Consider When Telling It Like It Is

During September full moon in Pisces, I so happened to be with some yoga mates on a retreat in the woods. The energy was great and having nothing but clean well water alongside delicious homegrown vegetarian meals placed me in a very pleasant and clear state of mind – the clearest I had experienced in quite some time. On the final evening of the trip, a few of us stayed outside late around a fire pit to share in each others’ company a while longer when I noticed one person having a hard time fully relaxing into the moment which was apparent for most of the trip. In my efforts to extend a hand and grant this person space to bask in the coolness of the moment, I did this thing I tend to do and started intuitively reading into the individual. There was resistance but the point was eventually grasped as I made my positive intentions clear. Next thing I know, others were asking me to read them, too. I felt overwhelmed by what I was getting myself into but something in me was up for the challenge and I couldn’t stop myself.

The next person I began to read, although requested it, was even more resistant. Thankfully, there was another intuitive woman in the group who contributed to the conversation in a very significant way. I felt like I had some much needed help. The back and forth, although productive, was draining and got into some pretty personal topics. Perhaps, however, it was the vibes from the moon or something else that lead to the shift in my confidence but I remained persistent in getting the message across. Just before the night officially ended, it felt like I had done a good deed …until the next day. I woke up with “the morning after” feeling of awkwardness. Thinking I might have said too much to these people and about their own lives no less, I tried to go about the day as normal as I could pretend to be. However, I could not ignore that one of the persons I had read the previous evening was not their usual vibrant self. I could feel a nerve was struck and I started to feel regret. Should I have done better at shutting myself up? Could I have said some things differently?

In the world of yoga, there are two very thought provoking concepts that are approached differently even depending on what type of yoga one practices: satya and ahimsa. Standing alone, they are easy enough to digest. Tell the truth and do no harm. Simple enough right? Here’s the plot twist: what happens when the truth causes harm?

As an Aries born of a Capricorn woman and married to a Leo man, one can imagine that there are no shortages of hard-truth daggers being thrown at any given moment in my world. It gets rough at times. I’m mostly used to it and find at least some appreciation for it even when it stings. However, as a mindfulness practitioner, I must remember that what works for me does not apply to all and what applies in one moment may not apply in the next. As I grow, I never want to hurt people but to promote awareness and make room for positive change. For this reason, I’ve made a great deal of effort in softening my honest nature with compassion. A big part of this work is learning to recognize the listener for which I have found there are four types: the Hit Me’s, the Be Gentles, the Meet Me in the Middles and the Let’s Argues.

The “Hit Me” Type

The first type is the one that let’s you tell like it is, raw and uncut. They expect the worst so they are not so caught off guard and are adverse to “sugar-coating” as it feels like a downplay to what they can handle emotionally. Even if they get defensive along the way and visible change is slow, they eventually digest the message and appreciate the forwardness.

The “Be Gentle” Type

The second type is all about the feels. Sensibilities lean more towards the delicate side and language and tone are especially important. As you read into them, they are likely reading into every word spoken. When triggered, reactions are extreme. They may be the ones who exhibit self-deprecating behavior when hit too hard with a message or may shut down completely. It is best to discuss more personal matters in a private setting with this type. Avoid sarcasm.

The “Meet Me in the Middle” Type

The third type is a blend of the first two. In my experience, they tend to be the most receptive because they don’t dwell in either extreme. Even if they disagree with the message, they are more likely to hear one out respectfully to at least gather further insight into an outside experience of themselves. They appreciate forwardness but do not take well to unnecessarily abrasive language or tones. They may not require a completely private setting but being surrounded by people they trust is important. Limited sarcasm advised.

The “Let’s Argue” Type

The last type describes the ones who debate for sport. Regardless of your helpful intention or their willful solicitation, they will argue you down. They want to challenge you to support your claim well. It’s wise to be prepared for deflection with this type. They have strong minds and will go to some length to justify their viewpoint. Even those on the opposing side of logic will attempt to find a way to be right or at least confuse you which they may still take as a win. If they choose to be receptive, they will eventually hear you out. You may need to employ some skillful psychological strategy with these guys.

Something else to remember about these types – and this is very important, okay? Most of us are any one or a combination of these types at some point or another. Life is a roller coaster. Sometimes we’re receptive, understanding and willing. Other times we’re sensitive, argumentative and closed-off. There are topics that make us feel more triggered than others and depending on current life events, we could be more short-fused. I’m thankful that all the people I read that night seemed to later appreciate the messages delivered. I think we even became a bit closer because of it. Still, it was a risk I had to take with a certain level of delicacy and consciousness.

It’s also important to note that in spite of the truth we are so certain of from our own experience, there is a possibility that it is not the entire truth. Even after objective observation with the best of intentions we are inevitably biased, judgmental and sometimes hasty. Our brains work this way to make processing easier but we must keep human error in mind and not forget that silence can be a good choice as well. This is where ego can get out of the way to make room for ahimsa if your intention values non-harming over truth. This is for each of us to decide.

Namaste.

Divorce Your Excuses: 3 Ways I Made Room for My Ideal Life

On June 21, summer began. Many in the spiritual community honored Litha, or summer solstice – the longest day of the year. Yogis, like myself, celebrated the International Day of Yoga with sun salutations and great excitement. What this time of year represents is the peak energetic time to get moving on our personal goals. It is seen as another chance at a new beginning – just in case things haven’t quite worked out for you since January. To be honest, 2019 has not gone quite the way I imagined it would at this point.

In many ways, it has turned out to be so much better. Sure, I could have doubled-down on my weight loss and financial goals. Things may have been a bit less stressful had my husband not needed to be diagnosed with an incurable heart disease. However, as I reflect on everything that has happened so far, I feel pretty blessed. It just took a while for me to realize that I am.

In the whirlwind of drama that seemed to be my life when the year started, it was hard to see the bright side. Between the trips to the hospital, emotional breakdowns, unexpected bills, workplace drama, sleep deprivation, time management failures and stress-induced binge eating, I felt like my goals became impossible as fast as I had set them. I never seemed to have the time, energy, or funds to carry out all the plans I had in mind. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t seem to gain control and create the life I wanted to live. Thankfully, right when I thought I should back-burner my entrepreneurial dreams, I had an epiphany: I have way too many damn excuses.

How I came to this conclusion you ask? Well, it just so happened that I was verbally laying in to a couple of close loved ones (in my mind) about how they get in their own way when BOOM! I realized I was in the exact same boat. The hard truth is, I used my perceived lack of time, energy, and money as a crutch. When I finally got honest with myself (with the help of Gary Vee videos), it turned out that I have all the time in the world, I just don’t use it all productively. Same went for my finances. Sure, more is always nice, but it really boils down to what we choose to do with what we have.

When I look at the people I aspire to, I have to acknowledge that they work with the same amount of hours in a day as I do. In some cases, those people started out in a much more unfortunate financial situation as well. So what’s the difference between my struggle and theirs? That they have already made the choice to perceive the struggle in a useful way. No, this is not necessarily an easy feat and depending on where a person is in her process, there may be a lot of old ways that require sacrificing. However, the keyword in the solution is choice.

Changing my viewpoint changed everything. The lethargy and lack of motivation I had been experiencing really was my body’s way of saying that it was time for a routine change. So I added gym time back to my schedule which helped me better regulate my sleep and food cravings (which also helped me save money). The time restraints I felt turned out to be due to dedicating too much of it to things that were not aligned with my personal and entrepreneurial goals. So, I started clocking out of my 9 to 5 on time. This freed up space for business planning as well as time for my dog son and my husband. It was difficult knowing that I couldn’t do anything to alter my husband’s diagnosis, but it ended up bringing us closer to each other than we ever have been. It took time, but now, we are better about planning our health goals together and supporting each other in following through. Instead of allowing my issues to send me down the path of another anxious-depressive episode, I just starting making different choices.

Yet, in order to make a choice, we must first understand that we really do have one in spite of the circumstances we cannot control. This is where our self-empowerment lies! Here are a few things that helped me shift my perception to realize the power I do have over my own life:

Practice gratitude.

It sounds virtuous but the reason why gratitude is something I practice is because it is actually a skill I needed to develop. So many of us in American society have been programmed to dwell on what we don’t have. This is how we are kept on the hamster wheel towards the next best thing.

Meanwhile, we damage well-being and miss out on so much of life because we fail to take time for what’s right in front of us which is often everything we ever really need. No matter how much you attain, if you do not appreciate what you already have, it will not matter. Nothing will ever be enough.

Let go of the past.

It’s probably accurate that the majority of humans have had a traumatic experience at some point in their life. In fact, it’s pretty well accepted that hardship is inevitable and an important part of growth – although some ordeals are considered harder burdens to carry. However, we’ve seen proof time and time again of individuals who have undergone immense suffering and yet have triumphed in the face of the worst.

Although it is natural to feel pain in hard times (and even after), we cannot grow if we remain victims to these circumstances and allow them to debilitate us. Instead, we can choose to see the simple truth in these matters and allow it to teach us something. In the words of author and speaker, Steve Maraboli,

” The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”

Petition for the future.

In my spiritual practice, there is an exercise referred to as petitioning. Put simply, petitioning is the writing down of a desired outcome as if it is already so. It is done in various forms be it vision boards and goal journals. It is also commonly done among those who, like myself, practice a form a form of folk magic. The only thing you need is a pen and a piece of paper.

Although a seemingly simple task, it can be a challenge on several levels. When done regularly and intently, though, one can form a whole new relationship with her inner will to make things happen.

Although, I cannot control everything that happens to and around me, I find power in knowing that I have control over myself. I also realize that my growth in this is a process and I am still gaining understanding of my own full potential. I may not have all the riches and other material possessions I desire (yet) but the journey is what I live for. The millions of moments in between each milestone – this is where gratitude comes in. I see now that I am actually indeed wealthy, accomplished, loved and beautiful. And, it makes all the difference when I choose to notice all the ways in which I am already living my ideal life.

May you realize it for yourself as well. Namaste.