Ritual in the New Year.

Another year has rolled around and, like many, I’m thinking of what is to come and the word “ritual” keeps coming to mind.  Not just in light of the New Year, but often I am contemplating how I can shape things differently in my life to allow for more growth and positive change.  Daily rituals are one way that I have found helpful to do that.  A lot of you may wake up every morning, make coffee, and dredge around the house waiting for the caffeine surge to pry your eyes open.  Come on, I’m from Seattle, I also love coffee!  But living in Asia for years also made me acquire a taste for tea.

23

In Chinese, gong fu cha, literally “kung fu tea”, is a term used to describe a way of making tea in ceremony, with “great skill” as some would call it.  It’s kind of like wine tasting – you may sit down at someone’s house, or their tea shop, and they will bring out a nice oolong or pu-erh, and begin the ritual of rinsing the tea, pouring it into your cup and then pouring theirs.  Your cup is tiny, smaller than a shot glass, and you drink the tea in this way – one tiny cup at a time, enjoying conversation with your host as they keep refilling your cup, possibly trying out different teas over the course of an hour or so.  This type of ritual tea drinking, to me at least, is about sitting, being present, sharing stories, and enjoying small pleasures in life.  Sometimes in the morning, I’ll swap out my coffee and sit and make some tea in this way to enjoy the morning by listening to the quiet and enjoying the flavors of the tea (Rich, earthy pu-erhs are my favorite, and then roasted teas like Dong Ding oolong.  I really also love a simple Tie Guan Yin or Bao Zhong.  High Mountain (or Gao Shan) oolongs are also amazing and clean.)

22

On the topic of health, tea has a lot of great health benefits (antioxidant-rich, may aid in lowering cholesterol, weight loss – the list is long!), and I believe pure teas like greens, oolongs and pu-erh, have a way of cleansing the palate and digestive system in a way that other beverages do not.  You’ll feel a tea “high” sometimes while you’re drinking these types of teas, because your body has been hydrated and nourished.

What I’m suggesting to you in this new year, that you look at one thing that you can sit and enjoy and be present in.  As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”  What can you do to start off your year that might be a new ritual?  Something nourishing, and soul-enriching, that doesn’t make you feel rushed, but grounds you and makes you feel good.  Maybe instead of rushing into this year and thinking of all the things to take away, think about what is already there or something you can add to enrich it further.  More good stuff, less bad stuff (as my yoga teacher used to say)!

If you have interest in learning more about tea, or doing some tastings in Seattle, you could try Teahouse Kuanyin in Wallingford – they have every kind of tea you can think of and often have tastings.  Floating Leaves in Ballard also does tastings of Taiwanese oolongs, and Miro tea in Ballard has a great selection as well.

To health in 2016!  xo, WD Renzetti

Advertisements

When life throws one at you – Going back to Wellness principles.

You know the saying, “When life throws you lemons…” and your clever friends answer, “Screw the lemons and bail!” or “Add some vodka and let’s party!”  Well, I got some lemons this month, and it snowballed.  I had some pretty low days and couldn’t even call my friends to talk about it.  Let’s be real: relationship issues, family, body pains – and acupuncture school is no joke.  When I get home from a 9-hour day of dealing with patients, sitting on my butt listening to lectures for hours, I have to come home and take care of myself and do more work.  My wrists were jammed for the last month while I was doing massage and teaching yoga – I was advised to stop practicing and teaching.  I sunk – I need yoga to function.  It reminded me of years ago when I was unable to sit or walk because I had so much back pain, or a decade ago when I could barely walk after the arches in my feet collapsed.  I became pretty depressed at that point because my body couldn’t do what I needed it to do.

I couldn’t admit all of the things piled in my life were causing all of this.  Stress on stress on stress, regardless if you’re recognizing how much weight you’ve piled on, will catch up with you quickly.  So what do I do?  It used to take me a long time to get out of these funks, and it’s still not easy, but it happens a lot faster now and I bounce back much more quickly: I go back to my wellness principles.  I think about the most BASIC things I can do in my life to bring about better balance, and I focus on those things.

Now I’m not talking about going on a juice-fast, or leaving for a 10-day meditation retreat, signing myself for a 30-day yoga practice at a studio, not drinking ‘til New Years – I’m talking about EASY.  I’m talking like, go drink a glass of water.  Go to sleep an extra hour early.  Take a bath instead of going out to a bar for a drink.  Watching a movie and crying and making myself a well-balanced meal.  When things get bad, I do basic things, and I do them one at a time so that it’s doable.  ‘Cause you’re bound to fail if you set this thing up for yourself that is unreachable.

My wellness principles came about as a post-New Years practice that I wanted to engage in for 100 days.  Did I do all of them for the full time?  Nope!  And that’s okay.  I just kept going back to the basics each day and starting over.

Ask yourself some questions to get your own list:

  • What can I do to support myself daily? What are my wellness principles?Think about when you start to feel low – what do you do?  Go dancing, run, scream into a pillow, eat a pint of ice cream, listen to really loud music… Write them down.
  • Of those things, what SUPPORT you and bring you closer to your goals and make you feel good.  Like when I drink a little less caffeine, my hands don’t shake as much when I am in clinic touching and needling patients.  My brain doesn’t feel as scattered – I am more centered.

My basic wellness principles are these:

  • Chew my food. When I sit down to eat, I try to focus on what I’m eating, breathe, chew.  Not a lot of extra noise, t.v., radio.
  • Drink water and tea all day long. When I start to feel out of balance and tired, I drink less coffee and hydrate myself.  Wake up and have a glass, drink in between meals.  (I’m a huge tea nerd, I’ll post on that later.)21
  • Sleep by 10 or so. I try to wind down a bit earlier, turn off all devices and allow my body to be in darkness and rest.  This was a hard one – I was always a night owl, but I feel so
    much better when I get in bed before 10 now.
  • Eat whole foods. Nothing processed.  Grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, sea vegetables, meat, broth.  Things that nurture my body and have no extra junk.
  • Do the opposite of what I’m craving to do – if I’m exhausted, sometimes I’ll make myself go for a walk or exercise, because I know I’ll feel better afterwards.  Instead of eating that ice cream bar, I’ll make a bowl of miso soup.  It’s oddly satisfying!

And the last important bit: Why??  Why do this in the first place?  Because I feel more clarity throughout my day.  There is more room in my life for the good stuff.  When I see patients, they know that I am doing my best to live healthy and happy and that makes me feel good – that is my goal.  I feel like I’m on a path that serves something larger than myself.  Winning.

(Photo credit: Meghann Wiedl.  Me pouring some delicious Baozhong oolong from Taiwan)

On listening (part I).

I want to show you what yoga is to me and teach you something simple.

I remember my first yoga class back in like 2006 – my back was in bad shape after I jumped off a cliff (yea, that actually happened).  I was at my school gym doing a “Yoga for 50+” class, and the grandmas and grandpas in front of me were all touching their toes, back bending, jumping, smiling.  I leaned against the wall and bent my knees to get to the floor, wincing in pain.  I tightened up my shoulders, my stomach, my feet even cramped up.  I’d been dealing with some injuries for a couple of years at that point.  When the teacher asked us to breathe, I was gasping and trying not to let anyone see that I was panicking (oh, this still happens, don’t get me wrong!).

Baby steps.  Let me TELL you how many baby steps it took to touch those toes.  Years of them.  It was a process, but processes are good.  They keep you going and give you something to do.  If everything was a quick fix, life would be boring.  So, you like a quick fix?  Well, then what?

A while back I was sitting on a bus, my stop was coming up and I quickly grabbed all of my things and held on for dear life as we halted to a stop.  I looked over and another passenger looked me in the eyes and smiled at me.  I paused to smile back; it was long enough to relax my shoulders.  I looked out the window and closed my eyes for a moment and realized I felt my heart beating.  I breathed into my belly, paused to notice this beat, and felt it pulsing in my chest, in my diaphragm and out to my limbs.  My feet opened up to the floor of the bus; I smiled.  From 2006 to now, this is how I have learned to listen to my body.  What’s the difference?  The difference is that I CAN do this now.  I choose to do it.  I choose to pause and notice, and that control makes all the difference.  That’s my yoga.

Here’s your homework for the day, to keep that process going:

  1. Notice your breath. Stop somewhere today, whether it be at work in your desk, on the bus, or before you sleep and relax your shoulders.  Is your stomach tight?  Breathe into it.  Notice when you breathe, where it starts and stops.  Do you get stuck in your ribs, diaphragm (do you know where that is?!)?  Can you breathe all the way out to your hands and feet?

untitled-41

Practice makes perfect?  No.  Practice is practice, and that’s wonderful.  That is enough.

Photo credit: Corinne Thrash

“The Danger of the Single Story”

SO INSPIRED today.  It was my first day back to school.  My second year of acupuncture school!  And now, onward to bigger and better things, like MORE CLINIC SHIFTS!  Days like today, after I saw my patient this morning and she seemed so much more comfortable and at ease after our treatment, that I am reminded why I am doing what I am doing.  That everything in my life has led up to this and if I can put someone just an inch more at ease than they were when they walked into the room, I feel like I have done something right.  I feel so grateful.

Today one of my teachers showed us a Ted Talk called, “The Danger of the Single Story”.  The whole time I’m thinking WOW, this woman is on fire!  She so eloquently states this idea of how we lessen our possibilities of greater happiness and understanding of the world because our thinking can be so narrow.  I often hear from family, friends, clients something that resembles this ‘single story’ idea – we get caught up in our stories of what we believe is Truth, sometimes they are about physical or emotional pain, maybe stereotypes we have of others, or insecurities we have about ourselves.  For example, if you struggle with feelings of sadness or unworthiness and you keep telling yourself, “I cannot overcome this.  This is who I am; what I am.”  The truth is, this is only a piece of you, not ALL of you.

Another example could be a physical ailment that is very consuming in your life.  Your doctor has prescribed you with “X” and so you get prescription “Y” to cure it.  Everything you do revolves around this disease – how you relate to people and how you function in the world.  How you eat and sleep.  But this doesn’t have to be all to it.

The danger of this “single story” idea is that we tell ourselves that this idea is the way that it is, nothing will change, we will not move forward or heal.  But what if you expanded your way of thinking?  Chimamanda says that these single stories are just part of the story, and that there is often so much more that we are refusing to see.  When this single story becomes your ONLY story, then you are missing out on the greatness that can be.

Please watch and I give you permission to stand up and applaud afterward.  I pretty much did.