Nikkis Nature

A Place For Sharing Holistic and Healing Insights

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5 Overlooked Indicators of Health

In the current model of health care we normally measure our health in terms of the absence or diminishing of concerning symptoms.  This is, of course, important for function, but there are many people going about their day to day lives who may think all is perfect because they aren’t presenting with medical symptoms, but who could be improving their personal health and levels of thriving in so  many more ways.  Now, the whole act of taking this vantage point is going to depend on how you, yourself define the word health.  See if you can stop and do this for a moment before reading on.  See if you can finalize a sentence or two that sums up what you consider health to be.  My personal definition of this very important term continues to evolve the more I do… but it currently would go something like this:  Health is the ongoing ability of a being to be open to learning, growth and inspiration in life.  Now, I only stand by this definition for the moment, for I expect it to change as I do.  The underlying sentiment behind this definition though, is that even if you have physical disabilities, or medical problems (which most of us will most certainly have at one time or another unless we are the lucky few who suddenly sneak off quietly to death in our sleep) you can find inspiration that gives you a high quality of life, and a sense of awe in learning during your time here.  Now this inspiration can come in as many different forms as there are people-  it might be through enjoying real connections with people, or studying a favorite subject, or connecting to nature, or living through art or music….the list could go on and on.  In any case, the following list includes aspects of life that I feel have been strong indicators of my own connectedness to life and my personal brand of inspiration, and are worth considering for you as well.

  1.  Your ability to recall dreams:  There are actually many studies that link levels of dream recall to many aspects of medical health.  I can often tell when I am in a sluggish or more stressed state simply by noticing that my rate of dream recall seems to dip a bit below its normal trends.  If you are remembering less than you used to, this points to decreased mental clarity which can be resulting from a myriad of different life or health sources.  If you don’t remember dreams at all and you’d like to, there are steps you can take to try to cultivate the return of this ability.  Feel free to contact me if you need help in this area.
  2. How vividly you see the world:  I’m not talking about visual acuity here-  we obviously all have varying levels of eyesight, and I myself am nearsighted.  I am talking about tuning in and noticing how colors strike you, how you take in a scene, and being able to notice how looking at the world affects you at different times.  See if you can take note every now and then and get your own personal opinion on the quality of the scene ahead of you.  Is it sparkly and vibrant?  Does is seem mundane and tiresome?  Your responses to taking in your world can be very telling.  I know firsthand that it is possible to find the world’s shimmer even during typically undesirable life circumstances, so see if you can tap in and see what I mean.
  3. Your ability to listen openly:  Try to notice if you can listen to another person speak without having to respond or relate to it personally in any way.  Can you listen and just be a witness to the amazing life in front of you?  Or does it have to relate back to your story?  Of course when someone speaks to you they usually expect some kind of response, but it is a great practice to pretend, initially, that you won’t respond at all, and that you will form no judgments.  You’ll simply accept all of the words you hear and absorb them.  When it does come time that you have to respond, see if it can be as simple and openly supportive as possible.  Your ability to witness those around you in the world without having to interrupt or jump in with your own story is a wonderful sign of confidence, happiness and receptiveness.  See if you can take note of how you are doing in this area, and then see how you do in listening to yourself, and doing it kindly.
  4. Your level of connectedness to nature:  This is a very difficult thing to measure objectively, but you can personally assess subjectively how connected you feel you are.  This goes well beyond simply being able to notice the beauty of nature, to things like feeling real empathy for other creatures, relating to them on a personal level…especially those that you don’t find cute, or that you might even find scary.  (Think spiders, snakes, poison ivy-  even if you don’t want to touch them….do you GET them?  Can you like them as a friend?) Are you interested by small out of the ordinary occurrences in nature?  Do they provide you with meaning or curiosity?  Are you drawn to be outside no matter the weather conditions?  If you are particularly over sensitive to cold, or heat, or humidity, or scared of insect bites, or sunburn, etc…these are health symptoms to take a strong look at.  They point out your constitutional weaknesses, and can be worked on, even with simple nutritional approaches.  Lowering these sensitivities and getting yourself to be more durable and connected in nature not only improves your constitution but your ability to connect to the world and your life as a whole.  Some of the few moments of pure spiritual bliss that I have experienced in my life so far, of having a sudden feeling of momentarily glimpsing the answer to the big questions, have occurred when out in nature, alone, and finding myself receptive in a rare but incredibly complete way.
  5. Your ability to perceive the emotional energy of others without asking:  There are many people nowadays who have been able to identify themselves as “empaths”.  This is the term used to describe someone who is particularly sensitive to feeling the emotions of others.  It can often be confusing and difficult because you might feel these emotions as if they were your own, and then wonder why you are feeling particularly anxious, or sad, frazzled or apprehensive.  I, however, feel that when identified and worked on properly, this trait is actually a huge talent as well as a sign of increasing connectedness to the world around you.  Obviously if you are able to hone this and know when someone around you is feeling a certain way, you can remain as present and supportive as possible.  This is, in fact, a psychic talent, but all people have the ability to work on developing it.  This does not mean we all have an equal measure of these abilities in the end.  Some people are just more psychically inclined than others, just like some bodies are more athletically inclined than others.  But working on your intuitive levels and honing them to the best of your ability will improve your health just like working out will.  There are many ways of honing empathic, intuitive or psychic abilities that could be the topic of another article!

Realize that these are all pretty abstract and subjective aspects of life to consider….but know that tuning in intermittently to see how you are doing in these areas can tell you a lot about your health.  In my holistic practice I have ways of helping people to work on these qualities, and questions along these lines are always welcome.  Also, this is a very small list!  I would like to hear other little known or little discussed indicators of life quality, health, thriving and inspiration that you have discovered to be particularly important.  Maybe together we can grow this list and continue to evolve the ways in which we define, and ultimately experience, true health.  Peace and blessings to you all on this amazing and beautiful day!



Mother’s Day Health

I’m having a contemplative Mother’s Day morning, reflecting on how grateful I am to have the wonderful, sweet mother that I have.  She was always conscientious about promoting what she knew to be the healthiest lifestyle available for me and my brothers as we grew up.  This is what mothers do-  we nurture and tend, we worry about the vibrancy, health, happiness and longevity of our children and we do everything we can to cultivate those qualities in our offspring as we raise them.  One thing that our current society has figured out in recent years, though, is that mothers also need to take especially good care of themselves, because if they don’t, they cannot adequately fulfill all those aspects of nurturing that I was just describing.  A good mother needs the following things in the right amounts to sustain her:  nutritious food, down time to rejuvenate, recharge, and contemplate, space to flex and move her own muscles, and sweet love in return.  Too often mothers sacrifice and sacrifice and then never get that recharge…. and in thinking about this, my primary sense of heartache is with respect to the mother that we all have and share in common, and that is the Earth.  The Earth truly sustains us, raises us and takes care of us, and she needs care, love, rest and rejuvenation just as we do.  I realize that as a  woman of nature-based spiritual practices I may see this differently from many…. but no matter what your religious or philosophical background, I don’t think you can deny some universal connection to the Earth as a mother.  The earth sacrifices herself to us constantly not only for our nourishment and survival but for our entertainment.  Her resources are our very umbilical cord-  without them, our development halts.  The Earth’s atmosphere is a womb-like, protective space…. outside of which we still don’t really know how we could survive long term.  We’ve experimented and considered life outside of this safe, warm, breathable place, but there is still nothing as of yet that shows us any sense of comfort compared to what we have and know now.  I look around me and am brought to tears by the vibrant life-  the neon green pulsating and the yellow and purple flowers, the amazing sounds of hundreds of different birds outside my window, the knowledge that already in the last week or so my very property has started to fill up with edible, nutritious greens, and flowers that are attracting some of the largest bees I’ve ever seen.  There is a breeze that feels so good to take in, and a warm sun that melts the tension away….and if gravity, and our personal connection to this earth is our umbilical cord, our life line, then all of this beautiful growth is a rich placenta.  In knowing this, somewhere deep inside myself I feel a little pit of gnawing in my stomach, for I understand deeply that if this is so, then there is no escaping the natural rhythms that are true for all motherly cycles on this planet.  If we don’t properly fertilize our connection to this rich placental surrounding, then we will shorten the cycle and this lining will need to shed itself in order to start over completely.  I’m actually okay with this happening, for I know that I can never separate from these rhythms.  As far as I know, we, as a society, do not currently have any one perfect answer as to how we will cultivate a greater confidence in long-term resource availability on this planet, but at least, on this Mother’s Day, see if you can honor the mother we all have in common.  Ultimately it is likely to be the cumulative effect of all of the tiny things we each do individually to preserve resources and honor the Earth that allows us to stay here in this rich, beautiful, life-giving womb the longest.  On the other hand, maybe it is our time to have faith and muster up the courage to accept the unknowns of the future and what it will be like to allow ourselves to be born into a new form of existence…. one in which we don’t have this instant cord of nutritious connection, where we learn to exist differently, and to expand, and grow and maybe that next time around instead of cutting the cord and learning to walk, we will cut the cord and learn to fly.  On this Mother’s Day I hope that all of the beautiful, amazing mothers I know will take care of the equally beautiful nature around themselves, and show your love to her just as you will to your physical birth mother, or the loving mother that raised you.  I hope that you will do this and also sense your own wings spreading and strengthening.  Happy Mother’s Day.

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It’s a Great Time to Detox!

There is so much talk out there about detoxifying the body, and so many different types and styles of detoxification available now, that it becomes difficult for people to know what is right for them.  While it may currently be trendy, remember that in choosing a method of detox for yourself, it shouldn’t seem weird or trendy.  It should seem like something that is nourishing and supportive of the body.   I am getting ready to embark on a 21 day systems purification cleanse, and the method I will use is the Standard Process kit.  The recommended program really is simple:  you are supposed to eat food-  nutritious, organic food.  You should never be starving.  You don’t drink lemonade for breakfast, lunch and dinner…. you drink smoothies and allow yourself unlimited vegetables, normal serving sizes of lean proteins.  To be more exact, you use their protein smoothie powder blended with your choice of fruits and vegetables, and you can have 2 or 3 of these shakes a day, in addition to whatever other healthy vegetables and proteins you want.  A comprehensive list of foods is included in the kit.  You take herbal cleansing formula capsules as well as fiber capsules in addition to the smoothies and the whole foods.  After the first week you switch from the cleanse capsules to a green superfoods capsule to optimally support the organs while the body is allowed to go into a deeper stage of detox, moving beyond just the blood sugar and fluids, to releasing toxins stored in the fat cells and organs.  A cleanse should have you providing the body with dense, nutritious foods.  During this cleanse you would cut out all sugar, carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods.  Does it take a little bit of planning?  Yes!  Does it cost money to buy all the supplies for this three week reboot for your body?  Yes!  I have seen a lot of people who really need to do this shy away because they feel it is expensive or they feel it will be too inconvenient.  But they also never get to see the changes they wish to see in their body that they so severely need, and they go on feeling miserable about it.  This cleanse will spur weight loss, will show you that you really can eat in a much healthier way than you are currently doing, and will help get rid of certain annoying bodily symptoms that may be due to retained toxins.  It is well worth all of the effort and investment that goes into it.  Feel free to read more about what I am talking about at and click on the 21 Day Purification Program for details.  If you want to talk about this or any aspect of system cleansing in general with me, please do!  Also, check out my website, and look on the events page for more details on an upcoming free detox meeting night I am holding at my office in Canton, CT.  This is to answer personal questions, provide specific details on how to do the detox and get ready to order kits for anyone who wants to join.  There are a group of people planning to detox all at the same time starting around 5/11…. so if you want in, we’d love to have you!  When we start, I will have a private online forum for all of those participating so that we can support each other and share experiences.  It’s spring cleaning time, and this is one great way to go at it on the personal health level.


Holistic Care: Mind, Body and….Spirit?

In the fields of holistic and alternative health care as well as in new age circles you will frequently hear discussions of the importance of addressing mind , body and spirit in order to attain optimal health.  I agree that this is true… but I feel as though it is rarely done.  We have gotten pretty good at the “body” part:  the fitness industry is booming, folks are aware that they need to keep in shape, improve their nutrition, detoxify chemicals from the body, get enough sleep and so on.  We are not quite as good at the “mind” part, but have shown some improvement recently in this area.  I get a lot of clients coming to me for Reiki to help manage stress, and for hypnosis to help empower the subconscious and bring clarity and strength of mind to personal goal achievement.  I have also noticed that in our current climate it has become much less taboo, if not totally normal to seek counseling or psychiatric help, rather than suffer in silence when mental issues surface.  But the aspect of a truly holistic life approach that I am seeing addressed the least is the “spirit” end of the deal.  Many people have experienced religion, but I don’t think that really counts unless your religious practice has led you to explore your personal spiritual nature.  Many forms of religious worship simply have you listening to someone else’s thoughts or stories, or going through the motions of the rules established by a particular institution.  So how do you work on sensing your spirit on your own?  How do realize what truly lies within the bigger picture of it all for you?  Here are few approaches that I have found very helpful, and very deep:  Ask yourself what you truly believe.  And don’t just ask silently to yourself and then drift off into the next thing you need to think about before finding any answers-  use this as a journal prompt.  Take out a pen and paper and try completing the following sentences, and expand as much as you wish on each.  “I believe that when I die……”, “I believe God is…..”, “I believe my purpose on this Earth is to……”.  This exercise will be hard at first, and you might even find that if you did this on multiple occasions that you would have very different answers from one day to the next.  But the point of this is to begin to build a more concrete structure for your own personal belief system.  Having your beliefs become something more than abstract can be so incredibly helpful when the tough moments in life come up… they will come back to you, remind you of your role, remind you of what is possible.  Another great exercise to partake in is to begin trying to remember more dreams.  Set the intention at night that you will wake up in the morning remembering your dreams… and then when you do remember one, write it down.  They may seem to make no sense at first but if you do this over time you will be surprised at the experiences you are having when your consciousness is not attached to your body.  Experiencing other times and places, other whole groups of friends, other possible realities in which you may simultaneously exist but not live in physically can really help you to further build on the richness of that personal belief system.  The third and final suggestion I will give for today is to work on being authentically  yourself in every situation possible.  This means not feeling like you have to keep quiet about your real opinions, not holding back for fear that some part of your life is not acceptable to someone else.  I did that for way too long, and now that I am making a point to NOT do that, amazing things are happening.  I am much more in touch with my true self-  the spirit of myself-  and I feel that this is a huge source of thriving that went relatively untapped in some of the earlier periods of my life.  I hope that you will feel free to share in the comments here… maybe even some of the endings you found to complete some of the writing prompts above.  You are not alone in the need for personal growth and experiencing something beyond the mundane and the physical, and your sharing could be just the thing that helps another reader to explore as well.  Thank you so much for taking valuable time from your day to pause and read these musings-  love and blessings to all.            Peace, Nikki

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The Rite of the Womb: the 13th Rite of the Munay-Ki

Recently while doing a shamanic retreat weekend at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY I was privileged to be in the first group of people in the US to receive the Rite of the Womb.  This is a tradition developed by medicine women in the jungles of South America, and passed along to us from an unbroken lineage of Q’ero Shamans from Peru.  This is considered to be the 13th Rite of the Munay-Ki… and there are only nine others.  Marcella Lobos, the wife of Alberto Villoldo and a medicine woman herself explained “Don’t worry about 10, 11, and 12-  the Divine Feminine is not linear like that!”  The number thirteen is a special number in terms of femininity to be sure:  there are 13 full moons in a year, and the lunar cycle is exactly and inextricably linked to the female cycle of the womb.  The rite is an energetic transmission of divine healing, tapping into the spirit of the Earth Mother to support this truth that is so needed:  The womb is not a place to store fear or pain.  The womb is to create, and give birth to all life.  The intention of the rite is not only for personal healing of the physical and psychic center of the womb for individual women, but for the collective damage and oppression that women have felt for many generations around the world, and also to provide healing to the Earth herself.  As I stood in front of this tiny Shaman Dona Juanita from Peru, towering over her, listening to her speak the invocations in the Quechua language, I was overwhelmed with a strange mix of awe, humility and empowerment.  She placed her hands on my womb and I felt changed, disoriented.  As my turn ended and I proceeded to the other side of the hall to continue sharing the rite with other newly attuned wombkeepers, I found myself face to face with another woman, a stranger.  We locked eyes-  hers were a vibrant jewel-toned green- and as we continued the transmission one to the other I saw many, many generations of women flash through her, connected, sharing pain and hidden mystery.  All the while the men present at the workshop were holding the space, protecting the form of our womb-shaped room, and chanting, banging rattles and sticks to serve as guardians and ever important supporters of the deeper healing of the group energy of Woman.  I sobbed for some time after I had finally returned to my seat.  I felt like I was emptying out… releasing.  Eventually I collected myself and had the vocal control to return to the group chanting until it was done.  Oddly, I felt a few strange flutter sensations in my womb afterward, very similar to the feeling you get when you are pregnant, the fetus is smallish and you feel it’s first movements.  In my case there is no actual chance of pregnancy, so this was purely some kind of energetic response manifesting in the body.  So my job now is to pass this Rite on to as many more women as possible who would like to receive it.  I am a wombkeeper, and every person that receives the Rite becomes one as well, with the same ability to continue passing it on…. until hopefully we will have spread this important energetic sentiment around the entire planet.  Check out the video that is posted on to see Marcella explaining and passing this Rite on to others.  I plan to hold occasional circles at my office space where women (and men if desired!) can come and participate in this Rite.  Once you do, you can register on The Rite of the Womb website as a wombkeeper so that others near you  who may be looking for this transmission can find you, if you like.  In any case, this is work that is sorely needed for women, our collective consciousness, and the planet.  Remember that the womb is not a place to store fear or pain.  The womb is a place to create and give birth to life.  Aho!

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The Reality of Dreams

Last week I was explaining to a client how realistic dreams are to us when you really think about it.  In fact, I told her that they are simply different realities that you get to experience.  We discussed the fact that measured brain waves in REM sleep have been shown to look the same as waking brain waves, with the exception of those in charge of the full levels of arousal.  In other words, if you are running in your sleep, you get to experience the sensations of running fully, as though you had done it in physical reality.  (Sadly, though, because your muscles were not actually moving your body into running, we can’t wake up skinnier and get our workouts completed during the middle of the night!)  Anyway, that very night, with this conversation fresh in my mind, I was dreaming of driving my car.  In the dream I drive up a hill that leads to a bridge and as I am about to drive over the bridge I notice that the middle of it is missing, and if I drive straight ahead on my current path, I would plummet through to the water below.  At that point of realization, I become lucid, meaning I realize fully that I am dreaming.  I know that in this state I am actually laying in my bed, but am consciously still in the dream scene, and have full control of the scenario.  With the knew confidence brought about by becoming fully conscious of both realities, I artfully tilt the car over to the right so that I’m driving only on the two passenger side wheels, scraping along the small ledge that exists at the bottom of the bridge’s outer wall.  After crossing successfully, I remember the conversation with dreams that I had with my client about experiencing sensation fully in a very real way.  I decide to test this so that I can get more evidence to support this information that I am telling people.  I now choose to see the road as a roller coaster and the car as the roller coaster cart.  As I come off of the bridge I imagine that I’m just cresting over the highest point of the coaster track, about to go down that steep, steep, rushing section of the ride that gives you the biggest lurch in your gut.  I purposely want to find out how fully I experience that group of sensations.  As the cart starts to speed down, I feel it all.  My stomach heaves, I feel the complete combination of thrill, exhilaration and letting go that is so familiar with this activity, right along with the rushing wind in my  hair, the difficulty in keeping my eyes fully open at that speed, and the clenching of my grip on the metal bar across my waist.  I feel every one of these sensations, with all of the accompanying emotions, knowing that I’m actually laying in bed.  Right after the cart levels out, I feel so satisfied with my findings that I decide to wake up so I can go write this down.  I was thrilled with my ability to carry out the experiment before I lost hold of the lucidity of the dream.  But mostly I was thrilled to be able to continue to relate with confidence that everything you’ve done in your dreams, you have experienced fully, and that is therefore an integral part of who you are.  You should be amazed and inspired by the times you have flown, jumped, swam, survived fearful situations, helped others, traveled to unknown settings, communicated with animals…. all of it.  There is much more to be learned from every single one of those experiences, but I hope at least that you realize that this is not the only reality in which you exist.  If this intrigues you, feel free to contact me anytime to join in a personal or group dream work session…. you will be glad you did!  Wishing your brightest dreams come true,



Medicinal Application of Essential Oil: My Cistus Story

When I took a medicinal aromatherapist certification course from a lovely local herbalist, I learned a lot about essential oils that I had never known before, despite having been involved in holistic and alternative health care for some time.  One important thing I learned was that even the essential oils on the shelf in the nice health food stores are not pure-  they very often contain preservatives or have been procured using a chemical process.  I also learned that you actually take more of the active constituents from the oil in when you apply it directly to your skin than if you were to ingest it orally.  (I don’t recommend doing this without consulting with a trained pro, btw!)  Because of this direct transmission of the oil into the skin and then the bloodstream, it is common practice for essential oil companies to mark the bottles with warnings saying not to apply directly to the skin, to use a carrier oil, etc.  The real truth is that pure plant essences are incredibly supportive to us when used in an educated, loving and respectful manner.  They can support our medical, emotional and spiritual growth in many ways, directly applied.  This said, you do need to know what you can safely do with each oil, and how to do it.

In any case, during this course I learned that the oil called Cistus, or Rock Rose (doesn’t smell like rose) can be good for getting rid of skin tags and even some skin cancers.  Well, I had a skin tag on my neck for a few years that made me a little self conscious at times-  especially if going for a massage.  I decided to try treating it with the cistus essence.  When my order arrived, I opened the tiny tiny bottle of very expensive plant essence and nothing came out.  This absolute is so thick that you have to take off the dropper top and use the wand to get some oil out of the bottle.  I began doing this and putting a dab on my super attractive skin tag (don’t you hate the term, even??) once a day, each evening before going to sleep.  I didn’t cover it or anything,  just swiped the stuff on and went to bed.  After about a week I noticed that the skin around the tag was getting rashy, so I started being more careful about not getting any on the surrounding skin. If I showered at night and went to treat patients in the morning without showering, sometimes an occasional patient would notice its scent, and I was told “you smell like the woods!”  I take that as a high compliment.  Now, the stuff isn’t that easy to apply because it is so sticky.  I thought of calling up my herbalist friend and asking her if the reason it works is that it is so sticky that you are practically ripping the thing off just trying to apply the oil… but I didn’t.  I chuckled to myself and kept on with the treatment.  Well, at about the four week mark I looked in the mirror one day and noticed that my lovable little skin tag had turned black.  Hesitantly, I reached up and felt it and it felt kind of crispy… and I don’t know what possessed me but I twisted it a little and it didn’t hurt at all to do, so I twisted it a little more, and off it fell.  I don’t even know where it went, but what was left on my neck was absolutely nothing!  There was no scab, no leftovers, not even a reddened area.  Just fully healed, smooth skin was all that was there at the previous site of attachment.  I was thrilled.

Now I am using that same tiny bottle to treat a skin tag under my husband’s arm… and a questionable looking precancerous thing on the top of his bald skull.  The skull area has started to dry up and get smaller already after only a few days of application.  Anyway, I love my pure, unadulterated essences!  Feel free to message me or converse here if you have questions about this or the use of plant essences for any other issues.  If I don’t have the answer I have plenty of resources to get you more information.  Have a lovely, plant-filled day!!!


The Truth About Barefoot Shoes

Just recently I was wearing my five toe Vibram shoes while attending a workshop where we were doing a bit of hiking around in the woods.  A very nice woman who also in my group saw my shoes and said “Hey, there is a whole class action settlement going on for people who have used these shoes-  I can get you the information if you want to try to get in on it.”  My instant response was “Oh, no thanks-  I love my shoes!  I wouldn’t accept money for damages because these shoes have been the opposite for me-  really amazing.”  I went on to explain my experience with barefoot shoes as well as my take on the whole controversy.  So here is the deal:  Five-toed and barefoot shoes began to become very popular with all the claims that they were wonderful for runners, for joint health and for preventing injuries.  Many people began switching to using this type of shoe, maintaining their regular running or exercise routines and simply switching out their previous running shoes for a pair of barefoots.   You can’t just do that, and that is where the main problem occurred, in my opinion.

Yes, barefoot running and hiking is wonderful for you-  it is true that you have better agility, that you strengthen and mobilize all of the small joints and ligamentous articulations of the feet and ankle that normally are blunted and rendered unused when using shoes with cushioning in the soles.  However, you can’t just switch from one mode to the other safely.  Barefoot activities require a gradual buildup of strength and tolerance.  When first using the shoes, one should start by taking short outdoor walks in them.  You’ll notice mild joint soreness as you would when starting any new or different form of exercise.  As you increase your distances this will diminish.  Try to stick to trails, grass or dirt/track walkways, and avoid pavement.  A big part of the issue with barefoot shoes is that you absolutely need to run on the balls of your feet if you will be on pavement.  Not many people run this way at all… so imagine the runner who switched to barefoot shoes.  This person kept their normal route along paved roads, pounding step after step into their heels, suddenly with no cushioning.  The bottom line is that even the act of switching from heel first running to ball of the foot running requires training and a period of time to allow for gradual build up of strength and acclimation to the activity.  The injuries reported from switching to barefoot running shoes were likely caused by lack of preparedness to use them in the proper way.  Now, the claims about their use probably should have been accompanied by this detailed information, but marketing is what it is, and people that engage in strenuous fitness activities do need to take responsibility for making sure their choices are safe and reasonable.

So here is the bottom line:  Use barefoot shoes in moderation, easing in to running and trying to stick to routes that are on trails or softer ground.  Alternate every 1/8 to 1/4 mile using a heel-toe and then a toe-heel sequence.  Over time you will be able to run multiple miles and rugged terrain without any issue, and you will feel strong and great.  Your old sneakers will begin to feel like evil, restrictive clunkers.  I feel incredibly agile and natural in my barefoot shoes and I wear them while hiking, gardening, running, walking, you name it.  I have hiked up and down mountains in them and also completed two twelve mile Tough Mudders in them.  I have not ever been (knock on wood) sore or injured in any way related to my shoes.  As a physical therapist I can tell you for sure that the health of all of the joints in your body is definitely affected from the ground up-  in other words, the slight differences in how your ankle and metatarsal joints angle themselves and adapt to motions and altered terrains is felt all the way up the chain to the final interaction between your highest vertebra and your skull.  When these ground level joints are adaptable and strong, the effect trickles up the chain.  Of course you still need excellent core training for optimal fitness and injury prevention, but I love the part my five toe shoes play in my own fitness.  If you have questions about this or want to continue the conversation here, please feel free to do so.  I have been using these shoes for a number of years now, and have lots of experience with them personally and as a physical therapist.  Have a wonderful, naturally healthy day!


Holistic Approaches Becoming the Norm? A Glimpse of Hope

A couple of days ago I attended a continuing education lecture at Quinnipiac College regarding approaches to chronic pain when treating patients.  This one evening course was geared specifically toward physical therapists, and was presented by two male physical therapists who were relatively new to the field, and were involved in research because they were continuing to study toward their doctorate degrees.  I left the course feeling refreshed and relieved about the climate of  today’s research and college curriculum for health professionals.  I am going to date myself here, but when I first finished my physical therapy degree at UCONN (wow Huskies!!) almost two full decades ago, we really were released into the field of health care as fixers.  What I mean is that your worth as a PT was measured by your proficiency to manually fix orthopedic problems.  We expected to be able to simply fix people, and in turn, patients simply expected us to be able to fix them.  Well, I can tell you from firsthand experience that this mentality leads to burnout in a matter of a few short years, because a big percentage of the time, it just doesn’t work this way.  Here is the truth that was plainly discussed in the course I attended the other night:  in many, many cases of chronic pain (no matter what the original cause) there is no lingering tissue damage that can actually be “fixed”.  The central nervous system is super adaptable and learns to perpetuate the original protective response of pain to ensure safety of the involved tissues until healing has occurred, but in many cases, this isn’t unlearned even though the original issue has resolved.  We discussed this in detail, and how to begin helping people to deal with their pain story and change their responses to movement, emotions, and expectations.  We dealt with the possibility of people maybe even getting mad about such a pain discussion and retorting “so you think this is all in my head??!!”.  I raised my hand and offered that maybe in such cases we should come right out and be sure to teach that yes, all pain is in our head.  Pain is a signal from the brain to pay attention to, or protect some part of ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that the need to protect that part is still valid.  Helping people to deal with fear and rewire the responses of their nervous system is very holistic-  we are talking about integrating mental and emotional work with physical approaches.  I was ecstatic to see that young guys right out of school today are already thinking about this and incorporating it into their practices!  This was not presented to me in school in any way.  Now, I wouldn’t change any part of my educational history, mind you, for if I had not started burning out in the first five years of my career I would not have started seeking the education in energy healing, meditation and integrative health care that has led me to the unique, rewarding private practice that I am currently running today.  However, I feel happy and hopeful for new graduate physical therapists and also for their patients.  There is the hope that they will have a faster and better understanding of how healing truly happens, and that this will help their work to be rich, long-lived and full of deep and important connections with their clients.  It is this type of work that lets the client-practitioner relationship thrive and feel successful on both ends.  Please feel free to allow this space to be an open and supportive forum for any questions or concerns or insights that you may have regarding chronic pain.  It is a huge and difficult issue, but also one in which no one should be alone.  Thanks for hearing my words today-  have an amazing day!

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The Overlooked Health Factor

At this time we are being bombarded with constant information with regards to health.  There is an overflow of articles, blogs, radio pieces, books and television shows telling us what to eat, how to exercise and which supplements are currently in fashion.  We are worried about GMO’s, BPA, gluten, pesticide, hormones, DEET, vitamin D, calcium absorption, osteoporosis versus rhabdomyolysis and much, much more.  However, we have a shortage of articles circulating on a topic that I consider to be possibly the most important element to real health, and that is inspiration. I think of health as the ability to enjoy the richness of life through learning and inspiration.   I have spoken with at least three people in this week alone who know that what they are missing is true inspiration in their life.  Now, I give these folks a lot of credit for recognizing this.  If I had to grossly over-simplify the current state of things, I would say that the smallest group is comprised of people who have found and recognize true inspiration.  The next rarest group would be those mentioned above:  the people who know they need real inspiration but are searching to figure out what that might be for them.  And then there are all the rest-  masses of people living in varying states of monotony and stress.  Many people constantly seek to fulfill their unmet needs with simple comfort-based pleasures such as food, alcohol, drugs, sex or media.  I’m not saying that these things are at all wrong when enjoyed in a healthy way –  but I recognize an overarching pattern of running to these things  blindly over and over again, without any true pleasure or engaging in real richness, real meaning, or gratification.

So what is inspiration?  I believe inspiration is when some activity or realization adds meaning and connection to life.  I believe this can manifest in as many different ways as there are people and circumstances.  For me, it means being able to use spiritual experiences and explorations to help people.  I have developed a very unique holistic health practice where I am able to provide outlets for any combination of physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual healing and exploration.  I have a big focus on educational experiences and small group sharing regarding metaphysical topics.  Now, because I am constantly enthralled with the possible experiences that can occur on the energetic and spiritual planes, I feel intense gratitude and awe when I am able to share those ideas and outlets with others.  But that is just me-  other people find inspiration through the realization of an amazing creative outlet they never realized they had, or simply by diving into an area of study that they find incredibly stimulating.  There is nothing like longing to learn, and realizing that learning is so fulfilling that it could provide you with a lifetime of gratifying intellectual work.  Some people find inspiration by learning how to work on bettering themselves in new ways.  Many people stumble upon a source of inspiration through a connection to nature… if you are wondering where your own inspiration lies, I suggest taking regular walks alone in a quiet, natural setting.  If you have no access to a place like this, you might consider having  shamanic practitioner or holistic health expert lead you on a guided meditation or journey that allows you access to nature on another level of consciousness.  In any case, it warrants some kind of personal examination.  I would love of any of you reading this would share what really inspires your life-  the sharing you provide could prove to be incredibly helpful to someone else.  As you round out this week and head toward the weekend, I hope you have some personal time to look forward to that includes a source of true inspiration.  Peace and love to you on each of your amazing and unique paths.