25 November 2009

Cold-Fighting Power Foods

As the leaves begin their transformation from vibrant green into the rich, jewel tones of red, yellow and orange, we find ourselves coming upon cold and flu season. The common cold is a communicable virus that is highly contagious and is easily spread from one person to another through touching common surfaces with an infected person, as well as being an airborne virus. For many years, people blamed that extra “snap” in the air and damp weather that the autumn and winter seasons bring for the onset of the cold. Research has shown that it is not the weather to blame, but rather the fact that people tend to congregate together indoors during colder weather. While there is no known “cure” for the common cold, there are plenty of steps that can be taken in order to prevent and shorten the length of the cold should one succumb to it.

Vitamin C

Perhaps the most common supplement used in both prevention and treating the common cold is Vitamin C. This can be taken in a myriad of ways: in pill form, effervescent powders, or in foods such as oranges, tangerines, strawberries and bell peppers. Just how much Vitamin C is sufficient? The FDA recommends a meager 60 milligrams a day, but according to two-time Nobel Prize laureate and author of the book “How to Live Longer and Feel Better,” Dr. Linus Pauling suggests taking 2 grams per day, divvied up in three doses throughout the day. To give you an idea of how much that is, an orange contains 45 milligrams of Vitamin C per 100 grams of weight. Strawberries contain even more Vitamin C than an orange, with one cup exceeding the recommended 60 milligrams. Sweet red peppers contain a whopping 4 times the Vitamin C of an orange.


Garlic has risen significantly in popularity for being a “natural” remedy for treating and preventing the common cold as it boasts “notable antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties”, as reported by the National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine by Steven Foster and Rebecca L. Johnson. Allicin is the compound found in garlic that is responsible for those properties. But be warned: Allicin is highly unstable and breaks down in prolonged exposure to heat. Garlic is best to eat raw if possible, as tossed into a vinaigrette salad dressing or added to food right at the end of cooking just before serving.


Many people can associate folate as the “pregnant woman’s supplement”, but it’s highly effective for helping to prevent and treat the common cold. Folate is a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli. It is also found in abundance in legumes and asparagus. The recommended daily dosage of folate is 400 micrograms for adults. In addition to its immune supporting functions, folate also supports healthy cell reproduction. Vitamin C is necessary for folate to convert into its active form, so enjoy a wonderful dish of lentils with some sweet red peppers and have an orange for desert.

Shiitake Mushrooms

This delicious Asian mushroom may seem like the sleeper in the race to fight off a common cold, but don’t underestimate its amazing immune –stimulating properties. Shiitake mushrooms contain significantly higher levels of protein, B vitamins fiber and minerals, notably calcium, iron and phosphorus according to as the more commonly found grocery store mushroom variety, or “Button” mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms also contain polysaccharides that are crucial for immune stimulation while also increasing the production of interferon, which is an antiviral substance the body produces in response to infection.

These suggestions are at their most effective when taken on the onset of a cold. As an adjunct to the aforementioned remedies, ingesting warm liquids such as hot tea with honey can also be a soothing treat for a scratchy throat. In addition, warm liquids also assist the body in thinning out mucous, which can help relieve sinus pressure. With these suggestions, hopefully cold season will be short-lived for those who find themselves faced with a cold, or better yet, non-existent altogether.

05 September 2009

The Health Benefits of Yoga

Improved immune function. Lower blood pressure. Detoxification. These are just a few of the many health benefits yoga has on the body. It is considered by some to be the “perfect” exercise. Why? Many people who employ a regular yoga practice boast incredible results, such as increased flexibility, beautiful toning of the muscles and less stress in their daily lives to name a few.
One very well-known benefit of yoga is increased flexibility. Yoga provides equalized activity in opposing muscle groups simultaneously. Every single muscle group in the body is used with strength and balance. Not only does this activity of utilizing opposing muscle groups simultaneously increase flexibility, but it also stokes the metabolic fire. This activity is also auspicious for increasing range of motion in the joints as well as the connective tissues, such as the ligaments and tendons.
Yoga also is beneficial in lowering blood pressure and strengthening the cardiovascular system. Yoga poses, by engaging the muscles as they do, help increase the blood flow in the body, and subsequently oxygenate the blood, increasing circulation. The increased circulation lowers blood pressure and pulse rate by transporting nutrients throughout the body. Higher levels of cardiovascular endurance are also a wonderful byproduct of a consistent yoga practice.
The practice of yoga also serves as a method of “wringing” the internal organs out like a sponge. This “wringing out” of the organs expedites detoxification by releasing toxins and other unsavory substances that may be lurking within them. This release allows fresh, oxygenated blood to flow to these organs, thus enabling optimal function in warding off disease by improving immune function.
In addition to the many physiological benefits that yoga possesses, it also yields many psychological benefits. Many yoga styles emphasize long, deep breathing, which is important for slowing the mind down enough to become present in the moment. So many get caught up in the events of the day or what is coming up next that the ability to be in the “now” is forgotten. Being in the “now” allows the mind to quiet enough to allow healing of the body to happen.
As one gets settled into their body during the yoga practice, quietly breathing long and deep, many wonderful psychological things can happen as well. Areas of the body, such as the hips and shoulders are huge storage depots of residual emotional “junk”. Flowing into certain yogic poses and holding them allows those areas to open, and blocked emotions can then be released. Many have claimed that lifelong fears have evaporated and they’ve experienced clarity of mind like never before. The release of blocked emotions can also serve beneficial to the health of the body as well; it can release much uncomfortable muscular tension.

In summary, the health benefits of yoga are powerful. With healthcare costs at astronomical highs, many people are seeking more preventative measures to keep potential health issues at bay. Yoga can serve as a wonderful tool to lay the foundation for a healthy body and mind for years to come.

How To Balance Your Emotions Through Yoga

In this day and age, juggling the rigors of jobs, family and home-life, more and more people are finding themselves overwhelmed with excess emotional (and sometimes physical) baggage. Stress is over-abundant and the ill-effects of it are taking its toll on our bodies and minds substantially. One major system of the body stress has a huge impact on is the glandular system, which directly affects the emotions and overall sense of equanimity. Kundalini yoga, like acupuncture, stimulates various meridian systems to restore the body’s balance. With regular practice, kundalini yoga will also set the stage for personal breakthroughs on all kinds of different levels.

A typical kundalini yoga class normally will begin with a breathing exercise. This helps you to quiet your mind and become centered in your body. Stretching and warm-up exercises are next, followed by a unique set of exercises called a kriya. A kriya is defined as a set of progressive exercises which work together to help balance different systems of the body. Each kriya has a different purpose. For example, one kriya may be structured to help balance the emotional body, while another may be structured to help kick-start movement the lymphatic system. Once the kriyas are completed, there is typically a “deep relaxation” element to allow your body to assimilate the exercises just completed.

During some kriyas, special breathing techniques are used to enhance the effectiveness of the exercise. Two of the most widely used breathing techniques in Kundalini yoga are deep breathing and the Breath of Fire. Deep breathing is a three-part breath, inhaling into the abdomen, then into the ribs and finally the lungs. The exhale begins with the lungs, then down to the ribs, ending in the abdomen, squeezing it in towards the navel until all the air has been released. The Breath of Fire is defined as a “sniffing”, where the inhale and exhale are of equal length, akin to a dog pant.

Kundalini yoga has kriyas specifically designed for mood mastery and emotional balance. One particular kundalini exercise that is wonderful for combating depression is a yogic backbend called Camel Pose. Breath of Fire is used while in this pose, with eyes closed. This exercise specifically stimulates and helps to balance the pituitary (or Master) gland, which is crucial in emotional balancing. To do Camel Pose with the Breath of Fire, follow these instructions:

1. Come onto your knees with the knees hip-width apart. You may use a blanket for padding under your knees if they are sensitive.
2. Open your chest, sternum up as you reach back for your ankles.
3. Push your hips forward and let your head drop back, opening the throat area.
4. Once in the pose, close your eyes and begin the Breath of Fire. Hold for as long as you can, ideally a minute or more.

Beginners: If you cannot reach back and hold your ankles, try placing your hands on the small of your back. Another modification is to interlace your fingers and pull down. Go to whatever position you are comfortable in.

If you are interested in giving Kundalini yoga a try in a class setting, you can find a class near you at http://www.yogafinder.com/. If you would like to try some DVDs in the comfort of your own home, I highly recommend anything from Ana Brett and Ravi Singh. You can find DVDs and a wealth of information on Kundalini yoga on their website. Go to www.raviana.com. Sat nam!

26 June 2009

Divine Recognition

"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I sort of agree with this quote. I definitely agree with the latter part, but am not quite so hot on the former, not entirely, anway.

I believe that in order to have love, you do have to gaze at each other first, as an acknowledgement and recognition of the Divine in one another. In my experience, after the gazing comes recognition; that recognition of "Ah, there is the Divine in you, just as it is in me." Maybe not everyone can see this. Maybe not everyone honors this as I do. Maybe this is not everyone's process.

Perhaps this may be subjective, but to me, that recognition needs to happen before I can look anywhere with someone else, be it a lover, child, co-worker, Pope. A personal example of my process was when I met my husband. There was an instantaneous spark of recognition that absolutely lit my heart on fire. I literally thought to myself, "Oh boy, here we go."

Once that fire was lit, the walls within me went down and I opened myself up to him. I opened up to so much, and allowed myself to see the direction he wanted to go, and vice versa. How can one see what direction the two (or three or four) are going if the Divine recognition has not happened? How can one open for allowing and accepting the Divinity of the other if that Divine recognition has not happened? Perhaps that is a different discussion for a different post? :)

Personally, I think there is so much strife in the world today because we simply do not take the time to recognize (and honor) the Divine within one another. I've attached a poem of mine titled "Recognition" to perhaps illustrate my point a little bit better.


I've known you before
I recognize your eyes
Curious, I gaze intently
Desiring fervently to invoke
The sleeping recognition that
Rests soundly in your subconscious mind
The intersection of our souls
Populates the map of Karma
That has been laid before us
We stand, woven together with the thread
Of Karmic Retribution, we stare
Disbelieving at first, but curious nonetheless
We gaze deeper into one another's eyes
And the spark of recognition ignites
You slowly remember me
For a split second, everything falls
Serenely quiet and suddenly I know
I am now looking straight at the person
My incarnate soul was born loving
One whose tranquil presence
Seems to embody deep love and spirituality
And I hold you tightly in my arms
The embrace of all things dreamlike and receptive,
Such as perfect and unconditional love.
© Heather Sewell 9-Sept-08

25 June 2009

The Magic Wand of Healing

It seems as if the Quest for The Quill of Inspiration has not only helped me get back in the saddle of writing, but its inspired me to search deeper within. I have felt compelled the past few days to really focus on researching and practicing spiritual methods that are dear to me, hence my absence on the blog. No excuse, but I got sucked in to some serious meditations and note-taking on the various practices of Wicca that have been calling to me.

I'm grateful to say that I've found my magic wand and have been trying it out this week. It's really amazing to see what things have been happening for me and my family. It's been wonderful to actually feel grounded again. Being grounded is a very hard state for me to maintain, because I am an Air sign, with Air in my Sun, Ascendant and Moon positions. (Gemini-Aquarius-Libra) I've found that practicing ritual has helped me stay grounded immensely.

On Monday, I reached a new level of awareness as I did a ritual bath with candles and gemstones to practice and deepen my healing energies, for both myself and the healing I send to others. As a Reiki Master, I'm familiar with channeling the Universal Life Force and how it feels to do so. On this night, I felt a power like I've never felt before; calm, harmonious and completely balanced. I felt so much love and peace surround me and I felt my healing energy surge. It was absolutely breath-taking. I've definitely found a practice that will enhance my healing meditations and I am very excited about that!

Blessed be to all! Let the healing and peace begin!

22 June 2009

Day 4 of The Quest for the Quill of Inspiration: Procrastination

"Procrastination is opportunity's natural assassin." ~Victor Kiam (1926-2001)~

I am the Master of Procrastination, ashamed as I am to say. It's an annoying habit as well as the most difficult to overcome. I've been fighting it for years, and just when I think I've got it licked, it snakes its way back into my daily activites...or lack thereof. It's like a cancer that won't go into remission, no matter how many different types of chemotherapy I undergo.

Everything in my life, including writing to dyeing my hair has been affected by this cancerous procrastination. In fact, as I type, I'm fighting the urge to wait until later to finish this blog. It's a terrible thing, this procrastination. It's been one of the biggest contributing factors to the writer's block I've been suffering from recently. God, will it ever leave me in peace so that I may write the novel I've had percolating through my brain for years now? I need a miracle.

I find that I am almost struggling today to write, almost like I have nothing to say but I'm forcing myself to. In a way, I am forcing my writing, like a caterpillar working its way out of the cocoon. I'm having a hard time envisioning the colorful butterfly that will emerge, but I am pressing on regardless. I'm determined that when I'm in a mood like I am right now, persistence will lead meto the ability to crank out page upon page of blessed, divinely inspired writing.

As I think about procrastination, I think of how I will surely fail if I succomb to the seductive pull of delay. I'm doing nothing but showing myself my lack of commitment and desire to actually make my writing practice work. I really don't feel like disappointing myself any further; I've done it for too long already.
The time is now. I wait no longer.

20 June 2009

Day 3 of The Quest for the Quill of Inspiration: An Attitude of Gratitude

"This is a gift I have, simple, simple; a foolish extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, revolutions...But the gift is good in those in whom it is acute and I am thankful for it." ~Shakespeare~

Up until recently, I was having a severe case of Writer's Block. It was incredibly frustrating for me, as I had all this free time to devote to writing, but nothing would come out. I was experiencing a severe dip in my writing swagger, and it was plain making me mad. I felt like my voice was being silenced; that I was blocked somehow from tapping into that place where normally, the words just flowed like Niagra Falls.

That dip in my swagger prompted a sweeping change, and once I set the wheels in motion to overcome it, inspiration virtually surrounded me at every turn. I found Jack Heffron's wonderful book and I was pointed in the direction of creating a blog. Being put in the company of like-minded souls who shared my passion for writing helped immensely as well. Thus was the end of the block as I knew it. And boy, was I grateful.

It is with an attitude of gratitude that I say I'm happy I had that block. If it weren't for that huge, granite-like, hindering block, I'd have had no inclination to try and move it. After flexing my muscles for quite sometime, I was finally able to move it to see what was waiting beyond. I was more than pleasantly surprised at the enchanting scenery before my eyes.

It was like a magic wand had been waved over me and everything around me; my world literally seemed to sparkle with inspiration. That project I'd been wanting to start just unfolded in front of my eyes, as if by magic. I couldn't get to the laptop soon enough, because the words were literally rushing through my head. Ideas sprang forth, refreshing my mind like a spring in a desert oasis. I was parched for so long that I am still standing with my head under the water, drinking in long, satisfying pulls. I can't get enough.

Suffice to say, the challenge of being creatively blocked served me very well. I actually gave a little prayer of thanks to that stubborn block, for it has helped me do things I never would have thought of doing before. This blog being one of those things. I've decided to look at my blocks as necessary tools for my creativity. Without them, I'd still be tapping the paper in frustration. If I happen to encounter one again, I'll know just what to do: Thank it first.

19 June 2009

Day 2 of The Quest for the Quill of Inspiration: Acknowledging the Difficulty

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.” ~Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933)~

It's Day 2 in my Quest for the Quill of Inspiration, and I've once again found it in "The Writer's Idea Book". I'm finding this book to be one my most prized writing resources. On my 31st birthday this past Monday, I made myself a promise that I would write every single day. If I want to be a writer, I need to act like one. I no longer have the confines of a 9-5 job, so I have plenty of time to devote to the practice that I treasure so much. The excuses are gone. I've decided to treat my writing time like brushing my teeth. I have to do it every day, lest I end up with furry teeth. Armed with the dental floss for my mind (Jack Heffron's trusty book), I'm slowly flossing away the plaque of Writer's Block.

In his book, Heffron advises to acknowledge writing is hard. His advice is to write down how to strike the delicate balance of willpower and relaxation, stubbornness with joy. (Pg.8) I've decided the minute the coffee is brewed, I'm grabbing a cuppa and flipping open the laptop to my blogspot. Currently, soothing music flows from the speakers as I set my fingers to the keys and type. Ah, a sense of accomplishment in peaceful setting, doing what I love. Relaxation, indeed.

For those that are familiar with my style of writing, I'm very good at streaming consciousness. Obviously, writing reflects your thoughts and flows onto the paper as they , but for me, writing is more often than not, problem-solving on paper. It's my therapy. My zen. And as I continue streaming, I am wondering how in the hell I've let my writing practice go unpracticed for so long. Wrapped in the quiet of the morning, I truly feel like I'm in my element. I feel like I am accomplishing something. I'm smiling out loud as I type, for I am actually doing what I was born to do, regardless of renumeration. I am compensated generously with peace of mind, which to me, is the first ingredient to success.

As much as I love writing, I've determined that like anything else, perfecting it takes due diligence. As a former competition swimmer, I dedicated my free time while in season to fine-tuning my stroke technique, building my endurance and learning new skills that would enhance my performance. That was time well-spent, as far as I was concerned. I met and exceeded my goals constantly. My intention with starting my writing practice is to set, meet and exceed my goals constantly. The first step is to put forth the effort to hone the skill I have, while doing the necessary things to further develop it. It is going to take work, dedication and pure intention. The pure intention is easy; it's the dedication and work that is more difficult, but I shall prevail. I'm challenging myself, here and now, to succeed as a writer. And I've never been one to fail at a challenge given to me.

18 June 2009


Everyone told me when I was pregnant with my son that nothing would prepare me for how I would feel when I held him for the first time. They were right. And it's been a year since the first time I held Ryan and I STILL have a hard time articulating the feelings. I simply just don't have a good enough command of the English language. There were emotions I felt that I have no title for. They were just, well, overwhelming. An opening, a vulnerability and rawness that came the moment the nurse put him in my arms. Pure euphoria washed over me like a tidal wave and I haven't been the same since. And I'm glad of it.

Since Ryan's birth, I've completely opened myself up in ways I never thought possible. Ways that would never have happened if it weren't for creating, carrying and birthing a child. My life has always had meaning, but now I feel like it has more of a purpose. I have a beautiful, charming son who depends on me every single day for his survival and that purpose sometimes staggers me. I wonder sometimes how I managed to be worthy enough to be this child's mother, while at the same time, humbly having the utmost gratitude that he chose me to come through unto life. I've never felt so honored in all 31 years of my existence. Not even when my husband asked me to be his wife.

I've been fortunate to have spent a majority of the first year of his life home with him. I'm so grateful every day that I'm in a situation where I can be home with him, watching him come to his next milestone and having him with me always. He truly is my little buddy and we have a great time together. I never thought I would deal very well with being on someone else's schedule, but my world revolves around Ryan's; and you know what? I absolutely LOVE it.

Ryan is Gaelic for "Little King." In my kingdom, he definitely rules with an iron fist over my heart.

Day 1 of the Quest for the Quill of Inspiration: Goals, Anyone?

When I had a 9-5 job, I dreamed of being able to have the free time to just write. Oh, the things I would do if I could just be left alone to write. Well, it's been three months exactly since I was laid off from that 9-5 job and what have I done, in terms of writing? Not much.

Why? I'm not so sure. Perhaps it's because the peace and quiet is so overwhelming I can't concentrate. Maybe it's because I get sucked in to Perez Hilton instead of committing to my daily practice. All I know is, there is so much locked inside just waiting to get out and I need to be more diligent. I need to set some goals. Lay out a plan. Seek inspiration daily. Something. Anything.

I purchased "The Writer's Idea Book" by Jack Heffron last night and cracked it open a few minutes go. I did not even get past the first page before inspiration struck. In fact, I did not even get to Mr. Heffron's words, I got stuck at a quote that was placed before the opening sentence:

"It's good to have an end to journey toward; but it's the journey that matters, in the end." ~Ursula K. Leguin~ (Pg. 6)

It dawned on me all of a sudden that I don't even have an end to journey towards. Oh, what a sad state I'm in. I need to get it together, otherwise I'm going to continue being the stagnant, frustrated writer that I am now. How am I supposed to go somewhere when I don't even know where I want to go? A conundrum, indeed.

After further reading into the first chapter of "The Writer's Idea Book", I've decided to follow the instructions of the first prompt, which are to sit at my desk for a certain amount of time every day. I don't have to write, but I can't do anything else, either. At least I'm making the attempt to "show up", which, according to Woody Allen, is 80% of the battle.

Seeing as how I don't do very well being idle, my first attempt at sitting at my desk resulted in a blog about writer's block and lack of goals. Well, I have to start somewhere, right?

The Magic Garden

My magic garden was at my Nana's house. I spent most of the first decade of my life at her house, and it was absolutely magical. Nana's house was more than just a house. It was my childhood wonderland.

In the front yard, there were luminous, bright pink azelas, beautiful gardenias with their sweet, heady smell, fragrant juniper and a lawn that was lush and verdant. The sunshine was plentiful and the air was a hodgepodge of fragrance and menagerie vivid colors. It was a place of creation. The driveway was our chalkboard and boy, did we draw. The corner of the flowerbed served as our construction zone, where we cheerfully engineered roads and tunnels with Nana's garden tools and our Hot Wheels and Tonka trucks. When we got tired of being on the construction site, we took a break in the shade with popsicles and fudge bars. There was always ice cream and sweet treats at Nana's.

In the backyard, there was our beloved swimming pool, which transformed into our Enchanted Underworld the minute we dove in. There were cannon ball contests, swan dive contests, underwater synchronized swimming shows and of course, the ring toss. Our skin was always tanned to a deep golden brown and we never got tired of being in the water. The only time we really didn't pitch too much of a fit getting out is when Nana would give us our Ice Cream Breaks. We would lay our towels on the pool deck, and cheerfully turn our ice cream into milkshakes by stirring incessantly. My Nana affectionately called it "Swirly-Swirly."

The inside was a place of warmth and comfort. The kitchen was our Alchemy Lab; the place where flour and yeast became delicious bread or cinnamon rolls. The place where all the indredients to the most delicious food ever were fresh and unboxed/unprocessed. It was here I learned to cook under Nana's cheerful guidance. Above all, it was the heart of the place that nourished me for so much of my childhood. It is a place I would do just about anything to go back and revisit...just ONE more time.

Everything seemed so much more magical at Nana's house. So magical, in fact, that if I close my eyes long enough, I can actually picture us in the kitchen, with the smell the scent of those sweet cinnamon rolls baking filling the air. It really was SOME garden!