May 2009


Healing Roots

Pink Ladyslipper

Pink Ladyslipper

I grew up on a dirt road, in a house my parents built by hand, with a luscious garden, a big back woods, and a waterfront playground on Long Pond Road in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I started making medicine with plants (and mud) before I even knew you could do that. My teachers were the trees, the fairies of the woods, the lady slippers (I picked one for mom on mother’s day not knowing it was an endangered species), chives, wild strawberries, snap peas, green beans, tomatoes, cabbage (my dad used to tell us that he found us in the cabbage patch), dandelions, turtles, rabbits, geese, and chickens. My parents would weed their beautiful organic garden, sell corn out of the back of their jeep, keep a greenhouse during the winter months, and take lots of time to be outside in every season.

When I was ten years old we moved from Massachusetts to Maryland, into a suburban house with a lawn, swimming pool, and cul-de-sac neighbors. I went from eating whole wheat homemade bread to Domino’s pizza and fish sticks. Needless to say it was an adjustment for our family on many levels. I continued to pursue my love of nature by running cross country and swimming in the ocean every summer upon returning to my grandparents house on Cape Cod.

While at Towson University I enrolled in a year long International Exchange Program to study marine biology at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. I absolutely fell in love, with the people, the many, different cultures of the South Pacific, diving in the coral reef, hiking in the rainforest, and this is where I discovered healing plants. This may sound silly but before visiting Fiji I had no real concept of plants being used for medicine. Maybe I did but I thought that was a long time ago or somewhere far away. What impressed me the most was that five year olds would walk outside their door to gather herbs for their mother. Most people knew what to take for stomach aches, headaches, and the common cold. Herbal medicine was all around them. I still have a “Save the plants that save lives” “sulu” that I bought at a fundraiser on campus from a women’s group who was educating people about the impact of deforestation on both healing plants and local communities.

I took a Resource Management class as an elective and did a project comparing the use and knowledge of medicinal plants in three villages. One village was near agriculture, fields of sugar cane, one near the coast and closer to the capital city Suva, and the third a days hike into the interior rainforest. What I found out was that elders and youngsters alike used the 40 plants I looked at for mostly similar purposes across villages and that the knowledge of healing plants, even in the village near the city, was a vibrant, active part of their culture.

After University while traveling and living in Albuquerque (actually I finished my undergraduate degree there on a National Exchange Program), England, Ireland, Spain, Amsterdam, Cuba, and Guatemala two things were for sure. One, everywhere I went I was drawn to seek out the local healers, I found local herbalists and was fascinated with their knowledge, their ability to be a bridge between people and plants and heal the sick. Two, everywhere I went I would at some point inevitably be sick myself. Often I was sick by myself, totally incapacitated with pain, with extremely heavy periods, cramps, vomiting, fainting, and several times I was hospitalized. The last doctor I talked to about my “painful periods” suggested doing laproscopic surgery to diagnose what she thought was probably “endometriosis.” Being vegetarian at the time (although really I ate very little vegetables and lots of cereal, pasta, bread, and cheese) I decided I would do everything I could do with food and herbs first before getting the surgery. Reminds me of this quote from an old medical doctor that goes something like, “First the word, then the food, then the herb, and lastly the knife.” I figured if people all over the world could eat well and use healing plants maybe I could too.

After moving back to Baltimore I participated in a life altering program through Landmark Education, called the Landmark Forum. This program marked a profound turning point in my life. It gave me the confidence, courage, and freedom to invent and live a life I love. I quit my social work job, I began studying herbal medicine at MUIH, nutrition in New York City, and I created my own business, then Alive and Awake Nutrition and Herbs. All of this, simultaneously, ambitiously, joyfully. It was quite an exiting time! Oh and the periods, they got so much better! I actually started eating organic meat, chicken, and fish, way more vegetables in every meal, organic produce, and a lot less of the cheese and the processed foods. I was cooking for myself and paying attention to my body and things started to shift. Still even now, if I’m stressed or I’m not getting enough sleep or exercise or I’m eating too many sweets, my body will let me know that it’s not happy. I’ve found that my periods are my teacher. I am thankful to them for being part of my healing journey so that I can teach others how to heal themselves with natural remedies.

I have fulfilled on a few of my dreams since beginning my private practice in 2002. I started a non-profit community food co-op in Baltimore, Maryland. I studied, choreographed, and performed a trapeze show. I worked for Landmark Education in Washington, D.C. I took a year long sabbatical from my practice to teach snowboarding in Colorado and sea kayaking in Alaska. I met the person of my dreams and happily drove from Colorado to Alaska to New Hampshire to Maine with him. That drive through the Yukon territory in Canada was a profound life altering experience. It’s one thing to “know” and another to deeply feel how beautiful, raw, massive, and breathtaking our planet is. Fall in the Yukon is like no where else on the planet. Mostly because it’s so untouched by humans. No signs, no farms, no nothing, just a road, for days. I realized during this trip more than any other place I’ve travelled that the beauty found in nature is an essential nutrient for human beings.

At some point along the way, after choosing a career in natural health and beginning my practice as an herbalist I found out that the root of my last name, Heilman, means healer, “healthy” man, man who lives near the hedge, gardener. I like that. It was especially funny when I ended up staying on “Heilmannstrauss” outside of Munich but that’s another story. It was magical to discover this because I like to think I am carrying on a tradition of women healing their communities from way way back. Healing with simple foods, local plants, returning people to the way people used to eat, bringing creativity and fun to cooking, gardening, and healthy living. Fulfilling on my name.

Life is your teacher. Each thing that happens, each interaction, each little sign along the way, each illness, each problem, every part of your life carries within it lessons. If you are alive and awake to your life you will find the miracles, gifts, and sign posts along the way telling you “all is well,” you’re in the right place, you’re on your path. It’s been a beautiful journey that has returned me back to my roots. A garden to weed, a forest to walk in, and taking time to be outside in every season.

Thank you for reading my personal story. I would be honored to partner with you on your healing journey. If you are interested in working with me let’s connect.

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One of the most powerful exercises I do with people during the six-month Holisitic Health Counseling program is having the conversation, “What do you love about your life?”

First I have to give credit to Landmark Education, a global training and development company offering innovative programs for living an extraordinary life, because I first had this conversation in their I love playing poolWisdom Course. P.S. I highly recommend the Landmark Forum for every human being.

Let me tell you: after exchanging what you love about your life with a couple hundred people, listening to what they love about their life, and doing this for maybe 30 minutes (although it seemed like an eternity), your life will never ever be the same.

What I saw in this exercise is that I could actually be responsible for creating my own happiness, regardless of how my day was going. Pretty cool distinction. I started paying attention to the details of my life. My moments stretched out. Whole new worlds opened up that I swear were not there before. It’s an incredible practice.

Lemon balm

Gratitude and thankfulness have been shown to alter your internal physiology to create healing. If your heart is at peace your body will work like it’s supposed to. If your mind and spirit are joyous your body will be joyous. If you let go, your body will let go. Of course if you hold on to negative thinking your body will too. Thus “dis-ease” is born.

Check out HeartMath, where western knowledge meets eastern wisdom, for a basic platform for healing your body-mind-spirit through awareness. I have the technology to use this in my private practice with clients.

When I’m angry, frustrated or depressed about the state of the world I stop (if I can remember to in the moment) and create a new conversation. And I’m not talking about a pep talk, optimism or positive thinking here. It’s not  exactly the “fake it till you make it” or “just smile” your grandmother told you to do. But it’s close.

It’s actually re-wiring the synapses in your brain to create a new pathway. The more you practice creating these new connections, especially in situations where you’d normally go with anger, resentment, or whatever your default mechanism to coping with stress is, you’ll eventually retrain yourself, and it will be easier to create happiness and healing. For real.

So what do I love about my life?

I love my family. I love trees. I love the snow on the trees in winter and how they sparkle and shine and create a winter wonderland. I love the moon and watching it change. I love going to the library and meeting new people. I love avocados and how green and yellow and smooth and silky they are. I love art work and visiting the local gallery Aurhaus that features local artists and a night of music once a month in the winter when it’s cold.

I love my dog Caesar who has the longest, softest ears and this deep throaty howl and I love how we have taken to calling him Beezer or “The Beez.” I Caesar and Timlove my cat Tim who has travelled with us from Colorado to Alaska to Maine , who loves car trips, and loves taking long walks with us tromping through field and stream like he’s a dog. I love how I can find them both curled up in the sun on the deck or sleeping together in eachothers arms at night. 

I love my partner Danny who has always says, “Hey gorgeous,” or “Hey beautiful,” when he gets home. I love how appreciates my cooking, does the dishes, and does a fine job in the kitchen himself asking, “Honey, where’s the garlic?” or “How long do I cook this quinoa for?” 

I love the ocean. I love water. I love the color green. I love a blue sky Cape Codwith no clouds and sun on a cool day in the spring. I love Maine. I love talking to my sister on the phone for hours about her acupuncture studies. I love a mixed green salad with peppers, avocados, cheese, and chicken and an olive oil and lemon dressing.

I love having my dad tell me the same story of when I was born in great detail every year on my birthday. I love that my mom is teaching chair yoga to senior citizens at the assisted living facility her mother used to live in. I love that my brother loves math.

It’s amazing no matter how annoyed I am if I do this exercise and start with ten things I love I always find the list is endless. I am grateful. I love so many things. I am blessed to have so much. All is well.

 

 What do you love about your life?

WildflowersLife is about movement. If you look around you, you’ll notice everything is in motion.  Growing, changing, cycling, the seasons, weather, environment, our blood, bodies, emotions; everything is interconnected, interdependent, and part of the whole. We are one

In Chinese Medicine the character for qi (pronounced chee) which is life force or life energy is steam rising from a cooking pot of rice. In health our rice pot lid is moving up and down. Cooking right along, steam pouring out, it’s quite a lovely vision. In disease, which is the state of being “not at ease,” the rice pot lid is stuck, no movement. The lid is either up or down, no steam. Burnt rice. You get the analogy right?

It’s not natural to go from your bed, to a chair, to a car, to sitting all day at a desk, to another chair, to sitting all night on a couch, and then back to bed. We become stuck. So it’s common sense that movement is an essential part of being well. 

There are so many different ways to move your body while experiencing joy, learning something new, being outside in nature, connecting with people, and expressing yourself!

Some people love the gym and you may be one of them. My roommate when I lived out in Steamboat Springs, Colorado would snowboard all day, then go for a run, then workout at the gym for an hour or two, and then go out dancing. She was incredible! I love snowboarding and I love dancing but I am not inspired to walk or run in place on a machine inside of a building. I just can’t seem to do it. I hate the gym.

That’s ok. Each person is unique. If you absolutely love your exercise routine at the gym, great, stick with it! That’s important.

If you hate it, give it up! That was my advice to a client who absolutely dreaded her morning routine. She was hitting snooze, barely making it to the gym anyway, but without fail she was making herself feel guilty and horrible about not going. Exercise can be like this if it’s on our “should” or “to do” list verses something fun and adventurous.Polly and Knight

“I give you permission to not go to the gym in the morning,” I told her. “Really! Ok!,” she was excited already. The “no gym” pass, plus a few tricks with breakfast and a secret addition to her kitchen, and she loves her morning routine. “I’m a morning person!” she texts me just two days after our consultation. Now she goes to the gym twice a week to bike, which she loves, and everyday after work she’s walking or hiking or doing something fun. She’s even making plans for horseback riding lessons this summer. Fun+adventure=the perfect exercise for you!

If you don’t have a routine incorporating movement into your life then find out what you are passionate about. What do you really enjoy doing? If you don’t know then brainstorm. Come up with a list of ways to incorporate movement and exercise into your life.

Here’s my own personal list. Feel free to steal my ideas. I even listed some things that I haven’t tried yet since trying new things is part of the fun!

Snowboarding, cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, ice climbing in the winter!

Hiking, rock climbing, walking in the woods, foraging for wild medicinal herbs, playing tag in my yard, playing Frisbee at the park, doing cartwheels in the street, playing in the garden in the spring!

Hula-hooping, jumping rope, hop scotch, trapeze, skateboarding, wakeboarding, body surfing, swimming, jumping off rocks into a cool deep pool, skinny dipping at the beach, swimming in a pond, ocean, swimming pool or river, diving, kayaking, canoeing, white water rafting, wind surfing in the summer!

WinterHot yoga, aqua yoga, there are so many kinds of yoga, stretching before bed, aerobic sex,  running in a relay, dancing by myself to my favorite tunes in my living room, contra-dancing, line dancing, square dancing, taking dance lessons, salsa, polka, hip-hop. If you can walk you can dance, even if you can’t move all the different parts of your body, you can move your spirit, and singing often is great for your lymph!

Skipping through a field, horse back riding, sailing, rowing a row boat in the late summer, roller skating, bouldering, raking leaves in the fall, harvesting from my garden, running through a pumpkin maze, hiking to go fly fishing, hiking to have a picnic. Did I say jumping rope? Even folding laundry or doing work around the house can be a workout if you get creative, move your body and have fun!

What are you passionate about?

What moves you?

Do that!

Happy Mother’s Day

 

The gifts I’ve given you over the years: a drawer freshener for your underwear drawer, hand sewn from doll clothes, Cherry Blossomsstuffed with cotton balls, drenched in herbs and perfume; a beautiful, single, pink lady slipper, picked from our yard not knowing it was an endangered species; a poem; a drawing; a piece of pottery; a green plant… 

 

Mother's Day

 

 

They barely scratch the surface in expressing my true appreciation, deep love, and enormous respect for the patience, compassion, and guidance you have given me as a mother for thirty-three years. Quite simply, I thank you for my life.

 

When I was little my mom would grind her own wheat, bake her own bread, and make me a peanut butter and banana sandwich with honey and wheat germ for my lunch. Yum! I called it the “banana smoosh” because it had to be “smooshed” just right.  It’s still an awesome sandwich I recommend you try, be sure to use all natural peanut butter and local honey. Thanks for making my lunch every day and teaching me how to make bread and so many other things. I love you mom!  In honor of my mother, Maureen Doyle Rodgers, and all mothers, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 Mo’s Bread Recipe

Dissolve 8 tsp yeast in 1 cup warm water (don’t stir) add 1 tbsp honey

Bring 1 cup milk to a boil, add ½ cup oil (I use extra virgin olive oil), add 3 tbsp honey, let cool

In large bowl combine the milk mixture, 2 beaten eggs, and the yeast mixture

Mix 2 cups of oats with 6 cups of whole wheat flour into the bowl (for a gluten free recipe you can substitute kamut or spelt flour here)

Knead till smooth (about 10 minutes)

In oiled bowl cover with damp cloth and let rise 1 ½ hrs (put it somewhere warm to rise)

Punch down the dough, add flour as needed, (I add in nuts and seeds or dried herbs here)

Shape 3 round loaves, place them in oiled bread pans, brush crust with egg and water or olive oil, let rise 1 hr, (you can also add seeds to the top of your bread here for a crunchier crust)

Preheat oven to 375 and bake for 25-45 mins until golden brown

Let it cool down a bit then slice it while it’s still warm

Serve warm topped with local organic butter, natural peanut butter, or jam, if it’s a more savory bread like rosemary or sundried tomato, serve with a small side plate of olive oil and herbs for dipping

Herbal tea goes great with warm bread, try Nettles, it’s soothing, delicious, and great for allergy season

Happy Mother’s Day

 

The gifts I’ve given you over the years: a drawer freshener for your underwear drawer, hand sewn from doll clothes, Cherry Blossomsstuffed with cotton balls, drenched in herbs and perfume; a beautiful, single, pink lady slipper, picked from our yard not knowing it was an endangered species; a poem; a drawing; a piece of pottery; a green plant… 

 

Mother's Day

 

 

They barely scratch the surface in expressing my true appreciation, deep love, and enormous respect for the patience, compassion, and guidance you have given me as a mother for thirty-three years. Quite simply, I thank you for my life.

 

When I was little my mom would grind her own wheat, bake her own bread, and make me a peanut butter and banana sandwich with honey and wheat germ for my lunch. Yum! I called it the “banana smoosh” because it had to be “smooshed” just right.  It’s still an awesome sandwich I recommend you try, be sure to use all natural peanut butter and local honey. Thanks for making my lunch every day and teaching me how to make bread and so many other things. I love you mom!  In honor of my mother, Maureen Doyle Rodgers, and all mothers, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 Mo’s Bread Recipe

Dissolve 8 tsp yeast in 1 cup warm water (don’t stir) add 1 tbsp honey

Bring 1 cup milk to a boil, add ½ cup oil (I use extra virgin olive oil), add 3 tbsp honey, let cool

In large bowl combine the milk mixture, 2 beaten eggs, and the yeast mixture

Mix 2 cups of oats with 6 cups of whole wheat flour into the bowl (for a gluten free recipe you can substitute kamut or spelt flour here)

Knead till smooth (about 10 minutes)

In oiled bowl cover with damp cloth and let rise 1 ½ hrs (put it somewhere warm to rise)

Punch down the dough, add flour as needed, (I add in nuts and seeds or dried herbs here)

Shape 3 round loaves, place them in oiled bread pans, brush crust with egg and water or olive oil, let rise 1 hr, (you can also add seeds to the top of your bread here for a crunchier crust)

Preheat oven to 375 and bake for 25-45 mins until golden brown

Let it cool down a bit then slice it while it’s still warm

Serve warm topped with local organic butter, natural peanut butter, or jam, if it’s a more savory bread like rosemary or sundried tomato, serve with a small side plate of olive oil and herbs for dipping

Herbal tea goes great with warm bread, try Nettles, it’s soothing, delicious, and great for allergy season