Archive for the ‘holistic health’ Category

The Penultimate Herbal Wisdom Class

Monday, June 18th, 2018

After 25 years, I’m bringing this free class series to a close. June 19 is the penultimate (next to last) class and July 17 will be the close. June’s class is an open forum for questions of any kind. The last class will be one of my favorites “How to Talk to Plants and Avoid Giving the Impression of Lunacy”.

Both classes are free, at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom, and are from 7-8:30.

Why stop now? Things have canged a lot in 25 years. Back when we started this class sponsored by The People’s Food Co-op I was mostly concerned with maintaining the bulk herb section for the co-op. It had been acquired from The Herb and Spice Co-op around the corner, and without dedicated herbailts on hand I feared few would know what to buy and why.

That goal has been met. It is a thriving section, and knowledge of herbs and bulk herbs has vastly increased over the decades.

I also wanted to provide some easy to access quality herbal information to our area. Now, there are plenty of people who can do that. Back then, I was one of only a few practicing herbalism.

I wanted to make growing herbs and harvesting weeds more normal. This has been a great success, with dandelions flourishing in many yards without embarrassment or remorse. Plantain is an up and coming match for dandelion, and in general people are more willing to look at weeds for food and medicine.

My work is done? Well, there is always more to do. But I don’t have to be the one to do it anymore. 25 is a nice solid number. At 10 classes a year, thats 2500 classes. I’m guessing that means around 25,000 people. Some come back, some pass through. it’s a reasonable guess.

Please join me for the last two classes. It will be a joy to teach them, and I admit a relief to be done after 25 years! For more information check out the People’s Food Co-op website

Weight Loss – Turns out that was the easy part.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

The New York Times has an article out today on The Biggest Loser TV show, and the problems the winners have had keeping their weight off. It turns out not many are successful over the long run. I’ve previously seen statistics saying less than 5% of those who lose a lot of weight are able to keep it off. It sounds pretty dismal, actually.

It seemed a miracle that I lost more than 125 pounds. Now I’m finding out that keeping it off may be the larger accomplishment – pun intended. I’ve had ten years or so of steady healthy slow and successful weight loss. This week I’m actually within a pound of my all time I thought it was impossible goal. It will happen sometime this summer, I’m confident.

I write to explore a few ideas about why I’ve been able to keep losing weight and not balloon back. Perhaps this will be helpful for others, it is certainly helpful for me to consider what is working. So I can keep doing it. So ranging from teh philosophical to teh practical –

For me it is do or die. If I am heavier, my life is at risk. Last year i found out I have a genetic heart valve problem. If I was overweight – carrying more than 100 extra pounds – open heart surgery and more would be on the agenda. I can be okay because I”m at a healthy weight. And of course the diabetes, the joint issues, and so much more. It is my life I’m working to preserve. Nothing less. So spending whatever time and money it takes to take care of myself is always at the top of the list. If I don’t, I die sooner. I know that.

Lose the weight slowly. Losing weight is hard on the body. I don’t think losing weight fast is healthy, and I don’t think it works in the long term. It takes time to be the changed body type – to believe it and feel it and accept it. It takes time to absorb the extra skin. It takes time to effectively and safely process the toxins stored in fat. It takes time to adjust metabolism, to rededicate your body to health and well being.

You have to communicate with and update your body. My most significant weight loss was after major surgery, the removal of a ten pound fibroid tumor. I had to tell my body – every single cell – that things would be different from now on. That I now had a body that was all about movement and being fit. The only way to really communicate that was to keep moving and acting like someone who was fit. On the TV shows for weight loss, there is an insane amount of time for exercise and movement. You’re telling the body that is the new order. Except it isn’t. No one can keep that up. I told my body I was upping the movement – 7-10 hours a week of medium activity, at a minimum. I’ve kept that up. My body adjusted. It works from that premise. I reinforce that communication every day. It’s reasonable, it’s doable, and my metabolism has apparently made the permanent adjustment to that communication. This is critically important.

Weigh frequently but don’t stress about it. It’s good to be paying attention, it’s nice to get teh treat of losing weight still. But in truth weight still goes up and down and is not in your control. I don’t ever want to be in denial again. And I also still see this as a long term effort and variations of 2-5 pounds are totally normal and often mysterious.

Have a healthy list of goals you can control. My list includes minimal movement and exercise, foods I want to include each day (greens, veggies, fruits, raw dairy, great protein, etc.). Sleep has become something I need to pay more attention to recently. I have my list, I do my best to achieve it every day. This is a forever list, not just until I weigh a certain amount.

Upgrade my food. Whatever it is – can I make it healthier, more nutritious, better for me and the planet? Higher quality chocolate. More fulfilling rice and veggies. Make my own bread from fresh ground flour. Whatever it is I’m eating, can I do even better? I make this a long term goal, and don’t stress about doing it all at once. My very good diet just gets better all the time. I’m more and more satisfied, and even my tastes have changed to that junky food is less and less interesting.

Use small plates. It’s a simple trick but it works. And recently I’ve found that by having a choice in smallish plates, I feel extra proud of using the smallest, and the still small plate compared to the big plate seems more satisfying. We are so easily fooled, that even though I know I’m fooling myself I can fool myself. I love that.

Don’t finish every meal. I think it brings awareness to potions if you stop before your plate is clean. And it is important to give permission to myself to stop before I finish off whatever it is I’m eating. My dog really likes this idea. At home she gets the healthy leftovers. At restaurants it’s fun to bring my own kind of fancy carry out container to fill. It is a good habit to break. Whatever ends up on your plate doesn’t have to end up being eaten now. Simple concept, yet it was pretty deeply ingrained in me! I do eat less now. It feels very natural, feeling satisfied feels much better than being stuffed. It took a few years for that to happen.

Be thoughtful when you eat. Eat slowly. Thoughtfully. Mindfully. With awareness. Considering the stories behind the food you have in your mouth, that is entering your body. Give yourself time to savor and enjoy food! If it isn’t enjoyable, stop eating. If you can’t take the time to experience the food, stop eating. If the people around you are eating quickly, slow down even more.

The real goal is a healthy happy body. How much you weigh is only one indicator. How do you feel? What would increase your comfort? How can you be stronger? What more do you want to be doing with your body? What makes you deeply happy? This has been a huge transition. I focus on how great I feel, how much I enjoy feeling my bones for the first time. I love the way I can move, even the way I can curl up now. The more I note and enjoy those things, the more reinforcement I have to keep this level of health and awareness. And I believe that is also communicated to my body so that this level of wellness is accepted and something I can sustain.

Those are a few of my thoughts about being successful keeping weight off. I don’t think it is a complete list, but I also believe it is important to share some hope and real ways to make this work, as the news of failure is more dismal and – literally – disheartening for those of us who have struggled with being overweight.

I couldn’t have done it without the support of friends. I’m very grateful.

Support – Kindness made Active

Monday, March 21st, 2016

I have some very supportive friends. The extreme demonstration of this was November and December of 2009. I had major surgery to remove a very large fibroid tumor. I lived alone, I had no partner, just my dog and I. Over 50 people chipped in and took care of me for almost two months. I had food, company, dog walkers, house cleaning, even assistance in the first few days turning over, getting out of bed, washing, and figuring out how to walk again.

That was support. And the experience was life changing for me. I had never known that sort of support.

Except of course from my parents. Whose support was strong clear, and very long lasting as it continues through my father to this day. But in many ways fading as he grows older, and actually needs more of my support,

I’ve been practicing kindness. It seems to be my most important spiritual path at this time. And I’ve been considering support, now that I’m single again, and also getting hints of what happily growing older may require.

I had a lot of support in my last relationship, and I am sad to be without the small and sometimes large daily ways of being cared for and nourished. Thrown back into the unwanted status of “single” my support has to again depend on the many individuals who are my community, my friends, people not necessarily pledged to me as a lover is, but who do respond and care in so many small and large ways.

And support comes from strangers and synchronis events and coincidences as well. It matters to stop and appreciate the small and large ways I have wonderful support. People who support my work by being clients or by sending clients to me. Requests for writing and teaching. Peers who challenge and inspire me to do better.

Gifts of food, company, money, chocolate. People who will lend a hand moving something, clearing out a closet, providing expertise as I puzzle out a new project. Those who show up and carry heavy objects, saw lumber, shovel sand and weed the garden with me.

Friends who will read and comment on a book chapter, tell me when I offended them, suggest a softer or more mature way to proceed with conflicts. The support of singing the song while I ranch off into exotic harmonies. The support of giving me a ride somewhere or adjusting my bike for me. Hoisting the canoe, paddling behind me, swimming into the deep part fo the lake together urging me to go further, climbing the mountain (literally) with me when I didn’t think I could do that.

Support in believing in my dreams, introducing me to someone who can make those dreams become real.

And my work, my time, is spent finding how I can support other people. Especially the ones who come to me as clients. I am especially called to support new moms anyway I possibly can. Support them in breastfeeding, support them in taking care of themselves when they are giving so much Support them in having the space and the time to fall madly in love with this tiny person new to the world. I have never been a mom, and never will, but they hold a special part of my heart.

But in all of my clients and students the real purpose is to find how I can support them to be wonderful. Successful. Happy. To make it through hard times, with more than they started with.

I support the cranial vitality when I do Cranialsacral Therapy. I support the brilliant ability of the body to heal when I do other bodywork. I support people being insightful and wise and powerful when we talk about their lives and their struggles. It is all just about being supportive. Finding those small and large ways each person can use support. Making sure they have other people and parts of their lives which are supportive, encouraging them to build more support and move away from the people and things that are not.

It is all pretty simple.

I could use more support in my day to day life. There are tasks and projects and dreams that are behind or delayed. I need help keeping up with day to day tasks, and so many things that need doing. I can be more aware of ways to support my friends and clients and community in those small and large ways, I can do so much more.

When I write about it, I become more aware. As I’m more aware I can be even more active and —- supportive.

In search of my childhood potato chips

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

When i was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend my allowance on a large bag of potato chips. On the way back from the store, I would eat half the bag while walking the mile home. This was happiness: mouth pleasure, salt fantasy, greasy love. And of course my mother did not approve. She had some odd ideas about what food was healthy (white Pepperidge Farm bread, Captain Crunch cereal in place of Lucky Charms, as much lunch meats as we wanted swathed with Miracle Whip in place of Hellman’s mayo.)


In Ithaca, where my love of salted fried potato slices began, Wise potato chips ruled my life. I would do or say most anything to have them. When we moved back to Michigan I made the transition to the lighter and crispier Lays. Jays potato chips carried me into adulthood, although the local Better Made did pretty well also.

When I started eating mostly organic healthy non-processed foods it was hard to justify the potato chip lust. I tried the kettle cooked organic and even baked varieties, and none were really satisfying. I even spent a year carefully restricted to one bag potato chip purchase per month. The anticipation was greater than the enjoyment.

Because the truth is nothing tastes as wonderful as that childhood chip. It satisfied an emotional need, a young lust for bad food, a craving that would re-emerge and then continue to exist long after the last salty crumbs were enjoyed – licking my fingertips still longing for more. When I was young, I wanted more chips. As an adult I want the bag of chips to work one more time. And the sad truth is, it never does.

Most recently the health food stores I buy groceries from carry an overwhelming selection of potato chips. I even mistakenly bought pickle and chili flavored a few months ago thinking they were plain. Most of the flavored types contain yeast extract – a disguise for MSG – which makes my throat feel sore and the roof of my mouth odd. Sometimes I have a headache as well. So that rules out at least 3/4 of the selection. I keep trying a bag of this or that – but I end up feeling ill afterwards. I buy the plain ones and eat them with a homemade onion and hot sauce sour cream dip. The dip is that only part I really like.

The truth is my childhood chip is gone. Junk food does not fill that need, that longing. It never really did and it never really will.

I’ve upgraded the way I fill my longing. To people and events and food that nourishes me. But yet…

But you know what? The reverse is true of chocolate. The chocolate of my childhood was unremarkable and mostly simple sweet stuff. I never craved it. I could pass on all of it. And often did. The chocolate I enjoy now lasts a long time, it is rich and full and deep and mouth and body pleasurable. It varies from hot chocolate to homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies to really dark to partly dark to chocolate cheesecake and flourless cakes. I like having it in the house, and I’m so satisfied with a little that I rarely overindulge. A good chocolate bar can last weeks.

While I was losing weight, I ate as much high quality chocolate as I wanted. There are valuable lessons here.

And the potato chips of my childhood? They were never really real. I have now given up my search. I may need a bit of time to grieve that loss. The fantasy that happiness is possible with salt, oil, and potato slices.

Preserving the Past

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Long long ago I created a lecture series and a newsletter called “Contributions to Wisdom”. The lecture series was originally every Friday night, and then every other Friday. The lecture series and the 10 times annually publication lasted from 1986 to 1993.

I videotaped most of the lectures. The small ($3) donations that people made for each lecture covered the cost of tea, a blank videotape, and over time part of the cost of purchasing a video camera.

Some of the videos were available for rent at Crazy Wisdom, I lent out a number of them as well. Mostly they have sat in plastic tubs for almost 30 years, waiting for something to happen.

A couple of people that I videoed are famous – Patch Adams, Susun Weed, and Larry Brilliant. Most of the local practitioners remain well known. A few have died, many have moved.

Those VHS tapes are slowly losing quality and ability to be played. I’d like to preserve them. Transferring them to Quicktime and DVD has to be done in real time. And it uses huge amounts of computer storage space, which does get cheaper every year – even every month it seems. But it is a very large project. It can also be done professionally, for about $20 for each 2 hour VHS. I have 33 tapes of local practitioners, 16 of Susun Weed, and 8 of Patch Adams. Preserving all 60 tapes professionally would cost over $1,000.

If each local presenter could be found and sponsored their own preservation, I could start by saving those tapes. For about $25 I could have the tape transferred to quick time and DVD, put it up on YouTube, and also create a collection that might be of interest to the Bentley Library, The UM Integrative Medicine Center, and maybe Crazy Wisdom might make them available again.

Here is a list of some of the lectures – some have the title of the lecture, but most only have the name.

Jay Sandweiss intro to osteopathy
Larry Brilliant Karma yoga Apr 87
Cheryl Newel
Bonnie Breidenbach
Bernie coyne rubenfeld synergy
Leigh Daniels
Bronwen gates
Aura Glaser
Phil Rogers Amazon toucan Native American chants
John Friedlander
Brian odonnel
Don Mathis therapy
Emily Socha past life fact or fiction
Brenda Morgan
Manny Schrieber making relationships work
Wasentha Young the tau chi symbol
Patricia Current
Marsha Traxler homeopathy
Barb Brodsky
Bob bedard
Leigh Daniels magic and the qubalah
Catherine Lilly MyersBbrigs
Jonathan Ellis
Pat Kramer with Bronwen gates herbs and childbirth
Steve Bhaerman Swami Beyondananda
Leah song
Leigh Daniels Saturn and Neptune
Bernie coyne 4-5-91
Michael Vincent acupuncture
Judy stone

I do believe this is a valuable part of Ann Arbor’s early history of alternative healing and the practitioners who were the pioneers of integrative medicine, spiritual development and alternative therapies. I would welcome your ideas, response, and financial support for the project. You can contact me at
holistic – at –

Loud Music Interferes With Community Building

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

I’m frightened and also tired of being bombarded with loud music in restaurants, festivals, parties, and other places where people are gathered for more than just listening to music. Although even in concerts where everyone is there to hear great music, I usually whip out my ear plugs that I keep on my key chain. I’ve left plenty of events earlier than planned just because it is too hard to talk, I’m tired of yelling, or the loud music is just so uncomfortable. I also know that listening to any noise above 85 decibels for an extended period of time can cause permanent damage to my ears.
Amplified music has always been a part of your life if you are under under 60 or 70. The dangers of load noises has been known for decades, but we haven’t done nearly enough to make people aware of it or taken measures to protect our easily damaged ears. Almost 20% of middle aged Americans have some degree of hearing loss, and by age 75 the number is almost half. “Of the roughly 40 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, 10 million can be attributed to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).”

This is no small issue. This profound quote is attributed to Helen Keller:

“Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”

Loud music in social settings cuts people off from being able to talk and interact comfortably. Too much noise makes it hard to be part of and support the building of community.

And then, exposure from noise and loud music (above 85 decibels) causes hearing loss, and even greater potential social isolation.

I recommend that everyone carry ear plugs at all times, and use them. Specialized versions are available that decrease sound, without distortion. They are inexpensive, under $15.

Get a decibel meter for your phone. I’ve been using dB Meter Pro for my Iphone and it works very well. There are also plenty of free apps.

Ask restaurants and other venues to turn down the music. Ask restaurant reviewers to give a rating for sound quality with their review. Use your smart phone meter, and if it’s too loud move or leave. And tell them why.

Consider buying stock in Costco (which has some of the best and cheapest hearing aids) or other hearing aid companies and those who make cochlear implants. Because this is an industry that is certain to grow as baby boomers raised on loud rock and roll grow older. I’m only guessing, but it seems like a reasonable projection.

I’m partially sensitive to this topic as I’ve watched my dad struggle with his profound level of hearing loss. It has caused him to be more isolated, and less willing to be with old friends and his family. His hearing loss makes communication more difficult when interacting with health care workers, law enforcement, and in other critical situations. He has recently published a short book to help others cope with hearing loss – “Adapting to Hearing Loss”. It is an inexpensive and practical guide from the perspective of someone directly affected. These are not the kind of tips an audiologist would give you.

Building community is important. Let’s turn down the volume so that it is easier and less stressful to connect. And so that we’ll be still able to share stories and words in the years to come.

I’m Going to Have to Learn to Spell Pescetarian

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Because I am one. A Pescetarian that is. Thirty some years of vegetarianism (including a two year stint of veganism that was ended with some freshly made garlic goat cheese) ended a few years ago actually. I woke up one Friday and my menopausal body cried out for fish oil. I wanted it. I knew the health benefits. I also had an identity to maintain. I was a vegetarian. But by the end of the day I was buying fish oil as I had no really good reason to say no to a need that I would describe as a physical demand. I tried it. I liked it. I felt and heard the cells of my body say “YES!! Thank you!!”

And then the urge expanded. Last year I visited Sweden, for a wonderful family reunion. It was a renewal of my heritage (father’s side) and a time to be open to the adventure of meeting new family, going new places, traveling far away with my sweetheart for the first time.

And I made a plan to honor that Swedish half of me by eating some Swedish fish.
first fish copy
We were on an island, Gotland Island, in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The restaurant was suggested by my cousin I had just met – actually a cousin is the easy description. Our common ancestor is my great grandfather on my dad’s mom’s side. I’m just happy to be related to such a great group of people.

We were in the medieval city of Visby. We were sitting outside, next to a medieval church, on the edge of a large and very old courtyard of cobblestone and the harbor was a few blocks away. They served us Baltic Herring on mashed potatoes, with a sprig of chive, a wedge of lemon.

When you crave a food, eating it may give a temporary satiation. It may be junk that provides some comfort or resonance with past childhood feelings and needs. It may be sugary and satisfying in an over the top but simple way. This fish was perfectly made, it was a flavor and freshness I had only experienced once before, more than 40 years ago when I had fish and chips around 4 pm in Eyemouth Scotland, just after the fishing boats came in. But I remembered, and my cells began a little dance, and this was the food my body wanted and was slowly figuring out how to taste and chew and swallow what felt luxurious and strange and oh so right.

And so it began.

In the last year I’ve been experimenting. I’ve been listening to those healthy cravings, I’ve been considering the strict dietary limitations that made up part of my identity. I’ve been questioning reasons and motives and choices. The other meat options remain outside the realm of what I would consider food for me. There is no sense of loss, no desire, no imagining what the taste might be. I have no interest, even more than that it just doesn’t seem like food and so is distasteful.

But the fish I’ve eaten is wonderful, and so strangely satisfying. I choose carefully, and I hope thoughtfully. Considering source and freshness and the different types of fish. That seems to matter a lot for taste as well as healthy options.

My body has changed so dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years. I’ve fought off a huge (ten pounds in the end) fibroid tumor twice – once by uterine artery embolization, and five years ago by having it removed entirely with my uterus. Then losing over 125 pounds, most of it after that surgery. 45% of me is gone. And of course menopause. Which is a very fundamental shift. I think the need for fish stems from that change, most of all.

A body that speaks loudly and clearly about what it needs is a great gift. Changing my perception of who I am, what I believe, and the fundamental day to day pleasure of eating healthy food has been a good thing. I feel more aware, more expansive, even excited about opening a whole dimension of food that I had kept closed off for more than half my life. And it has only been a year, not even 20 meals that included fish.

That meal of Baltic herring my never be matched again in my lifetime. But it is something to strive for. And my body’s wisdom is telling me that by eating fish I may live a bit longer and be able to have a few more opportunities for adventures that will be as welcome and as full.

Saving a Life

Monday, August 4th, 2014

How many lives have you “saved”? What does that even mean? Is that a responsibility that anyone should accept?

There are numerous feel good stories about people who save someone from dying. Pulling a driver from a car wreck, successfully getting people at risk out of a dangerous country, stopping an attack on the street, knowing critical first aid. But what happens next can be complicated.

There are at least 6 people who I can say my intervention saved them from likely death, five of those instances confirmed by medical practitioners. In 34 years of practicing holistic health care there are other instances of helping people “wake up” to life, regain a sense of meaning and purpose, make lifestyle changes that certainly enhanced and prolonged life. And dozens of times I was consulted about what medical care was needed – and I was fortunate to know enough to send them to the ER or urgent care when it turned out conventional care was urgently needed.

Some were friends, some family, some clients, some complete strangers.

Considering those moments, those stories, those decisions can feel burdensome. Heavy. Partly because if I did indeed save these lives, the converse can also be true that I could have dropped the ball, made the wrong decision, and participated in someone dying. And not everyone will appreciate or thank you or even agree that your actions were helpful.

I don’t think we are meant to be responsible for other people’s lives. Even a parent is priming their children to let go, be on their own, be responsible for themselves. Holding on and claiming authority or ownership of another can’t work. If you are a parent, a teacher, or someone who has saved a life, you must let go.

The cliche “life goes on” is especially profound in this circumstance. You may have touched a person in a deeply meaningful and significant way. Then the best thing to do is to step back, let life go on, and be at peace with that. Maybe you’ll continue the relationship and be thanked on their death bed. That has happened to me. Maybe you’ll be vilified for your actions. Yes, I’ve had that as well. You may never see the person again, or only casually. Or they were too young to know your part or your role has been dropped from the story. That has also happened. Of the 6 people I did rescue, two would deny it and they also let me know they are angry about my intervention. Not everyone welcomes such an intimate and real contact. My one experience with a birth where there was a life threatening complication, it ended a long time close friendship.

I like it when it turns out I am the right person, with the right skills, at the right place, at the right time. And I can reflect that I did the best I could. Thirty years after the fact, my brother told the story of being exactly that. He had been trained in first aid and overdose aid, and as a 16 year old in 1973 he was staffing the first aid tent at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. They were handling people with bad trips, dehydration, simple things.

Then they were called to deal with a young man who was choking, whose airway was cut off. From some drug or allergic reaction, no one knew and there was no time to tell. As David told the story, they had all been trained to do an emergency tracheotomy but of course no one had actually done it. And David and the adults he was with all knew that was needed. But who would be willing to give it a try in this life or death situation?

No one was stepping forward, so David called for the pocket knife and a pen to use as a temporary tube. He says he cut the man’s throat, in the right spot, and inserted the pen piece. The man was breathing and regaining some color when the ambulance finally arrived.

The emergency crew quickly took over, but one of the paramedics commented that they didn’t want to know who did the emergency trach, but whoever did it did a good job and certainly saved the man’s life. What would he have said if he knew it was the bearded 16 year old standing by?

David told the story with great relief – he took action and it worked. It wasn’t the first time he was called to act quickly and decisively. He was the one who found the client who had tumbled down the stairs at the crisis center, fracturing his skull and lying in a pool of blood. He was the one who found the neighbor’s home on fire, and grabbed a hose while calling out for someone else to dial 911. David was very good in emergencies.

He also shook it off. He extracted what he could learn from each crisis, pondered why he saw so many of them, and evaluated his actions and those who were also involved. And then let it go, let life go on. Although he also relished a good dramatic story, and enjoyed sharing the lessons learned when he could.

I’m not entangled in the lives I’ve saved or the times I’ve been able to help. It works better that way, and I also don’t hesitate to be open to the opportunities to help. I believe in each person’s autonomy and hope they can be powerful, strong, fully enabled human beings. I truly cherish those intimate connections and sometimes grieve when that intimacy is cut off or fizzles away. And life goes on.

Breastfeeding and CST

Monday, July 28th, 2014

I’m often asked which babies can benefit from Cranialsacral Therapy (CST). My usual response is any baby born either vaginally or by cesarean section. Do I really believe all babies can benefit from this work? Actually, yes. That’s why I offered it free of charge for so many years, and even now make sure it is affordable ($30 for a house call within Ann Arbor). I will also waive the charge if that is an obstacle for any mom who wants me to work with her baby under three months of age.

The primary reasons people come to me for CST are nursing problems; and birth trauma including hematomas, shoulder dystocia, irregularity in the sutures, frequent vomiting, or just for reassurance. Most of the time I only need to provide one session.

I suppose that in 32 years of doing this work I’ve seen a few thousand babies. In that time I’ve also moved from working on babies hours after birth, to just after (sometimes in a hospital birth I can do CST while a baby is being examined or even while being suctioned), to a few times when just the head has emerged, to now routinely doing CST on babies who are not yet born.

My perception of what the baby is capable of and how they respond has shifted completely. The words we use to describe birth imply that somehow the baby isn’t “here” until the birth. Women are asked “when is the baby coming?” We often say “She is finally here!” when a baby is born. As if the baby wasn’t present the whole time, albeit in a series of profoundly different states and ways of being.

I started off as one of those who pretty much thought there wasn’t much there (and certainly nothing to work with) until birth was imminent. But over the many years I found that babies are actually very responsive to CST – many weeks before they are born. The primary positive benefit of this early work is helping the baby be in a better position for birth. So I’ve worked with a number of transverse, breech, ascynclitic, and posterior presentations and helped the baby to turn him or herself. For me, that is the key. The baby does the moving with the very very subtle CST suggestions. There is no force, I have never turned a baby. The work can be done at any time, even during labor. Of course, with a transverse or breech presentation it is better to begin a few weeks ahead of time. I wrote a brief article about the first time we were able to have a baby turn herself after 45 hours of labor, and thus avoided a most likely c-section.

The idea of no force and no demands is also a prominent part of doing CST with nursing babies. It feels much more like teaching than adjusting. The baby’s cranial mechanism is so very malleable, so very sensitive, the lightest of touches and sometimes really just suggestions of touch are usually enough to bring better vitality to the mechanism and therefore a correction.

I know that my work is effective. I wouldn’t keep doing it if it wasn’t – and indeed since I’ve never advertised for clients but have stayed in business for 34 years full time I must be doing something right. But it is with the babies that I feel most in awe of the work, and also have such immediate and clear feedback that the CST is effective. Countless times I’ve been entrusted to do this work with a newborn having nursing troubles, done some simple CST, and then watched as the mom and baby have the most successful nursing experience yet. And then weeks, months, and even years later moms report how much that one session changed everything.

What makes me deeply deeply happy is being able to make the nursing experience better and more successful. It is about great nutrition certainly, but also reinforcing the bonding that occurs with mom and baby when nursing is (relatively) easy and also pain free. This is support that has profound and long lasting effects. I am so grateful that just a little help and support at that sage has such profound positive results.

This is work that makes my heart sing. It is an honor to be entrusted with this small precious beings, and an incredible joy to do such simple work that makes a difference, and improves the quality of life for the whole family.

I have also worked with babies who had serious problems. Mild to severe cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders that were apparent even early on, babies with damage incurred during birth, babies with heart defects. I’ve worked with some of these babies for many years continuing. Even the kids who are non verbal make it clear that they like the work, they find it relaxing, and they are glad to see me.

Parents usually ask about when to come back, and how often CST should be done. After all this time I certainly have some ideas, and I’ll share them with my clients, especially if there is a more serious need or my experience is that repeat visits would be advised. But I have a larger philosophy. Many of the moms I see have been disempowered – told they are imagining things, brushed off by busy doctors, or just left dangling with few resources and support. Part of my work is to undo that damage. And it is very damaging if women don’t have the chance to learn and become confident as a new parent.

So the answer is, I would like the mom to learn about what I do, and then learn how to recognize herself when her baby might benefit from a repeat session. And most moms do very well. Eventually, the baby grows older and they learn when they need that support. I am absolutely thrilled that there are so many kids who say “I need to see Linda Diane” – asking for my help even as young as a 2 or 3 year old. That is as it should be. They learn to feel what they need, to ask for it, and then get the reinforcement for their awareness of what their body needs. That is a most perfect answer.

I will be offering a class this fall “Cranialsacral Therapy at the Beginning of Life” for midwives, doulas, doctors, and other people who support women and babies. Please contact me if you are interested. classes (at)

I lost a lot of weight. Here is what worked for me.

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Even strangers have been noticing that I’ve lost a lot of weight. About 120 pounds over 5 years. Maybe 8. About 30 pounds last year. More in the few years before that. I love the drop jawed responses, I love waking up every morning to feel ribs and hip bones that I don’t remember feeling before. I love being content with my body. I don’t think I’ve ever known that before.

Weight loss is a funny thing. There are a lot of people who want to make money from it. I’m not one of those. There are complex theories and ideas and more and more science about the causes and solutions. I think that is interesting, but I have also found it to be pretty simple and easy once the right things were lined up at the right time. And I’m happy to share all of that with anyone who is interested.

Here are the six primary components I found useful, in brief. I could say a lot more about the food, but also want to keep it simple. Everyone comes to this issue with unique history and body types and health issues. So it is not a one size fits all list – and anyone who says their weight loss plan will work for everyone is giving you the red flag that you should not take them seriously. This worked for me, that’s all. Maybe it will work for you, or maybe you can just take some inspiration that you’ll eventually find what works for you. But you are unique and need to find what will make you happy.

1- I had to let my body know that from now on we are fit and active. The best way I know to communicate that is to be fit and active. A little exercise here and there a couple times a week did not give that message. Daily repetitive activity of at least an hour was what started to make a difference. I walk, swim, bike, canoe or kayak every day. Mostly I walk. I rarely take a day off.
2- I needed reinforcement , and looked to the science of operant conditioning for ideas on how to create intermittent reinforcement, which has been shown to be the most effective for mammals. I’m a mammal, so I figured it would work for me. Posting most of my workouts on facebook has given me that reinforcement. My friends respond, and especially when I post big milestones I get “jackpotted” with lots of comments and support. Setting up a weekly email to friends who have agreed to help you would have similar results, and be a little less public if you are shy.
3- I didn’t use weight loss as a goal. It is just too arbitrary. It felt as though I had no control over what the scale would read. Instead, I counted my success as did I work out or not. That was absolute, and at the end of the day I could say yes I succeeded or no I failed. Nothing ambiguous about it. And I succeeded day after day after month after year. The weight coming off in fits and starts and reversals and with progress was just extra, and I didn’t worry about it.
4- I ate well. I had already been eating pretty well, but I kept upgrading my diet and adding in more and more good foods. Eating breakfast was a critical change that actually started the weight loss. I don’t like breakfast, I rarely am hungry first thing in the morning, so I created the ideal breakfast and ate it no matter how I felt. I can’t imagine a healthier start to the day. I eat oatmeal with all organic ingredients. That includes steel cut oats, raisins, almonds or walnuts, wild berries (raspberry, service berry, black berry) or blueberries, homemade yogurt from raw milk, local honey, fresh ground flax seed, and a bit of cinnamon. I eat a vegetarian diet and work to include lots of dark green leafy vegetables, healthy fats, simple home cooked meals, and lots of water. I also indulge in chocolate, and some other foods that would raise eyebrows. I know focusing on healthy foods helps, especially the vegetables – most of which I grow myself. I think the important part is to continually upgrade, keep adding great food, and especially base at least half your diet on plants. You do need to eat real and healthy food to lose weight. I think it is the only sustainable way to do it. The trick is to learn the pleasures of it. That’s why I’m writing cookbooks as well. Extremism isn’t sustainable. Upgrading and continually improving is.
5- This is lifelong. And you will need to continually improve. Keep adding great habits, wonderful foods, and restarting what you fail. That’s normal. Upgrade at every opportunity and expect that these are changes you can live with (hurray for living!!) forever. I do tell myself that I’m either active or I will die. It is a life or death matter, and of primary importance. Every day I find the time to be active. I have to now.
6- Love matters a lot. I think this was the key to the whole weight loss and getting healthy process. In November of 2009 I had major abdominal surgery for a fibroid tumor that had regrown to 10 pounds. I came home after one night in the hospital with a 16 inch incision – pubic bone to sternum. Prior to the surgery, a number of friends and clients asked what they could do to help post-surgery. With nearly every offer of support I would start to cry. It felt very intense to have to rely on other people helping me. I come from a family that was close and intellectually supportive. But there was no hugging, no “I love you” ever, very little emotional expression of support and love. I kind of knew I was starving for it, but really wasn’t aware of how much this defined my life. And my body. More than 50 people ended up pitching in over about 4 weeks. They helped me to move, use the toilet, shower, begin to walk again. They fed me, walked the dog, and kept me entertained and happy. My family, who live nearby, responded to the three requests for help that I made (fill a prescription, drive me to an appointment, and one fill-in dog walk) but didn’t initiate any visits, didn’t check up on me, didn’t visit or hang out. I finally realized that I would never receive from them the easy love, affection, nurturance that I craved. But from my friends? Amazing. Wonderful. Overwhelming support and love every moment of every day for those weeks I needed them. This was a pretty simple but profound learning. I got it in every cell of my being. And something changed inside of me, palpably. I just opened up to that love in a way I had never done before and received. It was exhilarating, freeing, humbling, and just the sweetest sort of nectar that a starving person could encounter and enjoy. Nothing has been the same every since. I came out of the experience fundamentally changed, and finally felt safe and loved enough to shed the weight. That was the emotional shift that made it possible.

I need to add a note on an issue that isn’t really part of the how as much as what now? There were times during the process that I felt a bit toxic. I feel strongly that this is no time to do “detoxifications” or “cleansings”. Fat stores toxins, so when it starts to shrink there is some gunk that will be released into your system. The body is amazingly brilliant in dealing with this, with support. So that might mean eating lightly (I start to crave soups) or adding some herbs for support (dandelion tincture for the liver) and certainly decreasing any food that stresses the body (fried foods, heavy meals, white sugar and processed flour, alcohol). Learning to listen to your body and interpret cravings (salt is a need for more minerals, ice is often associated with iron deficiency, etc) is part of this whole process. Believe in the body’s wisdom, and support it as much as you can.

The final word is: tell your body you want to be healthier. Do it through movement, great food, love, and nurturance. I think it will work.