Monday, May 29, 2017

You Asked for It!


Someone get me a calming mug of lemon balm tea, because I'm ridiculously excited over here! For months you wonderful readers have been requesting a paperback format of By the Light of the Moon. But I couldn't fulfill it. And I got frustrated. And maybe I swore a time or two. There's really no way of knowing.

But then the idea came to me! An answer so simple, I felt downright foolish for not seeing the trees through the forest. Or, in my case, the dirt through the cactus. 

In order to offer you an affordable paperback, I could remove the color photos (which kicked the price to over $20 a copy!) and replace them with beautiful, carefully selected black-and-white illustrations that would help save you money! 

...I take the name Penniless Pagan seriously. ;)

I'm not going to lie, I was apprehensive about the print quality. But then my proof arrived and I was downright giddy! Check out this adorable illustration for the Full Moon Dream Drop Wishing Well spell. 

 


Or this beautiful Goddess for the Moon Beam Blessing Braid. 



Of course, I didn't want paperback readers to miss out on all the colorful photos I took specifically for By the Light of the Moon. Therefore, when you receive your copy, you'll find a special web address inside where you can view the photos on a computer or tablet. And while you're there, it's possible there *may* be a surprise gift waiting for you!

I'm so excited to finally offer By the Light of the Moon in paperback. I can't thank you enough for your enthusiasm and support. If it wasn't for the many e-mails and comments requesting a paperback, I would never have thought outside the box and discovered this solution. And don't worry, there won't be a delay on paperbacks for the next book!


Get your copy today!



How do you prefer to read books: e-book or paperback?

By using this site, you agree you have read the full DISCLAIMER.

NOTE: As with any recommendation found on this blog, consult your doctor or naturopath before use.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Truth About Anxiety and Herbs to Help

Note: Anxiety can be a symptom of a medical condition, such as hypothyroidism or heart disease. Please seek the advice of a trusted healthcare professional before instituting any advice given in the article or on this blog. This post addresses generalized anxiety with no medical cause. 

You know what's weird? Getting anxiety about writing a post about addressing anxiety. That shit is weird.

But it's also telling. Let me explain why.

This morning as I made breakfast and began my morning routine, I found myself restless and unable to focus, mostly because I was planning on writing a money spell post. (Don't worry. There will be a money spell, just not today!) Because I've grown accustomed to addressing anxiety as a signal and not an illness, I mentally took a step back and asked myself what the hell the problem was. After all, there's no need for nail biting fifteen minutes after rolling out of bed.

The problem was I wasn't prepared to write the spell post. I hadn't finalized the spell and therefore felt rushed and, well, anxious! But I had spent time preparing for this anxiety post, so that's what I decided to do today.

And the anxiety went away.

That's the funny thing I've learned about anxiety—it goes away when you learn to listen.

Now, before you start a scathing e-mail, everyone is different and I'm not admonishing anyone's decision on their chosen method of treatment for any maladies. Just like anything else in life, a person needs to make their own decisions regarding the best path to take for their own personal health and happiness. But the focus of this blog is to help people embrace a natural and spiritual approach to life. I can only write from my own experience, and my journey is one of spirituality and natural medicine. So if you're not looking for spiritual or herbal alternatives, you've stumbled into the wrong place. Sorry about that. Take a cup of tea before you go. It's dandelion. Great for the liver.

It took me years to realize anxiety was on my side. As is my body, a lesson that took me decades to accept and appreciate. But we're taught to go against instinct. We're taught we are powerless in our own healing.

That's complete bullshit.

You have more influence over your own health and healing than you probably realize.

I can say this from experience, from healing illnesses I was told would never heal. The body was meant to heal. It was designed by a beautiful, omnipotent energy to be healthy and strong. And regardless of what you've been told, you—more than anyone else—have the ability to attain health and happiness in your own body. This is a subject I'm deeply passionate about, but for now let's stick to anxiety. =D

Despite how debilitating anxiety can sometimes feel, anxiety is actually a powerful tool once we've learned how to listen to its message. Anxiety is the warning sign, "Do Not Enter! Danger Ahead!" But we've been told to tune it out. "Silly, mind/body/spirit! You don't know what you're doing!" And we push ourselves further and further until we have panic attacks and emotional breakdowns.

When I take the time to listen to anxiety, life is a whole lot easier. Not perfect. Not without challenge. I'm not selling you a fairy tale. Life isn't easy. This is a learning plane and we have work to do! But in learning to trust and respect my inner voice, I've found peace.

Let me ask you this—what danger is there in listening to your anxiety?

If you're struggling with anxiety, have you taken a moment to evaluate what is causing it? If you have, have you asked yourself what you can do to eliminate the cause? If you know that answer, have you taken measures to remove the cause?

Anxiety over a blog post is obviously a very small, trivial thing that I mention solely as an example of listening to the signal. But there was a time when my experience with anxiety had blossomed into a fruitful tree of stress vomiting and panic attacks caused by a job (and eventually, I learned, the whole damn career) that was causing me great distress and unhappiness. It took me years to accept the career path I had chosen, that I went to college for, that I spent more time paying off than working in, was not the right career for me. I felt like a failure. I'd abandoned my dream. I was embarrassed to admit to people I no longer worked in a field I worked so hard to become a part of.

Yet the anxiety was gone. I didn't dread waking up every day. Life wasn't simple. In fact, in some ways it had become more complicated, like money being far tighter. But I was happy. I was free from self-imposed chains. I wasted time being unhappy and made myself sick because I didn't listen. Because I was ashamed. Because I was afraid. Had I listened to my inner voice, presenting itself through anxiety, I could have been a whole lot happier a whole lot sooner.

I wrote this post because I've had so many readers reach out to me regarding anxiety journaling. (which is awesome to hear from you, so thank you!) If you haven't read it I recommend you do so now. It's a wonderful method for listening to what our inner voice is trying to communicate without overthinking or blocking ourselves with judgment.

If you're struggling with anxiety, I truly empathize with you. Anxiety can be complex, but I encourage you to explore the root cause. Because anxiety is, at its basic essence, a symptom. It's easy to get overwhelmed when learning to trust your inner voice, and even easier to get frustrated with ourselves if we have a perceived backslide. But please be patient with yourself! You deserve the time it takes to find peace. You're worthy of the work it requires to understand yourself and the messenger that is anxiety.

And until then, here's some herbs and natural approaches to help you quiet the storm. Since you need to, you know, function.

Lemon Balm
According to Brigitte Mars, who is a brilliant herbalist, lemon balm causes the "mind and heart to be merry," a quote she attributes to Avicenna, an ancient Arabic physican. 

Personally, I love lemon balm for anxiety and to help with sleep. It can even be used to control general restlessness, nervousness, heart palpitations, and nausea, all things people experience when struggling with anxiety. 

Lemon balm is safe enough for use in children but can lower thyroid function, so please exercise caution if you have hypothyroidism. 


California Poppy
I loathe flying. I'm not afraid to fall out of the sky, but I strongly dislike dealing with security and the general icky energy that exists in airports. When I have no choice but to fly, I use California poppy tincture, which is a gentle way to soothe frayed nerves, exhaustion, stress, and even headaches! And according to Mars, California poppy is non-habit forming and contains no opiates. 

When used as a flower essence, California poppy encourages listening to one's inner voice. Huh. Isn't that convenient?! 

If you suffer with depression, California poppy can exacerbate symptoms, so avoid this herb. Excessive use can make one feel as if they finished off the boxed wine and a half a pack of Oreos, so please use in moderation. 


Chamomile
Most people are familiar with this gentle herb, but it wasn't until I began studying herbal medicine that I realized it's really quite a useful little flower. A steaming mug with a little milk and honey really chills me out, so much so I use it when I'm having trouble sleeping. 

Chamomile isn't just useful for sleep and anxiety, it can also help soothe digestive distress (including irritable bowel), nightmares, ulcers, and even help combat the urge to urinate. In fact, this is a go-to of mine for UTIs. It's even useful as a compress for irritated skin, rashes, and skin infections. Really, chamomile is a fantastic herb for nearly any irritant—inside or out.

Please be advised, chamomile is not recommended for people who are reactive to ragweed and should also be avoided in high doses during pregnancy. 


Ignatia Amara
Ignatia Amara is a homeopathic formula used to treat nervousness caused by "everyday" stress, but I personally use it when I need to manage anxiety, regardless of whether or not it's mundane stress or a visit from the ol' mother-in-law. In my opinion, homeopathy is a rather gentle approach to healing, which is quite necessary for some individuals, especially those with autoimmune disharmonies. This isn't going to knock you on your butt like Xanax, but it will help take the edge off and nudge you back to a nice, calm parasympathetic state. =D

Homeopathic medicines are generally regarded as safe, but it's always prudent to exercise caution when trying a new substance, especially if you're taking other medications. Boiron is the brand I most often use. This homeopathic formula is in pellet form, which you take by holding the pellets under the tongue until dissolved. 


Rescue Remedy
Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic combination of Bach flower essences that is designed to treat stress and anxiety. I keep this product on hand, especially when traveling.  Four drops under the tongue, and you're on your way to calm-down town. It can also be added to water and sipped throughout the day, but I've never used it in that manner. 

In general, I'm a big fan of Bach flower essences, especially when treating emotional disruptions, like grief or guilt. I've found them to be extremely helpful when struggling with grief last year and highly recommend them if you're experiencing anxiety in conjunction with grief.



Random goodies that help me:

Go to the movies
Okay, I know this one sounds odd, but I've always found going to the movies to be an effortless way to dispel anxiety. Not renting, going. Between the pitch-black darkness and the loud soundtrack, I don't have the option to entertain nagging thoughts. It's my cheap version of a sensory deprivation tank. If you're sensitive to noise, this may not be the best option. Strangely, I am sensitive to noise but I'm okay in a theater. I have no explanation for that. 


Animals
Animals are my answer to everything. Sad? Hug an animal. Happy? Hug an animal. Hungry? Eat an animal.

Aww... okay, now I feel kind of sad. I'm going to hug the cat and then have a meatless salad for lunch. 

Seriously, though, who can be worried in the presence of an exuberant Labrador? Many studies have been done on the positive health effects of owning an animal, so I won't delve into that here. But if you can't adopt a furry compadre or don't want the responsibility, spend some time in nature. Feed the birds. Watch the rabbits. Just enjoy the simplicity of the furred and feathered. The fresh air and sunshine is always good for the mind and body, plus a little grounding never hurt anyone! 


Alternate nostril breathing
I felt like a fool the first time I tried alternate nostril breathing despite being alone in my house. But it works! It not only focuses your thoughts away from anxiety, but it helps balance the left-right brain, which is often exacerbating anxiety symptoms due to imbalance. Adriene, the entertaining woman featured in the link above, is an entertaining yogi who doesn't mind making a crude joke. Now that's my kind of yogi! I also recommend her Yoga For When You're Angry. I use it when annoyed, but I mostly practice it when I'm anxious. Seriously. Go try it. 


Anxiety journaling
I mentioned this earlier in the post, but it's worth repeating. I've found anxiety journaling to be a pivotal tool in clearing mind clutter and listening to my inner voice. It's easy to become so engrossed with worry that we don't even know what we want any longer. Anxiety journaling is a simple yet highly effective way to help our ego—who seemingly enjoys causing anxiety—step aside and make room for our true desires to come forward. I'm often surprised to discover the cause of anxiety isn't even what I was fretting about!

Go to water
Did you know water is symbolically linked to emotions? It's also what cleanses undesired emotions. The weightlessness we experience while swimming is quite cathartic on a subconscious level. But even if you can't get to the ocean or a pool (like yours truly), a simple shower often helps me to feel refreshed and reinvigorated, especially if you end with a cool rinse. Just do yourself a favor and allow yourself to be IN the shower. Don't think about the bills. Now isn't the time to solve world hunger. Your sole priority is soaping the armpits and lathering your hair—nothing more! ...Okay, maybe just a *little* singing to the radio! ;)


Remember, it's okay to just curl up on the couch with your favorite book or a funny movie if you're feeling overwhelmed. While you're at it, brew yourself a cup of tea. Try chamomile. I hear it's delightful! ;)


Do you use herbs to settle anxiety? What's your favorite way to quiet your mind?


Wondering where I get my knowledge? The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine by Brigitte Mars isn't just my favorite reference, it's my herbal bible! 

By using this site, you agree you have read the full DISCLAIMER.

NOTE: As with any recommendation found on this blog, consult your doctor or naturopath before use.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Unusual Books for Your Spiritual Path


When I was younger, I had a spiritual teacher who once told me everything comes into your life for a reason, even if it arrives before you need it. "Even books," she said, "may cross your path at a time when you don’t need them. But if they resonate with you, hang onto them. And then, one day, you’ll come across that book when the time is right and the message can be received." 

I know this is a fairly universal concept. But being a mere thirteen years old, her words stuck with me. And not just because she mentioned books, which is totally my vice.

Around the same time, I had a friend in Columbia who I chatted with online. (AIM, anyone?) He was about fifteen years older than me, which sounds kind of creepy in this day and age, but he was really just a nice guy who was eager to move to America. It wasn't uncommon for me to have friends who were much older. Even now, I have more in common with eighty-year-olds than I do with thirty-year-olds. A love of tea, crocheting, and cozy mystery novels to name a few. 

Really...I don’t mean to sound egotistical, but I’m *kind* of a blast at parties. What with me standing off in the corner, petting the dog and nursing a bottled water. I dare you to recall one wild story that doesn't start with, “Okay, so I was adding lemon to my water glass when...”

Anywho, said Colombian friend (who did finally move to America. Yay for dreams!) recommended a book entitled Brida by Paulo Coelho. Most people have heard of The Alchemist, which is another fantastic read by this talented author. Being the late nineties, a time before Amazon was really huge, I scoured the shelves of bookstores but never found Brida. After an internet search, done on a Macintosh when Apples were still called Macintosh, I discovered Brida was only published in Spanish and had yet to be published in English. 

For years, any time I was in a store I kept an eye out for this book. And then, in 2009, I found Brida in a little brick-and-mortar called Barnes and Noble—in English!

"Michaela, it was 2009. Why didn’t you just order it online?" you ask.

Great question. Wish I had an answer. But I don’t. Tunnel vision, maybe? My propensity to act like an octogenarian? I’m not entirely sure. The point is I bought this book in 2009, which I know because I stuck the receipt in the book. A book I just dusted off and decided to read... in 2017.

Eight years almost to the day, I finally began reading this book. Weird, I know, since I spent years keeping an eye out for this novel. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t compelled to read it then and I stashed it away for another time. Which, evidently, was eight flipping years later.

But today, as I combined two boxes of books into one (I told you, vice.), I found Brida and knew I needed to read it. How? Because I’d been thinking about it a lot lately and meant to search my bookshelves for it, not knowing it was in a box. So happening upon it in a place where I wasn’t excepting to see it felt like a small sign. Now is the time!

So I began reading, and within the first few pages I was hooked. Not just because it is an interesting story that takes place in Ireland, a country I’m pretty sure I’d never leave if I ever decided to visit, but because the intention of the novel resonated with me at a time when I really needed affirmation. Which is precisely my point. 

In 2009, those words wouldn’t have held the same meaning. Life has changed, as it tends to do, and the message of Brida is something I needed right now, at this very spot in my life path. It's also what inspired me to write this post, which may have been why it resurfaced now. Maybe one of these novels is meant for you, and the timing had to be juuust so for you to have found your way to this site, on this very day, at this very time.

The Universe is mysterious that way. 

Here's to hoping one of these books changes your life! Books in themselves are such a magical thing, a wondrous binding of pages that let the mind explore and the soul wander.

....I love books!


For One More Day


From Amazon
For One More Day is the story of a mother and a son, and a relationship that covers a lifetime and beyond. It explores the question: What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?

Why I Recommend it:
Mitch Albom holds a special place in my heart with The Five People You Meet in Heaven. The book itself is amazing, and the hardback copy safely tucked away on my shelf is a treasured gift from my father.

...who is still very much alive. I realize it may sound otherwise there. Let me just text him to confirm....yup, alive and well! *Whew!*

Albom's books became a thing between my father and me, and he eventually gifted me For One More Day. What I love most about this novel is its lesson in forgiveness. Humans are odd creatures, and it's much easier for us to experience anger than pain. This seems especially true in regards to resentment towards one's parents. And that's what For One More Day addresses.

We don't always have the full picture on others' choices. Barring extreme circumstances, people are generally doing the best they can in that very moment, even if it doesn’t feel like enough, or doesn’t fulfill a need we had as a child. With a captivating story line, this novel addresses the importance of letting go, of making peace with the past, and recognizing a painful truth—that life is unstable and often too short. Love while you can, because we do not know what awaits.

A similar and equally profound message is beautifully-written in The Five People You Meet in Heaven, though this speaks more to regrets over your own choices and the unequivocal, irreplaceable purpose each and every one of us has on this majestic planet. I highly recommend both!

Brida


From Amazon: 
Brida, a young Irish girl, has long been interested in various aspects of magic but is searching for something more. Her search leads her to people of great wisdom. She meets a wise man who dwells in a forest, who teaches her to trust in the goodness of the world, and a woman who teaches her how to dance to the music of the world. As Brida seeks her destiny, she struggles to find a balance between her relationships and her desire to become a witch.

Why I Recommend it:
Spiritual growth isn't always a pleasant thing. I'd venture to say it's almost always uncomfortable, akin to physical growing pains. I find this to be especially true for solitary practitioners. 

It's common to feel alone during a period of spiritual development. Even if you're excited about what you've discovered, you don't really have anyone else to share your enthusiasm with, as people are rarely on the same path at the same time. This can lead to a depression-like period that many refer to as The Dark Night of the Soul. 

Brida speaks to this time, which is why I think it's such an important read. I read this book with a highlighter, because there were so many profound lines. My particular favorite? "She was beginning to understand that there was a big difference between danger and fear." At the time, this spoke deeply to me, and simply reading the words brought me peace.


Into the Wild


From Amazon: 
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.  How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Why I recommend it:
For earth-loving, sensitive people, I think we've all experienced times when we wished we could walk away from society and disappear into the woods, to commune with that which makes sense to us and escape the chaotic mess that is humanity. Into the Wild explores just that. 

McCandless makes a profound statement in his journal, which is later recovered alongside his body, in which he says something my husband and I have incorporated into our lives ever since reading the book several years ago—"happiness is only real when shared."

While I think happiness (and certainly spiritual growth) can absolutely be found alone, I don't think it can be sustained in solitude. Even now as I type this prose, my heart is heavy thinking of McCandless alone in the cold darkness, desperate to see his loved ones one final time. As someone who thrives in solitude, this was an important message that we can't escape the pain of life in order to embrace the beauty. Beauty is woven into everything—even the pain—and life is meant to be shared, explored, and celebrated with those you love. This book will leave you in tears, I guarantee that much!

The Little Prince


From Amazon: 
Much more than the story of a little boy and his sheep, it is a story of individualism and determination told as a fairy-tale.

Why I recommend it:
Children's book? Yes. A profound message of losing belief in magic somewhere between adolescence and adulthood? Yup! 

If you don't want to read the book, the film adaptation on Netflix is equally moving. I actually read the book after seeing the movie so I could fully digest the wisdom gifted to us by De Saint-Exupery. Do yourself a favor and grab a box of tissues, because this story is a tragically beautiful tale that speaks deeply to adults who are determined to hold on to wonderment for life and the belief in miracles. 

Bonus Book: Winter of Fire


From Amazon: 
A slave girl's strange visions earn her a coveted place as the Firelord's handmaiden, but when the Firelord dies and is replaced by the handmaiden, she pays the price for her powers.

Why I Recommend it:
This is actually a young adult novel written before a time when young adult novels were mainstream, but don’t let that detour you. If you asked me what my favorite book is, this would be first on the list.

...But let’s not be coy. There’s most definitely a list. ;)

This poignant story of truth, fate, and following your intuition had a profound impact on my childhood and, honestly, my adult life. I’ve read this book so many times, my husband took pity on my well-worn copy and surprised me with a shiny new paperback for Yule several years ago, one where the pages didn’t fall out and you don’t have to hold entire sections like loose leaf.

This book is no longer in print, so it can be a little difficult to come by at a reasonable price. Upon peeking at Amazon just now, I just saw the paperbacks start at over $400. Because that’s totally reasonable. The hardcover is slightly more affordable, which was the exact opposite when my husband bought this super sweet gift. At this point I feel compelled to state my husband spent well under $25 for my newer copy, so hang tight and they may return from Mars with their outrageous prices! ;) 

If you happen upon Winter of Fire in a used bookstore, which is where I acquired my first copy many years ago, I recommend you snatch it up! And not just because you can apparently make a mint on Ebay. This story spoke to my soul so deeply, I vowed to name my daughter Elsha. She is such a strong, dignified, enchanting character, and I would want any child of mine to have her same virtue and self-love.

Side note, I don't have children. But if I did, I'd make her read this book and paint her walls with the cover and have her dress like Elsha. And then she'd grow to resent me for it because, well, see For One More Day.

Maybe with enough demand the publisher will re-release this book. I included this book as a bonus because I normally I wouldn’t recommend a book with such an unreasonable price tag. But Jordan's message in this novel is important—your life has a destiny. You have a purpose. Follow your fire. 



What are some of your favorite spiritual books?


By using this site, you agree you have read the full DISCLAIMER.
NOTE: As with any recommendation found on this blog, consult your doctor or naturopath before use.