Winter weather, changing seasons, holidays, politics… what doesn’t create flux and a little chaos in our lives right now? It’s important to remember, whatever is cluttering our minds presently can also have an effect on our bodies. The gastrointestinal tract is especially susceptible to our stress levels and actually plays a role in our mental health.
I am often asked about how one can get adolescent boys to buy into yoga. Good question. First, regardless if it’s yoga or if it’s adolescent boys specifically, the answer is the same: Meet them where they are.
The end of October and the beginning of November signifies an auspicious time of year for so many cultures through history and around the globe. This time of year marks the shortest days before the Winter Solstice for the northern hemisphere. For some religious faiths, the end of October represents the end of an annual cycle. Simchat Torah (Judaism) fell on October 24th this year and denotes the end of a cycle for publically reading the Torah. October 31st is Samhain to those who follow European pagan traditions which is a time to celebrate the last harvest and to acknowledge the coming of winter, “the dark half of the year.” Diwali, the Hindu holiday which falls on the dark moon in October (30th this year), is a five day festival full of rituals celebrating light overcoming dark, wisdom overcoming ignorance, and is also a celebration of Laksmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico to honor deceased loved ones and, thanks to colonization, falls in line with the Catholic holiday, “All Souls Day” or “All Saints Day” on November 1st. Many of us will remember reading about Persephone, the vegetation goddess in Greek myth, who descends into the Underworld during this time of year. I can see her story unfold when I look onto fields of rotting pumpkins or see the golden leaves fall off the twisted, withered limbs of trees.
It seems like more now than ever before in my work as a health coach or Health and Wellness Coordinator for Evoke do I find the need to teach more compassion practices. Our world can, at times, feel like it's fraught with so much division, stress, lack consciousness, greed, misunderstanding, and fear. All of these feelings wreak havoc on our psyches, our hearts, and even our bodies. Today, over 40 million people in the US alone suffer from an anxiety disorder.
I’ve been asked… repeatedly… to write more specifically about spirituality. It’s been a daunting request for me because spirituality is a nebulous and highly personal subject. It’s both transcendent and human, sublime and mundane. In the scientific literature regarding spirituality’s role (often muddled with religion) in mental health, a consensus on its help or hindrance is yet to be found. While religious guilt seems to have an adverse effect on mental health, feeling connected to something greater than ourselves seems to help mitigate stress and depression.1
Sitting down to write, I can smell that distinct smell of wet creosote. It’s raining in the distance. That smell – wet earth and turpentine – is either alluring or repulsive based on personal experience. For me, it means 30 years of coming back to the desert when I’m feeling happy, sad, overwhelmed… any time I need to feel my roots under me again. Yes, the desert is my home.
When dealing with the rare but brutish winter weather in the field, there’s nothing like hearty, hot stews for comfort and simple self-care! This was a recent hit out at the Oasis. Beef barley stew is simple, traditional Americana fair to warm the body and spirit on a cold night. And, for vegetarians, try tofu and portabella mushrooms in place of steak! Enjoy!
2 pounds beef (chuck roast, minute steak)
3/4 cup barley (Soaked overnight)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons oil
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 small can organic corn
1 can (frozen package) green beans
1 can (frozen package) peas
6 cups water
4 cubes beef bouillon
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (28 ounce) can chopped stewed tomatoes
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
When I’m in the field working in a group and I look at a face of apathy, I’m looking at the 17 year old Elise. I remember feeling so done with the world around me. Yup, my depression in a nutshell.
There exists a perpetual tug-o-war amongst our clients’ perceptions of The Oasis. There are those who love the extra creature comforts like hot showers, less hiking, time to practice yoga or cooking. Contrarily, there are those who detest “sitting around” and would much prefer doing over being any day. Even staff, especially during the first few months of operating the Oasis, asked why we’ve created it and is it necessary.