MONTHLY MESSAGE


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THE OPEN HEART

Dear Friends,

When circumstances are demanding and we feel like we are riding a roller coaster from day to day, when the need for transformation has an urgency to it, when life and spirit are impelling us forward, out of stuck places, into new directions, new ways of seeing, then it's not always easy to keep an open heart, then it's important to take care of our physical-emotional selves as much as possible. Here are two messages to help with that.

The first is from Carole Tashel, herbalist, and the second is again from my new book (stilll seeking a publisher in the USA) "The Great Goddess Calls Her Daughters: Wisdom of the Divine Feminine for Today's World" © 2003 by Donna Leslie Thomson.

HEART HEALTH

ABOUT CAROLE: Carole Tashel works with wild and cultivated plants as a clinical herbalist, teacher, gardener and author. She is author of Gardening the Southwest: How to care for your land while growing food, medicine and beauty (1999).

Carole offers a FREE e-mail newsletter, The Earth Medicine Gazette, full of interesting and useful information on herbs, foods, common illnesses, drugs, and medical tests. To subscribe, send an e-mail to carole@caroletashel.com and put "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject box.

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Eat Your Way to Heart Health
by Carole Tashel, Clinical Herbalist

Did you know that cholesterol is really our friend? The case is strong for a dietary connection to cardiovascular disease, but the problem is not what the experts led us to believe. Amazingly, half of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels; obviously, something else is causing the current epidemic of heart disease. I think we must look instead to a combination of the following factors:

* A loss of integrity in our food due to things like hydrogenation of fats and modern farming practices

* Overuse of polyunsaturated vegetable oils (which experts have been urging us to eat for the past half-century). This means safflower, soy, sesame and even canola oils.

* High intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar

* The resulting unhealthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

While omega-3s reduce the risk of heart attack by calming inflammation, protecting blood vessels and decreasing high blood pressure and inappropriate clotting, omega-6s, on the other hand, are inflammatory and increase the tendency to blood clots and high blood pressure. Vegetable oils and grains are top-heavy in omega-6s. So remember two things:

* The quality of the fats you eat is much more important than the quantity.

* Excessive carbohydrates/sugars can set the stage for problems.

There are many theories about how to structure your diet, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this newsletter. Also, some people may not thrive on meat or dairy, so fine-tune all dietary and herbal choices with a health care practitioner to allow for constitutional differences.

HEALTH-ENHANCING TIPS:
As you make these changes, both your "good" cholesterol (HDL) and omega-3:6 ratio will improve. Inflammation will decrease, and cholesterol levels will probably drop, which will make your doctor happy.

* Know what youčre eating. If you buy anything in a can, jar or package, start reading the labels. You will make the unpleasant discovery that hydrogenated fats and undesirable vegetable oils (as well as sugar) are in most of these foods, even in some so-called health foods.

* Eat real fats. Beef, buffalo or other animals raised exclusively on pasture (no feedlots) provide healthy fats. The popular deep-sea fish like wild halibut, tuna and salmon do, too. But because mercury concentration is a real concern with these large fish, allow the smaller herring and sardines to contribute to your omega-3 quota. If you have hardened your heart against them, try herring chunks (packed in wine sauce) with mixed baby greens, roasted red pepper, artichoke hearts (packed in water), sliced carrots, a handful of pumpkin seeds, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Substitute sardines in your tuna salad. A yummy snack: Portuguese whole sardines, packed in olive oil (Bela brand, distributed by Blue Galleon), goat cheese, sliced radishes and lettuce on whole rye crackers.

Goat or sheep dairy products are preferable to those from grain-fed animals. Walnuts, hemp, flax and pumpkin seeds offer omega-3s, as do dark green leafy vegetables and seaweed. Avocado is among the healthy "monounsaturated" (omega-9) fats, along with pecans, almonds and some other nuts. Happily, a small piece of bittersweet chocolate (good fats and anti-oxidants) and a glass of red wine (anti-oxidants) each day contain compounds that support the cardiovascular system! A critical mineral for heart health is magnesium --in short supply in the American diet. You will find it in anything green -- chlorophyll-rich, leafy green vegetables, seaweed, green herb teas (nettle, raspberry, alfalfa, horsetail) -- as well as oatmeal, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, dried figs and dates.

* Choose the right oil for the job. The three best oils for raw use are olive, flax and walnut oils (Spectrum is a reliable brand). Because of their instability and tendency to become oxidized, unsaturated oils must be refrigerated and never heated. In a foolish attempt to jump on the "healthy" bandwagon, many baked goods contain safflower oil or flax seeds, both badly damaged by heat. So throw out your corn, safflower, almond and canola oils. It is worth noting that ancient Ayurvedic (East Indian) medical tradition viewed safflower oil as the most dangerous oil. And canola can deplete Vitamin E (essential for hearts) and is susceptible to rancidity. Further, when it is deodorized, a very unhealthy fat is created ("trans" fat). Unrefined, extra virgin olive oil (another omega-9) can be used liberally, raw or cooked. Ghee (clarified, organic butter) is good to cook with as well -- it will not burn as butter does. Use peanut and sesame oils only occasionally. I predict health-enhancing, extra-virgin coconut oil (try the Garden of Life brand) will make a big comeback soon. It tastes and smells lovely, stores at room temperature for at least a year, does not promote weight gain, and enhances the immune system with potent anti-microbial properties. Use for high temperature cooking, in smoothies, and in baking. Buy Newmančs Own cookies, now made with organic palm oil (another healthy tropical oil). Palm oil is widely used by savvy European food manufacturers as an alternative to partially hydrogenated oils.

* Herbs can help, too. Dandelion and burdock roots are bitter herbs that promote bile flow, emulsifying fats thoroughly for proper absorption. (Eat nutty-flavored burdock (gobo) root as a vegetable, too -- scrub well, slice thinly, and add to stir-fries.) Other herbs like green tea or Eleutherococcus (formerly known as Siberian Ginseng) can normalize cholesterol levels and regulate metabolic functions. * Love. Finally, spirituality and connection nourish a healthy heart -- open to love and compassion for yourself and others. Relax, dance, walk and smile as much as you can. And may you enjoy eating your cholesterol from now on.

RESOURCES

* www.eatwild.com and www.realmilk.com: learn more about the benefits of eating grass-fed meat and dairy, and find out who's producing it in your community (note: Standard Market, listed as a source in Santa Fe, has closed.)

* HealthFacts, for Informed Decision Making, newsletter by the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, Center for Medical Consumers, www.medicalconsumers.org, 212-674-7105.

* Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon with Mary Enig, PhD

* The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, www.thincs.org

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This is based on a much more complete article about cholesterol by Carole Tashel. View it at http://www.irisherbal.com/infolib.html

You may also contact Carole Tashel directly at 505-466-6153 or carole@caroletashel.com

OPENING THE HEART

The Great Goddess comes, radiating unconditional love. Love flows like a river from the source and returns to the source. Love flows from Her heart freely. She does not give love, conditionally or unconditionally. From Her open heart love circulates throughout the universe as blood circulates throughout the body. So She comes to speak of the open heart and She says:

There is no such thing as a closed heart. As long as you are alive your heart is open. To be alive means to have an open heart. To be alive means the heart is beating, the blood is flowing. The closed heart is death.

Therefore, my daughters, it is not necessary to open the heart. It is simply necessary to realize it is open. To be alive is to feel pain, joy, love, and sorrow. Your physical heart is none other than the great beating heart of all that is, the pulse of the universe. When you feel closed and blocked, when you feel that love is not flowing from you or to you, sit down and feel your pulse, feel the rhythm of your heartbeat. Feel the warmth that arises in the area of the heart when you place your attention there. Know that any blockage that you feel can be dissolved away because it is not real. What is real is the beating of your heart. What is real is the fact that you are alive.

The more you appreciate the miracle of that beating heart, that flow of blood, that pulse, that flow of energy, that sustains your life, the more you realize that there is love flowing always, through you, in you, from you, to you.

The open heart is open to pain, open to joy, open to life, and open to death.

To be open means to flow, not to hold yourself rigid in fear and resistance. Yes, my daughters, it sounds so simple, because it is simple. Your true nature is openness. You do not have to achieve it. You are open. And, again, you learn that by listening to your heart and feeling your heart.

Lie down and place your hands over your heart, one hand above the other, one hand touching the heart, and imagine as you feel your palm gently pressing there that the touch of your hand is the touch of my hand. The whisper of that touch, the secret of that touch, is simply this: the knowledge that your heart is by its very nature open. It is giving; it is receiving. Love is flowing through you, into you. You cannot open your heart because it has never been closed. You may have built walls around it. Others may have helped you to build them. You may believe your heart is closed, but your heart says otherwise. It beats.

If you put your hand on your heart, you will feel your heart telling you: "I am alive. I am open. I am flowing. I support you. I bring you life. I am your life."

Truly, my daughters, what a strange concept it is that you would have to open your heart. The heart is there; it does the work. It supports and sustains you. Ask yourself: "Who believes that I have to open my heart? Who is it that could open this heart? " No. The heart is always open. It is the mind that gets closed, locked into certain belief systems that arise from your conditioned experience.

What a treasure is your open heart. Place your hand upon it. Feel your touch as my touch. Awaken the knowing: your heart is always open.

THE GREAT GODDESS CALLS HER DAUGHTERS: WISDOM OF THE DIVINE FEMININE FOR TODAY'S WORLD By Donna Leslie Thomson © 2003 by Donna Leslie Thomson

May all beings be happy, peaceful and free of suffering.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Previous Meditations

March 2004 - The Bodhisattva Way
February 2004 - Global Awareness
New Years 2004 - Know Yourself

December 2003 - Community
November 2003 - The Star
September 2003 - Illumination
July 2003
May 2003 - The Legend of Waterwoman
April 2003 - Easter
March 2003 - What Do You Value?
February 2003 - Energy
January 2003 - New Years 2003
December 2002 - Christmas 2002
November 2002 - The Presence of Spirit
October 2002 - The Spirit of Love and Peace
September 2002 - Hope
August 2002 - Ask and You Shall Receive
July 2002 - Faith
June 2002 - The Circle
May 2002 - Strength and Power
April 2002 - Water
March 2002 - A Prayer
February 2002 - The Feast of Imbolc
January 2002 - Remember
December 2001 - Inner Silence
November 2001 -
Weeping for the World /Impermanence (Anicca)
October 2001 - Non-violence

September 2001 - Affirmation
August 2001 - The Mirror of the Cosmos
July 2001 - Energy
June 2001 - Simplicity
May 2001 - The Labyrinth
April 2001 - Spring, Renewal, Rebirth
March 2001 - Joy and Sorrow
February 2001 - Take Good Care of Yourself
December 2000 - January 2001 - Winter Solstice and New Year's Meditation
November 2000 - Peace
October 2000 - Love
September 2000 - The Space Between
August 2000 - Creativity
July 2000 - Honoring the Earth
June 2000 - Walking the Path
May 2000 - Cosmic Energy
April 2000 - Nurturing
March 2000 - How to Consult an Oracle, Equinox Meditation

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