Sleepwalking by Thich Nhat Hanh

We’re in such a rush, looking for happiness in one place and then another. We walk like sleepwalkers, without any enjoyment of what we are actually doing. We are walking, but in our minds we are already doing something else: planning, organizing, worrying. There is no more need to run. Every time we return our attention to our breath and our steps, it’s as if we wake up. Every step brings us back to the here and the now. We can touch the Earth and see the sky and notice all the wonders in between. In each step there is the possibility of mindfulness, concentration and insight.

Good People, Good Food, Good Earth, Good Life

Yes, I live in hyperboles. But I also live in reality and go by Einsteins quote “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Word up, Albert. Today was a perfect day, no lie.
But these days I’ve added another layer to my everyday. I’ve released life and the universe and its beautiful creatures from expectations. 2016 is my year of Trust. And since my surrender, I’ve ridden a beautiful wave filled with love, surprises, magic and peace beyond my wildest dreams. I simply said “Hey universe, I would like this” and the universe said “cool beans, give me a moment and I’ll make it happen”
We began La Vida Rica Roving Supper Club which led me to some of the most wonderful people in Austin. I’ve also deepened my friendships with longtime friends, as breaking bread and sharing stories around a table creates connection like no other. I’ve expanded my plant-based food prep and palette and found new ways to heal through food. Everyday, my heart opens more and more and trust has taken over most of my life. And at the end of the day, the answer is always love, whatever the question. At least as of Feb. 29th, 2016, that’s what I have found.
Today, I write from Boulder. A trip made in haste after my sisterfriend and I decided to embark on a new venture outside of our regular clinical gigs. Six weeks ago we decided to go where we could learn, research and explore alternative possibilities and bring them back to our patients, our community, our loved ones. And though I had no plans, except to visit family who is doing what we eventually want to do, I did really wish to visit The Kitchen. The Kitchen is a restaurant based in every aspect of the philosophy I attempt to embrace and share on a daily basis. Musk and Matheson are pioneers of the farm to table movement in the US, but more importantly, building community through food. Serious swoon. They’re living one of my many dreams. More on this later.
We woke up and immediately booked it to find amazing food. Denver was actually the birthplace of my brunch obsession. We went to Beatrice & Woodsley, sat at the bar and ate amazing food in a setting I can only describe as a fairy tale. The endless ceilings filled with aspens and birch wood, I felt like I was in a treehouse. The food was phenomenal, but the people made the brunch. JR (who is in a mixology show) and April were super kind and funny.
We then decided to check out a kombucha brewery, which turned into what Louis CK calls a “bang bang” on his show, two meals back to back. The small but rich menu called to me, so I had to eat again. Trying new preparations of fermented and pickled foods was super exciting for me. Again, super informed bar man, shared lots about the brewing experience and even showed us some pictures from his FFF show in Austin. My favorite kombucha was a combo of three made by Phillip, our lovely host- orange basil, cranberry lavender and citra dry hopped, so freaking good. We also had three sliders- albondigas, veggie and goat cheese with honey. The veggie was my favorite as it was filled with lots of pickled and flavorful veggies. YUM!
We then drove out to Berthoud to visit Justin’s aunt and uncle who introduced me to an elixir of health last year. Mary, his aunt, had briefly talked about it during her trip to Austin and said that her husband Michael has created an entire ritual around making it, so naturally we had to travel 1000 miles to check out his operation. They are salt of the Earth people, so warm and inviting and immediately treated us like family. This is how I like for most of my connections to go: no mask, fully present, completely authentic and true, just immediately jump in without any of the frivolous small-talk that pervades our society. It was so fun to sit and talk to Mary and Michael, share stories and cheese and breathe the fresh Colorado air. Wonderful all around. Perfect, actually.
After a quick lesson in Michaels spiritual practice and preparation of this magical beverage, we were on our way to Boulder. Again, no expectations, just wishes of connecting with amazing people, eating delicious consciously grown and prepared food, and going with the flow. We did have to ‘check-in’ to our airbnb, but otherwise, no plans. Melisa did want to go to Boulder Bookstore and see the book just released by one of her spiritual heroes, Waylon Lewis of Elephant Journal, so we did. I just loved being surrounded by the smell of books, new and old. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. I spent about thirty minutes perusing the used book section and walked out with Thich Nhat Hanh, “How To Walk”, just in case I forgot. Moving and walking meditation is something everyone can do, at any time and has incredibly benefit for the mind and body.
Then we wanted food and of course, I remembered my one hope, my one wish, to eat at the place that inspired farm to table dining and community through food. Our dining experience was extraordinary. It probably ranks in my top five, actually maybe my top three. I’ve been lucky to have phenomenal meals and eating experiences throughout my life, especially in the last ten years as my food as medicine obsession has expanded. We decided to sit at the bar, a choice that we’ve happily made throughout our trip. You get to chat with the groovy bartenders, share stories and joke with folks around you, watch the scene from high chairs, maybe get some secrets or behind the scenes info and often get lots of extra goodies. Tonight was no exception. It did, however, exceed everyone of those aspects in Every.Single.Way.
First was our sweet, friendly and perfectly sarcastic bartendress. She was like a supermodel food and spirit encyclopedia. I’m constantly impressed with servers and bartenders and their bounty of knowledge in every ingredient on their menus, the farmers who grow their food, the distillers and brewers. I also love hearing as they wax poetic about the hints of rosemary and mint or whatever subtle flavors come out in their complex dishes. But this Lauren, knocked it out of the park. She is one special kid.
Then the manager, Michael, what a great person to have as a boss. He also worked the room and prepared cocktails. The night went like this: we would get some food, make a gushing comment and he would in and say “would you like the recipe?” (this only happened once, but I live in exaggerations). I felt my eyes widen and my heart erupt inside my chest, “YES!! PLEASE!! SHARE YOUR SECRETS!!” At that point I felt like Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny when the prosecuting lawyer offers him all of his evidence, which ends up being standard process, but Vinny feels like he just got the key to the unicorn kingdom. Same for me, finding out they do this often and even have recipes online.
Anyway, the food phenomenon continued and though I’m mostly plant-based these days, I had to try the Bolognese pasta dish. I am a self-proclaimed connoisseur of three things: ranch dressing, chilaquiles and Bolognese. I’ve had it in Italy, at Italian friends homes, at numerous Italian restaurants, but I’ve always gone back to the best, which was at Vespaio in Austin. Tonight, I have a new winner: The Kitchen. It takes them about 4 hours to cut the veggies, sautee the base, add the broth and seasonings, bring to a boil, then simmer for deep, rich, sweet baby Jesus flavors. This one had a cream in it as well. Yeah, I know. After a few bites, I asked if they were open tomorrow so I could return and get a full plate to myself. We also devoured garlic fries, wheatberry, squash, olive oil cake and a bit of tequila. Holy magnificence.
The whole experience was sprinkled with tomfoolery from our neighbor Peter to the right and a handsome silent type to Melisa’s left, brief, but pleasant interactions with most everyone who worked there. I even got to meet chef extraordinaire Conner and thank him for making my taste buds dance and sing. I honestly felt like I was living in my dream. This is what I want for every body. This is how every kitchen, dining room, home should be. In South America and Europe, this is how it feels. At least my experiences have in my travels. When I go home, this is my favorite part. Communing with family and friends, eating food prepared with loads of love and goodness, laughing, playing, telling stories, this is heaven to me. And on my travels, whether I hang out with locals or fellow travelers, the community component is always super strong.
We came home to some mindless entertainment, then slept in a sleep number bed. I slept like a baby and it was marvelous. Food, movement, community, meditation – walking and movement, community and play all in one day. If we can find a way to make our everyday filled with each of these components, our lives will shift dramatically. I promise.
That was yesterday. Today was just as perfect. More Rocky Mountains, Flatirons, more delicious mindful food, more movement through towering pines, gushing wind, and red rocks and most of all more beautiful human connection. Life is good. Life is amazing. My life of hyperboles feels more real in this moment than any other before it. Thank you to all of you who were part of it.
But this isn’t uncommon for me and my community. I live among independents who make the rules as they go. Some days, Justin and I have the exact same days as Melisa and I have had here in Colorado. A long time ago, I sat down and designed my perfect day and though I’ve revised it many times, the components are the same: food, meditation, movement, sleep, play and community. I encourage you to take some time to do this. It can be as detailed or specific as you want. Just create, imagine and write down what it looks like from sunrise to sundown or if you’re nocturnal, from sundown to sunrise.
Here is how I learned to do it from Lewis Howes:
1) Tech Break- Get away from all technology, go outside, run, walk, sit on a rock, by a stream, in your backyard and just breathe. Leave your phone at home and get inspired by the creative force that is nature. Do some upward dogs and get your heart and throat to open up to the universe. One hour, that’s all I ask.
2) Then after one hour get to a piece of paper, computer and write down the perfect day in 15-30 minute increments. Make a schedule.

Here are some tips and questions to ask yourself:
– Write everything down
– WRITE, WRITE, WRITE until you get it all out there.
– Let go of all shame or guilt and just focus on your heart.
– How do you want to feel right during this process?
– What kind of impact do you want to have?
– What types of experiences do you want to have?
– What kind of people do you want to surround yourself with? You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, remember this.

Bravo!! This envisioning exercise was a total game changer for what I wanted in my everyday. That’s why I can recreate this day 24-25 days out of the month. Let me know your thoughts on this exercise in the comments below. 🙂

Oh and by the way, the quiet-type next to Mel ended up being Kimbal Musk, the man who created The Kitchen through his passion for food and community. What a treat. Thank you Kimbal for rocking our world with your vision.

Stress-Less, Sleep More

If you’ve been labeled as having insomnia by the medical community, my first plea is to change that thought and pattern. Labels can have a HUGE affect on our lives and our health. Thoughts and words become things, so even if you’ve had this burden of multiple labels placed on your mind, it’s time to change.

I remember the days of walking into my doctors office as the ADD, UC, acne, anxiety, allergy, asthma girl or at least that’s what it felt like. There was another diagnosis in there, but my Ob/Gyn NEVER made me feel like a combination of labels, just a human going through some shit. I would go in, get my vital signs taken, get asked about my symptoms (never my food, stress, relationships, environment, exposures, work). Then I would get my medications titrated or a new one added or taken away, pay my co-pay and be on my way. Anyway, once I began the journey away from Western allopathic medicine, I saw the difference it made on my patients when I treated them like human with complexities and stuff going on rather than the label that I could slap a pill on.

Labels coming from healthcare professionals can hold the most weight on patients. So I ask my fellow HCP’s to take it easy and think before your call your patient a crazy, non-compliant, lazy, anxious, irritable, acne-filled insomniac. And the rest of us, will have to go within and ask ourselves why we can’t sleep, why we’re so anxious or why is our skin breaking out. When our bodies and mind act out, it’s because they’re talking to us. Will we listen?

Okay, onto the easy peasy tips.

Sleep: If you have trouble turning it off and falling asleep, try legs up the wall. Google legs up the wall pose on bed and do it at night before bed. Make sure you haven’t consumed caffeine or alcohol 2-3 hours before, your room is dark, your electronics are gone and try it. Place a pillow on your belly and focus on your breath. What this does is place your body into the parasympathetic mode, which causes us to rest and digest. Elongate your exhale and just breathe. Turn it off for a few minutes and see what the body allows to happen.

Meditation for Beginners: My dear friend Jill had never meditated her entire life. She then signed up for a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Bold move!! I’m not sure how her experience was overall, but she did say it was ‘hard, hard, hard’.  I asked her to give me some tips to pass on, since I’m such a seasoned meditator now (NOT! Getting to 13 minutes once a day is hard, hard, hard!!). Here is what she said: “It takes practice. Start by doing 5 minutes, twice a day, then get comfortable with that. Then increase your time”. I’m going to go a little more extreme and ask to start with 1-2 minutes twice a day. Seriously, it’s hard to get through 60 seconds sometimes, but if you consistently practice, you’ll eventually build up. And no judgement. There is no bad meditation or good meditation, it’s really just a normal human state as we are human BEINGS, just trying to be.

Cool? Let me know how these tips go for you. And as for changing the pattern, I like to use mantras or affirmations. “I am healthy” “I am sleepy” “I am stress-free” “I am energized” “My skin is clearing up” “My gut is happy” You get the drill. What would be some of your affirmations?

Love you!


Walk!! Inspiration From Phil’s Camino & Community As Medicine

All the great ones do it. Steve Jobs, Beethoven, Aristotle, Thoreau did it three or four times a day. Walking is integral to the human experience. We’re hardwired to walk, to move around, not to sit in front of a computer all day. The benefits of walking are endless, from decreased blood pressure, to less anxiety to lower cholesterol. I became a walking evangelist after doing the Camino de Santiago. That walk illuminated the meaning of life in 500-miles. It was magnificent and life changing. And I had huge, beautiful calves after my journey.

My favorite part? Duh, the people. My camino family that I will be connected to for the rest of my life.

You really have no excuse to escape from this form of movement. Anyone, anywhere can do it. Take Phil, for example. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and had a dream of walking the Camino de Santiago, but his treatment schedule would not allow it. So he built a 1/2 mile path in his backyard and walked it multiple times everyday, plotting where he would be along the Camino. Eventually, his doctor gave him a longer break between treatments and he was able to fulfill his dream. His story is such an inspiration to so many and the documentary of his journey will have its world premier at SXSW 2016 in Austin, Texas .  I have the honor of hosting the crew and I’m crossing my fingers to have a SURPRISE visit with Phil.

You’ll have an opportunity to see this amazing short on two occasions during SXSW. Plus!! I’ll be hosting a Pilgrim’s Party Brunch at my house during the festival.

Find out more about Phil’s Camino here.

So get out there, walk, walk, walk. And preferably with someone else. Walking and talking is one my favorite forms of therapy. Walk with purpose or walk without a destination, just do it. Your body and soul will thank you!

Justin’s Famous Stir-Fry

This is my favorite recipe to give out other than my apple smoothie recipe because it’s a really easy and accessible way to get a ton of veggies into your diet in one big meal. Justin started cooking stir-fry after receiving a wok from his momma. He wanted to incorporate more veggies in his diet and created this recipe to do just that. We go to the farmers market every Sunday and get our seasonal vegetables, but if you don’t have one where you are, just go to your grocery store and look for the organic section and buy them up!!

Justin’s Famous Stir-Fry

1 tablespoon of sesame oil

1/2-1 cup chopped vegetables (last one had brussel sprouts, mushrooms, broccoli, onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower)

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 – 1 whole yellow onion

coconut aminos or tamari


balsamic vinegar

siracha – optional

salt to taste

Heat the sesame oil in pan or wok, add garlic and onions until soft. Add hard vegetables first and cook for 7-10 minutes, continue to stir throughout. Then add soft vegetables like spinach, kale, cabbage for another 5 minutes. Add sauces to taste. Usually we use 3-4 splashes of aminos or tamari and balsamic vinegar. Then 2-3 drops of honey. Siracha to spice as desired and salt to taste. Taste before serving and add according to what your buds and belly want.

Serve over brown rice or brown rice noodles. When there are leftovers, I often use as a base for my breakfast and serve an egg over it. Or add a to a vegetable broth and serve as a brown rice noodle soup.



11 Ways To Holistify Your Life

First, yes holistify is a made up word. Second, thank you for reading on despite my made-up word.

Living holistically and naturally is sometimes a challenge in our artificial and chemical-laden world. Fortunately, the tides are turning. I’m inspired every time I see or hear people and patients ask for alternatives to what they’re used to seeing in the grocery store or pharmacy. These are all natural options to infuse into your daily routine. Try one or two or all of them, depending on how you’re feeling. Like I often say, baby steps are key.

Honey- I LOVE HONEY!! I love it so much that I am working on starting my own beehive. When I first started reading about the healing properties of this liquid gold, I of course went crazy. Then I backed off and started using it correctly and it changed my life. For instance, local honey acts like allergy shots and helps you build immunity to the pollen in your environment. Like everything else, start slow, like a ¼ teaspoon a day and build up as you feel better. Honey is also a natural cough therapy and is safe in children over the age of 12 months (do not use under age 1!). It has been studied as a sleep aid and to help with wounds and burns as it works as a natural anti-bacterial agent. Buy local and buy raw.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) – I’ve talked about this one quite a bit. It’s my usual go-to for my patients in low-resource areas who can’t afford a probiotic or need to stay away from dairy. You can place a ½- 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in 16 ounces of water to boost your gut flora and your immunity, help you lose weight, balance your mood, improve insulin sensitivity, decrease blood sugar and relieve allergy symptoms. I like to heat up some filtered water, pour into a coffee cup, use one teaspoon of ACV and honey and drink it like tea in the morning, in silence, without distractions, of course.

Oil of Oregano – I first started using this after a colleague’s mom cured her horrible Austin allergies. I jumped in head first, like I usually do, but I don’t recommend and burned the heck out of my mouth. Like ACV, you want to dilute it before you ingest it, big time. In addition to being a strong anti-histamine for allergies, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, it stimulates digestion, fights infection and can beat athletes foot and warts. Topically, you can use it in a carrier oil like coconut or grapeseed oil to relieve aches and pains, particularly those of arthritis.

Arnica – I used this for the first time on my 500-mile walk for all the endless aches and pains I had throughout my journey. The pharmacist in Leon, Spain introduced me to homeopathic remedies and I was hooked (in addition to proper hydration and rest). Arnica is an herb that has been used for centuries in ointments, teas and tablets for pain, aches, swelling, bruising, and even diabetic eye damage. It comes in ointment form to place directly onto your skin or in homeopathic form to stop inflammation within. Make sure you check your source and dosage before you ingest it though and take arnica safely and properly.

Clove Tea/Oil – Clove tea, was first introduced to me by the brilliant Dr. Darshan Shah. He passes the recipe out for people with sore throats, mouth ulcers, colds and now I do too. Then I started using clove oil to clean by placing a few drops in white vinegar with distilled water. We even used it when my house was flooded last year to kill all the potential mold and it left the house smelling clove-fresh rather than mildewy and kept the mold from growing. Here is the OG recipe for Clove Tea.

Lemon Oil – Another multi-use oil, lemon is just good for everything. Lemon oil can be used to clean wood or silver, to clear off sticky surfaces, to whiten your teeth, in the washer if the clothes sit for too long and as a disinfectant. I use it in the morning in my diffuser to start my day and wake up and a drop in my water helps with reflux issues. You can directly inhale it on a cloth for a couple of minutes to fight fatigue and place it behind your ears and on the bottom of your big toe for allergies. In fact, I just had an allergy attack and did this exact process and I can breathe again! Sometimes I’ll add a drop of oil to my normal morning face oil to add a glow. For the house, I’ll soak my dish rags and scrubs in a bowl of water with two drops of oil overnight as well.

Vitamin-C – What did your momma tell you drink when you’re sick? Good old OJ! Its packed with Vitamin C, which helps repair tissues, is full of antioxidants, helps prevent sickness and helps with allergies. It also helps prevent damage to our essential organs caused by daily toxins. Squeeze yourself a glass of juice from a local orange or tangerine or add some goji berries or peppers to your salad!

Magnesium- According to functional medicine docs, 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient. If you drink bubbly sodas, eat sweets, drink coffee regularly, or stress a ton, you are likely deficient. It’s essential for our hearts, bones, brains and muscles. Magnesium is also essential for relaxation and sleeping. Luckily you can easily get it through food in spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, pumpkin seeds, turnip greens, summer squash and beans!! You can also find it in brazil nuts, ½ cup has has 250 mg of magnesium or flax seed, molasses, and dates. Increase the rainbow in your diet and increase the magnesium through food. You can also take a supplement, but that’s reducing your options, when they’re really endless. I’m a big advocate for eating your vitamins and nutrients!

Elderberry– I wrote a journal article about this doozy that I’ve been using since I was a teenager. We have lots of elderberry trees in El Paso, where I grew up, and my momma would make me tea whenever my allergies would hit or a cold snuck up on the household. You can buy it pre-made or make the tea yourself. It’s really great for fighting viruses and allergies. It’s has multiple effects on the body, but mostly it is used for its antioxidant activity which helps improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and can even lower LDL cholesterol.

Turmeric – My favorite go-to post-work out anti-inflammatory. I add this to salads, make tea from it, cut the root and place in smoothies. Turmeric has been around for centuries for all its goodness on fighting inflammation, inhibiting cancer cell growth and improving liver and heart function. If you buy in powder form, make sure its organic. You can also find it in root form in the produce aisles of natural grocery stores and chop it up like ginger. Turmeric tonic is really delicious and easy to make, just boil some filtered water, add 1 teaspoon of organic turmeric, mince some ginger, squeeze the juice of one lemon and add a bit of honey to sweeten.

Baking Soda- My grandfather passed along this one. I didn’t know him well, but photographs I have seen show the whitest teeth I have ever seen. You can use Thieves oil added to baking soda for toothpaste, as a skin cleaner, in a load of laundry and about 45 other uses. I replaced toxic drain-o with baking soda and vinegar mix and it cleared out my pipes faster than the bottled stuff.

I’ve shared just a few of my favorite ways to get healthy and go holistic. You can put any foods, herbs and items into your search box and they’ll be about a thousand more uses for them. Like I said, try one or two and see how it benefits you and your family, then ease into using another. Woohoo for whole foods and herbs and nature as medicine!

Here is your Winter Grocery List!!

(Yes, I know we’re not having a very wintery winter in Austin, but this is what our local farmers have growing.)