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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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The Abyss of Pain

Many of you have written wondering where I’ve been. Many thanks to all of you who left me good wishes via email and Facebook.

A few weeks ago I started feeling a dull pain in my elbow. A week later, I had pretty severe pain in my neck. Soon after, the pain radiated from my neck, through my shoulders, down my arm, and into my fingers. Finally, it was accompanied by occasional numbness and a feeling that my elbow was on fire.

Over a few weeks, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t think straight!

First Stop

First stop on the road to wellness, I went to a conventional physician – a new one because we have new health insurance.  She evaluated me for 2 minutes or so (no kidding) and told me I had nondescript pain in my neck and shoulders, with fairly severe tennis elbow.  Then she gave me a referral to physical therapy.  And that was it.

Second Stop

I promptly called physical therapy, and they told me I couldn’t see one person for those three different things: they had a neck and shoulders physical therapist, and an elbow therapist – I’d have to see both.  And the next available appointment was 1 week away for the neck and shoulders, and 3 weeks away for the elbow.  Oh, and they were in two different locations.

Trying to explain that my neck bone was connected to my shoulder bone, and shoulder bone is connected to the elbow bone… didn’t work. Nope, there wasn’t anyone who could do that.

I was in so much pain my eyes were tearing, I was grumpy, and I was having real difficulty concentrating on my work.  The only time the pain subsided at all was if I was lying in bed in one particular position. And here I was faced with another 3 weeks of this sharp, radiating pain before comfort was even in sight.

Third Stop

So I made an appointment with my Naturopathic Doctor.  He saw me just 2 days later.

Instantly Kevin sensed I was in a lot of pain.  He spent 1/2 hour with me, learning exactly what was going on – by talking, moving and feeling my joints, and testing my strength and mobility.

His diagnosis:  Nerve pain in my neck.  I have a bad disc in my neck, that was probably injured back when I was in a car accident long ago and has now been re-injured.  Ah, I realized, I’ve had tingling in my fingers for a long time.

At the same time, I managed also to get tennis elbow – probably from hyperextending my arms in my new yoga practice.  So the two injuries were aggravating one another.  (Because the neck bone is connected to the shoulder bone… and so on.)

Kevin gently and carefully adjusted my neck and back. He gave me exercises. And pharmaceuticals (at that point I was ready). And specific vitamin supplements – for short-term and long-term healing. And orders to rest and ice as often as possible. And orders to make my desk even more ergonomic than it already is.  And to modify my yoga postures when I go back to yoga.

That was 2 weeks ago. I am finally able to concentrate for a full day at work.  Though I still get awfully tired – I have a difficult time getting up in the morning and I’m ready to go home by 4pm, exhausted. The pain is still there but it’s not mind-numbing anymore.

The Abyss Of Pain

I’m sure some of you have been to this place:  the abyss of pain.  It’s a cloudy-headed, self-absorbed, cranky and impatient, dark hole of dispair and disrepair.  In that abyss, your brain can really only focus solidly on the immediate needs before you.

Have you been there?

It’s terrible. I’m lucky that the people around me understand, support and forgive me.

If  you ever find yourself in that abyss, first be sure to tell others around you what you’re going through – otherwise they won’t know, can’t support you, and might be less willing to forgive you for your impatience. And second, be sure to advocate for yourself until you get the care you need to overcome the pain.

Now it’s like a fog is lifting. I can write again. I can see the bigger picture again – the bigger picture of life, of business, of the planet…

Hello again.

When You Align With The World…

Back in January, I wrote about this year becoming a Year About Me, making sure that I have what I need in my life and that I follow my own dreams.  These are the things many people have thought about in their 40th year, no doubt.

At mid-career, with many skills built up, a family and a home, the question lingers: have you done everything you want to do? And if the answer is no, then get on it already!

Media That Matters

A month ago, I attended a retreat in British Columbia.  Several of you have wrote lovely emails thanking me for the words that fell out of me on the road home from that conference.  It was an amazing experience.

Right at the beginning of the retreat, I checked my email for the last time before unplugging for the week.  There was an email from a man I’d met and worked for on a small video shoot a year ago:  he had just begun producing a documentary and he wondered if I’d be interested in working on it with him. I told him I would get back to him in a week, and promptly unplugged.

At the conference, surrounded by media makers of all kinds, my next career steps swiftly crystalized for me: I have a unique gift in being able to communicate stories in a wide variety of media.  I have, in various ways over the years, used that talent to create positive behavior change in others.  I have been working for a very long time toward accruing these talents and skills, and at long last I am ready to take my work to the next level!

Transformation happened in those woods, and I freed myself to do what I needed to do.

At the end of the week breathing in the beauty, I’d realized I was ready to move from my high-paying corporate anchor client back to the work I really set out to do in my life.  I’d learned, I’d paid some of my loans, and it was time to move on.

It has been scary, but also comforting – like finding my way home.

ReAlignment

When I got back home, I was re-energized.  Like I was 25 again, excited at the possibilities and convicted in my dreams.

I worked hard to finish my website, to visualize my vision, to jump into the next phase.  I started talking about my work with other people more, no longer bashful about it.  Somehow the “what I do” conversation became so much easier.

Two days later I called the man with the documentary.  We talked for 4 hours.

It turns out Jon has been on a similar journey, trying to figure out how to create sustainable change in the world.  By the end of our 4 hours, we were discussing how to bring large environmental organizations together to empower them to do their work more efficiently and effectively.  We were discussing how to incentivize businesses to operate more sustainably through community storytelling.  And we dove deeply into how to take people beyond awareness of climate change, and help them get to the next stage:  how do we help people change their lifestyles?  What tools and guidance can we offer to make that transition easier and more effective?

ReFocus

We had our first day of shooting the documentary last week.  It required Jon and I to be one on one together for 23 hours.  We took each of those amazing topics and discussed them at two levels deeper.  And so it goes…

We are now discussing building a business together.  I’ve launched the Elements In Time website.

And that’s not all.  Work has been steadily rolling in.  Good work, meaningful work.  The world has aligned with me as I’ve aligned with it.

Here are some of our clients right now:

  • American Association of Colleges and Universities
  • Countywide Community Forums
  • Friends of the Cedar River Watershed
  • Health Advocacy Strategies
  • Patient Health Perspectives
  • Carbon Cycle Crush

Suddenly I’m helping a several great organizations to do their work better.

I’m proud I’ve taken the time to focus on a year about me.  It’s only half over, and so much good has happened already.  I can’t wait for next month!

Back Soon - In the Meantime, Check Out Our New Website!

Hi all,

It has been a crazy few weeks for me.  Just about all really, really good.  But busy!

I’ve just launched our new website at Elements In Time.  Come take a look!

Working on several great projects, all good for the world.  I’m really enjoying the work I’m doing.

I’ll be back writing soon.  Miss you all!

Love,

Melinda

We're Moving This Weekend!

Surprise!  I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were thinking we might move, and we decided to take the leap. So on Tuesday morning, we’ll awaken in a new home!

It’s not far – you can can see it from our current apartment (click to enlarge):

5 Reasons We’re Moving

  1. To decrease our footprint. Our current apartment is pretty big, which is great in some ways but also takes up more footprint than we need.  We can do jumping jacks in our bathroom and barely touch both sides of our hall walls at the same time.  Little things make a difference on the sustainability path.
  2. To eat healthier. Sounds strange, but right now we live across the street from a natural foods store and 6 blocks from our garden.  Guess which one we visit more frequently!  So we’re switching: we’ll be across the street from our garden and 6 blocks from the store. I’m looking forward to seeing my garden from our bedroom window. 
  3. To save costs. We’ll be saving $6,000/year living in our new home.  That’s a lot of money to contribute toward paying off our student loans.
  4. To live in the heart of the neighborhood. We’ll be across the street from the community center, community park, local church, restaurants, cafes and bars.  As a result we’re much more likely to be a part of community events and decision-making processes.  We’re looking forward to it!
  5. To live in a more diverse area. Our current rent has gone up substantially, and the residents are changing – it’s becoming a higher-income building.  Where we’re moving, we’ll be in a low- to mid-income community, with some transitional housing, a food bank (to donate extra veggies), and in general more diversity.

We also lost our beautiful view – we used to be able to see the bulk of Lake Union and even Mt. Baker on a clear day.  Our new apartment will have a modest view of the sunset and Space Needle.

5 Reasons We’re Staying In the Neighborhood

  1. Our neighborhood is LEED certified. The entire neighborhood is certified as a sustainable neighborhood, and we’re proud to be a part of it.  We have bioswales in an urban center, 35% of the neighborhood buildings are LEED certified, urban planning has focused on multi-use areas that are walkable, parks, native plants, … it’s really awesome.
  2. We have great public transportation and walkability. We have a walk score of 97.  I walk to work, and Matt walks 2 blocks to the bus.
  3. We’re in the heart of the city. I love walking through downtown every day, feeling a part of the city on a daily basis.  I feel I intimately understand what’s changing, how the economy is doing, where industry is thriving, etc.  We’re in a central spot to our friends and family – pretty much within 15 minutes of anyone we know in the city, right off the freeway, and an easy meeting point.
  4. We love our garden community. We have an awesome plot, with great garden neighbors, and good friends of ours just moved gardens to garden near us.
  5. We have a growing local economy. The neighborhood is transitioning from an old dilapidated manufacturing (and prostitution) center, to a thriving mixed economy.  It’s pretty amazing to watch, and it gives me hope for the rest of the country.

Can’t wait to tell you all about our new place!  In the meantime,

Tell Me About Your Home

What’s perfect about it?  How did you end up there?

How To Find Your Way

For a week, I have been at a remote retreat on Cortes Island, British Columbia.  I was able to gather with a group of media makers who are all looking to create social change with their work.  I can’t tell you how rejuvenating and refocusing those moments were.

It was incredible to be among others on parallel journeys, each helping to catapult me to the next stage in my work.

I know some of you are in a similar life stage to me:  seeking a way to utilize your skills and passion together to create change – personally, locally or globally.  For those of you who are, I thought I’d share with you a few of my thoughts after this experience.

These are words that poured out of me over about 10 minutes as I rode the ferry home.  After those 10 minutes, I fell into a blissful nap in the sunshine.

How To Find Your Way

On Perfection

Don’t try so hard to find perfection.  It comes as it comes, when it comes, and how it comes.

Let perfection find you, and be open to new ways perfection reveals itself.

On Finding The Answer

What you think is the answer may just be the light that leads you to the answer.

If you are true to yourself and seek out what you want most, the answer will often appear on its own. Be true to yourself and your direction.

On Passion

If your passion is for the Earth, and you follow your passion, the Earth just might help you along your path.

On Being Humbled

Stand tall, even as a dwarf among giants.  Both dwarfs and giants are equally important to the ecosystem – and you need each other (as an ancient pine needs the ferns below).

On Endurance

Moments of nurturing the soul – and the intellect – are keys to continuing to follow your passion, and inciting change.

On Frustration

When you breathe in your surroundings, and root yourself there, suddenly it becomes clear that small frustrations just don’t matter.

If you live with small frustrations – rather than fight against them – you may find they lead to greater things.

On Discomfort

It’s not that everything happens for a reason necessarily, but if you let things happen – and open the space for new things to happen – you may find that there lies a perfect catalyzing thought or action.

Walking into discomfort often contributes the most to great growth and reward.

On Truth

If you speak the truth – and aren’t afraid of it – you will open yourself to a whole new universe of opportunity.

It’s ok to talk at length if you have an important or useful or emotionally-driven story.  People will listen.  And they will appreciate it greatly that you spent the time to communicate it to them.

On Finding The Answer, Part 2

Nuggets of knowledge can come from the least expected places.

Trying too hard to find the answer is often the worst method of searching.  It comes from a combination of place, openness, relationships, work, and going within yourself.

The answer lies deep within your self.

On Change

(Self) love sometimes means doing things that are very difficult in the short term for greater, long-term betterment.

(History and) cultures are meant to change.

On Frustration, Part 2

When you’re frustrated or irritated, sit with it.  Let it be without fighting it.

Allow yourself room for happy surprises.

On Encouragement

Follow your passion.

Don’t worry if you’re doing good – or enough good.  Deep within, you know you are.

Our work is not in vain.  If you think the world is bad now, imagine how bad it would be if none of us did anything, sacrificed anything, or dreamed anything.  The world needs us to be doing what we’re doing.

 

Cosmetic Clays - What Are They and How Do You Use Them?

If you’re like me, you might be afraid of putting new things on your face… or making skin care products at home… or entering and navigating an apothecary or herbalist’s store.  But a dear friend of mine recently picked up the book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health and promptly signed us up for a class in making body masks.  Amazing how a little class can completely demystify the new ingredients as well as the apothecary.  Thank you, Sarah!

The following information is collated from a course taught by Katya Difani.

The Benefits of Clay

Each type of clay has its own unique properties due to its origin, mineral content and texture.  In general, clay:

  • Absorbs excess oil
  • Binds to toxins
  • Cleans away dirt
  • Exfoliates
  • Improves circulation
  • Reduces swelling and inflammation

Bentonite Clay

Bentonite is from volcanic ash and is high in trace minerals like silica, aluminum, iron, sodium and magnesium.  It is a mild clay, used both internally and externally.

Internally, it’s used to treat mineral deficiencies, anemia, ulcers, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and more.  It also binds to toxins from intestinal bacteria.  A lot of people drink it during a cleanse or detox – a friend of mine said she did it and it felt like a lump of clay in her stomach.

  • If you want to try drinking it, take 1-3 teaspoons of bentonite clay in 8 ounces of water per day.

Externally, you can add it to your bath or body/face mask.

  • For the bath, add 2-3 ounces of bentonite clay to running water and mix thoroughly.
  • Add one part clay to 3 parts water, mix thoroughly – adding extra water or clay as needed to create an even paste, and apply to your skin.

French Green Clay

French green clay – also called Illite or Sea Clay – is green colored from chlorophyll.  It contains mineral oxides, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorous, copper (antioxidant), selenium (antioxidant), and much more.

Green clay is one of the more drying of clays, so it’s good for oily skin in particular.  Also, it is a better absorber of impurities, dust, oil, toxins, and makeup – which is why you’ll see it in a lot of spas.

French Red Clay

This is similar to French green clay, but contains higher amounts of iron oxides (thus the red color).  It’s slightly less drying and more balancing than green clay, but is also good for oily skin and can even be used in place of soap as a cleanser.

Moroccan Red Clay

Moroccan red clay is highly absorbent, drawing oils from the skin as it stimulates circulation.  It contains naturally occurring dolomite, silica (good for hair, nails & skin), ferric oxide, and mineral oxides.  It smells very earthy and lovely.

This clay also mixes well with water and oils you might add to your masks.  When mixing with water, mix at a ratio of about 1 to 1.

Rhassoul Clay

Rhassoul clay was my personal favorite.  It’s used a lot in spas because of its balancing effects:  it reduces dryness and flakiness, while a the same time reducing oil and improving skin clarity.

This clay contains high percentages of silica, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.  It’s used as a shampoo, cleanser, skin conditioner, and body relaxer.

White Kaolin Clay

White kaolin clay is the mildest, most gentle, least drying clay – which is why it is the one found in most cosmetics, according to Katya.  It is high in calcium, silica, zinc (antibacterial), and magnesium.

Because of its high drying and disinfecting properties, it can help heal blemishes and inflammation.  It is also used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera.  Plus it is used in making paint, paper, fiberglass, porcelain, ceramics, and toothpaste.  It’s the Kao in Kaopectate – and Rolaids, Mylanta, Maalox, etc.

You don’t need to add much water to this clay so add little bits at a time.

My Favorites

In order, my favorites were:

  1. Rhassoul
  2. White Kaolin
  3. French Green
  4. Moroccan Red

I have very sensitive skin that is more dry than oily, however.  My friends who attended with me were more on the oily side and liked the French Green best.

Where to Buy Clay

  • Health food store
  • Apothecary
  • Herbalist
  • Or if you can’t find it locally, do an internet search for “cosmetic clay”- there are several online resources

Recipe: Quick Green Clay Mask

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons french green clay – absorbs oils and impurities
  • 2 large lemon wedges – pH balancing, gentle exfoliant
  • 2 teaspoons honey – anti-microbial (raw is best)

Directions

Mix ingredients, apply to skin, leave on 5-10 minutes, rinse with warm water.

Also check out How To Make A Simple Facial Mask, which also lists other ingredients if you want to experiment.

May: High Time To Establish A Routine

I have a huge list of things I want to do this year, and I plan to make them all happen – why else would I do a Year About Me if not to successfully fulfill my dreams and ambitions??!

However, I’m finding that time is getting away from me. It has now occurred to me that the only way I will fulfill my dreams and ambitions is if I do them deliberately and carve out my time effectively.

Things I Want To Do Every Day

  1. Write (have you noticed I’m having a hard time establishing a routine here?)
  2. Exercise (I walk every day, but yoga will help even more)
  3. Meditate (yoga)
  4. Read the news (sometimes I go through a week without following up on the news!)
  5. Take 1 step to push my business forward (aside from work, what else will push it forward?)

Things I Want To Do Every Week

  1. Garden
  2. Socialize with friends
  3. Read a book for at least 2 hours
  4. Sleep 8 hours/day on average
  5. Say Yes more than No

What That Means

  1. Getting up when the alarm goes off.  No matter what.
  2. Less tv/movie watching.
  3. Less internet browsing.
  4. Going to bed early.
  5. Getting up early.
  6. Deliberately concentrating on one activity at a time.
  7. Making task lists and sticking to them.
  8. Opening my mind to change, love, and new ideas.
  9. Trying, failing, and trying again.  Sometimes all in one day.
  10. Building upon the day before.

Starting May 1, I will begin my routine.  Look for posts every day.  Look for a business moving forward quickly.  Look for me being on top of my game like I haven’t been in a long time.  Ready??  I am.

Feel free to join me, or just watch for now.