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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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Leaving Judgement Behind

I was at a beautiful vineyard hotel overlooking the Columbia River Gorge for a weekend retreat.  There, midway through a hot stone massage session, I found myself thinking, “boy, she’s not the greatest massage therapist.” And internally I gasped.

Here I am splurging for myself on my 40th birthday, so that I can get some much needed R&R… and I’m not even letting myself enjoy it.  I’m judging it.  I’m wondering if I should have picked a different massage. I’m thinking over and over about my disappointment in myself, the massage therapist, and the situation.

And then I looked around. The place was beautiful, candles were lit all around me, there was a faint scent of clay and aroma therapy oils.  I was about to have an amazing dinner with an amazing husband in a beautiful little winery with a fabulous view.

I’ve worked very hard over the last 3 years just to make ends meet.  Finally my hard work was beginning to pay off – socially, enivornmentally and economically.  At long last I was able to reward myself and recharge.

And, well it’s high time to reward myself and recharge!

So I stopped my thoughts and repeated a few times in my head, “Just be… without judgement.”  After which I proceeded to just be, where I was right then, receiving a pretty good massage from a very nice woman.

And I relaxed.  I enjoyed the moment for the good things it had to offer.   I accepted the massage she was offering me and allowed it to heal me in whatever way it could.

Leaving Judgement Behind

When I was in the Arizona desert this winter, I found myself standing between a horse and a world reknowned psychotherapist.  I was judging this man’s cowboy boots and hat, his aloof mannner, his psychotherapy jargon, his way of trying to get under my skin.  And then I realized he had – he was under my skin, digging up details I needed to surface, uncovering things about myself that I needed to face. He was, in fact, quite brilliant.

I falsely judged a good man. The guilt I felt afterwards was shocking.

An hour later I walked a labyrinth as a meditation practice. This particular practice involved picking a rock from outside the labyrinth, mentally attaching to it something you were ready to leave behind, walking the labyrinth in meditation, leaving that rock in center, and mentally bringing something out in its place.

It’s a very simple but very powerful practice.  I didn’t know what I wanted to take back in its place, but I knew I wanted to leave judgement behind.   As I meditated around the labyrinth, it came to me so very clearly: I wanted to replace judgement with compassion.

Compassion

Judgement’s counterpart for me is compassion.  In the case above, this means compassion for the cowboy therapist who was trying desperately to relate to me – a city girl with a chip on her shoulder – so that he could help me, and do his job well.

And compassion for myself.  Self-compassion.  Because I could really use this man’s help to get to the next stage in my own awareness and happiness.  Because as much as I devote my life and work to helping others, I need to make sure I’m healthy as well – I need to nourish myself so that I can nourish others.

Presence

It isn’t easy to give up judgement.  I can probably never completely get rid of it, nor would I want to.  But I can get much closer, I can be much healthier in my relationship with people and with the present moment.

And it takes time because you have to retrain yourself.

I read recently that you judge yourself the way you were judged by others when you were young.  It’s just how you learn.

So maybe you were never quite good enough, never made the right decisions, were always in danger of getting fat… Maybe this will help you as it has helped me:  think for a moment about how you were judged when growing up, ask yourself whether or not it might still be the way you judge yourself today.

I believe we also develop early habits of judging others as well, and they’re often very similar to how we judge ourselves.  That other person isn’t good enough at what they do, they don’t make the right decisions, they are in danger of getting fat,… whatever it is for you, see if you judge others that way also.

I’ve found that the key to beginning to change is to be present in the moment, so that I can observe my thoughts and actions – plus learn and grow from what is happening now.  This requires presence without judgement, of course (you can’t fight judgment with judgement!) – and presence with compassion.

My personal mantra has changed for me a bit since my 40th birthday.  It is now, proudly:

Just be present… with compassion. 

How To Use A Neti Pot

The Neti Pot’s Impact On My Asthma

I avoided neti pots for years.  Until this past year – when I made it my goal to fully eliminate my asthma medications.  Years ago I never would have thought that would be remotely possible, but now I’m really close!

I’ve been slowly making lifestyle changes over the years that have brought me from a high point of seven medications (at high doses) to the lowest dose of just one medication.

I didn’t do it over night.  Check out this post to find out more about what I’ve done: 25 Ways I’ve Improved My Asthma.

You’ll notice the neti pot wasn’t on that list of 25 – at the time of writing that post, I was down to 2 medications.  Now I’m down to one!

I eliminated the nasal steroid three months ago, and replaced it with the neti pot.

I’m not a doctor, expert, etc, etc – so be safe and careful.  Take it slow.  Listen to your body.  Talk to your doctors.  And definitely do not decrease nor go off your meds if your asthma is not under control.

Other Benefits Of The Neti Pot

  1. Washes away dust, pollen, smog, and other irritants.
  2. Rinses out extra mucus.
  3. Serves as an antidote for dry nasal passages (sometimes this is particularly bad in the winter).
  4. Reduces sinus pressure and the risk for sinus infections.
  5. Relieves some symptoms of colds and flu.
  6. Allows your breaths to be easier, less inhibited, fuller.

What Neti Pot To Buy

I have a Himalayan Institute Eco Neti Pot.  It’s $10-15 in my local health food store.  My pot is made of “bioplastic” and is biodegradable.  It’s also super light so I take it when I travel.

There are a number of different types out there.  The woman at my health food store suggested for the first time that I use one that is plastic and light-weight.  Apparently the ceramic ones are a little more difficult to maneuver because they’re heavier.  In retrospect I don’t think it makes that big a difference.

How To Use The Neti Pot

It is amazingly simple.

What You’ll Need

  1. Neti pot
  2. Non-iodized salt
  3. Warm water (more or less body temperature)
  4. 1/4 teaspoon

Steps

  1. Wash your neti pot with warm soap and water before first use and after each use.
  2. Fill the pot with warm water. The water should be around body temperature, so when you feel it with your finger, it should not feel cold or hot.  Added:  Many people use straight from the tap but to be completely safe I use filtered water, you can use distilled as well.  There may be water-born diseases – not to mention chlorine! – in tap water.
  3. Mix in 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt.  Be sure to use non-iodized salt without additives or anti-caking agents.  You can buy “neti pot salt” – some are sea salt with more minerals in them and thus feel more mild (I like them better).  Start with 1/4 teaspoon on your first try, but then experiment – you may find you like a little bit more.  I use somewhere in between 1/4 and 1/2.
  4. Lean your face forward over the sink, and then tilt your head to the right.  I was terrified I was going to do this wrong the first time!  But really, it’s ok if you don’t have this “right” – you’re not going to screw it up and you’ll get a feel for this quickly.
  5. Place the neti pot spout inside your right nostril.  Make sure you form a seal with your nostril so it doesn’t leak.
  6. Breathe through your mouth.  Don’t forget to breathe – oxygen is important!
  7. Tilt the pot until water starts to pour out of your left nostril.  Keep pouring until the pot is empty.  I usually have to pause about half-way through to gently blow out the water and gunk, and then I start pouring again.
  8. Relax your neck and shoulders.  No other instructions say this, but boy I tense up when I’m trying to do this right.  Relax – it’s not that hard, you won’t screw it up (and if you do it doesn’t really matter), there’s no reason to be tense.
  9. Repeat #2-8 on the other side.
  10. Exhale through both nostrils into the sink, and then gently blow your nose.  The pot came with instructions to do crazy hand-to-toe exercises afterwards.  I found a couple gentle blows of the nostrils is good.
If you want to watch a video of someone doing it, here is a video.  Just ignore adding the extra drops and such – multiple websites, books and health care professionals say you don’t need it.  (Try it if you want, but it seems like an unnecessary cost to me.)

That’s It!

Not so bad, eh?  Do you use a neti pot?  If not, will you give it a try?

My 28-Day Mind and Body Detox

Happy New Year!!

Matt and I are beginning a 28-day cleanse today that will last through the month of January 2012. Some of you followed our cleanse last year.  This year will be similar, but I will also be focusing on a more spiritual detox in additional to the physical one.

Physical Body Detox

We’ll be using the Clean method to create our daily menus, supplements and physical activity.  We’ve looked at a few others, but found that this one works best for us.

If you’re thinking about a cleanse or detox, my advice is to peruse a few different options and then settle on one.  Make sure it is something you can follow through on, and one that is healthy.

But otherwise, don’t think too much about it – just do it.  You can always modify slightly along the way to better fit your needs, goals and lifestyle.  And no matter what cleanse you do, you’re going to be more detoxed at the end than you were at the beginning!

At the least, a physical cleanse focuses on what you put in your body in order to allow your body to better detoxify.  In addition, may focus on supplements, physical activity, sweating, hot-cold baths, skin brushing and more.  Try as much as feels comfortable, and add on as you go if you start feeling more comfortable.

If you’re interested in how we did the Clean cleanse last year, follow my nearly daily posts beginning here.  If you want to try a few other books, you might check out:

It’s your body, your program.  Do what feels good to you.

Mental and Spiritual Detox

In addition to the physical body detox, I’ll be working on a mental and spiritual detox this year.  What does that mean? Well, honestly I’m going to find out as I go!  Based on my 2012 goals, here’s where I’m starting…

Classes

I’m going to begin by taking a few classes at local yoga studios:

  • A weekend intensive Intro to Pranayama Series
  • A weekly Pranayama Series
  • An Introduction to Meditation Series
  • A Sangha Meditation Series

In addition, I will probably drop in on a few yoga nidra classes, as well as warm yoga classes.

Walking Meditation

As you probably know, I walk to work every day – about 3 miles of walking in total.  When I was at Miraval in December, I took a class on breath walking.  I won’t say it’s as powerful as guided sitting or laying meditation, but it is certainly helpful to slow my blood pressure and clear my mind!

So I’ll be doing that regularly, either to or from work – or both.

Reading

I’m currently reading Wherever You Go, There You Are.  I believe a couple of you recommended it to me a year ago, and it has come up since then several times.  So finally I’m taking the hint!  :)

I’m also thinking about reading Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.  I’ve heard good things about the author and it looks right in line with my cleanse.

Writing

As you saw in my Plans for 2012, my goal is to write regularly again.  I had a breakthrough yesterday that writing, cleansing and positive personal change go hand-in-hand!  So now I have a bigger reason to write.

So my goal is to work up to daily writing again.  That could mean a blog post here, a blog post at my professional blog, a journal entry, or just jotting down some profound thoughts on a napkin.

What Do You Think?

Anyone have ideas for good books/activities I should try?

Or… Have you done this before? Do you think I’m nuts?