on a personal note: my refugee story

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today marks the 30th anniversary of my family’s refugee migration from russia to the united states, the precise date that we arrived. i don’t talk about it much, but i think it’s important to now.

30 years ago, with the support of HIAS–the refugee agency that worked to get soviet jews out and resettled in the u.s., and does so for refugees from a variety of backgrounds–my family was allowed to leave russia. after years of legwork and waiting, we were relieved of our soviet passports, sent to austria for processing, then on to italy, where we would apply for asylum.

despite the extreme hardship and fear, the level of dignity that we were afforded is not to be taken for granted:
– parents were not separated from children
– we had access to organizations that were fighting for us & our rights
– while things like shelter, food and medical care were only partly funded by refugee organizations, we had reasonable access to these basic human necessities
– above all else, we had autonomy.

my family was approved by the u.s. pretty quickly (in under 3 months), but many others waited longer and were denied with no explanation. though it was the u.s. government (after decades of pressure from HIAS) that had pleaded with russia to let jews out, as the flow of jewish refugees from russia increased america’s gates inexplicably shut to them. a 1989 piece of legislation which sought to end the ad hoc approach to refugee admissions resettlement forced those gates open, granting refugee status to those who had been approved for u.s. entry but denied refugee designation.

my ability to call myself an american is a product of the persistence of people who fought for those like me and my family, in a political climate that was not sufficiently offended or threatened by our presence in the u.s. to fight to keep us out. people weren’t always nice to us, but at least we felt like our presence here had the stamp of approval of the u.s. government.

i am in awe of the bravery of today’s refugees and asylum seekers. i’m heartbroken by the atrocities they endure that are a perversion of our commitment to those threatened populations. in my case, people being activists and staying politically engaged made a life-changing difference; i hope this will be the case for those seeking safety now, too.

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one of the most powerful tools i can think of to change the course of someone’s journey of wellbeing is a shift in perspective.

you might have heard a practitioner refer to this as a “reframe,” and it can be anything that feels like clarity, a breakthrough, “aha,” a lightbulb moment, or even a metaphorical sigh of relief from your nervous system.

healing usually entails dozens or hundreds of these gradual perspective shifts, in addition to a few more major ones.

that means that healing isn’t quick, and it’s not linear. you might have to sit with discomfort –literally, dis-ease– longer than we think healing should take. but that also gives your system time to integrate a realization or change, which will make your healing journey sustainable!

so how do you access those perspective shifts? how do you invite opportunities for reframing into your experience?

getting present is a good start. moving your body through space, feeding yourself, taking a bath, reading, being in nature, meditating, cuddling–the possibilities of what will resonate with your system are endless.

for me a shift came this evening from watching a bird perched in the lemon tree outside my kitchen door, chirping for its buddy, while i roasted tomatoes for jam.

remember that different approaches work for different systems at different times, so don’t get discouraged if something that is considered tried-and-true (like making a cup of tea and listening to a favorite record) or has worked before doesn’t elicit a shift–it’s still really good self care, so keep doing it!

what *does* appear to make a difference is whether you have a “heart-centered” perspective– meaning, you open your heart as you expand your mind. without heart-centeredness, advises matt kahn, insights “can be food for the ego.”

stay tuned for PART TWO of this post, where i explore how to facilitate these perspective shifts.

in the meantime, tell me some of the things that have inspired you lately, shifted your perspective, or helped you drop into your body from your mind!

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did you see “smash the wellness industry” in yesterday’s NYT opinion section?

it’s a piece that echoes many of my own sentiments & concerns in its assessment of the “wellness” industry as the latest, veiled iteration of a predatory diet industry. however, as a holistic practitioner who does use the term “wellness” to describe my approach, i think there’s more to the conversation.

i struggled with eating disorders for nearly 20 years, and while the diet industry didn’t unilaterally cause them, it certainly fueled them and normalized their dysfunction. following diet culture blueprints, my food vocabulary was restricted to terms like “good/bad,” “ok/not ok” & “safe/unsafe,” and i clung to calorie counting as if it were the buoy keeping me from drowning.

so i completely agree with the author that a growing “wellness” industry feeding us a prescriptive, potentially dysfunctional idea of “health,” that keeps us from sensing into our bodies and learning how to trust & honor our own cues, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

however, i’ll argue that this use of the term “wellness” has been appropriated–and subsequently distorted–from those of us who practice in a way that *does* listen to the body, hold its needs, and make sure that it is receiving what it’s asking for.

practitioners like me *do* employ intuitive eating in our therapeutic practices. we also rewrite the narrative of what foods are “healthy”–making space for enjoying nourishing, nutrient rich foods–and challenge the use of the term “unhealthy” as a label for both foods & people.

in fact, the term wellness is what made my eating disorder recovery possible. it shifted me away from “healthy,” which was concerned with how i measured up to ideas about and metrics of “health,” not with how i felt. my practitioners taught me that my body had a unique set of needs in which i would need to become literate, and helped me explore how to say “yes” to foods, with an emphasis on those that could promote healing from years of malnutrition, stress & illness.

this is only a small piece of a BIG & important conversation that i think we should be continuing; i look forward to more articles, posts & comments 💕

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why do i shop farmers markets? 💕

1. FRESHER FOOD = MORE NUTRIENTS
farmers market produce has typically travelled a much shorter distance than what we get at the grocery store, and was picked in the day or two before market. studies have shown that produce starts losing nutrients after it’s harvested and can lose a lot, quickly! that means your farmers market fruits and veggies are likely to be much more nutritionally dense than average grocery store fare.

2. I’M VOTING WITH MY DOLLAR
i recently found a blog i kept almost 10 years ago, and one of my favorite posts–then and now!–was about my then newfound field-to-fork approach. i wrote the following about voting with your dollar: “if we don’t support local communities, they won’t be able to sustain themselves, and before we know it all food will be corporate. that means it will have to travel further, contain more preservatives, and be more expensive, both in immediate cost and in terms of the cost we sustain to the environment.” i think that about sums it up 🙂

3. SENSE OF COMMUNITY
the world can feel lonely, especially when you live in a city or on your own. for me, going to the farmers market has always felt like getting to know my neighbors and my community. i love learning what the vendors grow or stock, eventually being recognized when i visit a stand week after week, and hearing their stories. farmers are healers, skilled at and passionate about helping people through the food they grow, and their purpose is contagious, reinforcing my own!

4. BEING PRESENT
shopping the farmers market helps me drop into my body, bigtime. while my head may still be calling most of the shots, i’m also tuning into my sensory experiences as i smell, touch + taste. yesterday i smelled a lesser-grown type of mint at the @windrosefarm stand and was transported to the herb garden my mom had when i was a kid!

why do YOU go to the farmers market? how did you get started? how has it shaped what and how you eat? i want to hear all about YOUR experiences!

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what is your emotional reaction to the concept of JOY? when you imagine the experience, are you stepping into it as yourself or imagining it as something that other people get to feel?

so many of us spend much more time on the neutral-to-negative end of the spectrum of human experience than we do feeling bliss, delight, radiance, or any of the many other joy-adjacent feelings of pleasure and happiness.

it can be hard to feel joy when you’re aware of the pain, hardship and injustice that exists around you. it can feel dismissive or disrespectful of that experience to have one that’s markedly better.

but who taught us this detachment and guilt, when the reality is that joy makes us brave, that bravery makes us radical, and that being radical is what heals this pain, hardship and injustice?

what happens when we realize that we *deserve* the freedom to be happy, and explore what it means to be happy on our own terms? i’d love to hear how YOU reconnect and nurture joy in yourself and others!