My Body, My Choice: What My Jaw is Teaching Me About Consent

 
 Image by Karen Prosen

Image by Karen Prosen

I may be smiling in this picture but inside there is a little girl who is in pain. 

For as long as I can remember now - probably since I was 6 years old, then starting again when I was 13 (so consistently for the last 16 years) I have been clenching and grinding my teeth in my sleep. 

It happens every night, for the majority of the night and it has been terribly frustrating because it is subconscious. I am not aware of it, and when I wake up with pain around my head and in my upper back and shoulders each morning I feel at a loss of what to do. 

I have tried the night guards, osteopathy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, massage, cranial sacral therapy and numerous other healing modalities, but it is still happening.

Yoga is the one practice that will clear the stuck energy and pain and bring me back into a state of peace. This is the main reason I continue to practice yoga every day. 

But lately I've really wanted to discover the root of the clenching, not just address the symptoms.  I've been asking myself: Why is my body feeling called to clench and protect in my sleep? I know the body is full with wisdom, and I believe it is trying to show me something.

So about six months ago I discovered Matrix Re-imprinting, a technique that evolved from EFT that connects people with their past traumas and core beliefs and elegantly enables them to transform them into supportive platforms for their lives.

In a matrix re-imprinting session with my mentor, we uncovered a memory of being 6 years old in the dentist’s chair. The fluorescent lights were blaring me in the face. I remember they gave me a pair of sunglasses to protect my eyes from the lights and cover my tears that were just pouring down my face behind them. 

I was getting cavities filled. There were needles to numb the pain, I had to hold my mouth open for what felt like hours, and I felt the pressure on my teeth as they were being filled. As a little girl, this was really intense for me.

As we were connecting with the little girl in this scene, my mentor asked me to ask the little girl how she felt.  

I almost did not want to say what her response was out loud because it was such a strong answer. I thought it was a little extreme for the situation, but I told my mentor that she said she was feeling “raped.”

We validated her feelings and ultimately brought healing back to this memory. It's amazing that when I think back on it now, I don’t even feel a charge recalling it. 

Flash forward six months when the #metoo posts started coming out:

I do not have particularly charged moments in my memory related to sexual abuse or harassment, so I didn’t make a post. However, I watched as woman after woman in my community stepped forward to share, and I bore witness with love. 

Right around this time I went to a sweat lodge ceremony and inside the dark, hot space representing the womb of Mother Earth, women around me began sharing their experiences of abuse.

My biggest prayer going into that lodge was to receive insight and healing for my jaw. I listened as these women around me shared about their experiences. As I listened, I began crying, quite loudly for these women, as many other people also cried in the complete darkness, the womb of the earth. I closed my eyes and began seeing memories of myself in the dentist’s chair and I had an insight, “No one ever asked my permission.” 

All the fillings I had at age 5 and 6, the palette spreader (a piece of metal used to spread apart the upper palette) in the roof of my mouth when I was 9, the doctor’s visits where I felt prodded and poked.

There was no consent. I do not have a memory of someone kindly sitting down to explain to me what was going to happen, why it was going to happen and to ask if that would be ok with me.

These things just happened. 

Now, I do not place blame on any of the adults who were concerned in these situations. They did not know to ask. They were never taught to ask. They were taught to help people and to do what they were trained to do.

I can’t say I wanted to keep going on with cavities in my teeth, and I am very grateful to have straight teeth and a beautiful smile today. These were routine procedures. And these people were trained to do them. I have great compassion and appreciation for all of these professionals.

But in that sweat lodge as I connected to that little girl who was never asked permission, I finally understood why she used that word, “rape” in describing the enormity of her pain.

As I connected with her, the tears just started flowing. I let out loud sobs. More memories came back.  

All the times this sweet little girl was not asked permission. Most of the memories were related to visits with licensed professionals - pediatricians,  dentists and orthodontists. 

She was holding an enormous amount of pain, her own and of the women in the space who had shared their stories. I held it all. I let myself feel it all. It was intense work. 

But by the end of that lodge I had new insights around places I needed to create boundaries with practitioners I see, and how I actually needed to ask my jaw for permission any time I put in a night guard or retainer in my mouth. I also saw how I could ask for permission with beings around me - friends, family, even my cat.

I also realized - when we explain to a child what is happening and why - I believe the child will be quite open to giving their permission if the procedure truly is in their highest good. But the insight I had was that it almost doesn’t matter what the answer is and what ends up happening -  the simple act of asking for permission IS the healing. 

I remember a few months ago when Nisha Moodley made a post about how she asks her son for permission before she picks him up. The post went viral. Her son is not yet of talking age, yet she waits for an energetic permission from him before picking him up. I love this. This doesn’t mean she wouldn’t pick him up if he was in harm’s way, but it is an act of honoring him as a sovereign being and a statement that his body is his. 

So while I was in the lodge feeling the enormity of that little girl’s pain - I realized that if I was holding that much trauma in my jaw from not receiving permission for a routine procedure in a doctor’s office, I could not imagine the enormity of the pain and trauma for others who never gave their permission in numerous other, more dangerous circumstances. My heart is with all of these people. I have tapped into the pain in that field and it is enormous. My heart is  especially with all the men and women who stepped forward to share their #metoo moments in the past few weeks (as well as all of those who did not feel ready to share).

I am also seeing how important it is for me and for all of us to acknowledge and validate our own pain, no matter how big or small it is. No, I was not sexually abused or assaulted by my doctor, but I did discover there was a little girl inside of me who was holding a great amount of pain  from experiences where she did not give consent.

Now I can’t say that feeling my pain led to instant healing of my jaw clenching. This is still a long and winding road of healing. But do I feel a little farther on the path? Yes. Absolutely. 

The truth is I am still waking up with pain and headaches quite often. I still feel frustrated a lot of the time. But something about having this insight about permission has been really healing for me. 

I now have a huge amount of insight into how I will raise my children, and how I will speak to them and ask for permission. 

Asking permission is the gateway to recognizing ourselves and others as sovereign beings.

If you are one of the many people also having jaw clenching or grinding in your sleep, my heart is with you. If you are one of the many who are holding a painful memory or experience where you did not consent, my heart is also with you.

The one piece of advice I offer you today is to pray. Pray for healing. Pray for insight. That is how this piece of wisdom came to me. Ask to be guided in your healing. 

Can you hold the moments in your life where you did not give permission with love? Can you hold that little girl or boy inside of you the way a mother would hold a child?

And how can you use your pain for greater good? Where could you ask for permission before taking action with those around you? 

Asking ourselves these kinds of questions is how we create change in the world. When we recognize, reconcile and heal our own traumas, we stop the pattern of abuse. We learn to act differently. 

That’s when we finally put a stop to the unconscious patterns passed down through our lineage.

The healing starts with you. 

With love,
Meredith

 

My prayer for you this summer

 
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After a couple long days on the computer and phone this week, I was experiencing lower back pain and getting frustrated with technology glitches (that are bound to happen in Mercury retrograde).  I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, so when things weren't working, I fully surrendered. I dropped everything and went to Amma's ashram in San Ramon.  If you're unfamiliar with my work or stories about Amma, she is known as "hugging saint" - a guru from India who travels around the world giving people hugs.

Upon arrival, I immediately felt a shift within myself.  I felt the calming energy, I ate the food made with love, and I was met with smiling faces saying "Om namah shivaya."  (I bow to the divinity that resides within us all)

I meditated, sang, and stayed up until the early morning hours to receive a hug from the divine mother, the hugging saint, Amma.

While there, I received a massage that eased my lower back pain, I held my intention to join women from around the world in 40 days of sacred practice and devotion, I prayed for renewal, and to surrender to how spirit would have things go.  I fully let it go.

The next day, I went to our dear friend Tirza's yoga class.  She had invited Michael to sing for her class, and for the first time, I got to receive Michael's beautiful songs while participating (rather than being the teacher).

On our tour, there were many moments when students cried (his music really touches your heart). I was always moved, but held the space for what wanted to arise in others.

As a participant, moving through the poses, I had the thought, "I have been so hard on myself!" 

"For what?" I wondered.

I realized, any stress I feel in my life has been completely self-created. 

Tears streamed down my face as a new mantra entered my mind, "My life is already so beautiful. There's no need for more pressure. Let it be easy." 

Let it be easy! So simple. So true.

So today, I will continue to tune into my heart, and prioritize my practices and connection to spirit.

I know from experience, it takes courage to slow down, and prioritize our devotion and self-care practices.  It takes courage to face our fears, and follow our dreams in service to our calling, and a higher good...

This is what I want for you:

Permission to love yourself first and to follow your dreams and your heart, no matter what. 

To face your fears and take action, but to do it all with ease, grace, spaciousness and most importantly, faith. 

Since that day at Amma's, a rush of women have joined me in the VISION sisterhood to manifest their desires this summer, and there are now only a few spaces left.

If you feel called to make space for this new way of living this summer, I would love to have you as part of this sisterhood.   I invite you to join us here. 

Love, Meredith

 

What I've learned about intuition

 
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I see many people in our society numbing themselves out. Whether it be through alcohol, food, drugs, caffeine, painkillers or antidepressants – many of us are trying to distract ourselves from what is really going on.

This was the case for me for a long time.  When I felt sad, I went to sugar.  When I had pain in my body, I took an advil or had a glass of wine to distract myself.  When I had a project due that I didn't want to finish, I'd drink caffeine to push through it.

Our bodies are full with wisdom and they send us very clear signals when something needs to shift in our lives.

We develop pain, skin problems, or other symptoms when something is not right.  It is our job to listen to those signals instead of pushing them away.

I believe intuition is so important because it guides us closer to our purpose.  When we numb out the wisdom of our bodies, we lose our connection to divine guidance, we forget why we are here, and as a result can easily suffer from depression or feelings of meaninglessness.

However:

When we use our intuition, we are guided to our highest potential as beings and are able to live more meaningful, synchronous and connected lives.

What I’ve learned about intuition: 

1. Your intuition lives in your body 

That’s why we need practices like yoga, dance, active meditation, running, and movement to access it.  You need to form a connection to your body, take care of it through food, baths, showers, body butter, and be there with it during the difficult times too.

2. Your intuition can be very quiet 

It takes being with the busy mind and having a mindfulness practice to be still enough to listen to that inner voice.  The rational mind will come up with all kinds of reasons to do something, but a little inner voice or feeling will tell you when it’s not right.

3.  You need to stop inputting information to digest the information that is already there

When you’re on the phone, the computer, reading magazines, or even books, you are inputting new information into the brain.  However, in order to access the intuitive state, you need to stop inputting new information to digest the information that’s already there.

That’s why going to a yoga class, going on a run, being in nature, or meditating are the best ways to access your intuition.

Those are the times you turn off distractions and you are solely with your body, your thoughts and your spirit.

Karen and I are excited about the response we've gotten for our Spring Equinox Retreat!  There are now only four spots left and it is definitely going to sell- out before the early-bird deadline on March 9.  If you feel called to join us and create space to listen to your intuition and wisdom of the body, you can reserve your space here. 

Love & light, Meredith

 

My before & after story (and 10 steps I took to feel great in my body)

 
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Today I wanted to share with you about a time in my life I haven't publicly shared about before.  On the internet, it's easy to show off our best selves and not talk about the struggles we have had, but when I think back to why I even became interested in nutrition in the first place, it was because of my own health issues.

My struggles have made me who I am today, so I hope in sharing what I've been through, you too will begin to see that real change is possible.  Any hardships you are experiencing right now are ultimately necessary to take you where you need to be.  I now feel great in my body, however, I did not always feel this way.  I had serious struggles with weight gain, acne, and slow digestion, and at the time it was really hard to love myself.  Now, I am grateful for those struggles, because they have guided me to be where I am today: lean, energized, happy and sharing all of my knowledge to help other people.

It all started three years ago when I traveled to India.  I arrived with a one-way ticket and a six month VISA and was determined to stay as long as I could.  Little did I know, my health would take a toll during my time there.

Chai was literally on every corner and I loved it.  Every day I drank the milky, caffeinated, sweet cup full of sugar, two, three, sometimes even four or five times a day.  I ate buttery, salty restaurant food (and sometimes ashram food depending where I was staying) for breakfast, lunch and dinner, everyday, for six months.

I ate ZERO raw food because I was advised by my doctors in the US to avoid all raw greens and vegetables because the water it was washed with might not be safe.

I wore flowy, loose shawls and ali baba pants for six months and had no access to a full-length mirror or a scale, so I didn't even notice when I added an extra 15 pounds to my normal weight.  However, I knew something was wrong because my skin was breaking out with cystic acne and I was tired all the time.  The extra 15 pounds, did not make me feel more womanly, I just felt heavy, lethargic, and constipated.

When I was back in the states, my dermatologist gave me antibiotics to clear my skin, so to add to the whole problem, I wiped out all my friendly intestinal flora bacteria.  It was the third time my dermatologist had me take several weeks worth of antibiotics, and this time, it did not help my skin, but it only made it worse.

On top of it all, I came home to no job, no home (besides my parents), no community, and no boyfriend.  I felt lost.

That was when I started searching.  I thought, there must be something I can do to fix this BESIDES take more pills.   After the antibiotics, my doctor wanted to give me accutane, more antibiotics and birth control pills.  I remember asking him, "Is there anything I can change in how I eat?"  and he replied, "No, that is just a myth that what you eat affects your skin.  You should just stick to the pills."

 

That was when I took my health into my own hands and went to the internet.  Through my research, I learned my skin was breaking out because my liver and intestinal track were congested and my hormones were out of balance.  Taking accutane, antibiotics, or birth control pills would only further mask and worsen the underlying problem.

My research then led me to solutions.  Simple solutions: I need to change how I eat.

I stopped making the doughy parathas and chapathis made from white flour that I learned how to cook in India, and started making green smoothies.  I learned how to cook delicious, healthy meals full of fiber and nutrients, I rebuilt my intestinal flora, I made new friends, discovered my love of teaching yoga, fell in love with my now boyfriend, and in 2013, decided to go to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach.   Within one year, I cleared my skin, optimized my digestion, lost the weight I gained, and finally felt happy.   

So here are the 10 steps I took to get started: 

1. I drank more water 

75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.  Drinking more water has been proven to cure all kinds of ailments including headaches, constipation, toxic overload, even stomach ulcers.  Before I do anything else in the morning, I drink an 8 oz glass of water (and sometimes I add fresh squeezed lemon for vitamin C and liver cleansing properties).

It is best to drink water before having caffeine in the morning and to drink one or two glasses of water for every cup of coffee. You should be able to have a bowel movement within half an hour of drinking a glass of water every morning, before drinking caffeine.

2. I balanced my hormones (and added in tons of fibrous whole foods)

My mood was all over the place when I came back from travelling.  The acne I had was hormonal - near the mouth and along the jaw line.  First I cleared my pathways of elimination so extra estrogens in my body could be eliminated by my liver and intestinal track.  Then I learned about what foods to eat during each part of my cycle.  I started eating greens with every meal, brown rice and quinoa and beans.  I switched from butter to coconut oil and supplemented my diet with Omega 3's from fish and cold pressed flax oil.

Learn more about balancing your hormones in my program, Nutrition for Clear Skin and Balanced Hormones.  

3. I made my own sauerkraut and goat milk Kefir for probiotics to rebuild my intestinal flora 

Most probiotic pills don't make it through the acids of the stomach to the intestines.  I started making whole food sources of probiotics like  raw sauerkraut (recipe here) and raw goat milk kefir.  Goat's milk is tolerated by even many who are lactose intolerant because the digestive system of a goat is more similar to a human.  When the kefir grains sit in the goat milk, it makes the proteins even more digestible through the process.  These fresh strains of probiotics healed my intestinal track from years of overusing antibiotics.

4.  I drank warm water and Magnesium calm before bed 

Many Americans are deficient in Magnesium - a key mineral necessary for the body to absorb calcium.  Magnesium also relaxes the muscles, helps you sleep through the night, and loosens the stools to minimize constipation.  "Magnesium Calm" is a white powder and can be found in the supplement aisle of any Whole Foods or health food store.

5. I cut out dairy 

Hormones in milk today are affecting the delicate hormonal balance of many women.  Cow's milk inparticular is very congesting to the human body and can be difficult to digest.  After drinking non organic low fat milk for many years, my body became sensitive to dairy, and it congested my system.  As soon as I stopped drinking cow's milk, my constipation lessened and my skin started clearing.

If you are going to drink milk or eat cheese, eat it to be the way nature intended it to be:  full fat, from healthy animals that graze in the fresh air on green plants.

6. I switched from processed sweets and cane sugar to agave nectar, honey, dates, coconut palm sugar and stevia 

I used to have intense sugar cravings.  Especially any time I felt sad or lonely, I immediately went to sugar to lift me up.  It became a struggle, because my blood sugar levels would spike, then quickly drop, making me more depressed, and have even less energy.  The sugar fed the candida in my system, and with no healthy intestinal flora, I became constipated and gained weight.  When I came back from India, I couldn't quit sugar all at once, so I switched from all cane sugar products to sweeteners with a lower glycemic index such as agave, honey, dates, coconut palm sugar and stevia.

7. I started making green smoothies and switched to a primarily raw foods diet for the first month to kickstart my new eating habits

Green smoothies became my FAVORITE breakfast.  I read all of Victoria Boutenko's books and eventually bought my own vitamix to enjoy the creamy, delicious smoothies.  Green smoothies allowed me to pack in more nutrients in my diet and helped me clear out my digestive track.  Because the green smoothies are made with not just greens, but also fruit, they taste delicious, and my body started craving greens.  My first month determined to improve my health, I ate about 80% raw foods to help my body detoxify and start better long term habits.  If you want to learn more about green smoothies, download my green smoothie handbook with 15 recipes.

8. I made self-care and self-love a daily practice 

It was hard to love myself when I didn't feel good in my body.  I took small steps to start loving myself, because I knew when I loved myself, I would naturally choose the best foods to put in my body.  I started taking salt baths, rubbing my favorite cacao body butter over my whole body, and used affirmations.  It felt uncomfortable at first, but it has become one of my favorite rituals in my life.  My clients receive my favorite self-care gifts to start nourishing and loving their body in my programs.

9.  I found my community 

It was hard to arrive back from six months in India to old friends in New York that went out to bars for fun.  I was hardly interested in staying out late or drinking alcohol, and I was ready to find a community that had a similar interest in health and wellbeing.  When I moved back to California I meditated every day on finding the right friends and the right home, and within three months, founded an intentional community house in Berkeley with six friends.  Everyone loved to cook, knew so much about healthy eating, and wanted to set aside two hours a day for silence and group meditation.  When I surrounded myself with the right environment, I learned from everyone around me and began to thrive.  When I no longer had to eat dinner alone, I stopped using food to fill the hole when I felt lonely.

10. I began a consistent daily spiritual practice 

My spiritual practice has gone through many transformations over the last three years, but it has always been something that keeps me grounded.  It is the time when I can reflect and vision, and come back to what is really important in life.  It connects me back to myself, brings me in touch with my body and emotions, and strengthens my intuition so I know what steps to take next in life.  It makes me feel connected to something larger than myself, and has helped me know my purpose and start living it.

How I cured my headaches

 
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Seven years ago I was stressed out, had chronic pain throughout my body, and terrible headaches that started behind my eye that moved down my neck all the way down my arm.  My jaw was tense, I used the computer way too much, and had little to no tools on how to deal with stress.  After visiting many doctors, having an MRI, meeting with physical therapists and sports therapists, I still had no solution better than pain killers.  One doctor even diagnosed my pain as fibromyalgia and wanted to start me on antidepressants.  Sadly, no one ever asked me about my lifestyle, my diet, looked at subtle physical misalignments or the amount of stress in my life.

It was around this time I started going to donation based yoga classes in a packed studio in New York City.  I would struggle through the one hour class waiting for that brief moment in savasana, the final resting pose, when I could experience peace.  The pain in my body would subside, my busy mind would quiet down, and I could have a glimpse of my true nature aspeaceful.

When I became a yoga teacher three years ago, I vowed to help others heal chronic pain in theirbody, the way my teachers had helped me.  Over the years I have cleared misalignments in mybody through yoga and dramatically changed my lifestyle to eliminate the high stress levels I was experiencing.  I attended workshops and trainings on therapeutic yoga with Sianna Sherman, and really came to have a deeper understanding of my body.  I no longer felt helpless, because when pain arose, I knew how to clear it.

When I moved to Sebastopol, I found fellow Anusara trained teacher, Mark Lundbeck.  Mark has experienced similar profound healing in his own body through yoga, and even spent 12 years in Tahoe incorporating yoga principles of therapeutics into physcial therapy offices in Tahoe.

For the last seven months I have been attending Mark's private therapeutic sessions, diving into the world of biomechanical alignment principles and seeing profound empowerment and physical change in his clients.  Through these sessions I have learned so much about my ownbody and have become a better teacher to my students.

I'm proud to be leading my first therapeutics workshop with Mark this Sunday at Alive Yoga.  If you are interested in clearing pain from your own body (from misalignment or injury), want to deepen your understanding and practice of yoga, or are a teacher and want to gain more knowledge for your students, I highly recommend you attend.

Love, Meredith

P.S. You can also watch my video, 5 yoga poses for headaches  

 

Natural cures for 5 different kinds of headaches

 
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What if someone told you finding the right cure for your headache was as simple as figuring out what kind of headache you have?  According to Annemarie Colbin of FoodAndHealing.com, this is exactly what you should do.  After listening to her lecture through my school, I was ecstatic to know my regular tension headaches would dissipate after drinking a glass of lemon water with honey!  According to Annemarie, there are 5 kinds of headaches, with 5 specific cures.  If you are unsure of what kind of headache you have, try one of these cures and wait to see the results.  If you don't notice any change, you can always try another.

1. Expansive Headache An expansive headache is from eating too many sugary foods.  To cure this kind of headache you want to eat something from the Contractive side of the spectrum in the diagram below (salty foods.)

2. Contractive Headache A contractive headache is also described as a tension headache.  It can arise from tightness in the jaw, eating too much meat, or not eating enough food in general.  It can be cured by eating healthy sweet foods that are more "expansive."  Some common contractive headache cures are applesauce, juice, lemon water with honey, or italian ice.

You want to eat mostly balanced foods on this spectrum.  You will notice if you eat too many foods on the expansive or contractive end, your body naturally gravitates to eat foods on the opposite end to find balance.  For example, people that eat a lot of meat, generally also drink coffee and are addicted to sugar and/or alcohol.  Lessening meat intake lowers the cravings for these expansive foods.

3. Liver Headache A liver headache is also known as a migraine.  Migraines occur when you eat too much fat on an empty stomach (such as a bag of potato chips).  This puts strain on the liver and causes a migraine.  The liver is connected to the health of our eyes - so that's why you may see spots or have poor vision during a migraine.  Luckily there is a natural cure: - Squeeze 1/2 an organic lemon into a glass then simmer the peel for 10 minutes in 2 cups of pure water.  - Let the boiled lemon peel water cool then add it to the juice and drink.

4. Caffeine Headache This kind of headache arises when you stop drinking caffeine.  The cure for this one is to drink a little caffeine.  In order to stop drinking coffee or black tea, gradually drink a smaller amount at the same time each day to avoid a caffeine headache.

5. Structural Headache A structural headache is the kind of pain that arises from a misalignment in the body.  The cure for a structural headache is yoga and/or chiropractic adjustments.