• The Heart’s Wisdom Provides Resilience

    This article originally appeared in Natural Awakenings magazine.

    Through the ages, poets, playwrights, composers and other artists have explored the wisdom of the heart. When making important life choices, our loved ones often tell us to listen to our hearts. But what really happens when we choose to override our logical brains and instead go with the urging in our hearts?

    “Our hearts are wise in ways we are just now beginning to fully understand,” shares Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., author, educator and one of the founding members of the Institute of HeartMath, a nonprofit research and education organization, in Boulder Creek, California, dedicated to helping people reduce stress, self-regulate emotions, and build energy and resilience. “Studies have shown that the brain is not always in charge—it actually marches to the beat of the heart’s rhythmic pattern. The Institute’s research validates that the wisdom of the heart is more than just a metaphor.”

    According to Rozman, studies suggest that when our heart rhythm pattern is in a coherent state, like a sine wave (smooth, repetitive oscillations); our internal systems operate more in sync. As she describes it, “We have a tighter coupling and closer alignment with our source of intuitive intelligence. There is an increased flow of intuitive information that is communicated via the heart to the mind/brain, resulting in a stronger connection with our inner voice.”

    Researchers at the Institute of HeartMath have found evidence that the heart’s energy is connected to a field of information that is not bound by the classic limits of time and space. “This energetic heart is tied to a deeper part of our self. Some refer to this deeper aspect as our soul or a higher power or higher capacities; it is what physicist David Bohm called the implicate order and undivided wholeness,” explains Rozman.

    The team at the Institute of HeartMath has devoted itself to showing others how to tap into the heart’s wisdom and live heart-centered lives. “Our mission is really to help people align their mental, emotional and physical system with the intuitive guidance of the heart,” says Rozman. “Heart intelligence is the flow of awareness we experience when our minds and emotions are in coherent alignment with the heart.”

    So, how exactly does one get aligned with the heart? The key is tapping into practical intuition; that is, getting our hearts and brains working coherently and synergistically. “Practical intuition is the wisdom of the heart in action. And once we’re in that state, we reduce stress and create more inner peace and poise as we go about our day,” says Rozman. “Our nervous systems become more balanced and the feelings we experience are ones of love and joy.”

    We’ve all been in situations where being in a person’s presence has made us feel anxious or upset. We’re also often able to sense the energy of an entire room or crowd full of people. “Our hearts are transmitters of electromagnetic energy,” Rozman asserts. “We feel people’s hearts through their words, energy and thoughts. We often refer to it as vibes. If the energy transmitted is chaotic, it can create stress.”

    On the flipside, if we’re in a state of coherence, it affects the world around us in a positive light. “When people in a coherent state begin radiating that electromagnetic energy, those around them have increased feelings of unity, flow, love and peace,” states Rozman. “Through HeartMath, we teach people how to get into that synchronized feeling of coherence so they produce those beautiful, harmonic waveforms more often.”

    The Institute of HeartMath offers a variety of ways for people to learn how to manage their energies. In addition to comprehensive certified training programs, HeartMath offers Heart Mastery courses, corporate training programs, books, online courses and self-assessment tools.

    “The goal is to learn the tools and to create a dramatic reboot of the heart rhythm to change your baseline stress response into a more coherent one,” remarks Rozman, adding that the heart’s intuitive guidance is always available to us. “Life is life,” she says. “We’re not always going to be in a state of coherence, but with practice, we can become more aware and truly hear what our hearts are telling us. We can build resilience and realize that no matter what happens during the day, we can always shift back into a balanced, heart-coherent state. Then, the next time we’re stuck in traffic, rather than being upset about it, we can appreciate other things going on around us, like the scenery or a song playing on the radio.”

    For more information, visit HeartMath.org and click on the Free Services tab to get started, or visit Facebook.com/instituteofheartmath.

  • Invite Transformation at Yoga Den Bayard

    This article originally appeared in the Jacksonville, FL, edition of Natural Awakenings magazine.

    Tina Knight and Andrew Jones, co-owners of Yoga Den Bayard, never cease to be amazed at the transformative power of yoga they’ve witnessed, both personally and in the lives of their yoga community, over the past 15 months.

    Tina, who first began practicing yoga in 2003, became a yoga teacher in 2013, and eventually taught classes at the Southside and Mandarin Yoga Den locations. In 2017, Tina’s life began guiding her in other directions, so she took a break from yoga instruction—but that didn’t last long. When an opportunity arose in early 2020 to purchase the Yoga Den Bayard studio, Tina felt a divine nudge to hop back onto the mat—this time as a studio owner.

    While Andrew wasn’t a yoga aficionado at the time, he wholeheartedly supported Tina in pursuing her dreams. “Interestingly, six weeks after we took ownership of the studio, the pandemic hit so we had to close our doors,” recalls this former Marine, who’s strong ability to adapt and thrive became an invaluable resource. “We began offering all the classes online, and with my technical background, I was able to help facilitate that,” he says.

    To ensure classes ran smoothly, Andrew monitored many of them live. “Since I was watching them anyway, I figured I might as well join in,” shares this devoted yogi. “At first, it was really challenging. I was dealing with chronic back pain and couldn’t even touch my shins in a forward fold.” But as the weeks and months progressed, Andrew not only noticed an improvement in his yoga practice, but his entire life. “Overall, I feel mentally calmer, I sleep better, I’m physically healthier, and no longer suffer with the back pain. I really learned to read my body more. The studio was Tina’s dream, but I ended up taking it over,” he laughs.  

    Tina couldn’t be more thrilled that Andrew’s introduction to yoga has been such a profound experience. “He was so inspired that he, too, became a yoga instructor,” says this passionate yogini, who loves that the studio has become such an integral part of both of their lives.   

    While opening a new business during a global pandemic has had its challenges, the pair shares that it has also had an abundance of blessings. “For instance, when we had to shut down, we were able to take our time with the remodel and do it ourselves,” says Andrew, noting how much he appreciates the natural, earth-inspired atmosphere they’ve created inside the space.

    “It’s been quite an adventure, but we’ve always had just enough of the good stuff to keep us pushing through,” asserts Tina. “Instead of worrying about the future, we stay in the present and work on adapting to whatever comes our way.” Andrew agrees. “We constantly get the opportunity to take the same lessons we teach in our classes and apply them in our own lives.”

    And speaking of the good stuff, this dynamic duo agrees that their yoga community is nothing short of amazing. “Our teachers are outstanding. The students all support one another. We really couldn’t be more pleased with our tribe. It feels like a very sacred container we’ve created,” affirms Tina.

    “I’m so glad Tina had the original vision. We want to help as many people as possible—including veterans and active-duty military personnel,” shares Andrew.

    “We all follow the Yoga Den philosophy of no judgement or expectations. This ensures that our studio truly is a welcoming environment for anyone seeking the wide variety of benefits that a regular yoga practice can offer,” says Tina “Just showing up to your mat is the hardest part sometimes. But once you’re there, the magic happens. We all settle into the space and tap into the energy of the room,” she explains. “As a teacher, my favorite moment is when we move into savasana; when everyone has surrendered and allowed themselves to just let go.”

    Andrew agrees that showing up can often be the hardest part. “Being a teacher helps keeps me energized and committed to the practice—especially on the days when showing up can be a challenge,” he says. “Yoga can play such an integral part of any self-care regimen. Our society doesn’t place enough of an emphasis on self-care. It’s so important to make time to take care of ourselves. I invite anyone curious about the transformative effects of a yoga practice to come check us out.”

    Yoga Den Bayard is located in the Shoppes of Bayard at 12525 Philips Hwy. #204, in Jacksonville. For more information, call 904-806-3702 or visit Yoga-den.com/shoppes-of-bayard.

  • Eating on the Edge: Seven Virtues Coffee House

    This spotlight appeared in my column titled Eating on the Edge for the Portland Eats Out Dining Club.

    A week’s worth of stress dissipates the moment I step into Seven Virtues Coffee House. It’s light and airy and spacious with an upscale industrial ambience. The gallery of local artwork displayed on the west wall, which includes several shoebox diorama art pieces, adds a Burtonesque touch to the contemporary vibe.

    The environment just beckons one to linger and soak it all in while you tap out the next great memoir, plan your retirement or next year’s trip to Burning Man. You catch my drift. You just want to hang there—all day long. It’s also a great place to bring your pals because there’s plenty of room for a tribe to commune in the cozy sitting nook near the front entrance.

    Naturally, I ordered a coffee bean concoction, along with a Fruity Forgiveness summer drink, a Vegan Moroccan tart, and a vegan and gluten-free chocolate chip cookie from Nuvrei Pastries. If kindness is a virtue, then it comes in the form of my sinfully delicious decaf soy mocha, served up in a tall glass decorated with a lotus flower soy whip swirl. Very impressive barista work indeed. It was so pretty I almost didn’t want to ruin it by taking a sip. But take a sip I did; how could I resist? Luckily, I didn’t have to practice patience as the temperature was ripe for instant gratification. Yummy, yum, yum!

    I toggled between mocha and delightfully refreshing summer drink before disappearing into my savory, veggie-filled vegan Moroccan tart. The lovely blend of spices swimming around in a tomato-based sauce reminded me of autumn. The tart had a perfect balance of textures and was downright delicious. The tasty cookie only added to my already enjoyable experience.

    Closing time came way too soon, so I shuffled out the door, smiling, already anticipating my next visit.



  • Interview with Charlene Proctor, author of 'Let Your Goddess Grow!'

    This article originally appeared in Natural Awakenings magazine.

    Natural Awakenings recently caught up with Charlene Proctor, Ph.D., author of Let Your Goddess Grow! 7 Spiritual Lessons on Female Power and Positive Thinking. Her book reveals how women and men can harness the power needed to create a positive and balanced life. She is also the founder of The Goddess Network, an online community with over 25,000 members that inspires women to embrace the idea of the divine feminine and celebrate the feminine principle. Within minutes of our meeting, I felt immediately connected to her. She was very comfortable to be around and had many fascinating stories to share. We spoke for awhile when she told me how The Goddess Network came into being.

    CP: My background is a social scientist and I spent many years pursuing that particular paradigm; the logical, orderly type of left brain persona. One day I pulled up into this organization I was working with and I couldn’t get out of the car. I was over 40 years old, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks that I‘d spent my entire life pursuing only half of what constituted me as a whole person. And rolled into that was a dedication to a very male value set. At that moment, I realized that if I didn’t spend the second half of my life balancing this analytical perspective on life with the intuitive and feminine side, and to integrate a sense of spirituality into my work, I just wasn’t going to make it. That was the day The Goddess Network was born.

    NA: What are the biggest, positive thinking challenges women face?

    CP: The first lesson here is about release, and until we allow more room for growth, until we make space for it, how are we going to get there? You have to look back and honor your past, which is hard for us to do. We have a great need to engage in a grounded spirituality, one that honors our path. Women really need to seek meaning very deeply in the everyday. It is very hard for us to compartmentalize and our brains don’t work that way anyway, and I talk about that in the book.

    Women want to be like Spiderwoman of the Native American tradition. She is a wonderful metaphor for everything women are all about today. We see ourselves as the center of this web that emanates from our heart center. Because we have a deep desire to bind our communities and relationships and families together, we tend to fill our minds up with so much of that instead of letting go of the things that no longer serve us well. And of course, that is when we short circuit. So, letting go is definitely a positive thinking challenge.

    Another challenge is that there is still so much old world family ideology and old cultural values and elements of our wisdom traditions that tell women that they are blemished and half of a person, that they are not whole unto themselves. And if we talk about old mental programming that might affect our perspective in life, this is still very evident to me. I see it all the time. I have been to workshops where women will tell me they grew up their entire lives and never heard anything positive about being female because they were being told who they were based on some particular religious doctrine. That is very damaging because we not only carry it around in our collective female psyche as a group energy with all women, but we hold that inside, and there is so much pain in that.

    Now if a woman can begin to think positive and release the past and old mental programming about who she is as an authentic person, the final bridge to cross is truly believing that we are individual sparks of divinity, which is our natural state. So if you get to that point in the process and you don’t accept that, you can’t be a conscious co-creator of your reality because you are not accepting who you are. I think that embracing the concept of the divine feminine is a missing part of us. I would hope that would be one of the big ideas that a person, man or woman, would take away from this book. And when we can really understand what that is, it brings us a sense of balance.

    NA: Many people, including myself, find themselves starting their day already on a negative track. How can we change that?

    CP: One of the challenges that women have is that we don’t set our energy immediately on the right track. We need more practice at positive thinking and we need the discipline to do it all day long. Do you remember what Joe Dispenza said in the movie What The Bleep Do We Know!? about consciously creating your day? What he was telling us was that we need to spend more time being the witness to our experience. Be the observer of your life and step back, you aren’t denying your emotions or your earth walk. You have to do this first thing in the morning. Get up and say “I am conscious of my emotional state, I am calm and centered, I am without boundaries, I am limitless, I am experiencing my The right mindset to achieving abundance is to embrace your divine nature. You have to truly internalize that you are an unlimited creation. true self and I am a marvelous spark of the divine. It is always the ‘I AM‘“. That really is one of the most powerful phrases that any of us could speak. It brings the idea into mind that before we start our day we are inviting this genius to operate through us. Your mind will fight it, but the mind is much more elastic than we ever thought possible.

    When I consciously create my day, I am not referring to the “to do” list. It is about achieving an awareness of who you are. It is a very intuitive process and moves you into feeling more balanced.

    NA: How can we arrive at abundance thinking?

    CP: Everybody is concerned about abundance, and I tell you, abundance is a spiritual lesson about getting the whole thing. It’s about manifesting and materializing that. The right mindset to achieving abundance is to embrace your divine nature. You have to truly internalize that you are an unlimited creation. Once we really, completely surrender ourselves to that idea, to let it reverberate through us like a song, we are able to think unlimited and attract that abundance into our lives because it is our natural state of being. That was a difficult lesson for me growing up, and I learned the hard way because I never had anyone to teach these things to me. I had to discover it on my own and take a lot of self inventory.

    NA: How did honoring your past help with writing Let your Goddess Grow?

    CP: We use our own lives as a process to help bring other people along. If it wasn’t for my past, I wouldn’t be a good writer. This book came from a lot of my own personal experience and certainly in the subject of positive thinking. The house that I grew up in was the antithesis of positive thinking. My parents were from the depression era so I grew up in a house where abundance was not a concept. When you have old mental programming that tells you that you don’t consciously create your life and that things happen to you solely by luck or accident, then you are left with a sense of not being in charge of your life, and not having any idea how much power the mind has to manifest your external reality. It always starts internally, that is the natural law. As within so without, as above so below. We still don’t get it. We are in a physical existence and there’s earth rules.

    NA: Did you ever feel the pressure when you were writing this book, like why me?

    CP: Oh yes, the calling. When Mother God dials your number, you take the call. And you don’t hang up the phone . Certainly that day in the car was a calling for me to change directions. And that doesn’t mean we need to leave everything behind. Wherever we find ourselves on our journey incorporates everything that we are up to that point, so it’s never lost. You have to put yourself in neutral, take your foot off the gas and just go. And so, I never looked back.

    NA: How does it feel, just putting yourself out there and knowing how the work you’re doing is affecting so many people?

    CP: Putting yourself out there and finding that voice within you is very hard for everyone. It doesn’t come naturally at all for most of us, and for women, oh my Goddess; we have a lot of trouble getting that voice out. That is why I am really firm with people who come to the workshops that you have to vocalize, to speak something. I don’t care if you are just going to say your name. Get those words out and get it started. Pull it out of yourself and declare your name and who you are and why you came. It is important for us to do that. We are all participating in our self-evolution. My advice to people on a similar path to finding their voice is simply this-try to surrender a little bit more. And to not be so fearful because we are all going to land softly. Explore your life and your journey with a sense of imagination.

    For more information on Charlene Proctor visit www.thegoddessnetwork. net.


    The following are affirmations excerpted from The Women’s Book of Empowerment, 323 Affirmations that Change Everyday Problems into Moments of Potential, the companion book to Let Your Goddess Grow.

    Worrying: I am safe and secure knowing my needs are anticipated by divine order. Today I surrender to the flow of the universe with trust. Everything I need appears at the right time. I no longer feel compelled to plan every move. I make my choices freely and look forward to the surprises that come my way, knowing they are for my higher good.

    Feeling As If I’m On a Treadmill: Today I stop to smell the flowers. My life is about thinking and feeling and not all about doing. By taking care of me first, I enhance my contribution to others. I am strong enough to say no when I sense that my energies may be misdirected. I focus on choosing experiences in my life that contribute to my own spiritual development.

    Money Never Comes Easily: I am grateful for every gift in my life. I am an open channel to receiving all my goodness, no matter where it comes from. I am now opening the door to an abundant and prosperous world, and I step through with joy. I love being receptive to all good in my life. I thank the universe for every gift that comes my way and know I am always ready to receive my good from everywhere, everything, and everyone.

  • Mankind Dispensary Caters to Cannabis Curious

    This article originally appeared in the February, 2019, edition of Natural Awakenings San Diego.

    Cathy Bliss, Director of Community Outreach for Mankind Cannabis, a fully licensed adult recreational and medical cannabis dispensary, loves that her focus at Mankind is to inspire, build community and educate others on the many health perks of cannabis.

    “Every day, more and more people are becoming cannabis curious and discovering the vast array of benefits this amazing plant has for both body and mind. As Community Outreach Director, I’m always out there talking to people. Did you know that the largest growing population seeking out cannabis is the 55 and older crowd? While a lot of them used marijuana recreationally in their youth, they’re now interested in it for health reasons,” explains Bliss, a former professional ice skater. “I was so focused on being an athlete in my teens and twenties that I totally missed the boat on the recreational marijuana scene. By the time I discovered cannabis, I was looking at it from a plant medicine perspective.”

    Bliss shares that she knows that newbies and those rediscovering the world of cannabis can find it hard to navigate. “I totally understand. In 2008, My husband and I, both holistic health advocates and curious about the health benefits of cannabis, went into a dispensary and walked out with an edible. Unfortunately, we weren’t instructed on how to use it and I ended up taking way too much for my body. It was a really rough night,” she recalls. That’s why she loves that Mankind Cannabis has made it part of their mission to educate the community on cannabis use.

    After her experience with the edible, Bliss dove into educating herself on cannabis and, through experimentation, discovered ways to ingest the plant that worked best for her body. About a year later, when her son, James Schmachtenberger, co-owner of Mankind Cannabis, suggested his family consider medical marijuana as a possible career path, she and her husband agreed. The trio opened their first medical marijuana business and have been enthusiastic supporters of the movement ever since.  

    Now that she’s been in the industry for a decade, Bliss is even more convinced of this plant medicine’s remarkable health-promoting abilities.  “Cannabis can help counteract so many medical issues and I have the amazing opportunity to help educate people who are dealing with conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, anxiety and depression. I love talking to moms with kids who have cancer and autism and hearing how cannabis drastically improves their children’s lives. I also enjoy talking to nurses and educating them on how and why cannabis works so well for so many different conditions.”

    With so many products and strains to choose from, Bliss knows that it can be a challenge to find the right match. Her advice? “Try a little bit of a lot of different things until you find the strains that work for your body,” she affirms. “Everybody is unique, so it’s important to find out what works for you. An edible might be a more ideal fit for someone older or a kid with autism. If you’re in pain, one hit off of a vape pen and your pain disappears. You can find strains that keep you awake or relax you. You have so many different options based on your individual needs at the time.”Bliss recommends taking a lot of notes while you journey to find what works best for you. “Become a biohacker,” she suggests. “And by all means, come in and check out our style. We love welcoming customers into our shop. Come in and talk to our consultants. We have an amazing amount of product and variety and we’re always happy to help you find something that works for you. Our shop is interactive, open, friendly, and everything is out-in-the-open so you can touch the products yourself. Ask as many questions as you like and stay as long as you like. We’re a very non-intimidating shop and love to be of service.”

    As part of her mission to educate the public, Bliss would be remiss to not mention Mankind Cannabis’s upcoming podcast. “I’m really excited about it. It will be a chance for me to talk directly to the community about their health issues. I can interview the moms whose kids are experiencing relief with their health challenges so that other parents can hear their perspectives. I want it to be an open forum and will invite input from the community on topics you’d like to see covered or people you’d like to have interviewed. It’s just another wonderful way we can all get to know more about this wonderful plant medicine.”

    Bliss also recommends watching the free documentary film, Marijuana Movie which can be found online at MarijuanaMovie.org. “My son, James, was the executive producer on this fantastic film. I highly suggest it for those cannabis curious folks who would like some extra assurance that consuming marijuana is okay,” she says.

    Mankind Cannabis is located at 7128 Miramar Rd., Ste. 10, in San Diego. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 855-MAN-KIND or visit MankindCannabis.com.

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