Family Meditation

MamaFloatMeditation

Photo by Dave Clark, all rights reserved.

I am always telling my patients, “Really, you can meditate anywhere.”

This picture is proof!  (Messy house, jammies and all.)

The back story…

Earlier tonight, I had a fierce headache.  I don’t get headaches very often, but this one was bad.  It sent me into a dark room with a tall glass of water and earplugs, determined to take a power nap and needle myself before launching into the bedtime routine with my 4- and 6-year olds.  It gave me new empathy for all the migraine sufferers I treat.  (Acupuncture is awesome for headaches, but it is more than challenging to needle oneself while in pain, and there aren’t any other Licensed Acupuncturists in my immediate family.)

Ah, a cool pillow, dark room, soft bed…but after seventeen interruptions by my kids within a ten minute period, I ditched the earplugs and emerged into the bright light of the living room.

My first grader was doing homework, and my preschooler was battling Daddy over how to de-knot-ify her wet, post-bath hair.

The bright light of the living room pierced my temples.  This headache wasn’t going anywhere.

I moved the coffee table aside, providing me with enough space to do a little bit of yoga.

My 4-year-old threw her comb aside and joined me in a few sun salutations.  Before I knew it, she was showing me yoga postures I didn’t know she could do.  If you want to be humbled, watch the effortless movement of a Gumby-like preschooler on a hard wood floor.

My 6-year-old ran up to us, shoved his assignment in my face and said, “Look, Mama, I’m done!”

The three of us moved around, scooped up the moon, poured it onto our heads, and rolled on the floor like snakes and cobras.

The headache was gone before I got to savasana.

I kept going, because I like to end each day with a brief seated meditation.  Usually do this after the kids are asleep; they usually only see me meditating in the early mornings, if they’re up before they’re supposed to be.

We sat in a semi-circle in perfect quiet for about a minute.

My husband grabbed his camera.

4-year-old moved into my lap because everything good is even better in Mama’s lap.

Husband snapped the photo above before 6-year-old climbed into HIS lap.

Then the four of us sat in perfect silence for at least three minutes.

Which as you know if you’re a parent, never happens.

So, yeah, I think I’ll stop saving meditation for myself and continue sharing it with my family.

What do you do for stress relief? What helps your family unwind after a long day?

Copyright Abigail Morgan, 2015.

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Cooking With My Kids: Two Meals for the Fall Equinox (Squash Soup & Lentil Sweet Potato Baked Burritos)

ButteringTheButternut

Today is the Autumnal Equinox.  Happy Fall!

I love this time of year.  Although here in Los Angeles it does not have the cool crisp feeling of Fall that I grew up with in New York City, the shift from summer to Fall is palpable.  The days are getting shorter, the 100+ degree heat wave is over (though it’s still hot!), and some of the trees are even boasting bright orange and yellow leaves.

In spite of the heat, we are in a time of transition from one season to another, and nourishing the Spleen and Stomach organ systems (the Earth element) with the right foods is crucial for creating groundedness during times of transition.

Many of you have asked me to share recipes and give tips on how to feed your family an organic, Real Food diet without losing your mind or going broke.  This series, Cooking with My Kids, is my attempt to do just that.  I will be posting more about the dishes we make and where we get our ingredients.

In my house, Sundays and Mondays are when I get most of the cooking and prep done for the week.  As I’ve shared here before, my kids and I hit our favorite farmer’s market early Sunday morning, and based on what we haul back and what (if anything…it’s been HOT here!) is growing in our garden, I create a meal plan for the week.

KidsPearsFarmersMarket

Then I wash, chop, prep and cook as much as I can on my days off (Sunday/Monday), so the fullness of my work week, shuttling kids to and from school and making meals is not so overwhelming.

Family dinners this time of year feel particularly important, and when they don’t result in sibling rivalry and food fights, they are also very satisfying.

We had these butternut squash growing in our garden…honestly, I had almost forgotten they were there, as I fell a bit behind on weeding what with the 100+ degree heat wave that hit L.A. this month.  (Seriously: my poor garden.)  As my Little One and I were watering our new fruit trees this morning (thank you, TreePeople, for the free mango and peach trees!), she reminded me of the butternuts hiding beneath the grass and overgrown green chard.

Oh, right: squash!

Here’s one as a baby (before I caught up on weeding):

Baby Butternut Squash

I should have taken pictures of the ones we picked yesterday…oops!

We planted them along with pumpkins in May, and unlike the pumpkins, they have been trucking along in spite of crazy drought conditions and being ignored for all of August and September.  (Those poor pumpkins.  They didn’t even make it to Halloween.)

The squash snapped right off the vine, and I almost expected to see worms crawling out when I sliced them open, but there was the bright orange flesh with its shiny seeds glistening like teeth.  The sage in my herb garden seems to thrive whatever the weather; I love using it for baked chicken, and it pairs very well with all kinds of winter squash, so worth having in your outdoor or container garden.

I grabbed my favorite cookbooks for soup inspiration, Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” (the 2010 version: I haven’t checked out the new one yet) and Sally Fallon’s in “Nourishing Traditions.”  I compared their cooking times for butternut squash: Madison says 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Fallon says 350 degrees for an hour.

To be honest, I hate following recipes.  I like to refer to them for ingredient inspiration, cooking temperatures and total cups of water or broth, and I have to give credit where credit is due for providing the spine of a recipe, but beyond that I tend to go off book and improvise.

You’ll find more specific instructions in the recipes in Madison’s and Fallon’s books, but my point here is that it’s easy to do your own thing: be inspired by a recipe but amend it to what’s in season, what you have on hand, and what your intuition and patience tells you to do.

For the butternut squash, for example, I split the difference and baked it at 360.  I forgot to set the timer.  (When prepping and cooking with an active 4-year-old, I have little time for left-brain stuff.  I follow my intuition!)

Since I knew I had to bake the butternut squash (I don’t have a dehydrator, and yuck, that would be gross), I figured I might as well bake some sweet potatoes while I was sweating indoors, and make two meals at once.  Make it three if you do a double batch of the soup!

This is one of my tricks: when you meal plan for the whole week, you can prep and cook similar items together, then refrigerate or freeze them until needed.  I make a big batch of bone broth (beef, bison or chicken) every other week, and freeze it in glass jars for when I need it.  (I keep meaning to freeze some in ice cube trays, for the perfect serving size to add to soups or stir-frys, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.)

Here’s the menu for two meals for the Autumnal Equinox.

Meal 1:

Butternut Squash Soup with Chicken Bone Broth & Fried Sage Leaves

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Spinach and Heirloom Tomatoes*

*I’m not including photos or a detailed recipe here, but you can make any sort of grilled cheese sandwich using good organic grassfed cheddar, gruyere, or swiss; I added sauteed spinach and some slices of heirloom tomato, and my favorite sourdough bread that we get at our local farmer’s market; I spread one side with butter and the pan with coconut oil, and cook until lightly browned.

Meal 2:

Lentil Sweet Potato Baked Burritos with Spinach, Sour Cream and Salsa

Sauerkraut (on the side)

Future Meal:

Leftover Butternut Squash Soup (freeze half the batch – or double-batch- in a glass container)

 

ButternutSoup

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH CHICKEN BONE BROTH & SAGE

Serves 6-8 (depending on the age & appetites of your family members)

(Double it if you want a freezer meal for later use)

3 small-medium butternut squashes (about 2 lb total, I think)

1 large red onion

8 cloves garlic, whole peeled

10 fresh sage leaves

1/4 tsp dried sage

1/4 tsp dried lemon verbena (oregano or lemon thyme are fine substitutes)

2 tsp Himalayan pink salt (+ more to taste)

6 c. chicken bone broth (follow my associate acupuncturist’s recipe for bone broth here) or chicken stock.  If you are vegetarian, you can use water instead, but you might need to add a little more salt or seasonings to enhance the flavor of the soup.

Pinch of cumin

Fresh ground pepper (to taste)

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) organic grassfed butter, for spreading on squash and sauteeing veggies

Fresh goat cheese (about 1/4 c.) or freshly grated pecorino romano (optional)

COOKING DIRECTIONS 

NOTE: I made the soup, the grilled cheese sandwiches and the ingredients for the Lentil-Sweet-Potato Baked Burritos at the same time; it requires some multi-tasking but means less time in the kitchen overall.  If you plan to do the same, read through this whole post before you start cooking.  If you’re only making the soup, ignore the part about putting the sweet potato in the oven and cooking the lentils and spinach (unless you need spinach for the Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.)

1. Preheat oven to 360.

2. Wash the butternut squash.  (Or ask your minions to do so.)

3. Cut squashes in half, remove seeds and discard.

4. Grease a baking sheet or glass baking pan with coconut oil.  (I let my 4-year-old do this with a paper towel.)

5. Spread organic, grass-fed butter all over the cut sides of the squash.  (Again, my daughter did this for me while I prepped some of the ingredients for the Lentil Sweet Potato Baked Burritos.)

6. Place squash pieces on the baking pan, cut-side down.  BAKE for 45 minutes.  (If you are making the Sweet Potato Sort-Of Enchiladas at the same time, BAKE the sweet potato on the lower shelf in the oven.)

7. Saute onions in a large soup pot with a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 7-10 minutes.

8. While the squashes and sweet potato bake, cook the lentils for Meal 2 (if you’re making them both), and saute the spinach.

9. Scoop cooked squash from the skin with a spoon, being careful not to burn your hands.

10. Once onions are lightly browned, add the cooked squash to the onion mixture.  Break up chunks with a wooden spoon.  Mince garlic cloves directly into the squash/onion mixture, and add 1T of the butter.  Cook on medium, stirring continuously for 3-5 minutes.11. Add 8 c. of water to the soup pot, turn heat to high, and cook until boiling.

11. Saute sage leaves in olive oil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on a paper towel for a few minutes, then chop finely and add to soup.  Reserve a few leaves for garnishes on the soup.

12. Add dried herbs to soup.

13. Simmer soup for 20 minutes.

14. Puree soup with an immersion blender (or handheld blender).  If the soup is too thick, add water or more broth.  If too thin, add sour cream or make a roux with flour and water, and puree for another moment.

15. Ladle soup into bowls, top with goat cheese (optional), drizzle with olive oil.  I served this alongside Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Spinach and Heirloom Tomatoes, which are extra delicious when dipped in the soup.  You could serve it with the following Baked Burritos instead, or make the Burritos for another night.

SWEET POTATO LENTIL BAKED BURRITOS

CrispyCheese

Serves 6

This is a recipe inspired by an article I read in the now-defunct Mothering Magazine about 5-6 years ago.  (The online Mothering is awesome, but I do miss that magazine in my mailbox every month!)  I have tried and tried to find the original recipe online, so I can give the author proper credit: was it Peggy O’Mara?  Cynthia Lair?  (I’m big fans of both.)  My searches come up blank.

Anyway, over the years I have made this recipe my own, changing ingredients and making additions here and there, sneaking in stuff I want my kids, surplus veggies from our garden or those extra chunks of cooked chicken.  You can cook the sweet potato, lentils and spinach the night before, then assemble the burritos right before you want to bake them.  Alternatively, you assemble the whole dish, cover it and put it in the fridge, and take it out the next day – dinner will be ready in 20 minutes.

It is a very versatile recipe, and the main ingredients are super cheap, even when bought (or grown) organic.

6 organic whole wheat or sprouted wheat tortillas (we avoid corn in our family, but if you are allergic to wheat you could use gluten-free tortillas)

1 large organic sweet potato

1c dried brown organic lentils

1 small red onion

2 bags organic washed spinach (or 2 bunches fresh) – I have also used cooked kale in place of the spinach

1 cup of shredded organic grass-fed cheddar or monterey jack cheese

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 1/2 tsp salt (pink or grey, ideally)

1T cumin

1/2 stick (1/4 c.) butter

Coconut oil (for greasing glass pan)

Mild or medium tomato salsa

Organic sour cream

COOKING DIRECTIONS 

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Grease a 9 x 11 glass pan with coconut oil.

3. Wash sweet potato, prick in 2 spots with a knife.  Bake for 60 minutes, or until soft.

4. Wash and drain the lentils.

5. In a medium pot, cook lentils with 2.5 cups of water and 1/2 tsp of salt; bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the water is cooked off and the lentils are soft and aromatic.

6. In a medium saucepan, saute the red onion in coconut oil or butter until tender.

Onions

7. Add the minced garlic to the onions and cook another 3 minutes or so.

8. Add the spinach to the onion/garlic mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from heat.

 

9. Once the sweet potato is done cooking, remove the skin and discard it.  Put the cooked sweet potato into a large glass bowl.  Turn the oven down to 325.

10. Add 1T butter, 1 tsp salt and 1T cumin to the sweet potato, and stir with a wooden spoon until well-mixed.

sweetpotato

11. Spread all 6 tortillas on a large working space.

12.  Spoon equal amounts of sweet potato into the center third of each tortilla.  (I’m being vague with the amount because it will depend on the size of your sweet potato.  4T cooked sweet potato per tortilla seems about right.)

13. Add equal amounts of lentils, then cooked spinach/onion/garlic mixture, on top.  Finish by adding some shredded cheese.

LentilSwtPotatoSpinachCheese

14. Fold in both sides of each tortilla, then flip it over and place in the greased glass pan.  I find that six tortillas fit nicely in a 9 x 11 pan with a little room to spare.

FoldedOver

15. Shred additional cheese on top of each tortilla (if you wish).  You may cover the dish and refrigerate it at this point for up to 24 hours, if you’d like to cook it the next night.  You could also freeze it, if you plan to bake the dish more than 24 hours from now.  Or you can go ahead and bake it now if you want to eat it soon!

16. Bake in a 325 oven for 15-20 minutes.  The dish is done when the cheese is nicely bubbling.

17. Serve with salsa and sour cream on top.  (My kids won’t eat salsa but they LOVE getting to add their own sour cream.)

Again, this recipe is super versatile.  You can try adding different cooked vegetables, chunks of cooked chicken or pork, and experiment with different kinds of cheeses.

Please let me know what you think in the comments section, and Happy Fall!

All photos are copyright Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kicking Off the NELA Fertility Support Group

ToddlerKissBelly9mo

Supporting women who are struggling to conceive is not easy.

As an acupuncturist specializing in Reproductive Health, I see and hear it all.

Primary infertility, secondary infertility, recurrent miscarriage, failed IVF’s, premature ovarian failure, tubal defects, “unexplained” infertility…it takes a toll on a woman’s mental health.

Whether she’s married to a man, a woman, partnering with her gay friend, using a surrogate, a live egg donor, or is a Single Mom By Choice, she most likely feels alone, isolated, and struggles with the shame of not being able to set her mind to getting pregnant and make it happen when she’s ready.

It seems as though every single other woman she knows got pregnant on her honeymoon, or as soon as the first kid was out of diapers, or the first cycle back post-pregnancy.  The baby shower invites, Facebook ultrasound pictures and blossoming bumps conspire to make her feel like a total failure.  Her sex life has become utilitarian.  She’s tired of hearing the questions from her Mom at Thanksgiving (“when are you gonna make me a Grandma?!”), not to mention her 4-year-old (if she’s trying to conceive #2): “Mama, I want a SISTER!”

It sucks.

I hear stories of shame, sadness, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness every single day.  Stories that would break your heart.  I am not a therapist, but I do a lot of listening and giving empathy.

Daily meditation keeps me grounded, positive, and allows me to stay present for each story and each person I work with.

I want my patients to know they are not alone.  If only they knew how many other women are going through a similar journey!  But I can’t open to the door to each treatment room and say “hey, talk to the woman in room 2, she’s in the same boat!”

Thankfully for my patients, I am bound by federal privacy laws to keep my mouth shut, and not introduce Sally A. to Jane Z.

Quite often, I ache to normalize their experience, to let them know they’re not alone.

Today I had lunch with Robin Starkey Harpster, LMFT, my co-host and co-founder of the Northeast L.A. Fertility Support Group, which starts in a week at my acupuncture clinic, FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  (Sign up here!)

Robin is awesome.  A fellow mom of two and small business owner, she and I were introduced by our birth doula, Elena Vogel, about six years ago.  We’ve been referring patients to each other, running into each other at birth community events and sharing the occasional brainstorming lunch for several years, but last summer we started collaborating on this idea…

What if all these women we treat, who are struggling to feel sane in the process of trying to get and stay pregnant, had a place to go and share their stories?  What if we could create a safe space for them to vent, learn mindfulness techniques, and be moderated by a psychotherapist and an acupuncturist, both of whom are moms on the other side of the TTC journey?

Individual therapy is awesome, and often an integral part of the journey to parenthood.  Chinese Medicine is amazing for addressing the mental and physiologic aspects of infertility.  But sometimes a woman needs group support surrounded by other women who are going through the same struggle.  Sometimes she just needs to talk, be heard, and SEE that she is not alone.

For years, I’ve tried to refer my fertility patients to a support group on this side of town.  There isn’t one.

So Robin and I are starting one.  A Mind-Body-Spirit approach to support for infertility and miscarriage…bring it on!

The Northeast LA Fertility Support Group will be meeting once a month starting on Sunday, September 28th from 11am-12:30pm, at FLOAT.  More Info/Sign Up here.

If you or someone you know/love/support is struggling to get and stay pregnant, please let them know about our group.  It’s free (suggested donation $20), and we will have tea and yummy snacks.

We will explore grief and loss, shame and guilt, sadness, anger and fear.  You will learn creative, holistic techniques and resources for becoming more mindful and less overwhelmed by this journey, and share your story.  Topics will include: Expectations, Sex, Radical Acceptance, Trauma, Dealing With Family, and anything else the group wants to bring up.

I can’t wait!

(Copyright 2014 Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Photo by Dave Clark, all rights reserved.) 

A Love Letter to my Mother

MomAbSam

Dear Mom,

On this 39th Mother’s Day since you became a mother, I am writing you a love letter.

You know I love lists.  So here’s a Love List!

I love you for patiently waiting 43 weeks for me to make my arrival, and for giving birth to me naturally, bravely ignoring the 12 men staring at your vagina in that teaching hospital.

I love you for rocking and nursing me in the Stickley Chair (which I now have in our living room), calmly convinced that it was normal for a baby to cry for 6 months straight.  Colic.  How did you survive?

I love you for introducing me to chocolate peanut butter cups.

I love you because of the way you always look me right in the eyes when I have something to say, your head perched between index finger and thumb.

I love you for saying about my spirited child: “he just has a hard time getting through his day.  Just like you did as a baby.”

I love you for saying “yes, and…” when everyone else said “no.”

I love you for making Fiesta Ware our everyday dishes.

I love you for raising me and Sam in Manhattan, where the nuts come from.

I love you for sending me to the Bank Street School.

I love you for flying 3,000 miles to meet my firstborn, arriving when he was a mere 20 hours old, and arranging fresh flowers in my bedroom every day.

I love you for taking G to the museum while I labored with L…and getting to meet her just a few hours later.  Her middle name is your first.

I love you for showing me what marriage can be: you and Dad, after 43 years, make it look easy.

I love you for introducing me to Shakespeare.

I love you for your curried chicken salad, which is totally delicious and just a little bit weird.

I love you for showing me the value of two simple beauty products: Yardley’s lavender soap and Keri lotion.

I love you for letting me fall asleep with your nightgown on the nights you and Dad left us a with a sitter.

I love you for late nights piled into your bed watching Archie Bunker on the 10-inch TV.

I love you for my annual birthday gift of a trip to the Town Shop (for real or online) for new ladythings.

I love you for the cheesy way you always say “This is God’s country!” the moment we open the car windows on the drive into Keene Valley.

I love you for finding your writing voice as a Woman of the Seventh Moon.

I love you for suggesting I apply to Bard College.

I love you for loving lilacs.

I love you for inspiring me to become a woman business owner.

I love you for your many scarves; I always said I’d never wear them.  Now I have 14.

I love you for showing me that motherhood could be the most important job you (or I) would ever have.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you!

YLD,

Abigail

(Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., all rights reserved.  Photograph courtesy of Roger Morgan.  This post was inspired by a writing project I’m part of called 40 Love Letters in 40 Days.  Special shout-out to Stacy de La Rosa.)

 

 

The Lunch Break: Parenthood’s Most Underrated Hour

IMG_0764 When I became a mother, I had no idea how many things I had previously taken for granted. Like my lunch break. That simple hour in the middle of the day during which you sit, eat, talk, read a magazine, catch up on phone calls…maybe you even DO LUNCH with friends once in a while. That hour which, before becoming a parent, did not require you to wear noise-canceling headphones to preserve what hearing you still have left. Five and a half years into motherhood (a month or so ago), I realized I had not taken a proper lunch break in over half a decade. WTF? How could things get this bad? Don’t get me wrong-  it’s not that I don’t eat lunch.  It’s not that I don’t take breaks.  I eat.  I take breaks.  Just not in the middle of the day.  Not when I’m at work or at home with my kids.  That midday break is darn near impossible to make happen when you have young children.  It gets last place.  Well, last place right before Mom herself. The lunch break of the typical working parent I know goes like this: grab a sandwich.  Eat it while returning 6 text messages about carpools, permission slips, groceries, the strep outbreak at preschool, and maybe, if you’re nursing, while also balancing the flanges attached to bottles into which you are pumping fresh milk.  Errands to run?  Totally out of pull-ups back at home?  Don’t wanna hit Target at 5pm with two toddlers?  Most working moms and dads I know will choose to squeeze this errand into the “lunch break” whenever possible, if they are lucky enough to get one. The lunch break of the Stay-At-Home-Parent?  What lunch break? At work or at home, where is the “break” in this Lunch Break of the modern American parent? There isn’t one. Why have we all forgotten how important it is? I love my kids, and I love my work.  I feel fortunate to have healthy, loving, fascinating children (who sometimes give each other massages), and work that is fulfilling and exciting. GnLmassage Really, I shouldn’t be complaining.  But I know I’m not alone as a parent in feeling overwhelmed and wishing I had a Pause button. Right? Two books I’ve read and loved recently, “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink” by Katrina Alcorn and “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” speak to this core issue. Our culture does not support parents well enough. Whether a parent is working for pay or not (we all know parenting is hard work!), most American moms and dads feel stretched thin. Time that is BOTH kid-free and work-free is hard to come by.  Sure, there is the blessed 90 minutes (2 hours on a good night!) after they’re asleep before my own bedtime, but I have found that kid-free time when I’m brain-dead from a long day is just not the same as when I’m sharp and the sun is still shining. In an effort to make positive change in my own life, I’ve decided to start taking a lunch break every single day. I’m trying to emphasize the “break” part. Whether I’m home with my kids or at my place of work, I am trying (*trying*) to protect one hour a day during which I’m not doing work and also not doing mundane household or child-related tasks. When I am home with my children for lunch, I look at the lunch break as a time to eat together and then have Quiet Time.  My daughter still naps, and my son loves having sister-free time with me and/or his Dad.  We eat.  We talk.  We play Footsie. When I’m at work, I try to spend an hour taking an actual break from work. It’s amazing how the simple act of putting my feet up on the couch or desk tells my brain We’re Resting Now. Also amazing is how hard it is to stop myself from puttering around the house picking up stray toys, dirty socks, bills, or from starting to prep dinner, fold laundry, note how dirty the bathroom floor is and choose to be irritated by it yet also ignore it…Daughter napping, son happy crafting?  House quiet?  Hurry, go balance the checkbook! This is what I’m trying to resist. It’s been shockingly hard to break out of my pattern of rushing to Get Shit Done during the one hour a day when I’m not treating patients, running my clinic on an administrative level, or home with my kids. But I know it’s important for my mental, emotional and physical health to take that lunch break.  It’s also important for my children to see me taking that break, and to share it with me, when we’re home together. If I’m at the office, my new “lunch break” might include any of the following: Walk around the block of my office building.  The jacarandas are blooming, and birds never fail to take their lunch hour loudly, which is lovely to hear during a solo walk. Visit the farmer’s market, which is a mere one mile from my office building, every Thursday. IMG_0919 Sit and meditate for 20 minutes, then write in my journal. Catch up on one of the books I’m reading.  (I feel like an overachiever if I get to read more than two pages a day before being interrupted or falling asleep.) Sit down and eat my lunch with both feet on the floor.  Resist the urge to do something else simultaneously. Once I took a hike.  Not rest, per se, but a different, invigorating kind of break. If I’m at home for my lunch break, that usually means there’s kids with me.  Sometimes we take our lunch break at one of the local gardens. IMG_0943 Sometimes we all sit around the table and light candles and for about 3 minutes, it’s nice and quiet. IMG_0461 According to the classical texts in Chinese Medicine, it is said that when eating, you should not do anything else. Just eat; chew your food well.  Don’t watch TV, read, check your phone, Facebook, catch up on patient charts (who, me?), or drive a car. That’s a tall order for most Westerners.  Just eat?  How boring! Let me explain. In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen and Stomach organ systems are the center of our digestive system, and the Liver organ system helps out with digestion in its role as Traffic Cop of Qi (maintaining the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body).  When we are thinking too much (reading, staring at a screen), the Stomach Qi goes up instead of down (leading to heartburn, acid regurgitation, after-meal headaches).  If we are stressed out while eating, the Liver can’t keep the Qi in check – in addition to being the Traffic Cop of Qi Flow, the Liver is also in charge of metabolizing Stress – and so digestion goes haywire. I have understood this intellectually for about 14 years, but the New Yorker in me, who is used to doing 143 things at once, has always found it hard to JUST EAT.  Until now, when I am forcing myself to take a one hour lunch break, every single day, for the sake of my sanity. I will admit to you: it doesn’t happen every day.  There are days when I’m home with my kids and we all just bicker and screech until we collapse into bed. Or someone throws an entire container of raw milk down the steps to the backyard.  Followed by a water balloon. IMG_0802 You know those days, right? There are days at work when I am so behind on paperwork that I plow right through my lunch break, catching up on patient emails, phone calls, charts, pausing only to heat up my leftovers in the toaster oven and grab a fork. But I’m getting better. More days than not, I’m taking that break, even if it involves cranky children demanding water/milk/spoons/a pickle/more napkins every time I sit down. On those days, I take a deep breath, send it down to my Stomach/Spleen, and plant both feet on the floor.  I remind myself that I am modeling the value of slowing down, honoring mealtime, making a ritual out of taking a break. Eventually, it will become habit, and I’ll forget I ever went half a decade without a proper lunch break. (Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, acupuncturist and owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  Photo Credits: all photographs by Abigail Morgan, all rights reserved.)