Start the Year with an Empty Jar

Start the Year with an Empty Jar

Happy new year! To kick off 2018 we have decided to focus on the subject of happiness: authentic, abundant, unbridled happiness. What better way to meet the newness, potential, hopefulness, and sparkle of a brand new year than to aim for the stars?

Human beings want to be happy. As a species, we are constantly in search of happiness and yet it remains elusive. What if you could be in charge of how you feel regardless of the circumstances surrounding you, both internally and externally? This is truly possible and attainable, and all it takes is practice.

Happiness is a skill, rather than a fickle state of being. And one key to cultivating this skill lies in the practice of gratitude.

"If [gratitude] were a drug, it would be the world's best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system." ~ Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University

Luckily, this “drug” is within your reach and perfectly free. Research states that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Multiple studies have correlated the activity of gratitude (such as writing thank you letters or making lists of what you are grateful for) with numerous benefits, including:

·      Positive emotions (aka happiness)

·      Appreciation of good experiences

·      Increased self-care such as exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating

·      Improved overall health outcomes

·      Increased resiliency in the face of adversity

·      Strong, healthy relationships

Why is this the case exactly? Well, fMRI studies have uncovered what is going on when your brain gets a hit of gratitude. A regular gratitude practice activates stress-regulating areas of the brain, such as the hypothalamus, as well as your pleasure/reward circuitry, such as the ventral tegmental area. Gratitude increases production of both dopamine and serotonin, thereby acting as a natural antidepressant.

Here’s how you can transmute gratitude into happiness in 2018 from the get-go...

Gratitude --> Happiness Daily Practice:

·      Start the year with an empty jar. Place it somewhere you will notice it – on the kitchen counter or on top of your dresser perhaps.

·      Each day take a moment to write down something you are grateful for; it could be something that touched you or something that brought you joy, a small kindness you witnessed or offered, something good that happened to you or came your way. (By the way, it doesn’t matter if you are feeling particularly grateful when you jot something down – in fact, practicing gratitude without the feeling of genuine gratitude can have the lovely effect of generating true happiness anyway since it is stimulating pleasure pathways in your brain.)

·      Throughout the year, and certainly at the end of the year, go back and read some of the contents of that jar. You will have undeniable proof of how much love and light there is in your own existence. (Plus, each time you revisit your gratitude in this way you will be reinforcing the neural pathways of happiness since nerves that fire together, wire together!)


If you’d like to read more about the research referred to above, check out these links:

·      NY Times article on the connection between gratitude and happiness

·      Geek-out with this research study that identified the neural correlates of gratitude

·      Another science-y link on the neural pathways of gratitude

·      Excellent summary article on this topic

The Alchemy of Winter Solstice: The Storehouse of the Spirit

The Alchemy of Winter Solstice: The Storehouse of the Spirit

Winter is coming and things are about to get deep. And just like the vast ocean, the deeper we go, the darker it gets. Does anyone else feel like they've been spending an exorbitant amount of time swimming around a bit lost in the darkness lately?

Judging from personal experience, in addition to what I'm hearing from my patients & friends, & the utter shitstorm that hits us every time we turn on the news (pro tip - keep it off!), it seems safe to say that the darkness is begging for some serious attention right now. There's nothing inherently "bad" or "evil" about the dark, but when we neglect it, deny it, & resent it, it festers like a wound in need of healing. That wound can serve as a profound opportunity for discovery, transformation, and healing, but it can only provide such gifts when it is acknowledged & met with light, love, compassion, and care. This can take time, require patience, a trusting spirit, & a willingness to sit with the pain until its purpose has been fully served.

It's normal for feelings of fear to begin to stir when we enter the depths of Winter, the depths of our being, & of our collective (un)consciousness. It is in the darkness that we must confront our spiritual pain. 

In facing & embodying your fear directly, drinking it freely, feeling the weight of it drop down into your core as it swirls down your throat, the intelligence of your body can absorb the raw materials for the courage, wisdom & awe that are created out of fear, whilst graciously excreting the toxic components which might otherwise muddy your internal landscape. As the brilliant Alexander Shaia so beautifully puts it: “When we go to the deepest dark, that’s where the grace of fresh radiance will come forth in us by our courage to walk to the place of the deepest dark.”

As we approach the 2017 Winter Solstice on Thursday, December 21st, and the season of the Water element that follows, it is my hope (as always) that we can find solace & wisdom in the cycles of nature happening around & within us. The word Solstice literally means "sun stands still," for this is the most Yin day of the year, "when the forces of contraction strike a still point and give birth to Yang, barely glimmering with its promise of light and expansion.” “Winter teaches us that the only way to fully enjoy the powers of the season is to surrender to it and learn from what it has to offer us. In winter the earth lies fallow; nature appears frozen and dead. In this deep stillness of nature, winter calls us to look into our depths, to reconnect to our inner being, to befriend the darkness within us and around us" (Jason Elias).

When considering the holidays that are celebrated this time of year, one can see how they align with the pattens of death and birth, rest and renewal, dark and light, that are playing out on both a macro- and microcosmic plane: The many Winter Solstice celebrations that exist across cultures & history "speak to the life-giving power of light, and its symbolism of goodness, wisdom, and life itself for all people" (Andrea Thompson McCall). And as Belsebuub writes in The Path of the Spiritual Sun: “They speak to us of a mysterious and universal understanding of spiritual transformation … The rising of the sun on the winter solstice, out of the darkest day of the year, echoes the birth of light from the dark void” within each of us.

In Chinese Medicine, Winter correlates with the element of Water, and the organ systems of the Kidneys & Urinary Bladder. “Water is the most feminine of the five elements and therefore is considered very yin … Water is the most powerful element for it can move around any obstacle in its path without losing its essential nature. Water can, in time, dissolve the hardest mountains…Although water is a very yin element, it can exist in either a yang or a yin state … Water qualities are creativity, sensitivity, reflection, persuasion, effectiveness, and desire for life and sex. Water types value family and social contacts and possess the ability to attract (being receptive, water can attract, rather than pursue). The emotion associated with water is fear. Other water emotions are indecisiveness, vacillation, and uncertainty. Those born in a water year succeed by not allowing fear to block the fullest expression of creativity” (Susan Levitt).

As a human with a strong Watery-Earth elemental constitution, I often find myself pondering the nature of existence. I sense the unseen magic & intensity brewing beneath the surface, and I open myself up to the workings of spirit. When I rest my attention on water, or better yet, rest my body within it, I feel held. Weightless & saturated simultaneously. Curious. Introspective. Imaginative. Impregnated with possibility. Humbled and awed by the mystery of the deep unknown. Cleansed. United. Reborn. Revitalized. 

What follows is a compilation of inspiring & useful content related to the physical, psycho-emotional, & spiritual nature of Winter and the element of Water. As we journey through the Solstice in a few days time, may you honor & embrace the darkness within as a womb from which new light will slowly gestate & inevitably burst forth. Happy Winter Solstice, my friends!

Favorite books:

  • Messages From Water & The Universe - Masaru Emoto
    • If you want a sneak peak into Emoto’s discovery of how water is deeply connected to our individual and collective consciousness, go check out this video
  • The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself - Michael A. Singer
    • I first read this book around the time it was published 10 years ago. I was fresh out of undergrad, and my beloved aunt & dearest friend, Marlow gifted me with a weekend massage workshop at Esalen in Big Sur, CA (aka heaven on Earth). She also gifted me with this book that weekend, and both gifts had a profound immediate & eternal impact on the trajectory of my life journey & the unfolding of my consciousness. Michael Singer encourages us to explore the internal landscape of our minds, & illuminates the truth of who we really are. The untethered soul is the soul who lives from the seat of the subject, the listener, the witness, the one who is aware of, yet free from the limits of one's thoughts & emotions. 
    • I've gifted this book to people more than any other book I that I love. It's that good. Trust me on this one - find a way to get your hands on this book asap. And in the meantime, go download 13 free audio files with over 20 minutes of truly inspirational excerpts from the book in celebration of its 10 year anniversary here!

Favorite articles: 

  • Winter Solstice Ritual ideas from Mystic Mamma
  • One unusual practice in entering into the darkness of your demons involves “feeding” them...

Favorite Quotes

  • “The deepest dark is not the place where grace goes to die, but the deepest dark is the place where grace goes to be reborn.” - Alexander Shaia
  • “There is a well-known story of the Sufi wise man Mulla Nasruddin, who one night was combing through the dirt under a street lamp in front of his house. A passerby asked, ‘Mulla, what are you looking for?’ ‘The keys to my house,’ Mulla replied. So the two got on their hands and knees searching for the keys, and after another hour, the passerby asked, ‘Are you sure you dropped the keys here?’ ‘Oh no,’ said Mulla, ‘I dropped the keys inside my house.’ Astonished, the passerby asked, ‘So why are we looking out here?’ ‘Because the light is shining out here,’ replied Mulla.”

Favorite Acupuncture Point: Kidney 25 - Shen Cang or Storehouse of the Spirit. 

  • “The name of the point combines the character shen 神 spirit with the character cang 藏 to store, conceal, or hide. Cang implies not only the storing away of what is valuable for later use but also the idea of hibernation, of going inward, of passing through the lean months of winter by dropping into a deep state of rest.
  • The minister who resides at the center of this point cradles the shen like a restless bird safely beneath her silken robes. There, in the dark, the wounded wings of the light can heal.
  • In current times, our world often seems too painful to bear, but this point reminds us that gradually radiance will return to the Earth. Deep in the Storehouse, the seeds wait until it is once again appropriate to grow. This waiting is not the same as doing nothing. Rather, it is like winnowing, separating the precious from the worthless, breathing in what truly inspires us and breathing out what we no longer need. In this way, in a time of darkness, we veil our light and yet continue to shine.” - the brilliant Alchemical Acupuncturist, Lorie Dechar, LAc
  • You can activate the power of this point, by applying pressure to your chest in an area about 2 inches lateral to either side of your sternum, in the 2nd intercostal space.

Favorite Podcast episode: Robcast Episode 176 w/Alexander Shaia on the Mythic Power of Christmas

  • This is full of spiritual, philosophical, creative deliciousness that will surely nourish the Watery philosopher within you.

Favorite Random Inspirational YouTube vids:

Favorite Herb: Cordyceps (Dong Chong Xia Cao)

  • Among many other healing abilities, “Cordyceps Mycelium is very widely used for the purposes of strengthening the primal Kidney functions, which include sexual functions, brain power, structural integrity and healing ability of otherwise normal, healthy people. It is a very powerful Yang tonic.”
  • I like Dragon Herbs Cultured Cordyceps and Sun Potions powdered Cordyceps, both of which can be found & purchased at Elemental Family Center for the Healing Arts!

Favorite healing tools:

Favorite Winter activities:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Surfing (don't forget your wetsuit, unless you wanna brave it Wim Hof style)
  • Morning Tea Ritual
  • Magnesium Salt baths


For more on how the Water Element plays itself out in your body, & the best ways to support your Water Element, keep an eye out for our next newsletter on the first Friday of January! Until then, keep growing that light within the dark, my dearest humans. I am here for you & so, so honored to be sharing this journey with you!

In health & happiness,

Wildfires: Flames of Grief & Gratitude

Wildfires: Flames of Grief & Gratitude

My heart aches as I watch my neighbors in both Ventura & Los Angeles in pain over the loss or potential loss of their homes & beloved communities to the Thomas & Skirball fires.

In the days, weeks, & months to come, I would be honored to offer my services to those who are suffering in body, mind &/or spirit as a consequence of the firestorms (or otherwise). Chinese medicine can be profoundly beneficial in strengthening the respiratory system & clearing the lungs of toxic residue (cupping is especially phenomenal for this, & all firefighters should know about it!), while simultaneously allowing for the healthy processing of emotions such as grief, worry, fear, & anger that are likely to emerge alongside any physical imbalances. I am here to support my community - if you can't make it to our West Hollywood Center, I will do my best to come to you. 

While the Earth here welcomes the flames, the society we have constructed exists in an almost constant state of threat & vulnerability to these natural cycles. At the risk of sounding insensitive to those whose lives are being impacted in a real & devastating way, I feel compelled to discuss the self-imposed nature of our predicament.

The fact is, "our wildland vegetation burns. It burns periodically, and must burn in order to survive. In much of California, the problem is not so much the fact that it burns but that all too many people chose to build within it, surrounded by what many consider to be a sea of gasoline. A combination of ignorance and several million years of evolution have combined to create a deadly situation along the serene and scenic battlefront commonly referred to as the 'wildland/urban interface'. The situation has been further exacerbated by over a hundred years of fire suppression where man has tried to control nature, usually with disastrous results.

"Fire is an essential part of most wildland ecosystems. In Mediterranean climates around the world, plant species have adapted to a point that they would not exist without the presence of fire. Wildland fires spawn a period of rebirth and vigor in post-fire environments by removing dead materials and by releasing nutrients back to the environment that are locked up in mature plants and organic litter...."

"As fire is a natural part of most California ecosystems, chaparral has adapted to rely on the fire/flood cycle as a means to survive. Fires clear dead materials, open up seedbanks, and release nutrients back to the environment." (

Just as the fires invite the natural ecosystem to give birth to new life, they can do the same in our internal landscape, if we chose to embrace the opportunity. In the midst of loss & devastation, we are forced to confront our capacity for darkness, to reacquaint ourselves with our deepest wounds. But we are also inspired to ignite & cultivate our innate courage & strength of spirit.

We are left naked as the hillsides, stripped of our fleeting facades of meaning & material possessions, staring straight into the face of what we truly hold most dear. Amidst the wreckage, we find compassion, connection, purpose, inspiration, determination, creativity, and love. And so, as we honor & grieve the destruction of what once was, we can give thanks for the clearing & rekindling made possible by the loss. Sometimes it takes a fire to unlock the nutrients & seeds of survival & new life within us too. 

Water/Winter/Kidney Musings + Meditation Resources

Water/Winter/Kidney Musings + Meditation Resources

Welcome, winter! As in the name of our practice (Elemental Family), there are 5 Elements in Chinese medicine that govern both our external, natural world as well as our internal states of wellness and dis-ease. Out of the 5 Elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood) the winter season is associated with the Water Element.

Water is the most meditative of the 5 Elements. Water represents your introspective and imaginative nature. Intellectual and philosophical, Water types are prone to deeply considered thought and curiosity about the mysteries of life. Similar to a frozen lake in winter, Water types can appear subdued and a bit aloof, but there is a whole lot of activity going on just under the surface.

Here at Elemental Family, we are all about helping our clients cultivate the precious tools of mindfulness, awareness, and compassion for both self and others. This is truly the best time of year to begin a mindfulness practice (daily, weekly, or otherwise) since we are on the cusp of Winter, which is the season of Water – a time of quietude, reflection, and contemplation.

Water types are old souls from birth. With a deep, sage-like quality, they take in the world around them at their own pace, developing on their own schedule. Water types are the most introverted of the five elemental archetypes. They are deep, philosophical thinkers and ponderers of existential questions. They can be stubborn and headstrong but it is generally in the service of wanting to fully understand something. Eccentric and creative, precocious and strong-willed, Water types are philosophers who dance to the beat of their own drum.

Water types can easily get lost in their own imagination to the point of total immersion, tuning out the outside world to an impressive degree. When stressed, however, Water types will withdraw even further into their shell, and can struggle with depression, hypochondria, and finding connection with others.

The Water Element is associated with the Kidney organ network in Chinese medicine and governs the physical realms of fertility and reproduction, brain and bone health, as well as the rate and gracefulness of the aging process. Fear is the primary emotional expression of Water, and wisdom is the accumulated experiential knowledge of a well-honed Water Element.

One of the best ways to cultivate and enrich your Water Element is to incorporate a meditation practice into your life. Mindfulness meditation is a particular type of meditation practice that involves learning how to simply BE in the present moment, with awareness, an open and receptive attitude, and a non-judgmental, compassionate heart. Simple yet incredibly profound, these concepts can be challenging to incorporate into daily life, which is exactly why this is called a practice.

So, you might be wondering what the point is exactly, and why you should invest the time to meditate at all? Sitting quietly in meditation grants you access to all of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that come along with being embodied and alive. This is not always a comfortable experience, taking a closer look at our own minds and habits and natures, but I promise you that it is beyond worthwhile.

Meditation shares many benefits with another modality that is familiar to readers of this blog: acupuncture. Meditation and acupuncture both provide a unique gateway to peace, calm, and de-stressing on a profound level. They are both proven to relieve pain, anxiety and depression, lower high blood pressure, and significantly modulate stress levels for the better.

Both meditation and acupuncture are quieting yet activating experiences. This state of settled activation is one sign of an integrated and balanced nervous system. From this place of integration, you gain the clarity in your life to respond versus react to challenging situations, to be truly present in your relationships with others and yourself, and to appreciate each moment simply for what it is.

I invite you to explore your Water-y, meditative nature this season – through the avenues of meditation and acupuncture. I certainly will be, and I would love for you to reap the benefits of these healing practices as well. Elemental Family, Center for the Healing Arts is here to serve all of your family’s wellness needs this winter. As far as getting started with meditating, please check out the following resources and see what resonates with you.

1) InsightLA – A fantastic resource here in Los Angeles for learning to meditate in supportive group classes, as well an online resource for guided meditations (in the Audio section of their website) ~

2) Simply Being – My favorite app for simple and accessible guided meditations ~

3) David Ji – A meditation guru who sends out new meditations each week to his free online community ~

4) Insight Timer – An app with a wealth of guided meditations and dharma talks for any level of meditator - there is truly something for everyone here, even kids! (my daughter falls asleep to Mary Maddox's Sleep Friend Meditation for Children almost every night) ~




Meditation in Each & EVERY Moment

Meditation in Each & EVERY Moment

Most people carry an idea of meditation as a practice of sitting peacefully in stillness. In my experience, rarely is it all peace & sweetness. And pure stillness is not attainable nor desirable even considering that we inhabit a body that breathes. So, sometimes an 8 mile moving meditation amongst the glory of Mother Nature (i.e. hiking up 2500 feet of mountainous magic) is what the day calls for. And then sometimes that same day keeps calling, and you wind up washing the dirt off of your delightfully exhausted body with an ocean swim, followed by a nap on the sand whilst cuddling the cutest pup on the planet. That time was my Today - with a call like that, how could I not answer? 


Pure bliss is not some distant, foreign experience. It is found within the space of listening to the call that speaks to your soul. 


For me, that call almost always involves time in nature. Today, my bliss was at the top of a mountain, but also in the space between slippery steps up “Misery Hill,” as I chose to hear the voice of my own strength, love, & curiosity, rather than that of fear, defeat, or pain. My bliss was in the weightlessness of my body floating in the embrace of the mysterious ocean, but also in the choice to feel my aliveness in its entirety as I galloped with joy head first into the initially unnerving & goosebumps-provoking cold of its ebbing waters. My bliss was in returning to my warm dry towel, but even more in the feeling of the warm messy sand & perfectly radiant sunshine on my reverent body. 


You know what’s so liberating about meditation, should you choose to see it in the following way? It is ripe for the picking in EVERY moment. You can literally turn any (or every) act (or non-act) into a meditation. All you have to do is decide to make it so. To stand in the seat of awareness & notice. You are alive! Breathe. Be human. Be spirit. Be soul. Be in awe. Make each moment precious - infuse it with deep meaning simply by witnessing it as a miracle. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about washing the dishes as though you are bathing the baby Buddha. If we are present to the washing, rather than dwelling on past or future, or feeding into current distractions, we are able to realize the “miracle of life while standing at the sink.” 


We spend so much energy following our unruly thoughts around the circus of our minds. What if we stopped following them & started simply observing them? Appreciating their strength, dexterity, ingenuity, & dogged persistence. Cheerfully admiring their absurdity, dynamism, alacrity, & sheer entertainment value. You don't go to the circus and expect, or even hope, to come home with the circus animals. Why must you give just any old transient thought that knocks on your door a room in your sacred home? Answer the door if you wish to see who is there. Say hello, have a conversation, offer them tea even, learn something new about your neighbors, but ultimately let this visitor be just that. A visitor. Not an inhabitant or a longterm guest who was never actually invited to begin with.


And maybe next time instead of the circus, choose the theater. Or perhaps the forest. Your thoughts have the power to transform the landscape of your mind, & therefore your entire life. Your thoughts are not inherently “bad.” The goal is not to stop thinking altogether (however those meditative moments can & likely will present themselves with a certain indescribable bliss). The journey is about learning to hear your thoughts with the ear of an unbiased & unaffected observer. The journey is about changing the lens, or the headphones in this case, through which you perceive your life. It is about learning how to exist in that YOU.


Meditation is about cultivating your perception. The more skilled we become at listening & seeing, the more we will feel seen & heard. The easier it will be to recognize truth from fiction; the voice of the true self from that of the wounded self. As the listener, we can choose which voice gets the most airtime. As the seer, we can choose to see the inexplicable beauty & perfection of ourselves & everything that is.

Brooke's Musings on Autumn (hint: she LOVES it) + Easy At-Home Remedies to Battle Fall Dryness

Brooke's Musings on Autumn (hint: she LOVES it) + Easy At-Home Remedies to Battle Fall Dryness

(If you’d like to just get right to the dryness remedies, just scroll down a bit as they are closer to the bottom…)

The palpable shift into autumn arrived here in SoCal on exactly the same day as the equinox last month. Living in the midst of what often feels like a world gone terribly wrong, it can be comforting to be reminded that the wisdom of nature’s cycles are still intact. The temps dropped, my lungs gladly welcomed in the clean, crisp air, crackly leaves swirled around the bases of newly bare trees, and my heart swelled with the resonance of my season. (Unfortunately the chill lasted only about a day and half here in LA, but after 6 years of missing true fall weather, I will take what I can get!)

On the Elemental and psycho-emotional front:

As a Metal type, fall is my jam, it’s hardwired into my DNA; the brisk coolness, the shorter days, the apples and pumpkins piling up at the farmer’s market, even (and perhaps especially) the bittersweet, beautiful melancholy of it all…it speaks to me on a deep, profound level. I feel seen and reflected in the starkness and patterns of nature and the impulse to reflect on loss in any capacity, be it seemingly major (the loss of my dad 16 long-short years ago, in the fall no less) or minor (my daughter transitioning into another year of elementary school). Grief and sadness are primary emotional lenses through which I experience the world, and autumn provides an annual opportunity to revisit and deeply explore my relationship to grief. This is not as much of a downer as it might sound; rather, it makes me feel validated in my constant awareness of and connection to an accumulation of losses that simultaneously offer up equal amounts of opportunity for growth. (It took about 15 years for me to get to this place, so if you need some support in your own relationship with grief, check out this meditation as a starting place.)

On the physical and Chinese medical front:

The Metal element corresponds to the Lung and Large Intestine organs – two metabolic workhorses whose primary functionality involves taking in and letting go. This manifests in our ability to breathe deeply and fully, to digest and release waste, as well as to process (or hold on to for better or worse) sadness and grief. The Metal element is about logic and order, fairness and justice, cycles and process, beauty and perfection.

Along with all the loveliness that those initial hints of fall graced us with, the first colds of the season swept through my practice and my house, as well as an immediate and brutal downshift in the humidity level, read: NONE. Autumn is the season of dryness and in Chinese medical pathophysiology, the Lungs do not operate optimally when they are attacked by dryness in our environment, internal or external. I personally felt like my sinuses were immediately affected by this fall’s dryness and my whole sinus cavity and throat were parched practically overnight. I even felt it in my bones. Don't worry, I jumped on an herbal regimen and utilized the below techniques mighty quick :).

One way to stave off and recover more quickly from colds, coughs, and sinus infections is to ensure that the most superficial and external aspects of the respiratory system (nasal passages and throat) maintain an adequate level of moisture. The skin is your largest respiratory organ, so it is important to ensure that this barrier is healthy and intact as well. Dryness precedes and sets the stage for the invasion of respiratory pathogens and the accompanying mucus production, so if we can stay ahead of the phlegm, we can lessen or even avoid those pesky colds and coughs.

Here are a few VERY simple ways to do this at home…

·      Coconut oil: topical use of this anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial powerhouse supports adequate moisture in the nasal passages and on the skin.

o   You can use a q-tip to apply coconut oil to the inside of your nasal passages as well as on the edge of the nostrils before bed. This combats dryness overnight and supports a healthy nasal microbiome.

o   Dry skin is a very common sign that your body needs more support in the moisture dept. If your dryness verges on eczema-like rashes (itchy, red, persistent), you can mix a small amount of powdered probiotics into a small amount of coconut oil and apply topically a few times a day. See below pic for the ingredients I used when I put this mixture on my son’s dry elbows, knees and ankles…

TJs organic coconut oil + Klaire Labs Ther-biotic For Infants

TJs organic coconut oil + Klaire Labs Ther-biotic For Infants

·      Up your fluid intake, especially the warm stuff: teas, broths, and soups are all excellent sources of fluids, which are being taxed by the dry environment. See this post for an easy bone broth recipe, which can serve as a base for soup and rice and lentils, and really anything that could use a savory broth.

·      Buckwheat or manuka honey are my very favorite, and seriously the easiest, remedies to moisten a dry or sore throat and soothe a cough. Enjoy one teaspoon a few times a day, as needed. This is obviously not appropriate for the under-12-month crowd, but applicable for the rest of us.

·      Humidify: simply adding a humidifier to your or your child’s bedroom at night can up the moisture level of the air that you breathe during the most restorative part of the day. Make sure that the amount of steam is able to absorbed by the air over the course of the night (if you wake up to condensation on your windows, then you want to use a lower setting). Another way to modulate the steam is to leave the door open a crack to allow excess steam to escape.

·      Neti pot or similar sinus rinse: an Ayurvedic technique, using a Neti pot clears out pathogens (germs) and adds healthy moisture to your entire nasal passage. Make sure to dry out the neti pot completely between uses and to mix the appropriate amount of water and salt to make your saline solution…check out this link for more info:

October Meditation Challenge


October Meditation Challenge

I know what you're thinking - Meditation & Challenge are an unlikely duo. Isn't meditating all about peace, calm, stillness, & compassion? Well, yeah. Sometimes. But, it's also about learning HOW TO BE WITH WHAT IS, whether that means luxuriating in the juicy silence of those rare moments when we sink into nothingness, or hanging on for dear life as things seem to spin in all directions at once. Can we witness both extremes with a neutral, non-judgmental, undisturbed eye? Can we be THE ONE WHO SEES, the one who LISTENS, the one who LOVES IT ALL?

Can we appreciate that such a practice may feel challenging at times (or most of the time) & know that that's okay? In fact, it's A GIFT. There is FREEDOM & unencumbered CONTENTMENT in the abundance of infinite nothingness & complex simplicity that awaits our arrival WITHIN - should we be willing to accept the invitation & brave the journey.

There are often obstacles & apparent adversaries - potholes, quicksand, peaks & valleys, fires of the flesh, hurricanes of the mind - that aim to pull us back into the stories we've become accustomed to, that delight in watching up gasp for breath beneath the weight of old memories, toxic thoughts, addictions, worries, & ways of being we've carried so long our spines have curved & concretized in compensation. And so, meditation becomes an OPPORTUNITY. A chance to pause, put down the sack we carry, open it up, & peer inside. It is a practice of NOTICING, letting go, & letting be. 

So, perhaps you have decided to get curious - to REMEMBER what it is you are carrying around & how it informs the way you live. And maybe you discover that you've been hanging on to shit that you definitely don't need anymore, but it feels scary at first to leave it behind. DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH LETTING GO? Hey guess what, YOU'RE HUMAN!?! This is SO normal.

So, in the spirit of the FALL season (+ the recent Hunter’s Moon), & its corresponding element of METAL/Gold, the organ systems of the LUNG & LARGE INTESTINE/colon, & the emotions of GRIEF & sadness, we’ve designed a meditation practice to facilitate the SHEDDING of old habits, patterns, beliefs, accumulations, & suppressed emotions through MINDFULNESS & BREATHWORK. When we are able to let go of what no longer serves us (just as the colon eliminates what is unnecessary or toxic from our bodies), to find ways to honor what or who we have lost by loosening our grip, we can create spaciousness within, exhume our innate energy, & welcome in new life (just as the lungs enable us to inhale fresh air & receive the pure Qi of the heavens). Join us for our first ever Instagram challenge, & let our delightful community support you on the journey of letting go & discovering the golden glimmer of your intrinsic worthiness for love & abundance!

This challenge is designed for folks of all walks of life to participate in! If you feel called to RELEASE old programming, attachments, ailments, & emotions, to tap into your POWER, cultivate LOVE & WELLBEING, improve your ENERGY, learn how to BREATHE your way into a CALM centered state, & shift from negative self-talk into a RADIANT force of POSITIVITY & FREEDOM, this challenge is for YOU! 

This is a challenge, which means it's okay to have some fun (it's also totally okay to have moments of sadness, resistance, doubt, etc. etc). To the extent that we can, we are going to share our experiences with each other, because this challenge is meant to foster community while simultaneously developing an inner awareness. And of course, there's a PRIZE at the end (as if radiance, freedom, wellbeing, & greater self-awareness weren't enough?!)! Join us in meditation each day for the chance to WIN a FREE CUPPING or AURICULAR (ear) ACUPUNCTURE session at our beautiful Healing Arts Center in Los Angeles! If you can’t make it to LA (or Santa Barbara), we will gladly gift you a free herbal & nutritional consultation instead. 

One lucky WINNER will be randomly selected & announced on Instagram & in our next newsletter on October 20th.


  1. Follow @elementalfamily & @friespirit on Instagram
  2. Tag 3 friends in the comments of today's post who might benefit from participating! Expand your community of support & invite your friends to join you in the challenge! The more the merrier!
  3. Screenshot today's post & share it on your Instagram page or in your story with the hashtag #meditationchallenge & tag @elementalfamily & @friespirit to let your community know what’s up! Sharing is caring
  4. Most importantly, MEDITATE & BREATHE! From Saturday 10/7 through Friday 10/13 (that’s 1 week total), commit to meditating for at least 5 minutes each day. Any time of day will do. We suggest using this month’s Elemental Family meditation, available for free on Soundcloud & linked in our newsletter, as your guide, especially if you are new to meditation &/or you wish to focus on letting go. Other great sources of guided meditations are the apps Insight Timer, Headspace, & Calm.
  5. Throughout the challenge, we will post a daily inspiration & loving reminder to meditate on Instagram. Check in as often as is sensible for you, & let us know you are participating by liking posts, & commenting on what you are letting go of &/or inviting in. When we show up honestly & vulnerably, we allow others to better support us! 
  6. Even more bonus points for posting your own photos to show us how the challenge looks for you or reposting our images to your feed &/or Instagram story with the hashtag & tags listed in #3.
  7. Relax. Stay Curious. Be Intentional - spend a moment each day exploring what you might need to let go of & what you would like to cultivate more of. Write it down. Enjoy the process. Be present to what is. Smile, cry, be still, dance, go inward, journal, connect with others, know what this moment requires. Inhale the good shit, Exhale the bullshit. 

Keep checking in to our Instagram page for challenge details, inspiration, motivation, & tips throughout the next 7 days! 

Will you join us?!


Autumn-Inspired & Outrageously Delicious Homemade Almond Mylk

Autumn-Inspired & Outrageously Delicious Homemade Almond Mylk

Remember the days when soy milk seemed like the only alt mylk around? Oh, how things have changed! These days, most coffee shops offer multiple varieties of dairy-free mylks, and if you’re lucky, you can even find a local shop that makes its own nut mylks from scratch! I must admit, this has become my top priority when scouting out new cafes. Sometimes you just have to embrace your foodie ways. Hey, that rhymes!

And since my bank account is not a fan of spending upwards of $6 on a matcha latte made with in-house nut mylk on a super regular basis, I opt for homemade drinks most of the time. Also, let’s be real: I’m a huge fan of playing Alchemist in the kitchen. While nut mylks may be making a name for themselves out there in the real world, most baristas will look at you funny if you ask them to toss some adaptogenic herbs into the mix. Literally “doctoring” up my drinks always - just ask my people. So, it’s with a joyful and creative heart that I take you into my kitchen and teach you my nut-mylking ways.


Today’s ingredient of choice is the subtly sweet, increasingly versatile, often California-bred, much beloved almond. Besides being undeniably delicious, almonds are rich in protein, healthy monounsaturated fats, iron, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin E. The list goes on. I was surprised to discover that almonds are also the only nuts that alkalize the blood, which is all the more important considering the increasingly acidic nature of the modern diet. According to Ayurvedic tradition, almonds foster our capacity for understanding, revive our spirituality, and bolster reproductive ability. From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, almonds have a predilection towards the Metal organ system. In other words, they impact the Lung and Large Intestine most dramatically. This is especially relevant as we begin to transition into Autumn, the season of the Metal element.

With a mildly warming and sweet nature, almonds aid in the relief of lung qi stagnation and moisten dryness in the large intestine. They can help to transform phlegm, alleviate cough, and “lube the tubes”. So, if you’re suffering from a cough, struggle with asthma accompanied by weakness/fatigue & white or clear phlegm, or constipation due to dryness (infrequent, small, hard stools), consider incorporating more almonds into your diet. However, not all almonds are created equal, and moderation is key as always. You should avoid excessive consumption of almonds in conditions of dampness (i.e., sluggishness, thick greasy tongue coating, edema), and pay close attention to the source of your almonds, as well as the state in which they’re consumed. Organic, raw, soaked or sprouted, and naked (the almonds, silly) is best! Let’s look at why...

Drinking the mylk of almonds is an especially nutritious, gut-friendly, and delicious way to benefit from the powers of these nuts. When you soak almonds (as well as other nuts, seeds, legumes), as you will in this recipe, you help to begin the breakdown of phytic acids, the storage form of phosphorus found in many plants, which inhibits many of the enzymes necessary for proper digestion, and interferes with our ability to absorb certain minerals present in the foods we eat. 

Soaked & skinned almonds.jpeg

Removing the skins is an even more effective way to avoid excessive phytic acid consumption, and prevent irritation of the gut lining. This step in the process has become a sort of meditation for me, gently slipping the skins away one-by-one and grinning with satisfaction as the slippery flesh underneath playfully pops into the bowl with a youthful pizzazz. Just as we transition out of our sun-kissed Summer bodies into the purity & twilight of Autumn, soaked almonds shed their skins to reveal the luminous ivory gem within. I like to keep some of the whole, soaked naked almonds aside for drying & snacking on later. Yum.

You’ll want to use raw organic almonds when making this mylk. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. “In response to outbreaks of Salmonella in 2001 and 2004 traced to raw almonds grown in California, the Almond Board of California and the USDA have created a mandatory program requiring all raw almonds to be sterilized through one of several treatment processes that the industry generously describes as “pasteurization.” What this amounts to is a lack of truly raw almonds on the market, and an abundance of almonds chemically sprayed with propylene oxide as a means of “sterilization”. Luckily, organic almonds will not undergo this fumigation process, but they are still pasteurized using a steam method. If you want to avoid the chemicals, opt for organic, or seek out a source of truly raw, unpasteurized almonds from your local farmer or online. If you want to learn more about the madness of almond sterilization and the sketchy,  misleading “raw” label, check out this article:

Okay, okay, it feels like I’ve exhausted the educational purpose of this post, and should probably get around to giving you, my glorious reader, the recipe you’ve been so patiently waiting for! (But, my friends, make sure you conserve some of that blog-fan endurance & enthusiasm for the content following the recipe, because, spoiler alert: I’ll be showcasing my favorite way to enjoy your finished product!) You’re the best. Here goes:


  • 1 cup raw almonds, soaked
  • 3 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 to 4 pitted Medjool dates, to taste
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Small pinch fine sea salt


  • Place almonds in a bowl and cover fully with filtered water. Soak the almonds overnight (about 8 to 10 hours).
  • Get some deep zzz’s knowing that the morning promises to be full of deliciousness!
  • Wake up excited to get into the kitchen!
  • Rinse soaked almonds, and drain well.
  • Add almonds into the blender along with approximately 3 cups filtered water, pitted dates, salt, and chopped vanilla bean (or extract). A 1:3 ratio almonds to water is typically best, however, feel free to adjust based on your personal creaminess preference (less water = creamier milk and vice versa. duh).
  • Blend on the highest speed until liquefied (about 1 minute).
almond mylk blender side view.jpeg


  • Place a nut milk bag over a large bowl (I like to use a 1 quart glass Pyrex measuring cup since it has a funneled edge and a handle which makes transferring it into jar(s) so much easier) and slowly pour the content from the blender into the bag. If you don’t have a nut milk bag (which you can easily purchase online), you can use cheesecloth or a fine mesh colander, but you’ll likely have to strain it a few extra times. 


  • Squeeze the bottom of the nut milk bag until you’ve extracted as much liquid as you can. Congrats, you’ve gotten a small workout today already! (Pro tip: you can use the fresh or frozen leftover almond pulp in oatmeal, homemade granola, smoothies, and baked goods. Or you can dehydrate and grind it up to make almond meal/flour)
Almond Mylk final from above landscape.jpeg
  • Pour the strained liquid into a large glass jar (think mason jar or glass milk bottle) with a lid. It will stay good in the fridge for about 4 days (honestly I’ve never had any left after 3 days because it’s that good). The mylk will separate after sitting still for a while, so make sure you shake it up again before drinking.

This mylk is delightful all on it’s own, but I like it best in my lattes and smoothies. Check out my almond mylk Adaptogenic Minty Matcha Latte below. It’s full of healing wonder, unbelievably yummy, and freaking stunning if I may say so myself.


Cold Season is Coming: Why Preparation Beats Prevention Every Time

Cold Season is Coming: Why Preparation Beats Prevention Every Time

Here we are again…summer is winding down and we’ve begun another month of seasonal transition. September is neither entirely summer nor fall, yet somehow holds the qualities of both in its ever-balanced hand.

A multitude of transitions have already begun to move through many of our households with the start of a new school year as well as the seasonal shifts that are approaching. Daylight hours are beginning to shorten and, despite the current heat waves and extreme weather assaulting the nation, the crisp edge of fall is beginning to creep to the fore, even if purely on an energetic level.

Chinese medicine offers many beautiful philosophical constructs to help guide us through the transitions of life in a resilient fashion, and one of my favorites is the idea of preparatory medicine (credit due here to the brilliant and kind Stephen Cowan, MD). I have touched on this philosophy in blog form before – Fall Focus on Immunity Part 1 – and feel that it is a topic worth revisiting (probably more than once).

Preparatory medicine acknowledges that life is a constantly fluctuating experience and that certain aspects of this flux can be prepared for, both mentally and physically, in ways that support resilience and ease. Stress accumulates in our systems on a daily basis, in tiny hits or in intense doses, and although we cannot control the specifics of the stressors, we do have a measure of choice in how we process, respond, and move through.

As we speed into fall and subsequently winter, and cold and flu season so cruelly encroach on the vitamin D-rich days of summer, we can utilize the philosophy of preparatory medicine to prepare ourselves and our children to withstand it to the best of our and their ability. Complete prevention is not a realistic goal when it comes to fall and winter illness (germs + school/work environments + sugary holidays galore = the perfect storm), so a more comprehensive perspective involves anticipation and preparation.

Immunity is as shifting as the stressors that challenge it, so here are three things you can do to prepare for this seasonal transition…

1.     Start boosting your immune system now.

·      There are a myriad of ways to do this, and no one system or protocol is perfect for everyone. Whether you prefer Chinese herbs, Western herbs, nutrition as medicine, acupuncture, essential oils, vitamins and minerals, or a combo of all of the above, the point is to do your research and be prepared to take action. We will support you in this effort by sharing our dietary and supplement recommendations for immunity throughout the coming months…

·      At the very least we recommend that adults and children take a high quality, multi-strain probiotic and vitamin D3/K2 combo on a daily basis, as both of these are proven ways to support gut and immune health and they are easy to give both yourself and your kiddos.

·      Our Chinese medicine tool kit is overflowing with herbal and other remedies to ward and fight off colds, so don’t hesitate to come in for preparatory wellness treatment and go home with individualized herbal formulas for the whole family. 

2.     Evaluate your own and your children’s needs and prioritize that which is necessary for each individual’s optimum health and wellness.

·      We believe that the best medicine is individualized in nature, gentle on the system, and works with the body to promote wellness.

·      The most effective way to cover all of the above bases is to take into consideration the following factors and then take the necessary steps so that these needs are met.

·      Factors might include: requirements for sleep, down time, and varied nutritional needs (protein at every meal to stay in balance or adequate fruits and veggies).

3.     Be realistic and proactive.

·      At the first sign of feeling off, take a moment to step back and listen to what your body or mind might need to regain a sense of balance and wellness, before falling fully into illness.

·      This is the time to limit stressors on your or your child’s system, be it inflammatory foods (sugar, dairy, gluten, fried food, etc), late nights, or excessively long to do lists or after school commitments.

·      Calm your mind and entire nervous system with a daily meditation practice, which research has shown to improve immunity, not to mention focus and happiness.

All About the Earth Element: Self-Care Tips for Spleen Support

All About the Earth Element: Self-Care Tips for Spleen Support

August heralds the arrival of late summer in Chinese medicine, the season of the Spleen organ network and its corresponding element, Earth. To anyone familiar with the Elements, the simple sound of these words alone are enough to evoke a pleasant, happy, warm feeling, as the Earth element represents all that is grounded, centered, nourished, nurtured, and held.

Your Spleen is your digestive center, physically and mental-emotionally, responsible for the transformation, transportation, and integration of both food and information. Similarly, the Earth element is the fulcrum of all five elements, acting as a grounding force and the source of daily life-sustaining energy that fuels you from the moment you wake each morning.

The Earth element revolves around community and harmony. It is associated with the color yellow, the sound of singing, and the flavor of sweetness. Earth is the element of caretakers and homemakers, those who take pride in nourishing others and those who nurture for a living.

Here at Elemental Family, we believe in the primacy and necessity of self-care in order to be able to fully show up and care for others. A neglected Earth element will let you know that it is in need, by manifesting some of the following symptoms:

·      Psycho-emotional: resentment towards those in your care, inauthenticity in your relationships, indecision, worry, overthinking, perseveration

·      Physical: low energy, bloating after eating, heavy limbs, bruising easily, and dull frontal headaches

One proven way to support the functioning of your Spleen is to cultivate clarity of thought through a meditation practice. Lucky for you, a brand new Earth element Lovingkindness meditation by Debi Fries, MFT is available on Soundcloud just a few clicks away…

Tending to your Earth element on a regular basis can include anything that fills you up, grounds you, and makes you feel happy and satiated:

·      Preparing and sharing a nourishing meal with family and friends

·      Reading with your children

·      Singing or enjoying music

·      Gentle exercise

·      Cultivating compassion for self and others

·      Earthing (walking barefoot on the Earth)

As always, we are here to support you in your efforts to live an authentic, healthy, vibrant, balanced life with our healing modalities, somatic psychotherapy and Chinese medicine. Reach out here to learn more about our treatment options for yourself or your children!

Late Summer Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding for a Happy Spleen

Late Summer Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding for a Happy Spleen

For most of us, pumpkins bring to mind memories of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and all things Autumn. So you may be asking yourself why we’ve chosen a Late Summer recipe that showcases this ultimate Fall fruit. For starters, pumpkin can help to mildly clear summer heat & eliminate dampness from the body.

Dampness in the body is almost always due to Spleen imbalance, and we may be more prone to it in late summer, particularly when the weather is humid. Just as the soil of the Earth becomes murky & bogged down when oversaturated by excessive or stagnant moisture, so too can the landscape of our bodies become muggy & sodden under similar circumstances. This may manifest as fatigue, sluggishness, depression, brain-fog, or a sense of heaviness in the body. It can also show up as fluid retention/imbalances, tendency toward weight gain, oily skin, nausea, loose-stools, cysts, or excess mucus.

The Spleen and Stomach are the body’s essential digestive organs in Chinese Medicine. If food and drink are not transported and transformed (the major functions of the Spleen/Stomach) properly, dysfunction & stagnation occurs, leading to damp and, later, phlegm throughout the body. This is often the long-term result of improper diet, eating habits (especially overeating or erratic/mindless eating), lack of exercise, or excessive worry/thinking.

Furthermore, this is a season of transition, and so our primary goal is to support the journey from Summer, the season of greatest Yang (fire), into Fall, a season mostly Yin in nature. By introducing moderate amounts of Fall foods ahead of time, we get a taste of what’s to come, and are able to adapt with greater ease. You can think of it like a hormetic effect, except without the toxicity. Or, if you’d rather, a compassionate parenting style, in which the child is gracefully and slowly guided from one activity to the next.

Lastly, yellow (including orange, gold, & brown) is the color of Earth and sweet is the flavor of Earth, the dominant element of Late Summer & the Spleen organ. As such, foods with these warm, inviting tones and/or “full” sweet taste can help support the Spleen tremendously. They offer a multitude of enzymes and carotenoids that promote digestion & healthy immune function. (Note: Sweet foods exist on a spectrum from “empty” to “full”. The Spleen likes moderate amounts of full sweets, such as roots, cooked/soaked grains, legumes, peaches, avocados, and cucumber, breakdown slowly, provide an abundance of nutrients, and contain adequate fiber to helps stabilize blood sugar.)

This delightful, cheery, delicious pudding can be enjoyed for breakfast, dessert, or anytime your heart desires really. It's yumminess & health-promoting properties can be enhanced when eaten mindfully. The state in which we exist when we consume is just as important as the food & drink we are consuming. For more how to eat mindfully, check out our blog post here! May your Earth element flourish in the simple ecstasy of harmonious nourishment!

Late-Summer Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding for a Happy Spleen

(Serves 2)


  • Pudding:

    • 2 cups almond or coconut mylk (or your favorite non-dairy mylk; dairy consumption can lead to dampness in the body and thus should be avoided this time of year & at all other times for those with a more chronic proclivity towards dampness)

    • 1/4 cup chia seeds

    • 2 tbsp. maple syrup, raw local honey, molasses, or coconut nectar or 4-8 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained (you can substitute natural sugar-free alternatives such as stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol - measurements will vary)

    • ½-1 cup pumpkin or kabocha squash puree

    • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or a blend of ½ tsp ground Turmeric + ½ tsp ground Cardamom + ½ tsp ground Ginger + ½ tsp ground cinnamon (this pudding is served chilled, so we add in some warming earthy spices to balance it out & aid in the digestive process)

    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    • Pinch of pink himalayan or celtic sea salt

    • Optional: Spleen qi tonifying adaptogenic herbal powders, such as Astragalus, Ginseng, or Licorice (¼ tsp each)

  • Toppings:

    • Fresh papaya &/or seasonal fresh berries

    • Sprouted walnuts, almonds, or any nut/seed of your choice

    • Raw honey to taste


Blend together all ingredients except chia seeds until very smooth. Pulse or fold in chia seeds so they're well distributed, then pour into jars or bowls, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. I like to prepare this the night before for a quick & delicious breakfast the next morning. Serve topped with fresh papaya, or seasonal berries & sprouted nuts for even more Earthy goodness!


Support Your Earth Element: An Exercise in Mindful Eating

Support Your Earth Element: An Exercise in Mindful Eating

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates.

Organic food & herbs from the earth can nourish our bodies, delight our taste buds, perfume our olfaction, vitalize our creative juices, and satisfy our innate gravitation toward beauty.

Our meals are almost always enhanced by the vibrant colors that adorn the plate. They remind us of & infuse us with the powers of the Elements of nature that permeate all of life - the greens of wood, reds of fire, yellows of earth, silver/gold of metal, and the blues of water.

In late summer, the Earth season, we aim to incorporate more yellow & orange whole foods into our kitchen to support our Spleen & Stomach. There are so many reasons to intentionally bring more natural color into your diet, but our favorite is simply the sheer pleasure it elicits in our beings. And we know that eating is so much more than just a physical act. You can enhance your digestion, and therefore your vitality, by consciously engaging your miraculous mind-body-spirit in the act of consumption.

Steps for happy, mindful eating:

  1. Shop locally - we are huge fans of our local farmers markets (or even grow your own!). Get to know the people who grow your food, ask questions about how it is cultivated, harvested, etc., where it comes from, and how it might best be enjoyed!
  2. Prepare your food with love and intentionality. Slow down, chop mindfully, cook lightly, get creative, make it fun, try something new. Seek out the help of cookbooks, knowledgeable nutritionists or other practitioners, friends, and family.
  3. Sit down to the table with those you love (whether in thought or in the flesh). Take three slow deep belly breaths to enter the present moment and move into your parasympathetic nervous system (the "rest & digest" mode).
  4. Give thanks to all of the forces that contribute to the food on your plate and the soft animal of your body that gifts you the experience of eating
  5. Maintain that yummy state of gratitude and receptivity as you chew each bite fully, savoring the textures, tastes and temperatures that land upon your tongue.
  6. Smile. ️

May your mealtimes be joyful, nutritious, delicious, soul-lifting, life-affirming, colorful, mindful moments of bliss.


Keep Your Kids Calm, Cool & Connected This Summer

Keep Your Kids Calm, Cool & Connected This Summer

Fire Element Acupressure + Essential Oil Combo

Take matters into your own hands this blazing hot season. Summer is the Fire season and as such is full of fun, fun, fun and countless opportunities for expansive joy; however, as we all know, sometimes it can be just too much for a kid's still-developing nervous system to handle in a regulated way. From the Chinese medicine perspective, it is possible to experience more joy or excitement than you know what to do with :-). When this happens, our kids usually let us know by offloading with the following symptoms and overstimulated behaviors: hyperactivity, anxiety, meltdowns, running too hot in general, low blood sugar, and/or trouble sleeping due to an inability to calm their brain and body enough to allow for sleep to take over.

Keep your kids calm, cool, and connected this summer with these two Fire-regulating acupressure points. Remember, we don't always need to use needles (or "taps" as we call them in the office) to treat your kiddos. Acupressure is a simple yet effective tool to help support a child's nervous system. You can do these points alone or combine with the recommended essential oils to enhance the calming effect. Check out this easy treatment you can perform on your children (or yourself for that matter):


  • Rub one drop of Geranium or Neroli essential oil on each of the acupressure points pictured below
  • Press and rub in a circular motion for 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • Repeat as needed to calm the mind and cool an agitated Heart


  • What do I mean by "Fire regulating"? 
    • Summer is the season of the Fire element in Chinese medicine. This means that the energy of the season corresponds to the qualities of Fire, including both the delicious, exuberant aspects as well as a propensity to burn out of control. Keep your kids in the chill & happy zone with acupressure, as well as plenty of healthy food, adequate fluids, and downtime to balance the fun.
  • Why Geranium and Neroli?
    • Both of these oil are calming and Heart (and thus Fire) regulating. They specifically ease stress and anxiety while enhancing the natural state of the Heart = joy. 
  • What can I expect to see post treatment? 
    • Acupressure generally induces a relaxed state of being, and the functions of these points should help your child to balance the heat of excitement with the need for mental and physical rest and recuperation. Repeat a few times a day for best results.

Acupressure points for Fire regulation during summer:

Heart 3 - located on the inner aspect of the elbow, in the soft spot between the bony protrusion and the tendons in the middle of the elbow crease

This point calls upon the balancing nature of Water to counteract excessive Fire in the body, thus calming the spirit and cooling excess heat.

Pericardium 6 - located in the middle of the inner aspect of the forearm, about two finger-widths (your child's fingers) above the wrist crease

This point protects the Heart and calms a wide range of emotional dysregulation.

The Fire of Summer & A Soothing Smoothie Recipe to Beat the Heat!

The Fire of Summer & A Soothing Smoothie Recipe to Beat the Heat!

We are now fully in the midst of the Fire season, aka summer. Fire represents all things joyful and soulful: passion, creativity, spontaneity, inspiration, charisma, drama, and connection. Fire is a tricky element in that it fuels any number of wonderful, magical qualities in our lives, but it has a tendency to burn so brightly that it can transform into an entity that rages out of control (think anxiety and insomnia) or burns itself out completely (think depression and adrenal fatigue).

The Fire element is connected to the Heart organ network in Chinese medicine, which means that it is intimately involved in the physical functions of our Heart (i.e., circulation) as well as the mental-emotional aspects (i.e., love, joy, and empathy). The associated color is red, the sound is laughter, and it houses the mind-spirit and opens to the tongue. The connection to the tongue is one reason why kind, compassionate speech is healing both for others and for oneself. Both our thoughts and words matter in Chinese medicine.

The sparkling, fun, optimistic nature of Fire is contagious, but we must be cognizant of the need to tend to our Fire element to ensure that it remains within a healthy, balanced range. As we move deeper into the fire of summer, we we may notice a flaring of our own internal heat. An excess of heat in the body can manifest as: fever, inflammation, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, mania, flushing, skin rashes and acne, hypertension, constipation, nosebleeds, acid reflux, and more.

One of the key ways in which we can assist our bodies during times of seasonal transition is through our diet. Just as the plants that grow and thrive shift with the seasons in response to changes in the environment, so must we. As we tune into the cycles of nature, and recognize these cycles within ourselves, we can begin to match our internal rhythms to those of the greater ecosystem in which we live.

Indigestion can easily occur during the summertime, so a lighter, fresher, more diverse diet is best. While Chinese Medicine often advises against the consumption of cold, raw foods, this is the time of year when it is appropriate to incorporate more foods that are cooling in nature. These are foods that have a cooling & calming effect on the body, and are often sweet, bitter, or astringent. We can use cooling foods to balance the heat of summer, while also incorporating a variety of foods that align with the increased energy and activity of the season. Consciously adapting our diet to one that calms the digestive fire during the summer season can assist us in maintaining a state of emotional calm, while increasing our capacity to handle stress, properly absorb nutrients & eliminate waste, and to look & feel radiant.

Choosing seasonal & locally grown fruits and veggies that can be found at the farmer’s market or delivered via your local CSA is always a great way to follow the cues of nature. Some examples of foods that can help cool & hydrate your body during the summer are: zucchini, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, daikon radish, seaweeds, watermelon, apricot, cantaloupe, peach, citrus, asparagus, sprouts, bamboo, white mushroom, snow peas, summer squash, watercress, mung beans, fish, cilantro, mint, dill, parsley, basil, and cumin.  Sip on water or coconut water infused with slices of lemon and cucumber and fresh mint leaves throughout the day. Foods to avoid this season are rich, greasy, fried, and spicy foods, as well as excessive alcohol, caffeine, and meat consumption.

Eat in moderation, chew each bite thoroughly, and practice gratitude for that which nourishes you. Be aware that over-consumption of any food, especially cooling foods, can lead to indigestion, sluggishness, bloating, & loose stools, so it is often wise to incorporate a small amount of warming herbs or spices to assist in the digestive process. For example, try adding fresh ginger or cardamom to a smoothie or mealtime tea. Try the following smoothie recipe to start your summer day off right!


Soothing Summer Smoothie Recipe:

Add the following organic (& ideally locally grown) ingredients to your blender. Blend, garnish with a fresh mint sprig, and enjoy in small, delight-filled sips!

1 persian cucumber (sliced into rounds)

¼ large fennel bulb (sliced) + several pinches of fennel leaves

1 celery stalk (chopped)

1 large carrot (chopped; raw or steamed & then frozen)

1 large handful of greens (baby spinach or kale is nice)

½ white peach (optional depending on your desired sweetness)

½ cup blueberries or raspberries (frozen or fresh; also optional)

Juice of ½ a lemon or lime

Handful of fresh mint

1 small knob of fresh, peeled ginger

1 large handful of sprouts (I like sunflower & broccoli sprouts, but feel free to explore)

1 tablespoon of chia, hemp, and/or flaxseeds.

½ tablespoon bee pollen

1-2 teaspoons adaptogens, such as moringa powder, tocos, or chlorella.

1 cup Coconut water, kombucha (flavor options are endless these days, but do yourself a favor and try the Love or Happiness flavor from Brew Dr. Kombucha - both of which are perfect for the season of the Heart!), water, or any mixture of the 3.

If you like a creamier smoothie, you can try adding ⅓ avocado and/or replacing 1 or more of the above liquids with a nut mylk.

You can also add a scoop of collagen peptides for some extra protein and gut support. We like Vital Proteins wild-caught marine collagens, or their vanilla & coconut water pasture-raised, grass-fed collagen peptides. 


Grounding Meditation for Times of Uncertainty, Instability, or Transformation

Grounding Meditation for Times of Uncertainty, Instability, or Transformation

"I am centered and rooted in the sustenance of the Earth, and I will not abandon myself when I most need my own support."

As we enter this month of seasonal transition between the budding, bustling, new-growth of Spring and the expansive, magical, light-drenched days of Summer, we invite you to incorporate this meditation into your daily practice to help you remain grounded in your innate power, wisdom, and grace. Allow the Fire of Summer that is growing from the Wood of Spring to begin to transform you into your highest vision of self. The seeds you have planted are ready to offer their fullest state of glorious expression to the world. 

As you read this become aware of the position of your feet. Are they planted firmly on the ground? If not take a moment now to do so. In order to attend to all the demands required of us we must find that grounded, still, present place within.

We invite you to take a deep full breath, feet planted firmly on the ground, and now exhale fully and deeply. Imagine a vast and intricate network of roots originating in your center, growing downward, traveling deep and wide into the Earth. Allow your soft, yet strong woody roots to embrace the alchemical fire deep within the core of the Earth. This is where the Wood element of Springtime dances with the Fire of Summer, enhancing one another in symbiosis and splendor.

Allow your next inhale to expand your roots even farther, strengthening your sense of security, stability, and oneness with the Earth. On your exhale, feel your body relax and release, and know that all is well in this moment. Feel your feet connected to the ground beneath you.

Repeat the following mantra to yourself, "I am centered and rooted in the sustenance of the Earth, and I will not abandon myself when I most need my own support." Check in with your body as you repeat these words. What are you aware of? Do you feel more centered, connected, and at ease? You can access this feeling at any time by tapping into your roots - they travel with you wherever you go. You are always connected.

Find Your Center

Find Your Center

Find your center. Trust your gut. Strengthen your core. Breathe into your belly. Activate your Dan Tian.

We reference the center of ourselves in a variety of ways, each of which highlights the vital role it plays in our well-being. It's the home of our internal compass, the intersection of heaven & earth, the ethereal womb from which life springs forth. A sanctuary wherein we can retreat & reconnect to our truth. The place from which we realign & cultivate a calm self-awareness. It's where we digest what comes at us & through us.

In Daoism & Chinese medicine, the region below & behind our navel is referred to as the lower Dan Tian, which translates as "elixir field", "energy center", or "sea of qi". It is the residence of the deepest energies of the body & the source of all movement.

When we mindfully direct our attention to this area, whether through meditation, acupuncture, qi gong, or otherwise, we can nurture & tend to the roots that anchor & sustain us, & encourage the transformation of our Jing essence into the elixir of Qi that animates our lives. On a body level, this can facilitate & regulate digestion, boost fertility, strengthen & energize the body-mind-spirit, support the immune system, & preserve health & extend life.

When we consciously nourish our Essence & cultivate the Qi in our lower Dan Tian, we are tuning in to our "gut". It's a trite & homely term for a stunningly dynamic, consequential, diverse, & vital system. Learning to listen & trust our gut is more important than we may realize. Our gut feelings are very real. Research today suggests that there’s an entire ecosystem of microorganisms in an expansive network operating in our guts (i.e., the gut microbiome). 

This network is now what scientists are calling our "second brain". It's filled with over 100 million neurons. Neurons are specialized cells that transmit information to other nerve cells. Our guts actually influence our mood & overall psychoemotional state. Having a healthy gut can not only allow us to digest what we eat & drink, but to process all forms information that comes at us in a new & intelligent way. A harmonious gut can provide protection from feelings of hopelessness, depression & anxiety. Clearly what we put into our bodies impacts how we feel & yet it is not the whole picture. 

When we are mindful & paying attention to our second brain’s activity we can begin to notice when we are present, calm & at ease, or when we feel fragmented & disregulated. One of the best indicators of this is our breath. Take a deep breath right now as you are reading this. Notice the subtle feeling of wellbeing this likely created. The breath allows us to shift from our amygdala (flight or fight mode) to our prefrontal cortex where we can access solutions to whatever is coming at us. It sends the message that allows us to calm down; there is no saber tooth tiger in the room. It allows us to shift from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic. 

The Vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve with the widest distribution throughout the body, travels down through the brainstem to influence parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, & digestive tract. It carries information bidirectionally -  downstream from the brain to the organs, & vice versa. Body sensations & gut instincts are our intuitive sense getting transferred up to the brain by the vagus nerve. This nerve impacts memory, prevents systemic inflammation, helps us breathe, & most importantly helps to initiate & regulate our body’s relaxation response. 

So eat mindfully, exercise, relax, & replenish regularly, nourish your microbiome, laugh often, find one thing each day that brings you joy, & BREATHE. Reach out when you need support - community & communion are essential to our well being. We are here for you.

Saturday Afternoon Botanical Bliss Truffles

Saturday Afternoon Botanical Bliss Truffles

I've been having an exceptional amount of fun lately making tasty, salubrious, spirited herbal concoctions using powders from Sun Potion & other delightful alchemists. I have some combo of adaptogenic herbs in my morning tea on a daily basis (all about that Reishi at the moment - I swear it is to credit for keeping me allergy-free this season!), but today I was craving more of a treat & had some extra time on hand to spend in the apothecary...I mean, kitchen. 'What in the world is an adaptogenic herb?!', you may be wondering! Allow me to elaborate...

Adaptogens are non-toxic herbs that "can stimulate, activate, or promote a response [to stressors] in multiple nonspecific ways, including the building of a reserve of adaptive energy.” They posses a bidirectional intelligence which allows them to either restrain & temper any hyperactive functioning or bolster & invigorate the functioning of underactive systems in the body on the cellular level, especially the neuroendocrine & immune systems!* They can guide the body back into a state of equilibrium, even in the midst of the seemingly ceaseless onslaught of myriad stressors in our modern world.

These beauteous truffle babes are filled with adaptogenic tonic herbs, raw cacao, & magic. Warning: these may incite high vibes, enhanced immunity, upgraded cognition, rejuvenated hair/skin/libido, overall well-being, & long-lasting bliss. Consume at your own risk 😉 Cheers to healthy pleasures & superfood mavens Sun Potion for procuring the highest quality organic/wild crafted herbs! Today's batch of treats feature Anandamide, He Shou Wu, Mucuna Puriens, & Tocos. Yum. 

You can come try some of these at our Healing Arts center where I intend on offering samples of what I'm making from time to time! You can also purchase the herbal powders (as is, or in custom combinations put together for your unique constitution) at our clinic & use this little recipe I've whipped up (see below) so you can make them at home! 


Botanical Bliss Truffles Recipe (can't help but giggle a little bit at the name I christened them with - the joy is already bubbling & we haven't even gotten to lick the bowl yet!):

Wet ingredients: 
1/2 cup raw cacao butter
1/2 cup coconut oil or coconut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 ground vanilla bean)
Monkfruit crystals (1 tsp or more; start small & add more depending on desired sweetness)

Dry ingredients: 
1/2 c Anandamide + 1/2 c Raw Cacao Powder
1/4-1/2 c raw coconut flakes
2 tbsp Chia Seeds
2 tbsp blanched almond flour
1 tbsp Lucuma
1 tbsp Tocos
1/4 tsp himalayan pink salt
Raw honey (1 tbsp or more depending on desired sweetness)

Additional adaptogenic/superfood herbs (approximately 1/4-1/2 cup in total; keep in mind you are already getting a divine blend of herbs from the Anandamide cacao powder, so this step is totally optional & open to interpretation):
I used: He Shou Wu + Mucuna Puriens + Maca; but some other great options are: Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi, Ashwaganda, Schisandra, Pine Pollen, etc. there really are no limits!

Rolled in any combination of the following toppings (again you can play with this part & get creative with other toppings you enjoy). Some of my favorites are: 
local bee pollen
raw coconut flakes/shreds
lucuma, cinnamon, cardamom, raw cacao, maca, &/or tumeric powder
raw cacao nibs
hemp seeds
sesame seeds
goji berries
celtic sea salt or himalayan pink salt

1. Lightly warm the wet ingredients until liquified; I like to put them in a bowl placed atop a pot of boiling hot water so as not to expose the raw ingredients to too much direct heat; melt the monkfruit crystals into this mixture (but don't add the raw honey in at this point - you will add this in later)
2. Place all dry ingredients in blender or food processor & add wet ingredients; blend until fully integrated; it will seem way too wet to form into balls at this point, but have no fear....
3. Scoop the mixture into a bowl (a metal bowl will work best because the mixture will cool faster) & place in fridge for 30 minutes or more (until mixture has hardened enough to be molded)
4. Cover a cutting board with parchment paper & spoon the chocolate mixture out & roll into smooth balls. 
6. Roll the balls into the superfood toppings (you can put the toppings into the bowl one-by-one & toss balls until covered. Alternatively you can add on your choice of superfood toppings in various corners of the parchment paper on your cutting board & roll balls into them by hand). 
7. Enjoy! (These can be kept in the fridge or freezer for future consumption)


(For more on adaptogens, check out Winston & Maimes book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief)

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring Has Sprung!

In Chinese medicine the element of Wood & the organs of the Liver & Gallbladder are associated with Springtime. Just like the trees & plant-life around us, spring is a time for us to reach upward & outward while trusting the depth & resiliency of our roots, & allowing the season's familiar winds to showcase the beauty of our flexibility rather than meeting them with rigidity & fear.

In early spring, as the trees come out of the dormancy of winter & fill with the sap of life, the color green highlights the landscape, & new life begins to blossom forth. Like the trees, we feel our potential rising up within, yet we may often feel pent up for we do not yet know how it will manifest later in the season. It is normal for us to feel mixed feelings of joy, excitement, anger, irritability, & impatience, as the Liver which is "the General" in charge of free flow (of blood, qi, emotions, etc) throughout the body-mind-spirit, can easily become constrained in response to the innumerable stressors of modern living.

So, be kind to your Liver & the Wood within you by:

  • Moving your body daily (walk, hike, stretch/yoga, qi gong)
  • Creating space (declutter, clean out your closet/pantry/car/mind/body)
  • Eating slowly & healthfully (light, fresh whole foods from the earth, especially sprouts! I'm obsessed with sunflower & broccoli sprouts at the moment)
  • Trying something new - be playful
  • Drinking plenty of filtered water with fresh lemon juice
  • Setting goals - especially with the promise of summer - the dynamic, active, transformative season of Fire ahead
  • Meditating, breathing mindfully &/or journaling to cultivate calm presence & self awareness
  • Oh, and of course, come see your trusty acupuncturists at Elemental Family for some gentle, nurturing, smile-inducing, liver-friendly treatment! Among other things, Springtime means that seasonal allergies and hayfever are OUT of control right now for oh so many folks! The good news is: you don't have to suffer anymore! Acupuncture, cupping, Chinese herbs, and more, can have a significant impact on relieving your allergy symptoms and addressing the root cause. Check out what one delighted patient had to say about it:
A nagging sinus issue led me to Hannah at Elemental Family. I’d never tried acupuncture or cupping but had heard of others’ success with it. After three visits to the sanctuary that is the Elemental Family practice, I was feeling infinitely better. The kindness, patience and care I received was as healing as the Chinese herb tinctures. I cannot say enough about how wonderful they are.
— Trish C.

#spring #forth #wood #element #reach #trust #blossom #manifest #soothe #liver #stretch #breathe #allergy #relief #elementalfamily #chinesemedicine #psychotherapy #wellness #acupuncture #chineseherbs #cupping #moxa #guasha #happy

Embracing the Light and the Dark

Embracing the Light and the Dark

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  

This quote from the Tale of Two Cities, by Dickens, comes to mind as I witness the current political climate in our country.  As it is with everything, there is always a light that accompanies the dark. What if we intentionally, consciously choose to view any challenge that comes our way as an opportunity for growth and reflection?

Our suffering often results in a desire to either keep things as they are, or a desire to not feel the discontent and discomfort that accompanies feelings of sadness, frustration, disappointment and anger.  If we are only content and happy when things are going our way we will suffer. What if we could actually embrace all of the myriad of feelings that we experience, and welcome them all? 

It is finding the balance in nature, in the light and the dark, where we can rest in equanimity and grace. Sometimes we need a gentle nudge, and sometimes we need the support from those that can help.  If you find yourself struggling in any area of your life we are here to help.  Acupuncture, Chinese medicine and therapy all are rich and healing modalities to support your journey for inner peace and balance.

Photo Credit: Hannah Fries

Photo Credit: Hannah Fries

Elemental Family Focus on Immunity: My Three Simple and Straightforward Immune-Boosting Dietary Tips


Elemental Family Focus on Immunity: My Three Simple and Straightforward Immune-Boosting Dietary Tips


Do you know a sure-fire way to eat to keep your immune system strong, as well as how to support a run down or sick system? I have three simple and straightforward tips to keep in mind this holiday season. Read on to discover what they are...

I know the holidays are fast approaching, and I am not trying to ruin all the fun, but I do believe that having a few guidelines to follow when facing the feasts ahead can help to keep you healthier. The tips in this post are mainly applicable to when you are feeling run down or when you are actually sick; however, the way you treat a sick system is usually optimal for illness-prevention as well.

Main point here: Try and make choices about what you eat with care, mindfulness, and moderation, and your system will thank you for it. And above all, enjoy what you eat! Savoring your food encourages proper digestion.

Chinese medicine has observed the influence of diet on health for thousands of years, and nutritional advice is often incorporated into my healing protocols as an acupuncturist. In the Chinese medical view, diet is intimately connected to the proper functioning of all systems, and impacts the quality of your blood, energy reserves, and immunity. What we eat, as well as how we prepare and eat it (cooked or raw for example), matters big time.

Diet is a tricky part of supporting immunity because it isn’t as simple as just wanting to eat right. Most of us want to eat well and to feed our kids a healthy, immune-supportive diet. The break is usually somewhere between the wanting, the doing, and the know-how. All sorts of things get in the way of putting real food on the table on a regular basis: time, money, interest, knowledge, overwhelm, and did I mention, TIME?

The fact remains though, dietary choices are always important, especially when you are trying to stay healthy or slogging through an illness. What you put in your system holds even more weight when your body is run-down, since it can make the difference between maintaining wellness and plunging headfirst into a cold or flu.

My Three Simple and Straightforward Immune-Boosting Dietary Tips:

1) Eat. Warm. Food.

Cold and raw food is damaging to the root of our immunity, the gut, which we acupuncturists refer to as the Spleen organ system. The Spleen appreciates and thrives on a diet of primarily warm foods, versus the ice water and salad-obsessed Standard American Diet (aka SAD – a fitting acronym really). This is especially true in the winter, when the Spleen is up against environmental chill as well as cold in our diets.

General fatigue and muscle weakness, bloating after eating, and easy bruising are all signs of Spleen weakness, so taking a break from cold and raw food can support proper functioning of the Spleen, rather than taxing it further.

Old wives tale-y though it may be, soup is an incredible food. It is, wait for it, warm and can be filled with any number of nourishing ingredients. Miso soup with plenty of scallions is good at the onset of a cold or fever, and chicken soup with veggies has cold-fighting properties. There is a special kind of soup called bone broth that is a mainstay of traditional diets the world over. Bone broth is a powerful nutritive and immune tonic. Stay tuned for soup and bone broth recipes on my site this winter!

2) Cut down on the refined sugar.

Sugar is delicious (duh), but it is also bad news when consumed in inappropriate quantities. In moderation, and in health, our bodies can metabolize some amount of sugar (especially of the fruit and honey varieties). But if you are stressed, sleeping too little, and eating poorly, then sugar becomes a bad guy in and of itself. Sugar lowers your immune power and generates heat (Chinese medicine-ease for inflammation) in the body.

If you are desperate for something sweet, go for an apple drizzled with honey and cinnamon or a few squares of real-deal dark chocolate (Endangered Species and Theo are two of my favorite brands).

3) Dairy is phlegmy and therefore not the best choice when you are also phlegmy.

Dairy is a cold (see #1 above) and damp-producing food in the eyes of Chinese medicine. Barring an allergy or intolerance, dairy can be a healthy part of the diet, when consumed in small to moderate amounts (same as #2 above), especially when the dairy products are organic and varied (choosing goat and cow milk cheeses for example). But when you are dealing with phlegmy conditions, manifesting as sinus congestion or phlegm anywhere in the respiratory tract, from the nose to the lungs, then removing dairy from the diet will make it easier for your body to clear the gunk that is already there.

IN SUM, if you are experiencing the beginnings of a cold in the form of a runny nose, scratchy throat, sneezing, fatigue, or even just feeling "off," then give up the raw/cold food, sugar, and dairy for a bit. By choosing foods that are clear, light, and immune supportive (and eating the not-so-healthy stuff in moderate amounts), you will lighten the digestive load and your immune system will be respond in kind.