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My Heart Opening Journey

Due to some events out of my control, the "Heart Opening Yoga Practice", will be featured tomorrow and I am posting myself as the featured person this week....My featured person for tomorrow will be up next week. My story is of my journey from depression and alcohol abuse, from the loss of my young daughter from leukemia, into healing and raw foods. Anyone can heal their hearts.......


My long journey into a healthy lifestyle and raw foods and began about 20 years ago when I took my 4 yr old daughter Brittany, to the doctor with what I believed to be the flu, dragging along my then 2 yr old son. Within minutes of being seen they realized this was no flu. She was transported to CHOC hospital in Fountain Valley, Ca where she was diagnosed with leukemia.

I was 23 at the time and was living a very unhealthy life. This included lots of drinking and partying and a not-so-good diet. I knew nothing about the “health industry” and I didnʼt care. I had no idea that there were alternative ways of treating disease. I went along with everything the doctors told us needed to be done. She was immediately given a blood transfusion. Chemotherapy soon followed. My husband at the time was in the Gulf War and we were in the middle of a divorce. He soon was sent home to be with her.

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A few people started telling me about Energy Work and various healing modalities so I started looking for additional ways of helping her. I went into a New Age book store and started asking about healers etc and a woman turned around and said she would like to help me. She, along with two of her friends came to the hospital the next day. They were Reiki Masters and Massage Therapists. They worked with her nearly every day. They helped profoundly with her pain and anxiety. They wrote words like “Love” and “Heal” on her medications. They did massage and energy work. I started asking questions and shifting a bit. This was my introduction to another world. Little did I know what was in store for me.

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Within a month and a half her leukemia had gone into remission. We thought all was well. She was due to be released to go home in a week. On a Saturday they realized something else was going on. She had a very rare fungal infection that had destroyed her organs and left them like tissue paper. She went into a coma. My dear healer friends came to the hospital and we were doing a healing circle, Brittany, still in a coma, sat up and pushed our hands away and laid back down into a coma. We knew what she was telling us.

The next day we were told we needed to make a decision about life support. Understanding that there was no chance of her ever surviving this, we had to make the most compassionate yet hardest decision Iʼve ever had to make. We took her off life support. And with the help of our healer “Angels” we held the space for her to make her transition.

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Holding her in my arms and talking to her even though she was in a coma until her heart beat itʼs last beat, was the hardest thing I will ever have to face in this life. I was broken hearted. It was only shock that got me through the first few weeks. After that it was alcohol. I drank all day and all night. I had to send my 2 year old son to stay with my Aunt in Utah. I blamed myself. I should have been a better Mom, I should have known something was wrong sooner…on and on….

Nearly a year and two attempted suicides later and having nearly drank myself to death, I woke up one morning and realized I just could NOT go on living like this and I needed to be there for my son. I also knew my little angel would never want this for me.

I decided to go to massage school and try and give back what our healer Angels had given to my daughter. I wanted to work with people who were sick to honor her and help others.

I moved to Utah to go to school and started taking the steps to get my life back together. It wasnʼt an easy journey. If it hadnʼt been for my amazing family I would have never survived and neither would my son. There were, and STILL are very challenging times. I also ended up in a relationship and got another amazing son out of it who is now 17.

After going through massage school and moving back to California I began practicing massage and loved it. Although it was too painful to work full time with people who were dying at the time, I did from time to time work with cancer patients. I found a lot of reward in that. I asked a lot of questions about their lifestyle and diet. (I have since started working with MANY cancer patients) I started to question if there were other ways of healing and/or preventing disease in the first place.

The Food Connection

 As I look back now I see that I was still surviving in shock mode and had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But I didnʼt know that even existed. But, I did know I had to “hold it together” and “not be weak” I had stuff to take care of. So thatʼs what I did. I disconnected. I found I could care for others in a very compassionate way and still block off my OWN feelings. It was easier to focus on OTHER peoples problems than my own.

I began emotional eating habits and went deeper into a sugar addiction. I tried to tuned out the sadness. I felt that if I allowed myself to go into my emotions I would collapse and never recover. I had to “stay in control” I was in a pattern of fight or flight nearly constantly. I had insomnia for years. I was always worried about the “what ifʼs”. I took my boys to the doctor for everything! I had panic attacks all the time (Which now I realize were blood sugar issues) I developed a Hyperthyroid issue. My hair was falling out and my heart was racing all the time and I had terrible digestive issues. I ate ALL the time but was very thin. I believe this was a result of chronic stress and anxiety.. I literally short circuited my body. Yoga and working with my breath help immensely.


My whole & raw food journey begins

Over the years I did a lot of reading and studying nutrition and health and about everything I could find to read. I went on the get certified as a personal trainer, yoga instructor,, watsu therapist (warm water bodywork) and eventually a certified raw food chef. This past April I graduated from The Institute of Integrative Nutrition as a Holistic Health Coach.

Five years ago when I heard of the “Raw Food Movement” and as I looked into it I really put up a good argument as to why this was a ridiculous idea. Itʼs funny to think about my reasoning now, but I do still reflect on those thoughts often as I work with clients who have never heard of “Raw Foods”. For those on a Traditional aka SAD diet they have no idea that such a thing exists let alone WHAT you could possibly EAT on such a diet! I now practice and advocate a "High Raw" diet.

I did more reading and started trying recipes. I started with the standard Green Smoothies and worked up from there. I got certified as a Raw Food Instructor and started teaching classes. I loved sharing this new world I had found and I loved seeing the results people were getting from changing their diets.
Some things I realized was that I had an addiction to sugar and “comfort foods” and was very sensitive to how sugar had been affecting my moods and energy levels. I also realized how I was using food to numb out and cover up feelings. When I felt like I was getting sad or angry or something happened I couldnʼt face, I just turned to food. I “stuffed” the feelings away. I “sweetened” up my life with sugar. The foods I chose gave me a sense of happiness. Now I realize how I was using food and sugar as a drug.

I was also having horrible digestive problems and started experimenting with no dairy and no meat. I went vegetarian and then vegan. It was a process of letting go of a few things at a time to see if I could tell what helped.

During this time I was realizing that as I started shifting my diet, huge emotions would come up. The more present and clear I became, the more I started paying attention to the deeper voice inside me I realized the digestive disorder felt more like “Emotions I couldnʼt stomach” “Emotions I couldnʼt process” And when I started having constipation there was “All the shit I couldnʼt let go of” As I worked with my diet AND my emotions my digestive problems started to clear up. This is an ongoing practice. (Life doesnʼt stop throwing stuff at you just because you eat raw food, you just have more energy and are more clear to handle it!)

I let go of more processed foods and sugar and replaced them with whole foods and raw foods I felt better and better. I had more energy and my thoughts were more clear. The depression began lifting a little at a time, my skin became more clear.

At this time I was also in a marriage where I wasnʼt very happy. I was depressed most of the time and felt very unfulfilled in my life. Again food and alcohol came in to help keep the feelings in check. But now I was in a place to recognize what I was doing and was able to get myself in check. It took a few years for me to realize that I had done all I could do with the marriage and trying to make it work. So I finally found the courage to leave. I knew I was in the wrong place and not on my path. He was a wonderful man but not the right man for me. I knew I needed to be in another place.

A Deeper Healing
I had been doing a High Raw diet for a few years and teaching classes. What I was realizing more and more is that unless I was working on my emotions, patterns, exercising and connecting to nature, no matter how much raw food I ate I was feeling 100%. I was feeling really GOOD eating a HIGH RAW diet but when all the other components came into the mix, I was on FIRE!

The more in tune I became with my body I realized how sensitive I was to foods and that I had never even noticed how food effected my moods and energy level and sleep. I believe that I had depleted a lot of nutrients and disrupted my hormones with the bad diet and chronic stress so there was a lot of rebuilding to do.

I used LOTS of greens like spinach, kale, dandelion, chard and collard greens, purslane and even wild nettles! I added superfoods into my diet like hemp and chia seeds, green powders etc… And began taking 5 -HTP, a natural amino acid,  to regulate my serotonin levels. I was very careful with too much fruit as I noticed I was very sensitive the sugar in most fruit. I did a lot of green juices but little fruit juice.

I watched the time I ate and how certain food effected me at different times of the day. I found I needed more dense food in the morning or I was spacey and very low sugar food in the evening or I would have blood sugar reactions and couldnʼt sleep.

But I also found when working with clients that these same principles didnʼt always apply to everyone. My friend told me about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and that I should check it out. This is their model. They teach Bioindividuality with diet and counseling. I decided to enroll and start working with clients in a health counseling setting. I enrolled! I graduated from Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in April 2011 as a Certified Holistic Health Counselor!

I moved home to Utah 2 1/2 months ago after leaving my marriage. It was a very scary thing to do. But as I settle into my new life I have chosen to stay very present and keep working on my patterns and fears etc. As I stay on my path of being present and keep a High Raw diet I get more clear every day. Each day I have been here there have been “miracles”, sychronicities and doors keep opening up for me.

A friend of mine told me a few days ago that when you are on your path these syncronicities happen easily. When your not, your life wonʼt be going so smooth. I have also found that when I am NOT eating a great diet, the doors donʼt open so well. I see food as a vibration you are putting into your body. The more natural and unprocessed the food is…like RAW FOOD…the higher the vibration. Processed, fake food leaves you with a much lower vibration.

Raw food has dramatically changed my life. I am no longer on thyroid medication and my digestive issues have cleared up, I no longer have insomnia, and the severe depression has cleared up. Iʼm not saying raw food is magic, I still work on myself every day. I practice yoga, meditation, listen to uplifting music, hike and connect to nature daily, journal, take some supplements and read amazing books….But diet is at the heart and center of all of it.

Into The Now

Doors have begun opening up for amazing opportunities in the raw food world. I am starting to see counseling clients and teach raw foods classes up here in Utah. I radiate joy, happiness, gratitude, energy and an amazing sense of aliveness! I have also gone through an amazing education system called Landmark Forum, which has been life changing! 

I do know that if I was eating burgers and pizza I would never be able to have the same sense of joy and clarity.

I feel so blessed to be able to be where I am now in my life. I reflect on where I was 20 years ago often. In my yoga practice there is a mantra I like and have chosen one Sanskrit word to use for myself when I get in a funk. Namo. It means “I bow” for me this means “I bow to the darkness in my life from the past for without it I would not be where I am today and I would never be able to have the perspective I have on life. I bow to the amazing and awesome things in my life and am grateful beyond belief. I bow to it ALL. Itʼs an amazing journey!”

I am also able to understand and have empathy and compassion for people I come in contact with every day! I am blessed with two amazing sons, now 22 and 17 whom I cherish!

You can reach me on Facebook (search for Lori Clayton), or my email Sagestar@aol.com or my website http://www.pureblisshealth.com/ I offer Holistic Health Counseling Programs, Private or Group Raw Food Classes, Raw Food To Go, Specialty Raw Desserts, Yoga and Massage. I will also be offering Retreats soon with other amazing healers!

Thanks for reading my story! Namaste!

-Lori Clayton, LMT, CHHC