Holistic Healing in the Austrian Alps

Health cocktail 

With so many wellness resorts offering a wide variety of treatments to address most any ailment, it’s no surprise that people are going back to the roots to find natural, holistic healing in an effort to de-stress, rejuvenate and renew.

One such resort that is reshaping the concept of wellness is Lanserhof, a resort that has offered “medicine of the future” for the past 22 years. Located in the Austrian Alps just outside of the quaint town of Innsbruck, Lanserhof promises to “cleanse the entire organism and strengthen one’s own self-healing powers,” using both eastern and western traditions. The resort also integrates medical research and works in co-operation with experts of the university hospitals in Innsbruck. What’s special about this place?

  • Comprehensive prevention and regeneration packages that encompass quality of life, derma, mobility, healing and health, mind and mental health therapies, and executive health consultations
    Use of state-of-the-art diagnostics equipment including genetic profiling, food tolerance testing, muscle function and endurance testing, ultrasound and micro immunological analysis
  • Specialty treatments ranging from detox massages, Mayr Medicine, Kneipp therapy and energy medicine
  • Detox packages that include daily active awakening in the forest,” the drinking of bitter salt, intensive chewing training, liver and stomach packs and “dinner cancelling” as well as medical lectures on topics such as modern Mayr medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, sleep, psychology and nutrition, and movement
  • Exclusivity, location and use of modern, minimalist design and rustic alpine architecture

I chose the LANS-MED_Basic package for my one week stay over the upcoming Easter holiday. It includes a consultation with a medical doctor who will put together a custom regimen for me. I’m expecting a comprehensive examination of my mind and body, and am looking forward to learning new life lessons that I will take home with me that will hopefully have long-lasting benefits. To learn more about this resort, visit: http://www.lanserhof.at/en/index.htm

Time for påskelijer (Easter Lillies)

 Danish Easter Lily

It is a familiar sight this time of year…the påskelijer or Easter lilies start popping up (literally) all over town. It is such a welcomed arrival. When the little yellow tops start sprouting out of the earth, there comes a feeling that spring is officially on its way.  This year is the first year that I’ve actually purchased some at the local store and am now enjoying their bright, yellow glow. What’s interesting is that Danish Easter lilies are not the same as American. In the U.S., the Easter lily is the Lilium longilorum or more traditional lily with white leaves and a distinct pungent and aromatic smell. The Danish Easter lily is actually a daffodil.

60 Minutes Features Denmark: “The Happiest Place on Earth”

Happy Danes on Nyhavn

CBS‘ renowned program (and my father’s favorite) “60 Minutes,” did a segment about Denmark. The program, entitled, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” highlights the fact that Denmark has won the top ranking again in the scientific survey on happiness published by Leicester University in England. The episode was based on the results from the 2006 survey and report entitled, “A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: Challenge to Positive Psychology?,” which also produced a “World Happiness Map.”  

To my surprise, Denmark’s ranking is 273 and is actually tied with Switzerland! And the U.S. ranks 247, “only” 26 points behind! Seeing that that range goes down to 100 with the central African nation of Burundi being ranked last, I suppose I shouldn’t feel so bad about being an American.

One thing I want to point out in this program is that it actually addresses the issue I blogged about before in “The Cold Danish Shoulder,” that was coincidentally mentioned on the TIME magazine blog entitled, “Should Danes lower taxes or just say ‘hello’ more often?.” The issue of Danes not having a trait of overt friendliness is mentioned and a Dane admits that natives rarely show their happiness and says, “they don’t talk very much” (out in the streets).  

He goes on to say that, “there’s a very highly developed body language. When, if you are stuck on the window seat of a bus, and wants to get out, and there’s a person next to you on the aisle seat, then you don’t say, ‘Excuse me, could I please get off?’ You start rattling your bags and make sort of a gesture saying, ‘I’m about to get up so please get up so I don’t have to talk to you.'”When asked if this behavior is a matter simply being shy, the Dane states, “I don’t know, it’s considered a right by Danish people not to be talked to.”

In addition, the program mentions another study conducted to determine the exact reason for the Dane’s happiness entitled, “Why Danes are smug: comparative study of life satisfaction in the European Union,” in 2006 that tested many hypotheses to determine the reason why Denmark was ranked so high on the happiness scale including genes, food, climate, native tongue, alcohol and smoking, marriage and children, general health, welfare state, exercise, prowess in sports and expectations. 

The conclusion: Modest expectations.  

So, now there is some light shed on this mystery. It is a Danes’ right not to be talked to and Dane’s have more realistic expectations. It’s very cut and dry. Almost as black as their sense of humor, which I love by the way. They don’t have the need to talk to you and in return, they don’t expect anyone to talk to them. It’s not a bubbly, happy-go-lucky type of attitude but rather a low-key, no nonsense existence with a happy heart singing silently. Who knew? I feel so much better now! Next time I won’t take it so personally.

What’s your opinion?

Looking Ahead and Letting Go

Ski Slope

Last week I had the opportunity to spend a week with 13 inspiring children with Cystic Fibrosis in the French Alps to Alpe d’Huez. It’s an annual ski camp that my husband and I participate in and have served as camp leaders for the past eight years. It is always a rewarding experience to see how the children transform during the week and witness how much the fresh air, sunshine and being together with the group benefit them.

These elements not only benefit the children, they also benefit the leaders. This year had a stronger impact than any of the other trips for me and I found myself finding symbolism everywhere I turned. For one thing, I have a love/hate relationship to skiing. I love the feeling of gliding down a soft, easy slope and especially one that kicks you out on a long, fast run transporting you to the next lift. But, pushing your way uphill on skis, navigating turns down a steep slope and walking up steep steps to the gondola with ski boots on are not my favorite aspects to the sport.

After a well-instructed lesson from my husband who happens to the be The King of Telemark, I realized that I was doing some things all wrong….and after starting to do it right, my experience changed radically. Instead of staring down at my feet and skis and thinking way too much about how to maneuver them, I started to dance with the turns from side to side marking each shift with my poles and began looking further down the slope.

“Stop thinking so much and just do it,” he said. “Instead of over-analyzing it, like you ususally do with everything else, just let go and look down the slope to see what’s coming.” So I did and it worked. I had a complete revelation and it took me to places I never thought I could go. Letting go of needing to know how you get there each step of the way and keeping your eye on the goal and on what’s on the horizon is a powerful way to see the world and is something I’ve taken home with me.

Another observation and conclusion that I came to is that I think that skiing is a great test of character. It tests and pushes your physical, mental and emotional limits and abilities in a way that nothing else can. When you feel the insecurity of slippery skis on ice or just on nice powder and are not used to it, you have to find your balance and your comfortable stance so that you are in control and not the skis. Overcoming this and learning to master this is a growth opportunity for most anyone.

All in all, the best reward was seeing the children enjoy themselves. It is especially impressive to see little girls not more than 12 years old flying down slopes like no tomorrow and having the time of their lives. That makes every hard step and shaky slippery slope worth it!

I not only come home with a renewed sense of confidence, but I have also gained new much needed positive energy not to mention Vitamin D from a week of mountain sunshine that I will hold on to for as long as I can. 

Reaching Acceptance

The winds of time

Over the past three years, I have gotten used to adjusting my life in order to accommodate my head problem. My condition, which my doctor has named “chronic postmeningitis headache,” has a unique personality and changes in character and intensity from day to day, hour to hour and yes, sometimes minute to minute. That means I never know what the day will bring, but always hope for the best. This of course includes the ongoing attitude of “dust yourself off and try again, try again,” but there are times, and especially lately that it’s getting increasingly difficult to “try again.” But, what are the other options? Do nothing?

 One of my favorite blogs on the old chronic headache issue is called The Daily Headache written by a woman named Kerrie Smyres. Today, she made a post that hit the spot with me in a significant way. The post entitled, “Trying Again After Migraine Cancels Plans” reads like the story of my life. If I had to count how many times I’ve had to cancel due to my head pain I would be busy for a couple of days. I call it head pain because it’s not a typical headache but I’ve been told that based on my description of it, something I call a “cotton ball” head, that it has migraine-like features. It is a really strange type of sensation that it very difficult to describe and I think calling it a headache does not do it justice. I won’t go into gory details, but when it transforms into its worst, I can’t function. Sure, I can walk and talk and maybe even smile and look as though I am “normal.” But, inside that’s another story.

I can relate to this post about canceling because not only have I had to cancel such things as classes that I’ve signed up like a Danish language class and photography class. I’ve also had to cancel coffee dates, lunches, brunches, dinners, Christmas parties, Birthday parties, etc. I even had to get up and leave in the middle of a Birthday party because I simply could not tolerate it. I can’t even say how many times I’ve had the full intention of going somewhere and after getting ready to the point of even having my coat on that I stop and have a heart to heart with myself and acknowledge that I am in no shape to go anywhere. 

The sad thing is that as a result of all this canceling, it makes it difficult to build and keep close relationships going with friends and family. People don’t really want to be around someone that is in constant pain and can’t enjoy themselves fully as a result. So, what is the answer? To hibernate? As Kerrie puts it, “Hibernating is way too easy — I know because I’ve been doing it the last few months. I miss being in the world. I probably won’t make all the classes I sign up for, but at least I’ll try. How else can I be sure to enjoy the good parts of life?”

She also goes on to ask others to share their losses as a result of having a chronic headache problem and send them to her as a way to deal with loss and grief. I could consider this, but if I did it, I’d definitely need a box of Kleenex next to me. One last thing she mentioned that I couldn’t have said better is, “Headaches steal so much of your life. The list is long, but includes jobs, relationships, having children, self-respect, ambition and identity.” I am sorry to say that this is the sad truth.

I guess we all deal with things differently and the longer time goes on, you should get better at coping and managing your life with a condition such as this. I feel like I am getting better at it, but I can’t help but feel that as time goes by, it gets harder instead of easier. But the key is is to keep on keeping on. And to keep trying. Stops and starts, that’s just how it is for me right now. I don’t know if it will be this way forever, but it’s something I must learn to get used to otherwise the disappointments become too overwhelming.

I have signed up for a new class though, it’s a “Course in Danish Culture” at the University of Copenhagen. I’ll try to attend as many of the two hour lectures held once a week as I can but if I can’t, it’s OK, as long as I keep trying.

Thanks Kerrie for your post. It put into words what I’ve been feeling for a long time.

Change of Tone

Free Your Spirit

The program I wrote about had quite an impact on the international community in Denmark and inspired around 20 posts on the Yahoo group devoted to Foreigners in Denmark. I must admit that it even though it was intended to be a kind of cathartic exercise for me, it also stirred up something that I may have portrayed in a negative light. For this, I need to clarify that I by no means have a negative view of Danish people or the Danish culture in general. What I need to put forth is that while there are aspects of my daily life in Denmark and general attitudes towards foreigners that puzzle me, the majority of the time I am very content with life here. So much so that in many ways I prefer to live here than in the U.S. There are aspects that I dislike, however there is no such thing as utopia in any society – it is simply a very complex issue.

Life here does frustrate me at times, however it’s more a matter of understanding the culture and adapting and adjusting to it instead of expecting people to act or behave a certain way because that is what I am used to. What may seem like simple courtesy for me may just be the way people behave here that is completely accepted. It doesn’t necessarily mean that people are rude or inconsiderate in nature. To an outsider, it can be seen like this if you have not encountered this kind of behavior before.

A very, very important point to note here is that while it may not be in the nature of the Dane to reach out to others, i.e. smile, say “hello” to strangers or say “excuse me,” or switch to English when there is a non-Danish speaking person present, I have found that if you take the effort yourself, it is *almost* always reciprocated and warmly returned. Not only that, but I believe that Danes are non-assuming, not outwardly pretentious or self absorbed. They are very down to earth, direct, sincere and authentic. This is one of the most admirable traits that Danes have in my opinion and is extremely refreshing. Two posters to the Foreigners in Denmark group captured this quite eloquently here.

I suppose this misunderstanding of Danes’ attitudes is partly due to their homogeneous nature and something called Jante Law. The law originated in the writings of a Danish/Norwegian novelist Aksel Sandemose in 1933 in his novel A Fugitive Crosses his Tracks. “The ten rules are:[2]

  1. Don’t think that you are special.
  2. Don’t think that you are of the same standing as us.
  3. Don’t think that you are smarter than us.
  4. Don’t fancy yourself as being better than us.
  5. Don’t think that you know more than us.
  6. Don’t think that you are more important than us.
  7. Don’t think that you are good at anything.
  8. Don’t laugh at us.
  9. Don’t think that anyone cares about you.
  10. Don’t think that you can teach us anything.”

 Some young Danish contemporary thinkers have an attitude of “fuck Jante” and a famous woman handball player sported a t-shirt to promote this view, but it’s an important shift that’s taking place. Jante Law on its own taken to the extreme can be dangerous in my opinion, but a balance of it can be healthy.

Time Magazine’s Blog Blogs on My Blog

Blog, blog, blog….everyone is blogging these days…but one blog that blogged about my blog after I blogged on their blog is Time magazine’s Curious Capitalist, blog. See the entry entiled, “Should Danes lower taxes or just say ‘hello’ more often?.”

It’s amazing how this blogging stuff works. Click on the link above to see the reference to the blog below entited, “The cold Danish shoulder.”

The cold Danish shoulder

Statues in Copenhagen

Yesterday a news program in Denmark on DR1 called “Magasinet Penge” or “The Money Magazine,” did an episode entitled, “Kold dansk skulder til udenlandsk arbejdskraft,” which means “the cold Danish shoulder to foreign workers.” During the show a number of foreigners were interviewed including an American couple that just relocated from Seattle (the husband was transferred with Microsoft), as well as others in Denmark working for international companies.

The main theme was that Danish companies are losing a significant amount of money because international workers leave Denmark after a short stay because of high taxes and a general dissatisfaction with life here. One of the culprits is spouses not being able to find work or integrate. This was also highlighted in a New York Times article, “Denmark Feels the Pinch as Young Workers Flee to Lands of Lower Taxes,” and then a follow on article on a Time blog entry entitled, “Are young Danes really emigrating because of high taxes?” The problem is that Denmark desperately needs foreign workers to support its growth and to be more competitive. According to this program, it is estimated that the country will need approximately 20,000 more foreign workers by 2011.

These non-Danes describe having difficulty connecting with Danes. They expressed that they think Danes are not very open, warm or friendly towards them. In general, it was a real candid look at what foreigners think of Danes. The funny part is that when surveyed, the majority of the Danes see themselves as friendly and open but very few actually admitted to inviting a foreign colleague over for dinner or for a cup of coffee/drink outside of work.

The wife of the American guy from Seattle actually stated how she noticed that Danes just don’t smile or say hello. It was such a refreshing thing to see and hear for me. I have lived here for over five years and have said the exact same thing. I simply do not understand why this is the case. It seems like simple courtesy. The reporter just chocked it up to Danes being “shy.” But, is it really just shyness? Or is it something more in the cultural fabric of society? It is because everyone is taken care of so to speak by the State through the social welfare system that people don’t really owe anything to each other, not even a simple greeting or acknowledge that you exist? I feel sometimes that people just look through me, like I am invisible.

Because of this I have sadly perfected the art of not making any eye contact with anyone when I am in public. This sort of reminds me of when I used to live in New York and learned not to make eye contact with anyone while riding the subway. The subway is one thing, but in your workplace or being out on the street and in the shops, etc. is another.

I see the behavior on the streets especially when I’m in my car. Danes have the tendency to ignore you even when you are driving. They act as though they don’t see you even though they are right beside you. If they want in, they just merge in with no eye contact. If you pull out in front of them though you will get a reaction, but it’s not likely a friendly one.

It’s something I always notice when I return to Denmark after being away for a trip home to the States. I go to the grocery store and no one, not a single person is speaking to each other. It’s a silent store with crowds of people. The check out clerk doesn’t say hello or even give you a glance. As I stand ready to pay, I feel a little bit like a ghost with a nameless face. To take this further into building relationships with Danes, that’s another matter. Danes are very private and I respect that. I know it takes a while to get to know them. I am married to one! But, it seems they have a very difficult time making casual acquaintances and perhaps view making new friends as something they don’t need because they already have all the people in their life that they need or want. For an outsider, it makes it impossible to open the door to something that may just be meaningful.

 As for the workplace, I too have experienced this phenomenon of being in the lunch room at the lunch table and everyone speaking Danish around me. I recall sitting and looking out the window while sitting at a full table and wondering if I really belonged there. But I chocked it up to experience and just sat and smiled and chimed in when I could.

The Danish Queen made her New Year’s speech as she always does this past year and mentioned something about foreigners that, “we need them and they need us.” This was also highlighted in the program. No disrespect to the Queen, but is it really good to have an “us” versus “them” mentality? Aren’t we are all human beings just trying to find our place in the world?

I guess sometimes I take for granted that I come from a country that has a very high tolerance and openness to foreigners. The only natives are Native Americans and they are considered a minority.  Americans are used to people speaking their language with a different accent or pronunciation. They are willing to take a chance and talk to and get to know one another. Many times than not they find that they have something in common or have something to learn. They may even find that they get the opportunity to reach out and help or touch someone.

If Denmark plans to be successful in recruiting international talent, then the public needs to become more comfortable with foreigners living here. Not only that, but they also need to recognize that it’s not always easy learning a new language, a new system, building a new network of friends and a new support system. It’s not just about foreigners learning about Danish culture so they can integrate, it’s also about Danes learning how to tolerate and have compassion for outsiders.

Fruit Loops From Home

Fruit Loops

One morning not too long ago I woke up and had a craving for Fruit Loops. I have no idea where this craving came from. It just popped up from nowhere. I don’t even eat cereal anymore. But nevertheless this yearning for F. Loops was strong enough that it caused me to make a special request to my mother in Texas. I asked her, “Can you please send me some Fruit Loops?” “Fruit Loops?,” she said, “Why on earth do you want Fruit Loops?” I really couldn’t give her a good answer except that I was just simply craving them. At the same time it reminded me of my childhood love for Captain Crunch. I told her that if I had to choose between the two, I would choose Captain Crunch, but clearly something had to be done to satiate this Fruit Loop longing.

From time to time I get cravings for things that remind me of home. But all in all, I have learned to live without many things that I didn’t think I could live without since moving to Denmark. It’s not so much that I really want this certain type of food, it’s more about getting a familiar taste or smell or sight in mind that makes me keep my connection to home, the U.S. 

Since there are not so many American goods on the market here in Denmark, and since my lifestyle and diet have changed dramatically since moving here, I have learned to live without many of the same comfort foods that I grew up with. But, as with the Fruit Loops there are times when I just want the taste of Stove Top Stuffing, Campbell’s Chicken & Stars, Frito’s, Sunchips, Nutter Butter cookies, cream soda, Dr. Pepper, or even SpaghettiOs, which I used to eat almost every time I went to visit my grandmother when I was a kid.

Part of the process of living in a new country is adopting new traditions, tastes and connections to things and letting go and accepting that I can only enjoy these other comforts from home every once in a while. It’s a lesson in learning to live without and enjoying them when it’s possible. It’s also about adopting new traditions, trying new things and being flexible and creative. Instead of Chicken & Stars, I’ve learned to make home-made chicken soup with fresh root vegetables. Instead of Stove Top, I make home-made stuffing with fresh herbs and incredibly tasty Danish bread, and instead of Fruit Loops or Captain Crunch, I have the opportunity of choosing from a multitude of muesli and healthy oatmeal options.

But, today I will enjoy my Fruit Loops. My mother ended up sending me some and what she did was send a big box of Captain Crunch, which I’ve already eaten as a breakfast, lunch and dinner meal, and a variety pack of America’s most well-known cereals including Fruit Loops. I’m lucky that this pack also includes Kellog’s Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Puffs because I never know when a craving for one of these might hit me from out of the blue. Thanks mom.

Call Me a Juicer

Market in Annecy, FranceYesterday I had a wish come true. I got a juicer. It’s something that I have been thinking about getting ever since my yoga instructor suggested I juice some fennel for its estrogen-like effect and parsley for its chlorophyll for hormonal fluctuations. She also suggested juicing cabbage. I found this intriguing and tucked the idea away in the back of my mind and silently wished for a juicer to appear in my life someday.

After doing some research and shopping around a bit over Christmas, I quickly realized that juicers are a tad expensive running upwards of 2.000 DKK ($400). But thanks to the post-Christmas sale fairy, I purchased a modestly-priced and perfectly-sized one for 499 DKK ($100). I was psyched.

The first juice I made accompanied my dinner. I juiced a whole organic cucumber, a couple celery stalks and an apple. It is recommended to juice cucumber, celery and fennel for a first juice, but the apple served it’s purpose just fine. The juice produced a cool mint Jiminy Cricket colored green. I enjoyed it a lot and it tasted well, like celery and cucumber. The juice went down with no problem and was a good combo with my dinner which consisted of sauteed Brussels sprouts and a thinly sliced turnip over mashed Kohlrabi.

For breakfast this morning I juiced a papaya, two carrots and a honeydew melon. It was delicious. I think I am going to really get into this juicing thing. Hopefully my stomach can handle it. I already feel a little more perky than usual and I may already be radiating a new glow.

  We’ll see. All I know is that I am already looking forward to my next juice. Perhaps it will be that head of red cabbage in the fridge. Until then, happy juicing!