Should the canary heal?

July 17, 2017

When people are considering doing the Gupta Programme to heal from multiple chemical sensitivity, sometimes they wonder if their role instead is to serve like the canary in the coal mine, giving the signal of toxins in the environment?

That was a question I had needed to answer for myself, and it came in layers. Early in my healing process, the idea came to me to be a different kind of bird, that sings as the Voice of the Earth, giving a message about cleaning up the air. I had the idea that speaking with words would free my body from speaking through reacting, and I certainly made a great deal of progress, and became much less reactive.

Yet there were some more layers that needed to be addressed. A practitioner I was working with to help me detoxify my body liked the idea of the Voice of the Earth, and began calling her other patients with MCS Voices of the Earth. I felt somehow uneasy with this, but wasn’t clear on what it was.

As I was healing, I gradually became part of the wider world again, as a practitioner myself, and in circles dedicated to progressive health and spirituality, or the arts. When I attended an Intenders Circle facilitated by Tony Burroughs, a person who was healthy spoke an intention for clean water and air. I then understood that by allowing the identification of Voice of the Earth to be attached to chemical sensitivities, it was only partly changing that particular role, rather than celebrating that all can speak for the earth. And I was then able to release the burden connected to my body carrying a signal.

It was an important aspect of allowing myself to heal fully when I later found the Gupta Programme. In reflecting on this realization, I notice that it happened in a group.

In many groups of people living with MCS, the idea of serving as canaries is very important. And for me, it had served great value, by giving meaning to the suffering, and for illness serving as an initiation into being a messenger. I now encourage people to take the next step: to be a messenger for a healthy way of life, without the burden of illness.

It’s a lot more fun, being that messenger! I feel so thankful to really enjoy my life, go anywhere I desire, eat anything I like, and have adventures.

As a healthy person, I can contribute more to the shift to a healthier planet as well. Recently I chose to move to the small town of Ajo, Arizona, and it is no big deal that I ride my bike and walk here. But when I still lived in Tucson, people with MCS were astounded that I not only lived in central Tucson, but rode my bike in traffic and walked for errands. I also take public transportation, while still making less frequent use of a personal vehicle.

Because I am not reactive, I can also buy more from thrift stores, reducing my carbon footprint, since even producing new organics has an impact. When I buy new, I still choose to buy organic clothing, and to make conscious choices of appliances, electronics, and other items.

Similarly with food, when I was still in Tucson, I chose to take part in buying produce from Market on the Move, produce that would have gone to waste, while still buying organic from stores and farmers’ markets. I had the energy to garden as well.

Becoming healthy has also given me the freedom to live in an apartment again, further reducing my individual carbon footprint. While the person who bought my house in Tucson was happy to have rooftop solar and rainwater harvesting, all things that I could afford to do because I was healthy enough to be earning sufficient money to invest in those.

This has all been a big transition. I think one crucial factor in my success was that I did not keep all my identity wrapped up in being the canary or later a Voice of the Earth; I gradually built connections based on shared values and interests rather than illness—I kept many friendships and also made new connections with people who ate healthy, liked to be outdoors, and many of whom shared work in the healing or fine arts. Others were women business owners. Some were neighbors.

Few of these new friends understand my whole journey; they cannot fully validate my experience. And that is why it is so important to me as a Gupta Programme coach, to offer group coaching, where people have peers on the journey of retraining their brains and getter better.

When people are retraining their brains, they may also need a break from hearing a lot about toxins, and for that reason, be less connected to some friends living with MCS. That had been my experience, and then it was such a joy to find that some other activists for access for people with MCS have also recovered through brain retraining. These are friends of mine going back many years, some all the way back to 1990, when I started speaking up about access for people with MCS. So I have a long-time peer group again myself, people who have been on the whole journey. And I’m happy to be helping more people come over and join us in this adventure!

To see the schedule of group coaching events, please see:

A pack of coyotes? Choosing a reference group

August 28, 2015

One day a woman greeted me with more intensity than the passing “good morning” that walkers usually give when crossing paths. So I stopped to listen, and she said, “I’m new here and I see two coyotes over there”—motioning to the dry river bed—“Do I have to be concerned?”

“No,” I said. “They’ll just stay down there and won’t come hurt you or your dogs.”

With that reassurance, she continued on. I was glad she had asked. If she hadn’t, she might have missed out on enjoying the beautiful desert morning, the air still reasonably cool, the desert willow in bloom, the birds flying over the riverbed. She might have hurried back to her vehicle, looking over her shoulder for a coyote, afraid to return.

Probably over 99 percent of the walkers, runners, cyclists, and horsepeople exercising that day would have given her the same answer I did. But what if she had asked someone else new to the area who didn’t know? Hopefully they would have just asked the next person they encountered. But what if the person they happened to ask was someone with an unusual perspective, perhaps a member of the High Anxiety Walking Group who started to panic? Rather than getting realistic information to allay her concern, our walker’s fears would have been fed.

Our reference group is critical when we desire to form realistic perspectives, healthy ones that help us make good choices.

As I became increasingly sensitive to chemicals, I talked more and more with people who were also very sensitive to chemicals. In many ways that made sense; we understood each others’ experiences and could be supportive. But we also often fed each others’ fears, by focusing on our reactions and all the toxins in the world.

When I found the Gupta Programme, I learned about how we can become conditioned to have reactions to common chemicals. An exposure to a certain level of a toxin may bring on symptoms that are from the actual exposure. But with the low-dose reactions of chemical sensitivities, the reaction is from the body’s fight-flight adrenaline response. And once the body goes into adrenaline overdrive, that sends a signal that we are in danger, which feeds the fire of the adrenaline response.

The Gutpa Programme has many wonderful tools for retraining the brain to no longer overreact to small amounts of chemicals. The body can then shift from fight or flight to the calm parasympathetic nervous system response that allows us to rest, digest, have a healthy immune response, and to better detoxify from any chemical residues in our systems. And to then have the energy to more fully participate in the planetary shift to environmentally healthier ways of living.

Before I found the Gupta Programme, I had already discovered that I did better if I did not think so much about chemical sensitivities. I was still very sensitive, so with the connections I already had by telephone with people with MCS, I sought to shift the focus of conversation. What self-help healing modalities were we studying and finding useful? What beautiful plant was growing outside the window?

One of the best experiences was starting a group that sang over the telephone. Even with someone who I found to be very negative in her thinking, singing was an activity we could enjoy together. A few of us met in a support group to deal with a specific issue in our lives. These successes gave me the courage to reach out to a group of non-MCS women writers I knew, and ask to be included by telephone. We later got a grant to hold a writing workshop that was accessible by telephone. I also started working by telephone as a freelance journalist. Later I would learn about 12-step meetings that happened by conference call and that became another lifeline.

I also organized a group of people with chemical sensitivities to celebrate some holidays together in person. Some of us then ventured out to outdoor events together. I found that many food co-op and other health food people were safe for me to be around even when I was still sensitive.

I feel thankful now to be able to go anywhere, and be with anyone. My expansion started with simply shifting how I connected with the network of people in my life. My network shifted over time as I found who desired to go in the direction of healing, and as I made new connections.


Deborah Mayaan is a trainee coach with the Gupta Programme, as well as an energy work and flower essence practitioner. She works by telephone, Skype, and in person in Tucson.

What makes today a blue ribbon day?

July 1, 2013

Blue ribbon streamers on my bike at the 4th of July parade

The reminder from the Palo Verde Neighborhood Association about our mellow 4th of July parade encouraged red, white, and blue streamers on our bikes. That brought back memories of riding my bike in such a parade back in Youngstown as a kid. I still love riding my bike, and my eyes were drawn to blue ribbon in my office. Maybe streamers aren’t just for kids, and I’ll tie them on my bike handlebars. These ribbons also serve as reminders to appreciate the gift of each day. And focusing on their color, it can be a reminder of the positive psychology practice of asking what went well today?

Choosing the kind of energy our hands will act with

June 10, 2013

When people have been drawn to the bath salts, but don’t have a tub, I’ve suggested that they do a foot bath. Mary at Desert Rose has also suggested using them as a hand bath, for –I love the synergy of different people’s input!


I actually starting making these bath salts long before I had a tub myself. I lived in a little trailer out in the desert when I first started to spiral up from severe illness. Even before I started making my essences, I started making bath salt combinations that I used as foot baths. During the years when I rented in Tucson, sometimes I had a tub; and other times did not. Someone asked me once, wasn’t it strange to make something that I could not enjoy in its fullness myself? I felt it was part of drawing me forward until the time when I would own a house and have regular access to a tub. Which I very much enjoy at this point!

Is there anything that is a parallel in your life?

Mother’s Day gift–Unconditional love comes in a kit?

April 24, 2013

A Mother’ Day gift can be challenging to pick out when there are unresolved family issues. The Bathe Yourself in Unconditional Love Kit helps heal those issues.

It’s also appropriate if you felt unconditionally loved by your mother; giving this kit of rose quartz essence products is a way to say thank you and keep the love flowing.

If the love that came from your mother had strings attached or was inconsistent, this kit helps heal that pattern. We can only give what we have received; helping another person tune into the flow of unconditional love in the universe can be part of our own healing, of acceptance of what our mother was able to give or not, based on what she herself had received.

I only created this kit recently, but unconditional love/rose quartz bath salts have been popular for years, and I remember how much my mother enjoyed them, and like to think that they were part of healing wounds we both had from challenging patterns that had been handed down by her mother. Giving myself rose quartz essence at the same time also helped me.

Giving thanks and honoring history

November 23, 2010

On Thanksgiving, even the most harried of us may slow down enough to think about what we are grateful for. Expressing gratitude on a daily basis can radically change our perspective as we focus on what we appreciate, rather than dwell on what may be lacking. One of the most effective tools I’ve experienced is the gratitude journal that Sarah Ban Breathnach describes in her book Simple Abundance (Jan. 14 passage). If it is challenging to add this practice to the end of a long day, I suggest putting the journal on your bed as a reminder to take a few minutes to list your gratitudes before going to sleep.

The history of the holiday of Thanksgiving may be different from what we were taught in school. To learn more about the Native cultures of the U.S., there are many resources celebrating Native American Heritage Month. One of the richest stories I’ve read recently is Louise Erdrich’s A Plague of Doves.

Paying it forward

October 19, 2010

“Children cannot intervene in their parents’ fate”–Jakob Robert Schneider, Family Constellations, p. 88

How much more energy will you have for living your life and paying it forward, when you stop old patterns based on trying to heal your parents?

I have exactly what I need to move forward–can this be true?

October 8, 2010

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.–Henry David Thoreau

We start out enthusiastic, but when we encounter some lack or run into an obstacle that seems too big, we often get discouraged and tell ourselves that we must have had a grandiose vision, that we can’t have it.
The essence of energy work is to look at each experience and ask what we need to transform it. The apparent lack or big obstacle becomes a great teacher alerting us to an opportunity to transform something in ourselves that is showing up as an issue in our health, business, or other aspect of our life. In a friendly universe, a need is met by help, and our job is simply to find what will help us shift the issue.

This time of the new moon is a great time to try out a new perspective, or renew our commitment. Have fun!


What rhythms are you in synch with?

October 3, 2010

One aspect of healing is finding what energizes us and what drains us. Trying to force ourselves into a pattern that we don’t resonate with drains us. Trying to march to a drumbeat that is not the best pace for us leaves us exhausted from pushing ourselves or not present due to boredom.

Did you miss receiving a post on Oct. 1? If so, my guess is that it was habit, usually finding it within the flurry of other publications.

Oct. 1 was a major Jewish holiday, and rather than posting early, I decided this would be a good time to shift to synching messages with the natural rhythms of the earth, rather than the arbitray patterns of the Julian calendar.

In many earth-based spiritual practices, the waning moon is a time of releasing that which no longer serves us. When we actually observe the moon each evening, we get a visual cue in the dimishing moon. I remember when I first started attuning to the cycles of the moon back in Massachusetts. As I walked home at night amidst all the multi-story buildings in Cambridge and Somerville, I would crane my head, seeking a crevice of sky to glimpse the rising moon. Even with the bigger sky in Tucson, it is still easy to simply grab our things as we move from car to building.

A simple practice can be to remind ourselves to look up, to search the sky for the moon, to notice where the sun rises and sets. As we attune to the larger rhythms of the planet, we may ask how our heartbeat, our breathing pattern, our cycles of high energy and rest time, nestle within those larger cycles, fed by the abundant energy of the cosmos.

If you’d like to think more about calendars, you may like to watch the video of a speech I gave last December about the cycles of the year and holidays.

Blessings, Deborah

No Flunking in the School of Life

September 1, 2010

When a Tucson Unified School District employee recently told me that some families were still trickling in to enrol, even though school started weeks ago, I asked, “Were they on vacation?” She said, “No, just watching TV,” not aware that school had started.

I was fortunate that my eagerness at starting school each year never faded. School was a place where I enjoyed learning and connecting with friends. My desire for school to be a fun, succesful experience for everyone lead me to earn a masters degree in educational psychology. I learned about a mastery approach to teaching, in which there is no flunking, only seeking to find what approach will help a student master each step in the learning process. My special interest was in studying how we create the conditions that foster creativity.

But during that time, my health seriously declined, and after pursuing many approaches to healing, I thought I was “flunking,” that there was no hope for me. I then became like those parents and students who no longer showed up for school.

While holding little hope for my own healing then, I still had a belief in some larger planetary healing, and put my energy into activism. It was in that context that I got the feedback that I was very good in troubleshooting. My training in systems theory was still going to a good use, examining a situation, seeing how energy was flowing, where it was blocked, and being able to suggest courses of action that were effective.

Years later when a surge of energy came through my body during intensive meditation, I began to heal on all levels. Then I rediscovered a joy in troubleshooting the flow of energy in all situations, moving through layers in my own healing process, and helping others find where they were bloeked and getting energy flowing.

Today I encourage us all to take a mastery approach to learning in all areas of our life, simply asking, what do I need to do to shift this issue, what will help me learn skills I need? Without the option of flunking, we all become more skilled troubleshooters, helping ourselves and others learn and grow, contributing our unique gifts so needed in this time of great transition on our planet.

On the theme of learning, in November at Odyssey Storytelling I’ll share the story of my mother’s last lesson.

In general news, Aqua Vita is open again!

And for all who celebrate Rosh HaShanah, I wish you a sweet new year.

On Sept. 26, we’ll have our third annual sacred water event at the Jewish Community Center, starting at 4 pm. The new shaliach, or emissary, from the Israel Center will give a brief presentation on water issues in Israel, then a variety of individuals and groups will lead psalms that represent spiritual ascent to Jerusalem, and then we’ll make a procession carrying water, chanting Kosi Rivaya (my cup overflows), which not only honors the sacredness of water, but also helps us shift into an attitude of abundance regarding all things. If you have young children, they can go to the outdoor sukkah to enjoy a story, and then join in for the procession.Then we’ll have snacks and peruse water conservation and harvesting resources.