“The menstrual cycle is this feedback mechanism for our menstrual cycles that nobody’s talking about, and that it’s a resource that can allow us to have access to tremendous resources to take care of our own health and be less reliant on pharmaceuticals, surgeries, and things like that.” – Kirsten Karchmer
Kirsten Karchmer is dedicated to helping women improve their health, menstrual cycles, and fertility. Her focus is on integrative medicine, and she visits the PCOS Diva podcast to discuss the power of the menstrual cycle to help women with PCOS understand what is misaligned and how to bring the entire system into balance. Listen in (or read the transcript) as we discuss:
- How to integrate the best of Chinese medicine, Western medicine, mindfulness, mindset, diet, and exercise
- Impact of diet (vegan, keto, etc.) on menstruation
- The specific menstrual cycle presentation for pregnancy success
- Signals your period may be sending
- Moving beyond mindfulness
Mentioned in this podcast:
- Kirsten Karchmer’s book, Seeing Red: The One Book Every Woman Needs to Read. Period.
- Darren Hardy’s book, The Compound Effect
- Kristin Karmacher on Facebook
Amy: Today, we are talking to Kirsten Karchmer. She is a health tech pioneer and women’s health expert. She’s the founder and CEO of Brazen, and she is a leading women’s health revolutionary committed to significantly improving the lives and clinical outcomes of women with PMS, menstrual cramps, PCOS, endometriosis, and infertility. She’s also the author of the new book, Seeing Red. I read Seeing Red last night and really loved it. I’m excited to have Kirsten on the podcast to talk about her unique perspective about women’s periods and how we can really take control of them in a greater way. I think her message really fits well with the PCOS Diva message, so very excited to have you, Kirsten.
Kirsten K.: Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m impressed that you could read the whole book in one night. I wish I could write it in one night. Yeah, let’s dig in, because I’m really excited to talk about this.
Amy: Well, first, I would love for you to tell your story about how you came to help more than 10,000 women over the last 20 years to improve their health, menstrual cycles, and fertility. I think you have a very powerful story.
Kirsten K.: Oh, thank you. As you know from my book, I dedicated my book to those 10,000 women because I feel like they were my teachers. I’ve been a reproductive acupuncturist for about 20 years. I’m trained in Western medicine and then Chinese medicine. During that time, I was really interested in what is real integrative medicine? What does it look like when we not just … For me, if I get sick, I use Chinese medicine first. That’s my first line of defense. I do a lot of other things, and then if I still can’t get a solution, then I end up going to my physician. Other people will go to their physician first, and then they can’t find anything that will work for them. They end up going to some alterative provider. Well, in my opinion, I wanted to know, what is real integrative medicine where we take the best of Chinese medicine, of Western medicine, of mindfulness, of mindset, which I think those are different I think we should talk about, of diet, and exercise, and habits? And what happens when we look at those as one whole ecosystem and create solutions out of that?
This came from my own experience, because when I was about 20, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I was really sick. I couldn’t walk at all without a cane, and napping, like, four or five times a day just to make it through the day. Ended up going to an acupuncturist who essentially was feeling my pulse. He didn’t know I had a cane. He didn’t look at my chart. He said, “Oh, your pulses are so weak.” I kind of thought it was like, truthfully, going to a psychic at that time, that this isn’t going to do anything. He said, “Oh, you’re pulses are so weak. You’re so tired.” I said, “Oh, whatever. Everybody’s tired.” He was unflinched by my sarcasm, and he said, “Oh, you cannot digest food.” I said, “Oh, well, actually, that’s true. I have really bad watery diarrhea many times a day.” I started thinking, “Hmm, how is this guy finding this from my pulse? This doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Then he said, “Do you have muscle weakness?” I just sort of quickly turned Beavis-and-Butt-Head-style and looked at him, like, “How did you know that?” I said, “Actually, I have multiple sclerosis,” and he started clapping. He’s like, “Oh, I’m so happy. This makes perfect sense. Perfect sense,” and I was like, “What are you talking about?” What he said next was the beginning of just the change for me. He said, “When you were born, your constitution, or your body’s strength, was really strong, and you were really robust,” but I was a competitive gymnast and a competitive athlete my whole childhood, and trained a lot, and he said, “Over time, you just kept working harder and harder and harder and harder and not listening to your body, and working past your pain and working past your exhaustion. Ultimately, you were born with MS, but it was latent, and so finally, around age 17, 18, 19, your body just ran out of gas. It gave an opportunity for your disease to surface. Now, your disease is getting stronger, and your constitution is getting weaker. Our job is to look at everything and make your constitution stronger than your disease, and then you should go into remission.”
Then that’s exactly what happened, and that’s what set me on the path of the work that I’m doing today because I realized, I ended up … I was a linguistics professor at the time. I ended up changing careers, going into acupuncture college. During that time, I started realizing what that doctor told me that day is applicable to every condition, but in particular to every condition in women’s health, and that the menstrual cycle was this ridiculous feedback mechanism for our menstrual cycles that nobody’s talking about, and that it’s a resource that can allow us to have access to tremendous resources to take care of our own health and be less reliant on pharmaceuticals, surgeries, and things like that. Let’s be very, very clear. I don’t have any aversion to any Western medical intervention. What I always want to do is like, how far can we get without a pharmaceutical or a surgery, and then we have that in the back, in our back pockets, to solve the solutions that we can’t solve with anything else. That’s kind of a long answer, but.
Amy: Well, I love that approach. As I’m recording this podcast, the pharmaceutical that is prescribed for most women with PCOS, which is metformin, there’s a scare right now that there is possible cancer-causing substances in some of the formulations of metformin, so the pharmaceuticals aren’t without their downsides as well. I agree with you that there’s so much that we can do with lifestyle change, diet, exercise, and you talk about this in your book, which I loved, stress reduction, which, sleep, which a lot of people don’t talk about as being important for … They kind of overlook the importance of sleep. Mindset and mindfulness, which I definitely want to talk about later in the podcast. I don’t know if everybody caught what you said a little bit earlier about how our periods you said are a fantastic feedback mechanism. I want you to get into that and help us to reframe our periods as, especially women with PCOS, our irregular periods, as a feedback tool to help us, as you say in the book, kind of biohack our health.
Kirsten K.: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, well, I think that as you read in the book, I’m sure, when I found out that literally 80% of women were reporting to their physicians last year just in the US alone, that’s, like, 82 million women reported significant and life-interrupting menstrual pain and PMS, which many, many, many women with PCOS also have, I thought, “How in the world can we be in a women’s movement and no one is talking about this?” These numbers represent epidemic numbers. Especially when you combine them with the number of women with PCOS, endometriosis, and infertility, we have staggering numbers, so I thought, “Why is no one talking about this?” Literally, I traced it back, being former cultural linguist, I was like, “I’m going to use language, and I’m going to look back to the beginning of written language and follow how we’ve talked about periods and how that influences how we think about periods today.”
What I found was that in the first 1,500 years of written language, there was nothing. There wasn’t a single thing written about women or their periods. That was shocking to me. Then the first released sort of public documentation was in the Book of Leviticus, which said, essentially, some version of, “That thing is so vile. It’s as vile as a menstruating woman or the devil.” That’s the first pronouncement about us as menstruators. Then very shortly after, in the 3rd century, Aristotle said, “Women are the inferior species because they menstruate. They are feeble. They only contribute the serum to reproduction. The men contribute the seed, which has the intellect and the spirit.” I was like, “That is why we still think that we are inferior, and we are dirty, and we need to be sanitized, and that there is inherent suffering associated with being a woman, and that it’s something that we just have to endure.”
I can’t tell you how many thousands of women tell me, “Oh, your menstrual cycle is just a curse.” I would say my work is to help people with periods understand, actually, your menstrual cycle is an instrument of unfair advantage over men. You can read my book and you can get some ideas about what to do for your PCOS, and you can talk to you, Amy, and get ideas about what to do. The reality is, is that if you’re really hacking, some are going to work better than others. There isn’t, there just isn’t, a magic pill for all of us, for any condition, whether it’s PCOS or multiple sclerosis or endometriosis. Your body has very specific needs. If you relate with it as an experiment and you watch what happens in your cycle, you can split test to see like, “Oh, well, I took out gluten. What happened to my every single piece of my menstrual cycle?”
“Oh, I went vegan. What happened to my menstrual cycle? What happened to my blood?” Over a couple of months. You want to look there, because blood will take a longer time to change. Then you start to change the relationship with your menstrual cycle in that, “Oh, my menstrual cycle is just giving me information,” and if your menstrual cycle is super out of whack, or your PCOS is really, really bad, then your body is basically screaming, like, “I need a different kind of care.” If you can approach it from that, you can approach it with self-love, as if it is your child or your niece or your little cousin, and they’re like, “I need something,” and you’re like, “Baby, get in my lap. Come here, let’s talk about it. Let’s figure out what you need, and I’m going to get it for you.”
Right now, what I see with so many women with PCOS are really at odds with their bodies because they can’t lose weight, they can’t control the acne, they can’t control the facial hair. They feel really powerless. They’re not ovulating. They feel like something’s so broken, and that, like we were talking about before the podcast, that’s what starts to create this mindset around it that then makes it even harder to change anything.
Amy: Yeah. I think you get stuck in this victim place where your body has betrayed you, and I think using your period, again as you describe, a fantastic feedback tool, is a great way to change that dynamic and that relationship. I also want to second your comment about how there’s no magic pill, there’s no magic bullet, and that everyone, every woman with PCOS, is unique, and there isn’t one-size-fits-all approach. One of the examples that you give in your book about using your period as a feedback tool is going vegan. A lot of women ask me, “Is vegan the right way? Is the keto diet the right way? Eliminating dairy and gluten,” as you mentioned, and I think that your advice of trying it for a few months and then looking at your period and see, are you becoming more regular … And I think some good information in your book was, you talk about different types of … What should a perfect period look like? Because I think that gives you some more information on looking for that right feedback.
Kirsten K.: I hate the idea of having the right, the perfect, the whatever because I think as women, we just are just stuck in this crisis of trying to be right. Do you know what I mean?
Amy: Oh, yeah. That’s probably not the right word. What should you move towards, maybe? What do you want to start moving towards?
Kirsten K.: I say the same thing, like the ideal, the optimal, the perfect, because it is, it’s the one that you want to shoot for, but I did just want to add that caveat that I think we have enough of trying to be something that we’re not, and that is not this. We have to remember that if you look at health through the lens of Western medicine, their job is to look for disease states and intervene with a variety of interventions, but primarily with pharmaceuticals, surgery. There’s a few other tricks. If you look through it from the lens of traditional Chinese medicine, we’re not looking for a disease, we’re looking for anything that’s outside the optimal, and then trying to understand how each of those symptoms are related to each other, and then deliver a solution that gets to all of it such that the side effect, so say if you’re anovulatory, instead of using metformin to try to regulate ovulation, we would be like, “What has to work so that ovulation will occur regularly? Let’s fix those things and see what happens to ovulation.”
Then, instead of having a once-a-month ovulation because of the metformin, you fix the underlying problem that was causing the anovulation in the first place, and much, much, much more importantly, this is my biggest takeaway for this conversation, is that you have to remember that having PCOS increases women’s risk for diabetes, significant risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some estrogen-dependent cancers. That doesn’t mean that that’s something that you have to worry about, but it means that beyond just trying to have a regular cycle, or lose weight, or if you’re having acne, that this is an investment in your future long-term health to prevent you being one of the statistics of women with PCOS who gets those diseases. That means you have agency. I have hypothyroidism. Not as serious as PCOS, but kind of a pain in the butt. But the medication that you take for hypothyroidism, and because the thyroid regulates calcium, we’re at significant risk for osteoporosis.
What that means for me is, I don’t have not just like not sleeping, worrying about having a hip fracture in my 60s, but what it means is I’m hypervigilant about my diet and vitamin D because I know that I’m at risk, and so I want to be sure that if I’m going to take any extra steps in any direction, then I’m going to protect my bones at any cost. The same thing with PCOS. Now I can’t even remember what your question was. Oh, the perfect period. Okay. The perfect period, this came out of working with 10,000 women and realizing when they came to me, they were trying to get pregnant. What I knew was that the more that I could optimize their menstrual cycle and their habits and diet and all those things we already talked about, the more likely they were to have natural pregnancy.
What I found was that this particular menstrual cycle presentation was the one that when people’s periods look like this, they get pregnant at a very high degree. In fact, in our clinical trial, in women 35 to 41, when they even got 60% of the way to this ideal cycle, they increased the likelihood of getting pregnant by 274%. That included women with PCOS and endometriosis and a host of other problems in addition to infertility. The ideal cycle is 28 days long, ovulate on cycle day 14, have good cervical discharge, so it looks like egg white, stretchy and clear, for one or two days. Having no PMS whatsoever, that means no bloating, no breast changes, no acne, no mood changes, no fatigue, no insomnia, or anxiety. Then, once you start your period, having four days of bleeding, soaking a tampon or a pad every four hours. Not more, not less. No cramping, no clotting, no spotting. And having basal temperatures that average around 97.2 in the first 14 days of the cycle, and 98.2 in the second 14 days, so ovulation and menstruation. That’s what you’re shooting for.
Amy: Can you comment about the color of the blood, too?
Kirsten K.: Oh, sure. Yeah, fresh red. The color of your menstrual blood can tell you so much about what’s happening. What you’ll see is that often, women who are eating a vegan diet, because it’s very hard to get vitamin B12 if you’re not eating any animal products, and it’s necessary to make blood to have B12 in your diet, and as we know, supplementation is never as good as food, just doesn’t even matter how high the quality of the supplement is, those women will often have more watery, pale, scantier bleeding because there’s not enough nutrients to actually build a ton of red blood cells.
Amy: I thought that that was really interesting. You do a nice job in your book breaking that information down, the different type of color blood that you might see. I know a lot of women with PCOS talk about having, and I know I did when my PCOS was not managed, I had a lot of breakthrough brown bleeding in my cycle. Maybe you could comment on that.
Kirsten K.: Any time that you’re having any kind of brown, purple, black bleeding, typically, what’s happening is that the lining isn’t being effectively released, so when you see the basal bodily temperature charts of women with PCOS, often, their temperatures will be quite low, so instead of in the first 14 days being 97.2, for most women, the problem is that temperatures get too high, but for women with PCOS, their temperatures will often be in the 96s. Even after ovulation, if there’s much of a surge, it sometimes won’t even get to the 97s, much less the 98s. You think about it when you’re cold, everything gets constricted, so if I take you and put you into those cryo tanks that freezes you for three minutes, what happens to your body? Everything constricts. The blood vessels constrict. You bring your arms up to your chest, and you’re like, “Ooh, I feel so cold.” Even your vocal chords get tight.
When your body temperature is a little bit low, even the blood vessels start to constrict a little bit, which then inhibits the blood flow through the femoral artery, through the uterine artery, through the blood supply to the uterine wall. Then the blood is, as a Chinese medicine term, sort of gets stuck, and so instead of being fresh red and flowing, it gets more purple, it gets more brown. Then, when it’s time to discharge it during menstruation or between cycles if you’re having breakthrough bleeding, that blood is old and stuck because of that lower body temperature. While there are great herbs in Chinese medicine to dissolve all that dark blood, which is, I don’t know else to resolve that, the actual getting to the root problem is identifying, is there actually a problem with temperatures being too low, and helping raise the body temperature.
That can be profoundly game-changing, because as you raise the temperature, you actually start improving the metabolism. Your body temperature … If you think about it as your spark plug. If temperature’s really low, your spark plug doesn’t have a great spark to it. In order to catalyze food into energy, you need fire, so just like if you went and got a Maserati today, but you went to Walmart to get your spark plug, and it was an old Walmart spark plug. The car is fantastic. You’ve got high-octane gas in it, meaning you’re eating a great diet, but if the spark is low, you can’t catalyze it into energy, and you can’t use that to make blood.
Amy: So you like to raise body temperature with the help of Chinese herbs?
Kirsten K.: I do. I do. I don’t know how to do it any other way. There’s a few things that there just isn’t another way to do it.
Amy: When you work with your patients, do you prescribe a unique combination based on their issues, or do you have some formulas that can help specific groups of symptoms, like, say, PMS or endometriosis, or PCOS?
Kirsten K.: I’m actually not seeing patients anymore except for some consulting patients. I’m mostly working full-time at Brazen, and the reason for that is because seeing patients one at a time, I can’t help that many women, and so I started Brazen to create an opportunity to be a trusted resource for women across their entire reproductive lifecycle. Our first products are just two of the formulas that we use for the last 20 years for PMS and cramping. Brazen is a super young company. For me, it’s funny because I’m always like, “Well, there’s not a formula for anything.” When I will say there’s not a magic pill, there’s not. Those formulas work really, really well to improve the symptoms while you’re working on the lifestyle part of it, but in January, maybe mid-January, we’ll actually start our new program in which you can use our app and give us all the information about what’s going on with your period, and we’ll customize a formula for you and ship it to you.
Amy: Okay. The other-
Kirsten K.: A bit more like real Chinese medicine, and then you change your formula.
Amy: Some of your recommendations in your book, you talk about, as we mentioned, diet and lifestyle, exercise, and sleep, but an important part of your protocol is mindset, which I love because I talk a lot about that in the work that I do. In my first chapter of my book, Healing PCOS, was Think Like a Diva because I think it’s so important to shift your mindset. You post a really great quote in your book, “Where the mind goes, the body follows,” and I really resonate with that. I want you to maybe talk a little bit more about why you love mindset work with women who have period issues.
Kirsten K.: Well, my whole mission in life is to democratize access to health, which means, what are the resources that we need to hack the ability of individuals to help themselves to have optimal health? In Chinese medicine, they have this statement of fact. They say, “The good doctor treats the patient, the great doctor treats society, and the master makes herself obsolete.” If I’m working through that lens, that sort of a value for me, if I’m working through that lens, I’m always like, “How do I make myself obsolete,” so even if I’m customizing formulas for people around their cycles and their PCOS and their endo and whatever else, that still is I’m treating society using technology, but mindset is the way that we make ourselves obsolete because our mind is much more powerful than anything than we can put in our bodies, and if our mindset is working against us, it will significantly impact and impede our ability to heal.
An example of that is that working with women with PCOS or endometriosis, or even with my own health when I was still really sick when I was younger, it’s really easy to engender a mindset that I am sick, that I am broken, that I can’t get well. I’m trying everything, I can’t get well. You might be doing a lot, and you’re not seeing progress, and then that can be really frustrating. Then what happens, though, is if that’s what your internal mantra is, then your subconscious is looking for evidence to prove that. So even though, say you are really trying to reduce your carbohydrates to help regulate your blood sugar metabolism, and that should work for most people, for many, many women, that’s the first step.
It can make an enormous difference in their PCOS symptoms, but it’s just not happening because honestly, you’ve been sick for so long that all you can see is when you wake up in the morning, you’re like, “God, I have more zits on my back. This is so gross. I hate this,” or, “I can’t seem to get the hair that’s on my belly to …” You’re waxing it, you’re electrolyzing it. It keeps coming back, and so, instead of focusing on, like, “Actually, my energy’s getting better and I’m losing a little bit of a weight, and I think that I felt some ovulation pains,” your mind has a choice whether you’re going to focus on what’s working or what’s not working.
The first step is to at least identify two things. What do you think about the most during the day, and then, what is the emotional state that you predominantly live in? The easiest way to do this, that doesn’t cost you anything because I love doing free things, is just put a timer on your phone, or a reminder, for 12 o’clock and lunchtime, dinnertime, and before you got to bed. Just a chime. When that goes off, just take one minute and ask yourself, “What have I been thinking about since I woke up?” It’s going to be your work or your kids or whatever you were doing if you were having fun on the weekend, so “I was volunteering at my kids’ school,” but then, the trick is to ask yourself, “What was I feeling as I was thinking about those things?” It’s like, “Oh, I was worried that I wasn’t going to get it done,” or, “I was worried this,” or, “I was mad,” or, “I was depressed,” or, “I was anxious about it.”
What you’ll see, if you do this for a week or 10 days, is that about 80% of your day is spent in a particular emotional state. Those emotional states are typically how you evolved since you were born until now to survive, but we have to remember that those emotional state, each emotion, every time you feel that emotion triggers a chemical stimuli in your body, so if you get really scared, you dump a bunch of adrenaline into your body. If you do that all that long, if you get afraid, afraid, afraid, adrenaline, adrenaline, adrenaline, adrenaline, over time, your body starts being addicted to that stimulus, and so when you’re not afraid, your subconscious is wandering around, going, “Hmm, what should I do to create a situation where I can get startled or I can be scared so I can get some more adrenaline?” Especially for women with PCOS this is terrible because adrenaline, the downstream for that is cortisol, the downstream from that is belly fat, the downstream from that, not from that, from the cortisol, is inversely low progesterone levels, which we know is a problem in PCOS.
So many people say, like, “You just need to have like, say, an affirmation five times a day, like, ‘I am whatever.'” It’s kind of bullshit, because if 23 hours a day you’re saying emotionally, like, “Oh, my god. Oh, my god. Oh, my god,” or you’re pissed off or you’re whatever, and just for five minutes a day you’re having a mantra of something positive, that negative habit will always win. But as you start to become intimate with, like, “Oh, fear all day long,” then you can start just saying, “Okay, well, that’s my habit.” This is from Joe Dispenza. He’s brilliant. “If that’s my habit, and it has been my habit, it doesn’t have to be my habit tomorrow.” If I was going to create a state in which I want to be addicted to, so if I don’t want to be addicted to fear, what positive thing would feel good to be addicted to?
Like gratitude, or genius, or joy, or whatever floats your boat. It can change every single day. Then you start thinking, like, “Oh, every time something happens, how does a person who is full of joy react to that situation?” Even when somebody’s pulling in front of you on the highway and almost causes an accident, you want to be like, “You bastard. Get out of my way,” right, that’d be a normal reaction, but I don’t know if you’ve ever seen if you’re around somebody who their heart is really, not inauthentically but truly, they’re just really joyful. They’re like, “Oh, my gosh. That guy is so crazy. He almost killed us.” You just start practicing. Each time you do it, you start feeling like, “Oh, I felt it. I felt that other dump.”
Amy: Yeah. I loved what you said, and as I’m listening, I’m thinking, “I’m definitely a worrier,” so it’s fear. If once there’s something that’s kind of been taken care of, I find the next thing to worry about. I’ve found that gratitude helps me break that cycle, but I think you’re right about just saying affirmations without the feeling piece is not all that effective. You have to get in touch with that opposite feeling. I love the idea of becoming aware first. I think setting your alarm on your phone to see what are those predominant feelings that you’re feeling throughout the day is great advice.
Kirsten K.: Yeah, because they’re habits that you’ve had. The trick is to be gentle to yourself, and remember that however old you are, you’ve been having this habit for 20, 30, 40 years, and untangling it is going to take some time and attention, and so you just have to make it a priority to put on your calendar just to remind yourself a lot to keep checking in, what’s my emotional state been, and keep reminding yourself, keep inventing like, what do I want to be addicted to? I like what you’ve said about people will say, when they’re doing their gratitude practice, if they’re doing one, they’ll say, “Okay, well, I’m really grateful for my kids, and I’m really grateful I have a great job,” but you can tell that it’s in their head. What you want to do in order to addict yourself to gratitude is you have to get present to the feeling of gratitude in your body.
I have a little five-pound chihuahua that I love more than just about anything in the universe, except for my children. She is just the sweetest little lady. When I do my meditation every day, she always comes and gets in my lap. What’s funny is she sits perfectly still the whole time. She just does not even move at all. At the end, I always just look down to her, and I feel so much gratitude, I almost want to cry. That seems so stupid, it’s just your little dog, but I’m like, “You are just such a blessing in my life.” I use her as my entry into feeling gratitude, and then I start thinking about other things, like what beautiful work I get to do, and what a beautiful home that I get to live in, and how many amazing, beautiful people are in my life, and so on, and so on.
Sometimes, you have to find something that kind of sucker punches you to get you into the heart space, as opposed to just making a list, like, “I’m thankful for this chocolate cake that I had for breakfast,” and really wait until you put the chocolate cake into your mouth and you’re like, “Dang, that tastes so good.” Then you’re like, “Oh, I feel so grateful for this.” That is where you start the addiction process to the right thing, except for the sugar.
Amy: Oh, I love that. There was another powerful story that you told in the book that I … When I go through a book, I underline and star. I have about five stars next to it, and it’s the candle story. I’m going to let you take it from there and just tell our listeners your candle story. I think it’s very powerful.
Kirsten K.: I would love to tell. This is one of my favorite stories because, like what we talked about before, so often we just think that mindfulness and mindset part is like the extra left part. So many women that I’ve worked with for so many years, I’m like, “Are you doing the mindfulness? Are you doing the blah, blah, blah?”, and like, “Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. I forgot about that.” It’s like, you can tell. Then I tell them this particular story, and then that usually really helps inspire them to be mindful about their mind. I was at this, I don’t even know where I was, it was a long while ago, a workshop. The speaker came up, and he was talking about the power of your mind and he goes, “I wanted to just start off this workshop with a meditation, and so I want everybody to get really quiet. Just relax,” and he’s like, “What we’re going to do is you’re going to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.”
“In through the nose, and I want you to light a candle right in front of you. As you breathe in and you look at the candle, I want you to imagine that you’re breathing in the most insidious bone cancer. Really breathe it in. As you exhale, imagine it’s like wildfire spreading through your bones as you exhale. Bone cancer everywhere. Breathe in bone cancer. Breathe it through all your bones, through your ribs, through your sternum, through your pelvis, through your femur, all the way down. Breathe in bone cancer.” He goes on and on. After not very many cycles, somebody in the audience said, “Could you please stop?” He stops and looks up kind of with a cute face, and he says, “Why?” He goes, “I don’t feel comfortable doing this.” He said, “Oh, you don’t feel comfortable doing this?” He goes, “Raise your hand,” to the audience, “Raise your hand if this makes you feel uncomfortable doing this,” and everybody raised their hand. They’re super freaked out.
He goes, “Why do you feel uncomfortable?” People were like, “Because you’re going to get cancer if you do this,” and he’s like, “Raise your hand if you think if you did this every single day for 10 minutes a day that you would get cancer,” and everybody, practically, raised their hand. He said, “That is so fascinating.” He goes, “Tell me this.” He goes, “Raise your hand if you think if you meditated for 10 minutes a day, that when you breathed in, you breathed in perfect health that every cell with the light of the universe became transformed into perfect perfection, and as you breathed out, you spread that light through every cell, bone, tissue, organ in your body, and at the end of the meditation, everything was reset as perfect if you did that every single day for 10 minutes. Who believes that over a time that that would actually happen?”
Nobody raised their hand. He’s like, “Isn’t that interesting that we believe that we can give ourself cancer, but we don’t believe that we can heal our lives?” For me, it was a gigantic sucker punch of, like, “Wow, the mind is really powerful, because I feel like I just got bone cancer doing that like, three seconds of meditation, not even 30 minutes a day.”
Amy: I know. Even reading that passage, it was making me really uncomfortable, but-
Kirsten K.: Painful.
Amy: I know, but then reading the flip side, I was kind of like, “Yeah, I know, I know.” I do this work for a living, and I do mindfulness techniques, but it’s easy to discharge the idea of creating health with mindfulness. Why do you think that is?
Kirsten K.: We live in a society of doing, and that that gives us value. The more that you do, the more valuable you are. Even, you can see this with exercise. I would say the majority of women that I work with who are trying to improve their period in one way or the other, or their fertility, are over exercising. Some people aren’t exercising at all, but the majority are actually over exercising. It’s because we think, “If we just do a little bit more …” Our parents tell us, “If you just study a little bit more, you’ll get better grades.” Your boss tells you, “If you just work a little bit harder, you’ll get the promotion,” but doing something in your mind, thinking about something, is what idle people do. It’s like what fruity, spiritual guru people do, but it doesn’t really do anything. But we have to remember that from a quantum physics perspective, that our bodies are, and I’ll give the exact numbers, like, 99.8888% energy and only .0002% matter.
If that’s true, that means that everything is completely fluid, that our physical bodies are only just a millifraction, a milli-millifraction of actually what it means to be us, which means that our minds can influence everything else profoundly and in a very, very short period of time. But until you’re aware, for me, the takeaway from this conversation on mindfulness is just like, just start becoming aware of your thoughts and your feelings throughout the day and over time, just to say, establish like, “Currently, my habit is to think about these kinds of things a lot, and worry about, and worry is my emotion that I feel.”
Then, invent something new for yourself, like, “Now, what I want to invent for myself is I want to set aside time to think about the life I want to create for myself and the way that I would look if I was as healthy as I wanted to be, and the actions that I would be taking,” and see yourself, because we see ourselves taking the actions of going downhill all the time, like, “it’s getting harder and harder to regulate my cycle, and my blood sugar’s getting worse. I’m on the fast track to diabetes.” Yes, you will be. As opposed to, “Every day, I’m taking a baby step towards getting better.” One book you might really like, because I think you and I probably like to read the same stuff, is Darren Hardy’s book, The Compound Effect.
Amy: Yes. That’s a great book.
Kirsten K.: I loved what he said, which I think is a great thing for us to include in this conversation. Is like, “You are always compounding in one direction or the other, every single second of every single day, and that means you’re either getting smarter, or dumber. You’re getting fatter, or skinnier. You’re getting healthier, or less healthier. You’re getting kinder, or meaner. If you are not taking action to move in the direction that you want, you’re likely defaulting compounding in the opposite direction.” That means that just a little bit of mindfulness can make a huge difference in the direction that you and your body and your mind take.
Amy: Yeah. That’s great advice to leave this episode on. I challenge everyone listening to evaluate your thoughts as Kirsten showed us how to do in this podcast, and then think about some small steps that you can take in the right direction over the week ahead.
Kirsten K.: I love that. Also, I want to say, just to tag onto that, is really and then, take some time this weekend to dream about, like, “If I could invent my future way of being in the world, what would that look like?”, down to all the nitty-gritty details. When I do mine, I still struggle with my health, so I have to really stay on top of it, and running a startup is pretty stressful, and so I have to constantly, like, every day, I meditate on my body is in perfect health. As I’m doing my meditation, I’m imagining, “Oh, my brain, it’s full of light,” every single piece of it, but I’m also imagining all the women that I get the opportunity to serve and make a difference for. When I’m doing that imagining, I’m actually imagining those women. I’m imagining conversations like we’re having now. I’m imagining women sharing my book and saying, like, “Wow, this will really change your life.” I’m imagining my children growing up and having the lives that they want. Whatever it is, and then also imagining the feeling-
Amy: Yes, I was just going to say that.
Kirsten K.: … that you want to feel. What is the feeling? It changes for me all the time. Mine sort of vacillates between just being able to be in any situation in the world and feel joy, and just be like, it’s kind of like that song, “Can’t Touch This.” I’m full of joy. In my meditation, I say, “I am pure joy and pure love, and I cannot act in any way that’s inconsistent with that.”
Amy: I often feel the feeling of expansiveness, and I think that kind of radiates out of my heart. For me, it’s kind of like not playing small and going into that fear-based sort of feelings, but opening up and living the life that I was meant to live without PCOS holding me back.
Kirsten K.: Yeah, because all of those thoughts, if you think of that, this is the easiest way to try to ditch them, they’re flipping shackles. They are shackles keeping you tied down, and every single person who’s listening to this has genius inside of them that we need.
Amy: Yes. Exactly.
Kirsten K.: Until you are unshackled, you cannot serve the rest of us in the way that we desire to serve you.
Amy: Yeah, when you’re in that “I am sick” place.
Kirsten K.: Or anything. I want to hopefully help people to unleash themselves from whatever shackles are keeping them from having anything they want in their life. If you relate with those things, you’re like, “Well, I know I shouldn’t be worried so much,” and you’re like, “This is a flipping shackle, and I’m not having it,” it changes the way you relate with it, as opposed to, but would you imagine like, “I’m shackled to the ground because of that”? Nobody wants that, and so it makes it easier for you to use your mind to get your booty in gear.
Amy: I love that. I’m going to share that idea with my son. He’s been struggling with some self-doubt on the basketball court, and I’m going to say that it’s a shackle. You’ve got to tell that shackle to go away and release itself. I know, it’s great.
Kirsten K.: Yeah. I always encourage people to be grateful for whatever’s … I always say having MS was the best thing that ever happened to me because I learned what it meant to be very, very sick person, and because of that, I did the work that I did in my clinical career to get to today. It was a shackle for a long time, but when you can say, like, “Okay, PCOS, you have really been a shackle for me, and I have given you the power to shackle to me, but now, I’m taking it back, I’m going to get liberated.” That doesn’t mean that you can cure your PCOS, but it can mean that you can live not feeling shackled by it.
Amy: Well, this has been such a great conversation. I thank you so much for coming on. I really encourage Divas listening to pick up a copy of Kirsten’s book, Seeing Red, and that’s available on Amazon. You also need to check out her website as well. We will have it in the show notes, Brazen, and her different Chinese medicine formulas for PMS. I’m just so thankful for the work that you do, Kirsten. Thank you.
Kirsten K.: Thank you so much. You can find me on Facebook at Kirsten Karchmer Official, and please, please reach out and ask questions. If there’s anything that I can do to help you, that’s the easiest way to get in touch with me. Happy to help in any way.
Amy: Great, and we will link that as well.
Kirsten K.: Okay, great.
Amy: Thank you for coming on, again, and thank you to everyone who’ve listened. I look forward to being with you again soon.