Illustration above by Kelly Colchin.
I’m thrilled to share my second feature for The Wellness Ritual! This series is quickly becoming a favorite new project of mine and centers around inspiring people who embody what it is to lead a healthy and conscious lifestyle. These are people who value taking care of themselves, others, and the world at large. I ask them questions about their personal healing journey and the rituals they use in their lives to stay balanced and fulfilled.
Nora Frank-Cisneros is a full-spectrum doula, artist, and mother living in Austin, TX. She lives her life with thoughtfulness, a meticulous eye for details, and a deep devotion to women’s services and the power of community. She shares some of her personal wellness wisdom with us this week. Enjoy!
Nora at home with daughter io + a bun in the oven!
MK: Do you have a wellness routine? What are 1-2 of your most tried and trusted practices for your overall health?
NFC: My daily basics: really good water, sunshine, time in nature, local produce + supplements derived from foods, working with my hands, connecting with others, deep breathing, deep sleep, stretching, learning, studio time. <—- If I am down on one of those things for long, I begin to feel off— and sometimes it takes me awhile to take inventory, but it is almost always that I am lacking one of those elements. When I have all of those elements in place, I feel like I can take on anything.
Preparations for baby #2, organized with attention to purpose and form. Living in a smaller home, Nora makes a point to keep the essentials on hand and rotate/recycle toys and homewares as needed.
MK: Was there a moment in your life or reason you became more devoted to self-care and healthy living?
NFC: I think for me, self-care and healthy living are wrapped up in half a lifetime of emotional healing– the more I started to understand body systems and how connected our emotional/mind/spiritual experience and our somatic/physical/body experience are, the more I started looking to take care of myself holistically— not just treating symptoms of one area, but addressing root causes and working from there. It is one of those— open one door and a thousand other doors are behind it. There is a lot to uncover.
One of my first jobs was working at a juice bar in a local mom&pop health food store when i was 16 or 17 in Florida, and I loved to see the super-vibrant older folks and hear their advice on how to stay healthy well past mid-life. I think seeds were planted then— and motherhood really catapulted me into modeling health and well-being for my daughter. For me—parenthood has really encouraged and motivated me to become the most balanced version of myself possible because I know she is watching my every move. But also, work as a doula and in the birth, family and women’s health world in general reinforces wellness practices and there is this potent culture of self-care there.
MK: When you are able to indulge, what special treatment or therapy do you use to revitalize yourself?
NFC: Travel—! Camping or exploring. I love to take in the textures and sensory experience of new places– the way that time slows when everything is new, I just love that “dunked-in-cold-water” feel of resetting after a trip rich with experiences.
Also— dear friends gave me the gift of a facial with magical woman Evette Richards for my 30th birthday (my first spa/facial experience!) and that sort of re-wrote my ideas about skin care. I wash with raw honey and apply rosehip oil at her recommendation and my skin has never been better. I wish I could visit her studio more often. (highly recommend you book an appointment! http://www.evetterichards.com/)
MK: Do you have any sacred rituals? What fills your spiritual cup?
NFC: For me sacred ritual involves life rhythm– daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal rhythm— having anchors–the things that I do regularly at the same times. This keeps me grounded and held, connected to the environment and more present.
My spirituality is directly tied to service and connecting with others– and my personal life and career now give ample opportunity to check in with that side of my person. I feel deeply grateful for that. And those rhythms keep me coming back around.
I love to see a genuine medicine kitchen in action. :)
MK: As a mom, what are some of the healthy foods you are proudest your daughter will eat? Do you run into any parenting challenges with food?
NFC: We have been pretty lucky with our girl so far– she likes a wide variety of healthy foods kids generally don’t go for— sardines, arugula (or any salad if it has “her” dressing— Bragg’s Sesame & Ginger dressing, ha), raw cabbage, plain yogurt, grains, salmon, eggs cooked all ways, Indian food is her favorite! Since she turned 3 (she is 3.5 now) her tastes can change on a dime though or seem arbitrary (disliking the shape of something, preferring something hot/cold), so that can be a challenge— and some days I wish she would eat more greens/protein, but we try to trust that she will eat what her body needs and make it easy for her to access those things. (Though, confession: I am not above sneaking greens and hemp protein into her smoothie!) We pick our battles, and know that some days she is just going to want (and probably need) a ton of carbs– so we provide the highest quality of carbs that we can, and try to take averages/look at the big picture. A couple of days of unbalanced eating are not going to rock the boat. She recently asked me “mama, what is junk food?”— I took that as a win.
Nora is currently in the process of making a birth swing to use during her second home-birth. This cotton-bamboo fabric will hang from the ceiling much like an aerial dance cloth, and can be used for birthing purposes and even beyond as a comfortable post partum seat in the family room or a rocking sling for baby.
MK: I’m curious about your doula work because so much healing and processing goes on with women who are becoming mothers and making that huge transformation. Do you find any common fears or stresses your clients are struggling with during that time? How do you help them, if so?
NFC: My work as a doula has a lot of facets– I am a full-spectrum doula, so while the majority of my clients are expecting babies/becoming parents or have just crossed that threshold—-some of my clients are also in the process of grieving a lost baby, experiencing infertility, of in vitro fertilization, of adoption, of miscarrying, of terminating a pregnancy, of trying to be optimally healthy physically and emotionally. But that said– there are a few things that ring true in all of these situations—
The noise of too much information and too many choices or voices can feel intensely overwhelming and stressful/chaotic during these major life events, and I also think that a lot of our society teaches you to silence your intuition and to not trust your own voice when it comes to parenthood/un-parenthood/ physical and emotional health choices. A lot of my job is listening and watching— really hearing what my clients need and giving a platform/resource/tool for them to get to where they want to be. Quieting the noise and gently pointing out the essentials as they see them for themselves. Sometimes it takes a vessel for them to hear their own voice and reassurance that what they are hearing is true for them. Once the vision is uncovered there they are able to move forward with more trust/confidence and less doubt.
Speaking of doubt— an enormous part of this work is also helping to quell the fear of the unknown— and providing as much knowledge as possible, while still allowing them to see and accept that there are factors that are out of our hands. Reminding them that they will be wholly themselves through the experience (birth or otherwise) that they are anticipating and that all that they are is more than enough. Also though, that if moments come up where they feel that they can’t cope, showing them that they have options and a team of protectors to rely on to guide them through the transition. My work involves a lot of universal human vulnerabilities— and offering tools–tangible and not to make the journey to the other side supported with tenderness and acceptance.
MK: Take a picture of something healthy you ate this week.
Nora’s Alaskan smoked salmon, black bean pasta, arugula, cucumber, avocado & fresh dill with homemade nettle pesto.
All images (except Nora’s meal) by Heather Gallagher Photography.
Find out more about Nora and her work at Beside-the-Well & @besidethewell. Thank you Nora! xo