Mollie Moorhead

Ayurveda

Mollie is a practical wild woman and kitchen alchemist with a life-long interest in wellness and the exploration of aliveness. Growing up, she saw many around her suffering from preventable diseases and that led her to ask big questions and explore what else was available. As a teenager, she started studying yoga for her own self-care and that branched into a deep and ongoing study of Ayurveda. She attended the California College of Ayurveda in Nevada City, CA, and in March of 2014, she completed the Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist internship, the highest level of training offered at CCA at the time. Since then, in her Ayurvedic wellness coaching practice, she has been helping clients reverse stubborn, long-term health problems and create a healthy, happy and soulful life. 

Practitioner Q&A

Q: Describe who you are in 3 words?

A: There’s our own experience of ourselves, and then how others experience us. So different!

My experience of myself: Creative, Passionate, Loyal.

What others said: Present, Nurturing, Intelligent.

Q: What are you passionate about?

A: I am passionate about living a life that feeds my soul, is rooted in body wisdom and connected to the Earth, and filled with elemental experiences. I am also passionate about helping others do the same in their own way. Working with physical health is a powerful entry point to connecting with body and Earth wisdom.

Q: What is unique to you about your work?

A: I help women transform difficult, long-term health problems and create the happy, healthy life of their dreams. I don’t know anyone who does exactly what I do, because I draw from two powerful sources: Ayurvedic medicine and coaching. This is what I mean: Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, is very wise and rich. Ayurveda uses nutrition, herbal medicine, and lifestyle practices to reverse disease and promote healing. I see many people overwhelmed and confused by what to eat and how to care for themselves, but Ayurveda has answered many of those questions for us! We don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”

However, typical health care, including Ayurveda, is practitioner-driven. The energy is top-down. That works just fine for some patients, but many can fall through the cracks because they don’t need a food plan. They need their health provider to really listen to them - their story, their dreams, and empower them to trust themselves and take charge of their own health. They need someone to provide insight, and help them work through obstacles, not just tell them what to do.

In contrast, in my practice I rely heavily on transformational coaching practices to create an empowering, collaborative treatment which puts the client in the driver’s seat, taking charge of their health with my enthusiastic support and the powerful tools I have to offer from Ayurvedic medicine.

Q: What is your communication style with your clients?

A: I do a lot of watching, listening and inquiring. If I am to help someone, I must first become their student. When I speak, I endeavor to be entirely honest and direct.

Q: What is fear to you?

A: Fear is a tightening in my stomach and chest. It takes over my mind until the situation has resolved or I have resolved it in my mind. Ana Forrest writes really beautifully on fear in her book Fierce Medicine. She encourages the reader to become the predator and stalk their fear, instead of becoming the prey. Turn around and stalk it. Sniff it down. This is my personal philosophy too. I hate to be hemmed in or inhibited, so when I realize I’m afraid of something, I seek it out specifically and address it head-on so I can see what it’s really made of, know what I’m dealing with. Usually I find there is nothing there.

Q: What do you fear/or what are your blocks?

A: I used to be afraid of cancer, and dying of cancer, because my mother did. But I rarely feel that fear anymore. One day I was hiking in the Smoky Mountains in South Carolina, near where many of my blood ancestors have lived for generations. The dirt there is red, and I thought of their blood becoming part of the soil and feeding the tree roots. It felt so real and so right, there in that place. I simply did not fear death or cancer from then onward.

As for my blocks, I am on a constantly-unfolding journey of uncovering them and healing them. I tend to seek outside support from other healers and coaches to help me with this. It’s not something I’d be able to do alone.

Q: How do you help clients or other conscious beings, including Earth herself?

A: I recently read this fantastic interview with herbalist Stephen Harrod Buehner in The Sun. He said, “People often talk about saving the Earth, but how many times have you experienced the Earth saving you?” This was a great reminder to me. Let the Earth help/save me, not the other way around. If I don’t, I am no good to anybody. There is a particular tree I like to sit in in the park near my home. Sitting in that tree fills my soul and I am better for it. Likewise, my clients teach me so much every day!

Giving and receiving are so intimately linked they cannot be separated. For example, one day on my way to work (when I used to work at a store in San Francisco) I saw a homeless kid on the street, holding a sign that said, “Need Coffee.” I’d surely never seen anyone who looked like they “needed coffee” as badly as this young man. I told him I’d be happy to buy him one and we chatted a bit as we walked to the cafe, and had a laugh together. He took his coffee and went on with his day, but I felt all day like I was floating. I felt so blissful and had a ton of energy. By “helping” him in the way he had requested, I had really helped myself.

We must be humble, receptive and simple. When we try too hard to help, fix, or save anything or anyone, we end up causing harm instead.

Q: What is healing/freedom? How do we get healing/freedom?

A: This feels too abstract for me, so I’ll give an example which illustrates the journey from imbalance and severe constraint to healing and freedom: I had a client several years ago who had been diagnosed as bipolar, and when she first came to see me, she was on some very heavy-duty medications to keep her mood stable. She also had a long history of disordered eating which she still struggled with daily. She had a job she enjoyed, and a nice apartment, and was “functional,” but every single day was a struggle for her in so many different ways. She also said the medications made her feel “flat” and less engaged and creative. It was her dream to be able to get off them. I didn’t know if that would be possible, but I knew I could help her with food and her other challenges, so we began working together.

When someone eats an extremely controlled diet and doesn’t allow certain foods in their home because they know they’ll eat the whole box in one sitting, or if they miss a workout, they beat themselves up over it, this is the opposite of freedom, correct? These are terrible constraints to live within!

I was a bit tricky in how I approached her care, but I let her in on the trick: Because she had a tendency to eat hardly anything all day long and then binge out at night, I suggested she eat a bigger, more nourishing lunch, and I gave her an herbal formula to take in the evening before bed. I knew this particular herbal formula would help her troubled digestion, but more importantly, it would keep her from bingeing out at night: If you eat after you take these herbs, it can cause an awful stomach ache and nausea. I told her all of this and she was game to try it. It worked wonderfully, and we slowly tweaked her diet and lifestyle to be more balancing and nourishing for her, especially helping her demagnetize taboo foods like ice cream, so they didn’t hold power over her any longer. For the first time in her life, she could keep ice cream in her freezer. (Freedom!)

Over the course of a year, she got so healthy and balanced, she consulted with her physician and he agreed she ought to try decreasing and then eliminating her bipolar medication. She did, with my continued nutritional and herbal support, and had no relapses, no manic episodes, nothing. (Freedom!) No longer held prisoner by her fears of food or of her own mind betraying her, she felt better than she had in years. No longer “flat” - she was creative and happy, and could surf the waves of her different moods without crossing into dangerous territory. My last visit with her was almost exactly two years ago, but we have kept in touch. She has only gotten happier and healthier, really stepping into a leadership role in her community and empowering others through her work.

“I was never bipolar,” she told me. “I just didn’t know how to take care of myself and stay balanced.”

Q: What tools have you found least/most effective in your life’s work?

A:

Least effective:

Some people come to Ayurveda and want to know their doshic type (vata, pitta, kapha) and then cling fiercely to that, build their lives around it. This is not helpful. The word dosha means “fault,” or “that which causes imbalance”. It is not something to get attached to! Meanwhile the seasons are changing and people are changing internally as they heal. The doshas are in constant dynamic flux. We must learn to be present and ride those waves, understand how the doshas feel in the body and how to work with them as they arise, not cling to an idea of what we think we are. I used to help people keep themselves in a box too, until it became clear that wasn’t helpful at all.

Most effective:

Herbal medicine: I love using herbal medicine to help people find relief from pain and other symptoms of imbalance in the body and mind. Herbs works so quickly! I often encounter the idea that herbs are subtle and slow, but that has rarely been my experience. And, if the herbs are the right fit for someone, they feel it immediately, even before their condition starts to improve. Taking their herbs is like meeting with a beloved friend. It feels so right in the body.

Nutrition: I love to help people with this because I love food and cooking, so it is easy to share that love with them. Food is so much more than calories and nutrients - it’s art, it’s culture, it’s memory, it’s comfort and fun and pleasure - several times a day!

Unfortunately, there are some pretty screwy ideas about nutrition going around these days, and I see how much it is hurting people - both the screwy ideas themselves and the overwhelm caused by all the conflicting information. I have no interest in the passing trends. I am only interested in what humans have been doing for the long haul. Ayurveda is based on a traditional agricultural diet which has been keeping people healthy for thousands of years. When people connect to this way of eating, which can actually be quite simple - making tweaks as needed to work with their bodies and lifestyles - they get so healthy! It’s phenomenal to watch. And they feel more peaceful and content.

For instance, in Ayurveda, we do not suggest cooking food ahead for the week or taking other shortcuts. This turns the sacred alchemy, the daily moving meditation of cooking, into a mere transaction. And anyway, by the time you eat the food you prepared four or five days ago, it has little prana (life-force) to nourish you with, and it does have some mold and yeast growing in it. Put it in the compost and make yourself something simple and fresh.

Lifestyle: Lifestyle is the missing piece for many people in their healing journeys. For instance, once I was staying at an airbnb and a number of other travelers passed through during my time there. One woman was quite ill. She was frail and tense, and her reason for travel was to receive some particular health care. Every morning, she stood at the counter and slammed back at least a dozen supplements, and she ate her meals quickly while wandering around the kitchen or watching the news in the living room. She always ate the same soup (as leftovers) for lunch and dinner. All the other guests, including her husband, appeared healthy, hardy, and energetic. They didn’t appear to take supplements or eat a restrictive diet at all, and they always sat down at the table to eat and enjoy their food and relax. It really stood out! If that woman would just sit down and eat properly, she could actually receive the nourishment she needed to heal!

Q: Ultimately, how do you see your work complimenting your clients and the Earth?

A: I love helping people with their physical health because it helps them connect to and trust their body wisdom. This in turn ripples out in all directions. It’s amazing! So many of my clients change jobs as part of their healing journey. When they get healthier, their minds are clear. They realize their true purpose and are strong enough to take the leap.

I am currently conducting interviews and doing research on women’s sexual health, because this is where I’d like to take the focus of my healing practice. We have an epidemic of diseases in women’s sexual organs! Severe menstrual cramps, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, HPV and cervical dysplasia are unfortunately all too common, and women often don’t even know what their options are for natural treatment. Medical doctors love to recommend surgery and hormonal birth control, when the truth is there are safer and more effective natural options available. Our bodies speak to us through the language of pain. We need to listen and correct the deeper imbalance. When we do, we heal our hearts and souls as well as our bodies.

In terms of my work complimenting the Earth, I see my clients learn not to depend on pharmaceutical drugs like they used to. Instead of taking antibiotics for a UTI, they drink organic cranberry juice every hour for a day and are fine. Instead of taking antidepressants for the rest of their lives, they learn how to use food and powerful lifestyle practices to totally change how they feel and maintain their mental health.

I also see clients switch from eating highly-processed “health foods” like protein powders and bars, which produce a lot of trash and use a great deal of fossil fuel in their production and distribution, to a diet sourced mostly from local and regional, organic farmers. What a difference! This also helps small farmers and supports a true economy.