Living Well with Almila Kakinc-Dodd
Almila Kakinc-Dodd is a trained Medical Anthropologist, a Holistic Health Practitioner, and the author behind the wellness destination The Thirlby.
The Thirlby was born as a result of Almila’s autoimmune diagnosis and aims to offer an aesthetically-pleasing platform where wellness is thoughtful and accessible - not crunchy granola. Her upcoming book, The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, and Soul, is a soulful and information-packed guide to healthy living in a busy world.
Today, Almila shares about her steadfast commitment to self-care, honoring big feelings, and the collective hope that keeps her heart open. Enjoy this thoughtful and tender interview.
What does living well mean to you?
Living well means putting on my oxygen mask on first. That means that I prioritize my well being before I attend to that of other people or things so that when I do attend to them, I am fully present and can provide and then more. Being of service to ourselves is also of service for others.
Do you favor routines or go with the flow?
I am a creature-of-habit. That scene from 500 Days of Summer where Summer says she was called “anal girl,” that’s me. I know for certain unapologetically that I thrive through routine, organization, and cleanliness. I suppose that’s the Virgo in me.
Or rather, just me. Some things aren’t cosmic or in the stars, so to speak; it’s just the way we are anthropologically, experientially, and psychosomatically hard-wired as ourselves. I am hardwired to favor routines but there’s enough space within that wiring for me to be spontaneous. I’ve been through many traumas & the unknown—moving to the U.S. with my younger sister on a night’s notice at the age of ten, assault, immigration nightmares, life-threatening illness—to know that routine can only go so far. The only mainstay and true routine is in the movement through and forward.
How do you stay healthy on the road?
Staying healthy on the road for me doesn’t only concern my physical health. I do pack snacks that are high in protein and healthy fats such as nuts. More importantly, though, physical health during travel is dependent upon the mind. I stay healthy by letting go of my creature-of-habit and routine tendencies.
I value moving before travel, but I won’t stress if I have a flight that’s too early to sneak in a run. I used to wake up at the butt crack of dawn for a run during early travels. I don’t do that as much anymore. Rather than viewing travel as an aberration is a constraint to my health, I see it as a time for rest. I look forward to finishing a book or even connecting with a stranger sitting next to me. Resting from routine is how I stay healthy on the road.
Favorite Natural Remedy/s (or superfoods :)
My school of thought on superfoods is that all whole, unadulterated foods have their own respective said super properties. As much of a proponent of supplements I am—including vitamins, minerals, and adaptogenic plants—they are to supplement our diet. What is truly remedying and homeostatic for the body are traditional foods. These are accessible foods, such as wild bitter greens, cabbages, or herbs, that we ourselves can make medicinal.
We can turn a $2 head of cabbage into medicine by fermenting it. We can eat bitter dandelion greens to prime our digestion rather than depending on pills to do it. We can boil a dollar bunch of nettle leaves to regulate our electrolytes, tame inflammation, and combat seasonal allergies. What’s super to me is the inherent power of nature that’s accessible.
To supplement that when and if that is financially feasible for someone, my favorites are Reishi from Sun Potion, Chlorella from Sun Potion, and Black Cumin Seed Oil.
What’s your favorite form of movement?
Running, always. It’s my form of meditation. I’m a very sensory, physical meditator. I have come to accept that mantra-based or other various related schools of meditation don’t work for me. I do a conscious form of running, through speed and a long runs, by doing regular body scans. It’s the most powerful meditation for me, especially now that it’s Winter. It’s often single digits when I’m running outside. My eyes tearing up, snot freezing into icicles, or my toes curling from the wind. Nature wakes me up into the nature of my body by heightening my senses.
That’s not to say that every time I lace up my shoes that I’m thrilled to run; our bodies and minds are not static in that sense. Rather, it’s exactly that fact of dynamism in my feelings and physical state towards running that makes it my favorite form of movement. What’s my body going to move my mind towards today?
What are your favorite ways to unwind?
I unwind often by going against my first instinct. I unwind that reactionary contractive tendency I have to often say “no,” and not in the millennial “say ‘no’ more to others and yes to yourself” way. I sense when I’m limiting myself. So, I unwind through that extra mile run, I unwind staying in bed a little longer on a Saturday morning, I unwind feeling the crunch of snow beneath my shoes, I unwind massaging my body before sleep (bonus if it’s with Jiva Apoha oils).
Self-care doesn’t have to cost a thing. Anthropologically speaking, cultures across the globe have thrived as much if not more than many developed countries such as the U.S. has without the said luxury staples of self-care. They find it through kinship, connection, and the self. It’s merely a constant curious way of seeing, yourself and others.
How do you honor big feelings?
I honor them by acknowledging them, speaking to them or speaking them out loud to another. Psychologically speaking, our brains do not register “no,” in a manner similar to “don’t think of the pink elephant dancing in a tutu in the middle of the room” phenomena. You’ll think it nonetheless, you’ll want to touch the wet paint, you’ll do what you’re not told to do or at least be gripped by its temptation.
So, I feel those said “big feelings.” I curl up, I scream, I furiously mop and clean the house, I cry-run (it’s a thing, as is listening to sad music when sad to feel sadder as if you’re a teenager looking out a rainy window in a movie—we’ve all done it, no?). When I’m happy, I dance to female underground punk music. When I feel disconnected from my body, I will close the door behind me and do interpretive dance or yoga alone to some seductive music like Rhye. I honour the feelings in a very bodied, sensual manner.
3 women who have inspired your life & work
First and foremost, my mother. She is the epitome of perseverance and dedication as a single mother, immigrant, and a Muslim women. She is the prime target in many ways in the current political scene.
Yet, from the outside, she looks like she could be another white, (rarity but) red-haired woman. A beautiful one at that, yet she’s an anomaly in a world where there is growing crime on another through presumptions based on appearances.
That immediately taught me since childhood to see beyond surface level assumptions and to know that reactions, situations, and behaviors always have their respective sources of suffering for everyone. The pain she has endured silently for me and my sister to thrive is the selflessness and strength to which I aspire. She has shown me how capable we are not just as women but human beings. My upcoming book is dedicated to her. My life and work are inspired by stories of my mother, my lineage, and hundreds of other similar ones whispering around us.
What keeps your heart open?
Service, collective hope, and giving equal to that which we receive. Reciprocity keeps my heart open.
How do you create community?
The same as above; community is created through kinship and service. Expanding my way of seeing, out of my own comforts and into my blind spots. These are not to be poetic—we all have our blind spots and take a seat in our own cosy daily lives.
Community lies beyond that. It’s in getting as close as I can to the world others, hearing and seeing them, then carrying with me a part of that back in what I offer for those through The Thirlby. Community is sharing stories, finding ourselves in those of others.
A few of your favorite books
This is the hardest question because my background in addition to Medical Anthropology is in Literature! My favorite books pull from that rather than my occupation in health & wellness. Amongst a listless catalogue of favorite books, the ones that continue to haunt my memory and define my life are: East of Eden by John Steinbeck; Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky; Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami; And Our Face, My Heart, Brief as Photos by John Berger; and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Is there a life lesson you’d like to share?
I just turned 24-years-old but even when I’m lucky enough to live double or triple that age, I’ll continue learning. I’m not going to don a wiser-than-my-years hat here to sing of life lessons.
Yet, I know one thing that won’t change for me in my lifetime. I, along with my family, have been through many adversities as I mentioned. The one life lesson I’ve learned is that family—dead or alive—is where I put my faith. I lost my grandmother while writing my book, but I continued on writing because I had faith in the faith she had in me. If we all saw ourselves through the eyes of our loved ones, we would be much kinder to ourselves. So, I would say constantly strengthening relationship with our kin—whomever that is for you—and seeing ourselves through their loving eyes is my lesson.