Tag: healing

Meditation

wakingmeditationby Heather Tick, M.D.

Meditation is [a powerful] antidote to the harmful effects of stress. It changes your body chemistry and brings your body rhythms into sync with one another. It can lower your levels of stress hormones, decrease excessive muscle tension, normalize blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and increase pain tolerance. The particular practice called mindfulness-based stress reduction is based on Buddhist meditation techniques and has been studied and made popular by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Research has shown it to be a powerful technique with benefits for patients with chronic pain and anxiety.

There are many different types of meditation. Some use concentration: you focus your attention on only one thing, such as a sound or mantra. Some employ mindfulness: you quiet your mind by excluding outside thoughts and plans, and you focus on the awareness of everything you are experiencing in that moment and from moment to moment. People think of meditation as something they have to sit still for. That appeals to some, but others just don’t have the time or get bored. Some forms of meditation involve stillness and some involve movement. The real meditation, says Kabat-Zinn, is how you live your life.

You can practice using a variety of things: your breath, eating a meal, going for a walk, or a series of movements (as in yoga, qi gong, and tai chi). Any moment in your life can become mindful if you clear your mind of the daily clutter and attend to it: the look on a child’s face, the fragrance of a flower, the taste of a meal…

Mindfulness Meditation

Sit in a comfortable position, either cross-legged on the floor (use pillows to prop up your knees if you need to) or in a chair. Rest your hands comfortably on your knees and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Close your eyes to limit distraction. Focus on your breathing: breathe in…breathe out.

You may notice that your mind is wandering and thinking about the office or the next chore you must do. Just acknowledge the thought and bring yourself back to focusing on your breathing. Each time your mind wanders, bring it back to your breathing, without judgment.

Mindfulness is about being rather than about doing. Do this for ten minutes each day.

Walking Meditation

This is one of my favorites because it combines two things I love to do. You don’t have to walk very far. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

As you step, pay attention to the feeling in your feet as you place your heels on the ground and then roll toward your toes. Your weight shifts, and you are about to put your other foot to the ground and take the next step. Just observe the sensations in your feet, ankles, legs, and hips, and up through your body.

Are you swinging your arms? What do they feel like? How does the air feel on your face? Is there a breeze? What can you see? People, flowers, the horizon? Are there noises? Loud ones, like cars and voices? Soft ones, like the air as you brush past? The sound of your footsteps? Your breath?

When thoughts of your to-do list come to mind, just acknowledge them and then bring your attention back to your walk.

Eating Meditation

Food tastes better when you don’t eat quickly — when you give your taste buds a chance to really experience the food. When my three children were young, I used to inhale my meals. Mealtime was so rushed that I didn’t think I would get to eat if I ate slowly. If I could change that part of history, I would. It was not good for my health, my weight, or my children. I set a bad example for them, and now when I nag them to eat more slowly, they point and say I am a hypocrite. I am trying to eat as many meals as I can mindfully, and I have slowed down my overall pace of eating. I find I enjoy the food more and am satisfied with smaller portions.

Try to choose one meal each day during which you eat mindfully. Take your plate of food and sit down comfortably. Take a moment to look at the colors of the food on your plate. Then smell the aromas of the food. Try to distinguish as many different aromas or just enjoy the blend of them. Take a forkful of food and, before you put it into your mouth, hold it close to your mouth and see if you can already taste it. Then slowly put it in your mouth and feel the texture.

Begin to chew slowly. You will feel digestive enzymes being released along with saliva to help you digest your food. Chew for twice as long as you ordinarily would. Then swallow and wait a moment before you decide which morsel of food you will pick up next.

Choose a different part of the meal, if there is more than one type of food on your plate. Notice the different aromas, textures, and tastes, and continue eating this way until you are full. Then ask yourself, How did it feel to eat this way? Did it change your attitude to the food?

I recently heard of a woman who used to gobble a fast-food burger and fries each lunchtime. After learning about mindful eating, she ate one of those lunches mindfully. After that, she stopped eating fast food because she no longer liked the aroma, texture, and taste, which all seemed acceptable when she used to gobble it down.

Gratitude Meditation

Focusing on gratitude allows you to open your mind to those things in your life that are good. We all have something to be grateful for: waking up to a new day, a beautiful sunset (or cloud formation if you live in Seattle), having relatives or friends who have touched us, perceiving the beauty of a flower, experiencing the companionship of a pet. In a psychology study, each week for ten weeks, people wrote down five things they were grateful for. They were compared to two other groups, one whose members wrote down five burdens from the week, and another whose members simply listed five events. The gratitude group became 25 percent happier than either of the other groups. Perhaps gratitude moves us outside of our ego or makes us feel connected. Whatever the reason, it is a good practice.

Gratitude meditation is easy. As you fall asleep each night, review five things you are grateful for. You can combine this with a relaxing breathing exercise or one of the other meditations. Be prepared to be happier over time. Meditation practices are one way people feel connected to something larger than themselves and appreciate the spiritual aspects of their lives. Many people find that the experience of, and connection to, the mysterious, the sacred, that which is beyond their everyday experience, helps keep their day-to-day stresses in perspective.


Dr. Heather Tick is the author of Holistic Pain Relief and has been an integrative medical practitioner for over 20 years. A sought-after speaker, she lives in Seattle and works at the University of Washington, where she is the first Gunn-Loke Endowed Professor for Integrative Pain Medicine. Visit her online at heathertickmd.com.
Adapted from the book Holistic Pain Relief ©2013 by Dr. Heather Tick. Published with permission of New World Library.

Transcending Difficult Emotions

feelingdownby Jim Tolles

There’s an unfortunate undercurrent to a lot of spiritual traditions that encourages us to repress or avoid difficult emotions. Spiritual transcendence is seen to mean that we no longer feel fear, anger or sadness, but this is grossly mistaken. Spiritual transcendence means that we are no longer controlled by fear, anger or sadness. If these emotions arise, we have learned to be with them and to let them go. We no longer find ourselves reactive and always trying to get away from the feelings that come from no other place but ourselves.

This may sound very advanced to many of you, but it’s not. All of you have the capacity to transcend the reactive and unconscious nature of emotions, but it starts by really going into them to understand where they come from and why you choose (even on a very unconscious level) to experience them. Let’s start with fear.

The Many Flavors of Fear

This is one buffet that most of us don’t want to eat at, and yet, because we ignore our fears, get lost in them, or try to run away from them, it is the buffet we all seem to get forced to stand in line for. Let me be clear that facing these emotions doesn’t mean wallowing in them. Fear tends to not be one that most of us want to stay in any longer than possible, but it’s always possible to get stuck cycling fearful thoughts in our minds and then reacting from that space. It may not seem easy to break this inner cycling, which may feel like someone running around screaming, Fire! all the time, but you created this inner mental loop. That also means you have the power to break it and change it.

There are many levels of fear, but I’ll speak to some core types. It’s important, however, that you do your work to understand the system of fear within you. While we can drop all unconsciousness at any time when we are truly ready, most of us need to do a little work to understand things and let them go. So here are some thoughts on common fears:

Fear of death. We might as well start with the big one. Much of people’s fears around money come from a fear of death, i.e. not having the means to survive. This is also why many people fear physical discomfort of any sort.

Fear of the unknown. This one probably also links back to fear of death in some ways. Fear of the unknown is also extremely common. It keeps people locked in familiar cycles even though they may be painful, miserable cycles in relationships, jobs, etc.

Fear of being alone. The fear of being alone is super common, especially on the spiritual path. But the ego creates this duality, and as we learn to feel our interconnectedness, this fear becomes an absurdity. In some ways, I also think it is linked to a fear of death because being alone means being separate from the community, which also can function as a survival support mechanism. Furthermore, this fear can be about lack of self-love and needing love from others.

The Heat of Anger

It can be helpful to view a lot of anger as stuck energy. It’s like you needed to move, say something, or understand something, and you got caught in resistance. Usually, this is where fear is blocking you, but you have enough moving energy to churn up some additional heat. This is more often than not an anger at oneself. The more we become deft in understanding our emotions, the more we can notice how they stem from being out of integrity with ourselves. Sure, there are certainly awful things that happen in the world around us and to us, but most days, we are the source of our greatest torment. That can seriously piss off people.

While I can’t overly generalize, anger can be met more effectively by getting a sense of what you need to do. For example, the man in a bad marriage who is getting increasingly angry may suddenly have to realize he’s scared of being alone, and that’s what’s keeping him there when he knows he needs to take action to get a divorce. Or perhaps it’s a fear of the unknown because he doesn’t know how this change will affect the children, and he presumes that his getting a divorce will result in a bad outcome. The ego has all kinds of head trips that it likes to play, and it usually assumes that it can predict the future. But no one can accurately do that all the time, and part of the big lesson in all of this is having faith in your inner knowing when it is time to take action.

Wallowing in Sadness

Sadness is the emotion that people tend to like to wallow in. Certain types of egos love to feed off this vibration. They just love the poor me game and the pity they can receive. It’s a putrid form of energy, but since this type of emotion generally doesn’t think you are worthy of love, this seems to be the best that it can get. It can also be a way of abdicating power and allowing inaction.

For all the stillness and quiet meditation that happens on the spiritual path, a lot of that will incite you to be very dynamic and active in the external world. The world needs people taking conscious action, and that always starts with you. It really is a wonderful spiritual workout to clear out difficult emotions. It is ground zero for really understanding yourself and clearing space for clarity about what you need to do in the other areas of your life and this world. If you don’t know you, you can’t really see others and the world around you. Your sight becomes skewed by these undealt with emotions and stories. Your limited vision is an impediment to helping others, which is why dealing with these types of inner emotions is also a service to the world.

But before I digress too much, sadness is met the same way as the other emotions; you look at it. You sit with it. You listen to its story. Using the metaphor of sitting with a sick child works well here. Your awareness is so strong that the child immediately starts to heal as you sit with it in a non-reactive space. This can be intensely uncomfortable, however. The child may be screaming, snotting, and puking, and this is where we all learn how messy the spiritual path can get. But it does pass, and as you develop the inner fortitude to be with these messy emotions, you are also building up a greater capacity of patience and tenacity to be with whatever the outer world sends your way.

Letting Go of Being Positive

My parting shot on dealing with difficult emotions is to let go of a paradigm that sees some emotions as positive and others as negative. They are simply emotions. They all come and go. No type of emotion is any better than the other. Repressing the bad ones doesn’t help you, and holding onto the good ones or chasing after them causes other problems. Transcending the ones we find most difficult simply means we create space to accept all emotions as they come and to let them go. Initially, there’s usually a backlog of unexperienced and unacknowledged upset emotions. This is okay. For most people, it should be expected. But it is not beyond your capacities to confront, and that backlog will not last. Ultimately, we all can come into a new conscious emotional equilibrium that allows us to live fully from our hearts and to acknowledge fear, sadness, anger, and other unsettling emotions as simply passing clouds in the overarching skyline of our lives.


The above article has been printed here with the author’s permission. Jim Tolles is a spiritual teacher, healer, and writer. He is the author of the ebook Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening. He teaches students around the world via online video conversations, and he blogs regularly at spiritualawakeningprocess.com. He currently resides in the U.S. in Northern California.

10 Foods and Spices You Can Use for Healing

herb-article-2by Ellen Evert Hopman

(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)

As a Druid Priestess I have made it my business to become well versed in Herbal Healing. My novel Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey (Llewellyn, 2008) is a fictional piece about Druids, but also features herbal lore within its pages. Some have told me they actually bought the book to learn the herbal cures!

Every Druid needs to know at least some herbal basics. Fortunately, there are spices and herbs already in your kitchen that you can easily use.

PLEASE CONSULT A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL BEFORE USING HOME REMEDIES, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION.

Some basic guidelines for kitchen medicines are:

  • Never cook with aluminum utensils; the aluminum can flake off and can lead to health problems. Use cast iron, steel, copper, or ceramic cookware only.
  • Be sure you simmer ingredients in a pot with a tight lid so that the volatile oils don’t evaporate into the air. (Do not boil the herbs, as they will lose their virtue.)
  • Herbal teas can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week in a glass jar with a tight lid. They can also be frozen into ice cubes and stored in a bag in the freezer for later use.
  • Whenever possible, use organic ingredients to avoid pesticides. Fruits and vegetables must be cleaned with hot, soapy water and rinsed thoroughly to remove pesticide residues (which are often oil-based to make them stick to the produce skins).
  • Dried herbs and seeds should come from commercial organic growers. It is irresponsible to purchase wild-crafted organic herbs and spices, as in many cases these are becoming endangered species in their natural habitats.
  • Flowers and leaves are steeped in freshly boiled water that has been removed from the stove. Roots, barks, and berries are simmered (never boiled).
  • Honey is not suitable for infants, as it may harbor bacteria.
  • If any herbal preparation does not agree with you or makes you feel bad, then DON’T USE IT. As it is said, “an ounce of caution is worth a pound of cure.”
  • Sleep, exercise, and healthy foods are the true keys to a long, happy life.


ALLSPICE

This spice comes from the unripe fruits of an evergreen tree (Eugenia pimenta—commonly known as Pimentos) that grows in South America and the West Indies. It tastes and smells a bit like cloves and is used to season meats, curries, and pies. You can make a remedy for stomach upset and gas by simmering ½ to ¾ teaspoon of the spice in a cup of hot water for ten minutes. Be sure you use a non-aluminum pot with a tight lid.

When the tea has cooled, strain it through a coffee filter and take in a tablespoon dose. Dilute it with water if it is too strong for your taste.

Three or four cups of strong allspice tea added to bath water can also help those suffering from arthritis or rheumatism—it is warming and it eases pain. You can also soak a washcloth in the hot tea and apply it as a compress to an arthritic joint.


ALOE

Aloe can grow in the garden in warm climates and indoors in a sunny spot in colder areas. This is a plant that you will want to have somewhere near the kitchen.

Whenever someone gets a burn, whether from cooking or from the sun, split open one of the fleshy leaves and apply the moist, inner gel to the burn. Aloe is cooling and soothing and loaded with skin-healing vitamins.

ANISE SEEDS

Anise is a spice that was used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Anise seeds are used to flavor pies, cookies, and stews. The tea is a great remedy for colic, gas, and indigestion. It can also be taken with honey for a cough.

Steep two teaspoonfuls in a pint of freshly boiled water in a tightly covered non-aluminum pot, for ten minutes. Strain and take a tablespoonful as needed. Sweeten with honey if desired.


APPLE

A wise, old adage states that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Several studies have proven the health benefits of apples. In a University of Michigan study it was determined that students who ate two apples a day had fewer headaches and emotional upsets, as well as clearer skin. Eating raw apples increases saliva, stimulates the gums, and cleans the teeth—leading to better dental health.

Eating raw, peeled apples will help cure diarrhea. Eating apples with the skin on will ease constipation (cooked or raw). For both diarrhea and constipation, it is also wise to drink plenty of extra water.

It is a good idea to follow up a course of antibiotics with apple cider, garlic, plain yogurt, sauerkraut, or miso soup, to re-grow the correct bacteria in the intestines. Antibiotics kill both unfriendly bacteria as well as friendly bacteria in the body and balance needs to be restored with these natural probiotics.

In Norse mythology it is said that when the Gods feel they are beginning to grow old they eat a diet of apples, to restore their strength and youth.

It is unwise to eat apple seeds, as they contain cyanide compounds (which are poisonous).

ARTICHOKES

Artichokes are regularly boiled and eaten as a vegetable; simply cut off the stem and sit the base of the green flower head in a pot with about ½ cup water. But did you know that the water left over from cooking could be used medicinally?

A strong tea of the leaves is a diuretic (removes excess water in the body through urination) and is very useful for liver problems such as jaundice. You can use a mixture of ½ artichoke leaves and ½ asparagus. Use about one pint of water for every 2 tablespoons full of vegetable matter. Simmer for 5 minutes, cool, and strain and take ½ cup every 4 hours. Be sure to drink the tea 2 hours before a meal. (Caution: Diabetics should avoid this remedy and other diuretics).


ASPARAGUS

Asparagus spears should be simmered quickly, or steamed, for no more than five minutes. In this way they retain their vitamins (A and C) and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, sulfur, and potassium).

Asparagus is both a diuretic and helpful for kidney problems. It also helps flush uric acid out of the system. Excess uric acid accumulates when your diet is heavy in animal meat products. Too much of it in the body can lead to gout and rheumatism.

(Caution: Diabetics should take care with this and all diuretics.)


BANANA

Bananas are fruits of the tropical rainforests, some of the Earth’s oldest living ecosystems.

Bananas are best eaten when they show a few brown spots. They are loaded with vitamins (A, B, B2, and riboflavin) and minerals (potassium, magnesium, sodium, and chlorine). The minerals found in bananas replace the ones lost through diarrhea. Children with diarrhea will be able to keep up their weight and energy levels if they eat bananas.

In Sri Lanka a cup of the sap of the banana tree is given to a person who has been bitten by a venomous snake.


BARLEY

Barley is a soothing, cooling, mucilaginous (slippery) grain that is helpful for bowel diseases, throat and stomach problems, and fevers. It can be eaten as a vegetable or (if a person is very sick) given as a drink.

To make barley tea, first wash the barley carefully in cold water, and then boil 2 ounces of barley in one cup water for 3 minutes and strain out the liquid. Add 4 pints of fresh water and continue to boil until ½ of the liquid remains. Cool and strain.

Be sure you use whole grain barley because it will have all the B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium.

BASIL

Basil is used in Italian recipes such as spaghetti sauce. It can be added to egg and cheese dishes and to fresh salads. It is easily grown in the garden.

Basil tea is delicious when combined with a little fresh or dried mint or catnip leaf and honey, and is said to help rheumatism. It also soothes stomach upset and constipation. It has even been used to relieve whooping cough.

For headaches, dip a cloth into a strong batch of basil tea and apply it to the forehead as a compress. (This works even better if you add 2 tablespoons of Witch Hazel extract. Witch Hazel is a small tree that blooms in the fall with crinkly yellow flowers.)

Use one teaspoon of basil for each cup of water. Bring the water to a boil, remove from the stove, and add the basil. Allow the basil to steep for 10 minutes in a non-aluminum pot with a tight lid.


BEANS

The pods of beans (kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, green beans, snap beans, wax beans, etc.) have a lot of silica, which means that they help strengthen internal organs.

The pods are slightly diuretic and they also help lower blood sugar levels. They are helpful in very mild cases of diabetes. For this purpose you have to eat 9 to16 pounds of the pods a week, cooked like a vegetable. The pods should be picked before the beans are fully ripe and are best used fresh.

The dried pods can be consumed as a tea for rheumatism, kidney and bladder ailments, and excess uric acid. The tea is also useful for acne. Put three handfuls of the dried, cut-up pods in 1 quart of water and simmer for 3 hours in a non-aluminum pot with a tight lid.


BEETS

Did you know that you can eat beets raw? Grated, raw, fresh beets and carrots can be served with a little lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt. The green leaves can be steamed or lightly sautéed. Beets are loaded with vitamins such as A, B, B2, and C, along with plenty of blood-building minerals. Beets should be consumed if anemia is a problem, or after an operation where a person has lost a lot of blood.

If you have a juicer, you can peel the beets and put them through the machine. (Adding some carrots makes the flavor sweeter.) If you don’t have a juicer, peel the beets, mince them, and then place them in a glass jar. Sprinkle lightly with a little sea salt and just barely cover the beets with fresh, cold water. Allow to sit for six hours and then strain out the juice. You can add more cold water to the drink if desired and adjust for taste.


Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2009. All rights reserved.