There recently was an article in The Washington Post about Mindfulness as a “cure” for many ills, especially stress. The article describes Rep. Tim Ryan from Ohio who is travelling the country to talk about this topic. He recently wrote a book about his own experience, which came after he had had a transformative experience at a retreat led by the director and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the Massachusetts Medical School, Jon Kabat- Zinn. The article relates that even the US Marines currently use the technique. Mindfulness is of course nothing new, it is part of the ancient practise of meditation and yes it is a wonderful tool for de-stressing, getting a broader perspective on one’s own life and life in general and an important tool in staying healthy. Mindfulness is the part that you strive to carry with you into the rest of your daily life, not just while you are meditating. Perhaps like being “present in a situation, but not being it. Being present in the moment, not just rushing through the day on the way to something else.” The topic of mindfulness was brought up at a dinner party recently and I realized I had neglected to talk about other aspects of “What goes into being healthy”, not just appropriate food/diet. For me gardening is a meditation and a way to be present, being in nature is as well, as is making art. A runner can get into the zone while running, an artist, in any genre while producing work or performing it. Others again may have their own way of reaching that rather blissful state, the state that helps one curb the unruliness of the busy little mind that keeps jabbering quite a bit at one, not wanting to leave one a single moment of peace and quiet. One becomes delightfully part of the Universe and everything in it. Presence in the moment, Mindfulness, Meditation and other de-stressing practises are essential tools for good health. The moment is actually all one has, one moment after another. If one has never meditated before get some basic instruction first and start with 5 – 10 – 15 minutes if sitting still for a longer time is hard. It doesn’t have to be half hour or nothing, but of course as one continues practice, longer meditations gets one more. There are other practices that also facilitate mindfulness and being in the present. For example; Yoga and Tai Chi. Check Qi Practises.
Interestingly I recently found an article that explains why gardening is so especially pleasurable to me, besides putting me in the Zone, and probably is the reason why others are drawn to it too. Would you believe it, but there is a Mycobacterium vaccae in the soil that is responsible for increasing the feel good neurotransmitter, Serotonin. For me getting dirty under the finger nails has always been a sure cure for the occasional blues, almost an addiction in a way. Just being outside makes me feel happy, so there you have it. I have always had a hard time putting gardening gloves on and gave up trying to have “pretty lady nails” years ago.
Of course exercise is another necessity for good health, exercise that is appropriate for you and your health status, whether it brings you into the zone or not. It can actually also be used for meditation, walking meditation for example. Exercise increases blood circulation, helps combat cardiovascular disease, helps “oil” the joints, increases vitality, energy, sleep and helps the body rid itself of waste. Exercising outdoors provides needed daylight into the eyes to combat SAD. Exercise appropriately vis-a-vis sensible and good food intake helps combat an increase in the waistline. In “olden times”, not so far back actually, people walked far more than we do now and that is perhaps why they could afford to take 20 eggs and a quart of cream for their recipes. The American lifestyle now does not allow for that because walking everywhere is no longer possible for most of us and we often get to busy to bother with it. If it is hard to exercise on your own, whether it is getting yourself outside, following one or the other of the many video programs or CD’s that are available, sign up for a class. Sometimes paying for a class is the thing that clinches staying with it. Whatever works, works. If you find yourself having stopped exercising, just get back on “the horse” again. Every day is a new day with possibilities. Yesterday is gone.
With the weather becoming warmer, the promise of visiting an out-door cafe or sitting in one’s own garden, on a porch or just next to an open window enjoying the mild breeze is becoming a reality. My mother who lived single for several decades taught me one important way to honor myself, especially important I believe if one lives by oneself. “Honor yourself by making good and nourishing foods for yourself, set the table nicely for yourself, sit down and eat, take the time to digest.” If we don’t celebrate ourselves, who will?
I have decided this week to give you some hints on how to make those delicious and inviting, nearly artistic Open Faced Sandwiches one find in Scandinavia. They are little works of art that need not be calorie rich, but of course can be. Check it out. I borrowed quite a few of the photos this time though. It would take me weeks to get through such an array if I was to make them all. Enjoy.