This Spring – Take a Natural Break

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Natural Path

We who live in the North Country can honestly say we “survived” the last winter.  Records for snow accumulation and low temperatures were broken.  Now that spring is finally beginning to reveal itself, many of us find ourselves going outside to dig into and work with dirt in various ways while taking a natural break.  There are so many benefits from connecting with the outside natural world.

Have you ever noticed how refreshed you feel after being outside and working with the earth?  How about walking around in a nearby preserve to witness new growth in the surrounding flora?  It’s so refreshing.  There’s actually evidence that identifies positive results from connecting with nature.

In an article published by the American Society of Landscape Architects written by Jared Green, Green identified research that shows taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on “tasks calling for sustained focus.” “Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.” The same article goes on pointing out a fact, Dr. Marc Berman and fellow researchers at the University of Michigan found that “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk through an arboretum. When these people were sent on a break to stroll down a busy street in town, no cognitive boost was detected.”

As a massage therapist, I see many cases of injuries caused from repetitive motion, no matter how insignificant the action may be, including moving a computer mouse or texting on a smart phone, not to mention repetitive heavy labor or work outs.  What’s fascinating is repetitive activities in the office place can also create other forms of stress.  Jared Green cited Michael Posner, professor emeritus at University of Oregon who studies attention, saying that our brains get fatigued after working for long periods of time, “particularly if we have to concentrate intensely or deal with a repetitive task.” Taking a break may or may not help deal with stress during high-pressure times. What’s crucial is the type of break taken: According to The Wall Street Journal, taking a stroll in the park “could do wonders” while drinking lots of coffee will just be further depleting.

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Community Vegetable Garden

A 2008 article on “Gardening as a therapeutic intervention in mental health” in Nursing Times, originally written as a study by Matthew Page, MSc, unveiled the positive results found from gardening.  For example, “quantitative studies have found a significant reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety following gardening-based interventions. Qualitative studies have provided insight into service users’ experiences of gardening-based interventions, with a range of potential benefits highlighted, including enhanced emotional wellbeing, improved social functioning, improved physical health and opportunities for vocational development.”

How can some of these examples be implemented into our lives?  The answers and solutions are quite simple when you think of them.

Have lunch in a natural setting.  Take your lunch in a natural setting wether brown bagged or purchased as a take out.  There are probably more “green areas” than you realize that are much closer to work than you think.

Create a raised bed garden.  Creating a raised bed garden accomplishes so much.  You get to connect with the earth!  You can raise your own veggies.  There’s nothing quite like the faste of food from your own garden.  Connect with family members too by making it a family project.

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Enjoy Nature!

Take the dog for a walk in a park or preserve.  Preserves are popping up nearly everywhere these days, so find one nearby and walk Fido there.  Make sure to take a small plastic bag with you too by the way.  You get exercise outside along with your K-9 companion.  You may even find some new places for the future to relax on your own.

Spend time with your yard, roof top garden, or community garden.  Opportunities to get outside are limitless when you explore the possibilities.  Have you noticed?  Gardens are cropping up everywhere – from prison yards to retirement and veteran homes.  Even apartment dwellers now have alternatives for getting their hands in the dirt through indoor gardening with decorative plants and even growing vegetables.  Raking leaves in your yard takes on a different meaning when it’s viewed as personal time and a way to reduce stress.  Regardless of your own circumstances, get outside!

Taking a walk in a natural setting or gardening as examples of connecting with nature can really  enhance our lives.  It reduces stress, provides exercise, reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, and enhances our over all well-being.  So, take a natural break whenever you can for yourself.  Consider it a spring time gift to you!

Natural Path – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/51866462@N07/8954971567″></a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Community Vegetable Garden – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/42647587@N06/3935703108″>Stars Complex Urban Garden</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Enjoy Nature – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/32008328@N08/4095380295″>HAWAII NOV-09129</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Tales for the Journey – The Calling Crows

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Photo 1 By Roger Bunting

The American Crow, found throughout North America frequents most of Canada in the summer, also caw their hearts out from California to the Carolinas and Maine to Florida year round. These brilliant birds are commonly perched in both bare and foliage-filled treetops, gathered in fields, and wandering America’s roadsides. They can outwit most birds, animals, and even many of us humans. It adapts to its environment. They aren’t particular at all about their habitats ranging from empty beach-sides and open woods to the center of towns and local neighborhoods. They’ll consume most anything as ground feeders especially earthworms, small animals, insects, seeds, fruit, plus garbage, carrion, and even some chicks of nesting birds.

In the winter months of Maine, there aren’t many species of birds that tough out the winters, but crows do. Walking nature trails along the east coast, crows I’ve seen and heard them making their daily rounds whether perched, wandering, or on the wing in their methodical flapping with very little gliding. The precocious crows always seem to be up to something. Their activities don’t appear haphazard, but rather meticulous and even creative.

Though the typical “caw” identifies that bird like a crow, I’ve noticed slight differences between the cawing voices of northern versus southern crows.  One seems quite magical, while the other seems static.  One is multidimensional… the other myopic, but it’s still the familiar “caw” that catches your ear. They actually do have a language that sounds… enchanting.

It’s a privilege to hear all our winged friends talking to each other as the day begins. The deep blackness of the crow ushers in the brightness of the new day its caws declare the dawn. Native American elders have shared that the conversations of birds are very complex. Crows (along with many other birds) greet the new day and tell the other “winged ones” and forest inhabitants the news throughout the day. To the animal kingdom, they’re the original morning news team without the necessity of television, radio, or print.  Their watchfulness tells every creature about their discoveries, current events, their territorial boundaries, where some of the other inhabitants, including predators. Birds, in general, announce locations for the best food for the day, or simply to declare to everyone, “Wake up. Wake up, it’s time to greet the beauty of the new day”.

Watching crows reveals their organizational skills. They post sentinels to keeping a watchful eye over the area. They nest high in the treetops to keep a watchful eye over the terrain where they feed and live. They communicate as they work together. Like many animals, crows have been known to predict tornadoes, rain, and other weather patterns by the way they fly.

Cultures throughout the world teach that we should look at living things around us because they can help guide us along our individual paths. The longer we listen and the more time we devote to them, the more often truths are recognized, and their language can be understood by us, who are also part of that same creation.

What can be learned about the spiritual medicine of crow? Crows have been associated with creation and solitude in various cultures of the world. Typically they not only symbolize nature but spiritual strength as well. Illustrating these numerous qualities, they encourage us, “caw” to us to maintain that same creative awareness and spirit that embraces our being, never losing sight of the magic that surrounds our life while maintaining our spiritual strength gained through our solitude. Though a great deal more may be learned from the stories and legends of crow’s wonder, uniqueness, and even magic, a primary lesson says that crow teaches us to speak our truth, be true to ourselves, and honor our own unique qualities. Think about these qualities the next time you see or hear a crow cawing to you.

Frankincense and Myrrh For Today

I dedicate the following to my good friend and teacher Miles Coleman of Black Belt Herbs.  He recently wrote of the following, prompting this blog entry.  Thanks Miles!

In the Christmas story, Three Wise Men offered gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.  In honor of that, lets consider two of those gifts from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective: Frankincense (Pin Yin = Ru Xiang or Scientific term Boswellia serrata) on the left and Myrrh (Pin Yin = Mo Yao or Scientific term Commiphora Molmol).

Frankincense Resin

Frankincense Resin

Frankincense is also called olibanum for the tree it comes from, an aromatic substance which is used by burning as an incense and an ingredient in perfumes.  Oil may also be extracted from the gum or resin of the tree.  The medicinal uses vary, including that of an antiseptic, astringent, carminative, digestive, disinfectant, diuretic, emenagogue, expectorant, sedative, and tonic. 

Myrrh Resin

Myrrh Resin

Myrrh also has many medicinal qualities like joint support for  arthritis, digestive disorders, respiratory infections, painful menstruation, sore throats, asthma, coughs, and bad breath. As a topical, myrrh has been used to treat muscular pains, ulcers, sores, wounds, and bacterial and fungal skin infections to name a few.  The resin is harvested by cutting through the outer bark of a tree species Commiphora myrrha, often found in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.

In TCM, resins are often used to treat wind cold damp or bi syndromes tor pain syndromes resulting from blockage of Qi and Blood or “Stagnation”.  ”Evils” are often present as well.  These two are always used together to create a “dui yao” or combination with mutually supporting and synergetic affects!  Traditional Chinese Medicine finds this combination in virtually every bi or da ke (hit medicine) formula.  Together, Frankincense and Myrrh move Stagnant Blood, Stagnant Qi, and dispel Wind Damp. In addition, they both are powerfully antiseptic and can regenerate flesh. In ancient times, when infection was a real killer, herbs like this were worth there weight in gold.  Hence their value in all cultures was indeed royal and fit gifts for a King! Moreover, Mo Yao in Chinese translates as MEDICINE!   It is said in TCM that the 5 stagnations are the mother of all disease, having herbs that handle 3 of the five is indeed… priceless, a truly valuable gift! 

Frankincense and Myrrh, royal and highly treasured gifts both then and for today!

Values of Therapeutic QiGong

 

Practice QiGong Anywhere

Practice QiGong Anywhere

QiGong (pronounced “Chi Gong”) combines physical movement and traditional therapy to help relieve illness and stress and prevent disease.  This centuries old practice accelerates the whole body’s healing process, which leads to healthy living and longevity.  The exercise-like movements are divided into several groups which focus on different parts of the body.  It combines deep breathing with whole body movements and stretching to promote energy flow to harmonize the mind, body, and spirit of the individual.  The student can isolate adjust certain movements depending on their own needs, so they work within their own limits.  Self massage, for example, as a part of Therapeutic QiGong activates the meridian system, to relieve and prevent illness and discomfort.  Many have received great health health benefits from the practice of QiGong, physically, mentally, and spiritually from illnesses and diseases like heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, neck and shoulder problems, digestive disorders, headache, depression, anxiety, and stress to name a some.  And there are other values as well.

To obtain these benefits, Therapeutic QiGong should be practiced regularly at a minimum of three times per week, preferably daily.  QiGong begins through entering a state of relaxation.  Free the mind from troubling thoughts (or as a friend refers to them “thought monkeys”), relax the shoulders, chest, waist, legs, and feet.  Relax the entire body, free from all tension. 

Qi Gong For All Ages

Qi Gong For All Ages

Breathe slowly, deeply, in through the nose, and out through the mouth.  With each breath, fresh oxygen is received, visualize that air entering your lungs.  Focus on positive things and feel the positive energy flow into the body.  With each exhale, carbon dioxide is released and other wasted air on a physical/biological level.  On the mental and spiritual level, worries, tension, stress, illness, and negative energies leave the body.  Feelings of warmth, safety, and comfort enter a new fresh, and revitalized awareness.

It may seem like a lot of information to think about while performing QiGong, but that’s what can be thought about as the movements become second nature through regular practice.  This is why QiGong is viewed as work on the internal state of being and TaiChi is viewed as an externalization of that internal awareness.  This is also why QiGong can be valuable to so many facets of life, including not only overall wellness, but how we work through the activities of life including other exercises, business, relationships, and family life.  The martial artists of ages ago, the true masters, were very aware of the importance in controlling their inner source of energy.  They learned that once the inside is balanced, the outward expression of movement is also more balanced…, powerful.  Take it to another level.  When our inner self is more balanced, our activities like family life, exercise, business, and physically draining activities like even boot camp, running, cycling, weight training… endeavors that could tax our physical being are less draining on our bodies because our entire being is engaged in the process, not just the muscles, the mind, other parts our body, but… our entire being is now engaged.

No matter the focus, QiGong can improve the result

No matter the focus, QiGong can improve the result

Want to be better at what you do?  Want to be healthier?  Want to overcome or adjust to  physical limitations?  Try QiGong.  There are different forms of QiGong including Therapeutic QiGong.  It can help you round out and bring balance into your life.

 

What Is Detoxing?

Detox, a term found on boxes of herbal teas, recipes for healthier living, or even titles of dietary workshops. Detoxing, in a fundamental sense, is the process of eliminating the unnecessary or unwanted, typically from our bodies.  The term becomes more popular in the fall and Spring encouraging people to do so in preparation for the coming change in a season.


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Let’s start with when.  Generally, we should detoxify our bodies at least twice a year as a preparation for new activities associated with a change of seasons.  Fall and Spring prepare our bodies for the next season’s demands on our bodies, namely, Winter and Fall.  A Fall detox flushes our bodies of unnecessary substances adapting it for consuming fats to warm the body during winter.  The Spring detox eliminates accumulated fat used to fortify us in the winter season.  Our four-footed friends, particularly those that hibernate, do this naturally while we need to be reminded.  Why? We’ve forgotten how to listen to and hear our bodies, like so many other aspects of our life.

A standard method for detoxification utilizes clearing herbs in a tea taken from once to three times daily.  Several commercially prepared blends offer recommended consumption methods for good results.  If you do have questions or concerns, an herbalist or your doctor should help to identify the most beneficial process for you since we may respond differently to certain herbs.

    Another method uses foods.  Certain foods, like dandelion and burdock, may aid in detoxification.  It’s fascinating to consider the first plants that typically sprout through snow-covered grounds are ideal for detoxing, namely the dandelion and burdock.  It’s almost like the earth is trying to tell us something…    

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Now, let’s look at how often we should detoxify.  A good rule of thumb is the suggested seasonal approach, but you can detoxify your body most anytime… within reason.  Again, if in doubt, seek counsel from a nutritionist, herbalist, or your doctor, since certain times would not be good choices for detoxification.  Some of those times may include when your system is compromised such as pregnancy like a condition resulting from sickness or disease.  Under those conditions, detoxification would not be recommended, unless under strict supervision.  The detoxification could be counterproductive and debilitating when the body needs nutrients for strength.  It’s usually advisable to nourish the body first, then consider detoxification.

How long should the detoxification last?  A good detox can take seven to ten days.  That length should give the body enough time to adjust to the herbs or supplement used, then rid itself of the unnecessary accumulated “stuff.”  There are those that simply detox from time to time when it “feels right”; also acceptable as long as they exercise moderation and recognize when to seek guidance.

What are the tangible results besides elimination?  Many people experience feelings of empowerment and clarity.  Weight loss may occur from a Detox too, but losing weight should not be the motivation for this form of cleansing.  It can also help settle emotional issues.  Since the focus of detoxifying is elimination, we may find ourselves eliminating emotional baggage during the process, including sadness, anger, or fear, to name a few.  Since some may seem more emotionally sensitive during a Detox, meditation and other methods of working with one’s inner self may be a worthy pursuit when combined with detoxification to create even more positive results, not only physically, but emotionally.

    One last time, if you have never experienced detoxification and/or if you have any questions or concerns, seek an herbalist, nutritionist, or the advice of your doctor.

    Detoxification can be an enjoyable experience and a method to promote holistic living.

Tales for the Journey – Live Your Dream

Girl DreamingThe French romantic, poet, novelist, and dramatist, Victor Hugo said, “There is nothing like a dream to create the future”. Humphrey Bogart, as Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon, made the statement, “the stuff that dreams are made of” referring to the Maltese Falcon like a tangible “dream”.  Finally, to round out purely arbitrary sources of references to dreams, Carly Simon wrote a song “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of”.  The focus of this dream reference points to maintaining a relationship.  The refrain reads,

 

“It’s the stuff that dreams are made of
It’s the slow and steady fire
It’s the stuff that dreams are made of
It’s your heart and soul’s desire
It’s the stuff that dreams are made of”

Dreams may create the future.  They sometimes unveil one’s hopes and desires.  Dreams may also be the fuel to keep one in pursuit of a task after others have quit.  The most important question: “What is your dream?”

There are several definitions of the dream.  One describes the dream as a series images, sensations, and thoughts that usually take place during sleep.  Another speaks of a dream as a cherished ambition, ideal, or aspiration.  Then there’s the one shadowed in disbelief as a self-deceiving and unrealistic fantasy which, given the proper circumstances, quenches the fire of nearly any dream.  How strong is your dream?  Is it strong enough to stand against its arch enemies, fear, ridicule, and doubt?

List upon list can be produced identifying those who never gave up on their dream, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Mary Anderson are some.  Who’s Mary Anderson you say?  She may be little known, you can thank her for your windshield wipers the next time it rains… or snows, when you’re in your car.  That’s right while some were leery of her bogus idea of the windshield wiper in 1903, she followed her dream and saw it through to a reality.

Our dreams, while we sleep, can often open doorways to a new future, a better life, a key to overcoming an addiction, a new concept for a book or song, or even an invention.  Some dreams remind us of events from our past that need to be addressed, so we can move forward with our life.  Some also sense or see something or an event yet to take place.  Then the daydreams we muse over like that new career, the new home, our soul mate, or furthering our education.  How do these come into reality?  This subject has also been addressed from authors, to psychologists, teachers, and seers.  The consensus among many of these would say that we create our reality (our dreams) through manifestation and putting the laws of attraction into practice, which is entirely another subject.

The focus of this writing is to instill within the desire to follow your dreams.  Don’t lose sight of them for a moment.  Pursue them until you see the dream become the future you seek or until they lead you to the real dream that will change your life.  Dreams are not objects to pursue until the journey becomes to difficult to follow, and then we give up.  Dreams give us purpose.  Dreams create destinies.  Dreams offer us a zeal and zest for life’s pursuits.dreaming

So, what is your dream?  How strong is your dream?  Will your dream continue despite opposition and doubt?  Our dreams should be sown with high ideals, watered with ambition, and fertilized with aspiration until we harvest the fruit of our labors… when our dream comes true.  That’s the mark of a true human being, one who believes enough in themselves and their dreams, so much so, that nothing and no one can stand in the way of their future, their life, and the desire to help one another.

Live your dream!  

Wholistic Living – A Glass of Water

Glass of WaterWhen we exercise, receive a massage, or see our doctor we may hear, “Drink plenty of fluids,” or “Keep yourself hydrated.”  

Try an experiment.  Take a glass of water and hold it at arm’s length.  While holding the glass, consider this, how much does it weigh?  Depending on the weight and size of the glass, it can weight from perhaps eight to twenty-four or more ounces.  (Still holding the glass?)  Here’s a fact, regardless of the absolute weight, it will become “heavier” the longer you hold on to it.

Holding the glass for a few seconds, no big deal; but after only a few minutes, the glass begins to wear on you causing stress in muscles.  After several minutes, you may begin to feel an ache in your arm right up to your shoulder.  If you held it for an hour, you may develop a headache or exhibit some other form of exhaustion, but you would know the cause.  Holding on to the glass of water causes pain and discomfort.  Just put it down for relief.

Holding on to a simple, and potentially refreshing, glass of water has caused your body and muscles to stress to the point of debilitation.  The level of discomfort is directly proportional to the time span we hold on to the glass of water.   The longer we hold on to it the more discomfort it causes and that’s the way stress affects our lives.

We know a little stress keeps us sharp, but too much can cause us to snap just like a guitar string, not stretched enough, the string sounds dull and raspy, too much and it becomes irritating with a potential of breaking.  If stretched enough, it turns out a great sound.  StressedStress is also subjective because we all handle stress differently, but too much is just like the glass of water or the guitar string, too much will eventually have a negative affect on us physically, mentally, or emotionally.  Just like you know when to stop holding on to your water glass, stop holding your stress before you break.

As for positive stress, identify the right amount of stress for you that creates refreshment and pleasant music in your daily life. Utilizing and transforming stress can make you more productive and less self-destructive.  Like so many other factors of life, utilizing the proper amount of stress is all about balance.  Know when to stretch and when to loosen to create your personal sense of bliss.

There are many ways to relieve stress.  Pick one that works for you, but most important relieve your stress daily.  Some ways to loosen up and relieve and transform stress include regular exercise, massage, walking, meditation, playing music, reading, or just sitting in comfortable shady spot with a cool refreshing glass of water.

Hold Glass of WaterNext time you pick up a glass of water, ask yourself, “Am I holding on to any unnecessary stress?”

Wholistic Living – A State of Mind

Buddha meditation You are what you think.  If you think about being sick continually, you either are or will become sick.  You can place yourself in that state of being.  If these statements are true then their opposites must also be true.  We really are what we think.  These statements ultimately relate to a state of mind, and attitude.  Our attitude can dictate or at the very least influence the result of a given situation or circumstance.

There is a sacred order of survival in survival skills, meaning when we are faced with hazardous and potentially fatal odds, we begin to think and react from a primal state of mind… to survive, to overcome the odds.  Primitive skills teach a sacred order of survival; shelter, water, fire, and food.  But without the proper attitude the chances of our survival are greatly diminished.  Simply put, if we believe we will not survive or give up trying, we will most likely perish.  If, however, we believe we will survive, we just increased our chances of living several times over.  So, even to survive we should maintain an attitude that we will do just that, survive.

Our wellness and the desire to live holistically depends on our attitude, our belief that we can and will live our lives better than we have in the past.  If the desire is great enough, we will make this goal a reality, but it involves the necessity of change.  We need to change a portion or portions of our lifestyle to create change in our life and our state of wellness.  And change takes effort.

Many speak of New Year’s Resolutions in the sense of needing to begin in January.If they don’t begin in January, they believe they have failed and given up trying.  When we seek to improve our state of being, physical, emotional, or spiritual, we can begin the process of change anytime, as long as we actually begin.happiness

Once we begin, we must continue the journey and not give up part way through.  If our goal is to lose weight, lower cholesterol, and become healthier, begin with the proper attitude that you will do your best to accomplish the task.  You will do it to survive and this will create a new way of living, living healthy, living holistically.  To begin the process is a noble cause.  To accomplish the goal is a fundamental victory that can lead to even greater accomplishments in life.  Healing and seeking a healthier lifestyle doesn’t begin with which program, which diet, what club to join, or how much weight to lose, it begins by having a survivor’s attitude, a winner’s attitude, that you will finish what you started.  See yourself, visualize yourself both healthy and well.

Whether you begin in January or April, begin, begin, begin.  Once the commitment is made don’t give up your journey to wellness, claim the state of mind of living holistically.Closing Thought

Wholistic Living – Exercise Within Your Personal Bounds

Snow SkiingThese days of modern conveniences reduce our level of physical activity.  We often find ourselves sitting, idly standing, or doing some sort of repetitious activity that doesn’t require much physical exertion.  Changing to a healthier lifestyle includes a level of exercise that works for you.

These days of modern conveniences reduce our level of physical activity.  We often find ourselves sitting, idly standing, or doing some sort of repetitious activity that doesn’t require much physical exertion.  Changing to a healthier lifestyle includes a level of exercise that works for you.

Everyone won’t do the same level of activity in any exercise program.  Our body type, age, physical limitations, gender, even blood type can influence the type of activity that suits us best.   Not everyone can or wants to train in martial arts.  Some may want to take Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong instead.  Running works well for some, but jogging may work better for others.

As seasons change, so do the activities, unless you live in an area where seasons don’t affect outside activities.  With winter upon us in the Northeast, the outside use of canoes, kayaks, and hiking gear may be exchanged for snowshoes or cross-country skis.  In the spring and summer accessories are switched again to accommodate the season.  Outdoor activities may be substituted by more indoor workouts through a gym or in home exercise accessories.

Age doesn’t mean we stop our activities.  The lifestyle remains active with activities that harmonize with our age and physical abilities.  Maybe we used to run five miles a day.  Now, we run three.  Also, you’re never too old to start an activity.  People in their 50’s or 60’s begin new higher impact exercise programs, but they approach them gradually and sometimes with a qualified trainer.  Level and intensity of activity should be in harmony with age.  There are always exceptions, but the key is… listen to your body.

TrainerBeginning a new activity may be challenging particularly if you’re in a mixed age and gender group.  If you are uncertain of how to approach a particular program, seek a fellow knowledgeable participant who could act as a mentor or seek a qualified trainer.  A good trainer, that is genuinely interested in the individual, is a real asset to any program.  If there isn’t a formal teacher to help you ease into a program that works for you then go slow.  Some physical stiffness or discomfort can be expected, but too much may be a case of exceeding your physical limitations.  Again, take your time.

Stretching before and after any physical activity is always beneficial.  Stretching warms up the muscle groups, prevent injuries, and curtails some stiffness and aches and pains.  Cardiovascular exertion warms up our heart when the physical activity is demanding like martial arts.  Stretches and cardio workouts should begin slow and work toward a peak with a short cool down to keep yourself limber and in tune for the more intense portion of a workout.  Regular massage is also beneficial to keep your body flexible and in proper tone.  Someone who works out regularly can receive a massage every week if they like, but they can often go four to six weeks between sessions, unless there’s an event or injury.

Above all, consult a medical professional or trainer to determine which activities to perform or avoid for your lifestyle.  Chances are you’ll be able to perform some activity within the bounds of your physical abilities.  Your life and health will improve even if you have to go slow at first because of physical limits and weight.

Physical exercise isn’t about impressing others. Your opponent is you.  Do the best you can each time. Go at your own pace.  The benefits will be reaped in time.  Physical exercise through QiGong, Tai Chi, swimming, the local gym, hiking, snow shoeing, running, martial arts, yoga, aerobics, walking, or what ever else, it’s all about improving your life.

Take time for you and exercise.Group QiGong Pic

Messages from Nature – Bear Facts On Introspection

ImageAs the winter cold arrives and the snow begins to blow, it’s time to embrace what Native Americans call Bear Medicine, a time to go within.  Introspection can be both rewarding and challenging.

Bears embrace myths, legends, movies, cartoons, ageless stories.  Even Smokey Bear, has brought awareness to the public to protect forests from careless fires.  By the way, Wikipedia says Smokey Bear is the longest running public service campaign in the United States.  But, what can we learn spiritually from bear?  I’ve known people with spirit names that included “bear” as part of their “name” like Quiet Bear, Gentle Bear, Big Bear, and Sleeping Bear.  The names say certain bear-like qualities are attributed these people.  I’d like to focus on those bear qualities and see how they can improve our lives.

A basic quality of Bear Medicine teaches us to go within and examine our inner being.  This is drawn from the bear’s instinct to hibernate in the winter.  It typically eats more than in the fall, storing up fat reserves to endure the cold months of winter.  Bear lives through the winter off the stored reserves from within.  

ImageThe spiritual lesson says we should store up enough spiritual energy and well-being within to prepare for life’s lessons, that often feel cold and cruel.  Instead of evading the lesson, stop, go within and tap into the much needed spiritual reserves.  The normal way of life is to externalize.  When a lesson enters one’s life efforts are made to cover it through expressing through anger, frustration, stress, fear, or over indulgence instead of going within to identify the reason and lesson to be learned.  Be like bear and try going within

Evaluation is another quality Bear Medicine.  Consider this.  A mother bear gives birth during the winter and brings her cub(s) out when she feels and knows they are ready to face the outside world.  She does not allow them out until they are ready.  She has evaluated them closely in the den, watching their subtle actions, reactions, emerging personalities, and frailties.  If she senses crucial short comings the cubs remain in the den.  She remains there as well, only venturing out long enough to feed herself and close enough to keep a watchful eye on the den.  

We can learn a great deal from mother bear.  Evaluate our lives and pay close attention to the fruits of our lives, including our children.  Are there parts that are weak needing strengths?  Are there ways we can evaluate our children, instead of criticize them?  Do we need to add more to the project before it’s presented for all to see?  Do we throw something together in a haphazard manner just to get it out or do we take our time, doing the best we can before its presentation.  If there is a good side of pride, this would qualify.  Be like bear and evaluate our life and our offspring.

ImageFinally, consider nurturing as a quality of bear medicine.  Return to the analogy of mother bear and her cubs.  She not only evaluates she nurtures her offspring.  She accepts the responsibility of having offspring.  She cares for the cub’s growth.  She encourages its development.  Nurture includes seeing to the cub’s physical needs or nourishment which is the origin of the word “nurture” which means to feed.  The origin also means to cherish.  Just as the mother bear cherishes her cub or cubs enough to defend them with her life if necessary. 

The bear medicine of nurturing in application to us as human beings would include not only how we care about all our projects and efforts, but, just like evaluation, our children as well.  Care over the growth and well-being of children whether as parents or teachers.  Encourage the growth, encouraging them to do their best and help them when they fall short of our or their expectations.  See to the physical needs of the children in proper nutrition for the body and soul.  Above all else, cherish the children.

When bear is seen either in real life, through stories, myths, legends, or a Smokey Bear poster think of the medicine of bear and how we can venture within to become better brothers and sisters to bear.

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