This Spring – Take a Natural Break


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.


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.


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=”″></a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

Community Vegetable Garden – photo credit: <a href=”″>Stars Complex Urban Garden</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

Enjoy Nature – photo credit: <a href=”″>HAWAII NOV-09129</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;


Tales for the Journey – The Calling Crows


Photo 1 By Roger Bunting

The American Crow may be found throughout North America.  They can be found cawing their hearts out from California to the Carolinas and Maine to Florida year round while it’s not unusual to find them in most of Canada during the summer.  These very intelligent birds are common sights perched in both bare and foliage filled treetops, gathered in fields, and wandering 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 they rob from other nesting birds.


Photo 2 By Hornet Photography

In the winter months of Maine, there aren’t many species of birds that tough out the winters.  Crows, among a few others, do.  As I walk a nearby nature trail, I see and hear them as they make their daily rounds wether perched, wandering, or on the wing in their methodical flapping with very little gliding.  They always seem to be up to something.  Their activities don’t appear haphazard, but rather calculated or coordinated  with a planned creative purpose.

Though the typical “caw” identifies that bird as 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 a familiar “caw” that catches your ear.  They actually do have a language that sounds… magical.

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 almost like its caws give birth to the new day.  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, where some of the other inhabitants, including predators, may be, locations for the best food for the day, or simply telling everyone, “Wake up. Wake up it’s time to greet the beauty of the new day”.

Watching crows will show them as very organized.  They post sentinels to keep a watchful eye over the area.  Nesting high in the treetops is common for a good view over where they feed and live.  They communicate with each other to work together.  Like many animals, crows have been known to predict tornadoes, rain, and other weather patterns by the way they fly.  They help all those around them in addition to those closest to them.  They really are quite magical in deed.

Cultures throughout the world teach that people should look at the natural life around them because it will help teach life lessons in order to live better lives.  The longer we listen and the more time we devote to listen and observe, the more often truths are recognized and their language can be understood by us, who are also part of that same creation.


Photo 3 By Donald Portlandia

What can be learned from crow?  Though a great deal may be learned from the stories and legends of crow’s wonder, uniqueness, and even magic from Greek and Roman mythology to the ancestral words of the Native Americans, there are few basic truths that may help us in our daily lives for today.  Crows have been associated with creation and solitude in various cultures of the world.  Typically they not only symbolize creation, but spiritual strength as well.  Illustrating these various 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.  Think on these qualities the next time you see or hear a crow “caw”.

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.


Spring, not just for Spring Cleaning, but Cleansing the Body too

With Spring coming soon, a “Spring Detox” may come to mind.  But, what exactly is a detox?  “Detox” is short a term commonly substituted for detoxification, a method to eliminate unwanted material or substances from the body.  As we consider the prospects of Spring Detoxing, consider the when, how, what to use, and even how often to detoxify throughout the year.detox 1

Let’s start with when.  Detoxification may be done a couple times per year to eliminate unnecessary or unwanted substances from the body in preparation for new activities associated with a change of seasons.  Some recent studies suggest detoxing at the beginning of each season.  The most common type is Spring and Fall detoxification which prepares the body for the next season’s demands on our bodies, namely, Summer and Winter respectfully.  The Spring detox eliminates accumulated fat from our bodies that was used for warming us during the Winter.  A Fall detox flushes our bodies of unnecessary substances collected over the summer, preparing us for consuming fats to warm our body during winter.   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 our bodies, like some other aspects of our life.

I’ve recommended a method for detoxification that utilizes clearing herbs in a tea taken from once to three times daily.  Several commercially prepared teas offer recommended consumption methods for good results.  Another method uses foods.  Certain foods, like dandelion and burdock, may aid in detoxification in the Spring.  Nature is aware of this and encourages wildlife to detoxify by producing dandelion and burdock.  They’re usually the first plants to push their way through winter’s snow at early Spring.  If you have questions or concerns, a herbalist, nutritionist, or doctor may help to identify the most beneficial method for you because we may respond differently to certain herbs and foods depending on our physiological make up.Detox 1

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 an herbalist, nutritionist, or doctor, since certain times would not be good choices for a detoxification.  Some of those times may include pregnancy or when your system is compromised from sickness, disease, similar debilitating condition that weaken the body.  In such cases, it’s usually advisable to nourish the body first, then consider detoxification.  The detoxification could be counterproductive or even harmful when the body needs nutrients for strength.

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, food, or supplement used, and 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 physical results besides elimination?  Many feel uplifted and energized.  Some weight loss may occur from a Detox too, but losing weight should not be the motivation for this form of cleansing.  Detoxification can even bring about clarity of thought and better focus.  Considering 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 good pursuit when combined with detoxification to create even more positive results, not only physically, but emotionally .

Detoxification can be a wonderful experience and method to promote Wholistic Living.  Try it as we move into Spring.  Once again, if you are not sure how to approach your detoxification, seek counsel from a herbalist, nutritionist, or doctor.

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?”