Go get grounded

Mindful gardening is becoming not only a trending activity but a true wellbeing tool. Here are two ways to step straight in and reap some psychological and physical rewards.

Go get grounded.   To stop a moment and stand still is a great way to just slow the pace, catch your breath – even follow your breath and find some inner peace. A standing meditation is as powerful as a sitting meditation.

Gardeners know silence, we often know true peace but we may be less used to stillness – there is always something to be done, but in doing for yourself, stillness is rejuvenating. Stillness is recharging the spiritual and mindful batteries. It is pure being. Be it from time to time.

Standing still, feel your feet on the floor surface. Notice the solidity of your legs as they push the weight of your body onto your feet – as the earth takes that weight and supports up. You are firm and present, feel your presence – it is strong, solid, and actual. There is life here. There is connectedness to the solidity of the ground beneath you. You can be a might oak in this moment, you can be a resilient gardener in this moment, you can be a human taking a moment. In the moment to moment of it, feel your standing strength. Stillness is energy. Stillness is energizing. Stillness is.

A barefoot connection. There are other potent advantages to standing still, especially if you slip off those shoes and socks.    A barefoot connection to the earth is even more rejuvenating, feeling the texture of the grass, or soil or paving is coming to your senses combined with the energy of stillness.  Being barefoot is being free, unburdened, natural. That is psychologically rewarding – that is also spiritually uplifting.

Standing still while barefoot is a way to divest ourselves of not just psychological tensions but of static electricity and physical tension.   Walking around all day in shoes and socks and even wellies creates electrical friction and builds up static electricity in our bodies which can interfere with bodily functions and our sense of energy, capability and alertness. 

Standing barefoot on your lawn for just three-five minutes (take longer if you can) is an ionic detox for your body   – that improves the function of your organs and immune system as well as better neuron and synaptic firing. When we connect barefoot to the earth we allow the earth to change our electrical charge – to earth us again.  With the static dissipated we then absorb ample quantities of powerfully antioxidant and anti-inflammatory free electrons directly through the soles of our feet. Not just energizing – health conferring.

Getting barefoot from time to time is a good grounding in building health and an extra sensory experience to entering the now. It doesn’t have to be all standing still, barefoot tai chi or yoga on the lawn works a treat too.

For more prompts to mindfulness and wellbeing gardening check out the bestselling book –

link to purchasehttps://store.doverpublications.com/0486845389.html

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Go mow the lawn

Mowing the lawn does not have to be a chore – it can be an active meditation. With singularity of purpose you can mow like a Zen monk or simply be a more mindful gardener. So bring your full attention to the task at hand, do it and do it well.  Be present to it. Be diligent in it. No sleep walking it – come alive to the task.

A job well done is its own reward but some jobs have hidden rewards. Mowing the lawn is a treat to the amygdala and the hippocampus – the regions of the brain responsible for emotional recognition/response and memory/attentiveness.  How? Well, the smell of freshly cut grass, those (Z)-3-hexenol and (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate molecules released from the grass, actually stimulate a sense of wellbeing and relaxation by deactivating the body’s stress chemistry and suppressing brain stress receptors. Yeah – mowing the lawn cuts your stress down too.

Mowing the lawn should never be a stressful chore, and even if it begins as such it ends differently. The task alters your mood. Mowing the lawn is an opportunity to match brain chemistry to intent – to be well and grounded and to fully embrace the now of well-being and serenity. 

So love the lawn you care for. It loves you back.

If you want to explore more mindful gardening concepts check out my book SEEDS OF MINDFULNESS – IXIA Press, available in all good bookstores.

click to purchase https://www.bookdepository.com/Seeds-Mindfulness-101-Mindful-Moments-Garden-Fiann-Onuallain/9780486845388?ref=grid-view&qid=1618592197304&sr=1-1

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Calming lotion for rashes and hives

Rashes and hives can manifest anytime but for many they appear in Spring. In about 90 per cent of outbreaks there is no apparent or definitive cause of the rash but the rash is due to histamine production which indicates an allergic response. Pollen, plant sap, spores, insects, dander, some chemicals, soaps and a large range of garden encountered substances can trigger histamine to be released by cells in skin causing blood vessels to dilate and leak fluid out into the skin surface, this oedema is the basis of the red rash or the hives that appear like a nettle sting hence the medical name of urticaria.

Nettle rash usually resolves within 24 hours. Longer lasting bouts are considered chronic urticaria and require antihistamines and a care regime. 

The cure of old was Calamine lotion which is zinc base. Zinc is antipruritic (stops itching). Heres a version of calming lotion based on zinc and chamomile that you can try at home.

Fiann’s natural calming lotion – All the ingredients work to reduce the skin inflammation and neutralize the histamine or defence reaction caused by nettle rash, nettle sting, heat rash, sunburn and other irritations.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon zinc ointment
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • A strong cup of chamomile tea to supply enough fluid to form an applicable lotion of all the other ingredients combined.

Method:  In a cup or bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients and stir. Then add 4 teaspoons of the chamomile tea as a start and mix, the water and fats of the ointment make take a good stirring to mix and dilute to lotion consistency – keeping adding small quantities of the tea until you have a consistency that you are happy to apply to the affected area of skin.

Keep refrigerated and use with three days of making.

for more helpful remedy-recipes check out the book FIRST AID FROM THE GARDEN

all good bookstores, online retail and local libraries.

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Go Hug a tree

There are many benefits to hugging a tree; decreased static electricity, increased cognitive functioning, decreased stress, increased endorphin release, anti-inflammatory and immune system enhancement, a chance to reconnect with nature and find some gratitude and loving kindness.

To explore more health benefits visit Why you should go hug a tree (irishexaminer.com)

How to hug a tree –

If you haven’t a mature tree in your garden go visit the local park or the botanic gardens or hike the closest woodlands or Forrest trail. Find a tree that speaks to you or is impressive in its stature. Go give it a hug. Get over your fear of embarrassment – break your rigidity. So what if passers-by sneer. The hug you give is not just to the tree but to yourself and your spirit.

As you hug, extend from you heart gratitude to the tree for being the lungs of the world, it gifts us oxygen and it absorbs carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gasses. Inhale the goodness it exhales – exhale that gratitude that it will feed upon. Feel its solidity – its stature and strength. It was once a seed. What an accomplishment. Inhale its inspiration, exhale your appreciation – cherish the moment a while. Then go enjoy the rest of your day.

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Go plant a tree

This weekend is the ideal time to plant a tree – A brilliant addition to any garden, a support to our planet and local wildlife plus a great outdoor activity that is improving your physical and mental wellness in the bargain.

Here’s how https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tw77dWJYHPM&t=59s

Trees produce oxygen: We learn in school that trees are the lungs of the world, how through the process of photosynthesis they produce oxygen. Well a single garden tree will over an average 50-year lifetime, generate almost €25,000 worth of oxygen and will replenish the atmosphere with enough good 02 to support two human beings for a year.

Trees act as Carbon sinks: Another Part of the process of photosynthesis is the intake of Co2 to make food. So trees remove excess Co2 from the atmosphere but we don’t need a forest in the backyard to make a contribution. A single garden tree over an average 50-year lifetime or the equivalent of a fast-growing forest tree in a community garden or park, can potentially absorb up to 48 pounds of Co2 over a single year; approximately ten tons per acre of urban wooded park – that is enough to offset the Co2 output produced by driving a car 33796 kilometres. The equatorial circumference of the earth is 40075km. So planting some trees does offset the footprint of the road trip of your life.

Trees clean atmospheric pollution: Tree foliage intercepts airborne particulates, from dust to soot and pollen, thus cleaning the physical content of air but further, trees absorb along with carbon dioxide during photosynthesis other atmospheric gases, many the by-products of exhaust fumes and industrial processes. Amongst the atmospheric pollutants that trees absorb are carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

It is estimated that a single garden tree, over an average 50-year lifetime, can deliver in excess of €48k worth of air pollution control. Different trees perform differently – If you live on a busy road just think that a single Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) will remove in a single growing season 5200mg lead, 60mg cadmium, 140mg chromium and 820mg nickel from the environment. While our native Whitebeam (Sorbus aria) is one of the best trees at removing harmful particulates from the atmosphere.

Poor air quality and in particular particulate content is linked to respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, neurological side effects and an increase in chemical sensitivity and allergies.

discover more at the 10 good reasons to plant a tree post below.

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Aches and pains

Sundry aches and pains are perhaps the most common complaint for gardeners – due to the physicality of maintaining a garden and the potential for repetitive strain or just plain old injury – never mind the headache of greenfly.   Whatever the source or intensity there is help at hand but it is good to understand that pain is your body’s way of saying something is wrong, if you know that it is just the wrong lifting technique from earlier today or the wrong way the hammer just hit that thumb then ok reach from some natural ‘aspirin’ from the garden – but if you are not sure why you have stomach cramps or bad pain anywhere in the body then a visit to the GP is timely. 

Garden treatment:  The garden can produce many herbal analgesics (pain sensation suppressants), some best taken as herbal teas but also some that make great rubs or topical treatments. My favourite pain-relieving teas would be fennel seed – the seeds are magic bullets packed with at least 16 analgesic and 27 antispasmodic phytochemicals all yielding up into a cup of boiling water.

Liquorice root is also excellent with as much as 10 analgesic and 20 anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and you can’t beat meadowsweet tea hot or chilled.  Meadowsweet was the inspiration for aspirin – in fact the word “aspirin” takes its middle letters from meadowsweet’s old botanical name “Spiraea Ulmaria” – and its similar compounds shut down pain receptors in a similar manner to the drug.

Feverfew as the name suggests lowers fevers but it also decreases the frequency and intensity of migraines and other headaches. Borage, evening primrose and black currants are potent sources of pain dampening Gamma-linolenic acid. Daylily flowers are edible and a tea of the petals is slightly sedative and somewhat analgesic – used for pain relief in the ethnobotany of its indigenous growing regions.

While topically, arnica- long lorded for shrinking bruises -with its phytochemical compound helenin, delivers analgesic and anti-inflammatory results and then there is the classic wintergreen is even to be found in OTC creams from muscle and backache. 

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The Garden Teaches Managed Attention

There is a lot going on within a garden. It may even contain more than one ecosystem—a pond, a wild meadow patch, trees, ornamental borders, and a kitchen garden. There is upkeep for all of them and the infrastructure too—paving to be kept moss- or weed-free, benches and seats to be kept rot- or rust-free, and trellis or supports to be maintained. Attention and diligence are required. We gardeners learn to pay attention to all areas and prioritize our focus and activities too.

When we step into the garden, there may be more than one need competing for our attention. We can triage plants into water now, catch before we finish, deadhead now, prune later, remove pests now, and add frost protection before we wrap up. The wind-rocked, newly planted shrub gets priority over a slightly shaggy lawn. The weed about to flower—or, worse, disperse its seed—gets the “next” before the squeaky shed door gets the oiling.

On one level it is common sense, but it’s also a catchment of your experience—you know that if you don’t water the wilted plant, it could be set back detrimentally or even die overnight. You know that not bringing the tenders in before the heavy frost may mean losses. All this previous experience creates effectiveness. All this repeat effectiveness strengthens our effectiveness response and brings that potential to other aspects of our lives.

People who struggle with efficiency have an issue with prioritizing what needs to be addressed or seeing the forest for the trees. The garden—and its constant elicitation of managed attention—trains a clarity with regard to need and even crisis. We gardeners are fixers. We are prioritizers by nurture and, soon enough, by nature. In a crisis, we quickly spot that, yes, it’s a good idea to fire a flare gun, but instead of everybody waving to the horizon and shouting “Help!,” it’s better if the majority of hands tend to the leaky boat. The longer one stays afloat, the less likely one is to go under before rescue.

In a garden, a workplace, a domestic crisis, or a life-threatening circumstance, with so many stimuli competing for attention, the survival protocol is effectiveness. Part of that is knowing what to do, but a lot of it is seeing clearly. Mindfulness is seeing clearly without panic— mindfulness is focusing your managed attention to the now. When problems arise, managed attention leads to managed action—and that may lead to more than survival of a wilted herb container.

To discover more ways that the garden can improve our psychology, cognitive function and life dynamics – check out my latest book (all good bookstores now)

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seeds of mindfulness book

Gardening is a natural provider of mindfulness and well-being: it relieves stress, enlivens the senses, focuses the mind, energizes the body, opens the heart, and radiates from the soul.

My new book ‘seeds of mindfulness’ explores the opportunities of gardening to deliver many of the same psychological benefits of mindfulness and includes ways to incorporate mindfulness, relaxation meditations and focused attention exercises into daily gardening activities.   

Never has the garden been such a solace… a timely read.” – Irish Examiner

To mindfully garden is both deeply enriching and easy to achieve. In this delightful and beautifully designed book, Fiann Ó Nualláin compiles more than 100 mindful gardening moments to inspire the combination of a spiritual practice with a favorite pastime.” – Ixia Press

Therapeutic gardening at its best and most enjoyable‘ – Bord Bia 

Available from all good bookstores on online retailers and via https://store.doverpublications.com/0486845389.html

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Finding peace in silence.

The simple fact is that our central nervous system is hardwired to respond to sound, in part as an early warning defence mechanism (listening for danger cues) and in part as a way of reading the landscape and finding surety and shelter in our surroundings (listening for safety cues). So a predator’s growl or a snapping stick behind us may trigger the flight or fight response but so too a gentle rustle of the trees or a babbling brook may quickly flick ‘the at home and safe’ switch.

In the modern world a car horn, house alarm or loud mouth across the street may replace the predator growl but no less trigger the same rise in heart rate and blood pressure and on the flip side of the coin, some pleasant music may stand in lieu of a babbling brook and release those pleasant hormones. The garden can present more gentle background noises, ones conducive to feeling a part of nature, of being at home in nature – the swish of plants, a soothing water feature, bird song, the industry of bees etc and ok the occasions of noisy neighbours or traffic sounds over your fence aside, it can be a very settling experience to just hear the garden. To allow its soothing signals to wash peace over us.

Is it true silence – the absence of noise – no, or at least not often – the debate is, is there such a thing – but it is a close approximation in the deliverance of serenity and it is the serenity that we often call silence, it is not the hearing, it is the surrender or the feeling.

We gardeners often tend in silence and get so deeply engrossed in our work that noise in the moment is filtered out of our consciousness but even when not aware of the sounds around us, the stimuli is still there and the hormones correspond. For the most part the garden is the absence of agitating noise. We natural come to peace with it. We don’t fear the silence as a greater absence, we don’t feel alone in it, we are at one with it.

Mindful meditations, spiritual contemplations, even many psychological exercises all seek to enable a peace with silence, a confidence in aloneness, an embracement of at oneness. And here it is, naturally abundant in the garden.

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Weeding negative prejudices.

Weeding is the perennial chore, but perhaps the most essential, as weeds compete for the resources that our ornamental and edible plants need to survive and thrive – weeds deplete water, nutrients and in several cases even light. I think of it not so much as a tiresome chore but as vigilance in my intent to have a healthy and awesome garden – and by awesome I don’t just mean beautiful, I mean awe-generating.

The old Gardener’s proverb of ‘One year’s seeding, seven years weeding’ reminds us of how important vigilance is when it comes to keeping on top of the pernicious. So too with our prejudices and false or flawed assumptions – about ourselves or about others. Weed those with equal care and let your soul and higher spirit flourish. Weed those negative opinions and unhealthy beliefs with equal diligence and let the resources of your mental energy and ‘better self’ go toward cultivating more compassion, more loving kindness and stronger interconnection.

To weed negative thoughts is to let them be uprooted, not let them root down deeper. We can acknowledge the negative thought, let it come to the surface, recognize it is negative and let it be discarded. Just as we have practiced letting thoughts arise and pass in meditation, so too with negative thoughts in our daily life, we simply won’t attach ourselves, feed it or favour it. Let it come to the surface, exposed now to the light and reality, divested of your energies and concern.. they will wither on their own. Even the stubborn, repetitively sprouting ones will eventually succumb.

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