sowing some positive intent

In times of doubt and fear, the best antidote is a positive mindset. We gardeners know all about meeting uncertainty and getting on with it anyway – every plant planted, every seed sown is a risk, one we nurture out of potential failure into hopeful success. We cultivate our resilience and fortitude in the process.

how to sow intent – Gather some wildflower seed into the palm of your hand and take up a comfortable meditation position, imagine all the actions/goals you want to achieve – see each in scenarios; smiling and pushing your grandkids on a swing, in the changing room of an expensive clothes store fitting into a smaller size, doing a selfie on top of the mountain you just climbed etc. Let the seed absorb those wishes, feel/picture a ball of energy in the palm of your hand energize those grains with your intent to bring those wishes to fruition – now go sow it. Get up, go outside and sow them – on the wind or into soil. That wildflower seed may just germinate and not only bring the symbolism a step further via living reminders but also ripple positivity via food for larval butterflies, nectar for bees, beauty to your locality.

rice version – you do the same exercise but with cooked or uncooked rice grains (cooked won’t choke the non picky birds). With rice it is a wholly metaphorical sowing. It symbolises your intent to manifest a positive harvest. While it will not germinate it has the value of real seed in that what you are actually sowing in the exercise is your intention and inclination to positivity. The pure intent. You will harvest from this type of sowing too. Intent is all. Think of how we throw rice at weddings to wish luck and celebrate the new journey of marriage- rice throwing is a celebration – go scatter some joy.

breadcrumb version – well why not feed the birds, even more joy.

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the garden is therapy

You may think of gardening as your therapy or just as your pleasant pastime – but even passing time in pleasantness is restorative of mental health and prompting of a physical sense of wellbeing. The word therapy comes from the Greek therapeia meaning service. Horticultural therapy is nature at your service. Mindful gardening is ongoing access.

One of the biggest benefits of horticultural therapy is the regain of control – the fact that you can transform a container or whole garden with plants and your commitment to care – there is a psychological transformation in that. You can reshape your world. You can build again. You can nurture and act with diligence. You can adapt and survive. You can adapt and thrive.

Beyond resilience, the second biggest benefit is the distraction form pain and woes – engrossed in the garden there is no space to dwell on what has befallen or what may be pending. We can all bring our troubles of the day to the garden but the garden seems to wash them from us as our focus shifts to doing what is required. As gardeners we garden. There is enough to be getting on with. Our attention is required right here, right now. No future apprehension. No past regrets.

The nowness of gardening, the therapy of it, the temple space of it, the prayer of it, is why it is so suited to psychological and spiritual quests into the unburdened self – it is mindfulness in bloom. To be in a garden and by ‘be’, I mean radiate your spiritual self – not just be physically present. ‘To be’ or to ‘be present’ is not just to be there, it is to be here, right now – in the now of it. To be in your garden is to cultivate your conscious awareness – it is to bring your whole capacity and inner self to the moment.

Conscious awareness is the aim of mindfulness – It is also the way to attain mindfulness. So it is both a practiced skill and a living state. Conscious awareness is simply being present in the moment, being present to each moment, moment by moment – that intent/action is the means and end of mindfulness. Simply become aware of what is happening or what you are doing – use your senses to connect you physically to the moment – is your skin warm or cold, is there fragrance, sounds (this makes the experience both physical and mental – it is complete conscious awareness – you are of mind and of body in this awareness of what is happening right now, your spirit will meet this moment too.

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Weeding for a fuller life

The modern world seems to fuel itself on anxiety and hypervigilance, creating a tension loop and stressing the joy out of life. Many people crave something more, something better, a chance at peace and joy. But we do need to address our negative tendencies before we can truly cultivate the positive. Here is a passage from my new, soon to be released book – Seeds of mindfulness (Dover press) – that can help clear the path.

The negative clearance trick. As every gardener knows when you rake a fine tilt over the surface of your soil in order to sow your ornamental or vegetable seed, you can turn up to the surface some weed seeds and they too can germinate within your fresh sowed rows. You can end up with more corn poppy than corn or more nettle than nasturtiums.

You can get disparaged by this, so some gardeners pull a trick to clear the weed seed out first; they rake the ground a week before they intend to sow their crops, allowing the weeds to surface, germinate and expend their energy into new growth then hoe them off before sowing their profitable seed. We are not called Homo sapiens (wise human) for nothing.

Clearing the negative is not encouraging or indulging in negative thinking it is seeing the weeds for what they are – unproductive. And no matter how well you tend your garden there is always the possibility of a newly sprung weed. I may cultivate compassion and rational understanding but I am not immune to a twinge of anger around social injustice, I don’t have to feed it, just see it for what it is whenever it sprouts.

Often when we start a healing or self-dedicating task, our mind’s turbulence or socialised psychology can turn up weed thoughts and disincentives – “is this right for me”, “can I do this”, “you are hopeless”, “am I wasting my time”, “cop on to yourself”, “how am I going to keep this up” etc. Let all that arise then hoe each one off. Now we are free to sow, to sow the positive; “it is right for me”, “I can do this”, “this is the best use of my time”, etc . Positive affirmations yes but also the truth.

We have a natural bias towards a negative bias but with mindfulness we can also sow a positive bias – and yes it will thrive like a garden of all the ages.

Weeding the negative bias. Evolution has provided our minds with a negative bias – a caution reflex; literally to ‘think before you leap’ in case that gap between this side of the chasm and the green grass on the other side is just one stride too far and we fall to our death or despair. Those who ran and jumped without taking the time to think or at least build up some ‘running momentum’ got quickly removed from the gene pool. The worriers hung around and multiplied.

So doubting or having some ‘hang on a minute’ thoughts is a good thing. Except when they are not so much ‘life or death’ scenarios but intrude upon a life in pursuit of being fulfilled or worse make a life unfulfilled. We can learn to witness and even appreciate those butterflies in the belly or the ‘no way’ thought but also see beyond to where the rope bridge across is a better option.

We don’t have to weed every non-enthusiastic thought – some of them are more wildflowers than weeds but don’t fret that because mindfulness gifts the clarity to know the difference. The more we practice the more we find clarity. We will see what is holding us back and what is saving our life. Overtime we will edit out the weeds and let the wildflowers be reminders of our beautiful human nature – cautious but also courageous.

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home made dental care recipes for world oral health day

A bit of a curiosity on world oral health day – two historic recipes and one of my own modern interpretations – you don’t have to try but you might enjoy discovering the antecedents of modern toothpastes. Something to smile about.

The most ancient Methods of tooth whitening. Fire many have revolutionized primitive man, but some of its by-product may have civilized our look. In our far history it is believed that ancient man first utilized ground chalk, crushed rock minerals, white clay, ashes and even charcoal as a mouth and tooth cleanser. Seems counter intuitive but there just many have some justified method to this apparent madness as recent otc charcoal toothpastes and dental treatments testify.

Modern research could argue that activated charcoal placed in the mouth alters the pH balance and thus the health of the mouth. Certainly such changes are effective in eliminating the bad bacteria present in tooth decay and gingivitis and also in slowing cavity formation. Activated charcoal can draw toxins from the gums too.

Method: With a mortar and pestle grind to a fine powder some charcoal. Dip a clean toothbrush into the powdered charcoal, moisten your teeth with saliva and simply brush – gentle circular motions. Your mouth and teeth will go black at first but upon rinsing the whitening effect is noticeable – Your whole mouth and teeth will feel remarkably cleansed but there might be some residual taste – give it 10minutes then brush with your regular toothpaste or rinse with a proprietary or homemade mouth wash.

Top tip – Chose natural charcoal (from wood or coconut sources) – which can be sourced in health stores – and not petroleum based often in artists charcoal and bbq charcoal. Like any whitening treatment this is not for daily maintenance – over use can undermine enamel. No more than twice a week for a short booster treatment in advance of a wedding or other social function.

The oldest-known formula – “powder for white and perfect teeth” Retrieved from an Egyptian papyrus dated to the fourth century AD, now housed at the National Library in Vienna, Austria.

Ingredients

One drachma* of dried iris flower
Two drachmas of mint
One drachma of rock salt
20 grains of pepper

Method. Gather all of the ingredients together, crush all and mixed together. The pungent paste can be mixed with the mouths natural saliva to clean and strengthen teeth. Rub with cloth, (finger or soft bristle tooth brush) and rinse after.

Efficacy – salt is abrasive, sterilizing and drawing out of toxins. Black pepper is analgesic (subduing cavity pain), increases saliva, is antibacterial and traditionally utilized to strengthen gums and remedy loose teeth. Mint is a feature of all modern toothpastes for its freshness and disinfectant properties. Iris flowers and essence increase salvia production and contain active ingredients effective against gum disease and tooth decay – so much so that it is beginning to make an appearance in commercial dental products.

*a drachma is a Greek measurement – from drakhmē meaning ‘a handful’. There is nothing dangerous (toxic, photosensitive, or highly active) in this formula so empiricism can take a back seat to a handful of herbs and a pinch of pepper. From herbals of the 1500s on, a drachma as a medicine makers or “apothecaries’ unit” was a definable weight equal to 1/8 of an ounce or to 60 grains – perhaps reclaiming the original Egyptian value. So the choice is yours, I have tried this one at different proportions, and it really only lessens or strengths the pepper ration/ratio.

something a little more modern Treatment Grinning face toothpaste Coconut owes its naming to Spanish and Portuguese sailors of the C16th who employed the word coco – a then contemporary slang for “a grinning face” – to reference the features of the hairy nut with facial indentations – little did they know it could be employed to increase the wideness of a grin and turn it into a white smile.

Ingredients

• 8 tbsp. coconut oil
• 4 tbsp. baking soda
• 2 tbsp ground sea salt
• 1 tbsp tablespoon ground cinnamon or ground clove
Optional – 1 teaspoon stevia or xylitol (to sweeten) or 2 tbsp or more of vegetable glycerin (for toothpaste consistency and sweeter)

Method
– You could mix in a cup, I like to mix all ingredients via a mortar and pestle to get a great paste. Then simply jar up. Keeps on a shelf for several months.

Efficacy – salt is abrasive and plaque lifting on teeth while calming on gums, backing soda similar and also stain removing and pH balancing. Cinnamon and clove are antibacterial and promote gum health. Coconut oil is antibacterial and draws toxins from gums and mouth. Stevia is plant based and one of the least tooth impactful sweeteners. Xylitol (similarly a commercially available sweetener) is protective of tooth enamel and clinical studies have shown potential to arrest carious lesions and prevent tooth decay – hence its appearance lately in mouthwashes and dental chewing gum.

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easy fun peel off face mask

Bored out of your brains self isolating lately, why not do a home pamper treatment to alleviate that and boost complexion? A fun one to try with kids and a great home remedy for teenagers with breakouts and problem skin.

tomato juice mask

Tomatoes as pulped face masks can be used by any skin type but they are of supreme benefit if you have oily, blemished or acned skin. The trick here is in the juice as delivery mechanism of phytonutrients and mineral content and astringent. The lycopene content protects against oxidative damage, the vitamin A component will rejuvenate, and the vitamin C content clarifies skin. Witch hazel boosts the astringency and Epsom salts encourage the flush of toxins.

Ingredients
• 50ml of tomato juice
• 1 tablespoon of witch hazel extract
• 1 teaspoon Epsom salts
• 1 tablespoon agar agar or other vegetable gelatine

Method – Heat (not boil) the tomato juice via a bain-marie and then add all other ingredients, keep over heat and stir until the gelatine fully dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Application – Pat on to face (avoiding your eyes) allow to dry completely (it may begin to naturally peel at this point) then wash/peel the mask off.

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hand care in flu season

What with all the hand washing and hand sanitizer use lately, here are some rejuvenating treatments to replenish your hands natural oil barrier and soothe any irritated skin.

Firming skin cream a pampering treat to over-washed or garden-stressed hands

Ingredients
• 6 tablespoons of witch-hazel extract
• 6 tablespoons of grape seed oil (or substitute with olive oil or coconut oil)
• 1 tablespoon of grated beeswax
• 1 tablespoon of grated/granulated emulsifying wax

Method – Warm the oil in a bain-marie, add the waxes and keep heat on until fully melted , remove from heat and slowly add the witch hazel, whisking as you go. Allow to cool for 20 minutes and whisk gain to final creamy consistency.

Luxurious hand lotion to moisturise and repair

Ingredients
• 1 cup raw/solid shea butter
• 1 cup coconut oil
• ½ cup of almond oil
• 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Method – Using a bain-marie melt the coconut oil and shea butter together. Remove from heat, fold in the almond oil and vanilla extract. Cool for 20 minutes before hand whisking up some meringue like peaks. Alternately a slight chill in fridge for 20mins at this point will help whip up a creamier thicker butter-like consistency – with the aid of an electric whisk for best results. Decant to storage container. End product stores in fridge or cool bathroom for 3weeks.

Banana and avocado hand mask – for intense conditioning

Method – blend ½ a banana with two tablespoons of avocado oil and a t-spoon of honey – a good tip is to coat onto hand then glove with surgical glove, coat second hand and glove it also. Relax for half an hour, remove gloves and rinse hands with tepid water.

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The body scan for mindfulness and peace of mind

A popular mindful exercise is the body scan – a practice where you check in with your body – bring your attention to it in a systematic way. It is a way of slowing the pace before a meditation, it is a way to check in with the self at the end of a long day, it is a way to take control when distressed. It is also a way to get some ‘awareness of the body in the body’ – a prime pillar of mindfulness.

I like it because you can do in on a crowded train, or the garden, or in an elevator, as easily as in a mediation room. Ok for the first few times you might want to do it sitting in a chair, lying on your bed or in an undisturbed location. As a meditation it is generally practiced as a 10-15minute exercise. But after a few goes you can find a duration that suits you best or modify it to meet the need. A 2min body check-in might make a crowded elevator or escalator jaunt into a positive opportunity for mindfulness whereas a long commute on a bus, train or plane may be more suited to a 20min plus exercise. With new self isolating protocols around seasonal flu and newer viruses becoming the new norm, ways of checking in with oneself or a means of taking a time out are all the more beneficial to mental and physical well being. Mindfulness is being of purpose but it can suit your purpose too.


HOW TO:
You can do a body scan standing, sitting, even lying down. It is a simple noticing exercise. Whatever position you have adopted start by noticing your posture, are you standing, sitting, lying. Bring your attention to the shape you make, become aware of the frame of your body. Inhale, exhale. Notice your body in its physical realm, how the ground is beneath your feet, your solidity in standing, or how the chair supports your bum and back or how lying on the bed holds your body. If you notice a physical sensation or have a thought response such as ‘my neck is stiff’, ‘my feet are tired’, ‘my shoulders are relaxed’, just notice, don’t judge. Inhale, exhale. Your mind is aware of your corporality now; you are bringing awareness to being of a body. Next we will bring our attention through the body.

You can do it head to toe or from toe to head – doesn’t really matter which direction, the idea is a systematic scan of the whole body, a gentle sweep and check-in with the parts that make the whole. I often do it standing so commence with my feet. You can wiggle your toes to bring your mind there. Become aware of your toes, then bring your attention to your feet, notice any sensation ache, numbness or tingling – notice but do not judge or go into the sensation. Next move to the ankle, repeat process, next to shin, then to knee, spend a little time noticing and experiencing each section, next to thigh, to buttocks, to lower back and right up to neck, you can scan fingers to shoulders and then into head. Notice. Experience. Be present to the body and its parts. End by bringing your attention back to the entire body, its posture, its solidity, its sum of parts. Inhale, exhale. Take a moment to come back to the room and then continue your day.

If you chose you can make this exercise a relaxation scan, you can allow that noticed sensation or any tension present in the body part to cool or soften. This systematic ‘attention giving’ to each section of the body, infusing it with loving kindness and intended relaxation is also good practice. The two options are equally valid. Both sharpen your attention capacity, both bring your body into the now. Both engage a brain-body chemistry and signalling that is more conducive to less anxiety and better wellness perception.

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