Category Archives: Uncategorized

You Can Find The Time to Meditate – Really You Can!

office meditation 2You want to start a meditation practice, but you’re too busy.  Perhaps you work full time, or your children need to get to day-care, you need to make breakfast (and dinner!), you are always running late, and you ALREADY have too much to do in the morning.  All your excuses are valid because you have a busy life. I’ll bet you have other excuses I haven’t even mentioned yet.  But the truth is, you still have time to meditate.

The first hurdle is, of course, to make it a priority. You would be surprised to learn how many very successful (and busy) people make time to meditate every day (I read that Oprah Winfrey sits in stillness 20 minutes twice a day).  Sometimes, to hear “If they can do it, so can you” sounds almost shaming, so reframe any such thoughts to be reassuring. It really can be done, and it really does not have to feel overwhelming.

The best time for a busy person to meditate is as soon as you wake up. You may already have to wake up earlier than you want to but chances are you will not even notice getting up 5 or 10 minutes earlier and these few minutes will belong to you. Here’s all you need to do to get started, after you open your eyes:

  • Get out of bed
  • Take care of your bodily functions (pee, have a drink of water…)
  • Meditate

Don’t even think about these steps; just do it.  Get up, take care of your physical needs, sit down to meditate for 10 minutes.  Five if you are an absolute beginner.  Buy a kitchen timer, set it for the allotted time, and be with yourself for these first few minutes of the day. Once you feel good about it and it is part of your routine, you can increase the time.

You can also sneak in meditation breaks throughout your day.

Lunchtime can be a good time, either a few minutes before you eat or a few minutes after. It can be nourishing to eat your lunch slowly, quietly, and mindfully as part of a mindful exercise, and it is helpful to have something so concrete to focus on, such as chewing mindfully and being aware of the taste of your food. Try it for even a couple of minutes the next time you find yourself eating alone.  You may discover that you are really tasting your food in a way that just isn’t possible when you are trying to eat, talk, text, or otherwise multi-tasking.

Immediately after work when you first get home can be a good time, and a lovely transition between work and home life. The key is consistency, even if it is only for a few minutes.

Actually scheduling a 10 minute meditation on your calendar can be the key for some people. If you meditate in the middle of your day, there are some wonderful aps to support you with this. They can be helpful is you need a little more focus. To name just a few:

  • Omnava
  • Headspace
  • The Mindfulness App
  • Insight Timer

With your marvellous creative mind, you can probably think of other moments when you can squeeze in a few minutes of meditation. We can all relate to the feeling of not having enough time, but meditation actually helps us to become more productive so is worth the small time commitment. We all face countless distraction all day long (I don’t have to list them!) and slowly building a meditation practice will increase your ability to focus on priorities and minimise these distractions. Please don’t worry about whether you are “doing it right”. Just do it.

(Please see Meditation page of this website, and/or previous posts on Meditation for more information).

Can Salt Be Good For You?

 

salt image with brown backgroundI’ve suspected that salt has been given a bad rap for a long while, and have been happily digging  into research that convinces me this is true. I freely admit that I enjoy salt and have always been reluctant to give it up, but I am more motivated by wanting to get to the real truth about whether salt is as bad as “they” say it is.

This popular fear of salt and subsequent desire to consume less salt has led to a huge “low-sodium” segment of the food industry – as you know, the food industry is always happy to cooperate with our fears and desires. The low sodium industry is now big business, but unfortunately, the low salt foods they produce are often laced with MSG or other unhealthy additives to achieve the flavour without the salt.  The rule of thumb to remember is to avoid or minimise processed food – whether it is high in salt content or low sodium. Dietary advice is often confusing and even conflicting as you know; we have been told to avoid salt, eat whole grains, stop drinking coffee, stop eating egg yolks, eat a low fat diet and that GM foods are safe as organic foods, to name just a few untruths. By listening to all this wise advice on healthy eating, we should all have got quite healthy by now.  But we’re not necessarily healthier at all by following the mainstream advice, including the advice to limit salt.

The truth is, many of us that are very health conscious have wised up to the fallacy of a low fat diet with lots of whole grains being healthy – along with a myriad of other untruths we’ve been told along these lines – but many of these same people that have “wised up” still agree that salt is unhealthy.

And these people would be 100% correct if we are talking about the chemically produced table salt that is being sold on the grocery shelf and added to most processed foods.  The table salt sold in shops is 97.5% Sodium Chloride, is chemically produced and heated to 1200 degrees F, bleached, and devoid of all nutrients. In many cases, it contains aluminium hydroide (which has been linked to many problems in the body, including Altzeimers Disease).  It also contains about 25% chemicals, such as compounds designed to absorb moisture. This common type of salt is not naturally occurring and it is important to note that salt-water fish will die if placed in salt water made with table salt. It is indeed a very wise health decision to avoid this kind of salt.  If you have it in your house, stop eating it immediately….the stuff really is toxic.  (You don’t have to throw it out though; you can use it for natural cleaning and stain removal around the house. If you live in a cold climate, sprinkle some of it around your door steps in the winter to keep ice from forming.)  Just don’t ingest this stuff!

Real salt, in its natural and unadulterated form, is not only necessary for your body to perform normal functions, but is critically important in the right concentration for optimal health. Real salt does not contain toxic additives (such as aluminium), is not bleached or heat processed, and is rich in minerals (up to 84 different ones) that can be difficult to obtain otherwise.  Table salt and authentic sea salt are two very different foods and it is important not to confuse the two.

A major flaw in many of the studies done on salt consumption is that table salt, not natural sea salt, was used in the research. Now there is a somewhat large body of evidence showing that salt consumption is harmful when no distinction has been made between the toxic, chemically created table salt, and natural “real” salt containing trace minerals your body needs. Most of these studies do not give us helpful information because of this.

If you’ve been limiting salt in your diet for health reasons, it would be good for you to differentiate between table salt and the healthy, mineral-dense salt that is authentic and natural salt. The taste between the two is very different and without discerning between these two very different substances, you are missing out on a richer and more varied taste and nutrient level in your food.

Perhaps you would like to do some research on your own; there is a lot of interesting information out there that is easy to access. (You can start with your own broad searches, but I looked at several articles that described some fascinating studies, and found information quite easy to access. In particular, you can look at an article in the NY Times –  www.nytimes.com/1991/12/science, or perhaps a 2003 study on salt by the Inter-University of Graz, Austria).

To buy good natural salt, you can go to health food stores, or try http://www.mountainroseherbs.com (USA), or perhaps http://www.maldonsalt.co.uk or http://www.cornishsalt.co.uk (UK). There are other good sources if one looks around, and though real salt will be more expensive than the chemical-laden table salt that is so prevalent, it does not have to be excessively expensive.  You will use much less of the real thing and will notice a difference in the taste. Explore this a little, and reap the rewards.

Some Interesting Research Nuggets:

There are old studies (some more than 20 years old) that suggest sodium is not the culprit in high blood pressure, but deficiencies in calcium and magnesium are.  In 1989, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine re-evaluated the link between salt and high blood pressure.  This study involved 10,000 people in 52 cultures around the world.  It involved participants whose diet was nearly salt-free, to ones who consumed vast amounts of salt.  In this study, salt intake was not estimated.  It was measured precisely with urine samples and obesity and alcohol consumption was taken into consideration.  The remarkable findings of this study was that except in a few places with extremely low salt consumption, the amount of sodium in the diet was unrelated to the prevalence of high blood pressure. (It was the extremely low salt intake that was problematic!) Also worth noting is that although the high rate of hypertension in Western cultures has long been attributed to the people’s love for salty processed food, this study actually placed these countries (in particular, the USA) right in the middle of the world’s salt intake curve. It looks very likely that we have been blaming the wrong culprit in the high blood pressure epidemic.

 

 

Honey Is So Good For You – But Only if It Is Raw

Raw honey is the nectar from flowers that is pure, unheated, unpasteurized, and unprocessed. All the natural vitamins, enzymes, phytonutrients, and nutritional compounds are intact and uncompromised. It is an alkaline forming food that is very different from processed, mass-produced honey (www.benefitsofhoney.com). All these wonderful components in honey are the very things that are destroyed in the pasteurization process of processed honey, and renders this commercial honey to the nutritional level of refined sugar.

Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.  It promotes digestive health, helps strengthen the immune system, lessens or eliminates allergies, and is good for your skin (www.naturalnews.com). The benefits of raw honey do not stop there. It has been used to stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, and has been used to relieve pain, calm nerves, and to treat ulcers.  It is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory. People – this stuff is really good for you!  But only if you buy authentic raw honey.  It is best to buy your raw honey from a local source to be sure it is truly raw, particularly if you are using it for allergies.  With local honey, the likelihood is great that it will contain small amounts of the pollen to which a person may be allergic and will offer a homeopathic-like remedy for the allergy.

Take the time to find a source that you can trace, because like many health related businesses that are somewhat unregulated, unscrupulous salespeople can sell processed honey and label it “raw” – at least in the USA.

Remember that raw honey can crystallise – a process that causes the honey to appear lumpy, grainy, and thickened.  Certain types of honey are more prone to crystallisation than others.  Acacia and Tupelo honey tend to resist crystallisation and remain liquid better than some other types.  Manuka and Lavender honey tend to crystallise very readily.  The process of crystallisation does not affect the taste or the quality of honey at all, though it does adversely affect its appearance. So, please don’t throw your crystallised honey out; it has not “gone bad”.  If the appearance bothers you, it is easily reversible by placing your jar of crystallised honey in hot water (40-50C, or about 100F).  Remove the jar from this gentle heat as soon as the granules dissolve.

Store your raw honey in a cool, dry place and make sure the cap is tight.  Honey will absorb moisture from the environment if left uncovered, and moisture can cause fermentation and lessen the honey’s quality.  Always scoop honey with a dry spoon, as any introduction of water content into the jar should be avoided.

Raw honey is so good for you, yes – but can you eat too much?  In a word, yes!  Even the natural sugars in fruit are bad for you if eaten to excess.  How much honey is a tricky question, and depends upon your diet and lifestyle. For instance, if you eat very little sugar and lead an active lifestyle you could eat lots of honey and it would remain very good for you.  However, if you consume lots of sugary food and live a sedentary lifestyle, you would not want to consume so much.  Excessive consumption of any food (including honey) is not a wise eating choice.  But one sure way to healthier eating is to replace as much of your empty calorie table sugar with nutritious raw honey in your everyday food and beverages.  You cannot go wrong using this tactic to integrate more raw honey into your diet.

As a very general rule of thumb, not more than 10 teaspoons of honey (about 50ml) per day is recommended.  This amount is not based on any medical point of view, but is based on advice from honey producers with good ethics and knowledge (www.benefitsofhoney.com).

Honey is so good used as a sweetener in place of sugar, but there are other wonderful uses for it. Here are a few raw honey natural remedies: (as per Dr. Josh Axe)

1. Improves digestion – Use a tablespoon or two to counter indigestion. It does not ferment in the stomach.

2. Relieves nausea   – Mix honey with ginger and lemon to counter nausea.

3. Acne Treatment – take one teaspoon, warm between hands, and spread on face gently. Leave for 10 minutes then rinse with warm water and dry. (Bonus – good for dry skin too!)

4. Exfoliator – Add one cup of honey to your bath and soak for 15 minutes. Then add one cup of baking soda for a further 10 minutes.

5. Improves diabetes – Raw honey increases insulin while decreasing hyperglycaemia.  Add a little at a time to your diet and see how your blood sugar reacts to it.

6. Lowers cholesterol with normal use.

7. Improves circulation with normal use.

8. Antioxidant support – Raw honey contains antioxidants.

9. Can improve sleep. If you can tolerate dairy, have a teaspoon or two in a cup of warm milk before bed.

10. Probiotic support – Raw honey contains prebiotics whch promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestines.

11. Improves allergy symptoms – (if sourced locally).

12. Weight loss – (if you substitute raw honey for the white sugar in your diet.

13. Moisturizer – Mix a spoonful of raw honey with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon; use as a hydrating lotion.

14. Hair mask – Will help boost shine in your hair; mix a couple of teaspoons of raw honey with a couple of cups of water, rinse and style as usual.

15. Reduces inflammation in the body both internally and externally.

If you haven’t yet discovered the benefits of raw honey, then I hope this article inspires you to begin integrating this wonderful food into your diet. If you discover any further uses, please write and let me know.

 

 

Love Is All There Is – in memory of Debra Genevie Parsons

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For the second time, I’ve just lost a sister.  She slipped away in the early morning hours of May 14th, 2014.  She was alone at the time of her death.

Her journey in life was not an easy one, and she developed a serious food addiction that she never owned up to, not even when she weighed 400 pounds and had secret stashes of candy and salty junk food all through the house.  She detested exercise because it made her uncomfortable.  If I were carrying around 250 pounds of extra weight, it would make me uncomfortable too.

Her family, me included, was sometimes angry and resentful when her health started to fail and she continued along her unhealthy path to an early death.  There were perfectly good reasons for our anger and resentment because even though it was “her life”, her unhealthy choices impacted all of us hugely.  She developed Type 2 diabetes but did nothing to change her unhealthy habits.  Eventually, the disease wrecked havoc on her kidneys.  Her daughter stepped up to donate a kidney because my sister could not lose the weight necessary to be eligible for an organ donation.  Did her daughter get angry when my sister continued with her overeating/no exercise habits?  You bet she did.  Did it make a whit of difference in my sister’s behaviour?  Nope.  Eventually, her heart and lungs were affected and she was unable to sleep unless she was sitting up.  She still maintained that it was all the drugs she had to take that prevented her from losing weight.  We could all be unhappy and resentful from time to time due to what she was doing to herself, all to no avail.

After the death of her husband there was no one to take care of her.  Four months after his death, she had a fall trying to get to the bathroom and could not get up.  Luckily her grandson was there and called 911.  After being taken to hospital, she never returned to her home again and lived the last few months in a nursing home because she was not ambulatory and no one could lift or transfer her without professional help.  These last few months of her life were not very good.  We can leave it at that as I’m sure you get the picture.

It is all very easy to say my sister created this situation and no one should feel blame or guilt over the fact that she died alone.  Given what she had “done to herself”, perhaps a little self-righteous anger or resentment would be a little more understandable.  The truth is, one or all of her family members felt all these emotions from time to time over the months.

The last few weeks of her life I noticed a change in her.  She became less demanding and more loving.  This may not happen to all patients in her situation, but it happened to her.  I spoke with her by telephone on the last night of her life, just before I went to sleep 5000 miles away.  She told me she loved me and how happy she was that I was her sister.  It was very touching to me, but I did not even realize she was saying goodbye.  What I did realize, however, was that I no longer felt angry that “she had done this to herself”.  I only felt love for her and wanted her to be comfortable and at peace.  None of the things she could have done differently in her life mattered to me anymore.  I was empty of all those “could have, should have, would have” statements.  I got the call the next morning that she had stopped breathing between 4 and 5 a.m.

My feelings were sadness at the loss of her, a profound grief that I wasn’t with her when she took her last breath, and awareness that her swift death had been a sweet mercy for her and for all of us.  The feelings of anger and blame were gone completely, as if someone had pierced my heart and they had gushed out like air from a popped balloon.  I got so clearly the old cliché “love is the only thing that matters”.  Intellectually, I often have that saying in my mind and it is always flying around in my orbit but sometimes doesn’t make it in to the core of my being.  This time, I really got it deep in my bones in regards to my sister’s life and death.  Love is IT, and all the rest is just stuff we go through to get back to love.  Next time I feel anger or resentment at someone I love, I will at least practice this simple (but not easy) concept.  I will try to skip all the “stuff” and just get back to love.

Having the Courage to Be Bad at Something

 

Being a complete beginner at something is not easy for grown-ups. Children are much more used to this experience because there are so many things they face on a daily basis that they’ve never done before. As adults, we tend to avoid the uncomfortable experience of not having a clue about what we are doing. There is no doubt this holds us back.  On a more personal note, I know it has held me back. I wanted to learn to speak French and decided to take a class. Learning a foreign language was always something that I just couldn’t get my head around and I had made a few attempts in my lifetime to learn, but always quit when it got too hard – i.e., when it felt like my head was about to explode. It was really hard for me; I would get to a point and think, “This is impossible!”

What made it so hard is my discomfort with being unsure and my inability to understand and speak words and sounds with any confidence. I felt so awkward having to speak out loud and my pronunciation and accent was always wrong. So I quit.

But what I know for certain now is that this period of discomfort and uncertainty is necessary in order to etch new pathways in the brain. As grown-ups, we want to think in the same ways and do the same things not because we are dull and boring (though this may become the consequence of doing that!) but because our brains have worked hard to develop a pattern (literally, a physical groove, or path in the grey matter of our brains).  Our brains want to use the already established “path” to get things done. Learning a new skill requires laying a new path. It takes a lot more work to do this when one hasn’t learned something new in a while.

And also, our egos hate for us to “suck” at something. Newsflash: We are going to suck at something we are doing for the first time, particularly when we compare ourselves with someone who is accomplished at the thing we are trying to learn to do. Perhaps we can change the way we think about this. For instance, start thinking….”so what?” “So what if I’m really bad at this in the beginning. How could I not be bad at it; I’ve never done it before.”

Think of something you’ve always wanted to learn to do…..cook, dance, play a musical instrument, sing, knit, skateboard, learn a language, paint or draw….let yourself be uninhibited and come up with one thing you want to try. I have started to learn to play guitar. I do not read music and I’ve never played a guitar or any musical instrument.  Yes, I suck. It has been seven weeks already, and I still suck. “So what! Who cares?” I am giving this six months, and if I am not having fun then, maybe I will consider quitting and learning something else.

Let’s have fun laying some new pathways in our brain.