OM Monthly Featured
Human Circadian Rhythms
“You can get the highest quality sleep by keeping your sleep cycle in tune with the rhythms of the universe (know as circadian rhythms)”. ~ Deepak Chopra
There is a biological process called circadian rhythm that recurs naturally on a predominantly twenty-four-hour cycle for humans. Paying attention to this internal natural rhythm can create a higher level of wellness and sleep pattern for personal health, especially in a season that is buzzing with activity. All animals have specific cycles and rhythms that are naturally utilized on a daily and seasonal basis. For example, squirrels gather nuts and pack on extra fat in the fall in preparation for the long, cold winter. Owls become alert as evening falls so that they are able to find small mammals to hunt. But what about humans who have the ability to travel through times zones, have technology or activities that keep them awake when they would normally be sleeping?
As one can see human beings have made things a bit more complicated and difficult to take advantage of these natural cycles for optimal human health and wellness. One major reason is that people of all ages stay indoors as opposed to spending more time outside. These inside habits and schedules tend to keep healthy rhythms out of sync with the natural world. Getting outside everyday can help one feel more connected to the inner clock and the cycles of time and nature.
Getting a deep, restful night’s sleep on a consistent schedule based on sleep rather than late night media, can help with regaining a sense of clarity and memory, lifting the mood, increasing energy, improving reaction time, creating emotional stability and offering a higher quality of life.
Equally important to getting a good night’s sleep is eating nourishing, delicious food at regular intervals. It is good to realize healthy cycles and rhythms with food. Eating whole foods that enhance energy throughout the day can make all the difference in the world in regards to feeling good. If it is a nutritious food item, pay attention to what and when the body wants to eat. It has much more wisdom than given credit for.
Another essential part of creating wellness while honoring circadian rhythms is making time to listen to and feel the beat of the heart. The heartbeat is a vital rhythm offering a consistent sense of time. Ask at regular intervals throughout the day “What can I do to take care of my heart?” Eating well, creating a good work/life balance, building healthy relationships, including regular relaxation and participating in joyful activities are key aspects to paying attention to the care of the heart. Some of the best ways to connect to the heart on a daily basis include meditation or any focused attention on the heart like using the simple technique included in this month’s OM Monthly Practice. Finally, honoring the monthly and full moon cycles can be empowering. Everything in nature has a connection to this cycle which helps the body, mind and spirit. One important thing to remember is ups and downs, low and high levels of energy are also part of the circadian rhythms. It may be good to resist that cup of mid-day coffee and find a way to take a restful break instead. For optimum health, practice listening and following the rhythms nature has provided.
Gardens and Wellness
“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden”. ~ Ruth Stout
Being in and around gardens is one of the most healing and beneficial activities one can do for themselves. Whether it is walking through a garden, sitting, observing, digging or planting a garden, know that you are doing something to create wellness for yourself. Clinics began to recognize the positive effects being in and around gardens offered to their patients’ health. The health benefits to the body, mind and spirit are profound. Additionally, gardening attends to the body by offering a wonderful workout routine. Weeding, mulching, watering, bending, standing, digging and lifting use a plethora of different muscle groups while improving coordination, balance and endurance. It is also a mindful activity connected with stress reduction.
Around the 1940s, the mood enhancing and rehabilitative applications of gardening began to gain credibility within the medical community. During this timeframe, therapeutic, healing, rehabilitation, and restorative gardens began to take rise, showing up in hospitals and other rehabilitation center landscapes. These plant prevalent environments are intentionally designed to elevate the senses and provide a connection to nature. There is a subtle participation in walking, touching, smelling and looking at plants that tends to ease the mind.
For centuries, many types of spiritual and healing modalities have been formed around gardens including the art of flower arranging. Flowers are especially known to lift one’s spirit in an unexplainable way. Using flowers to reach beyond the physical as a way to honor ancestors was practiced in many traditions by bringing flowers to a grave or to the temples. Buddhism influenced Japan in temple flower arranging as far back as the 15th or 16th century. This is when a spiritual art form of arrangement of flowers was formalized into a version now called Ikebana. Because Ikebana is revered as a spiritual practice, one is able to develop a deeper relationship with nature in a mindful way. This is done by integrating the interior household world with the exterior natural world. These simple, yet lovely arrangements have become more popular as artful displays in people’s homes.
As spring slowly moves around the corners of winter, go visit gardens and get out into your own garden!
Sources: https://www.ftd.com/blog/design/ikebana // http://www.ahta.org/what-is-horticultural-therapy // https://gardentherapy.ca/
“Do you know that our soul is composed of harmony?” Leonardo da Vinci
Listen to rain dropping, birds singing, wind blowing, bees buzzing, frogs croaking and rivers flowing. People often feel a sense of peace and relaxation with the subtle harmonious sounds of nature at the start of spring. The definition of sound is “vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear”. Stress is a key driver in the aging process, while poor mood and elevated anxiety are linked to increased incidence of disease. Recent research suggests that the body can resist and recover from a wide variety of ailments connected to stress-related aging through the influences of certain pleasing rhythms, sounds and vibrations. Some of the other benefits associated with healing sounds are deep relaxation, improved sleep, increased circulation, strengthened immune system, and reduced stress.
Using sound as a stress reducing therapy is amazingly therapeutic. Sound has restorative properties and was discovered to be effective on an emotional and physiological level because the sounds are felt as well as heard. Most everyone has experienced sound therapy at some point in his or her life. Sound as therapy is as easy as relaxing to music in a yoga class, walking in nature while listening to the sounds of nearby frogs, the rustling of grass, or listening to calming music while engaged in activities. These types of exposure to sound create a shift in energy and mood. Studies have also indicated that calming music can lower blood pressure, reduce cardiac complications among patients who have recently suffered heart attacks, reduce stress hormones during medical testing, and boost endogenous opiates.
In an observational study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, researchers examined the effects of sound meditation, specifically Tibetan singing bowl meditation, on mood, anxiety, pain, and spiritual well-being. The study found that “Tibetan singing bowl meditation may be a feasible low-cost low technology intervention for reducing feelings of tension, anxiety, and depression, and increasing spiritual well-being.”
Sit back, relax, and melt those years away by experiencing the “good vibrations” nature and calming music may bring.
Image: Water fall of Khao Yai National Park
“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.” ~ Charles Dickens
Love the heart you’re with; yours. When one thinks of a healthy heart, eating the right types of food, reducing saturated fats, losing weight, exercising more, and eliminating habits such as smoking that place the heart at risk usually come to mind. In addition to all those heart-healthy lifestyle choices, this article gets to the heart of the matter on the importance of having an emotionally healthy heart, especially if you are already suffering from some type of heart condition.
Studies have proven the connection between heart and mind. The state of your mind affects the health of your heart. In fact, Harvard Medical School professor Srini Pillay, MD states, “If you have any type of heart disease, any strong emotion such as anger may also cause severe and fatal irregular heart rhythms. Expressions like ‘died from fright’ and ‘worried to death’ are not just hyperbole — they are physiologic possibilities. Furthermore, when patients with newly diagnosed heart disease become depressed, that depression increases the risk that a harmful heart-related event will occur within that year.” One question to ask yourself is, how often do you get angry or frustrated? Certainly, in one sense, anger can be a message to change something in your life. But it is also good to become aware of how you react to and process anger, frustration, or stressful situations you find yourself in. Living with an emotionally healthy heart means you feel happiness frequently and possess the ability to step back, as if witnessing a situation before reacting to it. This ability is called mindfulness. Mindful awareness can eliminate over-reacting, which rarely helps or improves these situations. It is helpful to understand that many elements of life are outside of your control. But how you react to them is, for the most part, within your control. People who tend toward victim mentality find it difficult to control their reactions. “Why me?” is a common thought pattern with these types of thoughts, as is listening to media or other people that support this state of mind. A bottom line for the healthy emotional heart is to strengthen your ability to make healthy choices for yourself. A first step toward this is to live in gratitude for the small things in life on a daily basis. Forgive yourself and others, and increase your ability to stay calm in situations by seeking out some type of fitness focused on the mind-body connection. Some of these fitness forms like qi gong, yoga, tai chi, and meditation have been around for centuries. We live in a world that offers access through the Internet or by DVD if going to a class is unavailable to you. One easy and fast way to a healthy emotional heart is to take a daily chore and use it as your form of meditation. Embrace positive thinking while quieting the mind when doing what has been called “mindless jobs.” Now washing the dishes, sweeping a floor, or doing laundry can become your personal down time to focus on nurturing your heart by slowing down your breath, letting go of obsessive thoughts and embracing a sense of inner peace.
Create Stillness Within
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you” ~Deepak Chopra
Be the stillness. Cultivating an inner state of serenity is easier said than done. Yet, the longing for peace of mind is a never-ending goal that can feel always just out of reach. Take a moment to look at the intentional purpose of settling the mind, for what is intended can often be achieved, but the process by which one goes about this practice is one of importance. The “monkey mind” as it is often referred, can keep one actively distracted with finite problems, fears, needs, and desires in an endless spiral of concentrated gibberish. In fact, a good majority of one’s thoughts are based upon perceived truth or reality of the moment. When considering this, the value of stillness and creating peace of mind has all the more appeal. External balance and a sense of self can be expanded upon when one practices internal stillness. This could be found in the moment of focusing on a breath, doing the dishes, or the simple act of witnessing the steam off of a cup of tea. As Eckhart Tolle puts it, “most people have the need to fill up their mind, or their life, with more content. It’s a compulsion, almost an addictive searching for more stuff to identify with.” Thoughts, bundles of thoughts, tend to appear as though they contain a sense of self that can be identified with (things to acquire, to worry about, to do, etc). Underneath all of this stream of thinking lies the stillness. Awareness of the mind-body connection goes a long way towards fostering a balanced routine and lifestyle, as indicated in our Monthly Practice. Included in lifestyle is nutrition and reduction of stress. Be mindful of all aspects of intake, particularly hydration in the upcoming months, which is covered in more detail within the Plant Medicine section. “Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.” ~ Morgan Freeman
Falling Into Holistic Wellness
“I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence”~Thomas Hood
Staying uprooted in purpose can feel challenging as the fall season approaches, bringing with it time changes and darker days. Cooler temperatures offer up the opportunity to deepen the practice of going internal, reflecting upon the summer’s enjoyment and warmth. Just as plants lose their foliage and begin the process of returning energy to the root, benefits await for those who become intentional as they move into the fall season shifting the mind/body/spirit to a balanced and mindful meditative state of contemplation. Nourishing and quieting the mind is connected to nourishing the body (after all, what we eat is half the story of good nutrition). Fostering practices that cultivate mindful longevity become paramount to one’s holistic wellness practice throughout each season. The value of a healthy mind and spirit coincides with body nutrient intake. Several of these mindful Practices and satiating reveals are offered within our and Plant Medicine sections. Wellness encompasses a multitude of rituals, practices, and routines for a healthier lifestyle. When focusing on holistic wellness this season, take moments to meditate and reflect on the harvest of this year’s accomplishments and experiences. The fall season offers individuals a perfect chance to lean into nature’s rhythm and an opportunity to become fluid with her rotations in this present moment.
Create Your Sanctuary Within
“Remember…the entrance to the sanctuary is inside you” ~Rumi
The gift of breath. Firmly being rooted on this Earth. Working with your body, training the mind to settle into a sense of calm and presence. Your intention might lean towards cultivating soulful room for reflection and meditation, or the dedicated practice of coming back to center. Whatever the reason is for implementing (or continuing) a mindful awareness, the benefits of creating your sanctuary within creates a conscious Monthly Practice, fostering a sense of peace and connection to the mind, body, and soul. By incorporating this ritual and honing our mindfulness skills to embody the feeling of relaxation, we can maintain the capacity to detach from past and/or future thoughts; therefore offering us a nurturing platform to exude an aura of calm and connectivity. The importance of this cultivation has great merit, particularly when stresses threaten to overwhelm and interfere with our daily living. We are from nature, nurtured by the cycle of an evolving development of complex systems and directions. Our intentions are guided by our state of mind, that place of being where we allow ourselves to determine what emotion or decision leads the way. It is abundantly clear that humans are complicated, versatile beings, with minds that stretch the far reaches of reality, only to bounce back to the present and what we need to be happy in any given moment. Whether it is less stress, more balance, or simply a continuation of the happiness trajectory that has you moving and excited to awake to each new day, take moments to learn what tools can be discovered and enhance the “Sanctuary Within” state of being.
Mental Clarity & Raw Food Living
“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” Hippocrates
Perhaps you’ve heard of the benefits of going on a raw food diet, such as developing more energy and vitality, experiencing weight loss, and an overall healthier well-being. Before getting into the specifics of eating raw, let’s dig a little deeper to discover the concept behind this food choice. Understanding the healthy benefits that raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts have on the longevity of our well-functioning bodies is essential when considering making a significant shift in the patterns of eating. As we know, our Western culture subsists almost exclusively around cooked food (most restaurants, fast food, family recipes), it is also the standard to shop and share meals after cooking the purchased products. What if we were to look at our food differently – looking at it from the perspective of highest benefit and nutrition in it’s most natural, current form? Dr. Joel Fuhrman (MD), a specialist in nutritional medicine and author of Eat to Live, states that one of the the major issues with cooked food revolves around the severe loss of vitamins and minerals (along with additional carcinogens being produced) when cooking at high temperatures (above 120 degrees). “As a rule,” Fuhrman says, “if you cook things at a lower temperature for less time, you’ll be moving in a healthy direction.”
The concept behind raw veganism is the knowledge that cooking foods removes the naturally-occurring enzymes (main life force), which is the key to making food bio-available to our body. It has also been discovered, through a 20-year study in China, that plant-based diets greatly reduce the risk of chronic disease and illness. Along with the benefits of having sharper mental clarity and higher alkaline in the system, many people describe greater overall awareness and sensitivity, which may be a result of enzymes in the body that comes with the healthier food. When considering the full gamut of a raw food diet, it is wise to consider your current diet and health conditions while exploring how you can introduce this transition to your routine in a way that feels attainable. Read on about the August Monthly Practice to learn more about implementation practices.
“Bee-ing” Mindful of Nature’s Pollinator
For at least the past 10 years, story after story has circulated related to the honeybee and their incredible impact on our evolving planet. Information gleaned from observing these amazing insects helps us determine a great deal towards understanding how to participate in their preservation, survival, and our humanity’s dependence on them for the food supply. Flowering plants and bees have a symbiotic relationship (based upon the electric currents each emits, known as electromagnetism), with the plant depending upon an outside source for pollination and fertilization and the bee happily obliging. As revealed through research, bees rely on a combination of visual and sensory indicators that include shape, pattern, humidity level, and color of flowers when deciding on a path to the nectar. In essence, bees have the ability to determine which flowers will offer the biggest return. Along with spreading the beauty and delight through fertilizing the world’s flowers, more than ⅓ of the world’s crop species, such as alfalfa, sunflower seed, and countless fruits and vegetables, are reliant upon the ecological service of bee pollination (the equivalent of pollinating over $20 billion crops each year). Farms across the country depend upon the delivery and pollinating activities of honeybees in order to create the almonds, blueberries, cranberries, apples, clovers and more for human consumption. However, “the times they are a changin’”, and this once delicate balance created by nature has had many human-influenced alterations. As Dr. Joseph Mercola, an alternative medicine proponent and osteopathic physician states, “The delicate ecological and environmental balance is being threatened by a number of man-made factors that affect more than where flowers bloom and how much honey is produced.”
Now on to the good news! In 2012, Asheville’s City Council voted to become the inaugural Bee City USA, which “endorses a set of commitments, defined in a resolution, for creating sustainable habitats for pollinators” according to Bee City USA. On an individual level, each of us can think about our own front yard as a means to assist nature’s dedicated pollinators. Flowers that attract bees provide abundant nectar (carbohydrates for bees) and pollen (protein for bees), allowing the bee to obtain the necessary nourishment to return and convert this into honey and food for their young. Ways we can all support and enrich the pollination opportunity for native bees is to consider replacing a portion of a grassy lawn with flowers that attract and nourish the honeybee fertilization process. It is important to remember honey bees health are vulnerable to many of the insecticides used to control pest species. When deciding what and how to plant with pollinators in mind, be aware that flowering perennials (those that bloom again each year) work best, particularly if you have different varieties planted at different times of the year. Variety in color, size, and shape will allow many different pollinator species. When possible, include a nearby clean source of water. For our WNC region, such plants and flowers can include the pasture rose, purple passion flower, wingstem, narrowleaf mountain mint, and the black-eyed susan. To learn more about native, pollinator-friendly options, the Xerces Society and Beeodiversity have some great resources available.
“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides” ~ David Viscott
For centuries cultures have celebrated the power of the sun. Exposure to sunlight has the ability to transform a typical day into an extraordinary spectacle of beauty, offering warmth and light that touches even the darkest corners of the forest, or of one’s mind. Midsummer solstice is quickly approaching (June 21st) and to celebrate the gifts that the sun and its warmth provide is to revel and appreciate the simple yet profound effect that this star has on the whole of Earth’s inhabitants. Solstice is a time for celebration, the moment when the Earth is experiencing the longest sunlit day of the year. The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), for when the solstice time arrives it is also the moment when the seasonal movement of the sun comes to a halt before reversing direction. In essence the term solstice means “sun-standing”. Sometimes called estival (Latin), midsummer, and the Tropic of Cancer, Summer Solstice offers the opportunity to soak up nutritious energy directly from a powerful and radiating star that is the center of the Solar System. Regarded by some cultures as a deity, the enormous effect of the Sun on Earth is revered and worship can be found throughout most of recorded history (Egyptian Ra, Hindu Surya, Aztec Tonatiuh). From at least the 4th Dynasty of Egypt the sun was worshipped as Ra and in ancient Roman culture, Sunday was the day of the Sun god. In paganism, the Sun was, and still is, a source of life, giving warmth and illumination to humankind. The energy of this sunlight supports almost all of life through photosynthesis, while also driving the climate and weather. Additionally we can harness the power of solar through today’s renewable energy options, such as solar-powered panels for roofs, offering sustainable practices that generate environmentally-friendly alternatives. The power of the sun is celebrated through rituals as well, including Easter, St. John’s Eve, Ivan Kupala Day, and others. Whether you appreciate the glow of the sun for its healing properties or utilize its creation as a form of reverence and observance, allow this splendor of the sky to fill your body and soul with radiating light and warmth as the brightest of Earth’s stars can transform and restore the energy within.
“The clearest way to the universe is through the forest wilderness” – John Muir
Greenspaces have long been known to create remarkable benefits for human health, particularly when it includes stepping away from external stimulation and stepping into the natural rhythms of a woodland setting. Developed in Japan in the early 1980s, Shinrin-Yoku (also known as “forest bathing”) has become a practiced form of meditative, healing preventative health care in Japanese medicine. A very simple formula, this practice of “spending time in a forest atmosphere” allows the senses to be calmed and relaxed, offering rejuvenating and restorative benefits through the presence of natural surroundings. As physiological anthropologist and attributed founder of the coined term Yoshifumi Miyazaki states, “Throughout our evolution, we’ve spent 99.9 percent of our time in natural environments. Our physiological functions are still adapted to it. During everyday life, a feeling of comfort can be achieved if our rhythms are synchronized with those of the environment.”
When time is taken to be out in nature, it increases the capacity to communicate and connect with the land that surrounds. It has been discovered through scientific findings of the Shinrin-Yoku practice that forest therapy results in a reduction of stress (lowers levels of the hormone cortisol), lowered blood pressure, an increased ability to focus, and boosted immune system functioning. Additionally, a leisurely walk through the forest creates a heightened sense of physical and mental energy, increased life force (vigor and feeling of livelihood), and an overall sense of happiness.
In order to increase awareness of the abundance that awaits at the edge of the forest, one must cultivate a practice which incorporates a healthy living routine. An abundance of edible plants and fungi can be found when walking through the forest, making foraging an enjoyable inclusion of Shinrin-Yoku. Enhance the greenspace therapy by bringing a guidebook to discover the medicinal plants in your region.
In appreciation for all the benefits the natural environment offers the human race, OM Sanctuary actively practices responsible stewardship through its conservation of 40-acres of forest. A powerful connection is fostered between an individual and the surroundings, making this an ideal place for a forest bathing experience.
Spring As Medicine
What is it about spring that makes people feel better? When spring is in the air individuals tend to contract spring fever (feeling of excitement), spring into shape (desire for physical activity), spring back (bounce back from challenges), spring to life (feel suddenly more alive), and put a spring in their step (happy energetic walking). We humans have developed with the seasonal changes and one thought to contemplate is that winter brings on a certain inclination toward dormancy and spring counteracts those tendencies with a surge of life to both plant and animals. Spring brings medicine for improving health. Pay attention to your natural inclination to spring clean your body, your home, as well as get outside.
Here are a few cultures that traditionally embrace cleansing. One is found with the Chinese through the art of Feng Shui. This study originated over 3,000 years ago. A simplified way to approach this practice is to remove stagnant energy in your home by decluttering your spaces. The thought is if you clear and clean your home, you will also gain personal energy.
Another tradition of cleansing is found in the Appalachian Mountains where there is a history of residents who believed that families needed a good “spring cleaning” and would take an annual spring tonic. The plants you find spring up in your yard, like dandelion (root), are found in some of the tonic recipes. During the winter, blood is known to become thicker and the tonics would help purify and thin the blood. Certain tonics were also found to help with regeneration to the nucleus of the cells responsible for healthy tissue.
Now is a good time to renew your energy and get your daily dose of spring medicine.
Spring into Self-Care
For many, the first several months of 2017 have been a time of stepping up or stepping into a life calling, a movement, or simply a resolution. When individuals feel an increasing urgency to step up in their lives, it is easy to lose touch with the physical body and the spiritual self. If an active mind has been taking the lead in your life so far this year, the path back to center may unfold with soothing daily self-care strategies.
The good news is that self-care no longer lives on a vacation you schedule once per year. Instead, the potential for self-care lives in your sleep routine, your morning ritual, how you choose to sit at your desk and each breath you take. Too often, one thinks of self-care as a selfish choice to indulge every so often. But regularly checking in with the self in a demanding world can be a healthy decision which ultimately helps you show up more authentically in every area of your life.
There are many ways to pause and check in with the physical body and the spiritual self. This month OM Sanctuary has compiled three separate self-care practices that can support you in different environments, from home, to work, or even the seemingly mundane. These self-care suggestions enable you to create and continually expand a self-care list of your own. These practices focus on ways to implement little moments of self-care often, so that self care becomes a part of your daily routine, no matter where you are.
A Time of Clearing
At the beginning of the year, opportunity arises to reconsider patterns and take full advantage of the symbolic “reset” associated with the New Year. For many people, the days leading up to January give rise to self reflection and a renewed desire to make resolutions for personal growth in the coming year. In the excitement and rush of creating resolutions after the holiday season, we often forget to clear a space for those beautiful changes to take root. After all, when planting a new garden, it is unlikely one would simply throw seeds into hard earth and expect vegetables to grow. By intentionally preparing the plot to be gardened, we create a space in which new life has ample opportunity to flourish. If your January resolutions have added stress to your life or left you feeling overwhelmed, consider preparing your metaphorical garden bed by clearing space for your truest desires to shine through, and then resetting your intentions with a fresh perspective.
The equivalent of preparing the “garden plot” in which important resolutions will have a chance to take root is a ritual of clearing, in which you let go of emotional and physical clutter and baggage. You have ample time to create new promises, so allow yourself the relief of mental and physical clearing first. This way, you avoid adding new clutter to an already cluttered mental state.
Physical clearing may include reconsidering your home space or bedroom and setting aside time to declutter. If your resolution was to commit to a healthier sleep cycle, does it make sense to have a television or a desk cluttered with paperwork in your bedroom? If your resolution is to write in your journal more often, you might give that resolution a chance to take root by decluttering unnecessary items from your desk and setting up a space that feels graceful, inspiring, or simply makes you feel happy and invited when you see it.
Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, writes that “the place we live should be for the person we are becoming now – not for the person we have been in the past.” Though letting go of what has not served us in the past is a process, living for the person we are becoming now is both liberating and exhilarating. Remember that although New Years Day is popularly associated with resolutions, there is plenty of time for you to create a spacious clearing in your mind and body, and make some agreements rooted in that place of peace and well-being.
For emotional clearing, consider participating in the February monthly practice below: a ritual of clearing and letting go.
Heart Centered December
As winter winds and rain begin to chill the air, remember that heartwarming actions hold the potential to bring as much cheer as a steaming cup of cider or a cherished family tradition. Offering a smile, patience, or unconditional help is a form of giving selflessly and paying the warmth of one’s heart forward with no expectation of anything in return. This December, know that meditating on compassion can have a positive impact on your personal well-being and holds the capacity to benefit the state of mind of those around you. During the holiday season, in order to be the person who gifts others by carrying a loving heart-centered message, you must first discover how to hold that message within.
Considering the numerous benefits associated with meditation, it is understandable that mindfulness, meditation, and compassion practices have taken the spotlight in the fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Studies in these fields highlight meditation techniques which support an overall sense of well-being. Practices such as Metta (Tibetan for “Compassion”)meditation, and other heart centered exercises, have demonstrable positive effects on personal behavior, self-perception, and perception of others.
The holiday season is notoriously associated with potential for increased levels of stress and associated physiological inflammation, which can weaken the immune system and dampen the spirit. As a preventative measure, we suggest you try heart-centered techniques, which are associated with a strengthened immune system and a deepened capacity for joy- even in potentially inauspicious circumstances.
One notable study featuring the benefit of meditation: “Open Hearts Build Lives…” led by Barbara Fredrickson, in which researchers examine loving-kindness meditation as a tool for enhancing the experience of positive emotions. The goal of Fredrickson’s theory is to utilize meditation to increase positive emotions, which allow people to rise to life’s challenges with skillful ease. The study examines the positive correlation between compassion meditation practices and an individual’s ability to build a personal toolkit for maneuvering life’s more challenging seasons with grace and ease. Meditation holds the capacity for each of us to experience a greater sense of well-being in daily life.
It is gladdening to know that compassion meditation practice holds space for us to extend caring action toward self and others. By embracing heart-centered tools of meditation and mindfulness, we gain access to the uplifting and encouraging experience of changing the self, and thus, the world in which we live.
Fredrickson BL, Cohn MA, Coffey KA, Pek J, Finkel SM. Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive
Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources. Journal of personality and social psychology. 2008;95(5):1045-1062. doi:10.1037/a0013262.
Hooria Jazaieri, Ihno A. Lee, Kelly McGonigal, Thupten Inpa, James R. Doty, James J. Gross,
and Philippe R. Goldin. The Journal of Positive Psychology: Dedicated to Furthering Research and Promoting Good Practice. Department of Psychology, Institute of Personality and SOcial Research, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA. Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford CA. Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Palo Alto, CA. School of Medicine, Stanford University, CA. Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA. 2015.
Lutz A, Brefczynski-Lewis J, Johnstone T, Davidson RJ (2008) Regulation of the Neural
Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise. PLoS ONE 3(3): e1897. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001897
Kearney, D. J., Malte, C. A., McManus, C., Martinez, M. E., Felleman, B. and Simpson, T. L.
(2013), Loving-Kindness Meditation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study. J. Traum. Stress, 26: 426–434. doi: 10.1002/jts.21832
Ruth A. Baer, Emily L.B. Lykins & Jessica R. Peters (2012): Mindfulness and
self-compassion as predictors of psychological well-being in long-term meditators and matched non meditators, The Journal of Positive Psychology:Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice, 7:3, 230-238
Thaddeus, W.W. Pace, Lobsang Tensin Negi, Daniel D. Adame, Steven P. Cole, Teresa I. Sivilli,
Timothy D. Brown, Michael J. Issa, Charles L. Raison. “Effect of Compassion Meditation on Neuroendocrine, Innate Immune and Behavioral Responses to Psychosocial Stress.” Elsevier Journal of Neuroendocrinology v.34, 1. Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies, Atlanta, GA.
OM Sanctuary is pleased to announce that Stephanie Moore, Executive Director of the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, is the February 2015 OM Care recipient. OM Sanctuary started the OM Care Initiative to help offer a self care and renewal opportunity to non-profit caregivers that diligently dedicate their lives in service to others. Stephanie is an inspiring example of this. In addition to being Executive Director of this national arts non-profit organization, she wears many hats. Stephanie is facility manager, development director, party planner, and most importantly, a devoted mother. Over the past year, Stephanie has orchestrated the move of the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design from Hendersonville to downtown Asheville. http://www.craftcreativitydesign.org/. All the while, she has expanded the staff, maintained high quality local and national programming, and successfully managed the build out of the new offices. She is a devoted fan of her children’s football games and rarely takes time out for herself, which is why her OMCare award will be a needed respite!
Thank you, Stephanie, for creating the wonderful new exhibition space in downtown Asheville at 67 Broadway with the intent of being “a strong voice for the next generation of craft artists and scholars”. We all intend to enjoy it and hope you find needed rest and relaxation at OM Sanctuary after this great accomplishment.
OM Care is supported by the generosity of donors who would like to see care being offered to the Caregivers. The program is designed to reduce stress and bring rest and relaxation to those who work for the hundreds of non-profit charitable organizations across Buncombe County. Currently the awardee receives a Rest & Renewal Retreat. The program offers the awardee one overnight stay for the awardee (and one other person), access to holistic classes, meditation rooms, breakfast, the garden, waterfall and Tranquility Trail.
More about OM Care Initiative
Introducing OM Care: Self-Care for the Caregiver
It is the caregivers in our communities that diligently dedicate their lives in service to others. They bring assistance, love, food, shelter, determination, and caring to many individuals who are in need. Did you know that many employees working in a number of non-profits have a burnout rate that reaches as high as 90%? OM Sanctuary recognizes that by offering Self-Care Programs for the Caregivers that we effectively help touch the lives of thousands. In 2015 OM Sanctuary will be introducing 4 Self-Care Programs for the Caregivers. OM Sanctuary has also opened up nominations for the OM Care 2015 Awardees. Yes, you get to nominate one of your top non-profits that you feel touches many lives, such as: domestic violence, veterans, homeless, child abuse centers, nursing homes, hospitals, animal shelters etc. If selected, the non-profit organization will be featured in the OM Monthly Newsletter starting in January. The newsletter will give them a promotional opportunity to announce who they are and what their organization does. The organization will also be asked to award one of their hard-working and deserving employees to an OM Care Renewal Program at OM Sanctuary. Help us celebrate these individuals by supporting the OM Care program. Your donations will support the Renewal benefits offered to them. For most of these individuals, packages like the following are out of their financial reach. OM Care Renewal Package includes:
- Recognition from community
- One overnight stay at OM Sanctuary
- A Wellness treatment of their choice (Massage or Enrichment Seminar)
- One meal
- Free admittance to any of the Holistic Classes available during their stay.
As an OM Care benefactor, your name will go on the website of the 2015 OM Care Awardee Benefactor page.
Exploring Holistic Landscaping
OMS team has been working to build partnerships with other community organizations who have their own Green Initiatives to share. Two weeks ago the OMS team met with Dr. David Ellum; Chair of the Environmental Studies Department, Professor of Sustainable Forestry, and College Forest Director at Warren Wilson College. He shared his research that he has been conducting with students on his “Forest/Field Edge” project. A Forest to Landscaped Edge is something OM Sanctuary is exploring. What the OMS team learned was the project involved four aspects, in order of priority: Health of the ecosystem, educational value, recreational value, and products.
The OMS team wanted to have this discussion with Dr. Ellum in hopes that some of his strategies and techniques could be incorporated on the OM Sanctuary property sometime in the near future to remove hard forest to landscaped edges.(Picture left to right: OMS Caretaker & Landscaping Brian Hines, OMS summer intern Rachel Newcomb, Warren Wilson’s Dr. David S. Ellum, and OMS Communications & Landscaping Aaron Lodge)
This is only what has been accomplished so far in the organization’s plans to create a Holistic Forest Management Plan that will bring health to the environment for the wildlife and people.
Counting Our Feathered Friends
As we count on our feathered friends to sing and bedazzle us with their flittering beauty and grace, we have those who help track the birds by listening, watching and counting them. Steve Semanchuk, an Asheville resident, visited and counted OM Sanctuary’s birds. He made an initial visit to assist in establishing a baseline of the breeding bird species for the property. His findings were reported to eBird which uses the data to further the knowledge of bird life in the city of Asheville, NC and it is now recorded with Cornell as well. May and early June was the most productive time period for bird species at this elevation of 2,000 ft. In a single day’s visit, both numbers and species variety were recorded.
Steve spent about an hour and a half on site. All birds where not seen; many of the species recorded were heard only. It was important for him to pick a day with reasonably good weather, as heavy rain and wind adversely affect the quality of the counting period. As 90 minutes was a small slice of time on the property, Steve has no doubt there are more species to be recorded in a future survey. A fall migration survey in late September or early October will also prove valuable to data collection.
OM Sanctuary Breeding Birds
May 28, 2014 (Initial Survey)
Mourning Dove: 1
Chimney Swift: 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird: 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker: 2
Downy Woodpecker: 3
Pileated Woodpecker: 1
Red-eyed Vireo: 2
Blue Jay: 2
Carolina Chickadee: 1
Tufted Titmouse: 5
Carolina Wren: 11
Wood Thrush: 1
American Robin: 3
Gray Catbird: 3
Brown Thrasher: 2
Hooded Warbler: 4
Eastern Towhee: 8
Song Sparrow: 3
Northern Cardinal: 11
Indigo Bunting: 2
American Goldﬁnch: 1
Steve & Liz Semanchuk. They have participated in yearly breeding bird surveys for Buncombe County, the Balsam Mountains and the Black Mountains for 9 years. In conjunction with the Buncombe Breeding Bird Survey, they do a count on Claxton Farm for Porter and Martha Claxton.
Steve has organized the Audubon Christmas Bird Count for four years, but not recently and is also a Birding Pal, who has assisted birders from Holland, Newfoundland, Canada and numerous areas of the U.S. in finding species of birds specific to this area that they hoped to see. He has been birding since 2000 but has had a lifelong interest in everything outdoors. He notes it is a pleasurable duty to help others become aware of the bird life in the hopes that education leads to appreciation.
The Local Nature Conservancy and OM Sanctuary partner to create an Ecological Restoration Strategic Plan
As caretakers of a beautiful 54 acre property, OM Sanctuary recognizes the importance of restoring the native plants for the health of all the living things in the region. On June 3, 2014 Rachel Newcomb, OM Sanctuary’s summer intern from William Smith College, Geneva NY, will begin working with Shelli Stanback, OM Sanctuary’s visionary founder and Mike Horak and Adam Warwick from the NC Nature Conservancy, who’s mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The best place to start to bring a healthy balance to your area is to start in your back yard.
Native species are those that occur in the region in which they evolved. Plants evolve over geologic time in response to physical and biotic processes characteristic of a region: the climate, soils, timing of rainfall, drought, and frost; and interactions with the other species inhabiting the local community. Thus native plants possess certain traits that make them uniquely adapted to local conditions, providing a practical and ecologically valuable alternative for landscaping, conservation and restoration projects, and as livestock forage. In addition, native plants can match the finest cultivated plants in beauty, while often surpassing non-natives in ruggedness and resistance to drought, insects and disease.
You can make a difference and impact the future health of the planet by starting your efforts today.
Singing Out Stress
by Stephanie Heidmann
Nowadays, our society suffers from an epidemic of stress. Much of the world is in a constant state of frenzy, and this affects us. It is tough to counter, while the amount of stimulation is overwhelming to try and filter through and to stay grounded. Amidst all of the noise, it is important to unwind and connect with your inner silence again. Inside the silence, is one’s inner wisdom, and there within, your authentic self. I have found, and now teach, how a meditative style of singing, which I call Authentic Voicework, is a wonderful means, of reconnecting with the very essence of who you are, the authentic self.
There are many benefits that singing provides. Here is my top 10 list:
1) Regulates mood, encourages more balanced state of being
2) Increases creativity & overall sense of well being
3) Unifies people, creating interactive communal experience
4) Empowers sense of self
5) Brings out inner child & light-heartedness
6) Increases oxygen intake (good for body and brain health)
7) Decreases blood pressure
8) Boosts Immune System by Increasing Immunoglobin A (protein in antibodies)
9) Increases anti-stress hormone hydrocortisone
10) Stimulates part of brain that creates dopamine associated with pleasure
In a nutshell, singing is a safe way to access your feelings. It enhances inner stillness, reduces stress, and allows for a socially acceptable way of expressing emotion. Singing from a place of inner stillness and/or authenticity puts you in the moment, or as Eckhardt Tolle, the now. Music brings us into the now. And your voice is your vibrational identity, and your wisdom is your music within. Hear it, listen, and be amazed!
Yoga of the Voice May Day workshop and Saturday Concert with Stephanie Heidemann. Join this beautiful Authentic Voicework journey on May 1 – 4, 2014. This coursework is NCBTMB approved, offering 14 CE’s for LMTs. NCBTMB Approved Provider # 451581-11.
Disconnect to Reconnect
by Tracy Davids*
There’s nothing like tent camping in the winter to reconnect with nature and find your natural rhythm. By day two of my recent nine-day adventure on the South Carolina coast I was in sync with the forces around me – the volatile weather, the changing tides, the short days and long nights. They directed my actions, compelling me to go with the flow. Before long, I was one with my surroundings and at peace.
Living outside commands attention to your very existence. Without all the trappings and comforts of our modern world you focus on meeting your needs rather than your desires. You learn what is most important to your survival and what you can live without. Your senses heighten and you tune in to the happenings around you – the habits of other creatures, a sudden drop in temperature or increase in humidity, the quickly setting sun. You learn that nature provides the real rhythm in life and that you can create harmony when you step to the beat.
If you find yourself unsettled, unfocused, or just out of sorts this winter, go to your favorite place in nature and immerse yourself in it. When you disconnect from the world we created and reconnect with the natural world that sustains us, you will find inner tranquility, truth, and balance.
* Tracy Davids is a non-profit consultant [fund-raising specialist] who has been working with OM Sanctuary’s Resource Development Team since September 2013.
Technology Free – What?!
by Jaymii Liehr, Programs Business & Marketing Manager
A few of months ago, Shelli (Founder & Visionary) and I were discussing the option of having a technology-free stay at OM. While all of our guests can enjoy our cell phone free zones, we were exploring the idea of taking it one step further by presenting our overnight guests with the opportunity to completely unplug from technology by offering to safely and securely store their cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc while they are staying with us. While I understood the concept, I didn’t understand why anyone would want to do that. Let’s be realistic, you’re already on holiday; you’re away from your kids, your family, your friends … Why would you want to completely cut yourself off? How will you know what’s happening in the world? What if you miss a birthday on FB? And what if 98.1 can’t reach you to tell you just won tickets to LEAF?!
I’m not a politician or lawyer or a music mogul or a film producer. I’m an artist. I’m also the Program Business & Marketing Manager at OM Sanctuary, and I co-own a business – you know, just your average professional Ashevillian. I have 5 current phone numbers, 10 email accounts, and I actively participate in 7 social media outlets. I’m also a pretty social person – I know at least 2 people on every continent, have close friends in every US state, and my immediate tribe is scattered throughout 2 coasts and 4 countries. There is no way I could totally unplug for even a day.
Fast forward to 1 month ago. It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m perched in front of my mac. I’m having my monthly tea-date-Skype with my friend in Montreal. He told me his laptop broke and was in the shop for almost a month and how he couldn’t do any work at home and had to go into the studio to do everything. This of course, makes me shudder. Then he starts talking of his garden and how the flowers are still blooming even though we are technically into fall. He talks about all the time he found while his computer was broken. He said he actually had time to sit in his garden, instead of hastily pulling weeds before moving on to the next chore. He spoke about Shanti (his 6 yr old Newfoundland) and how even though it took 3 hours to brush him, they both enjoyed it immensely. This got me thinking about all the activities I love doing but somehow lost the time to do them.
Sunday morning I woke up bright and early and decide to try out this technology-free idea. After turning my cell and landlines to silent, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Then Kody and I headed to the neighborhood dog park. We ran into a friend on the way home and I invited her back to my house to lay out by the pool. In the driveway, I mentioned the new technology-free Sunday rule. She smiled and turned her phone to silent. We had a wonderful afternoon – We relaxed in the pool, read the paper, concocted an amazing fruit tea, and spent time together, talking. No texting, no phone, no emails! That evening, I realized what a stellar day I had. Not once did I think about work or wonder what I was missing on Facebook.
Now here I am, with a whole month of technology-free Sundays and I’m feeling great. I actually look forward to Sundays. I’ve even got my friends on board. They all know if they come over they have to turn their cell phones to silent and leave them by the door. Yesterday my friend walked in, turned his phone off, sighed, and then with a big smile on his face, announced to the room, “I love the Sunday rule!” Next month, I’m contemplating a technology-free weekend …