For the mind that won’t stop endlessly chattering, there is no better action to take than to get out in nature. Richard Louv is a journalist and author of several books on the connection between nature, community and family. He coined the term “nature deficit disorder”, and in his widely acclaimed book “Last Child in the Woods”, wrote tellingly of modern children’s alienation from the natural world. In his book “The Nature Principle” he describes the effect on adults when they are denied experience of the natural world. A walk in the pine woods, with the summer breeze soft in the high branches is soothing and peaceful beyond words to describe. Many times I’ve taken groups out on nature walks, and heard the children comment on how peaceful it is. In the heat of summer, just walking down a creek in the shade of the forest cover, you are soothed by the coolness and the gentle murmur of the creek.
A Gentler Time
The nearly forgotten practice of having a flower garden with a garden bench speaks of a gentler time when people remembered to take time out to sit in nature and enjoy the beauty of the flowers, listen to the songbirds, and smile at the antics of the squirrels at play. Japan is famous for its tiny traditional gardens, however small, elegantly simple and tended with loving care. Tending the garden is a quiet meditation that is very soothing to the mind. Somehow the fragrances of the plants, the sounds of the wind in the trees, and the very smell and feel of the soil are healing. However, what to do to settle overactive mind when nature isn’t so soothing, when the fierce winds of spring, or the bitter chill of the short winter days drive you indoors?
A Cup of Tea
In our goal-oriented culture, the idea of taking a serious afternoon break is unthinkable. But think of all the cultures where this is – or was – a strong tradition. The siesta, the afternoon tea, the Japanese tea ceremony – all speak of the wisdom of taking a break in a busy day. Anthropologists tell us that the hunter-gatherer cultures that we consider to be primitive spent 3-5 hours a day on essentials such as food and shelter. The balance of the day was spent in play, socializing, storytelling, arts and crafts, dance, music, ceremony, and spiritual practice. These activities strengthened community, and passed down tradition and culture. In gaining security, information and technological prowess, have we unbalanced our day such that important needs are not being met? Take an inspiration break and sip some herbal tea; sage tea, pine needle tea, white tea, and chamomile tea are known for their health benefits and their ability to support mental clarity. Chamomile is especially relaxing, with one cautionary. It is related to the ragweed family, and those who are allergic to ragweed may find that chamomile is not relaxing at all! Sage is most known for its culinary us, especially during the holidays. Its genius as a tea is much less understood. Not only is it a warming tea in cold weather, it is good for digestion. In American colonial times it was used as a remedy for fevers and colds. For the afternoon break, sage tea with lemon is very relaxing and grounding. White tea in particular is high in antioxidants, and has theanine, an ingredient only found in the tea plant. Theanine relieves physical and mental stress, and also raises the level of mental alertness by increasing the brain’s alpha brain waves. For the best cup of tea, use a loose leaf tea, which allows the tea leaves to fully open and infuse.
Guided Meditation with Music
Dr. Anthony Weil has developed several very helpful CD’s for calming the mind, some with two CD’s, one with guided meditations and the second with healing music which encourage Alpha brain waves to relieve stress and enhance the healing process. Dr. Weil also recommends simple breathing exercises which will help calm an overactive mind.
Another simple, yet very effective way to calm mind and body is a hot bath with two cups of Epsom salts. Epsom salts is another name for magnesium sulfate, an essential electrolyte that is deficient in the soil and commonly deficient in a modern diet.
To increase the benefits of your calming bath, add 8-12 drops of lavender essential oil, a classic for relaxation. In order to choose a company that guarantees the quality of the oil, make sure they are testing the purity of the ingredients by using the Gas Chromatograph (GC) test, or the Gas Chromatograph with Mass Spectroscopy (GC/MS) test. These amazing tests will detect any impurities in the product, and will also determine whether the oil is naturally extracted, without chemicals or heat, and whether or not the product is a synthetic. A synthetic oil is a different isomer; an isomer is a molecule or compound that has the same number of atoms as another, but with a different structure. It has a different shape, with different physical and chemical properties. While synthetics have an aroma, they are not effective therapeutically because the chemical actions are different. The National Academy of Sciences, in a 1986 report, stated that 95 % of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are petroleum-based, including such chemicals as benzene derivatives, aldehydes and other toxins known to cause health issues. It is very cheap to use synthetics, and in the case of topical applications such as cosmetics, synthetics have been considered safe because the product is not ingested. However, the skin can be considered the largest organ of the body, and topical products are absorbed into the bloodstream and lymph system.
Sleep on it
For those times when our mental overload comes from facing a difficult problem or situation, scientific research is finding that the old folk saying to “sleep on it” may be true. Sleep deprivation is all too common today, and leads to a number of serious threat to physical and mental health. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for quality of life. If we are short one hour of sleep each day, by the end of the week a whole night’s sleep has been lost. But there is another very intriguing aspect of sleep. Scientific research is showing that we can solve problems during sleep. We can also clarify things that have been learned during the day by sleeping on it. While much of how the mind works is still a great frontier, apparently the insistent conscious mind finally relaxes its dominance, allowing other parts of our mind to come in to play with new inspiration and perspective. When a situation has the mind running on a loop that goes nowhere, write out the issues in a journal, setting the stage so to speak, and then sleep on it.