Category Archives: Health

The Heart Hears!

One night I was sitting quietly, fully engaged in the music that I was hearing — a playlist of some of my favorite pieces — classical, pop, inspirational, world music. I realized that it had been a long, long time since I had taken the time to actually, fully listen. My entire being was feeling sound, absorbing rhythm and essence into every cell of my body and Psyche. Not to be cliché, but because I was wholly present to the music, it struck a deep chord directly in the core of my heart, a place I hadn’t been able to reach for what seemed like eons. Something significant shifted and awakened in me as I listened. What followed was an altered state of consciousness and a night of profound dreams.

Some, maybe all, of the most powerful moments in life happen directly through the heart. We make connections with people, animals, art, nature, music — all aspects of life. Heart-to-heart connections are the very sustenance of life. The word heart itself contains intriguing relationships. The words ‘hear,’ ‘ear,’ and ‘art’ are contained in the word heart. It is not a far stretch to add an ‘h’ at the end of ‘heart’ to include the word ‘hearth,’ a home, a place that warms and nurtures the entire being, which is a primary purpose of the heart. The heart is the hearth of the body: the home of love and connection to life. The home is the heart of life.

Have you heard the phrase, ‘the ear of the heart? Genuine meaning often escapes the mazes of the linear mind, which hears only the superficial. The intelligence of the heart, the ‘ear’, can detect the spirit and essence of what is being communicated through any medium. Beyond actual physical hearing, we have intuitive senses. The deeper meaning of words comes directly through our heart-felt intuition. Jane Roberts, famous intuitive, comments, “…we will be intuitively aware of what the other person is saying to us: we will know what is beneath words. We will also use words better ourselves to communicate our inner feelings since we will know what those feelings are.”

We get it at a feeling/intuitive level because the essence of sound, the basis of words, is vibration. Vibration itself has primal meaning, which creates the essence of words. In some cultures, there are people who can understand many languages because they feel the substance of words, the meaning of the vibrations, through the ‘ear of the heart.’ Herbert Whone in, The Hidden Face of Music, comments that, “In a material existence…a man has to delve deep to get to the heart of the matter.” The heart hears!

Sound is, of course, the basis of music, which is a nonverbal expression of human communication. Music is a medium that affects the heart directly both psychologically and through physical vibrations. I’m sure that you find this obvious! In ancient Greece, music is one of the nine Muses – the Divine Muse. She is the one who presides over all the others. She is mighty and powerful. She can make your heart soar or send you into paroxysms of sadness. She penetrates the heart directly and intimately. Her power creates bridges from heart to heart.

Author Herbert Whone expands on these deeper influences. Man, he says, “…is capable of tuning in to, or more simply hearing, the song of any other being in the universe. It is for this reason that we find the word ‘hear’ embodied in the word ‘heart’. It is the universal heart, which is the source of true wisdom, and ‘to get to the heart of the matter’ is a saying that reveals the truth in this. Real hearing is a penetration from heart to heart.”

The kind of Music you listen to can totally change the disposition of your heart. Try an experiment. Sit or lie down comfortably. Select a few styles and rhythms of music to listen to. Pay close attention to your heart’s response. Get to the heart of what you feel. Your feelings are like shades of color in the background of a painting. Notice that your feelings change with the music; even the heartbeat changes. Observe how each piece affects you emotionally. Feel the spirit of the music move in you — that spirit can transform everything!

Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D. in The Healing Power of Sound says, “In a series of studies that examined how music affects blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing, and other aspects of the autonomic nervous system, participants’ heart rates were found to respond both to the volume and the rhythm of the music. And in some cases, the heart rate or respiratory rhythm actually synchronized with the beat of the music.” Gaynor goes on to describe further studies where music reduces anxiety, heart and respiratory rates, and changes blood pressure.

Music is a soulful, moving pursuit and can connect you to the deepest source of yourself through ‘the ear of the heart’. When you speak from your heart, your source, you express the music of your soul. Music that brings inner harmony can heal. As a part of your health maintenance plan, try listening regularly to healing music. It is a lot cheaper than a trip to the hospital — and steady doses of healing music on a large scale might even lower insurance rates. Perhaps, if heartful music had a prime place in our homes and culture, the rate of shootings in this country might decrease, wholesome connections abound, and the measure of sanity increase.

Your heart is your inner hearth, your home – a place to return to for harmony and comfort. Your own words, used wisely and in harmony, are the music of your soul. These are crucial reasons to use speech and music to harmonize our hearts so we can become healthy humans. The potentials for utilizing Music to heal the heart of a culture and to increase our abilities to connect with one another are myriad and necessary. Increasing our ability to absorb the wonderment and sacredness of life through sound and music are worthy and compelling endeavors.

Mushroom Fantasia

Getting to know mushrooms can be as mind expanding as actually ingesting the legendary psilocybin mushroom. Mushrooms have a strange beauty; in some cultures they are sacred. They can inspire awe; they are mysterious, appearing silently and seemingly from nowhere. Paul Stamets, mycologist, comments, “. . . rains fell and mushrooms magically sprang forth, wilted in the sun, rotted, and vanished without a trace.” It is easy to believe that they originate in the land of the fairies, that they are creatures from Alice in Wonderland where nothing is as it seems to be. In ancient fables, fanciful toadstools, even though poisonous, have given a fairytale aura to mushrooms – they are home to elves, sprites and, of course, fairies.

Mushrooms come in strange and diverse shapes, sizes, and forms; and are usually found in delightful, dwarfish communities some spreading over acres of ground and some, such as turkey tails, will completely encircle and colonize tree trunks, becoming an exquisite form of living art. Some have dome shaped tops resembling church cupolas, others present flat tops large enough to spread a feast on. For instance, Noble Polypores can be almost 5’ across and weigh more than 300lbs. You can find mushrooms looking like they were made just for kids – red button tops covered with white polka dots with a stark white stem stretching into the ground (Fly Agaric which are poisonous) and mushrooms that sport white cascading spines that resemble wigs of hair (Hericium Erinaceus).

Do you know how important mushrooms are to the health of Nature? They are a keystone species on which many other aspects of the biosphere depend. These awesome entities are responsible for holding entire habitats together. Mycelium, which Stamets considers the Internet of Nature, is what mushrooms spring from. This intricate mycelium network forms a fibrous mat, just under the surface of the ground, which not only holds everything together, but also creates an astounding communication system that gives every plant access to every other plant within, sometimes, thousands of acres. Trees and plants use the mycelium internet system to, among other things, send nutrients and healing chemicals to other trees or plants that are in need.

According to Stamets, “The soil that fungi produce sustain, ultimately, all life,” and, according to some, mushroom compost is one of the best soil conditioners you can get for your garden. Amazingly, mushrooms, such funky creations, can remediate, or heal, entire poisoned areas of land – brownfields – land areas that are saturated with toxic chemicals. At the end of the remediation process, and of the growth and maturation of these mushrooms, neither the brownfield nor the mushroom are any longer toxic. They have both been purified — or transformed. Mushrooms are also used in water purification processes.

In addition to their essential role in Nature, mushrooms have multitudes of prized medicinal and culinary properties that offer multiple benefits for the health of humans. Grocery stores have picked up on this and are expanding their repertoire of edible mushrooms. Mushrooms are valued food products — some truffles sell for more than $500/lb. Toadstools themselves may have culinary and medicinal properties but most people don’t have sophisticated enough knowledge to know how to use them.

Mother Nature holds a fantasia of wealth in the kingdom of mushrooms that benefits all sentient beings. Expand your mind; explore the world of mushrooms. You might just find yourself in a startlingly unique and enchanted realm.

Ain’t Got No Body?!

“Most of us have undergone rigorous training in ignoring our bodies. Bodily awareness is not some peripheral function, but the foundation of our sense of ourselves and our ability to respond to the world.” Says Susan Aposhyan, expert, teacher and author in how the body and mind are integrally intertwined. How connected to your body are you? Do you believe that your head is your only necessity in life? Do you live only in your head? The body is an intelligent organism made of components that work cooperatively with all aspects of yourself to make you a holistically healthy, functional being. Everything that happens in life affects the body as well as the mind. The mind affects and shapes the body. The body is a reflection of your mind and it also shapes the mind. The information that comes from the bodily intelligence helps to organize the mind.

What you don’t know about your body can impede your effectiveness in the world. You can ignore it or make it a slave at your own expense. Every feeling and thought you have is correlated with physical sensations. Those sensations inform the mind about your experience in the world. When you are in a chronic, stressful situation that you cannot effectively escape from or impact in a successful way, for protection, you suppress unwanted sensations, feelings or thoughts.

Your body then creates physical defenses by habitually constricting the muscles, thus deadening the tissues of your body, a defense that is called ‘armoring’ in some psychological systems. Once you suppress or defend yourself against certain thoughts and/or feelings, you are no longer aware of them which means you have cut off communication to that aspect of your being and don’t have conscious access to those feelings and thoughts and what they need to tell you. Feelings and thoughts are correlated with sensations: armoring deadens sensation.

Physiologically, this coping strategy of defense is stored primarily in the muscles and fascia – a sort of plastic wrap that wraps around, communicates with and connects together everything in the body. Fascia allows and supports a river of energetic flow throughout your body/mind. Armoring cuts off the flow of blood, lymph and energy in your body so that you are no longer fully alive, you have numbed parts or large areas of yourself; you no longer have awareness of certain areas or access to all aspects of your intelligence.

Armoring or defense structures after a certain point no longer serve a beneficial purpose. Simply becoming aware of your defenses actually begins to change the armoring, to thaw the numbness which then allows the life flow to resume. This is a first step to opening to your greatest potentials and to a healthy, more vibrant, energetic body and exciting and satisfying life.

Death By Denial

I recently moved to a rural area from a heavily populated city because to me that city had become one huge, ugly, senseless never-ending parking lot. Sometimes the cars were moving and sometimes not. Regardless, they seemed to cover nearly all surfaces. No matter where I looked there were cars, concrete and asphalt. Beauty has a mighty struggle to find a space for roots between all that endless metal and concrete.

The ability to go into Denial – not to see, hear or feel something — can come in handy (and can sometimes save your life). It can also save us from having to make tough, inopportune and courageous decisions. It can lull us into apathy. In our consumer culture, we have sacrificed beauty for convenience.

Beauty is essential to health and an indication of higher intelligence. The beauty of Nature is vital to a healthy life. Beauty is the foundation of mental health: and the ethereal sustenance of physical health. It frees the Spirit to soar. It may sound like an immense exaggeration to some, but without a connection to Beauty, we entomb ourselves; we become the walking dead.

Denial is convenient, but not life-giving. Denial of the fact that we have eliminated the subtle essence of beauty in favor of consumerism is dangerous. We get used to things as they are and then we forget that this may not be the only or best way. We become immune to the negativities. We blind, deafen and numb ourselves. And then we become ill. But that too becomes just another one of those everyday ‘things.’ In Albert Camus’ novel “The Stranger,” Meursault is sentenced to death by decapitation. The story ends with Meursault in his cell, waiting for his death thinking, “After awhile you could get used to anything.”

Elemental My Dear!

Oriental healing arts have always recognized our direct connection to Mother Nature and used the wisdom of their understanding for practical healing. According to Chinese medicine, we are composed of the Earth elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood: and according to Indian healing arts we are composed of ether, air, fire, water, earth. Both cultures teach that each of these elements creates certain qualities and characteristics in us and each of us has core elemental characteristics.

What does that all mean? If you contemplate, or meditate on, qualities and characteristics of each element, you can begin to get an idea of their essence and how it might relate to your physical and psychological being. (My translations follow). Earth: substance, stability. Water: fluidity and bonding. Fire: light and metabolism. Air: movement, wit. Wood: growth, creativity. Ether: space, peace. So someone who is stable and dependable might be primarily an Earth character. Someone who is very intellectual and quick witted might be mostly an Air type, etc.

You can learn a lot, have some fun with these concepts and maybe even begin some self-healing by reading (Yes, let’s begin with food – your basic substance), “Recipes for Self-Healing,” by Daverick Leggett (affordable at https://www.redwingbooks.com) or “The Ayurvedic Cookbook,” by Amadea Morningstar. Each of these books succinctly describes the individual elemental types and then gives recipes that are rated for effectiveness for each type. Take some time for yourself and your health. Read a book, try some recipes and you will enjoy your own Kitchen University!

What! Intelligent Amoebas?!?!

I often wonder why humans of all stripes seem set on comparing humans to animals in order to show how ‘superior’ humans are. To me, that is not only unnecessary, but also arrogant. Can’t human intelligence stand on its own? Animals have an entirely different kind of intelligence than humans. So do all living organisms have intelligence and each in a different flavor, but it is, no less, “intelligence.”

With these thoughts in mind, I was overjoyed to find Stephen Harrod Buhner. In his profound book, “Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm’ he says: “In other words, all living organisms can not only process data, they also engage in a search for meaning, an analysis that runs much deeper than linear cause and effect. Thus, three capacities – self-awareness, intelligence and the search for meaning – that have (erroneously) been ascribed as belonging only to human beings are in fact general conditions of every living organism.”

He goes on to say: “. . .every living organism on this planet. . . has the capacity to analyze the nature of outside forces that touch them, determine their intent, and then to exercise judgment in determining from among a number of potential responses which one to implement. . . We are different only in the specific ecological functions we serve . . . Our intelligence is only a special instance of a general condition.”

I am not a proponent of the hierarchy of intelligence and decision making. Buhner gives a completely different way of understanding our place in the whole scheme of things: a place where we can act from a more expanded consciousness. I think that Buhner’s studies open the way to a much more egalitarian, health-giving, cooperative and peaceful way of living on and with this Earth.

When we believe that we are better than animals rather than fellow travelers on this Earth, we take an immense loss. We miss out on the kinds of intelligence, wisdom and humor that animals and other intelligent beings have to share with us. If you are interested in animal intelligence, I would highly recommend, among many other possibilities, “Kinship with All Life” by J. Allen Boone: “Three Among the Wolves” by Helen Thayer; “The Beauty of the Beasts,” by Ralph Helfer, “Mind in the Waters,” a Sierra Club book, and “Mutual Aid,” by Peter Kropotkin.

Eating Animals: Nature/Culture

There is a beautiful, not very large, completely white cat who lives here on the farm. She is very affectionate but never pushy. She is also a master hunter. I have seen her capture chipmunks and play with the terrified creatures for long periods of time before eating them. On a recent day I returned to the farm to find a surgically decapitated and completely filleted chipmunk lying on the porch. All that was left was the perfectly severed head, and separated from the head by an inch, the long line of the aorta connected with the internal organs – identifiable heart, liver — and one leg. Not a single bone or any fur left except on the severed skull. “Momma Kitty,” as she is known, had eaten, or very neatly disposed of, everything else.

Nate the farmer uses natural farming methods to raise chickens as kindly and holistically as possible. He has painstakingly arranged it so that each group of approximately 50 chickens has their own coop and a 50×100’ free-range pasture to roam as they please. Next year he plans to plant chicken gardens so the chickens will have a variety of fresh food. Presently, twice a day, all of the chickens are fed well on non-GMO corn and supplied with water. These chickens are raised for meat. At the end of eight weeks, Nate carefully lifts each of the chickens into a large cage and takes them to the ‘processor.’ The processed chickens are then sold to very appreciative customers who pay extra because of the care that was given the chickens and for their human health benefits. What comes up for you as you read these two stories?

All Our Relations

When any one part of our physical body is unhealthy, the entire body suffers whether we are immediately conscious of it or not. Physical and psychological neglect and abuse build up in our cells and at some point a dis-ease will manifest and we will be forced to take action. The same is true of Mother Earth. We are part of a continuous web of relations on this Earth. When any part of the web of the Earth organism becomes unhealthy or is abused, we all suffer: at some critical tipping point that becomes obvious and we are finally forced to take action to stem the tide of destruction. Better that we have healthy relationships with our physical being and with the Earth to begin with!

To understand our Earth relationships at a deeper level and to move your life in a more beneficial direction, check out http://gaianstudies.org/, and try some of Gaian Studies founder Stephen Harrod Buhner’s books. They are profound.

“It is the opinion of the organization’s founders that the survivability of the human species depends on human beings once more reconnecting to the Earth. Without this rekindling of our ability to care for the nonhuman world from which we emerged, our behavior as a species will continue to be care-less of the Earth and its preservation. This means that each one of us must learn to “reinhabit our interbeing with the world” as the rainforest activist John Seed puts it. This reinhabiting is essential, not an academic or rhetorical pursuit, and always a personal one.” http://gaianstudies.org/

Free Health Care

There are so many alternative health options available for each of us to take care of ourselves that sometimes it’s overwhelming trying to decide where to start or what to choose. The good news is that Mother Nature is essential to health, is always there in some form, and she is free!

If you doubt the benefits of Nature, here’s something to chew on:
“Elderly adults tend to live longer if their homes are near a park or other green space, regardless of their social or economic status. College students do better on cognitive tests when their dorm windows view natural settings. Children with ADHD have fewer symptoms after outdoor activities in lush environments. Residents of public housing complexes report better family interactions when they live near trees.”
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217092758

So just open your window and look at the sky, look at the clouds; appreciate and absorb the beauty of something so simple. Better yet, go outside. No matter what the weather, dress appropriately and take a walk. Walking is one of the best exercises you can get and it is also free. If you can get to a park that will increase the health benefits geometrically. No matter where you are, pay attention: look around: take a few deep breaths. If you pay attention you are bound to find some small manifestation of beauty. Some stubborn wisp of Nature that loves life so much that nothing will overcome its will to live.

If nothing else works out, schedule a massage or Shiatsu session. Next to Mother Nature, healing touch is one of the most powerful life enhancements available!