Cultivating Contemplation

Contemplative practices are those that quiet the mind and generate a state of reflection that holds a world of knowledge. These practices range from meditation, yoga, writing to walking, dance, and others. (Visit http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree for more on contemplative practices.)

I find wintertime to be the perfect time to cultivate the contemplative practices that bring me inner peace. In my late teens, I found Tae Kwon Do. This martial arts practice taught me what can be accomplished with determination and a disciplined body and mind. Over the many years of training, it gave me confidence and a sense of joy for learning and growing physically and emotionally. It shaped me in so many ways. As I have aged, I have cultivated other contemplative practices like meditation, tai chi walks in the forest, and storytelling to nurture the spiritual part of my life.

For me, the keys to any contemplative practice are consistency and self-compassion. I’ll be honest, there are days when it is hard for me to sit still or go for a walk. There are high-stress moments and deadlines to meet – they seem more deserving of my attention. I don’t eat as well, I don’t sleep as well, and I feel out of sorts. Ultimately the groundedness I feel when I stay in tune to these practices and prioritize them, outweighs the alternatives. The more I make space for meditation or a walk in the woods, the greater the distance between a trigger or stressor and my response; I feel a greater sense of calm and awareness. 

What will you do during these darker, colder months that will allow you to emerge into the warmth of spring a more centered person? Perhaps you’ve been saying you want to write daily but have not made the time for it. Maybe you promise yourself that you will wake up 20 minutes earlier for some quiet, alone time but the snooze button is just too easy to hit in the morning.

I encourage you to try and stay consistent with whatever contemplative practice you enjoy. I leave you with these words from Stephen Covey, “Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.

chia tea ld

Chaga Chai:
A grounding and warming herbal beverage

Chaga mushroom has a rich, coffee-like taste and helps support the immune system. 

Ingredients

  • 8 oz water
  • 4 oz milk or non dairy milk of choice
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of black tea (optional)
  • 1 tbsp chaga powder
  • 4 cardamom pods smashed with side of a knife
  • 2 in. section of a cinnamon stick
  • 1-2, 1/4 ” slices of fresh ginger
  • Pinch of fennel seed, about 10 seeds
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • Honey or maple syrup to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add water, milk, spices and chaga powder to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Add tea. Steep tea about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Strain into a cup and stir in honey to taste.

*Other herbs like dandelion or burdock can also be added to this drink

contemplative tree

The Tree of Contemplative Practices

Understanding the Tree

On the Tree of Contemplative Practices, the roots symbolize the two intentions that are the foundation of all contemplative practices. The roots of the tree encompass and transcend differences in the religious traditions from which many of the practices originated, and allow room for the inclusion of new practices that are being created in secular contexts.

The branches represent different groupings of practices. For example, Stillness Practices focus on quieting the mind and body in order to develop calmness and focus. Generative Practices may come in many different forms but share the common intent of generating thoughts and feelings, such as thoughts of devotion and compassion, rather than calming and quieting the mind. (Please note that such classifications are not definitive, and many practices could be included in more than one category.)

HERBAL MEDICINE BOOKS WORTH THE INVESTMENT

Books are an invaluable resource for the home herbalist, and growing your home library over time is always a great idea. Having at least three herbal books or resources available is absolutely necessary when studying plants and creating a materia medica. Still, there are so many fantastic books available – where should you begin? Here are 6 herbal medicine books that we think are worth the investment!

 Herbal Medicine Books Worth The Investment

The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual by James Green

This book has step-by-step instructions for making any kind of herbal preparation you could possibly think of. It also explains why you should do certain things, not just how which is handy to know if you find yourself faced with the need to improvise. The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook extremely detail-oriented, but still very readable – Green is authoritative while still being lighthearted. A prime example of this is the chapter on herb jellos, an unexpected and surprisingly useful way to prepare herbs for kids – and one that he stumbled on quite by accident! The book also contains a brief overview of 30 plants that he and the other co-directors of the California School for Herbal Studies developed for use as part of the school’s curriculum.

Herbal-Medicine-Handbook

 

Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffman

This textbook is not for the faint of heart, but it provides an incredible amount of information on the most medical side of herbalism. This tome is a great resource if you are interested in learning the chemistry behind herbalism, as it explains the different types of chemical compounds and goes into great detail for pharmacology, toxicity, and safety issues, formulation, and chapters for treatment approach by body systems. An extensive materia medica with herbal profiles is included at the end. It’s a fascinating and extensive look at the scientific side of herbalism.

Medical-Herbalism

 

The Earthwise Herbal, Volumes 1 and 2 by Matthew Wood

One of the most thorough resources on herbal materia medica available anywhere, The Earthwise Herbal details the historical use of many herbs and includes Wood’s personal experiences in working with the herbs in his clinical practice. Volume One focuses on Old World, European plants while Volume Two discusses the New World plants of North America. Wood has focused on western herbalism and a more folk-style approach, but his books are an excellent resource for herbalists of any tradition. These references are valuable both for beginners and experienced herbalists alike, as they provide valuable insight and lesser-known perspectives on many well-loved herbs.

Earthwise-Herbal-Volume-1

 

The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride

No herbal home should be without this delightful book, which provides simple and creative ways to use herbs in the kitchen. Detailed profiles of many common cooking herbs and spices explain how these often overlooked plants are useful for health.  Delicious and unique recipes include cooking oils, seasoning salts and sprinkles, herbal honey, cordials, and vinegar. The Herbal Kitchen is full of creative ways to use recipes in everyday cooking- nothing about this book is complicated, but the recipes are delightful and not to be missed.

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The Herbalist’s Way by Nancy and Michael Phillips

One of the best volumes for folk herbalists searching for their path, the informal but detailed exploration of the art of herbalism in The Herbalist’s Way leaves you with the sense that you’ve spent the afternoon across from a wise elder, chatting as you both enjoyed tea. In fact, the author’s highlight conversations with many herbalists throughout the book, so by the end of the book you have learned from the experiences of many others.  This book explores how to become a herbalist and why – from an overview of the many possibilities of finding your niche, legal aspects, and more.

The-Herbalists-Way

 

Healing with the Herbs of Life by Leslie Tierra

Tierra has a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine, so that’s the focus of Healing with the Herbs of Life. This book is more detailed and yet easier to understand that some courses on the subject, so it is absolutely worth the investment if you are interested in learning about this style of herbalism. The book is divided into three sections covering the fundamentals of herbalism, a TCM perspective on disease and the process of healing, and a section on regaining and maintaining health. The fundamentals of herbalism section include a detailed material medica and appendices at the end of the book contain a convenient reference for weights and measures, along with a listing of TCM formulas. This book is good for beginners as a learning tool, or for advanced students as a reference.

Healing-with-the-Herbs-of-Life-6-Must-Have-Herbal-Books

 

If you’re already an herbal bookworm here are more all for your reading pleasure.

 Herbal Medicine Books Worth The Investment

Aromatherapy Healing ~ Aromatherapy Techniques.

In various subtle ways, you probably already use aromatherapy. When you make a tea made from a fragrant herb {such as peppermint or chamomile} or toss such herbs into your bath, you are extracting the herb’s essential oils into the water. Likewise, when you make recipes from this website that use fragrant herbs, you are using aromatherapy.

Because essential oils are so concentrated, the safest way to use them is to dilute them in a vegetable oil base and then rub them into the skin as you would a liniment. Essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream because their tiny molecules pass through the skin. Compounds from lavender essential oil have been detected in the bloodstream only 20 minutes after a lavender massage oil was rubbed on the skin. {You can test this at home by rubbing a piece of cut garlic on the bottom of your foot. Its essential oils will travel through the sole of your foot and within 30 minutes you will taste garlic!}

Essential oils are especially effective when you apply them to the skin over an internal region where they are needed. For instance, a massage oil designed to ease a stomachache can be rubbed over the abdomen. I will provide a chart at the end of this series that details the best proportions to use in creating aromatherapy products.

The most effective way to use aromatherapy is to make the fragrance so subtle that it is barely perceivable. Blend several scents together, as a perfumer does. Use your nose as your guide, and do not be afraid to experiment. I know nurses and other health care professionals who dab scented oil on the backs of their hands before seeing patients.

The most refined way to fill a room with fragrance is by using an electric aromatic diffuser, a glass apparatus that pumps a consistent, light mist of unheated fragrance into the air. {If you decide to purchase one, be sure to get a model with a quiet pump.} A simpler alternative is to dab a few drops of essential oil on a light bulb or, for a more lasting effect, on one of the special ceramic or metal rings designed to be placed on a light bulb {these rings are available at stores that sell essential oils}. When you turn on the light, the heat causes the scent to fill the room.

A simmering potpourri cooker, heated with either electricity or a candle will also scent a room for hours. You do not even need the potpourri; you can simply put a little water in the cooker and add a drop or two of essential oil. Or you can heat a pan of water containing a few drops of essential oil on the stove, then turn off the heat and allow the scented steam to fill the air.

Of course, the oldest way to scent a room is with incense {if you do not mind the smoke it produces}. Potpourri, sleep pillows and scented bed linens, clothes and stationary offer ways to share aromatherapy with others through fragrant gifts. Aromatherapy can even improve some of your mundane household tasks. Try placing a cotton ball scented with a drop of essential oil in your vacuum cleaner bag.

A fragrant plant often contains less than 1 percent essential oil, but that small amount can be highly aromatic. The oil is extracted from the plant by methods such as distillation or pressing. Once extracted from the plant, these pure essential oils are highly concentrated and must be used with care. Do not use them straight; always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil, alcohol or water before putting them on your skin.