We all have heard of the Goddess as the Land (Mother Nature, Gaia etc.) and most likely most of us will agree with this. She is the Divine in material form, the Sacred Landscape, the body of the Divine. Yet how many think of our own bodies as sacred? I mean we ‘know’ it but do we really treat our bodies as such when we haul ourselves out of bed in the morning, chug down the coffee and dash off to work. Do we ever give a second thought to our sacred and beautiful bodies in those fast moments? I have to admit I don’t always. It seems the mundane is always pushing and pulling us…get to work, take the kids to school, do the housework, all the many seemingly endless tasks and ‘have to’s’ on our daily ‘to do’ list that never seems to get any shorter. Then at the end of the day we sink down into the sofa and stuff our bodies with garbage…garbage food, garbage TV etc. We feel worn out and drift away to sleep, or not!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how I treat my poor body. Ever since I got a trapped nerve in my shoulder and have been in agony. At first I was angry at my body. How dare it do this to me! Then I wallowed as I’m rather a wuss with pain despite my being covered in tattoos (well, having a tattoo is a completely different sort of pain in my view). However, now I’m thinking that this is a wake up call, my body is giving me a sharp prod in the proverbial…ok in the shoulder! Yes, I do neglect it. I don’t always treat it as an embodiment of the Goddess. I take it for granted.
So, what to do? Well I then thought about how we do our best to look after the Goddess as embodied in the land. Through whatever means available and practical to us we nurture Her, whether this is just picking up litter in our local park to getting involved in Green Activism. We do all sorts of things don’t we? But can the same be said of our bodies? Do we nurture them and love them just as much? Do we pay just as much attention to them?
When our bodies hurt and we experience pain that’s a sign something is wrong and our bodies are telling us something. It’s not being nasty or a pain in the (fit in whatever word you like here). No! It’s pleading with us to pay attention, to expand our awareness in its direction. We tend to do this only when it plays us up but if we just took the time to pay attention when everything is running smoothly then it wouldn’t have to kick up a fuss as often, if at all. So how can we expand our awareness to our bodies and treat them in a sacred way? Here are some ideas that I’ve implemented in my life:
1. Get up a little bit earlier each day. You don’t have to make a big thing about it – even 10 minutes earlier is enough to begin with. Before you do anything else give yourself a (((BIG HUG))). Go on, you deserve it – your body deserves it. When was the last time you hugged yourself? Make it a simple practice to begin each morning hugging yourself. I bet it makes you smile.
2. Ok, so we don’t all have baths, some of us don’t even own a bath but we can still nurture our bodies even in a shower. Find a shower gel that you just LOVE the smell of and pamper yourself. I use essential oils in my bath but it’s easy to make your own shower gel. Just get hold of a pump dispenser bottle and some unscented shower gel base and add your own essential oils. Ok, so not everyone likes the smell of lavender but there are so many wonderful essential oils out there and not all are really expensive. Get experimenting and have fun concocting your own shower gel.
3. Always make sure you have breakfast. Don’t skip this most important meal of the day. you know why it’s called breakfast don’t you? Because you’re ‘breaking your fast’ of the night. Believe me I know. I used to be absolute rubbish at eating breakfast and wouldn’t eat until later in the day. No wonder my poor body was starving and not playing nice. Even if it’s just a couple of pieces of toast make sure it’s good nutrition – choose a healthy and tasty topping. Please add some fruit too to your breakfast. Our bodies just LOVE fruit and fruit loves us. Fruit is great because it contains enzymes and is packed with goodies that help metabolism, mood, digestion and a whole host of other bodily functions. There is so much fruit available isn’t there, there’s got to be something that takes your fancy. I know some people on diets say you shouldn’t eat bananas because they’re fattening but personally I think that’s rubbish. Bananas are packed with potassium and other nutrients that are essential for our bodies. They really keep you going as they are complex carbs too. If, like me, you have an aversion to eating a banana straight from its jacket then why not whip up a smoothie. It’s so easy – a sliced banana, a cupful of milk and a tablespoon of bran, add some vanilla extract, whizz it up in the blender and voila…a delicious nutrient packed drink that really will keep you going.
4. On the subject of diets, which really are my bête noire, I say avoid them like the plague. Especially these ones that encourage a snack bar for breakfast, a shake for lunch and a ‘healthy’ pre-packaged meal for dinner. What’s all that about? As someone who has forced my body to suffer all kinds of diets in my life, I can attest that most are totally boring, a large percentage are unhealthy, maybe not in the short term but certainly long term and most do not work. Why deny yourself a nice piece of scrummy chocolate cake, or a lovely roast dinner? Balance is the key! We have a wonderful organ in our heads called a brain so let’s use it. A balanced intake of food plus some daily exercise and I promise your body will be happy and so will you and so will your wallet. You don’t need to pay out for expensive diets when all you need is to do a bit of research on the internet to find out what a decent nutritious food intake actually is, choose your own foods and enjoy it.
5. I’ve also started drinking a cup of Basil tea in the mornings too. Yes, common garden basil (the kind you add to your super scrummy tomato sauces). Why basil? Because it is a real ‘start of the day’ booster. Basil is a great herb for the digestion, it is antispasmodic and carminative (which means it acts on colicky stomachs and helps expel pent up gas. It’s also great for women’s ‘moon times’. Basil ‘opens up’ in the body. It is fantastic as a stimulating tea in the mornings. It stimulates a sluggish body and mind and helps one have energy to do the job at hand and helps us focus. Since I started taking Basil tea in the morning I feel more alert to do what I need to do during the day and my digestion is better too. It’s easy to make a cup. You need to treat yourself to a lovely cup and saucer, not a chipped old coffee mug. Drinking herbal teas from a lovely cup and saucer makes the whole thing something special. A ritual if you like that you can do for yourself before entering into the mundane world. I use the empty t-sacs and place 2 teaspoons of dried basil in it, fill the cup to the top and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Or you can make it in a small teapot and use a strainer while pouring it into your cup. I’ve found that I don’t really need any sweetener as Basil does have a naturally sweet flavour of its own but if you really need some then drizzle a bit of honey into it. Then sit down on your sofa or chair (no TV, no radio on) and just BE…be in the moment sipping your lovely basil tisane and enjoy; enjoy its flavour, the warmth of the basil reaching down into your cells. Be aware of your drinking, make it leisurely.
6. Become aware of your body through mindful meditation practise. This does not mean meditating for hours per day, nor is it something that is really hard to achieve although you do need to practice – remember the old saying ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’? Find somewhere comfortable to sit; on the train into work, in your lunch break, at home. sit and be still, allow your breathing to become calm and peaceful, regular and slow. Focus on your body, be aware of it. If intrusive thoughts come in – and they do, just acknowledge them but don’t focus on them. Keep your focus on your breathing and your body. Practice tuning into your body with your awareness. By doing this you will learn to listen, and I mean really listen to your body on a much deeper level.
7. Use herbs more often. Mother Nature has provided us with a plethora of wonderful plants and herbs we can use to aid our bodies and our health. One plant I’ve learnt to love big time is Nettles. Yes, those stinging nettles! Did you know nettles are one of the most nutritious and helpful plants available? Nettles contain calcium, chlorophyll, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, potassium, protein, silicon, sodium, sulphur, zinc and the Vitamins A, C, D, E, F and P. The alkaloids contained in Nettle neutralise uric acid in the body and thus helps to reduce the symptoms of rheumatism and gout. It is an excellent plant to take for high blood pressure, bronchitis, inflamed kidneys, poor circulation, anaemia, asthma, eczema and a whole lot of others too. A great way of consuming nettles is either in soup or to make a nutritious nettle smoothie and drink at least three times a week.
According to Susun Weed, Nettle infusions are…recommended for those wanting to stabilize blood sugar, reset metabolic circuits to normalize weight, reduce fatigue and exhaustion, restore adrenal potency to lessen allergic and menopausal problems and eliminate chronic headaches. Nettle is a gentle and powerful herb that can be drunk daily for increased energy and chi. Taken over a long period of time it is beneficial to the kidneys, lungs, intestine, arteries, hair, and skin.
So how to make a nettle smoothie. Well my version is slightly different from that given in the book nourishing Herbal Infusions because I’ve kind of experimented a bit. However, making the nettle infusion is the same at the beginning. to make a nettle infusion I get a large plastic jug and chuck in about two handfuls of dried nettles, or if you’re using fresh nettles then one handful. I then boil a kettle and pour on 1 pint of hot water. Stir the mixture and then pop a lid or plate over the top and just leave it over night. I don’t refrigerate it because it’s only being left to steep one night but I guess you could pop it in the fridge if you liked. In the morning you will notice the water has turned a lovely browny green colour…hmmm might be packed with great nutrients but doesn’t look very appetizing. First you will need to strain the liquid off and for this I use a plastic sieve, but you could use fine muslin if you wanted to. Then add to the liquid a carton of organic plain yogurt…actually I’ve tried it with thick and creamy Greek yoghurt and it’s adorable! Add a table spoonful of honey and whizz up in the blender…a lovely green creamy drink packed to the brim with all kinds of body loving goodies. Believe me your body will thank you. A word about toilet usage though – nettles are diuretic so you might find yourself peeing a bit more than usual but this is ok. Your body is getting rid of loads of toxins. If you have dry skin and/or dry hair you might like to add a bit of Marshmallow or Slippery Elm to the first stage to give added emollience to the brew. So all you have to do now is sit back, slurp and enjoy!
Oh yes, and a word about those left over nettle dregs you strained out. PLEASE don’t just throw them away in the trash. Go compost them…your compost heap will luurve them.
8. Exercise, yeah not a very nice word to some and it took me years to appreciate it. I talked to some friends, and asked them what they thought exercise was and most answered things like – Zumba (what’s that? Sounds like the name of a lion!), jogging, going to the gym for 2 hours. Well, exercise is definitely all of those things but if you’re a bit of a meandering molly like me then there are other ways, and far gentler on the body. Walking is ace! Take a walk even if it’s just 15 minutes and around your neighbourhood. You’ll be amazed at the amount of wildlife you’ll discover too even if you live on a housing estate like me. Another great form of gentle exercise is swimming; it really tones the body and is rather meditative in a way. So choose gentle impact exercise for the body; you will tone up fast.
9. I suppose, for me at least, the ultimate nurturing thing I can do for my body is give it a massage. Only I live alone so it’s not that easy. Once a month I treat myself to a professional massage for an hour. It’s not that expensive and well worth the money I spend on it. Of course if you live with a partner you can massage each other’s bodies and what a wonderful way to reconnect with your partner.
I think the point I’m trying to get across in this post is to encourage us all to really spend a bit more time nurturing our bodies. After all they are the earthly vehicle of our spirits aren’t they? Those of you who drive, think about what you do for your cars – you MOT it, feed it the appropriate food (gas/petrol), wash it (I hope you do!). How could we do any less for our bodies? Yet in this fast-paced world it seems we spend less and less time really looking after our bodies and then wonder why they break down on us. So let’s all treat our beautiful bodies the way they deserve to be treated.
Nourishing Herbal Infusions by Rosalee de la Foret
Plant Healer Magazine: Volume 2; Issue 1
Today’s Herbal Health by Louise Tenney, M.H.