THE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

The laws of nature that govern our lives teach us how to flow with the currants of life, how to yield to change and adapt to the constant cycling of the seasons. Spring is a time of throwing off our heavy fur coats and woolen hats in order to be light and revel in the beauty of the abundant blossoms. Our lightness of being throughout summer depends on how many layers of clothing we have allowed to fall to the ground. Our sense of freedom, freshness and purity depends on how efficiently we have cleansed our temple; how comfortable we have become with our nakedness. To purge is to become purified. And purification is the rite of passage into a new phase of life. To be purified is to let go of burdens and worn out ways of being, dense thought patterns or toxic emotional responses. The laws of nature only let us pass through the gates into a new beginning, a place of new perspectives and inspiration, if we have let go of our burdensome load. And in letting go we find a lightness of being.

 

How do we let go of our burdensome load? We begin by detoxing the body; cleansing the home; purifying the temple. Our bodies have a vast capacity to metabolize or store toxins from our environment, from the air we breathe, to the water we drink and the food we eat. However, the more we burden our bodies with pollution the harder it is to feel light – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Conversely, the more we purify the body the more light we feel. The state of our physical bodies is intrinsically linked to our energy levels and our state of mind. Matter does not function in isolation; matter functions interchangeably with energy and is influenced by our consciousness. This is not a lofty idea it is a scientific fact. There are three fundamental factors that co-exist in our world and they are matter, energy and consciousness. It is the undeniable experience of our mind-body connection. Therefore, if we are very strong willed and know how to direct our will accurately and efficiently to let go of our mental and emotional burdens then that is great. However, unless we are able to spend hours a meditating to cultivate this skill then most of us will need to begin by shifting the matter of our physical burdens first.

 

Physical purification can be achieved with three key factors: food medicine, plant medicine and movement medicine.

 

A medicine is to take the appropriate measures for healing, or for transforming from a state of ill health to a state of health.

 

Health means to be whole.

 

Food Medicine – To purify the body we need to address everything that enters into the body. We generally eat three meals a day and consume infinite beverages in a day, this is a lot of potential medicine or poison that we need to address in order to lighten our physical burden. Begin with the basics: What is the first thing that enters your mouth? Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in warm water is a good place to start. Do you make your own meals or do you eat out? Are you buying organic produce? Do you drink more than one coffee a day? Are you keeping hydrated with pure water throughout the day? Keep it simple. Focus on pure water and fresh organic wholefoods. If you know that wheat, or dairy, or caffeine, or sugar do not sit well in your stomach then cease to allow these foods into your body. Try it for three weeks, let go of anything superfluous in your diet, trusting that you will survive without it. Surprise yourself with your innate willpower and give yourself the opportunity to experience the freedom of simplicity.

 

Plant Medicine – To purify the body we need a little extra help from our medicinal plant friends. Not surprisingly, many of them are categorised as depuratives, which cleanse the blood. There are also plant medicines known as hepatics, which support the capacity of the liver to detoxify the blood. Why do we need to cleanse and detoxify the blood? Our blood is the source of life for every cell of the body, carrying nutrients to and carrying waste materials from every cell. If our toxic load is heavy then our blood will be recirculating waste materials to every cell; our muscles, our brain, our lungs, our bones, our whole body becomes dull and heavy. By supporting blood cleansing we are increasing the efficiency of our body to eliminate toxins, therefore lightening the load and enabling our blood to be rich with life giving nutrients. By cleansing and detoxifying the blood we become physically lighter and brighter, and every cell of the body can function better.

 

Movement Medicine – To purify the body we need support the flow of movement so that the toxins move out and pure nutrients move in. We do this naturally with food and plant medicine but we make this process more efficient with physical movement. Light exercise, such as walking, qi gong, tai chi or yoga asana, drives the flow of the blood and the lymphatic system, which is the waste removal system of the body. The structure of a lymph vessel is much like a vein because its role is to move fluid counter to the force of gravity and it does not have the heart as a pump. Lymph vessels contain valves much like veins to prevent backflow, as well as smooth muscles surrounding the vessel to aid in the upward movement, this is why light exercise and light massive enhance lymphatic clearance. Waste material that have been collected by the lymph vessels will be sent through the bloodstream to the renal arteries that enter the kidneys to be filtered and excreted via urine. An excellent reason to keep hydrated with pure water.

 

The on-flow affect of purifying the body is that we intrinsically begin to purify the mind, by cleansing the blood and lightening the physical load, our minds become freer to find new ways of perceiving. We find a lightness in our footsteps, a lightness in our hearts and a lightness in our minds.

 

Wherever there is light there is consciousness ~ Samael Aun Weor

 …

 

The following are some of our favourite DEPURATIVE medicinal plants…

DEPURATIVE: A substance that cleanses and purifies

[Purification: Freedom from pollution]

 

RED CLOVER Trifolium pratense

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KAWAKAWA leaves Macropiper excelsum

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CALENDULA flowers Calendula officinalis

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BURDOCK root Arctium lappa

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GLOBE ARTICHOKE Cynara scolymus

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WORMWOOD Artemisia absinthium

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ECHINACEA root Echinacea angustifolia

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NETTLE Urtica dioica

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SCHISANDRA berries Schisandra chinensis

 

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DANDELION root Taraxacum officinale

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CLEAVERS leaves Galium aparine

 

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NASTURTIUM flowers & leaves Tropaeolum majus

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Ask us at Wellington Apothecary or your local herbalist for more information on what herbs will be suited to your unique depurative needs.

 

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The Forager

Becoming a forager for wild edible plants is to return to the most natural way of gathering food. It just feels right. And is incomparable to collecting food from a supermarket shelf. Of course we need to be cautious, we need to know the difference between the berries that are delicious and the berries that are poisonous. The key is in plant identification, getting to know our wild plants, and getting to know our own bodies. The following blog shares the most important guidelines for foraging, the reasons why you would forage wild edible plants, and some easily identifiable plants to get you started.

 

It is easy to become interested in foraging food because it is such a joyous thing to do and because sometimes buying food is a loathsome chore, unless you are blessed with a local farmers food market. Even if you grow your own, have you ever wondered how your garden would look if those pesky weeds could stick around and become part of your food source? Once you start foraging you will never look at a rogue plant like a foreign invader ever again! From a herbalists perspective, and the perspective of anyone who likes to have an all-inclusive philosophy, everyone and everything is valuable in its own unique way.

 

Why is it that we have ‘Weed Killer’ adverts around that target our beloved medicinal herbs like Dandelion? Dandelion is full of nutrients that are scarcely anywhere else in the diet, with minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, silica and iron. The leaves are a diuretic that relieve fluid retention and the root remove toxins out of the body by supporting the liver and bowel function. All of our wild leafy edible greens are full of nutrients that cleanse and nourish the blood. Cleavers, chickweed, dock, fennel, nasturtium, plantain, purslane, red clover, sorrell and even thistle are some of the medicinal greens you can find when you are out foraging.

 

I am not convinced that we could completely survive off wild edible greens alone, some of them are very potent and bitter, which means they are potent medicinal plants that simply cannot be eaten in large quantities without feeling a little nauseous! However, they are the best green supplement to our otherwise wholefood diets because they have not been picked by someone else days ago from who knows where, they are as fresh as can be and therefore will be highest in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that plays such a prolific and important role in our bodies. We know it best for strengthening our immune system to make us resilient to colds and flu but it does so much more all throughout the body. It is essential for the strengthen and flexibility of our connective tissue collagen – skin, tendons, ligaments, fascia. And it is also a generous antioxidant which means that it deactivates any oxidative molecules from air pollution, pesticides and herbicides, heavy metals, hydrogenated fats and any other toxic substances from our food, air and water before it has a chance to damage your precious body.

 

Wild edible foods are not limited to leafy greens, although these are the most common, there are also wonderful fruits, berries and flowers. The fruit in the featured image above is from the Monstera deliciosa plant that is becoming wildly popular as a domestic house plant. When left to grow in the wild outdoors is grows into a monstrous size and produces magnificent ‘fruit salad’ cone fruits that taste like a delicious blend of pineapple, guava and banana!

 

Flowers are delightful to collect and add into salads, or on top of baking, or into ice cubes, providing anthocyanins that are flavonoid antioxidants. Again, protecting your precious body from oxidative damage. The most common are nasturtium, borage, rosemary, calendula and pansy, but there are many others. There are also many wild berries, commonly blackberries and raspberries, around although you need to be very cautious about where you are foraging to be sure that these plants have not been sprayed with weed killer. And this brings me to the key guidelines for foraging:

  1. If you don’t know what it is don’t eat it… Learn to identify plants that are edible and plants that are poisonous.
  2. Know plants at different growth stages… Plants can change their look and nutrient profile at different phases of growth.
  3. Know the natural habitat of plants… If it looks familiar but is growing in a strange place then be cautious.
  4. Make sure the plants you harvest are not sprayed or from contaminated soil… Check around the area for dead or dying patches, or or other animal life or excrement.
  5. Sample new edibles in small amounts… A sample as small as half the size of your little finger nail is enough to chew on and notice any sensations that might indicate that it is poisonous. Know your body. If it takes extremely bitter, if you salivate profusely and if you feel scratchy in the back of your throat then spit it out, that plant is poisonous.
  6. Get permission from land owners before foraging… Say no more.
  7. Don’t forage mushrooms unless you are with an expert… Fungi identification needs a specialist and fungi are not specimens to frivolously throw into the fry pan because they can easily be fatal.
  8. Respect the plants… Is the plant robust, healthy and abundant? Ask for permission. Only take enough for what you need and no more. Give thanks.

 

This information has come from years of curiosity and personal experimentation but more recently from a workshop I attended with Julia Sich who is a fellow wise woman. Julia has an amazing suburban backyard absolutely packed with wild edible weeds, cultivated fruit trees and vegetables, as well as a few beehives. For more information check out Julia’s website: juliasedibleweeds.com OR if you would like her to come to Wellington to host a workshop then send us an expression of interest to info@wellingtonapothecary.co.nz with the subject ‘Forager’.

 

I know that there are many areas in Wellington with nasturtium, rosemary and fennel growing wild like weeds. I am sure we could all find some dandelion growing in our backyards. And spring is the most magical time to be collecting the abundant blossoms. Simply check the guidelines and go for it!

 

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

We begin Maori Language Week by honouring Maori philosophy, values and traditions as the foundations for holistic health and wellbeing in Aotearoa. From the beginning of time life was created with the word, the breath of life, the vital essence that we all share in common. That essence is Mauri. We live it, breathe it, create it and share it with every word. Such is the power of language… Tihei Mauriora!

 

 

‘Indeed, if human language arises from the perceptual interplay between the body and the world, then this language “belongs” to the animate landscape as much as it “belongs” to ourselves.’

David Abram ~ The Spell of the Sensuous

 

 

There was a time, not so long ago, that the Maori language was not only not taught in schools but was prohibited from begin spoken at all. When your means of communication, expression and connection are taken away from you how can you make sense of your world? How can you navigate in a world that does not belong to you, nor you belong to it? How can you remember where you came from and know who you are becoming? If we are to honour Aotearoa and inherit all of her beauty, abundance and majesty then we need to tread lightly on this land. And yet, not tread lightly on the sacred customs. We need to take the time to listen to the sacred spirit of Te Reo Maori that is woven throughout the song of the tui, the crash of the waves and the howl of the wind. Simply claiming to be a bi-lingual nation in theory is not enough. Simply knowing a few nouns is not enough to understand the complexity of meaning behind a whole language. We take it for granted the power of language, we may have lost the art of speech, the sacredness of the word, the healing quality of the voice, but te reo Maori has kept this magic alive. Words are used wisely and with respect because words have great power. Words are used to remember the sacredness of life. Words are used with purpose, to fill a space and create a timelessness. Words are used to connect. By reuniting with the language of this land we can remember that the space between us is not empty but is a conduit for the very real vibration of our voices to flow to and from each other. And with this remembrance, our language, our vocabulary, connects us irrevocably.

 

The purpose of sharing even a little of our understanding and experience of Tikanga Maori is “to enlighten people so that they do not tread lightly the sacred customs of our people… nor remain in ignorance of our cultural heritage… and above all the sacred value and purpose of the individual person in the scheme of life.”

Pā Henare Tate ~ Tikanga Whakaaro by Cleve Barlow

 

VALUES

Rongoā mo te Iwi

Plant medicine for the people

 

Whanaungatanga

Strong relationships are built from shared experiences and a sense of belonging

 

Manaakitanga

Nurture, respect and be generous to one another

 

Kaitautoko

Advocate and support the voice of those who are not heard

 

Ako

Everyone brings knowledge, you are both a learner and an educator

 

Tohunga Mahi Toi

Practice and aspire to be masters of our craft

 

 

MEIHANA

Meihana is the Maori translation of the name Mason, it is also the occupational name of someone who prepares stone in order to build with it. The Te Whare Tapa Wha foundation of Maori health first constructed by Mason Durie in 1984. This concept of Maori health includes the first four foundations of Wairua, Tinana, Hinengaro and Whanau. The Meihana model has been developed further where the last two of the six following principles was added. Taiao and Iwi Katoa were added so that the understanding of Maori health was not isolated within the Maori worldview but acknowledged the influence of the physical environment and the impact of the wider social structures. Meihana is a model of the interconnected dimensions influencing wellbeing, acknowledges all aspects of life. It is a truly holistic model that we could all learn from and allow it to guide the way we navigate the choices we make for our own health and wellbeing. Beyond our individuality, we understand how everyone and everything impacts our health and wellbeing. And therefore, if we are to take interest in our own health then we must also consider the health of everyone and everything else.

 

Whanau

Social wellbeing and support networks

 

Wairua

Spiritual values, beliefs and connections

 

Tinana

Physical wellbeing of individual and whanau

 

Hinengaro

Mental and emotional wellbeing congruent with cultural context

 

Taiao

Physical environment is conducive to healing and wellbeing

 

Iwi Katoa

Social structures are conducive to healing and wellbeing

 

RONGOA

“it is a toanga (treasure), it is immersed in tapu (sacredness) because it is the key to mauri, the gift of life” – Rob McGowan.

Rongoa, Maori medicine, is grounded in the knowledge that the wairua and the physical body are joined by the mauri. MAURI is the life-essence, the power that gives everything a unique and sacred quality. Therefore, when we acknowledge the mauri of a person, we are affirming the uniqueness and sacredness of their spirit and body. And this is an essential step on the path to healing. Rongoa treatment involves balancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing with the use of native herbal remedies (infusions, essences, poultices or baths), mirimiri and romiromi (body alignment and deep tissue massage) and karakia (prayers and incantations). According to Rob McGowan, one of the foremost authorities on rongoa Maori, the key aspect to restoring health is by reconnecting with ones ancestors, genealogy and whakapapa, through stories… Restoring mana and a sense of self-worth. He affirms that health is “the whole of you and how you relate to the world around you.”

 

 

Plant medicine is utilised in the healing of the physical body, the plants of Aotearoa naturally have very strong anti-microbial, antiseptic and healing qualities and constituents. However, it must also be known that plants are not simply used as a physical substance to heal the body, they are also known as allies that help to store the whole wellbeing of a person, a family or community. Engaging in healing and harmonizing all aspects of physical and non-physical reality. The following are some of our revered Aotearoa medicinal plants:

 

KAWAKAWA is a pungent peppery plant that is used to cleanse the blood and stimulate the circulation. Its essence is to encourage a leap of faith, to accept the next adventure and move on with courage.

 

MANUKA is an antimicrobial bittersweet plant that is used to enhance the digestive system and heal skin conditions. In its essence it purifies the mind and body of intense negative emotions or inflammation and encourages self-regeneration.

 

KANUKA is a softer, mild cousin of Manuka, however that has more anti-viral properties for the body. For the mind it restores inner vitality and encourages spontaneous self-expression.

 

HOHERIA is a sweet, soothing and calming demulcent plant that eases digestive pain and discomfort. Its essence is calming and consolidating, easing overwhelm, and instead allowing an openness and fearlessness.

 

TOTARA is a brilliant red and brilliantly bitter plant that strengthens the digestive system and particularly restores the health of gums. Its essence is to restore inner power, whether the bully or the victim, both stem from a power imbalance. Totara restores the strength of will and encourages a positive self-image.

 

For more information on the holistic healing qualities of plants talk to one of our herbalists at Wellington Apothecary or find out more about the concepts in this article from the references below.

 

 

“AIO Wairua, ka nui te aroha mo koutou nga Atua Kotahi ke,
te arahi i ahau ki roto i aku hikoitanga.
Ko te Kuranui! Tihei mauriora!”

Dr. Rangimarie Turuki Arikirangi Rose Pere ~

Guardian of the First Light Flower Essences of New Zealand

Author of Te Wheke Maori Health Model

Tohuna Tipua Sower of the Sacred Seeds of Knowledge

A Great Grandmother and Revered Elder

An upholder of Peace, Love, Joy, Truth and Oneness

 

 

REFERENCES

Cleve Barlow, Tikanga Whakaaro

David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

First Light:

http://www.firstlightfloweressences.co.nz/essences/flower-essences-1-36.html

Meihana Model:

http://www.psychology.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/Pitamaetal_NZJP36-3_pg118.pdf

Te Wheke:

https://aoakogloballearning.co.nz/te-wheke/

 

Becoming the Sage

The Sage is the wise one within us. The Sage is the quiet, subtle and patient part of us that sits and waits to be seen. We are both the Seer (the see-er) and the Sage.  We seek to understand the world around us and we find our insight and wisdom from the world within.

 

Sage is a medicinal herb of many names and many faces, many qualities and many medicinal properties. Sage can be the most common plant in our garden, or it can be the most mysterious esoteric herb that takes a lifetime to know. Sage is one of those herbs that is valuable to most people, for most ailments, and it would be wise to have Sage in your apothecary if nothing else.

 

Salvia, the botanical name of Sage, stems from the meaning of salvation, to save or be saved. Its name suggests its potency and value as a medicinal herb, Salvia officinalis is a strong antimicrobial with a particular affinity for the throat, mouth and gums. It is a key medicinal herb for an inflamed sore throat and tonsils, mouth ulcers or bleeding gums. And because it is so strong it is best blended with a soothing demulcent herb such as marshmallow root or licorice root.

Along with its cousin Thyme, it makes an essential winter tonic for the colder months when we are exposed to viruses and do not get enough fresh dry air into the lungs. Sage strengthens the respiratory system with its warming, stimulating and antimicrobial properties.

Sage also strengthens and stimulates the digestive system, again with its warming, stimulating and anti-microbial properties. Its aromatic flavour and antioxidant properties make it a powerful herbaceous seasoning that will enliven cooked food and protect the body from any damaged nutrients that occurs in the process of frying.

Excessive perspiration can occur due to ones natural rate of metabolism, or it can be an acute occurrence due to a fever, or it can be caused by the dis-regulation of temperature in the body due to hormonal fluctuations, such as in menopause. Sage is the most well known herb to alleviate such fluctuations in temperature.

An emmenagogue is the action of a herb that brings about menstruation in those women where menstruation is slow or scanty, and therefore is a sign of a hormonal imbalance. Light periods may not be a problem, however when menstruation is frequently late in the cycle, as well as being very light, it can often be accompanied with low energy, low mood and a tendency to be cold. These symptoms can be associated with insufficient adrenal function (caused by excessive stress), nutrient deficiencies (caused by a poor diet or poor digestive function), or low thyroid function (caused by both of the above).

Sage strengthens and protects the entire body, giving us overall resilience in both our physical immunity and our emotional stamina.

 

There are many, many Salvia species, too many to mention here, however here are three that are worth knowing and growing for yourself…

Pineapple Sage, Salvia elegans, is a delightful fruity sage that brightens our spirits midwinter with almost fluorescent cerise coloured flowers. As its common name suggests, it smells and tastes of pineapple, and so makes a sweet and fragrant infusion for tea, or even better in a syrup. I like to add the flowers into the ice cube trays so that I get to experience their delight throughout summer too. As its botanical name suggests, Salvia elegans is a plant of elegance. The late philosopher Alan Watts describes the Japanese Zen term Fūryū as elegance in simplicity. Elegance, even a state of poverty. Meaning that one can withdraw from life’s burdens, free from false perceptions of permanence and stability, living with the simplest of needs and still radiate elegance. Even in midwinter, when most other plants are in hibernation mode, the Pineapple Sage requires no attention or tender loving care, and still it blooms. Fūryū is the modest yet elegant nature of Salvia elegans.

 

Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea, is a little more textured and a little more mysterious. The leaves of Clary Sage are larger and plumper, with toothed edges, a wrinkled surface and velvety hairs. The flowers range from pale blue, to violet, to white. The volatile oils of Clary Sage are extracted and used in aromatherapy for its deeply relaxing effect on the muscular and nervous systems, working as an anti-spasmodic to ease muscle cramps and a sedative to ease nervous tension. Clary Sage is earthy, herbaceous, musky and sweet. It has been used in the brewing of beer for its deep relaxing qualities, similar to hops, and has also been used to flavour tobacco. Within skincare Clary Sage is used to regulate sebum production for combination skin, also for scalp health where hair is greasy and yet the scalp is flaky. For the deeper levels of the mind, Clary Sage is balancing, strengthening for those who are fatigued and relaxing for those who are tense. More than this, Clary Sage is so tranquilizing that it allows the body and mind to relax to the point of opening up to deeper states of pleasure, creativity and clarity.

 

White Sage Salvia apiana is otherwise known as Sacred Sage, it has been used ritually within native American traditions for the purpose of clearing the air, cleansing a space or a persons energy from negativity, or creating boundaries between the sacred and the profane at the beginning and end of rituals. White Sage is still used for the same purposes today by anyone who wishes to cleanse a new home, bedroom or office before moving in, or for clearing ones own energy after having experienced a negative situation or ending an unhealthy relationship. You can find White Sage in the form of a smudge stick where it is bound up with string to form a wand shape, once it is lit of fire it gently smoulders away creating a fragrant herbaceous smoke. Along with all Salvia species, White Sage strengthen, preserves and conserves our energy. By the act of acknowledging endings and celebrating new beginnings, White Sage allows us to let go and move on, preventing our energy from dragging behind us as excess baggage.

 

As we can see, Sage cultivates the wise one within, from the depths to the surface, from the gross to the subtle, from the body to the spirit. Sage gives us insights into our innate resilience, elegance, clarity and sanctity. Allowing us to become the Sage that we were meant to be.

 

 

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As Above, So Below

As an ode to the nourishment and beauty of nature we are focusing on an issue that is jeopardizing this paradise that we call home… Plastic-free July is an important reminder of our daily plastic consumption and a time to gain further awareness around what we can do to support the regeneration of our earth.

‘As Above, So Below’ is an ancient alchemic saying from the mouth of the original alchemist Hermes Trismegistus, who is thought to be the living embodiment of the ancient Egyptian God Thoth. These words, ‘as above, so below’, are related to the philosophy of holism. What we commonly perceive as dualistic in nature, such as the sun and moon, masculine and feminine, heaven and hell, are not separate things but together create a whole. Sun and moon create one whole cycle of a day. Masculine and feminine create one whole spectrum of mental and emotional qualities. Heaven and hell create one whole experience of the vicissitudes of life. With this in mind we not only come to perceive the body in its wholeness, rather than separate mechanical parts, but we also come to perceive that our external environment influences our internal environment. To further our understanding of As Above, So Below, we could say, As Outside, So Inside.

Our external environment is a reflection of our internal environment. In fact, every moment of our lives we are perceiving the external environment unconsciously via the hypothalamus in the center of the brain. From this perception and evaluation the master endocrine glands, pituitary and pineal, communicate with the rest of body in order to respond to and synchronise with the external environment. Our skin separates us from the external environment, creating a boundary between ourselves and everything else. However, this boundary is permeable. We all know that we absorb whatever we put on our skin but we also absorb whatever pollutants are in the atmosphere. More obviously, we absorb whatever we eat as the natural process of digestion, but we also absorb whatever pollutants are in our food. It is worth considering how much our consumption of plastic in our daily lives – from plastic bags, coffee cup lids, bottled coconut water or plastic wrapped super-foods, skincare bottles and jars – literally leads to the consumption of plastic through the air we breathe and the foods we eat.

Plastic is a crucial issue for our internal health and the health of our external environment. Here are three simple facts to remind us of why we need to have a vigilant  focus on this issue such as with Plastic-Free July:

40 percent of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then discarded.

Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.

Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

Sea creatures are consuming plastic as a source of food, such as the whale that died on the shores of Thailand in June this year because it had consumed 80 plastic bags! This is a crude example and a rude awakening but what about all of the micro particles of plastic in the ocean that we cannot see? Plastic has become an unavoidable food source for every sea dwelling creature, and if we consume sea creatures then it is an unavoidable food source for us too. Even if we do not consume creatures of the sea we certainly consume foods that are heavily packaged in plastic, and we know that plastic particles leach into the food or liquid that it is in contact with. We drink water that is contaminated with micro-plastic fragments, there are also micro-plastic particles in the air we breath.

As above, so below…

What is plastic doing to us physiologically? There is a lot of research going into this matter, and although there is a lot more to investigate, there are insights into how particular constituents in plastic effect the endocrine and immune systems. This is commonly associated with female and male hormonal imbalances, obesity, allergies, and inflammatory conditions. The most commonly studied chemical constituent of plastic is BPA (bispherol-A), and so now we have access to BPA-free products such as drinking bottles. This has been a good way of bringing plastic toxicity awareness to the public, however, lets not be fooled by another product that claims to be better for our health, when in fact these products are still plastic! Where do you think these new BPA-products will end up in 5 years time? Most likely in the ocean with all the other plastics that take hundreds of years to decompose.

Now that we are gaining a clearer perspective of how our world full of plastic is effecting our internal and external environments, what can we do about it? Who is responsible? Companies who produce plastic? Yes, however it is not within a companies interest to stop producing a product that is the main source of its income. Who is a company anyway? A company is not a person, not a human being with thoughts, emotions and morals. Although perhaps it should be, because after all a company is not an entity in itself but a production run by human beings. We cannot rely on companies to change the way we consume, only we can change the way we consume. The responsibility is with us, the people. You, and I, and us.

The more we learn about the destructive realities in the world the more we tend to become numb or dis-empowered, because after all, how much of a difference can I make on my own? Well, I am one voice that is in unison with hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands of others who share the attitude of hope. Hundreds of thousands of us are reclaiming our power to change the world by the choices that we make. And it is not about being a raging activist. You do not need to go picketing outside your parliament doors to make effective changes in the world (although you absolutely can). It is also not about persecuting others for not knowing what they do, we all consume plastic in varying degrees whether we choose to admit it or not. We are all in this together. Reclaiming our power to create meaningful change in the world first requires that we bring our attention to our own daily choices, habits and even attitudes.

Choice. It can be as simple as using your purchasing power to support local companies and businesses that are actively seeking to adopt more sustainable practises that are not reliant on plastic.

Habit. It can be as easy as using a glass or ceramic up for your takeaway coffee, or taking a cotton bag with you to collect your groceries. More than this, it can be as easy as buying bulk nuts, grains, cereals, seeds, beans, peas and dried fruit in brown paper bags to avoid all the small and excessive plastic packaging.

Attitude. It can be as humble as acknowledging that perhaps we do not need all of the things and stuff that mainstream social media and advertising train us to believe. If we each purchased one less plastic thing a month I wonder what impact this would have on the landfill and the ocean?

Becoming a witness to the destruction we see in the world does not need to be paralysing, it can be an opportunity to reconnect with the natural world. It can be an opportunity to claim your right to be a powerful co-creator in the future of our world. It can be an opportunity to make effective changes to the health of the external environment. And in doing so it becomes an opportunity to realise that you can make effective changes to the health of your internal environment. You can transcend the all to common doom and gloom that we witness in the world by remembering that we live in a world that is becoming more and more connected. The gap in social and environmental relations that led to the destruction we see today is becoming smaller and smaller. We live in a very exciting time where we are beginning to remember our interdependence with the natural world. And I, for one, am hopeful.

 

 

Here are a few reference sites for your perusal…

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/05/plastics-facts-infographics-ocean-pollution/

https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/03/whale-dies-from-eating-more-than-80-plastic-bags

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(17)30121-3/fulltext

http://iciscenter.org/plastics-and-their-impacts-on-human-health/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2713042/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299092/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2901120/

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/05/plastics-facts-infographics-ocean-pollution/

https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/03/whale-dies-from-eating-more-than-80-plastic-bags

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/28/teabags-plastic-free-co-op-eco-friendly

Vetiver Days

Vetiver days and velvet nights

Layers of wool and glowing lights

Candle gazing and spicy mulled wine

Orange blossom, lemon myrtle and thyme

These winter rituals restore our flesh and bones

Sustain our spirits and guide us back home

Vetiver essential oil comes from the fibrous roots of a tall, tufted grass native to India. It is a rich viscous oil with an earthy, woody, and smoky yet sweet scent. Vetiver is known for its deeply grounding and restorative effects on the nervous and endocrine systems. We have always adored this scent and have created a few gems with it over the years, one is our Vetiver Perfume Oil, blended with the uplifting citrus essential oils of neroli (orange blossom) and bergamot.  Another is our newest creations Vetiver Face Cream, we have been working on perfecting this recipe for over a year! Here is the link… http://www.wellingtonapothecary.co.nz/store/p369/Vetiver_Regenerating_Face_Cream_50mL.html

A time of restoration. The human body is a part of nature, not separate from it, therefore you function optimally when you are aligned with natural seasonal cycles. Your moods, hormone production and energy levels are directly influenced by the external environment. For example, the changes of light perceived by the eyes, whether by sunlight or artificial light, will influence how well you sleep. The body thrives best when allowed the space and time to rest. On a daily basis this means aligning ourselves with the the rise and fall of the sun so that we will enough melatonin to sleep. When we look further into natural cycles we could align ourselves with the the rise and fall of the moon, allowing one week a month to let go of normal routine. Take the pressure off and give ourselves a break from the persistent list of things to do. On a yearly cycle we could align ourselves with the seasons, planning our time so that we are able to use the natural energy of the sun in the warmer seasons to start new projects. And respectively plan our time so that we are able to slow down the pace of work, or the type of work we do, and take a more introspective indoors approach to life in the colder seasons.

Winter, the coldest and the darkest season, gives us a good reason to internalise.

A time to go inside. Find a retreat within yourself, within your body and mind, and take rest here. Once you have given yourself permission to take rest, then you might look around and discover that your internal world needs a bit of a spring clean, perhaps you have been hoarding old concepts and beliefs since you were a child, and even though they were relevant at that time they are now just blocking the sunlight shining in through the windows of your mind. Then once you have let those go you might decide to clean the windows, light the fire and take a seat. And then, once you have taken the time to simply sit in this space within your internal world you might find that what you thought was empty space is now a place of infinite wisdom. Your internal world can be a place where you can come to find the answers to your questions, or a place where you can come to find peace at not knowing all of the answers. Journalling can become a valuable practise to enhance this internalising process, having the thoughts on the page and out of the head creates wonderful clarity. And you may even discover the talented, quirky and highly perceptive parts of yourself that have been burdened by daily doses of junk and drama.

 

Trataka is a yogic meditation technique that is to gaze at a single point to train the body and mind into focused attention. The most common is Candle Gazing, staring into the core of the flame of a candle within a dark room will not only enhance your ability to focus but also help to strengthen your eyesight. The purpose of this practise is to train the mind to focus on a single point so that you are more capable of sitting in stillness, meditating without the mind hopping from thought to thought. However, naturally, the mind will hop from thought to thought, but it is the spaces in between the thoughts that Trakaka aims to enhance. It is in these spaces that one can experience a level of consciousness that is beyond the chit chatter of the mind. It is a simple practise, all you need is a candle and 10-30 minutes of time. In the night time or pre-dawn hours of the morning, find a comfortable seated position, one where you will not be distracted. Close the curtains, light the candle and turn off the lights. Gaze at the candle for 2-3 minutes, with a steady and relaxed gaze try not to blink, if your eyes start to sting then go ahead and blink, the main thing is not to strain. After 2-3 minutes close the eyes and you will see that the image of the candle has been impressed upon your mind, focus on this image with your eyes closed. If the image starts to shift away from the center of your focus then bring it back to the center of your internal gaze.  When the image starts to disappear then open the eyes and gaze at the candle flame for another few minutes. Continue candle gazing for a minimum of ten minutes, once you have finished then simply spent a few moments focusing your awareness on your breath before setting a heartfelt intention for your sleep, or the day ahead.

Lemon Myrtle, Backhousia citriodora, is a member of the Myrtaceae family along with eucaplyptus, teatree, manuka, kanuka, clove, pohutukawa and feijoa. It has an intensely invigorating lemony herbaceous flavour and is an excellent tonic for the digestive system. We already know how potent the members of the Myrtle family are for their anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-septic qualities, Lemon Myrtle also acts as a decongestant which makes it excellent for respiratory congestion such as with coughs and colds. Another lesser known quality of Lemon Myrtle is that it is deeply restorative for the nervous system, it both calms and invigorates the mind, making it an excellent strengthening winter elixir. At Wellington Apothecary we have created a blend of Lemon Myrtle, Lemon Balm & Manuka as a loose leaf herbal tea for the purpose of calming and strengthening digestion and the mind at the same time. We call it ‘Rest and Digest’ because we know how important it is to take the time to slow down, switch out of the sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight or flight’ mode) and into the para-sympathetic nervous system (the ‘rest and digest’ mode) in order to be calm and digest food well. When we live in the mode of ‘rest and digest’ we allow the innate intelligence of the body a period of restoration, which in turn sustains our spirits. And opens a gateway for us to reconnect with this infinitely forgiving organism…

This body that we call home.

 

ASHRAM YOGA

Many years ago I was recommended by my yoga teacher to go to Ashram Yoga Retreat to have my own teacher training experience. At the time I was flattered to think that anyone could see the potential in me to become a yoga teacher, even though it seemed like something I would love to do. I brushed it off as unrealistic, and carried on my merry journey… Which lead me to the co-creation of Wellington Apothecary.

 

With a whole lot of new adventures to be had and lessons to be learned I had virtually forgotten about the yoga retreat, but I could still feel that the little seed that had been planted many years ago had grown into a delicate yet vital seedling. And this year I decided it was about time that I took notice of this seedling and started nurturing it. After all, I had been practicing yoga myself for a long time and felt ready to take my experience further and deeper into the rabbit hole.

 

I had spent many childhood holidays in and around the Coromandel region but I had never been to Opoutere before. On the way to Whangamata but not quite, the turn off takes you to a long gravel road, and further down the road is a long gravel driveway, the driveway to Ashram Yoga Retreat. A deeply traditional and also refreshingly unconventional place of experiential learning, where the rubbish bins at the end of the driveway are painted with naked ladies so that the rubbish men will stop throwing them around and instead stack them neatly with respect. How is that for ingenious psychological persuasion.

 

There is nothing that the people living at the ashram do not know about the psyche. The mind can be our dearest friend or our worst enemy, and it is through the practice of yoga that we can learn to use the mind in order to evolve, move through perceptual limitations and experience stillness amidst chaos.

 

Contrary to popular notions, yoga postures, or asanas as they are known in Sanskrit, are only preliminary practices. Within a traditional yoga practice asanas are the way to condition the body to be free of aches and pains in order to be able to sit in stillness, and therefore engage in a meditation practice. And what happens when you are able to sustain a regular meditation practice? You have the opportunity to observe your thoughts, and once you are able to observe your thoughts you are able to stop identifying with them, which means you can stop reacting to every little thing that is going on around you, and instead create some space in your mind for stillness… Perhaps even peace.

 

Of course, I am not saying that meditation is the be all and end all of our yoga practice, but it is needs to be acknowledged as an integral part of yoga. Yoga postures themselves affect the mind tremendously, because we know that the body and mind are intrinsically linked, perhaps even one and the same thing. You only need to simply ask yourself, how do you feel in your mind at the end of a yoga class?

 

My experience at the ashram not only blew my mind wide open about what yoga is and isn’t (this is a trick – yoga is everything), but it has also blown my mind open about how to best live a human life. Yoga practices can positively influence everything we do, and the way we perceive everything, if we choose to let it. What do I mean by this? Can we be satisfied with that feeling of peace for only the hour or so a day, or a week that we go to a yoga class? What happens when we go back home or back to work only to be faced with the same challenges that trigger the mind to go on chattering away with the same old stories?

 

We have all heard about mindfulness and how good it is for us, but how do we practice it? With AWARENESS. Being aware of what we are thinking while we are doing, and by knowing how to come back to this state of awareness when we realise we have drifted off on autopilot. And how do we become aware? The simplest and most powerful tool is free and is with us every moment of our lives, the breath. Remembering to come back to the breath.

 

The breath connects the mind to the body and the body to the mind, and has the power to transform old, stale, worn-out thought patterns into new benevolent thought patterns… Or no thought patterns at all! You know that feeling we come to every now and then when we find ourselves in the zone, totally at one with whatever it is we are doing, well we can come to this place even when doing the most mundane chores like doing the dishes.

 

Within the yogic realm breathing exercises are called pranayama and there are many to choose from should you want to alter your mind or your mood. The simplest is the ‘Yogic Breath’, which is inhaling deep in the belly and then the chest, expanding the diaphragm, and then exhaling completely, contracting the diaphragm. Once you do this a few times and you feel the influx of oxygen into your body, you may even like to try pausing, just for a moment at the top of the inhale and at the end of the exhale. It is in these pauses that you may find stillness while the body fully absorbs oxygen and fully releases carbon dioxide. It is a deeply restorative and rejuvenating practice.

Pranayama is just one of the many tools that I learnt at the ashram, although possibly the most essential. There are many other valuable practices to be experimented with such as neti pot, lagoo, kirtan, Sanskrit chanting, karma yoga, nidra vidya, candle gazing and not to mention the many amazing postures themselves… Of which Khandarasana (aka bridge pose) was a general favourite. I recommend doing your own research and experimenting for yourself, there is so much to learn!!

 

All in all my experience at the ashram was both deeply challenging and deeply rewarding. And what is not to be loved about delicious vegetarian food, philosophical chats, beautiful east coast beach walks, sunny skinny dips, daily guided relaxation sessions, bottomless herbal tea, full moon fire pits, waking at 5am to a starry sky, and the guidance of incredibly talented and inspiring teachers? I feel immense gratitude for the support that enabled me to have this experience and for having access to these incredibly valuable life tools… I look forward to sharing what I have learnt with all of you!