Why Meditate?

By Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Despite our best efforts, most things in life are beyond our control. If we depend on the the world outside of ourselves to comfort us from our personal sorrows, anxieties, fears, and boredom we will not live a very pleasant life.  Meditation is a tool that allows you to take responsibility for your own state of mind and to change how your mind effects your experience of life.

Commonly people think of meditation as something that you are either good at or not. Many people will say they can’t meditate because their mind is too active. However, meditation is not achieving a completely quiet mind, but the practice of noticing the active mind and learning to not take it seriously. The mind can be compared to the weather. The weather is always changing and we do not expect it to stay the same.  Meditation can teach you to watch your mind like you do the changing weather patterns.  Your mind will continue to change from thought to thought, but you can practice staying unaffected by its weather. 

The practice of watching the mind is not unfamiliar to any of us.  For example…. you have the thought while you are working that you wish you were outside hiking.  Generally there will be a feeling of longing for that hike and wishing you could do it right now. Then the thought passes and you move onto the next thought.  The thought of hiking and not being able to do it did does not have to ruin your work day….it simply came up and left, just like the clouds passing.  Meditation helps give us breathing room in our mind. It is a kind of climate control for keeping your well being running at 75 degrees, allowing for space between the thoughts so you do not lose yourself in one of the passing clouds and spend the day or years in a stuck thought pattern.

Meditation practices are techniques that help you develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calmer vision of the nature of life.  Just as we do not expect to be in great physical shape without regular exercise, we cannot expect to have a quieter mind if we do not meditate.  Meditation is an essential practice to help you manage the ups and downs of life.  During the easier times, we will be able to enjoy more of the peace and gratitude of life and during the more challenging times, meditation allows you to breathe deeper into the suffering without losing yourself into a unpleasant thought pattern.

Meditation offers many health benefits and research shows it can be helpful for the following conditions;

• Anxiety

• Asthma

• Cancer

• Chronic pain

• Depression

• Heart disease

• High blood pressure

• Irritable bowel syndrome

• Sleep problems

• Tension headaches

Most meditation techniques include focusing your attention and relaxing your breath and body. There are many different meditation practices. Finding the one that you enjoy and are able to be consistent with is the goal.  Commonly practiced forms of meditation include: guided imagery, sitting meditation, yoga, dancing, qigong, and tai-chi.

I have personally found meditation to be one of the most important things in my life.  I feel like having a regular meditation practice allows me to be a more resilient human. It gives me an anchor in the storminess of world events, personal growth, and relationships, allowing me to keep an open-heart while living in uneasy times.

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How meditation may change the brain

How many of you have tried meditating, and find yourself trying to quiet your mind only to hear a little voice tell you that this is a waste of time?  A recent article in the NY Times suggests that meditation actually causes positive changes in the structure of the brain, increasing grey matter in the area of the brain related to learning and memory, and reducing grey matter in the area related to stress and anxiety.  Here is a link to that article:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/how-meditation-may-change-the-brain/?src=me&ref=general

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Health benefits of fermented Tea

 

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Fermented Foods and drinks are rich sources of probiotics…beneficial bacteria for humans.Our digestive tract’s ecological community contains more than 1,000 types of bacteria. Fermented foods help with nutrient and vitamin absorption, the breakdown of proteins, boosting immunity, detoxification, alkalizing our PH, and restoring balance to our homeostasis.

Consuming fermented foods is somewhat like consuming predigested food, our bodies do less work for more nutritional gain.  Familiar food ferments include; cheeses, yogurt, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and sauerkraut. In addition to fermented foods, we also have the medicinal category of fermented beverages: kombucha, vinegars(shrubs), wine, beer, cider, Jun, and many more.

Lets focus on the ever popular Kombucha(commonly fermented black tea and white sugar) and Jun(fermented green tea and raw honey). The perfect cold drink for a hot summer day in the Rogue Valley. Many people decide to try these fermented gems because they seek to alleviate various ailments.  However the way these drinks are able to help with ailments is not by curing diseases, but rather, by optimizing the bodies ability to run it’s immune system and physiological functions more efficiently.  Stress specifically is one of the most detrimental factors to our health and fermented teas can help us mitigate the effects of stress on our bodies.

These ferments are considered adaptogens. Adaptogens normalize the bodies ability to deal with stress. They are a good source of anti-oxidants, helping us to eliminate the free radicals generated by stress, while providing protection for our liver by reducing cravings for sugar and alcohol.  Kombucha and Jun support healthy digestion by increasing the acidity in the gut. Gut acidity eases digestion and absorption of nutrients, thus reducing symptoms of bloating and irritable bowel.

These ferments also contain bio-available  B and C vitamins…meaning the vitamins are in a form the the body can easily recognize and absorb(in contrast to many vitamin pills).The B vitamins help to stabilize the mood and improve concentration, while the C vitamin suppresses cortisol(stress hormone)levels, reducing the risk for hypertension and depression.

Kombucha is extremely popular,with good reason, for being such a healthy and tasty beverage. Finding locally made ferments is not hard in the Rogue Valley or you can try your hand at the “wall of Kombucha” in the grab and go sections of most groceries. For those of you who would like to try your hand at home-brew…..I can personally speak to the rewards of caring for these cultures and enjoying the benefits of home-brew. Whatever you relationship is with ferments, I encourage you to keep experimenting with adding a consistent variety of fermented goodies to your wellness plan.

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