Magic Mushrooms

Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms, psilocybin or psychedelic mushrooms, have been used in indigenous cultures for religious rituals, healing, and divinatory purposes for millennia.

Psilocybin is an hallucinogenic compound, the term ‘magic mushroom’ was formed when the effect of this mushroom was found to be like that of the recreational drug LSD. Though tested in the field of medicine for the potential benefits of mental health, psilocybin is currently not accepted for medical use, however some parts of America have legalised psilocybin assisted therapy.

But this is not the magic this blog is about!

The magic of our fabulous eating mushrooms is that they are a nutritional powerhouse, jam packed with nutrients and minerals, fat free, cholesterol free – and very low in calories.

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of fungi, so not technically either a plant or a vegetable. They are bursting with B vitamins, have moderate amounts of C, biotin, potassium, copper, selenium, fibre, protein, iron, zinc, and an antioxidant unique to mushrooms. They also contain a fair amount of vitamin D which is not usual in non-animal foods – and many have a high fibre content  that can improve digestive health – maybe that’s why mushrooms are termed the ‘vegetarian meat’.

All eating mushrooms are great sources of antioxidants.

Some mushrooms, such as the Shitake, have immune stimulating properties and are antibacterial and antiviral. Shitake mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes in China for centuries and have one of the highest amounts of natural copper, a mineral that supports healthy blood vessels, bones, and immune support.

The small white or common button mushroom has medicinal properties helping to lower cholesterol and improve gut health. It also has a range of bioactive compounds that benefit of our general health.

Porcini mushrooms come with many health benefits too. These meaty type mushrooms help to improve digestive health and reduce inflamation, and are loaded with iron and anitoxidants. Research on the anti inflamarotry aspect can be found below.*

Mushrooms have also been found to have an inhibiting effect on oestrogen which can lead to a reduction in the risk of breast cancer and Lentinan, a beta-glucan found in shitake mushrooms, has shown to have immune regulating and anti-tumour properties**

Medicinal mushroom is often produced in powders, perhaps the most common one is made from the Reishi mushroom. Reishi is part of a traditional Chinese medicinal herbal remedy taken for a healthy liver and immune function and is known for its calming properties. ***

Eating mushroom is good for your health and well-being.

Dried mushrooms rarely lose their effectiveness, even on the protein side just one ounce of a dried porcini mushroom contains 7 grams of protein. Dried mushrooms are like a condensed super healthy condiment. Use them often and variously, particularly in soups, casseroles and stews.

Use fresh mushrooms within one week (max),  and keep any mushrooms not used straight away in a dry paper bag left open in the fridge. Before use, wipe clean with a dry cloth rather than washing them in water as they absorb water and can become slimy. Mushrooms contain 80% + water so are not suitable for freezing.

When cooking, sautéing quickly over high heat, or simmering over low heat, such as in soups, are ideal cooking methods for preserving nutrients.

Fresh mushrooms such as – porcini, lions mane, chanterelle, oyster, button, shitake, enoki, portobello, morel etc – can be used in many recipes – wraps, pasta bakes, stir fry’s, omelettes, salads, pizzas, filled and grilled, plain and fresh, or gently heated in a little butter and served on toast. Yum!

Mushrooms are considered super foods, packed with nutritional goodies to help promote a healthy immune system and boost bone health. Chefs recognise their earthy, savory flavour enhancement as ‘Umami’.

Interestingly truffles are also classified as mushrooms but have signifcant differences, such as growing completely underground and having no stem, having a strong rather than mild flavour, having just a short gowing season, and often being unaffordable! Try them shaved on scrambled eggs for an indulgent breakfast or keep a few eggs in a plastic bag with some truffle in the fridge, the truffle will infuse flavour throught the shells.

Happy and healthy eating.

AL

Caution – be careful picking or accepting mushrooms grown in the ‘wild’, many contain toxins that are unsafe to eat and can cause hallucinations, vomiting, convulsions and potentially, insanity. In addition even edible mushrooms are unsafe if picked near industrial sites or train tracks etc as they may contain toxins or heavy metals. Always obtain mushrooms from a safe source. ‘If in doubt, leave it out’!

Try our Awareness of Senses meditation under Health and Well-Being meditations here

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5095342/

* *Ng, M. L., & Yap, A. T. (2002). Inhibition of human colon carcinoma development by lentinan from shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes). The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 8(5), 581-589.

***https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22207209/

 

 

Firm Focus, Soft Gaze

Firm Focus, Soft Gaze

Ways of developing a firm focus, and soft gaze.

In Vipassana meditation, we open ourselves in a wide awareness of senses, with a soft mental gaze that allows us to notice whatever is happening. If something catches our attention, we then turn toward whatever it is – thought, sound, sensation, emotion and, with gentle curiosity, investigate it.

With the soft gaze of vipassana meditation a special vulnerability and openness develops that facilitates insight, acceptance, and compassion.

In a meditation that has a firm focus, for example a specific focus on the breath or sounds, when something else catches our attention, we note/acknowledge it, then allow whatever it is to fall into the background of our attention, allowing our focus to remain firm on the chosen object.

A focused meditation helps develop resilience, fortitude, and builds a form of mental clarity.

Recently speaking to someone in the throes of fear, I wondered which way they would choose to go, softly opening to it, or acknowledging it and gently but firmly letting it go.

Both ways of working with fear, or whatever else arises, are open to us all the time, the trick is to start at the same point, acknowledgement of what is present in you.

In our busy everyday life if something has triggered a negative thinking pattern or emotional reaction, we are operating on autopilot or under the motivations of the amygdala.

But, if we can learn to be aware of when our thinking changes, or our emotions rise, the very act of noticing, of acknowledgement is enough to bring the pre frontal cortex into play allowing the ability to consciously think and choose which direction to go.

There are many books and meditations available to help develop both the clarity of firm focus and the insight of soft gaze, including how to navigate challenging emotions and re wire mental patterns as you begin to uncover your unique triggers and motivations.

Right now is always a good time to start – so why not check out our awareness and working with challenging emotions meditations  in Health and Well-Being.

AL

 

Self Compassion

Self Compassion

We are born into a social species, being cooperative and caring for others is hard wired into our DNA. So, it’s not surprising that when we see suffering, sometimes that suffering has caused compassion to rise in us for others. And when our hearts are touched by suffering, we often do what we can to alleviate it.

But what if it’s US that’s suffering?

And what if, because we are not aware of this suffering, we respond in an unthinking way with emotive feelings of guilt, frustration, self-criticism, anger, or sadness? or perhaps we ‘self-medicate’ with potential health threatening and destructive habits…

So how can we encourage compassion for ourselves?

Try this: when you become aware of those feelings and your habitual responses in thinking and acting out, pause, take a breath … question yourself – what’s happening here? What’s triggered this reaction?

Take some time and make space in yourself, by using a relaxation technique or simply focusing on the breath for a minute, to be open to whatever is going on.

This easy practice is available to everyone, anytime – to simply BECOME MORE AWARE of what’s happening.
It can be very helpful to use regular awareness practices such as mindfulness to help regain your inner balance, build resilience and encourage insight.

You can also get feedback of your moods and behaviours from someone close to you. There are lots of books and resources to help you discover your personal inner patterns and the hurts and motivations that drive them.

Only by being aware of what’s going on in you can you begin to recognise these repeating behaviours and moods as you experience them when triggered, and you will come to recognise and be aware of the triggers too.

With awareness comes insight, with insight comes understanding, with understanding comes self-compassion.

The wisdom of this ongoing practice cultivates an equanimity that will allow you to be with, to abide with, whatever is going on without habitual reaction.

Applying self-compassion, a gentle acceptance and warm understanding of yourself is an ongoing process that can help you to achieve not just a life of more balance, but a life of well-being and happiness.

Check out our relaxation techniques on our health and well-being meditations HERE
AL

Grounding

Grounding

There is a lot of research to be found about the healing effects of nature, and we now know that those who live near green spaces live healthier and longer lives. So, no matter where you live, it makes sense to access that restorative natural power – and grounding is an easy way to do so.

For simplicity’s sake the term ‘grounding’ is being used here to reflect both ‘earthing’ (earthing to mean direct connection to the earth) as well as the wider understanding of other grounding methods that can be used.

As lightening discharging itself into the ground during an electrical storm rebalances the atmosphere, so grounding yourself to the electrons on the earth’s surface helps to rebalance your being.

It’s not surprising that research suggests grounding the human body has positive effects on our psychology and health, these benefits mostly relating to inflammation and the immune responses.* The problem is, our lifestyle and our footwear, often prevent us from this natural rebalancing, and keep us separated from the thing we need most, the earth.

This ‘disconnect’ we all suffer may have significant detrimental effects to our well-being so to help prevent that, we can practice grounding.

Grounding is an accepted therapeutic practice, and the most researched and effective method is simply to have direct skin contact with the surface of the earth.

This is as straightforward as it sounds, just place bare hands or bare feet on the ground for a while.

A favourite way of grounding is to walk barefoot on the grass. Reconnecting to the earth in this way is natural and relaxing and can be taken further by bringing in the senses and paying attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations as you walk.

In a slightly lesser but still highly effective way, any conscious activity that moves you from over activity and thinking to simply ‘being’ is helpful in rebalancing. Again, consciously, and mindfully adding in the senses is helpful. (see Resources for guided meditations on the senses).     

Mindful eating will bring your attention to the body and digesting food also has a slowing effect on the mind, leading to a calmer more grounded state; showering and allowing your attention to rest on the sensations of the water flowing on the body or physical exercise is also useful.

If you prefer a mental activity, try paying attention with your senses in a game – find and name 5 things by sight, sound, taste, touch, smell. You can also use memory games, recitations or mathematics as a disassociation and grounding activity from challenging thoughts.

As Anias Nin said ‘The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle.

AL

*Earthing: health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth’s surface electrons.

Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Sokal K, Sokal P

J Environ Public Health. 2012; 2012():291541

Pause, Reset, Play

Pause, Reset, Play

A simple technique for self regulation.

Anything and everything in life can be stressful, even playing. Whilst there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ stress, we all know that extended, ongoing stress can become chronic which can be extremely harmful to our body, mind and well-being.

Dr Walter Cannon, who is credited with creating the term ‘fight or flight’ as the ultimate automatic reaction in an extreme stress situation, defines stress as anything that requires us to expend energy to maintain a stable, regulated internal environment.

Hidden stress, stress that is present in our bodies but that we are mainly un-aware of, can affect us adversely at work, and in our children at school. Hidden stress is one of the factors that prevents the energy needed for self-regulation being available. Without self-regulation stress can become exacerbated and, ultimately, chronic.

How then can we help ourselves maintain an internal balanced state? How can we lay down a track toward inner stability and calm?

Bringing mindful awareness into our lives is one. Try this short awareness technique virtually anytime, anywhere and as often as possible to help form a new and useful habit …

  1. PAUSE. Take a moment to stop whatever we are doing, thinking or emoting about; if you can, gently close your eyes. Now breathe deeply, right down into the body; follow the breath with the mind, feeling the sensations in the body as the breath flows in, down, lifting the abdomen and belly, then collapsing as the breath flows out … If you feel to, allowing the outbreaths to flow just a little longer …
  2. RESET. Now, just staying with the breath, but not trying to change it in any way, allowing it to fall into its own natural rhythm, giving time for self-regulation to begin … noticing any thoughts, sounds or sensations and simply letting them go … no irritation, no frustration, just noting and letting go, then gently bringing your attention back to the breath as it flows in and out of the body, moment by moment …
  3. When you are ready, PLAY on …

You can vary or extend the reset by simply allowing your awareness to flow out to the sounds around you; knowing that as sound occurs, hearing happens automatically, no effort or striving needed, just open to hearing sound as it happens, naturally…

If your someone who can’t bear to be still, then try walking, experiencing in a real way the flex and placement of the foot – heal, pad, toe, the shift, balance and movement of the passage of the leg before the flex and placement of the foot again …

Children find finger movements to a piece of gentle music a great way to bring awareness and rebalance, also drawing or defined movement …

See our meditations page for awareness and walking meditations – have fun.
AL

Burn Out – its Official!

Burn Out – its Official!

We all know about workplace burn out. Used up, fed up and exhausted!

Now it’s official, recognised and classified.

In May 2019 the World Health Organisation (WHO) included ‘BURN OUT’ in its 11th Edition of the International Classification of Diseases.

Classified as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ burn out is defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

• feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
• increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
• reduced professional efficacy”.

Like most things, burn out doesn’t just happen, it takes time to build and the main building material is stress.

So, now that we know its real rather than just us being ‘not up to it’, let’s have a quick look about something that can be done to alleviate it.

Remember the humble Tea Break? time to refresh, stretch, catch up with the others, eat, drink, and maybe take a walk outside.

It was easier when everyone took a tea break, meeting up for a chat in a canteen or kitchen where there were plenty of cakes, biscuits and, if it was someone’s birthday, a sausage roll or two. The walk outside was often to have a smoke, or pop to the shop to pick up something ready for the lunch break.

Now, we don’t take tea breaks, and some of us not even lunch breaks. We don’t eat so many cakes, biscuits and sausage rolls, and water is our number one go to for drinking at work. Supermarkets are open all hours and we don’t smoke so much, so no need to stretch the legs outside. As we are on our devices most of the time even the chat has less value. Add to that the increased workloads and speeds of the times and it’s easy to see how the tea break has disappeared.

Clearly however, the underlying need to stay healthy by reducing stressors in a break from output is still there. So maybe it’s best to take the ‘T’ part off, and just take a break, anytime of the day, for a few minutes? (quite possibly the world won’t collapse).

If you don’t know what to do in your break time here’s a few suggestions.

• Disengage from your work and its associated activities. Just put it to one side.

• Physically stretch. Walk about and stop off to wash your face and hands in cold water (it activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps calm and balance you)

• Go outside for a walk, and if you can see green that’s a plus. (slip your shoes off if you can – see the Blog on Grounding)

• Be purposefully mindful about something, breathing, walking, eating …

Research shows that even two minutes – 2 minutes! – of mindfulness can help alleviate stressors by calming the emotion and rebalancing the mind.

A short mindful activity that can be helpful at any time at work, including before entering a stressful situation or after stress has occurred, is simply to pause and breathe. Here’s how.

PAUSE
Find a place to stop or sit (you can do it in the toilet cubicle if you have to!) close your eyes and breathe out forcefully and long, then take a few deep breaths that expand then collapse your chest, abdomen, and belly slowly.

Allow your breath to settle to its own rhythm naturally and as it does simply pay attention to the breath as it flows in, pauses, and flows out of your body.

Take notice of the movements of your body as you breathe.

Take notice of any sounds or sensations, thoughts, or distractions as they arise, then simply let them go, dissolve, as you gently bring your attention back to your breath and the movements of your body as you breath in and out.

Stay with the breath for a while and when you are ready, come out of the pause by taking a deeper breath in then breathe out very slowly …

Take a moment to note the change of pace you can feel before you go back to work.

Regular meditation, even short practices, can help you to regulate and manage stress levels, improve focus, provide insights, and help to induce a calm and balanced inner wellbeing. It will help prevent burn out.

Care to try it? check out our workplace meditations now.

AL