Archive for June, 2009

What is 2012 all About?

beyond-2012Pre-Columbian Central America was a fascinating place. This region was once ruled by the Mayan empire. The Maya were one of the most advanced prehistoric civilizations on the planet. Their religion focused a great deal around astronomy. In fact they are one of the few cultures that recognized the concept of a solar system.

If you’ve read any conspiracy theory literature recently it seems that everyone is jumping on the 2012 band wagon. According to those that just want you to buy their books the world will end on December 21st, 2012.  They point out that the Maya predicted the end of civilization through their precise astronomical records.

This is a bit misleading. The Mayan’s did indeed have a sophisticated calendar system that broke time up into very unique intervals that can best be visualized as cogs in a wheel. The largest of the wheels is informally known as the long count calendar. The long count calendar cycles every 5126 years through a new age.  2012 is simply the end of a revolution of that wheel and the start of a new age.

One area that is getting mixed up with the whole Mayan calendar is the 11 year sun spot cycle. Conspiracy theorists are pointing to the fact that we will be at a solar maximum in the year 2012. Since these 2 events overlap then of course the earth must be destroyed by an erupting sun spot.

Other wilder theories state that an unknown planet will reenter the solar system and cause untold havoc to life on earth.

Neither of these two theories have anything to do with the Mayan calendar.

So whatever your belief system it’s always better to be informed than ignorant. A little research into Mayan culture will show that this once great society was truly ahead of it’s time. It developed a revolutionary and accurate calendar system that has proven to be extremely accurate.

To find out more about Dec 21 2010 Click Here!

Dr Jill Bolte (pronounced Boltee) Taylor is a remarkable woman.  In 1996, she was at the top of her game as a neuroanatomist.  One morning in December, over a period of five hours, all of that changed.  Jill had a major stroke.  As a ‘brain Doctor’, she recognized what was happening to her…as it happened.  It affected her physically, emotionally, mentally and maybe most profound of all, spiritually.

Her book ‘My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey chronicles her life prior to the stroke, during it and afterwards.  This is a must-read book for everyone.  Read on to find out why.

Before the stroke

Jill grew up with a brother who was 18 months older than her.  Even as a child, she recognized that he didn’t function as she did.  They reacted differently to events and saw the world in very different ways. Jill wanted to know why and this led her to a career studying how the brain works.  She became a neuroanatomist – someone who studies the structure and function of the brain right down to its’ molecular level.  Her brother was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia and Jill concentrated her work to focus on how this common but little understood mental disorder affects the brain at a chemical level.  She worked at Harvard University and for the organization NAMI (National Association for Mental Illness).  Life was sweet.

The Stroke

On 10th December 1996, at 7 a.m., Jill was woken by her CD player and found she had a sharp pain behind her left eye.  She had a history of migraines that hadn’t responded to medications.  Thinking that exercise might clear her head, she got out of bed and climbed onto her exercise machine.  She noticed that she felt dissociated and felt as if she was observing herself on the machine.  She felt a little alarmed but not unduly so considering what was to follow.

She started her usual morning routine but when she turned on the shower, the water hitting the tub sounded like bullets going off.  This did alarm her as she began to realise that something was seriously wrong.  When her right arm suddenly went ‘dead’ and thumped lifelessly into her side, Jill knew for sure that she was having a stroke.  Bizarrely, her first reaction was “How cool!”  The Scientist in her was fascinated by what was happening to her.  She was experiencing her own research first hand.

She began to alternate between ‘knowing’ what was happening to her and drifting into a quiet, peaceful place – but this was not an out-of-body experience.  The stroke had occurred in the left side of her brain.  This is the side that deals with details, numbers, facts, our own physical boundaries – all of the important things that we need to know and remember.  All of the things that make us who we are.  The quiet place was the right side of her brain, which was unharmed.  This hemisphere is to do with intuition, feelings, awareness and seeing ‘the bigger picture’.  Because Jill’s ‘personal boundaries’ were gradually being eroded by the bleed in her brain, at times she felt as if there was no end to her own existence.  She ceased to perceive her physical body as where she ‘stopped’ and was intensely aware of what made her body the way it was.  She knew she was fluid, cells and never ending – all functioning in such an amazing way…even though she was gradually losing the ability to do things that we take for granted every day.

Jill tries to get help

Jill knew that she had to get help and that her life was in grave danger.  She was still alternating between periods of almost lucidity and the dreamlike ‘all knowing and peaceful’ state.  While able to, she pulled the ‘phone towards her and knew that if she punched the keypad she could bring help.  Trouble was, she couldn’t remember what a number was – let alone the sequence required.  Still drifting ‘in and out’ she finally managed to remember the numbers but only as a series of squiggles.  With immense effort and energy-sapping concentration, she wrote the squiggles down with her left hand.  In her next lucid wave, she matched the squiggles to the squiggles on the keypad and miraculously got through to a Doctor colleague who was also a friend.  She was amazed to hear his voice as he “…sounded like a Golden Retriever”.  When she replied to him, her voice sounded just the same to her own ears, although in her head, she had clearly said “It’s Jill.  I need help.”  Although she couldn’t understand his reply, the right side of her brain recognized the care and worry in his tone and at that point she knew help was coming.

What had happened to her?

Jill had suffered an extremely rare form of stroke, a burst (Arteriovenous malformation).  This is a ‘fault’ in her brain that she was born with but had never been discovered. The migraines which didn’t respond to medications were later thought to have been tiny bleeds.  As the blood flooded over her brain cells, their functions were stopped, one by one.

What Jill learned from her stroke.

The right side of our brain is the quiet, contemplative, peaceful one.  Those who meditate are taught to ‘still their minds’ and this means silencing what Jill calls ‘brain chatter’.  This is the constant subconscious dialogue kept up by the left side of our brain.  Jill’s stroke silenced her brain chatter and because of the damage to her left side, she was left with just her right side.  This is why she was able to experience ‘nirvana’.  The truth is that this wonderful state is with us all the time but we are barely aware of it because of the necessary day-to-day functioning of our practical and busy left side.

How to treat people with brain injury

From Jill’s experience, we should change many of the ways we care for those with compromised brain function.  She couldn’t bear light in her eyes and yet part of the neurological exam, which is carried out endlessly, is to shine a torch in the persons’ eyes.  She was desperate to sleep as the sensory input that she could not comprehend was exhausting.  And yet people in hospital are routinely woken up early and kept awake for most of the day.  When she went home, Jill woke up for 20 minutes and then slept for six hours!

Although Jill found it almost impossible to understand what people said to her, her intuitive right side recognized those who gave her energy and those who took hers away.  Some medical workers spoke loudly to her as if she was deaf – she wasn’t.  Others looked her in the eye and touched her gently, making her feel safe.

Leave your baggage behind

As she rehabilitated, which took eight years, Jill had to re-learn to be Jill.  But it was a new Jill, not the woman she had been before.  As she learned about her past and previous situations, she discovered that thinking about some things caused her to feel angry or upset.  And so she chose not to think about them any more.  She argues that we can all do that.  If we choose to give these things room in our lives, they stay there.  So don’t give them room!

Please read this book!

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey is a fascinating book and essential reading for anyone who is in the medical profession and / or caring for someone who has had a stroke or brain injury.  It is also hugely enlightening for those in search of inner peace and a higher understanding of spirituality.

You can watch a video of Jill discussing her book, “My Stroke of Insight”, on Oprah’s Soul Series here.

If you’ve never had a massage before there may be questions that you would like to know the answer to – but are afraid to ask.  In fact, many people never book their first massage for fear of some of the following fears.  We hope that the answers to these common questions and worries will put your mind at rest and give you the confidence to enjoy the many benefits of massage. Should I tip the therapist? If your massage is in a spa or at an hotel, it’s usual to tip 15 to 20% as long as you have been happy with the massage.  If you get your massage in a hospital or medical clinic, tipping isn’t expected and is inappropriate.

Do I have to take off my underwear for a massage?

This one is really personal choice.  Many people do like to keep panties or briefs on but some like to be totally naked.  If the area to be treated is in your lower back, around your hips, buttocks or groin, underwear may get in the way but you can get around this by wearing a thong (ladies) or snugly fitting briefs (gents).  Properly licensed therapists will always ensure that you are appropriately covered by a towel or sheet and will only uncover the area that is being massaged.

I’m scared I might drool or dribble during the massage!

Don’t worry!  This is extremely common and the therapist won’t judge you for it.  If anything, they will be pleased that you have reached such a level of relaxation and be happy that it was successful!  If it happens, just laugh and ask for a tissue!

Will the therapist stand there while I get undressed?

Licensed therapists leave the room so that you can take off your clothes and get comfortable on the massage table with a sheet or towel covering you.  The therapist will knock on the door and ask if you are ready before entering the room.

What about talking during massage?

This is entirely personal choice.  Some people do like to chat and others wish to stay quiet and enjoy the relaxation.  The therapist will take their lead from you and won’t expect a full on conversation unless that’s what you’re most comfortable with.  Most people just close their eyes, relax and enjoy!  An exception to this is if you are having a deep tissue massage which may cause some discomfort.  The therapist may ask you to tell them if it is too uncomfortable.

Alternatively, if any of the following occur, don’t be afraid to say…

  • The room is uncomfortably hot or cold
  • You are in pain (either before or during the massage)
  • You have any questions at all

I’m scared that I might get an erection during the massage…

Understandably, this is the main reason why most men don’t go for a massage.  Many that do go for one don’t enjoy it because they’re so worried that this might happen so they don’t relax.

Therapists are taught that gentle touch to any part of the body can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and cause either a partial or full erection, which is pretty much out of the client’s control.  It is extremely common and something that they are totally used to.

Some men choose to wear a small, snugly fitting bathing suit to minimize the effects and if this will help you to relax and not be embarrassed, it’s a good idea.  But please be assured that for a therapist this is ‘all in a days’ work’!

How do I know that the massage will be therapeutic and not an erotic one?

Massage parlors that are a front for far more sexual activities don’t always look like seedy dives so how do you know that you’re just booking in for a therapeutic massage and not a whole lot more than you bargained for?  If it’s your first time either with a new masseuse or at a new venue, call first and ask the following –

  • What forms of therapeutic massage do you offer?
  • Does the therapist have certification or a license?
  • Do I need to fill out a health questionnaire prior to the massage?

The answers to these questions should ensure that you get what you want…either way!

I’d like the therapist to use more / less pressure but I don’t want to upset them…should I speak up?

Yes!  It’s not true that massage has to hurt to be doing you good.  A good therapist will want you to be comfortable and if you’re not – the massage will not be successful so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

I’m really embarrassed about a part of my body and don’t want the therapist to see it…

This is a very common concern and therefore is one that the therapist will be used to.  Some of the things that people worry about most are –

  • Being overweight
  • Having (or believing they have) excessive hair on their body
  • Having acne or acne scars on their face or back
  • Having (or believing they have) ugly feet
  • Having a scar or scars somewhere on their body

There are various ways around this.  You can ask the therapist to avoid that area or choose a Shiatsu or Thai massage.  Neither of these involves the use of oil and so you don’t have to remove any clothing.

I’d prefer a female massage therapist.  Is it alright to request this?

Yes, of course and many people do.  A lot of men feel highly uncomfortable at the thought of having another male massaging them and many women also prefer a female.  Both of these have a sexual basis.

However, it is rather sad that many good, male massage therapists find it hard to find employment due to this completely understandable discrimination.

Go for it…

We do hope that this article will encourage you to go ahead and try a massage.  We hope that you enjoy both the massage and the health benefits that it will bring.  It could be the start of a whole new you!

And to help you get started why not check out our guide to the Ten Most Popular Types of Massage.

Lavender – don’t just use it in a sachet!

munstead-lavenderIf like many people, you have a sachet of lavender in a closet or drawer, you might like to know that this humble plant has been used for centuries and in many, many ways!  Some of them may surprise you!  If you love lavender, read on…

Lavender used through the ages

The Romans were the first to frequently use lavender but it was reserved for the upper classes as it was very expensive.  Records of the time tell us that lavender flowers cost 100 Roman denarii per pound.  That’s a lot of lavender but the price equalled a months’ wages for a common laborer.

The name, lavender, comes from the Latin verb lavare, which means ‘to wash’.  This is because Romans loved to scent their baths with it.  It was also prized for its use in oils for massage.  In 60 AD, the Roman writer Dioscorides recorded medicinal uses for lavender, including the relief of headaches, stress, insomnia, aching muscles, insect bites, colds, rheumatism and hysteria!  When they invaded Britain, the Romans kindly brought lavender with them.

Medieval writings of 1301 tell us that monks used lavender in medicines.  Rich homes often had a room set aside specifically for the distillation of lavender to be used by the family and their servants.

In 1551, William Turner wrote “…the flowers of lavender quilted in a cap and worne are good for all diseases of the head that come from a cold cause and that they comfort the braine very well.” (sic)

Queen Elizabeth I loved lavender and her palace gardeners were instructed to have lavender available throughout the year.  Elizabethan recipes included Conserve of Lavender which was sugar scented with lavender flowers, and Lavender Tisane, a drink of lavender flowers and honey steeped in hot water.

Lavender in cooking

Warning: Scientific tests have shown that lavender oil can cause a strong allergic reaction.  If you are in any doubt, dilute one drop of lavender oil in ten drops of water and apply some to an area on your inner elbow.  Check hourly to see if there is any reddening of the skin or itching.  If there is, you are strongly advised to avoid it.

Lavender should always be avoided by pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.

lavender-royal-vlevet-culinary-live-plantsCulinary’‘ lavender is used as an ingredient in many forms of cooking.  This consists of lavender buds that are gathered just before they flower as that is the time when the concentration of the lavender scented and flavoured oil in the bud is at its peak.  In France, lavender syrup is made from this oil.  The flowers and leaves may also be used in recipes.  As a general rule, these are used as a substitute for rosemary, sage, thyme, mint or marjoram.  The flowers can be crystallized to make dainty and flavourful decorations for cakes.  They can also be used in salads and cookies (it works very well with chocolate or plain ones) or ground to a pulp in a pestle and mortar and added to custards, jams and jellies to give a delicate taste and scent.

Lavender Honey

Lavender flowers give off a huge amount of nectar and attract bees.  In the Mediterranean, honey is made from the nectar that only comes from lavender and it is sold worldwide.  If you can’t get hold of some, you can cheat and make your own.

Ingredients: 8 oz of light honey and 4 tablespoons of dried lavender buds.

Method: Heat the honey in a double boiler and when it has heated right though, add the lavender.  Stir well and then leave it on a very gentle heat for another thirty minutes.  Allow it to cool for a few minutes and then strain it into a clean jar.

Lavender Lemonade

What could be nicer on a hot day than a refreshing glass of lavender lemonade?  It has a pale lilac color and an intoxicating scented flavor.

Ingredients: 5 cups of water, 1.5 cups of sugar, 2.25 cups of lemon juice, 12 stems of fresh lavender, lilac colored paste food coloring (optional).

Method: Put half of the water in a pan and add all of the sugar.  Bring it to the boil, add the lavender stems and take the pan off the heat.  Put a lid on the pan and leave it to cool.  Then add the remainder of the water and the lemon juice.  Strain it into a glass jug, add ice and float some lavender blossoms in the drink.  If you wish it to have a stronger color, you could add a tiny amount of lilac colored paste food coloring.

Makes enough for eight glasses.

Lavender Cookies

These have to be tasted to be believed!  If you think it sounds weird, just trust us!  The flavor is so delicate and unusual.  A batch of these in a pretty box would make a lovely gift for a friend.

Ingredients: 2/3 cup of softened butter, ½ cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 1 ½ cups of self raising flour, 1 tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two baking sheets.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Stir in the beaten egg.  Fold in the flour and then gently mix in the flowers.  Drop spoonfuls of the mix onto the baking sheets.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.

Makes around 30 cookies.

Lavender Tea

Many people now drink herb teas.  Some green, black or herbal teas do have lavender in them but try this ‘pure’ lavender version.  You can drink up to four cups a day to help with depression, insomnia, headaches, indigestion and emotional upsets.  It’s great for hair too…see the medicinal section!

Ingredients and method: Simply make tea using 1 ½ teaspoons of lavender flowers in 8 oz of water.

Herbes de Provence

This fragrant mixture of herbs was invented in Provence in the 1970’s and is used to flavor fish and meat prior to grilling and is perfect for creating a fabulous herb crust.  It can also be added to stews.  Add some to a bottle of olive oil to give lovely scented cooking oil.  The herb mixture can vary but the main ones are fennel, basil thyme and lavender.  Many French cooks say that Lavender must be present for it to be true ‘herbes de Provence’.

Lavender and Cheese

The delicate flavor goes extremely well with cheeses made from sheep’s or goat’s milk – or any other mild cheeses.

Medicinal Lavender

English and French lavenders are prized for their essential oils which are often used in herbal medicine.  The oils are included in balms, perfumes, cosmetics and salves.  Spanish lavender is not used for this purpose but is used for its beauty in the garden.

Warning: scientific tests have shown that lavender oil can cause a strong allergic reaction.  If you are in any doubt, dilute one drop of lavender oil in ten drops of water and apply some to an area on your inner elbow.  Check hourly to see if there is any reddening of the skin or itching.  If there is, don’t use it.

Lavender should always be avoided by pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.

Used in the World Wars

Lavender oil has long been recognized as possessing both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities.  During the First World War, it was diluted and used as a disinfectant wash for floors and walls.  It was also used during both World Wars when medical supplies were scarce, to help prevent infection and to reduce pain by its calming and soothing properties.  The bare stems were also burned in the same way as incense sticks, to kill off airborne germs and bring a fresh scent to the field units and sick rooms.

Sleep well…

Most people are aware that lavender helps to bring a deeper and longer sleep and many companies now sell bed pillows that are lavender scented.  Alternatively, put a lavender sachet under your pillow or a few drops of the oil on a tissue and tuck it into the pillow slip.

Soothe burns

The people of Iran have recognized the soothing properties of lavender as a treatment for sunburn for centuries.  If you’ve been too long in the sun, fill a spray bottle with water, add a few drops of lavender oil and use it whenever needed to soothe the red skin.

Help with hair

Make the recipe for lavender tea and leave it to cool.  Use it as a final rinse on hair to reduce dandruff and also impart a wonderful scent.

Spots and bites…

Dilute lavender oil at a ratio of 1 (oil) to 10 (water, rosewater or witch hazel) and use to help heal acne.  This can also be used on insect bites, stings, cuts and grazes.  It’s soothing and antiseptic so will help prevent infection.

Keep the insects away

The mixture above can also be used as an insect repellent.  It’s odd that bees love lavender bushes but they don’t seem to like it when applied to humans!  You can also soak cotton balls in the liquid and place them around your home if you have unwanted insects.

Other uses of lavender

Warning: scientific tests have shown that lavender oil can cause a strong allergic reaction.  If you are in any doubt, dilute one drop of lavender oil in ten drops of water and apply some to an area on your inner elbow.  Check hourly to see if there is any reddening of the skin or itching.  If there is, don’t use it.

Lavender should always be avoided by pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.

  • Diluted lavender oil makes a wonderful perfume – apply it to your pulse points and wait for the complements!
  • Use a lavender sachet in your clothes dryer to give them a wonderful scent. One sachet can be used up to 25 times.
  • Lavender ink

For the most romantic love letter ever, make some lavender ink…

Ingredients: ½ oz / 15g dried lavender flowers, 6 tablespoons of water, one small bottle of ink

Method: Crush the lavender flowers and put them into a pan with the water.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for around 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to approx. 2 tablespoons.  It will be brown and opaque.  Strain this through some muslin, retaining the liquid.  Pour the ink into a glass jug and add the liquid.  Stir well and return it all to the ink bottle.

  • Use lavender in a wreath or dried flower arrangement. It adds color and a lovely scent.
  • Include lavender in a wedding bouquet. In the language of flowers, lavender means ‘best wishes and good luck’.

We hope we have inspired you to try some of these!


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