Posted to the UW Botanic Gardens Blog November 18th, 2013 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director
“Wanna touch the sap with me?” This is the question posed by my 3-year-old every Tuesday and Thursday morning when he gets to Fiddleheads Forest School in the Washington Park Arboretum. It is his first stop before each class and he excitedly invites me or anyone else who is around to join him. The sap he is investigating comes from an extraordinary source, just outside of Forest Grove, the preschool center. A tall ponderosa pine tree whose bark has bubbled and buckled from some kind of fungus beneath the surface creates constant streams of sap pouring down in a slow-moving waterfall from 20 feet up its trunk. The sap is moving so slowly we have found spider webs build in the crevices of the bark with a lone drip suspended in the silk.
I encourage Alvin to dust his hands in dirt before touching the sap to make it easier to remove later, but he doesn’t always remember. That’s ok with me, though, because the fragrant scent of pine sap reminds me of my own childhood in New Mexico, playing in the pine trees and junipers. It also reminds me of why I started looking for an outdoor preschool two years ago to give my son the opportunities I had to explore nature free from the ever-present boundaries and dangers of the urban environment we are surrounded by in so much of Seattle.
When I discovered that Fiddleheads was expanding to a full year preschool located in the middle of the Arboretum, I felt as if the universe had bent around to fulfill this dream! I knew it was perfect when I discovered that forest grove is just across from the ancient Sequoia grove I loved to visit as an undergrad at the University of Washington when I lived near the Arboretum. The colors of autumn have been incredible to view each week driving to the school and the wide variety of leaves, berries, nuts and seed pods seems unending. After drop off or before pick up, I make some time for myself to enjoy the smells, sounds, sights and sightings alongside my child, so we can share the magic of the of the forest together. (I’m sure I saw a coyote tail bouncing in the brush one day!)
Occasionally, I will hear the sounds of little voices adventuring along as I am on my own walk and feel their excitement and wonder well up inside of me. I love to watch from afar as they gather sticks to build a “fire” or leaves to pile up and roll in and I inwardly thank all the forces, voices and advocates who came together to create this fantastic program.
Although my favorite sequoia grove is protected by a fence now to protect the fragile roots, their giant trunks and strong presence are a perfect example of why the Arboretum is such a treasure for Seattlites of all ages and I hope there will be many more classes of preschoolers and homeschoolers and every other age of schoolers out in appreciation all year round in this wonderous place!
(Karah Pino, MAcOM is the delighted parent of a Fiddlehead’s Forest student, the social media coordinator for the Women of Wisdom Foundation and she manages the blog Unwind your Mind and Get Creative!
12yo Inventor Will Blow Your Mind And May Save Your City; Plus, Top 10 Good News Stories of the Week!
14-year-old Zev from Natick, Massachusetts, has taken the photography world by storm with his surreal photo manipulations. Better known by the nickname of ‘fiddle oak’, Zev presents a highly imaginative portfolio of surreal self-portraits, which he created together with his sister Nellie (aged 17). His work seems to mirror the transition from the fairy-tale childhood worlds into those that are way more complicated and still unknown.
Mindfulness could help you to be less swayed by immediate rewards, a new study suggests.
A study in the journal Emotion shows that people high in mindfulness have less brain activity in response to positive feedback. Mindfulness is the act of nonjudgmental focus on the present moment.
“These findings suggest that mindful individuals may be less affected by immediate rewards and fits well with the idea that mindful individuals are typically less impulsive,” study researcher Rimma Teper, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said in a statement.
For the study, researchers tracked brain activity of study participants using electroencephalography as they completed a computer task that involved receiving positive, neutral or negative feedback. Researchers found that participants high in mindfulness showed less brain response to rewarding feedback when compared with other study participants.
A study published earlier in the British Journal of Health Psychology also showed that mindfulness had benefits for self control. In that research, using mindfulness strategies seemed to help people resist sweets, Scientific American reported.
In addition, a study conducted by University of Utah researchers showed that mindfulness is associated with greater emotional stability and self-control over emotions.
Ground covered by leaves
blended by storm winds and rain
now softly dripping
Beyond Positive thinking
There is an old adage in yoga psychology which is at the heart of the phenomenon of positive thinking.
‘The mind takes the shape of its object’.
When you pour water into a container, it will take the shape of the container. Our mind stuff, that most subtle of all substances, acts in a similar way. If you think of a camel then there is a portion of your mind that takes the shape of a camel, which is another way of saying that the mind forms an image of a camel. Now as we learned earlier, each and every expression of the universe is vibrational in character. A thought is a mental wave composed of psychic energy or mind-stuff. Because it is vibrational in character that mental wave has a particular wavelength. The wavelength of the thought-image of a camel will not be the same as the wavelength of the thought of a vast ocean or a feeling of compassion. Some thoughts are subtle in character and some are less so. Subtle or expansive thoughts, as you might suspect, have a long, steady wavelength while crude thoughts have a much shorter, erratic wavelength. Our mind as a whole has its own characteristic wavelength which is the composite of all the waves active in the mind at any one time. While our mind’s wavelength is constantly changing as different thought-waves rise and fall in our mental ocean, it never changes very much because we each have our own habitual style of thinking, our personality, which determines the nature of those recurring individual waves.
Now what happens in nature when two interact? There is a clash between the two waves and each is influenced to some extent by the other. The stronger the wave is, the greater the influence it exerts, and the less it is affected by the other wave. When two waves are similar in character then there is very little clash. They vibrate sympathetically. On the practical level we experience this as a natural affinity or dislike for the people and things we come into contact with. Our feeling of like or dislike depends on the degree of sympathetic or non-sympathetic vibration between our mental wavelength and that of the object we come in contact with. ‘Good vibes’ is exactly that, the good vibrations that come when we experience a parallelism between the wavelength of our mind and that of the person or object or environment we are in contact with.
As the mind stuff gathers to take the shape of the mental object the wavelength of that thought-form is going to affect the overall character of mind. To some small degree it will influence or alter the characteristic wavelength of that mind. If the thought object is very subtle then the mind will be benefited. If the wavelength of the thought is cruder than the mind is accustomed to then the mind will be affected for the worse. Over time the constant repetition of a thought of either a crude or subtle nature will either degrade or elevate the mind. It is for this reason that the yogis teach that excessive preoccupation with crude physical objects such as money gradually crudifies the mind. Our mental power diminishes, and our capacity for happiness, enjoyment of life, and Self-expression is decreased. But if we fill our minds with expansive, more subtle ideas, it will stretch and expand and grow to accommodate these new lofty ideas.
Changing the mind from crude to subtle is the task of meditation. In order to accomplish this we think about the subtlest object possible, consciousness, with the help of the mantra. By raising subtler and subtler waves in the mind through the constant and concentrated repetition of mantra, the mind gradually expands and becomes more subtle. It gains the capacity to transmit and perceive subtler vibrations. The regular practice of meditation opens the mind up the higher realms of experience — the awakening of intuition, a deep appreciation for art and aesthetics, profound emotions of love and compassion, feelings of sympathy and oneness with nature, and a yearning to realise the inner Self. The world around you changes from a world of fixed and immovable boundaries to one of infinite possibility.
Looking at it from this perspective underscores once again the importance of what we meditate on. History is full of examples of individuals who developed psychic powers through the practice of concentration techniques, but who eventually became degraded by that same practice because they allowed their minds to become crudified.
SAN DIEGO — Patients with mild-to-moderate inflammatory bowel disease who participated in a program of breathing, movement and meditation exercises experienced significant improvement to inflammatory markers and quality of life in a study presented at the American College of Gastroenterology Annual Scientific Meeting.
Researchers randomized 30 patients with mild-to-moderate IBD to participate in either a breathing, movement and meditation workshop (BBMW) or a control group undergoing a parallel educational seminar (ES). Inflammatory and psychometric markers were assessed via brief symptom inventory (BSI), Beck anxiety inventory (BAI), Beck depression index and IBD questionnaire (IBDQ) at baseline, with changes after 6 weeks as the primary endpoint and after 6 months as the secondary endpoint. Both groups received similar access to health care professionals.
Patients in the BBMW group experienced significant improvements to BSI after 6 weeks compared with the ES group (P=.02 for difference). Similarly, quality of life as measured by the IBDQ (P=.01) was significantly improved in the BBMW group, as were symptoms of anxiety (P=.02). These improvements all persisted after 6 months (P=.04 for BSI score, P=.03 for BSAI and P=.01 for IBDQ), and investigators noted additional improvements to perceived stress (P=.01), perceived disability (P=.001) and depression (P=.01).
At 6 weeks, fecal calprotectin levels had improved significantly in the ES group (P=.04), and numerically in the BBMW group. These changes were not maintained at the 6-month evaluation.
“Many of our young patients with IBD have a decreased quality of life from many symptoms, including diarrhea, bleeding and abdominal pain,” researcher Vinita E. Jacob, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, toldHealio.com. “… While we have excellent medical therapy, it’s important to be broad-minded about other techniques that can be helpful in decreasing the inflammatory state in these particular patients. There are so many young patients who do not want to be on lifelong medication therapy; there is a role for stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system in these patients to help them feel better.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.
For more information:
Jacob VE. P1064: Impact of Breathing and Education Programs on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Quality of Life (QOL) and Inflammatory Biomarkers. Presented at: The American College of Gastroenterology Annual Scientific Meeting; Oct. 11-16, San Diego.
The author is deeply influenced by ‘A Course in Miracles’, ‘The Power of Now’ and ‘Tripura Rahasya’, and gives various suggestions keeping in the mind the learning received from these books.
I am unable to meditate. When I sit to meditate, my mind wonders more wildly. I have tried it all but found no benefit. What do I do now?
Mediation is a great tool to enlightenment, but it’s not the only one.
What are the other ways?
If meditation has not worked for you, don’t worry. Try other means to switch off your mind.
Play, dance, sing, run, walk in the woods, eat, take a bath, enjoy sex, work, do anything that you would normally do, but with little caution.
Do what you are doing, but make a conscious effort to be fully involved in the doing.
I don’t understand this..
Observe your mind. See how it wonders uselessly. The mind will always tell you that what you are thinking is of extreme importance. Most of the time it will tell you that something has gone wrong in the past and you will have to face the consequence in future or get it right in future.
Is that not the right way? Should we not be introspecting and take necessary steps to improve our future?
All you are thinking about is the past or the future. Introspection is fine, but just see how much time is required for the same.
Constantly thinking about the past or the future, you miss the present.
Focus on the present, and do what you are doing. This is a 24 hour meditative state. You won’t need to sit and close your eyes and try to meditate.
Is it as good as meditation?
In meditation, you give a certain dedicated time. Being in the present, is taking benefits of meditation, while doing all your daily activities.
Will there be any spiritual progress?
God resides in a quiet mind. Meditation is a way to achieve a quiet mind. Being in the present is another way of keeping your mind quiet.
Editor at Open Minds Magazine
Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz applies Buddhist teachings to his work with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and bucks the mainstream belief that the brain is a static organ that dictates our actions. So it is no wonder that he is a controversial figure.
The amazing thing is that he has proven to be right, and has shown that mindfulness meditation can be effective at reducing the effects of OCD. In part, by utilizing what he calls “self-directed neuroplasticity.” In other words, the idea is that we can use meditation to physically rewire our brains. A process I believe I have utilized myself to improve my outlook and health.
Steve Volk’s new book OBSESSED: The Compulsions and Creations of Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, is the first offering by Discovery magazine’s Discovery In-Depth series. It is available via Kindle single on Amazon.
In the book, Volk examines Schwartz as a scientist and a person. He describes Schwartz as a “pariah among his academic peers,” and “a man battling demons of his own.” Schwartz is often combative, and has a tough time with personal relationships. However, Volk says Schwartz was very open and willing to let Volk spend a lot of time with him, which Volk says is rare in the scientific community. Volk believes Schwartz really just wants to be understood.
Despite his quirks, Schwartz has made substantial contributions to the understanding and treatment of OCD. Volk says his ideas used to be taken lightly, but “he helped produce this shift where now people take mindfulness very very seriously as an effective therapy.”
I find his work fascinating because it relates to the existential question of who we are. As Volk explains it, some scientists believe “our whole selves and our choices are all dictated by physical processes in the brain, and a lot of people take this to mean we don’t have any free will.”
But what if we choose to be different, and in doing so change our brain physically? It sounds fantastic to be able to change the inner workings of our brains by thought alone, but it is now believed it happens, and it is called neuroplasticity. Volk explains, “Schwartz says his therapy, which involves shifting your attention in particular ways in regard to your illness, he says this shows we do have free will and we are not our brains.”
Years ago I learned through studying meditation techniques, methods similar to what Schwartz teaches, and they have helped transform my life. Buddhists teach that in mindfulness mediation one can view their thoughts and self impartially. In doing so one can identify behaviors that are not helpful, and purposefully change the way they react to certain situations. In this way we can choose to alleviate our own suffering, which Buddhists believe we cause ourselves.
For instance, let’s say you get flipped off on the highway on the way to work. That can be kind of frustrating. Some people are prone to get really upset, and then have a terrible morning. In mindful mediation one lets go of emotional static to reflect on oneself and the ways we cause our own suffering.
In reflecting upon why we had a bad morning and realizing it was because somebody flipped us off, we can see that it was our reaction to this event that caused the suffering for the rest of the morning. We can then choose to react differently. I have chosen to smile and wave at people who flip me off, and wish them a good day. I then leave the situation chuckling, while the flipper offer continues on their grouchy way.
This is us choosing to modify our behavior. It may be difficult at first, but as we continue to act out this new behavior, neuroplasticity is at work changing our neural pathways and making this reaction easier to accomplish. One thing I remind myself in these situations is that I cannot let another’s dysfunction become my dysfunction. Just because their brain is wired to be a total jerk, doesn’t mean I have to let mine be wired that way.
In using these methods to help OCD patients alleviate their symptoms, Volk says in his book, “what Schwartz had proven was that his patients could rewire their brains (and reinvent their lives) through sheer force of will, with thought alone.”
Volk says he was inspired to write the book because he has also benefited from “self-directed neuroplasticity.” Beyond that, Volk says, “I really enjoy being able to tell the story about this guy operating on sort of the fringes of things.” See Video: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alejandro-rojas/ocd-expert-stars-in-ebook_b_4119218.html
Not surprising coming from a guy who also authored a book called, Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable — And Couldn’t.
BUILT Origami Wine Tote
When you head out to your next party this holiday season give your hosts a gift they can appreciate over and over. The Origami Wine Tote from BUILT is a functional wine tote that features a unique design.
This unique wine tote compresses flat for easy storage. Expand it for use and the wine tote turns into a beautiful carrying case for your bottle of wine.
The tote holds a single 750ml-1 liter bottle of wine. Not only is this tote attractive and can be used to display your wine, it also protects your wine bottle from accidental bumps and drops. A carrying handle makes it easy to transport your bottle of wine so you don’t have to carry it awkwardly by the neck or the thick cylindrical body.
The Origami wine tote comes in black or red. Each tote comes with a gift tag so you can gift a bottle of wine without the need of wrapping.
Find the Origami wine tote at BuiltNY.com and at retailers nationwide.