From “beditation” to a 30-day nettle challenge, Storey health and well-being authors share their personal strategies for finding comfort and taking care.
Storey authors have always had a special talent for nurturing — whether it be plants, animals, the body, or the mind and creative spirit (sometimes all of the above). As many of us contend with a sudden shift in our way of life, the wise words and actions of people who are experts in tending to the health of all living things can help us to stay strong and resilient. We asked several authors of books on health and well-being to share with us their personal strategies for finding comfort and taking care.
Maia Toll (North Carolina)
In the midst of the hardships and the sheer strangeness of this time, I’m de-stressing by searching out natural magic and everyday miracles. There are marvels in the headlines: pollution is significantly down; seismologists can hear the tiniest creak of the earth’s tectonic plates now that there isn’t competing urban noise; and the giant pandas are finally mating at a shuttered zoo (turns out they like a little privacy too!). And I’m discovering wonders in the woods around my home: a hidden field of trillium; the eerie nighttime song of the toads; flecks of mica shining as the afternoon sun hits the driveway. Sometimes the sadness creeps in and then the outdoors are my best medicine. The creek burbles and the crows cackle and somehow balance is restored.
Maia Toll is the author of The Illustrated Herbiary, The Illustrated Bestiary, and The Illustrated Crystallary.
Tammi Sweet (New York)
Right now I’m doing a 30-day nettle challenge, and I’ve been encouraging folks who follow my social media pages to do the same. I’m harvesting and ingesting nettles in some form: stir-fry, soup, or infused as a tea, every day for a month. I’m also working in the hemp field, getting the beds ready for the spring harvest. Getting my hands in the soil is the best way for me to stay grounded and connected in these wild times.
Tammi Sweet is the author of The Wholistic Healing Guide to Cannabis.
Tzivia Gover (Massachusetts)
They say truth can be stranger than fiction, and these days our waking reality can feel more surreal than our dreams: We enter the grocery stores amongst shoppers who are masked, as though we’ve stumbled into a bandits’ convention. We step outside for a walk and otherwise friendly-looking people cross the street as we approach. We show our love by staying away from our family and friends and socialize only when separated by the safety of screens.
Then at night, when we get into bed to sleep and dream, the worries we’ve managed to keep at bay when the sun was shining lurk at the edges of our consciousness like prowling predators.
We know that sleep is good medicine for our immune systems in a time of pandemic, but now when it is most crucial, it is just out of reach.
One way to turn sleeplessness into solace,and convert our fears to love is to practice “beditation.” Whereas in classical meditation the goal is to stay awake and aware as we settle our thoughts into stillness, in beditation we try simply to relax. Slipping off into sleep is an added benefit if it comes, but either way we’ve rested our bodies and our minds and lowered our stress — all of which support our health.
Here is a beditation that is particularly suited to these times. It is based on a traditional metta, or loving-kindness meditation, in which one offers wishes for love, happiness, health, and protection for oneself, loved ones, friends, and the wider community — eventually including all beings.
There are many forms of metta meditation and instructions are available in various books or on the Internet. In the meantime, here are simple instructions to get you started:
- Lie down in your bed in a comfortable position. Focus on your heart as you breathe in and out.
- Think about something you love about yourself, and feel your heart fill with appreciation.
- Direct three to five simple heartfelt wishes to yourself, such as, “May I be happy, may I be healthy, and may I live in safety and peace.” Repeat these wishes several times, coordinating the phrases with your breath.
- Now think of someone you love unconditionally, such as a family member or child, and do the same for them.
- Repeat this cycle of filling your heart with love and extending wishes to someone in each of your circles. Continue to move outward to a friend, then an acquaintance, a stranger, someone with whom you have a difficult relationship, and finally all people and all beings.
There’s no one set script for this meditation. You can adapt it to make the words meaningful to you.
You can use this beditation as a form of prayer at the end of the day, or when you wake in the middle of the night and enjoy this gentle and loving way to ease into sleep, and to feel connected to others in love and healing, while putting your fears to rest.
Tzivia Gover is the author of Joy in Every Moment and The Mindful Way to a Good Night’s Sleep.
Stephanie L. Tourles (Texas)
Adore fresh, hot ginger? Me, too! As an herbalist I often make tinctures, or alcohol extracts, of medicinal herbs to boost my wellness quotient throughout the year. They’re quite easy to concoct and a zingy ginger tincture is one of my favorites. About 2 weeks ago, I realized that I had run out of my stock, so I made a new batch. It will need to macerate (soak/extract) for 6 weeks before it is ready for consumption.
Ginger root tincture has a warm/hot energy, so it’s perfect to take when suffering from a cold or flu, especially if you have the chills. It helps subdue coughing and dry up runny sinuses. It also relieves arthritis pain and indigestion. I typically make it with brandy or Captain Morgan Spiced Rum because the flavor that develops is unbelievably fabulous and comforting, but recently my local liquor store was sold out of both, so I used 100-proof plain vodka instead.
Sometimes, for an evening herbal cocktail, I’ll pour out ¼ cup, add fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice and some ice, and sip very slowly. Delish!
Stephanie’s Hot Ginger Wellness Tincture
- 3–4 cups ginger root (enough to fill your jar), washed and sliced
- ½ cup candied Thai ginger chunks (optional)
- 3–4 cups brandy, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, or 100-proof unflavored vodka
- 1-quart canning jar with lid
- plastic wrap (enough to cover top of jar)
- Add all ingredients to the jar, pouring alcohol to within ½-inch of the top.
- Place plastic wrap atop jar, then screw on the lid. Make sure to label and date.
- Store the mixture in a cool cabinet for 6 weeks. Give it a shake daily.
- When finished macerating, strain the tincture into clean jar and store it in a dark, cool cabinet for up to 1 year.
I tend to take “heroic” doses of tinctures (or larger doses than what others typically take), so feel free to adjust to suit your needs. I consume 1–2 teaspoons three times a day at the onset of a cold or flu and continue until I feel better. If suffering from indigestion or arthritic flareup, I’ll take 1 teaspoon several times a day until I feel more comfortable. For coughing, I take 1–2 teaspoons per hour for several hours until coughing abates. This is an old remedy. My grandfather swore by it. Enjoy!