Our month of May gleams with renewal. Fluorescent green continues to sprout from rich, dark earth after a restful winter and chilly spring. Flowers blossom little and large, brilliant and aromatic to seduce pollinating insects—an ingenious strategy to enhance a future for all of us. What a spectacle. Do you ever marvel at Nature’s seasonal cycles of soughing off the old for the new to emerge? I’ve witnessed this spring rebirth 64 times, and continue to be delighted with surprises brand new to my awareness.
This year’s “Ah haaaahh” dawned as I was wandering towards the creek in my forest’s valley. I spotted a flourishing wild ramps plant that I had transplanted last spring from a friend’s farm near Kennett, where ramps densely cover half an acre of moist greenery at the edge of a forest. Ramps leaves are six to eight inches long, about as wide as a tulip’s, only softer. They spring* from an underground bulb the size and color of a scallion bulb. (*Did you spot this pun, dear reader?) These bulbs simmered in chicken or vegetable stock make a gourmet soup delicately flavored with whispering onion-y sweetness. A ramps quiche is heavenly. The leaves can be steamed like spinach and have an even more delicate flavor than the bulbs. Many folks who don’t like onions love ramps. James Michener’s local saga, Chesapeake, cites them as valued native fare for local tribes and early colonists. The term “ramps” is the same in both singular and plural usage.
• It’s all about Enrichment •
Every winter, they completely disappear from view (like mushrooms and many other wild perennials), so I had to wait a whole year to see if they accepted this new home. All 12 or 13 plants reappeared—a thrilling testimony to my growing* alignment with Nature. (*Another pun.) It will take seven years of further growth to support the first soup harvest. Meanwhile my life and property are enriched, knowing future generations could enjoy an indigenous delicacy if they are responsible eco-stewards.
Last month I wrote about this amazing capacity for renewal built into our planetary and human bodies. Now, I want to encourage you to deepen and reinforce this innate feature with just a few daily minutes of proactivity.
My favorite holistic modality—dry brush massage—mirrors Nature’s enthusiasm and wisdom to renew life. I begin most days with three to five minutes of body massage using a natural bristle brush. Doing this I feel every bit as exhilarated as I do inhaling deeply with my nose buried in a cluster of lilac blossoms or munching the first fresh-picked asparagus in the garden. Perhaps you may be inspired to experiment with this ancient practice of dry brush massage (DBM) as you read on about its easy application and dazzlingly profound benefits.
• User Friendly and Cheap •
Like most of my suggestions, this is user friendly and cheap. Time is your biggest investment, amounting to a few minutes once or twice a day, and yields substantial rewards at least 10 times greater. Read the accompanying “Dry Brush Massage Basics” for technical how-to details, and “Dry Brush Massage Benefits” for specific health enhancing effects.
Beyond those physical benefits are more subtle but equally important holistic benefits for mind and spirit that exponentially increase the physical ones. In other words, DBM has a purely mechanical value that more than justifies your time investment. However, you can exponentially enhance that physical value with some holistic emphasis—10 times 10, at least. I won’t turn this into a mathematical treatise, because I want to really excite you about the astronomical dividends you’ll get by making this a truly holistic endeavor, rather than just a physical one.
Here’s an idea. Think about the ingredients for bread. Flour, water, yeast, maybe an egg, vigorous kneading, quiet rest and oven heat. Now imagine taking a baguette fresh from a hot hearth, holding it in a towel, breaking open its golden crusty shell, inhaling its fresh steamy aroma, and popping a small piece into your mouth to melt like cotton candy. The transformation of those separate ingredients into a delectable, sensual gourmet experience is a holistic event.
• More Benefits Don’t Take More Time •
Adding a holistic spin to dry brush massage doesn’t add to your time investment, but it does involve some extra attention, extra energy. The very process of kindly attention channels and magnifies energy flow, which contributes to a greater outcome. I don’t know about your morning mind, but mine jumps around haphazardly entertaining hundreds of variations for the day’s possibilities. So, I gently rein it in by vocalizing praise and appreciation for my body’s parts while brushing them. This adds yet another benefit—exercising the metaphysical muscles of dignity through gentle self-restraint.
My conscious attention boosts the power of any situation. That’s a scientific fact. Just like the full moon inflates emotions. “A watched pot doesn’t boil,” you may argue. That’s because the cook is adding a contrary ingredient to her watching. Impatience. An unrealistic demand for speed, with a sprinkling of anger. If she watches that pot with nurturing appreciation, instead of the clock with impatience, the ramps soup blossoms* into a boil with just the right timing. (*Yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors, here. Receiving a Delaware Press Association Award gives me courage to experiment with traditional form, and so does Living.Well—yikes, that’s a double entendre.)
• Self-talk Therapy •
Okay, back to our holistic recipe for dry brush massage. Attention amps up the power of DBM. My wandering mind waters down attention. The solution*? (*I swear I haven’t had any caffiene. I’ve just had a great night’s rest and a luscious breakfast while watching the rising sun dissolve a Transylvanian mist. Those solar rays infuse my glass of drinking water perched on the windowsill. Ahhhh, holistic living!) The solution to coalesce skittering attention is to talk. Organize my thoughts to form words and sentences. Positive ones that add even more powerful, dynamic benefits to whatever activity I’m engaged in. “Thank-you, feet,” brush, brush, “for your reliable support;” brush, “for moving me safely across pebbly parking lots,” brush, brush, “wet grass,” brush, “unfamiliar thresholds* (mystical ones, too)” brush, brush, “and for safely accelerating and braking my car,” brush….
I’ve promoted self-talk vocalization in previous columns. Need I remind you this is a private practice? Use tones and inflections like you do when addressing a baby or pet. Your body’s basic self—that aspect of you that regulates all those automatic physiological responses—perks up and pays attention. Yep, that further feeds the attention you bring forth from your mortal mind. Together they boost your soul’s attention, which glides your being towards its mission. This is holistic living.
Remember the “random acts of kindness” wave that rippled a while ago? DBM has a similar beneficent resonance. Our self-care practices have an overt social purpose to look or smell pleasing to others. DBM is subtler. It takes a while to notice the incredibly dynamic vitality dry brush massage engenders. DBM does not add or detract from your social status in the short run. After a few months’ daily practice, however, observers begin to vaguely comment on your brighter presence by inquiring if you’ve changed your hairstyle or your complexion routine. They may comment how good you look “in that color” though they’ve seen you in it many times before with nary a word.
• Better Self-Care Is a Choice •
Being your own best friend means both caring for yourself and taking care of yourself. When you decide to take better care of yourself, you’re making a choice to change some part of yourself. That’s a big job ahead. It takes thought and effort to shake free of old habits that no longer serve you, write Newman & Berkowitz. They advise mindfulness to recognize self-generated put-downs, to stop for a moment to edit, rewrite or replace thoughts that are self-critical to make them self-supportive.
Some people are naturally healthy. Even with all the scientific research attempting to define the components that support general good health and immunity, there’s that mysterious bottom line: some people have a naturally high level of health. They survive long and well. As for me, I’ve really applied myself to practice a health building lifestyle. I am one who needs to keep growing my health in order to stay healthy.
Newman & Berkowitz declare, “…if we want to become all that is in us to become, we have to use everything we’ve got—our feelings, our intuition, our intelligence, and our willpower—our whole self. If we do, the pay-off is enormous.”
In this way, dry brushing becomes a ceremony or joyful ritual that engages mindfulness. It celebrates life, and specifically your own body’s ability for self-cleansing, self-protecting and self-healing. Can you begin to comprehend the manner in which rudimentary layers of holistic applications lead us into ever more sophisticated and more fulfilling and more effective levels of living? This formula of attention + vocalization + ceremony becomes an increasingly powerful vortex of attraction for more of life’s goodness. I confess I’m hooked on holistic living—it’s definitely mind altering.
- Writer's Bio: Karen is a naturopathic physician who has taken holistic healing and education into the realm of quantum physics. She is credited with “the first major breakthrough in Swedish Massage ~ research demonstrating energetic interconnections ~ since Peter Ling systemized it in the early 19th century.” International recognition for her healing and educational work includes an honorary degree, a silver medal, listing in Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women, appearances on TV and radio, lecturing in Europe and in the U.S. for professional symposia, colleges, corporations, community groups, and being featured in professional journals, magazines and newspapers. She has published more than 200 articles on holistic health and education. She has facilitated joyful well-being and health for hundreds of students she has personally certified in holistic healing and holistic massage and for hundreds more clients she has personally touched including luminaries in science, medicine and religion. email@example.com