Below is a Q&A with Randi Ragan, author A YEAR OF LIVING MINDFULLY: SEASONAL PRACTICES TO NOURISH BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT
1. What brought you to mindfulness in your life and what does it mean to live mindfully?
When I was in my twenties, my mother died after 5 years of fighting breast cancer. It propelled me into seeking information about what it really means to ‘have good health’ to question where and how one acquires good health. I found out what holistic health meant and real the mind-body connection is. I searched for answers about why some people get sick and others don’t, and learned about how stress and anxiety plays a huge, outsized role in health issues and disease. At the same time, through teaching yoga and meditation, I became exposed to how we can alter our mental processes to reflect peace rather than stress, and how that can also play a huge role in wellbeing from every facet, inside and out.
Living mindfully means appreciating the present moment, dwelling in the here and now and living in full gratitude for each moment that we are alive. Stress and anxiety is really only our reaction to the ‘stuff of life’. You may not be able to control everything that happens to you, but you can certainly control your reaction to what happens to you. By dwelling in the past (chewing over regrets) or anticipating the future (fearful of ‘what ifs’), we aren’t able to fully be present. This causes us to lose focus and make bad decisions. Stress clogs up creative thinking and our ability to empathize with others, and to connect in meaningful ways with the world around us. So it really affects every single thing we do, and are, and can be. Living mindfully means you are tuned in to your life as it unfolds – in all its glory and mundaneness and craziness! Here’s a favorite quote of mine:
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. –Chinese proverb
2. Why did you decide to base the book on the template of the four seasons?
Everyone has a sense memory of some aspect of the seasons – and usually they are pleasant, delightful connections to sensory stimulations: tastes (Thanksgiving pies), aromas (Christmas pine, wood smoke in the autumn), sounds (Fourth of July firecrackers), touch (cold water in a summer lake swim) and so forth. By connecting to these very elemental sensations and memories that are universal, then everyone has a way to relate to the four seasons as the ultimate expression of Nature – we all know what the four seasons mean, and what they feel like. The things they evoke within us are very powerful. So that is our first and most basic knowledge of Nature and the role it plays in our human existence. For urban dwellers, as most of us are, this is a critical relationship to cultivate and continually nurture. I believe that all our keys to understanding who we are and our place on this Earth, come through Nature. When we lose that connection, we are cut off from so much of our ability to understand how to live holistically and mindfully. I mean, if you want to understand God, you can do that by just simply observing and interacting with Nature: stand under a redwood tree, or under a star-filled sky at night, or watch the life cycle of a beautiful flower, or observe the migrating birds overhead. Nature has its own language separate from humans, and is a direct shot into the heart and brain of never-ending awe and wonder. It’s hard to be cynical after watching a whale breach up close, or a sunrise come over the Grand Canyon.
Interacting with Nature takes us out of our crazy stressed out mindsets, out of all our nonsense, and it re-connects us to what is essential: gratitude for the beauty of the moment, for being alive, for breathing, for being a part of something larger than ourselves, and yes, to God or whatever you want to call it: Great Spirit, Goddess, Yahweh, Allah.
By taking readers on a journey through the four seasons in my book, I’m opening them up to the idea of letting the rhythms inherent in Nature be a gentle guiding force for daily sanity and, then hopefully, those experiences will help open them to a deeper well of inspiration and joy that can be relied on in the moments when we need it the most!
3. You say that transformation awaits us the minute we get out of bed in the morning. How do we tap into this during our busy lives?
Buddhists call their daily habits and tasking and rituals throughout the day, the ‘Daily Round’. Their teachings are centered around the idea that everything, when done mindfully, can be ‘prayer in action’. So all the things we need to do from the moment we get out of bed in the morning (brushing teeth, breakfast, getting dressed, dealing with getting kids to school, etc.) to the last moment before we close our eyes into sleep, is part of our Daily Round. And we can either sleepwalk through those tasks because they are boring to us, or we can hurry through them because we have deemed them not worthy of our attention, and we’re on to the next thing and the next just crossing it all off our list, or we can slow down and choose to be engaged with them in a mindful fashion. The way we think about our lives affects the way we live our lives, after all. Being fully present within the ordinary stuff of life can be transformative if you show up for it. You begin to notice patterns of behavior and ways of thinking about things in your life that no longer serve you, or others around you. This fresh perspective may allow you to make more informed and solid decisions about larger issues that can really affect major swaths of your life: what you’re wasting time on, what your priorities are, who you really want to have in your life, what you really want to be doing for living, and so forth. Everything flows from the small details. This is also the web that makes up holistic living: understanding how everything is connected gives us a window into the larger picture that makes up our wellbeing. Interactive balance between our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual daily lives becomes something we begin to organize everything around.
4. How do gradual shifts in awareness increase our well-being?
When you are making decisions for your Daily Round that are well informed and balanced, then you are taking an active role in making really great decisions for your overall health and wellbeing. You do this by thinking more clearly about the foods you choose to eat and why. You become better at choosing sleep over staying up late to binge watch TV shows. You understand how conscious and regular habits of self-care are vital to your ability to live balanced and peaceful and holistically. Getting regular exercise, practicing moments of meditation and deep-breathing, getting regular healing bodywork (massage, acupuncture, etc.), lessening your dependence on pharmaceuticals and lightening your exposure to toxic chemicals – all these things become a priority. With an increase in overall daily health and energy, you’ll see how that begins to free up brain space for creative endeavors, for deeper personal relationships, for feeling hopeful and fearless and engaged in all ways. In a way, you are liberating yourself to become more of yourself, to tap into all the potential that you possess. And it starts with re-aligning your everyday habits. Truly.
5. Can you give us an example of a seasonal wellness kit we could easily assemble from our supermarket or natural foods store?
A Spring wellness kit would consist of lots of ingredients that help to renew and rejuvenate and detoxify – to clear out all the old stagnant stuff that is clogging the pathways to your new seasonal transformation. Start with drinking a cup of hot water and lemon juice (fresh squeezed) every morning first thing. Lemons have the extraordinary ability to detoxify (they are anti-microbial and antiseptic) and settle the pH balance of our systems (they go in as acid but turn alkaline once digested). Tipping your internal pH balance toward alkaline reduces inflammation – one of the chief culprits behind allergies, asthma, and certain cancers. This drink also balances the digestive system and prepares it for the food you’ll eat the rest of the day.
For herbal supplements, I would look for milk thistle or turmeric as both are known to detoxify the liver and rejuvenate it. Milk thistle can be found as a liquid tincture and dropped in a glass of water or juice, and turmeric can be taken as capsules or just plain dried powder from the spice section and added to smoothies and stir-fries. Dandelion is also good for restoring liver function and purifying the blood. It can be found as liquid tincture or capsules. Many upscale health food stores even sell dandelion leaves in their salad sections now. If you have it growing wild in your yard and you don’t use pesticides on your lawn, then pick it and pour hot water over the leaves to make a tea. Strain and flavor with a little honey.
Increasing your vitamin C intake is good for cleansing and detoxifying as it helps the body produce glutathione, a liver compound that stimulates cleansing. Drink plenty of purified water every day and eat plenty of fiber (brown rice, oatmeal, fresh fruits and veggies). Beets, radishes, broccoli and cabbage are excellent for cleaning out the bloodstream.
Sweat and exercise for at least 30 minutes a day to help your blood detoxify and your all your internal organs get oxygen-rich blood to their tissues. Visit a sauna or steam facility to sweat and purge through more perspiration. There’s nothing more basic to detoxifying and renewal efforts than good old fashioned sweating!!
Lastly, I would also just encourage keeping a Spring “Detoxify” journal: write down all the things you want to get rid of in your life that are no longer serving you, all the things that are clogging up your ability to be light and open and energetic. This can be negative thoughts, negative people, a sugar habit, a technology habit that has you habitually engaging with negative news stories or violent video games – literally anything that might be ‘toxic’ to your resolve to do “Spring Cleaning”.
There’s a reason we have that phrase happening right now: it’s time to think about what it means and engage with it in body, mind, heart and spirit.
Many blessings for your health and wellbeing!
Randi Ragan Bio
Holistic wellbeing expert, green-living entrepreneur, and author Randi Ragan is the founder of GreenBliss EcoSpa, Los Angeles’ only award-winning mobile spa and wellness service. For over twenty years, Ragan has led yoga and spiritual retreats, created experiences for healing and wellbeing and guided groups and individuals with rituals and ceremonies to mark life milestones. Her new book, A Year of Living Mindfully (available on Amazon.com), grew out of her popular blog, Randi Ragan’s Mindful Living Almanac (randiragan.com) and Twitter feed (@randiragan). All her work strives to provide readers with ideas, tips, and inspiration for creating a mindful, sustainable life. For more information, you can visit the following web sites http://www.greenblissecospa.com http://randiragan.com/