Raise your hand if you’re dealing with stress? I know I am. It’s inevitable. But let’s take a moment to realize that the majority of the stresses that many of us encounter come from nothing more than a deadline, a thought, an idea, or a concept that lingers in our mind like a friend who just can’t leave the party, even after you’ve said a dozen times, “Wow, it’s getting late.” When we overcome these psychological stresses, more often than not we tend to think, “Well, that wasn’t so bad”, and then build a sense of resilience from that stress. However, what happens when you take an individual who tackles the majority of their stress psychologically, and you put them under physical stress? Short answer: chronic and acute injuries.
Over the past ten years, I have worked as a personal trainer, mentoring over 500 clients. I’ve trained people from age 10, all the way to 84 years old. I’ve trained very wealthy people, as well as those who are not financially stable. I’ve trained healthy individuals, as well as those with a laundry list of physical, psychological and spiritual setbacks. My point is that I’ve observed and experienced the spectrum.
The clients that resolve their stress predominantly in the mind are what I call “heady clients”; and when they come to me with their goals and a “Let’s crush!” attitude, it becomes immediately evident how distant that mindset resonates with their body and spirit. Holding their breath till their face turns red, hands vehemently flailing, cursing to themselves… and me, facial expressions that mimic someone being tortured to death, grunts and squeals that seem superfluous, counting out loud, disregarding any cadence that resembles a ticking clock. I could
write a book on all the different reactions. When I ask them, “Where did you feel the tension (stress)?”, most of them either respond not knowing, or somewhere in which they hold prior tension and/or prior injury. This is why “no pain, no gain” and, “rub some dirt on it” is detrimental to those who lack the mind, body, spirit connection under stress. What also doesn’t help is the deception of weight-loss programs, and the new “fad diet” that celebrities and social media personalities push on the everyday man and woman. If you followed P90X, Insanity, or the 300 workout, you’re in this category too. In a nutshell, the outcome of these interactions becomes simple and back to the basics. Reconnect the mind, body, and spirit (breath)– The present moment.
Before I go into the HOW we can hone physical stress, I want to explain WHY we need physical stress for longevity. Let me break it down like this. We all have a central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). A part of the PNS is the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which “involuntarily” (We’ll come back to this shortly) regulates bodily functions (heart rate, respiratory rate, sexual arousal, digestion, pupillary response, etc.) This is also where we hear people discuss “Fight, flight, freeze, or relax”, based on an individual’s response to internal or external stress. This can be broken down into two categories. One being the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)– i.e You running out to save your animal that’s being attacked by a predator; and the second one being the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)– i.e watching a beautiful sunset or a sunrise with your family. So, any stress, or what I call stimulus, that excites the body will then send a signal to either the SNS or the PSNS. Now, as much as these responses seem “involuntary”, we in fact have more control over them and the outcomes we desire; and when we have control over our response to stresses, we are then able to guide our body’s systems to a more homeostatic condition under a greater amount of stress, as well as a quicker recovery: Resiliency. To sum this up, resiliency comes from one’s ability to handle stress (before, during, and after), which in turn generates longevity.
Now let’s discuss HOW we can hone this physical stress. Knowing that stimulus excites the SNS or PSNS, I start by having clients lay on their back, asking them to just breathe for two minutes, and to put their attention to that breath the whole time. This gives clients permission to reconnect with their heartbeat, the present moment. Like any other activity, the more times you do it, the stronger those neurological connections become and the easier it is to find yourself back to that place. From there, I put them through some yoga-like patterns in order to move and breathe out any lingering tension. We immediately follow with some sort of isometric (holding) move, i.e a plank, lunge, hanging from a pull up bar, holding heavy kettlebells, standing on one leg, etc. This is to create an influx of internal/external stress, and allow them to breathe through that tension for as long as possible. This increases their SNS response (fight, flight, or freeze). However, when they control their breathing and allow their attention to stay on a specific point, a specific muscle, or specifically their breath, the rate of their SNS response drastically decreases allowing them to handle their reaction to the stress for a longer period of time. We go for as long as they possibly can and when they are done, we emphasize coming out of the stress with a calm, collected breath to the best of their ability. This is in order to allow the PSNS to kick in immediately, reaching a relaxed state swiftly. After another round or two, we are ready to tackle the rest of their workout. No matter how many reps, how much weight, how many sets we then do, this setup, I have observed, allows them to push their limits while staying in control and ultimately reaching their unknown potentials.
I ask you to try it yourself. Pick an exercise you already do and are comfortable with. Then pick a spot of focus (breath, muscle, point of contact). Move into the exercise where you begin to feel tension in the designated spot, and hold it. Pay attention to how quickly your stress response kicks in. How do you respond to it? Do you begin to panic? Are you able to keep your focus on your designated spot? Initially, your time under that tension is irrelevant. You will resort back to a “heady” approach, asking yourself “How much time has passed? Am I done? I think it’s been 20 seconds?” Then pay attention to how you come out of it. Do you collapse? Do you pant heavily? Do you curse? Or do you calmly lay, sit, or stand, emphasizing your awareness of that increased heart beat, trying to calm yourself with your breath? If that’s too much for some of you, try laying down and just focus on your breathing. Listen to your heartbeat. Allow yourself to make a game out of it by seeing the least amount of breaths you can take in one minute without forcing it. I’m not asking you to meditate–Which has its place in your well being, no question about it. Rather, I’m asking you to be comfortable and aware of Self for a change.
I always tell clients that they have an untapped potential that has brought them to this moment in time, and that wants to thrive. It’s the voice in our head that sets aside our insecurities, and tells us, “I can do it.” All we have to do is listen and trust it. We can only ever hear this voice when we allow ourselves to be fully connected to the present moment, mind, body, spirit. So, whenever you are under any form of stress, just remember you always have a present waiting for you. The question is whether or not you are willing to accept it.
Present Awareness Bear
I’ve Tried Everything!
When people have been stuck on an issue for some time they can come to an obvious conclusion…
When people have been stuck on an issue for some time they can come to an obvious conclusion – that they’ve tried everything. No doubt they’ve tried a lot, but there can be a fine line between resting on a sob story and being diligently open to answers. I’ve come across a lot of people who have struggled with health for many years and are now closed off to anything new, because they’ve ‘tried everything.’ Sometimes, those things they’ve ‘tried’ they didn’t do right. Perhaps their unconscious hampered them, because it loves the hard luck story. Sure we can be dismayed if we put forth an honest effort or intention and we come up with nothing, but it’s important to remain true to our dream or goal.
- People run stories in their minds. Some stories are about hard luck.
- Part of the human condition is to pass blame. If we had nothing standing in our way, we’d have to take full responsibility for ourselves.
- There is an old saying (well, it’s from Star Wars): “Do or do not, there is no try.”
- Sometimes we don’t actually want to heal or succeed, we want it to look like we did everything possible, but fell short.
- No one ever solved a problem by focusing on the problem. They focused on the solution. Without a guiding star, an overarching dream that compels us, we will never move forward. If we spend our time focusing on and obsessing over our problems, ‘trying everything,’ we will continue to ‘try everything.’
The following premise applies to everything in life:
Be dedicated to the process, but unattached to the outcome.
How do we achieve this?
- Acknowledge where we are.
- Observe it, with no emotional attachment.
- Determine our overarching dream.
- Figure out what’s wrong.
- Make a plan of action.
- Forget about what’s wrong.
- Dedicate to the process, forget about the outcome.
- Work diligently and joyfully toward the dream, with the intention of serving a higher purpose, not ourselves.
The old expression ‘journey over destination,’ rings especially true. The point of life isn’t to ‘have’ everything we ‘want,’ but what we learn, and how we grow. If we lie to ourselves (‘try everything’) we will be fraught with frustration, anger, sadness, despair. If we are honest in our thoughts, motives and actions, we will always be fulfilled, no matter the circumstances. We usually end up with what we wanted anyway, because we gave up wanting.
When we want something, we can affirm our lack of it, and push it away from us.
People make ‘getting better’ (from a health condition), losing weight, making more money or finding a partner their raison d’etre. They focus only on having what they want, with no reason to have it. Want more money? Great! Why? What are you going to put into the world, in order to have that in return? What are you going to do with that once you have it? If you don’t know, you probably won’t have it. You’ll ‘try everything’ in order to get there, but never get there. Want to lose weight, cure a parasite or yeast infection or recover from chronic fatigue? Great! Why? What are you going to do with that health once you have it? If you don’t know, you won’t have it. What are you going to put into the world in order to receive it? Nothing? You don’t have the energy to output? The world owes you something? Well then, enjoy ‘trying everything.’
Something I learned from Paul Chek is the importance of establishing a dream. If you don’t know what your dream is, think of your nightmare or worst case scenario, and go in the opposite direction of that. A tip: all ancient texts speak of giving to give, not giving to get. The action is the same, but the intention, and result (karma), are night and day.
Tending the Mind Garden Part 1:
You can’t spell Winter without Win
“No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn”Hal Borland
I have no idea who Hal Borland is but I’m sure he’d be proud his quote finally made it into The Beartaria Times.
I’m feeling very motivated and uplifted as winter comes to a close, and would like to share some of that with you. For context, I’ll get you caught up on just a little bit of what’s been going on in my life this last year. This is going to be a 2 maybe 3 part series about cultivating an anti-fragile mentality starting at the very ground level where all tricks begin: The mind. I’ll share some methods you can use to help get your thoughts and spirit in order. The journey may be difficult, but your attitude will turn that into a win every time. My intention is that you find at least one or two golden nuggets from this and can apply them immediately to your life.
The One Man Board Room
I have recently started a profitable local small business with no money in the middle of winter in Wyoming. It’s a handyman business and is something many handy Bears who require money or a different job could start. As my unemployment money ran out and my savings dwindled, the pucker factor was high. Without hesitating, I created a rough business plan on the fly, and began making a website and setting up the business back end. This included social media pages, logo design, payment processing, and so on.
The business launched in December 2020. I had done minimal market research but was certain my skills with home repairs and remodeling were in demand in my area. Almost immediately I felt the doubts and fears weighing heavily on me. As the last of my savings dwindled, I was considering how many squirrels I could convince my girlfriend to eat. Squirrels are free, organic, and have a largely vegan diet which I’m sure any health conscious homeless people can appreciate. Thankfully it hasn’t come to that yet. With this stress pushed to the back of my mind I kept leaning into the tasks I needed to get done. Just one step forward, and then the next. I am reminded of my time in some of the more difficult military schools I’ve attended. You must win in your mind first in order to survive the harsh training. Any negative thought that rises must be dealt with quickly.
Note: Negativity is the energy you put on a situation or problem that needs to be addressed. For example: If you’re feeling crushed or weighed down emotionally when you get a flat tire, YOU respond with that energy and YOU need to learn to shift out of feeling bad (i.e. afraid, worried, despair) when problems pop up. Instead, you must cultivate the ability to keep a good attitude when dealing with problems. Having a sense of humor about it, and making a decision carefully but QUICKLY to solve the problem are a must.
Keep Your Mind Fertile
Just as the height of my anxiety kicked in, I reached out to Heaven in gratitude and really began to relax and let go. This happened almost in a flash. I felt the fear fall away and then the phone started to ring and jobs started to come to me. I leaned further on my faith and became increasingly grateful for the abundance that God has already blessed me with and will continue to bless me with in the future. It was important for me to keep my mind “fertile” with gratitude and a winning attitude. I felt like God had realigned my spirit with the path he has laid out for me. You must seek the Creator and humble yourself to His will for this to work for you long term.
I am always grateful for the times the Heavenly Father has graciously given me clear help and inspiration. The point I want to drive home is that for you to win, you have to be active on the field. It’s much like when your car breaks down in the middle of the road and a kind stranger shows up suddenly and starts pushing your car. When that happens, the right thing to do is get out and help push while taking the wheel and guiding the car to safety. Like the kind stranger, God will do His part, and you should do your best to help even if it’s just as a gesture of gratitude.
Two are better than One
One key element that I know Creator God brought into my life exactly when He knew I would need it, was the calm, positive presence of my girlfriend (Blonde Genius Bear). Having a good partner who understands this battle of the mind is such a blessing.
“When life throws hot oil at you, make fried chicken!“Nighthawk Bear (while attacking a castle, no doubt)
For those of you in relationships, it’s a good idea to really take this to heart and help coach one another when you’re undergoing a rigorous time of growth. Like a spotter in the gym, your significant other is there to help you shoulder the weight and keep moving. It’s really beautiful to experience. I wish this for all of you.
Healthy, Holy and Whole
The specific things I do to help “push my car” are a pretty standard part of treating my mind, body, and soul holistically.
The word Holistic comes from the Greek word holos or “whole.” Interestingly, I believe the word “Holy” also comes from this same root. To be Holy, is to be healthy and whole. If your mind or spirit is feeling downtrodden or you can’t shake some doubts and fears (or worse), you may have a “Soul Cold” and need to detox.
I won’t fully discuss every possible part of a good soul detox otherwise you’ll be reading this until NEXT winter. So, for the sake of time, I will list a quick checklist of the basics so you can self-assess that you’re at least not actively poisoning your own spirit with the following:
In holistic healing, the first step is to STOP POISONING YOURSELF. This goes for your mind and soul as well. This is a super critical part of tending your mind garden.
- Stop watching the news, and movies/shows (Stop wasting time. It’s ok to cut loose a little bit every now and then, but if you’re watching movies every weekend, and bingeing on TV shows, you’re doing yourself and your community a disservice).
- Repent (meaning “turn away from”) any unhealthy or dishonorable or “bad” behavior (drunkenness, unfaithfulness, the “big 10”, etc)
- Forgive any wrongs done to you (easier said than done but this is a MUST)
- Monitor your “self talk” for anything overtly negative and even destructive
- Focus on gratitude (more on this later)
- Clean up your diet one item at a time (Clean eating is a must. You don’t have to do it all right away, but begin making progress, learning about this NOW)
Changing your life is a constant process. You’re either improving, or you are sliding down hill. You never stay the same. Don’t worry if you feel behind on making these changes. Make the commitment to start now. Don’t stare too long on the past. Remember that a small changes done consistently (this is KEY) over time, will lead to monumental progress when you look back even 2 years from now. There are volumes of examples I could write on this, but this will give you the building blocks to begin your personal lifestyle shift if you need one.
You are not on your own in making your life better or overcoming challenges, but you are responsible for taking action and doing the work of moving forward. If you stay in motion, and seek the path of the Creator, you will be fine. If you stop moving forward, or get too bogged down by unhealthy influences in your mind or body (most importantly the MIND) you will stumble. That’s ok, just work on stumbling less and cleaning up your life.
Remember this (you have no excuse to feel “surprised” once you know this): Even after you feel like you’ve mastered basics, you will still reach incredibly difficult times in your life where you’ll wonder “what did I get myself into.” That’s ok, that part is called Growth. Lean into it, and focus on being grateful for your life and the blessings in it. I will write more on the actual practical application of gratitude in the near future. It’s almost as if it’s a jet fuel of sorts that will fuel your ability to recover from punches that life throws at you.
Until next time, turn that hat backwards, turn into the wind, and slap a huge grin on your face. The wind brings change. For those who have the courage to go and see what’s out there, may the change ever be in your favor.
Pine Tip Tea
A Favorite Seasonal Remedy for the Whole Family
As a child growing up in Wyoming, my family would go hiking and camping every summer in the Medicine Bow National Forest. One of our favorite camping spots was a place named Vedauwoo (pronounced Vee-duh-Voo). Vedauwoo is known for its strange piles of boulders. This is also a great place to find various types of evergreen bushes and trees, and even to this day I still go hiking there to forage for items I use regularly in my natural remedies.
Surrounded by all the various types of pine trees as a child, I had no idea that when I grew up I’d discover they contained one of the most fascinating natural medicines. There is an age old remedy I have discovered that has worked wonders for me and my family in repeatedly beating the common cold and flu, sometimes even in the harshest of conditions.
Field Tested Pine Remedy
During a 19-day course on POW training and wilderness survival while in the Army, I gained some valuable practical experience using these evergreen trees to treat various ailments. The chief ailment I used it for was a common cold/flu.
It was November in North Carolina, when I came down with a fairly severe cold. Staying as silent as possible in our small hide site, piled next to 5 other team mates, I must have also reached a fever since I was shivering while huddled in my 3-layer sleeping bag. Not wanting to be medically dropped from the course, and also just wanting to try ANYTHING to make me better, I began making cups of pine needle tea. This is before I was aware of what terpenes were and how they worked in breaking down mucus and other buildup in the body. All I knew was that my SERE instructor told me it had lots of Vitamin C in it.
I would take water from a stream, boil it, and add the pine needles. I also shared some rose-hips I’d found with my teammates. My cough was barely noticeable after the first night. A cough can often worsen when exposed to cold air. I was cautiously observant in case my conditioned worsened. It did not. My fever also quickly subsided after the first night. Quite surprisingly, nobody else on my team came down with any illness despite our close proximity sleeping in our cramped hide site. The hide site was literally in the nook of a hill where we piled branches and leaves over a few logs and made a makeshift cave. It blended in nicely with the surrounding landscape, but it was like sleeping in a sardine can. Nevertheless, I quickly beat the flu just in time for us to be thrown in a van with bags over our heads, headed to the more brutal part of our training. The rest of my time in that course could have been a disaster had it not been for the application of pine needle tea.
10 Years Later
Since I left the military, I have used this cold and flu treatment every year and have passed it along to my family with similar results. I decided this year to further refine my plant based medicine bag. After a brief search, I found three great tasting combinations you can try that will further boost the already reliable homeopathic treatment of Pine Tip Tea.
Just as it sounds, the tips of the pine boughs can be harvested and simmered in hot water. Although any green pine needles will make an effective tea, the new growth at the ends of the pine boughs hold the freshest and most readily available nutrients. These can be harvested throughout the year, but are perhaps most potent when gathered in the spring. If properly dried, the pine tips can be kept for over a year and still maintain their potency. Keeping the dried bits in a cool, dark, dry area like a root cellar is probably the best condition for their preservation.
Why is it so Effective?
You may also be aware of turpentine, which comes from distilled pine tree sap. There is a small amount of this age-old medicine all throughout the tips of the branches as well. The plant terpenes (after which Turpentine is named) are known to prevent infection in cuts and may even help break down lymphatic buildup in your body that lead to various other illnesses. They also help break down mucus in the body which is amazing when you have a chest cold.
Pine Tip Tea pairs nicely with many other herbal remedies including thyme (used for digestive issues as well as treating coughs), camphor (a powerful cold remedy), and even onion (same). These are all useful not only in the treatment of the symptoms of a cold or flu, but they contain the ingredients your body can use to heal itself far more rapidly than it would if you just gave it drugs. The more we examine nature based medicine, we see how man-made chemicals that are engineered by billion dollar companies really only mask the symptoms of an illness yet do very little to help the body heal itself. We will do better.
Try These Three, Tea-hee
Feel free to expand on these three simple Pine Tip Tea recipes. Your sense of smell will let you know if your body needs or wants any of the properties in the concoctions. As a bonus, these are all safe to give to children, and have been used for many centuries in both early western and native medicine. I have given this to my own daughter throughout her life with good effect. Note: I like to mince the pine a bit if using the long needles, and simmer for 10-20 minutes. You can even let it sit overnight. This is to draw out the maximum amount of nutrients from the pine tips. You can try steeping it like a normal tea as well, as I have not scientifically tested which method is better.
Thanks for reading! If you have any natural remedies you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them and perhaps publish them as our next featured article! Submit completed articles and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org Check out more remedies at our Wellness page.