Simple Kitchen Remedies

As a child, I remember my grandmother being well and healthy with no medical conditions whatsoever.  I recall her utilising common natural ingredients to help with all ailments – from almonds to nutmeg.  I think, sometimes we can over-look the effectiveness of the array of aromatic herbs and spices that live in an Eastern kitchen as we use them on an everyday basis.   For me, raiding the kitchen cupboards when unwell was quite normal whilst growing up as they were always effective in improving the symptoms of many ailments.

ginger root and powder

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to boost the immune system.   There are so many natural ingredients that live in our kitchen that can effectively strengthen the immune system and fight viral infections.    One of the most effective being a fresh ginger and cinnamon tea. 

Scientific research echoes the effectiveness of both ginger and cinnamon’s anti-viral properties.  Fresh ginger has a strong, spicy, aromatic flavour and is particularly helpful for respiratory conditions.  Being a natural expectorant, ginger helps to break down mucus and thus help to  aid recover y  from a cough.     I have personally found this helpful in improving a chesty cough.  The spiciness of ginger can be quite strong so the addition of some honey to help sweeten this makes this concoction easier to drink.   If the honey is Manuka honey then it’s even better as its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and ant-inflammatory properties cannot be argued with.

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anti-bacterial effects of cinnamon

Cinnamon has been traditionally been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years and more commonly for its distinct, fragrant flavour in Eastern cooking.  Cinnamon, like ginger, has a plethora or beneficial properties which have been evidenced through scientific research.  The improvement of respiratory conditions and the boosting of the immune system cannot be ignored.  The complex chemical structure of cinnamon results in an array of powerful effects and studies have demonstrated how powerful this is against toxic strains of bacteria.  In addition to improving respiratory conditions, research has validated cinnamon’s ability to lower the body’s temperature by up to 2 degrees when it’s included.  Thus, making it valuable when you have a temperature.

If you’re not much a tea drinker, you can quite easily release the juice of ginger and a small amount to some honey.  This, with the addition of some turmeric and a pinch of black pepper makes a potent anti-viral remedy.  

Turmeric is traditionally used in Eastern cooking on a daily basis.  I remember consuming this in my younger days with milk, ground almonds and cardamom for internal healing and to fight off infections.  I adore the taste of cardamoms so sometimes I would just consume this ‘golden milk’ because it tantalised my taste buds.  The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and this magical ingredient’s benefits are magnified with the addition of a pinch of black pepper. 

These are just some of the many aromatic herbs and spices that reside in an Eastern kitchen.  All of which have powerful healing properties. Ginger, turmeric, honey, cinnamon and cardamom are all very beneficial in improving health and immunity against disease. Not only are they fragrant and flavoursome – they have the ability to fight infections and make you feel better!

Image result for eastern herbs and spices

Have faith

When the subject of faith is contemplated upon, how do you truly feel? Is this particular aspect of your life weak or is it strong? Is faith a notion that you live through or is it just a pointless abstract – mere words that are used without essence or depth of meaning?  When I was younger, I don’t think I fully understood the concept of faith or what it meant to really believe in the Almighty and have trust in what is and what will be – or even, how to have faith.  I lived life encompassed by negativity, – anger, resentment and blame.  But now, I’m different.  I have faith; I have complete utter trust in my Creator and whatever happens in my life.

Faith is about accepting what is and allowing oneself to go with the flow of life like meandering rivers flowing towards the magnificence of the ocean. Now, I am truly journeying with the flow of life with trust that what is happening is right- for me to learn the lessons I need to learn to become acquainted with my soul.  I feel a closeness to my Creator that I have never felt before – one that stems from the depths of my heart.

The key for me, has been my practice of meditation.  Through meditation, the chaos in my mind began to calm and as this became more prevalent, my mediation began to evolve.  The focus during this, began to alter from mindfulness to my heart and the wonder of my Creator.  This fuelled with constant gratitude really began to develop and deepen my love for the Almighty.  And it is through this feeling of love, that my faith and trust in my Creator strengthened.  Love is the key – and in reality, love is all there is…

Sadly, when I look around me, I see fear and worry on peoples’ faces.  I see doubt in peoples’ actions.  I have witnessed regular prayer and worship being performed by people, yet, their minds are filled with fear, worry and doubt.  How can that be?  Where there is faith, there cannot be fear or doubt.  Doubt is the opposite of faith –  there can only be one or the other – doubt or faith. The cursing of destiny and a victim mentality are negative states of mind that stem from a lack of faith and trust.  These saddening states remind me of a once former self.  But in reality, it isn’t easy to have faith in a Being we can’t see, hear or feel… yet, are expected to believe….

The logical human mind does not allow faith to develop in a Being who is unseen, unheard.   This is not deemed possible because of the constraints of science and logic.  However, some things are beyond logic and science. God is beyond logic; he is limitless. It is not through the mind, but though the heart that we need to think; to feel;  to connect;  to be grateful.  It is through the limitless realms of the heart that that the seed of faith begins to grow and develop in strength like the magnificence of the Great Kapok.

I remember very clearly, in the past, when my focus has been on my Creator, I have received clear messages through various media that strengthened my faith even more. I have a deep yearning to connect with my Creator – who provides me with so much, who fulfils my every need.  How could I not develop love and faith in Him?

More recently, through all the challenges I have faced, I have detached myself from the negative web of thoughts that the mind tries to create – although this is an easy trap to fall into.  To do this, I would adjust my focus constantly to my Creator and in doing so, solutions to these challenges became apparent or help to resolve the issues came forward.  This has happened again and again – with my health, relationships and work.  For me, I have always considered any help to be from my Creator.  This thought pattern generated greater positivity and a serenity of the mind that can only be described as a tranquil sea on a summer’s evening , glistening under the moonlit sky – it’ like being on a ‘natural high’.

Faith can become so strong that it develops into an inner knowing and it is then that we begin to realise our potential; we begin to realise that we are not a mere body; we are a limitless soul on a journey of love towards the Divine…

 

The benefits of meditation

When you think of meditation, what comes to mind?  Sitting in the lotus position in a secluded natural part of the world?  Although that’s wonderful – it’s not always practical. I’d be surprised if you could conjure up an image of an individual sitting on a sofa, eyes closed, meditating – but that’s how simple mediation can be!

And then, there’s all the different styles of meditations you hear about – transcendental, mantra based, mindfulness, chakra mediation, Qigong, Kundalini and that’s just to name a few!   That in itself can be confusing for many. Where do I start? Which one is right for me?

Meditation is simple! This is no longer some esoteric practise that requires you to disconnect from the world.   This has now been modernised to fit in with our current lifestyles.  Escaping to a quieter, more peaceful part of the world isn’t necessary to achieve a blissful mind – that can be achieved quite easily from the comfort of your sofa – and anyway, if you have an over thinking mind, changing the landscape won’t matter, it’s the re-training of the brain that is required, regardless of where you are.

My journey with meditation began decades ago, when I didn’t quite understand what mediation was.  ‘Emptying the mind’ – how was that possible I thought.  However since then, I have learnt that mediation isn’t about emptying or stilling the mind – that isn’t possible!  Just as  the heart will not stop beating until the day we die, the brain will not stop thinking – all we can do, it tame the wild horse of our thoughts so we are able to re-direct our thinking to what we desire.

The daily practise of meditation results not only in reducing the speed of thoughts from gear 6 to gear 1 but – It’s a wonderful feeling when the chaos in the mind is calmed!  In addition to this blissful mind set, I was able to complete work was much quicker! How was this possible? I became efficient, productive and even more creative!  Research echoes this, but to actually experience this is another matter altogether!   I would skip into work like ‘Tigger’, be on top of my workload and leave work with a smile – to say that, as a teacher, is quite a statement!

Meditation has resulted in me feeling happy and content – I do have moments when I feel ‘stressed’ but these dissipate quite quickly.  More recently, I have noticed the regulation of my emotions to quite a high degree.  When you feel psychologically well, this cascades to a physical level.  With the multitude of ‘feel good’ hormones that are released, including serotonin and dopamine, the impact on physical health, although not fully scientifically substantiated, can only be described as beneficial. I have been free from all crohns symptoms – which I was told wasn’t possible without surgery, due to the complications I was diagnosed with. But, if the brain can ‘re-wire’ with meditation, then can it also ‘re-wire’ the body? How else can this physical wellbeing be explained?

Meditate at least once a day, every day.  Make it a daily practise and immerse yourself in the myriad of benefits meditation has to offer.

 

Forgiveness

The notion of forgiveness can sometimes be unfathomable.  We tend to associate forgiveness with the degree of an unacceptable act.  But is that what forgiveness really is….?

To forgive is probably one of the most challenging things we do. Not being able to forgive carries with it a torrent of emotions from regret, resentment and hatred to guilt and anguish, with which we torment ourselves on a regular basis.

To some degree, I think the concept of forgiveness is not entirely understood, which is why we tend to associate forgiveness with the degree of the ‘unforgiveable act’.  This misconception about forgiveness results in agonising reminders about the past which are repeatedly replayed in the mind.  We tend to tell ourselves that we cannot forgive someone because of what they did – it becomes an issue of the ego…. And what we don’t realise is that we create our own inner hell…

And who does this affect? Only, the individual who is unable to forgive.  In doing so, we haul around an array of negative emotions, burdening the heart and the soul; living in the past; not allowing ourselves to move on fully with life.  The inability to forgive not only perturbs the heart and mind but, with time, this begins to manifest into physical ill-health.

Forgiveness does not mean you condone one’s actions; it merely allows you to release the pain you feel.  It does not mean what somebody did is acceptable – forgiveness is about inner peace.  I do not believe in the notion of forgiving and forgetting.  Forgive and let go but do not forget as that would be an act of stupidity.  Remember who caused you harm (just faintly, at the back of your mind somewhere) so you able to better protect yourself from any possible future hurt –   The act of forgiveness allows the mass of negative feelings to transpire into the abyss, resulting in a sensation of lightness of the heart and mind, like soft, billowy clouds drifting gently in the sky.  This restores equilibrium in the mind allowing the oppressive heart to heal, illuminating the darkest corners with the purest light of love.

It is vital to firstly exonerate yourself for anything you may hold yourself responsible for in a negative manner.   This can be accomplished through self-talk or a forgiveness mediation, where you verbally repeat the words ‘I forgive you’ and visualise the point of pain being released.  This, I found was a lot easier than to forgive others.  The arduous task of forgiving others demands a lot more inner strength but the liberation you feel after exonerating others in one that cannot be compared.

When forgiving others, we sometimes need to revisit this process repeatedly, in order to fully forgive and release.  It’s a layered affect – a little like an onion – the process can make you cry as you release a layer at a time until you a ready to fully release the hurt, ultimately resulting the lifting of a heavy burden allowing deep healing to take place.

Why torture yourself? Why revisit pain when you can release the anguish and live a happier, more fulfilled life?   Move into the present, leave the past where it is and focus on NOW – that is what will result in inner peace, contentment and bliss.  Stop existing and start living; forgive and let go. Forgive.

 

Let there be love

It’s taken me over 40 years to come to the realisation that LOVE is all there is.  I don’t mean to fall in love with someone or to love material things like your car, house and possessions. Although this love has its place. I mean a love that is deeper, a love that stems from the depths of the soul.  The love I am talking about is pure, inner love – the love for Divine, for the Creator.

With love in my heart, I feel contentment.  It is this love emanating from my heart that is resulting in the negation of negative feelings and thoughts. I now feel I am able to fully let go of previous anger, resentment and blame.  This feeling of love in my heart is allowing me not only to forgive people, who in my past, I feel have wronged me but more than that; I now feel positively towards these people – something I thought was never possible.  When I think of these people, I see them doing well in life, I feel my heart smiling for them.

Oddly enough, there seems to be an internal expansion of the realms of the heart. There has to be as the love I feel sometimes seems as if it is not containable within the heart in which it resides.   For me, the month of Ramadan acted as a catalyst in magnifying this closeness I feel for my Lord.  The practise of constant gratitude and meditation has created within me a realm through which my form is beginning to evolve, as has my practice of meditation. This now takes the form of focusing internally on the heart, which follows an inherent urge to allow the heart  to recite His names – ‘yaheyyo yakayyum’ (The Ever Living, The Self Subsisting).  These words resonate with my soul and create a connection with my Creator that is magnificently blissful!  This allows the heart and mind to connect as one and generates a feeling of oneness that radiates from within and creates a feeling of connectedness to everything.  I feel the warmth of love surrounding my being, holding me, reassuring me.

Let there be love.  Allow the heart to feel love.  Allow this love to negate all ill feelings towards other people and situations and heal wounds of the past.   With love filling the heart, it possible to let go and to have greater faith in the Divine Creator – in his plan.   Allow this beautiful emotion to dictate the course that life takes.  Let the heart take over and submit to the will of love, the will of the Creator.   Love is God and God is Love – with love, you feel the presence of the Divine encompassing you.  Begin this wondrous journey through adopting the practise of gratitude, kindness and meditation and feel connected to the Almighty.

This journey of self -discovery, I feel is only the beginning.  There is much to experience, to feel and discover, learn, love and evolve.

The Power of Gratitude

Is it a situation that is challenging and stressful or is that just our perspective?  When a situation arises in life that we deem ‘difficult or challenging,’ is it possible to modify that perspective to one that is more positive?

As I sit here gaze at the beauty in the skies, the greenery of the trees and the blossoming flowers that parade their beauty, I ponder upon the challenges that life presents us with and cannot help but be grateful.  I am grateful for the beauty that surrounds me, the ambience that it creates and for the challenges that provide an opportunity to grow and evolve as an individual.

Gratitude is the one mind-set that for me has had a humongous impact on my perspectives in life.   This has helped me though some of the most challenging situations that life has presented.  I always start the day with gratitude – my first thought is that of gratitude; for a perfect night’s sleep, a comfortable bed and roof over my head.  I adopted this practise many years ago and have continued it since.

Starting the day with gratitude led me to feel positive and happy.  I then began to feel grateful more often in the day – for other aspects of my life; from my job and the income it brought in to the love my cat Stormy would show. With time, this practise of gratitude would almost feel like a ray of contentment radiating from the heart – the effect of gratitude is profound; it is life changing.

Scientific research reinforces the fact that our brain changes according to our thought pattern – neurons fire to form connections that become strengthened with repetition. This is how a behaviour or thought pattern becomes automated.  We remain in a state of unhappiness, stress and worry because these thought patterns become ‘hard wired’ and thus, automatic.  Break this negative thought pattern and shift this thinking by focusing on gratitude – and make it a daily habit! By doing so, the brain learns to remain in a state of happiness through strengthening those neural pathways in the brain that are reinforced through repetition.

To remain in a constant state of gratitude creates a barrier of positive protection from the forces of the overthinking negative mind.  Through this attitude, I feel the chaos of the mind beginning to rewire itself to peace.  For me, these thoughts have developed a feeling of ‘love’ in my heart.  The attitude of gratitude allows me to feel connected to my Lord – I feel the light within me connecting to the light of my Creator.

The words ‘Thank you’ – although the initial step, just don’t seem to be enough.  Gratitude has to be thought by the mind, uttered by the tongue, demonstrated in every action and felt from the heart; like a beam of light radiating from within. Take a step back and allow gratitude to create a sense of contentment, which will transform your mind, body and soul, filling it with love for the Divine. Through this meditative state, I feel my Lord in my heart – love filled to the brim, overflowing as tears through my eyes– giving me the inner strength to accept what is and face any challenges in a more positive way.

When you feel your mind is ‘overthinking’ or you seem to be focusing more so on negative situations, then take a moment and shift your thinking to something that is good in your life.  Appreciate and be grateful for this, for when you do, you will realise, that there isn’t enough time in the day to be grateful for everything you have.

With hardship, comes ease

When life suddenly takes a course that wasn’t foreseen, how do we react? When the unthinkable happens, do we crumble and fall or do we rise like a phoenix from the ashes and face the challenges that life presents with a renewed spirit?

Upon reflection, I feel that in recent years, challenges seem to have become ever more present in my life; challenges that seemed to have increased in intensity. The feeling of intense heart ache, pain and loss enveloped my being in a way I had never envisaged.  To be bombarded with a plethora of emotions, yet wear a ‘mask of normality’ to face the external world is a facade that many of us are familiar with.

Sometimes, I feel like saying – I am but a weak mortal, please, no more – but then, is that me attaching negative labels, to excuse the need to wallow in my sorrow? ‘But I’m human!’ I hear myself say, wanting to release tears with the thought these may relieve the burden in my heart.   Yet, when I close my eyes and connect with my Lord, I see a smiling face; I feel I am being held. I still have the need to allow my tears to flow, yet these tears have within them appreciation for the love I feel from my Lord.

Needing to wallow, to face the negative emotions is very much needed to enable healing to take place. This results in acceptance – the hardest phase, leading to release.  This process, I have realised is not linear – it can zigzag with days when feeling low is inevitable.  During this period, I received a lot of positive communication through messages, social media and books –  it was very uplifting. However, It was during one of these ‘low’ days, that I was presented with a verse from the Qur’an, ‘with every hardship, comes ease,’ which I considered communication from my Lord. I pondered upon this verse and realised how much ‘ease’ I had been presented with during my difficulties: family and friends who made the challenges more manageable; health and employment, prayer and contemplation all contributed to the ‘ease’ I felt.

It’s all matter of perspective that alters our perception of a situation. What we focus on is what becomes. We can choose to succumb to the ‘difficulties’ of a situation or begin to clamber out of the darkness, upwards, through gratitude and reflection. It is with these tools, that we become strengthened, resilient and renewed.  View the situation as a lesson – learn, be grateful and move on.  What did that teach me? What do I need to alter?  What is the best way forward?

It is when we are placed in situations of adversity that the heart and mind is able to grow and evolve – to put into practice all that we have learnt. I feel Earth is like boot camp.  We have been placed here to learn lessons, to improve and evolve to our former being – the being that that the Lord created.   The being to whom the angels bowed; the being to whom was bestowed the knowledge of the names of everything (Qur’an 2:34 2:31) It is this level of evolution that we should aim to attain.

Learn, reflect and allow yourself to evolve into the best version of you.

The Over Thinker

I used to be the worst over thinker there was! I would mull over everything; overthink every decision and constantly think things.  This was unfortunately mostly negative.  The worst thing of all was because I’m a perfectionist; I did it to the best of my ability.

What is overthinking all about?  It’s about complaining, about doubt and fear, about making generalisations, it’s about the ego – regret, resentment, guilt, anger….. It’s about reinforcing the negative over and over and over until it takes over.

It just takes one negative thought which leads to another and before you know it, you’re pulled deep into a negative spiral. The different aspects of overthinking all entwine into a tangled mess of negativity – leading from one aspect of overthinking to another. This becomes habitual and this habit is hard to break!  The result of this?  Unable to sleep, mental tiredness, headaches – sound familiar?

What helped me scramble out of the overthinking web?

To observe my thoughts –   to think about what I was actually thinking about – being aware of my thoughts; being the observer.  It was only when I became aware of my thoughts that I was able to realise how wrong my thinking was.  This then became a catalyst for change, enabling me to take the initial step towards rebooting my system.