Clemens G. Arvay

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A Nature Meditation for Better Focus

A Nature Meditation for Better Focus A Nature Meditation for Better Focus

  1. Find a quiet spot in nature or in your garden where you don’t feel observed. If you choose a forest, look for a hiding place or a protected area. A high boulder, hill, or mountainside also works well for meditation.
  2. Find a sensory impression that appeals to you and generates positive feelings, ideally one that fascinates you. Either a sound you hear, an object that appeals to you and you can hold in your hand, or maybe something else that you can see but not touch, like rays of sunshine cutting through the trees or a line of ants hiking across the forest floor.
  3. Concentrate completely on your nature object. How does it feel? Notice the details. Get into your sensory perception and concentrate only on this perception. Try to put other sensory impressions in the background.
  4. Try to assign your sensory impression an emotion. How does it feel in your mind? What does it remind you of?
  5. Invite these feelings without forcing them. After a while, redirect your attention more and more to these feelings and toward your inner self. Do this knowing that your nature object triggered these feelings in you and represents itself in this way inside you.
  6. Once you feel that your meditation is complete or that you can no longer maintain your concentration, you can thank your nature object with an inner or outer gesture and gradually direct your attention to other stimuli in your environment, one by one, until you see nature as a whole again.

Excerpted from The Healing Code of Nature: Discovering the New Science of Eco-Psychosomatics by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens G. ArvayHealing Code of NatureBorn in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. He also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

 

Buy your copy of The Healing Code of Nature at your favorite bookseller!

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How to Breathe With Your Whole Body

Blog header - How to Breathe With Your Whole Body Sounds True blog

Spending time in the woods—or shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”)—has been proven to significantly strengthen our immune system and increase our overall happiness. The forest air triggers our bloodstream to produce 40 percent more natural killer cells, which help fight harmful viruses, bacteria, and other illnesses. The tradition of forest bathing goes back a long time in Japan’s folk medicine, but it has its longest history in China and Taiwan and has been called senlinyu there for centuries.

Ancient knowledge about healing from nature is also found in traditional Chinese medicine. Numerous exercises from qigong are designed to “absorb the chi of nature” and are carried out mainly in forests or green areas with trees. Even the qigong masters of the past apparently knew that nature not only heals in the form of plant- and mineral-based pharmaceutical substances, but also by a person simply being present in a green space and breathing. In qigong, absorbing the chi of nature is always associated with breathing techniques.

Xiaoqiu Li, a two-time Chinese state champion in wushu (traditional Chinese martial arts), taught me the following exercise for “whole-body breathing.” This specific exercise helps you to take in the healthy forest air quite intensely and to release old air and harmful substances very consciously. You will especially feel the purifying effects of this exercise in your body if you are a smoker or live in a polluted city.

Look for a place in the woods that appeals to you and that has an even surface to stand on, and then follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and as parallel to each other as possible, with your knees slightly bent and arms relaxed at your sides.
  2. “Open” your chest cavity by lifting your arms up in the air away from your body, in the form of a circle overhead, as if you were a tree revealing its mighty crown to the sky. Take a deep breath in while doing this, starting in your stomach and continuing to fill up your chest with air.
  3. When your arms meet over your head, guide them down in front of your body, holding them together and parallel to each other. Simultaneously begin to breathe out, making fists with your hands while squatting down.
  4. At the end of these movements, slowly press your elbows against your body at stomach level. This pressing of the elbows and curving of your body help your lungs to empty themselves entirely.
  5. Repeat these movements slowly and mindfully and try to make everything as smooth as possible.

Excerpted from The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens Arvay - The Whole-Body Breathing Exercise Sounds True BlogBorn in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. He also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

 

 

Summer Super Sale - The Biophilia Effect

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5 Ways to Bring Nature into Playtime: The Biophilia Ef...

The childhood capacity to play creatively helps kids learn how to solve problems more effectively. Children develop their motor and mechanical skills, as well as planning skills and teamwork. The fact that many of our children now spend little time playing outdoors, growing up instead with commercial toys, video game consoles, computer games, and television prevents them from learning practical things in such a simple and joyful way as playing creatively in nature. Spending more time in nature or in a garden can bring this aspect back into the development of our children.

Spending time in nature can also significantly help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Richard Louv, a contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post, speaks of the “Ritalin of nature” and advocates that children be treated with time in nature instead of with medication. But even for children without ADHD, the effects of being in nature boost attention and concentration.

Patrik Grahn—professor in environmental psychology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences—and his team compared children in two kindergartens. One group played regularly on a playground that was mostly paved over, had few plants, and was surrounded by high-rise buildings. The other playground was in the middle of woods and meadows, bordering an overgrown orchard with old fruit trees. The children played there in almost any weather. Professor Grahn showed that these children exhibited better physical coordination and significantly better concentration skills in comparison to the children going to a playground with less nature.

Children’s ability to communicate also increases, as the researchers from the University of Illinois found in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory. They also proved that symptoms of restlessness and hyperactivity can be alleviated even in ADHD patients by regularly playing in nature. I recommend the following to parents and teachers who wish to improve their children’s attention, communication skills, and concentration:

  • If possible, try to set up your children’s playroom/bedroom in a room that has a view of nature.
  • Motivate children to play outside in green surroundings whenever possible—even in the rain or snow!
  • Be an advocate for natural schoolyards at your children’s school. It is especially important for the recovery of the child’s ability to concentrate and interact.
  • Plant and care for trees and other vegetation at home, or work with your landlord to establish a community garden in your apartment area.
  • Get creative and make toys and other crafts from natural “supplies” from nature, such as this gourd music maker:

Musical Instruments from Gourds: Here’s How to Do It!

Dried gourds from your garden—whether short and spherical, long and cone-shaped, or those with a huge, bulbous, resounding body—make excellent rattles for children. Any variety of bottle gourds, also known as calabashes, is good for making a rattle.

Harvest the ripe calabashes in autumn. Now let the spongy flesh inside dry up and shrink. To do this, hang the calabashes at home in a way that allows sufficient air circulation around them; above a heater is particularly suitable. Drying is best done during the cold season, when home heaters are on, since low humidity is important for success. The calabashes must not touch one another, for this encourages decomposition.

During drying, it is hard to avoid a slight mold coating on the shell. This can be regularly wiped off with a cloth. You only have to take care that the gourd doesn’t get soft or rotten in spots. Occasionally it is possible to keep the calabash entirely mold-free by scraping off the outermost skin early in the drying process. Once the fruit is dried, the rattle is ready. The fruit flesh inside is sufficiently dried and shrunk so that the seeds are now free in the resulting cavity and will rattle when shaken.

Of course, calabashes can be further crafted into more sophisticated musical instruments, such as the finger piano (kalimba), which children especially like. If you enjoy working with your hands, bongos or a sitar—an Indian string instrument—can also be created from bottle gourds, as these offer an optimal resounding space. There are also types of gourds with very long, narrow fruits that, after drying and scraping, can produce a didgeridoo with proper bass and rich overtones. The Australian Aborigines traditionally made didgeridoos from branches and trunks of eucalyptus trees that were naturally hollowed out by termites in the wild.

Children will love to play instruments that they watched growing in the garden. This creates a connection that is so much more valuable than any store-bought rattle or toy drum. Other items of daily use can be produced from gourds, such as bottles, spoons, pitchers, dolls, ornamental objects, and many others. There is no limit to your creativity, and the internet is full of instructions for the use of calabashes as musical instruments and utensils.

Born in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. The author also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

Buy your copy of The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

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5 Tools to Create More Space in Your Mind

Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

Chip Conley: Midlife: From Crisis to Chrysalis

Midlife has a bad reputation, often paired with the word “crisis” or seen as the “over the hill” phase of our journey. As the founder of the Modern Elder Academy (the worlds’ first midlife wisdom school), Chip Conley is changing this negative narrative to one that reclaims our middle years as a time of incredible regenerative possibilities. In this podcast, Tami Simon sits down with Chip to talk about his new book, Learning to Love Midlife, and how those of us amidst this phase can activate our capacities for renewal and “let our souls lead the dance.” 

Tune in for a very honest and hope-giving podcast on: The phoenix phenomenon; the anatomy of transition; the metaphor of the chrysalis; cultivating a growth mindset; the components of high “TQ” (or transitional IQ); creating space for something new; the great midlife edit; the dark night of the ego; radically shifting how you want to live your life; vulnerability and accepting help; “dancing backwards in high heels”; developing a friendship with your body; letting go—but also welcoming in; the alchemy of curiosity and wisdom; goosebumps as a sign you’re on the right path; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Mark Matousek: Living Like a Stoic

When things are at their worst, says celebrated author and writing mentor Mark Matousek, Stoicism is at its best. Considered the most practical of all philosophies, Stoicism is on the rise in today’s world—for reasons you’ll hear discussed in this podcast. 

Give a listen to this educational, pragmatic, and perspective-shifting conversation with Mark and Sounds True’s Tami Simon exploring control versus acceptance; using the mind in a more skillful way; humility, proportion, and appropriate action; taking responsibility for what we’re capable of; amor fati, to love life; working with your emotions; Emerson and “the exterior life”; writing prompts for letting go of the disempowering stories we tell ourselves; choosing how we hold our memories; why Stoicism is not a form of bypassing; adversity as a path to freedom; the practice of turning the obstacle upside down; shifting your angle of vision and telling the whole truth; “cosmic optimism,” Emerson’s reality-based form of hope; asking questions and finding your own way; doubt, confusion, and struggle on the spiritual path; Emerson’s view of enlightenment; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

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