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It’s been nearly 2 weeks since we began our Meditation Challenge (tomorrow is the last day!). We hope you’ve been following along and enjoying this challenge. We’ve highlighted some tips an effort to help you build a practice that feels attainable and rewarding. For me personally, using essential oils in my practice has made getting into the habit of meditating daily much easier.

Hope Gillerman, our Meditation Challenge sponsor, had some wonderful advice on incorporating essential oils into meditation earlier this week. I’d like to expand on that here and suggest that many of you may already have some common essential oils in your home that you can use for meditation. Essential oils have countless applications and last forever, so they are a great investment. I purchased my first bottles years ago to make my own cleaning supplies, and now I regularly blend perfumes, aromatherapy treatments, and bath soaks. I grew familiar with their meditative properties well before I ever considered actually meditating.

Lavender, eucalyptus, and rosemary are three common essential oils that can be used for meditation. I chose them for this post because you may already have them on hand, or you can easily find them at your local natural health foods market. They aren’t traditionally thought of for meditation in the same way that frankincense or sandalwood is, but they work! Here are some reasons why…

Lavender essential oil is renowned for bringing calm and composure to stressed minds. The cooling and relaxing qualities of lavender benefit those who struggle with general unrest and irritability. It calms and stabilizes, and helps maintain overall mental-emotional equilibrium. If you feel agitated going into meditation, reach for the lavender essential oil. If you are dealing with strong emotions that threaten to pull you out of the moment during meditation, reach for lavender. If you’re looking for one big chill pill, yep — reach for lavender.

Eucalyptus essential oil works wonders for the respiratory system. With an unparalleled ability to decongest and clear the lungs, eucalyptus is both stimulating and soothing. It improves breathing and opens the chest in a way that makes your lungs feel as if they are twice as large. Want to breathe deeply or alleviate tightness of the chest? Eucalyptus oil is your new best friend. Eucalyptus oil also has an opening effect on the mind and spirit. It can help promote within oneself a wider perspective on life. Eucalyptus oil is penetrating and cleansing, and it helps to dispel any stagnant feelings that keep you bound up and limited.

Rosemary essential oil is energizing and increases the flow of the blood, especially to the brain, so you wouldn’t normally think of it for meditation. However, its ability to enhance concentration and focus plus alleviate mental fatigue go hand-in-hand with meditation. Rosemary is a strong, fortifying aromatic. It warms the spirit and helps boost the confidence of those who lack faith in their own potential. Feeling a lack of confidence in your meditation practice? Try adding rosemary essential oil to the mix. It will promote a presence of mind and a sense of identity that greatly aids meditation.

How to use essential oils for meditation…

Direct palm inhalation is the easiest way to incorporate essential oils into meditation, but diffusers are wonderful, too. At the beginning of your meditation practice, add one drop of essential oil to the palm of your hand. Rub your palms together and cup them over your nose. Breathe in and out slowly and intentionally for 10 breathes. As you breathe, count to five with each inhale and exhale or use your mantra to guide your breath. You can return your hands to your nose at any point during meditation, but if you sit with your palms facing up you will likely continue to smell the essential oils throughout your practice. Cautionary note: don’t use more than a drop or two, and avoid citrus oils or other essential oils that are irritating to the skin undiluted.

Do you use essential oils or perhaps incense during meditation? What are your favs?

 

We asked Hope Gillerman, founder of H. Gillerman Organics, to partner with us for the NMDL Meditation Challenge because of her powerful work with essential oils. Funny story — as we gathered around her table at A Night For Green Beauty last August, Hope let us smell a new blend she’d been working on. When Alexandra smelled it she said, “Whoa — that blend smells like meditation.” Then Hope showed her the label on the bottle… it was literally called MEDITATION. Naturally, we thought of H. Gillerman Organics when we started brainstorming this meditation challenge.

Hope’s experience as a bodyworker has focused on setting up new habits and bringing mindfulness and awareness to the body. We asked her to translate her technique into tips that will help build a seated meditation practice that is comfortable and enhances the experience. Here’s what she has to offer:

Hope’s Story…

I have always had a mindfulness practice as an Alexander Technique teacher, which includes a technique for a 15 minute healing back rest exercise that is done with an awareness meditation. Practicing Ashtanga Yoga taught me yoga is a meditation on the breathe. Now that I have a slower practice I still focus on breathe, but I have never created the habit of a seated meditation practice. I will be exploring this along with NMDL readers.

As a holistic healer, I draw upon my unending passion for aromatic healing and my 30 years experience of working with people in pain. I use a timeless mind/body method called The Alexander Technique—the best, proven, long-term relief for back pain. The AT is also known in the music/dance/theater community as a way to enhance performance by setting up better breathing, muscular, and postural habits. Since setting up a meditation practice is about creating new habits and sitting with a strong back, I thought I would share some insights.

3 Steps to Better Sitting Habits for Better Breathing and Better Meditation

  1. To begin – Sit tall on a meditation cushion and find your sit-bones – the two bones you sit on when you are sitting on a hard surface. Clasp your hands behind your back so your shoulders roll open and chest lifts. Keep hands behind your back so you roll back off your sit bones and then back up to perching right on the top of the them. Repeating this 6-10 times gets your core muscle going and opens my chest so I can sit longer.
  2. To sit comfortably — first, you must relax and stretch the back of the neck so the head doesn’t sit heavily on your spine. Here’s how: Put your cushion or seat against a wall or sit fully back in your chair. Lean forward and scoot your sitting bones all the way back in the chair seat. Lean your back onto the chair back or wall and imagine you can lift the wall up by lifting your back up. Then drop your chin, your nose and your forehead, letting go the back of your neck. Stretch the neck by pulling your chin back to your collarbone and dropping your shoulders. Keeping your collarbone where it is, lift your forehead until you are looking forward and down about three feet in front of you on the floor.
  3. Your back is where your support is. Your back is where your lungs are. Your back is a wall of support for you when you are sitting in meditation. Imagine, as you sit that the whole back of your torso is lengthening and widening.

On Changing Habits of the Mind…

Modern neuroscience has shown that to set up a new health habits you need to have…

  1. A true desire or need to create new habits and a cue that gets you going – like sitting daily for 5 minutes after your cup of coffee.
  2. A true enjoyment of the feeling of doing the new activity. Getting comfortable helps make this happen.
  3. A reward when you are done – like breakfast!

Anything that increases awareness gives you the opportunity to change. Meditation is a way to observe the mind, thus paving the way for more ways to change habits or set up new ones. If meditation is about focusing the mind and creating new neuropathways in the thinking, essential oils are a great way of aiding that. They help redirect the brain in ways it isn’t used to. Essential oils help get your brain on a different track. It’s a great sensory companion to meditation.

Inhale or anoint or diffuse an essential oil blend that you only use for meditation — something you love so much that you look forward to smelling it. Something that is completely unique and exactly what you love. I suggest making your own blend or buying your favorite oil. Some traditional mediation oils include: Sandalwood, Frankincense, Myrrh, Palo Santo and Rosewood. Use whatever helps you feel transported to a more peaceful, uplifted place. Try inhaling from palms: put a drop on center of palm, rub palms together, cup hands over your face and do 5-10 slow inhalations. While slowly inhaling, try and relax your belly to give room for your breathing muscles to move freely.

Don’t you love getting such concrete advice? We are super excited about our H. Gillerman Organics Meditation Challenge giveaway, and we also have a sweet offer for everyone this Friday. Stay tuned for more meditation discussion!

4

Why Is Meditation So Hard?

 

There are dozens of things we could be doing every single day to increase our health and wellness. It’s easy to get bogged down and feel like you’re drowning in wellness advice. When you total up all of the add-ons — like oil pulling, dry brushing, green smoothie making, or meditation, for example — healthful efforts can become just another thing to stress over or feel badly about. If anything, we are busy these days, aren’t we? Time constraints are normally my biggest challenge to adopting new healthy habits. There is so much I want and need to do in a day. But just as you don’t want to overextend yourself socially or professionally, you don’t want to overextend your personal maintenance time, either. Burn out — it’s real.

Rather than stretching myself to the limit by cramming in everything I could do for my health in a day, I do a little bit here and a little bit there, rotating things in and out. I liken it to eating a variety of fresh foods from day to day, which results in a well balanced diet overall. I changed my mindset from one that says, “I’m not as healthy as I could be because I don’t do X every day,” to, “I’m getting this a couple of times a week, and that’s awesome.” Here’s what I’ve learned from this approach — the habits that are the most rewarding stick and become something I choose to work into my routine daily.

Knowing that I operate better on a more fluid routine, I was a little worried about this two-week commitment to meditate everyday for our Meditation Challenge. Meditation hasn’t been in my repertoire of healthful habits, but I’ve approached this challenge as an opportunity to test the waters. I decided that if the hype is real, and meditation adds value to my life, then it’s going into the rotation. A week into the challenge, I love meditation. Have I meditated every day during this challenge? Honestly, no. I skipped Friday. I know! Should I even admit that? But here’s the thing — even though I skipped it on Friday when I had free time, I wished I hadn’t as the day wore on. I appreciated firsthand what meditation can bring to my day, and I missed it. So whether time constraints, fear of doing it wrong, or just plain old disinterest are keeping you from trying meditation, here’s a tip to get you going…

Find your own personal reason to meditate. Don’t settle for, “The Internet told me it’s good for me.”

Really take a moment to evaluate what you want out of meditation, and you may feel more compelled to go for it. Your reasons for meditating will likely evolve, but if you establish a purpose upfront, you may be more motivated to do it. It can be as simple as “I’m curious and just want to explore this modality.” What initially excited me about meditation was the opportunity to observe my own mind in an intentional way. What I’m learning is that meditation is multifaceted. At a basic level, it really takes the edge off the day, and that is just as valuable to me. My reasons for meditating are growing as I learn to practice, and that increases the likelihood that I will continue to meditate beyond this challenge.

What keeps you from meditating? How do you find ways to integrate it into your life?

 

 

This week, S.W. Basics announced that Target will be carrying their products online and in stores.

Let me repeat that. One of America’s biggest and most beloved retailers has picked up an all-natural, indie darling, and they’re giving the general public real options in green beauty — not that greenwashed variety. This. Is. Huge. News. Between this announcement (which you can read on S.W. Basics blog) and GOOP’s declaration last week that they are all about clean beauty (yo, they have a lot of sway), it feels like there is real momentum behind our clean beauty movement. While we need to keep putting pressure on companies to use non-toxic formulas and be transparent about their ingredients and business practices, it’s important to celebrate these victories for health, too.

We are thrilled that Target is taking consumer demands for safe and healthy personal care products seriously, and we wanted to get the scoop on how this partnership came about. Would it mean big changes for S.W. Basics? Do you have to sell-out your company values or change what makes you special in the first place in order to work with a big corporation like Target?

I had a Google chat with Adina Grigore, the founder of S.W. Basics, to find out more.

me: Hello Adina!

Adina: Hi!! So fun. Who wouldn’t want to talk about things over chat? It’s how all things should be done.

me: Right?! Have people been blowing you up today after you sent out your Bullseye newsletter?

Adina: Yes! Feeling super famous, and very supported. More so than I was expecting actually.

me: Oh wonderful! Were you expecting some kind of revolt from your fans? Like “noooo, indie forever!” or something?

Adina: Absolutely. At least from a few. The worst we’ve gotten has been, “Congrats! Keep your SW integrity.” Which is nice, that we have special integrity. I think people are surprised/relieved that Target didn’t make us change anything. We are, too.

me: Yes, I admit I was holding my breath on that! I mean, for some reason I just assumed that there would be some pressure to change something about your line — mostly related to ingredients. Is that weird? There’s the whole issue of producing so much more to meet the demands of Target, right? So how does scaling up production like that affect your business?

Adina:  It’s definitely weird. I really meant what I said in the letter. Virtually every retailer we’ve ever met with has wanted to change us. Even the ones that “support” natural brands. Scaling is a huge issue. We’ve borrowed and raised money. I’m not really sure how people do it otherwise. It’s clunky and painful.

me:  Can you describe what’s involved?

Adina: So even today, some of the products are handmade in house. We have outsourced a few, and were continuing to do so, but slowly. Very slowly. It’s so hard to meet the minimums that manufacturers require. The nice part is that now the minimums are no problem. And you’d be floored by how differently a conversation goes when you start with “We’re working with Target.” It’s been a whole new world for us in that regard. But, it’s sales that are coming. It’s minimums that are still huge for us right now; they just won’t be in a few months. So you’re spending before you can afford it, and suddenly you’ve become a distributor, not a producer, which is a whole new set of operating rules. Essentially we’re having to learn, scale, and manage things all at the same time. I guess all businesses do though!

me:  Wow, that sounds like quite a challenge. Are you growing your staff, too? And can you say more about what it’s like to move toward being more of a distributor? Do you think that will give you more freedom to create and expand?

Adina:  Not growing staff yet because it’s too expensive. So we’re all just working way more than we should. (We have a joke about this with other friends in start ups where we’ll email from the office late and sign it hashtag startup life.) I mean I’m hoping it’ll give me more time, but it seems to only get busier… it’s very early though. We’re not quite at the point where we have the cash to go, “Let’s hire eight people to do all the things we need help with so I can go work on new products on a beach somewhere.” Just kidding about the beach. Sort of. I think being a distributor is harder in a lot of ways because you can’t bury yourself in making products, which is a very safe space for crafters. But spending each day managing people and inventory and sales… woah. The pressure is huge.

me: Yes, and totally different! How was the process of outsourcing production? Are there good options for companies with all natural formulas?

Adina:  Hm. Yes and no. There are definitely amazing options out there when you’re ready to place huge orders. The places that make or made brands like Burt’s Bees are legit. They’re innovative and clean and efficient and have been around for way longer than people probably realize. But when you call and say “I don’t want to use any preservatives, not even the natural ones,” no one acts happy. You can hear them roll their eyes.

me:  Did Target need any convincing about your formulas and the lack of preservatives?

Adina:  Not beyond us explaining the shelf life and reasons. There was no scoffing or disbelief — only, “Makes total sense.” Truly magical. We were emotionally jaw-dropped when we left, like “What just happened?”

me:  Did Target speak to why they are moving in this direction when they reached out to you? And how did this all come about anyhow? When did Target first call you up to discuss?

Adina:  The first call was from a broker team (they’re also amazing) who has been working with Target for like three decades. They said, “Target is looking for new brands and they’re hosting a beauty fair, can you make it out?” And we were all “That’s funny but sure! Thanks for thinking of us even though there is no chance in hell!” We went out and it was instant. I’m talking the event started at 9:00 am and by 9:05 we were all best friends. We don’t really push them for information because they’re still scary to us, but we know they are really excited about the growth in their natural category, in their premium category, and that their customers are asking for more organic, healthy products. The whole team really gets what Target is and what Target is capable of, and their responsibility to their customer and the future. The whole store is becoming more and more sustainable. In a sense, it’s funny that we’re so surprised. You know? This whole time I keep changing my mind between being blown away and being like duh this is exactly how they should be!

me:  Yes, I agree about being surprised, but it is surprising. This is a really big deal for green beauty. You’re really charting new territory here by partnering with a huge corporation like Target. This puts truly natural products in the hands of the masses.

Adina:  I hope so! If it goes well…!

me: Can you tell us what store locations you’ll be in beginning in March? What does “select premium aisles” mean?

Adina:  337 locations total that have a special new aisle where the price point is slightly higher, and the products are more… premium. Fancier! I don’t know how to describe it. Laneige. Vichy.

me:  But you’ve lowered the prices for the Cleanser, Toner, and Exfoliant, right? Will the price go down everywhere?

Adina:  Yes. We actually did want their advice on our prices, and I’ve always always always wanted to come down in price. I want natural skincare to be affordable, not a reach. I’m not trying to be a luxury brand. It kills me how expensive it is to make our products. They advised us that those three products were a little above what they thought would do well, and we agreed. And thanks to the scaling, we were able to actually improve our costs, which made the lower prices possible.

me: I like it! Pricing is often a hurdle for people trying to clean up their beauty routines, so it’s interesting that one outcome for you here is being able to lower your prices somewhat.

Adina:  Yes. I wish we could do it more. A lot of people push back because they think it’s expensive for having so few ingredients. (In fact, I regularly check posts about us on NMDL and get sad about those types of comments.) They don’t understand it’s so, so expensive to use high quality ingredients and not add any fillers. You think that raw argan oil deserves that price but what about fresh rosewater distilled from the petals and imported from Bulgaria? When you buy a “rosewater cleanser” with 50 ingredients… that’s not a lot of rosewater. But a cleanser where it’s 1 of 3? I’ll stop I’m rambling! I just really want people to know we’re trying.

me:  Yes! I want all the rosewater from Bulgaria! Or I want it to be 1 of 3 ingredients.

Adina:  Haha!

me:  I think it’s important to continue talking about why we pay more for these high quality, organic when possible ingredients. It’s part of the education process about why the conventional stuff is so bad for us. The problem is that we’ve all been led to think of cosmetics and personal care products as inherently cheap, like $4 bottles of shampoo and lotion, but that’s only possible because of the cheap filler that’s inside the bottle. It’s the same story with processed, packaged food versus fresh, whole foods. Yes, it’s going to cost more.

Adina:  Of course! And no, the prices will not go down until everyone is buying them.

me:  Good point. This has been such an enlightening conversation! What else would you like NMDL readers to know about your collaboration with Target?

Adina:  Well, that it’s in large part because of them, because of sites like NMDL, and because of the number of people who care. That they need to keep at it. Not about our brand necessarily, but about natural products in general. Because it’s working! And that I love them and that I read all of their comments.

me:  I love them and their comments, too. Before I let you go, could you ask Target to add product ingredients to their site?

Adina:  Ha! When I’m less scared of them, definitely.

me: Thank you so much for talking with me and sharing this story!

Adina:  Thank YOU. I love you and what you guys are doing. Fighting the good fight!

So what do YOU think about this news? Share with us in the comments!

20

Micro-needling: Would You Try It?

 

Over here in our fairly natural neck of the woods, we don’t often talk about the various cosmetic procedures on the market and in the offices of dermatologists everywhere. I thought it would be fun to discuss something different and perhaps controversial — micro-needling.

Ever intrigued by skincare trends, my eye was drawn to this treatment that has been getting play around the Internet for some time. Known commonly as micro-needling, the concept is actually called collagen induction therapy, and it involves puncturing hundreds of tiny holes into the face with small sterile needles. Make you wince? Me too. This causes superficial, microscopic injury to the skin, which stimulates the production of new collagen. Micro-needling is used to treat scars and wrinkles, and it can be performed by a dermatologist or at home.

The tool used for at-home micro-needling looks like a small lint roller with itty-bitty needles, typically .25 millimeter in length. A dermatologist will likely perform this treatment with larger needles, using an electronic micro-needling pen rather than a roller, but at-home treatments should steer clear of those — apparently you can really do damage. The micro-needling tool is rolled in crisscross patterns around the face and neck. When longer needles are involved, bleeding can occur. When shorter needles are used, the process should be relatively pain-free and not induce bleeding.

There are definite risks involved. For example, proponents claim that micro-needling opens micro channels in the skin and allows for deeper penetration of topical treatments, but the flip side to that is the risk of infection or irritation. You are causing microscopic trauma to your skin, after all. If not performed correctly, you can damage the skin and cause scarring where there was none. Bummer. As with anything, safety first!

People who are fans of micro-needling report that you get the benefits of more expensive procedures, like laser treatments and microdermabrasion, without the high cost and with minimal pain and recovery time. My take? I’m pretty fascinated by the idea but too chicken to try it at home for fear of messing up my skin. I don’t have troublesome scarring and I’m happy treating my fine lines with botanical oils and serums. Plus, even though it’s considered less expensive than other procedures that dermatologists offer, I would way rather spend the money on a back massage or a lavish dinner. Oh yeeaaah.

What do you think? Would you try micro-needling? Have you already experimented with this treatment? Share your thoughts in the comments!