Column: Mind Your Mantras

I picked up a bag of trash from the ditch in front of my house today.

For months, every time I’ve walked down the street pushing the chariot, I’d say, “Look at all that garbage. Next time we come out, we really should bring a plastic bag, maybe even some gloves and clean it up.”

Today, the third piece of litter I saw actually was an empty plastic bag, staked to a plant, so I picked it up, figuring the universe had finally tired of my big-talk, little-action ways. Within 30 minutes, the kid was sleeping and the bag was filled with the most random assortment of garbage, including, weirdly, three lone mismatching rubber work gloves. (Note to self: be more specific when asking the Universe for “some gloves.”)

As I scrubbed around in the gravel, I contemplated the value of Earth Day and Pitch In Week – the one-off events that encourage us to go on a spring-cleaning caretaking blitz. Shouldn’t Earth Day be every day? Shouldn’t it really trump all the other Days? As much as I love the call to celebrate Cupcake Day, Guerilla Sunflower Planting Day or International Women’s Day, we wouldn’t have any of those things without the Earth, lovely host planet that it is.


(Happy belated Chocolate Day, by the way. That was yesterday, according to one unofficial-looking interweb source. Just in case you needed an excuse.)

Does a one-off Day leave behind a residue of awareness, months down the track, or just lull us into a sense of complacency as we move on to the next day, deadline, focus? My mind chased its own tail as I picked up garbage and wondered how to cultivate mass mindfulness in an era of incessant distraction.

This week, on, Evelyn Coggins writes about the things that go through her mind when she’s out harvesting wild botanicals in the forest.

Coggins is a trained herbalist, or phytotherapist, with a Master of Health Science in herbal medicine, and a private clinical practice in Pemberton. She lectures in the Botanical Medicine Department of the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine and has contributed to the Wellness Almanac for two years.

She recently suffered nerve damage to her right hand – a painful injury that wasn’t going into abeyance despite the need to harvest St John’s wort blossoms as they came into season. “I either had to gather the flowers or go without their medicine until next year’s harvest,” Coggins wrote.

When harvesting, to ensure she takes just enough of the medicinal blossoms and no more, she takes her jars to the forest, thinking over and over as she picks each tiny flower, “Please may I?”

Picking the delicate St John’s Wort blossoms in the hot June sun is a painstaking job and it was a literally painful process for Coggins with her damaged hand. She really just wanted it over and done with, but forced herself to think happy thoughts. “Sweating and irritated,” Coggins writes, “I eventually managed to force myself to concentrate on my breathing and mentally review my friend, meditation leader Abrah Arneson’s Loving Kindness meditation.”

A few hours later, her jars were filled and her hand was no longer hurting – the hypericin in the St John’s wort that helps to relieve nerve pain, had worked its magic.

Making observance – of new blossoms, a food coming into season, the migration of birds, the return of the salmon, of Official Days or personal celebrations and anniversaries – isn’t easy. But the little wake-up, pay-attention whispers keep coming.


Every November, to turn our minds to what wellness means here where we live, the Winds of Change hosts an annual Wellness Gathering. Currently, the Winds of Change is seeking an event coordinator to plan and organize the 5th Wellness Gathering. Please email your application to Lee-Anne Kauffman at by July 18.



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