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Hygiene and Wellness

When it comes to hygiene – personal hygiene – the cleanliness of body, clothing, and home environment are typically the focus. And while these are important, hygiene is much more: it is about maintaining health and preventing disease – and so that includes physical and mental cleanliness. 

Photo by Manuel Torres Garcia

In the 19th century, the poet Robert Browning dropped us into the secret inner world of a monk who is enraged at “Brother Lawrence”. What exactly did this Brother Lawrence do? You might wonder, if you haven’t already read the fiercely gnarled interior monologue known as the “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”. Well, for one, Brother Lawrence grew melons to share with the order. (The effrontery! The virtue signaling!)

“Oh, those melons! if he’s able
   We’re to have a feast; so nice!
One goes to the Abbot’s table,
   All of us get each a slice.
How go on your flowers? None double?
   Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange!–And I, too, at such trouble,
   Keep them close-nipped on the sly!”

This is a monk going through the motions of appearing pious, and while we witness his contaminated thoughts – we realize: he can hide them. They’re his thoughts. While some do cross over into actions, they are sly actions. Without the access provided by our esteemed poet, we probably would perceive him as the quiet, devoted monk that he presents himself as, deep in contemplation in a peaceful cloister.

We rise above the cloister and drift across the ocean…

Photo by Kayla Salisbury

…to Gilligan’s Island, about a hundred years later. Specifically, episode #55, “Seer Gilligan”.  

Photos by Karolina Grabowska and Nivedha S

Sunflower seeds that confer telepathic ability have been found. The delight of the castaways rapidly turns into resentment and acrimony as they “think” to each other — and their thoughts reveal the state of their minds, engaged in harmful patterns and projections.

And there it was: an opportunity for the castaways to clean their thoughts and begin relating to each other with a higher level of mental hygiene. They would have had to acknowledge and work through their discomfort and release delusions. Instead, they became reactive and misplaced their personal responsibility. Gilligan burns the bush and destroys the seeds, the telepathic abilities wear off, and they go back to their “normal” communications.

A missed opportunity, framed in a story as a smart way to avoid interpersonal conflict, but which actually reflected a profound lack of courage in “powerful” societies. Thus the 20th century continued and ended.

Then came “social media”…

Photo by Pixabay

I’m with a friend and her teenage daughter on a walk, and our conversation on mental health meanders to social media. The teenager has lots of questions. Why are people so stingy with likes? They’re free, aren’t they? Why do so many of her “friends” not like or comment on her posts — especially the ones where she has earned recognition or is just expressing happiness?

Photo by Cristian Dina

“It’s as if…” she reluctantly articulates, “they’re not happy for me.” We are learning more about harmful effects of social media — especially on young minds, and it is important to provide language, tools, and support for people to make healthy choices regarding online presence and participation.

We can also expand our concepts of what is instructive.

There’s an opportunity here. Instead of becoming reactive and misplacing our personal responsibility, we can acknowledge and work through our discomfort and release delusions. We can choose to not project our own shadow aspects onto others.

Perhaps, though, it is our only option now.

For ages, people could get away with hiding their less-than-generous feelings and thoughts about people in their social circles and beyond, but one consequence of social media has been connecting people in ways that reveal mental hygiene – yours as well as that of others.

So-called “unseen” private thoughts are beginning to show. Interior monologues are becoming unconscious soliloquies. Mental hygiene is becoming as accessible to the senses as physical hygiene.

Geteiltes Leid

ist halbes Leid;

Glück verdoppelt sich

wenn man es teilt.

(German saying)

Sorrow shared is reduced by half; happiness shared is doubled.

This is the natural order, but when people have poor mental hygiene, the personal sorrow you confide in them is either amplified or ignored — and the happiness you share is decimated.

With good personal mental hygiene: thoughts, words, and actions are in alignment. People are able to share in a boundless happiness and naturally reduce others’ sorrows. With poor hygiene, they can barely contain an inner gr-r-r at another’s happiness.

How can we develop good mental hygiene?

Let’s carefully consider the guidance of sage Patañjali:



viṣayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaḥ-citta-prasādanam

Yogasūtra I.33

There are four parts to this:

  1. Be friendly towards those who are happy;
  2. Be compassionate towards those who are unhappy;
  3. Take delight in those who are virtuous and benevolent;
  4. Cultivate non-judgmental equanimity regarding those who are malevolent.

It’s not easy, but it’s that simple. 

Life on earth gives us myriad chances to practice.  Each day brings opportunities to develop these, to improve personal hygiene and enhance holistic wellness.❂

Feature photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova

On the Waves of Thoughts

More than 14 million books

Published over a period of 125 years (1855 – 2019)

In 3 languages (English, German, Spanish)

Add machine learning and algorithms that tirelessly seek and identify textual markers of “cognitive distortions” — thinking patterns associated with anxiety and depression — for researchers to analyze.


They analyzed.


The interdisciplinary team of researchers found that the language records show a surge of cognitive distortions since the 1980s.


In fact, entire societies may be getting more depressed — and this may correlate with new technologies and “social” media.


Before you say, “I knew it; I just had a feeling” — just consider if that may indicate a cognitive distortion…

Find information on the cognitive distortion schemata used in the study here, and below a brief overview:

12 Cognitive Distortions

1. Catastrophizing

Exaggerating the importance of negative events

Examples: “will go wrong” and “will never end”

2. Dichotomous Reasoning

Thinking that an inherently continuous situation can only fall into two categories

Examples: “everything” and “nothing”

3. Disqualifying the Positive

Unreasonably discounting positive experiences

Examples: “good but” and “not that good”

4. Emotional Reasoning

Thinking that something is true based on how one feels, ignoring the evidence to the contrary

Examples: “because it feels” and “because I feel”

5. Fortune-telling

Making predictions, usually negative ones, about the future

Examples: “I will not” and “it will not”

6. Labeling and Mislabeling

Labeling yourself or others while discounting evidence that could lead to less disastrous conclusions

Examples: “I am a(n)…” and “They are a(n)…”

7. Magnification and Minimization

Magnifying negative aspects or minimizing positive aspects

Examples: “best” and “worst”

8. Mental Filtering

Paying too much attention to negative details instead of the whole picture

Examples: “all I can see” and “completely wrong”

9. Mindreading

Believing you know what others are thinking

Examples: “she thinks” and “he does not believe”

10. Overgeneralizing

Making sweeping negative conclusions based on a few examples

Examples: “always” and “nobody ever”

11. Personalizing

Believing others are behaving negatively because of oneself, without considering more plausible or external explanations for behavior

Examples: “because of me” and “because I”

12. Should Statements

Having a fixed idea on how you and/or others should behave

Examples: “should” and “has/have to”

Beyond books — which are typically composed, edited, and revised — let us recognize that in our hyperconnected worlds today, more and more individual consciousnesses are regularly dipping into or soaking in social media and other virtual spaces where cognitive distortions (from the subtle to the obvious) pop up rashly and run rife.

Studying these cognitive distortions, we can reflect with more precision on the many ways that we might mislead ourselves (or allow ourselves to be misled) into thinking patterns that diminish well-being and harm mental health.

The mind can flow in different directions.

Refreshingly, we may glimpse and then clearly see the many ways to improve the quality of thinking patterns for holistic wellness.

When ready to delve deeper (and be prepared; it is a deep dive), to get to the source and detach the distortions from their roots: we can learn how to clear up the kleśa (mental states that cause suffering), particularly: ignorance, aversion, and attachment.❂

The information, materials, and content in this post and on this website are for general educational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or to serve as a substitute for professional medical consultations, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare practitioners before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness routine or other wellness program.

Feature photo by George Milton

In the Margins – Poem #3

| In the Margins – Poem #3 – From the pages of Mary Windermere’s Book of Healing Plants (unpublished). -M.J. Heinrich |

Ginger is healing…

The feeling of heat

Heart aligned coherently

To respect those we meet.

There is danger in rage:

From exclusion and lies,

The gatekeeper and cage;

Incoherent petty hate,

And the “Just wait…”


Wait — weight?

Till beauty and strength fade?

Till that original voice is erased?

Yet there is danger in the rage.

Who guides you, to free you-

From those who clutch and fake you?

Now this is the hour of the Sage.

| Feature photo by Klaudia Ekert |


Water always finds a way

Have you ever wondered at how certain books seem to choose you, sliding into your life just when there is a specific longing and space for them, binding with threads of your destiny from the moment you choose them, too? 

That’s how the young Sebastian Kneipp must have felt that evening when he returned from the library in Munich. It was at the end of the 1840s and he was trying to get through his university studies while suffering from a lung disease he couldn’t shake off. From a poor family, he had to rely on knowledge flowing to him from various, perhaps unexpected sources. Knowledge discovered. Knowledge earned by intellectual curiosity. And so one day in the library (was he trying to suppress his coughs in the studied silence of the reading room? Did he wander off into the stacks where nobody was, where he could cough into a handkerchief and not bother anybody?) he found a book by one Dr. Johann Siegmund Hahn — written a hundred years before — on the healing powers of water. 

The author was a physician and pioneer of Wasserheilkunde, of naturopathic and scientific hydrotherapy in Germany; Hahn was comfortably positioned in a family of doctors and supported personally and professionally. Thankfully he was also generous and inspired to share his experience and knowledge. That book, with the rather windy title: “Unterricht von Krafft und Würckung des frischen Wassers in die Leiber der Menschen, besonders der Krancken, bey dessen innerlichen und äusserlichen Gebrauch (…)” rested then in the hands of Sebastian Kneipp.

“Physician, heal thyself”

While this may be a warning to those practicing medicine who seek to diagnose illnesses in people and/or project onto others rather than first acknowledging and clearing up their own health issues, it is also an earnest path for some – who, by healing themselves first, become powerful healers.

Photo by Maria Geller

After taking plunges into the cold waters of the Danube River (amongst the methods he discovered in the book and experimented with), Kneipp cured himself of what was considered an incurable illness and went on to develop a healing system that included hydrotherapy, phytotherapy, exercise, nutrition, and a balanced lifestyle. In 1887, he published his book, “Meine Wasserkur” (My Water Cure).

The town of Bad Wörishofen in southern Germany (130 km/81 miles from the München-Erding airport/Munich and 160 km/99 miles from the airport in Stuttgart), which became home to the priest and healer Sebastian Kneipp and his “water cure”, is celebrating Kneipp’s 200th birthday in 2021.

Though Kneippism is part of Germany’s intangible cultural heritage, his system, water cure and holistic approach have inspired and influenced healers and wellness spas worldwide.❀

Interview with Kneipp expert Jochen Reisberger | Dornbracht Healthness network

*We get to pronounce the K in “Kneipp” (rhymes with ripe).

“Rien n’est plus puissant qu’une idée dont l’heure est venue.”

(Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.)

Victor Hugo

Feature Photo by Todd Trapani


As beginners in a yoga practice, we may find ourselves with instructors and practitioners who show us their advanced asana (physical poses), with little or no explanation about the gradual process of achieving the asana.

It is impressive when we perceive someone as spontaneously capable of a pose that seems so daunting. Perhaps an instructor goes into Mayurasana (the peacock pose). Or a student practicing near us shows how they can do the Astavakrasana (the eight angle pose).

Meanwhile, we’re still trying to stand straight and balance in Vrkasana (the tree pose).

The key in those moments as a beginner is to remember that these are only the finished poses. The real objective is inner alignment for enlightenment — through movement and personal development.  So as we concentrate on straightening our posture, feeling rooted in the earth, reaching towards the sky, and experiencing balance in Vrkasana – and if we are able to do this (even slightly) better than in the practice session before — therein lies the value.

The achievement is not the advanced asana; it is to advance with and through asana.

The heartfelt intent to be present and diligent in our practice – stretching ourselves and growing steadily in yoga discipline: that is what we ought to focus on and celebrate, not the finished poses. That inner knowing of how one is growing – that’s not easy to teach or something to show off, is it? Doesn’t it just glow brilliantly? ❂

| Feature Photo by Yan Krukov |

Architectural Quality and Culture: Practically Perfect

Is a utopia the opposite of a dystopia?

Dystopia refers to “an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.” (New Oxford American Dictionary).

Utopia calls to mind an ideal place – with all the desirable qualities for a wholesome human society. 

Sir Thomas More introduced the term in his 1516 novel Utopia, about a fictional island society. And while that society was located in the south Atlantic Ocean, the word utopia translates from the Greek into English as “no-place”.  So actually, a “utopia” is, in its very code, a promise of perfection with an underlying belief that such a place cannot exist in the real world.

Dystopia often calls to mind George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. But since that novel was published in 1949, dystopian science fiction stories and films have inundated the mainstream.

Think of the stories that can be described as “utopian” – how many can you call to mind?

Of course, an emphasis on dystopian patterns must have shaped the way that generations of people in western societies have consciously and unconsciously perceived the world, its possibilities, and human potential.

Here we are in the 2020s, with utopian (dis)illusions and dystopian narratives strewn about, but also real environmental crises challenging core beliefs. And I have to ask: from the point of view of someone considering their world view and what formed it — is a utopia actually the opposite of a dystopia? Or do they serve as one vicious cycle — as a loop restricting human imagination, actions, and potential?

What if we revise our understanding? Moving away from dystopia, there is a happy dream and vision. Moving away from utopia, there is a practical process. There is a design and site plan. There is a lived reality, rooted in personal responsibility and social cooperation.

So perhaps we can now appropriately identify the opposite of a utopia-dystopia vicious cycle:


The German term Baukultur refers to “the production of the built environment and how we interact with it, including planning, building, remodelling and conservation.”

As architect and urban planner Reiner Nagel (Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Federal Foundation for Baukultur) explains:

“We definitely regard Baukultur as a synonym for sustainability. But it includes more than just environmental aspects…Sustainability in the sense of architectural culture also includes the resulting man-made spaces and the process of creating them.

In other words, how do we get there?” 

Interview with journalist Torsten Meise | Interview auf Deutsch

To align and resonate with Baukultur then, is to first and foremost believe that spaces with all the desirable qualities for wholesome, sustainable human societies can be — quite simply — real places. It is to establish a virtuous cycle, where we are all responsible for our built environments – as well as what we contribute to the consensus reality from our thoughts, perceptions, and writings.

If the concepts of utopia and dystopia linger a while longer, let us remember that they create and reinforce a loop of illusion and disillusion — like quicksand on a mental map. Steer clear.

Baukultur is about nurturing a vision of future human societies rooted in practical processes and real places. And that gives us something to build on.❂

Social Light

| Photo by Vlad Chețan |

There is an idea that responsibility is the inseparable result of power, known most recently as the Peter Parker principle: “With great power comes great responsibility”.

If we consider “freedom” in this equation, it also holds: “With great freedom comes great responsibility.” 

And yet, it seems that as many achieve greater freedoms relative to most others in this world, they are paradoxically trapped in a state of mind which shirks responsibility and chases endlessly after ego-gratification. Instead of being social lights, illuminating the best in others, they become self-absorbed socialites, which is to the soul as artificial sweeteners are to the body.

So your assignment, dear reader, is to define what freedom means for you, then list the freedoms that you recognize in your life and consider how you can be a social light now – and what is furthermore possible, as your freedom expands. And remember, when you do contribute in this way to the world, it’s good to do so as anonymously as possible. Allow people to wonder where the light you’ve shared is coming from, so that serendipitously they may find it in themselves and remember their true nature.❂