Pop the Champagne!

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Posted by Judy Moon

Happy Birthday Wellness Seeds! You are officially one year old! You might be saying to yourself… soooo????

Well, It’s a big deal for me. It took a lot of coaxing from someone very special to me and that California Girl knows who she is!

I am creative in a lot of different ways – in my garden, with cooking, I knit, I even play with colored pencils and a Mandala coloring book, I love crafts, I like to paint, – you get the picture, if there’s glitter or a glue stick involved – count me in!

But writing – that took me out of my comfort zone. It was personal, it was exposing, just to name a few of the million excuses I gave to not start a blog. Probably my biggest excuse/fear was- “Who wants to hear what I have to say? Who cares?”

Well to my surprise – people do care- who knew?!

The other big surprise – drum roll please…

I enjoy writing! Yes, I said it out loud for the whole universe to see.

So my anniversary Wellness Seed for you today is –

Step out of the box, do something new and different, something that makes you a little uncomfortable, It doesn’t have to be big. Change is the essence of our life. 

You might be surprised. It may even turn out to be something that you really enjoy and puts a smile on your face and that is good medicine in my book.



Enjoy Every Sandwich!

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

Well, it’s official! I’ve had my first “best summer sandwich”. Best in my opinion at least! I know I’ve mentioned it before, maybe in the first ever post I wrote for this blog, the one about cucumbers, but the sandwich I wax poetic about is so simple and satisfying and SO summer it couldn’t be anything but the best.

Cukes, tomato, sweet onion, mayo, salt and pepper on bread/toast of your choice. That’s it folks. My summer memories are full with these perfect lunch delights. With the grandparents, the aunts and uncles and mostly with my parents, especially my Mom. 
I say “official” for today, but it’s more like pure. I’ve created a few variations in mid and late July, but the tomatoes weren’t that luscious and sweet yet and I think I added some cheese and maybe a few pickled something or other. Don’t get me wrong, all lovely lunches! But today’s sandwich was special. It tasted like the ones I remember my Mom making with veggies from the garden, warm with the mid-day sun that shone on us as we gathered them.

Today I used a stunning orangey/yellow tomato and a thin, Asian variety of cucumber that we had purchased on Sunday from the Headhouse Farmer’s Market (Thank you fabulous Farmers!!!). A sweet Vidalia onion, some mayo (whatever your favorite happens to be), fresh ground pepper and some lovely sea salt from McClellanville, S.C. from Bulls Bay Saltworks. The Charleston Sea Salt is the variety I happen to have (Thanks Aunt Linda!) but the smoked one looks lovely too.

I lightly toasted some sourdough bread, slapped it all together and… Wow! SUMMER! Pure, sweet summer flavors. What more can I say….

…I’ll let that wild man and sage storyteller/songwriter Warren Zevon send us off here with some words to live by;
 “Enjoy EVERY sandwich!”



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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

I just had a lovely moment.

I was walking back to my house after visiting Fante’s in the Italian Market. A fabulous cooking/baking supply store, it also has a small coffee bar with one of those iced drink machines that is filled with the most amazing cappuccino granita!!!! It is so amazing that one (a.k.a. me) must be careful not to stop by everyday just to make sure the recipe has not changed… ha!

As I was strolling home, sipping my afternoon treat I was gazing up at the super blue sky and all of the fluffy, glowing white clouds and I realized… it’s so QUIET! For a minute, maybe two, no cars passed by, no compressor noise from the new houses being built across the street, no forklifts hauling wares back and forth. Just the sky and a mild breeze and a pigeon floating down from it’s perch on a near by rooftop. Now it wasn’t silent… the compressors from the giant butcher shop were running and I could hear the hustle and bustle from the market half a block down. But there was a quiet stillness, just for those few moments. I stood and watched the clouds morph and glide into a new configuration and smiled deeply. Then a car pulled out of a parking lot and some folks walked by and the moment had passed. But I was so glad I caught it!

I have this quote from Zen teacher Katagiri Roshi that I keep on my shelf of special things, “Every moment is enormous and it is all we have”. Just moments, lots and lots of them, but really just moments. Remembering to be aware and open to them, paying attention even when they aren’t as sweet as the one above, that’s the key!

P.S. Add this little moment to your musical playlist: Evan Lurie “Selling Water By the Side of the River”. Lovely album! And there is a song called “Moment”. It’s 51 seconds long and it’s gorgeous.


How Far Can You Spit a Watermelon Seed?

Posted by Judy Moon

I learned something yesterday – in the U.S., July is National Watermelon month – who knew?

It made me instantly think of summers at my aunt’s cottage at the lake, wrapped in a towel after swimming eating watermelon wedges over a flimsy paper plate puddled with juice and seeds. I also had a memory of being allowed to just spit the seeds into the grass, giggling the whole time doing it seeing who could spit them the farthest.

I was surprised to learn that 1 cup of watermelon has 1.5 times more of the antioxidant lycopene than tomatoes. If you want to read more fun facts about watermelon check this out.

Here’s a fun drink you can whip up using watermelon –

Watermelon Cooler Slushie
4 cups cubed seeded watermelon
10 ice cubes
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup white sugar (or substitute agave or your sweetener of choice)
dash of salt

Blend in your blender till smooth
*I think this could easily become an adult beverage with a little vodka , or rum???

So, how far CAN you spit a watermelon seed? I am not sure, but I intend to find out. Happy Watermelon Month! Cheers!

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If It’s a Saturday in the Summer, You Know Where to Find Me.

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Posted by Judy Moon

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love the beach. I almost crave it. I usually spend at least one weekend day in the summer sitting in front of the glorious ocean.

I have been asked more than once – “why do you love the beach so much” or “what is it about going to the beach that you love so much”? It made me think a bit.

There are the obvious reasons –
1. It’s great to be in nature – living in Philadelphia it’s a huge shift from my typical day.
2. There’s no schedule on the beach – again, a big shift from my usual day to day – as a massage therapist, my day is all about schedule and appointments and looking at the clock.
3. It’s relaxing, fun, good people watching, quality time with my sweetie, time to catch up on all of my reading, nothing like a cold Corona on the beach, etc.

I knew there was something more and deeper to it. Our connection to water is primal. We begin our life in the womb surrounded by water. Throughout history, water has represented purification and cleansing.

Research shows that the sound of the waves alters patterns in the brain resulting in a calmer state. Aaaahhhh….

As the waves break on the shoreline, air particles break apart releasing ions into the atmosphere. Scientists claim that sea air contains an abundance of negatively charged ions. In our world we have too many positive ions in our life. You may know positive ions by another name – free radicals. Because electricity, computers, TV and electronics are all sources of positive ions in our lives. Increasing our exposure to negative ions has many health benefits including enhancing the immune system, increasing alertness and improving concentration. Sounds good to me.

The heat of the sun affects our endocrine system – the part of our body, which secretes endorphins – the natural chemicals in our body designed to make us feel relaxed and less stressed. I can vouch for that.

I think there is a deeper reason for me why I feel it to be so healing – “The healing rhythm of the sea and the babbling rhythm of a mountain stream are reminders of the greater rhythm of life. The human body is filled with rhythms from the cadence of breath, to the beat of your heart, to our hormonal cycles. When we are in a naturally rhythmic watery environment, our body synchronizes and harmonizes itself with the rhythm of nature.”

Bingo! Thanks Denise Linn for why I feel so much better when I am sitting on the beach! I read that a few years ago (while sitting on the beach!) in her book Secrets And Mysteries.

I invite you to tap in to that rhythm the next time you have the pleasure of sitting by the ocean. Notice whatever it is that you notice.

Maybe I’ll even share where the parking meter is in Atlantic City that gives you five hours for one quarter…. chances are, we are already parked in it.

Don’t forget your sunscreen!


Do You Believe in Magic?

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Posted by Judy Moon

Do you believe in magic? I do. More accurately, I believe in miracles and the power of intention.

I recently read a really cool book called E-Squared, Nine Do It Yourself Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality, by Pam Grout. I already do energy work and do not really need much convincing on this subject, but I thought it would be fun to do the exercises anyway.

Here’s the skinny on the book –   

E-Squared could best be described as a lab manual with simple experiments to prove once and for all that reality is malleable, that consciousness trumps matter, and that you shape your life with your mind. Rather than take it on faith, you are invited to conduct nine 48-hour experiments to prove there really is a positive, loving, totally hip force in the universe. Yes, you read that right. It says prove.

The experiments, each of which can be conducted with absolutely no money and very little time expenditure, demonstrate that spiritual principles are as dependable as gravity, as consistent as Newton’s laws of motion. For years, you’ve been hoping and praying that spiritual principles are true. Now, you can know.”

Sign me up!

One of the first experiments was about your awareness, sometimes the things you want/need are already right in front of you if you just focus your thoughts on them. Your assignment was to see a yellow butterfly in the next 48 hours. Ok, that’s easy, but it was February. So, a day goes by, no butterfly, no surprise. The following day, I am on my way to a bridal shower and realize I didn’t get a card, so I run in to CVS, turn down the Hallmark aisle and look for bridal shower cards and the first card I pick up – big yellow butterfly! Check!

Another experiment was about the power of prayer. You plant two identical pots with seeds, give them the same amount of light and water, but one pot you pray over and one pot you don’t. I already had my morning glory seeds to start for my garden so I was all set. My husband of course asked if we were supposed to say mean things to the other pot. I said, “no, we just pray or send love to the one and ignore the other one.” Every day at least once a day I passed the pot and I said -” I bless you with Infinite Love and Gratitude” and I made the I love you sign in sign language over it. I think the photo speaks for itself.

Not only was it fun doing the experiments, but it made me think about the effects of the bodywork I do. I know the healing effects and all of the benefits of all of the different modalities that I work with. But something shifted in me when I saw with my own eyes that the frequency of focused love and intention influenced how those seeds grew, it made me think about all of the cells, tissues, organs, glands, systems, etc. in the bodies that I work on….

Now that is magic!

Get Outside and Play!

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

This past weekend I spent time with my nephew. He recently turned 13 and he is super fun to hang around with. We have similar senses of humor and ways of being in the world and I always feel refreshed after a visit with him. A few years ago he told me that both my husband and I are kind of like big kids. “Do you mean immature?” I asked. “NO!” he said, “because you both love to play, silly!” Heeheehee.

As I mentioned in my last post I have started a more focused exercise routine to get myself back in shape. Since one of the days of my weekend visit was a workout day I decided to recruit my nephew in the activities as well. He was totally into it! And… he made it way more engaging since we spent a good portion of the routine giggling and teasing each other between gasps for breath and sips of water.

After the real workout we made a “fake workout” video that was, I must say, completely ridiculous and hilarious! My Mom, who was sitting nearby in the yard (another bonus to the workout…OUTSIDE!), was cracking up – always a good sign of quality entertainment.

While I am serious about exercising, making it more playful made it seem more do-able and not just another chore on my list. We forget how important play is in our everyday lives. Focusing on the things we have to get done is important but it can drain our reserves when we don’t get a break from the “work first” mentality. Not only is it fun to play, it stimulates portions of our brain that have to do with creativity, structure, organization, imagination and concentration. Adding in a bit of playfulness may even boost your productivity.

Throw in laughter and WOW! There’s a recipe for great health!

So… get out there and play! With the kids, the dog, your spouse, friends, whoever! Add a game night in every once in a while. Skip down the street for a block or two, swing around each street sign you come upon (or tree), go to the park and SWING! Doesn’t have to be for hours, just a few moments can shift your energy and mood.


Posture Power

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

When I was kid, 8, 9, maybe 10 years of age or so, my brother who is several years older than me, would poke me in the back or the side and say “Stand up straight!” – Man, did I hate that! In response I would shriek something along the lines of “Leave me alone!” As much as I hated to admit it then, I did slouch and slump quite a bit. I was shy and awkward and that just felt a bit safer to me than sticking my chest out and strutting about.

I bring this up because while I have been thinking about posture for this blog post, it hit home this morning during my first workout with my personal trainer, Paula. (Woohoo!!! She ROCKS! and I get to say I have a “personal trainer”. Mind you this is not part of my usual vocabulary. Sweet!) As she was guiding me into one of the many exercises we did today she said “Now bring yourself into proud posture and then bring your arms back”…etc. Proud posture. Nothing earth shattering here but it just brought to mind the sense of well-being, confidence and groundedness that open, upright posture exemplifies.

In my daily massage work I see the effects of poor posture. Forward head positioning, tight pectoral, scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscles. Strained posterior neck and shoulder muscles, tightness in the ribcage and diaphragm, and low energy. While one session of massage does not “fix” these issues, it can remind my clients how good it feels to lift their chins, open their chests and breath deeply and with ease.

Our posture says quite a bit about how we are feeling on the inside. But our posture also has the ability to work from the inside out. Try this: if you are sitting at your computer or on your smart phone reading this, take a moment and observe your posture. I mean really observe and take note. Are you slumped over your keyboard with your head forward? Are you looking down with your head flexed forward and your shoulders in your ears as you are walking down the street? Are you slouching in your chair with all of the above head/shoulder postures? Not trying to invoke your Mom or Grandma here (or my brother!) but straighten up!

Now take a deep breath…bring your head back so it floats above your shoulders. Let your shoulders fall away from your ears. Take another deep belly breath. Nice and slow. Roll your shoulders up and back and few times. Open your mouth and stretch your jaw. Tuck your tailbone and feel yourself straighten up. Remember that string that lifts you from the top of your head? (or how about Leather Tuscadero with the phone book balancing on her head? Gotta love Happy Days! Now the Fonz had POSTURE!)

Do you feel a difference? Practice for the next few days. Every 1/2 hour or so (or some other time frame that is realistic for you) during the work day check in with your posture and your breathing. Do you need to adjust? Do you notice a change in your energy or your mood when you open and shift your posture? Are you noticing a bit less tension in your neck and shoulders?

We may not be able to change what we have to do for many hours each day but we can change HOW we do it. My brother wasn’t just teasing me for the fun of it! (well… maybe a little) Our posture affects both physical and emotional well being. Gently reminding ourselves to lift our heads, open our chests and take a deep breath can change the way we see the moment, the day, the world.

After my workout and my massage (self care!!!!!!!) today I’ve been strutting around with “proud posture” like crazy – and it feels GREAT!

My Secret Weapon For De-stressing

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Posted by Judy Moon

Everyone experiences stress at some time in his or her life. It’s not fun, but it’s part of life here on this planet earth. The cool thing is that we came equipped with choice. We have the ability to choose how we handle stress.

There are tons of options for stress management available to us ranging from aromatherapy sprays, meditations, CD’s, Mindfulness classes, the list goes on…

My favorite way to instantly de-stress is the 4-7-8 breath. It was recommended to me years ago and it’s literally like a secret weapon I can whip out at any moment and experience an immediate shift. Like when the bus is running late in the morning, I could choose to get myself all twisted about it, or I can do a few rounds of 4-7-8 breathing instead.

I learned about it Dr. Weil’s website, he’s a big fan of it as well. Here are his instructions:

The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
5. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply. This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.  Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.

Give it a try, right now, start with a big whoosh exhale:
1. Breath in –
2. Hold –
3. Exhale –
4. Don’t you feel better already?

The only thing that would make it even better is adding some Infinite Love and Gratitude at the end.

Let us know how it’s working for you!


The Necessity of Touch

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

As a massage therapist I use touch to relax stressed out bodies and minds, ease muscle tension and guide my clients to a more grounded, centered and calm state of being.

As an infant massage instructor I teach parents how to massage their babies. We learn specific strokes for easing tummy discomforts and colic, general strokes to relax or stimulate the skin and why touch is so crucial to the process of growth and development, bonding and communication.

This last word, communication, is not always the first thing that comes to mind when we think of touch. But touch is communication and an important form of communicating at that.

When we touch someone, whether a simple gesture of a hand on a shoulder, a hug, or a full massage, we are stimulating a physiological response in our and their bodies and in turn both expressing and eliciting emotion.

Our touch expresses our concern or empathy, our love and joy, our support, strength and a sense of security.

When our skin is touched, pressure receptors under the skin send signals to the brain, specifically to the vagus nerve, which has branches that traverse the body. It’s connection to the heart is one place where we see the power of touch in action. Research studies have shown that people asked to perform a stressful task( taking a difficult test or giving a speech) had lower heart rates and blood pressure (both governed by the heart) resulting in overall lower levels of stress, when they had a partner there to provide a hug or hold their hands.

Touch also stimulates the release of oxytocin, that essential hormone that increases feelings of trust, bonding and deep connection to others. The connection/communication between the physical and the emotional bodies runs deep and the skin plays a fascinating and powerful role.

In my work I see clients who have lost a spouse and talk about the connection they feel through massage and how it helps them to deal with missing that everyday touch. I see parents connecting deeply to their new babies as they gaze into their eyes and massage a tiny foot or leg. I am grateful for these experiences.

Sometimes we forget that just the simple gesture of placing our hand on someone’s arm, shoulder or hand can change the way they go about their day. It can remind them and us to take a deep breath, to smile or cry and to touch the next person they see in the same gentle way.

To communicate, with our hearts and our hands.

P.S. To read more about the essential role of touch in our lives (and some of the inspiration for my work and this blog post), check out ‘Touching” by Ashley Montegue. Also the incredible work of Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami.

And a brief but informative article from NPR that I give as a handout in my infant massage classes: Human Connections Start With A Friendly Touch by Michelle Trudeau 

Massage Therapist Insider Series: How Can I Make the Most of Each Massage Treatment?

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This post is a continuation to my previous post about making massage a more affordable practice. Making the most of your massage can be as easy as, practicing stillness immediately following your treatment. Combining massage with other forms of bodywork can accelerate the healing process even further.

My personal model for health includes chiropractic care, acupuncture, yoga, running, and of course massage. That might seem like a long list of healing modalities, but hey, I’m also “in the biz” and that amount of self care makes the most sense to me as an individual. Pairing one of those activities with massage can open up a world of possibilities. As a practitioner, I love collaborating with other healers. It’s a fun way to gain useful information that I try to implement with each person I encounter.

Having a chiropractic adjustment, an acupuncture treatment, or practicing yoga before a massage can allow the body to be more open and supple to receive that extra level of healing. I try to encourage clients to try everything when it comes to caring for their bodies, minds and spirits.

Witch Hazel Happiness

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

In the midst of this “real”winter we are having here in Philadelphia, it would be understandable to think ”No, we’ll never see spring again”. We all know it’s not true, but all the gray can sure make it feel that way sometimes. (Mind you, as I write this it is in the 40’s, raining and some serious thunder just shook my kitchen walls! Mother Nature is a trickster!)

To beat these winter’s almost over blues, may I recommend an aromatherapy treatment? It costs nothing and will boost your spirits instantly!

It’s called…Witch Hazel!

This lovely shrub that we see here in Philly (usually hamamelis x intermedia, a group of hybrids between H. japonica x H. mollis), begins to bloom late January/early February to late March and depending on the variety has an INCREDIBLE scent. Slightly sweet, fresh, a touch of citrus and spice and maybe a pinch of gardenia. Most often seen with varying shades of yellow or orange flowers. I find this plant to be very uplifting. So bright and cheery it just washes those winter blues away from me.

In the few blocks around our office in Washington Square there are three favored spots that I frequent to find this little lovely. Kahn Park at 11th & Pine has 3 or 4 varieties. Locust street close to the 10th street side and the Jefferson campus. And the medicinal garden at Pennsylvania Hospital on 8th & Pine. (Yes, I do stalk the witch hazel!)

When you find them, step in close and inhale deeply… Oh yes, the birds are starting to sing their early spring song…oh look the sun is peeking out from behind the gloom… ahhhh.., smile!

At the moment we are fortunate enough to have several branches of witch hazel gracing our office with it’s fabulous fragrance (thanks Dad!). We have a garden shed/garden musings display in our foyer for the Philadelphia Flower Show window contest and the hazels are doing their thing! Stop by and check it out!

Happy Witch Hazel hunting!

Fun Fact:
The native witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana or common witch hazel blooms in the fall to early winter and can be found all over the Wissahickon park and surrounding areas. It ranges from Canada to Georgia and west to Nebraska and Arkansas. The witch hazel astringent we use as a skin care product is an extract distilled from the young roots and stems of this plant.