by Kate Heyhoe
"Set out from any point. They are all alike. They all lead to a point of departure." ...Antonio Porchia
When you think about it, airplanes are really spaceships, portals to time travel. What's more, time and reality are just matters of perception. Watch a shooting star streak through the sky and what do you see? A glowing body of space debris that's not really there. Not anymore, that is. It actually made its journey earlier. All you're seeing is the meteor's creation of light—light which races through space at the rate of roughly 182,000 miles per second before reaching your eyes. So, at the exact moment you think you see that amazing shooting star, the meteor doesn't exist anymore. It's already gone. Kaput. Burned up or passed on. But because you see it, you believe in it. It leaves its mark in your mind.
Imagination is all about perception. We are each born with the amazing capacity to imagine, to create, to dream, and to daydream. Studies show that encouraging these aspects of our mind are healthy. We need ways to relieve stress, to have fun, to escape the pedantic drudgery of jobs or demands, to balance the dual hemispheres of our brains with both logical and creative stimuli. And when you feed your mind, you feed your body and soul, too. Active brains result in such benefits as better memories, positive emotions, and quicker reflexes. Thinking keeps you young, and dreaming keeps you happy.
We can't always just uproot ourselves and escape to a tropical paradise whenever we want, but we can adjust our perceptions to feel as if we've been there. Dreaming and daydreaming act as forms of time travel for the brain. They release our subconscious and restore balance to our psyches.
Over the next few months, come with me on a very special dream. I'm embarking on a self-created "Virtual World Tour & Progressive Feast." You don't need a passport or a suitcase, just an open mind that's ready to come out and play.
If you've never experienced a progressive feast, the idea is that different courses of a meal are enjoyed in different locations. A group may start with hors d'oeuvre and cocktails at the Stewarts' house, migrate to Mickey and Minnie's for cheese and wine, skip down the street to Fred & Ethyl's for appetizers, then drive across town to enjoy a main meal at the Kennedys', ending up at George and Gracie's for coffee, dessert, and cigars.
In my Virtual World Tour & Progressive Feast, I lift off with you and other friends in my custom-equipped spaceship, one that cuts through time and space. We begin with appetizers in Asia, then we cross into India, the Middle East, and North Africa for more exotic courses, and wrap up the banquet in Europe with some surprise tastings, culminating the journey with desserts in Deutschland. We may dine with monkeys or sup with savages. Or, we may be treated like royalty, discovering foods and recipes that are truly fit for kings and queens. Wherever we go, the progressive feast will be a stimulating adventure for the mind... With splendid recipes that feed the body, the spirit, and the soul.
Next week, we kick off the tour with our first stop, Japan. But before fastening our seat belts, join me for some mind-feeding foods and exercises that will help inspire your imagination. Studies show that certain foods, because of the chemicals they release in the brain, can actually affect emotions, aid sound sleep, and reduce stress. Serotonin, a hormone, and tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin, can be triggered by eating certain foods (such as bananas or pasta), which promote calmness, relaxation, and in adequate quantities, sleep. At the same time, simple brain puzzles and queries can jumpstart the thinking process to stimulate creativity and open up the imagination.
Serotonin, an inherent brain chemical, produces both relaxation and wakefulness, depending on the levels secreted. According to Dr. Kenneth Giuffre, author of The Care and Feeding of Your Brain, "The direct effect of serotonin is mysterious, even paradoxical. You can't be awake without it, and it is absolutely necessary to concentrate, yet too much serotonin makes you fall asleep."
Serotonin is associated with stress reduction, and certain foods or food combinations can trigger the release of serotonin, as Dr. Giuffre explains: "Fruits are the perfect food for reducing stress...There is not enough simple sugar to rapidly raise blood sugar and insulin, and there is just enough complex sugar to prolong the positive effect of mediating the higher blood sugar and serotonin release in the brain." Eating fruit, he says, can be beneficial before facing stress, such as rush-hour traffic.
Similarly, herbs can have a neural effect. Rosemary is believed to aid mild depression, enhance memory, relieve headaches (including migraines), and stimulate the circulation. Sage is also said to enhance memory, relax the nerves, and ease digestion.
To prepare your brain for this virtual road-trip, consider the foods you eat. In Savory Asiago, Apple & Rosemary Bread, the calming qualities of rosemary combine with serotonin-inducing apples to make a cheese bread that's perfect by itself, toasted, or served alongside roasted chicken or pork. In the morning, this bread can help smooth the path from your sleepy dream state to the rigors of the waking world. In the evening, it can raise your spirits and encourage a relaxed but creativity-charged mood. And for an easy recipe that also eases your disposition, enjoy the Buttery Pasta with Sage Leaves.
Sit back, relax, and unlock the portal to your daydreams. All you need is a fork, an open mind, and a hearty appetite for fun and food.
Put your imagination into gear by exploring the following questions. As you think about them, notice how your mood changes. Can you feel the right side of your brain becoming more active? As we embark on the Virtual World Tour, release your mind and let your imagination flourish.
Mind Trip: Where do dreams and daydreams come from? Close your eyes and think of a place you'd like to be. Imagine yourself being there.
Mind Trip: If you could take a vacation back in time, to anywhere in the universe, what three items would you take with you? Why?
Mind Trip: Imagine you're a botanist. You've just created an unusual new vegetable. How would it taste and what would it look like? How would you cook it?
Mind Trip: You wake up and unexpectedly find yourself in a land of lush forests, azure ocean, and gentle breezes. Do you panic and wonder how you're going to get home? Or do you embrace the place and not care about getting home?
Mind Trip: You've discovered a previously unknown ancient civilization. One of the tools unearthed is a long rod with spikes on one end and a spoon-like depression on the other. What do you think it was used for?
The Care and Feeding of Your Brain:
How Diet and Environment Affect What You Think and Feel
By Kenneth Giuffre, MD with Theresa Foy DiGeronimo
Career Press, 1999
Buy the Book
The Care and Feeding of Your Brain:
Editor's Note: The title says it all—what you eat and how you live affect the physical health of the brain—and consequently the mind. This easy to understand guide delves into the ways to enhance our feelings and behavior by aiding our brain, the central processing station for our bodies and minds, and examines some seemingly innocent habits that may be counteracting our positive moods and mental health. If you've ever wondered how to enhance your memory, why you feel depressed, or how to pep up your energy levels, you'll want to explore this book.
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Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
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