while i know i am probably way behind on this one, i had to share that i am reading the most incredible book. animal, vegetable, miracle is novelist barbara kingsolver’s account of the year she and her family moved to their appalachian farm from the tuscon desert and learned to live off of the land. the beauty of this book is that while we learn the details of what it takes to live in harmony with nature and the seasons, we discover that more than sacrifice and discipline, what it really takes is an understanding and appreciation- a LOVE, if you will- for the true value of real food and how that spills over into a love of family and friends and life itself.
i learned so many fascinating tidbits about everything from a five-color silverbeet (swiss chard with amazing rainbow colored stems and leaves), what it really takes to grow asparagus (three years to harvest, but a well-managed asparagus bed can keep producing for thirty years!), and even…turkey sex (let’s put it this way, because of what it takes lethargize them so they dont get rowdy in the coop and to fatten them up for our thanksgiving feasts, they are rendered incapable of reproducing and professionals have to step in- i’ll leave the rest to your imagination).
one of the best things about kingsolver’s book is that she enlisted her family – her brilliant husband, a professor of environmental studies, and her daugther, a college student who knows the value of eating greens on a deep level- to write essays among the meat of the story. these essays are essentially lectures on the true value of the story she is telling us. steven’s writing tackles larger sociologcial, political, ecological, and economic issues such as the price we pay for purchasing food grown in other countries. local food can be seen as snobby and elitist to so many people- i see this all the time. but in reality, beyond sacrificing quality by purchasing soy products from brazil while we are living in kentucky, we are not supporting the farmer in south america that we imagine out there in the fields. in fact, we supporting an international company that has cut down acres of rainforest to grow the soy, destroying indigenous populations.
camille, kingsolver’s daughter, eloquently shares with us anecdotes about growing up in a rather unconventional (although perhaps we have our definition skewed!) 21st century family. she shares recipes with us which exemplify how we can use so few ingredients and create incredible flavor, as long as those ingredients are organic, and humanely and properly raised.
the simplicity of the message of the book- you are what you eat- and how profound it feels to comprehend it (for so many people who i’ve spoken to that have read this), is proof to me that our society is in desperate need of getting back to our roots. of feeling that immense sense of connection to the deepest place inside our own nature. it is an inspiring, self-reflective place, yes. but more than that, it is a motivating place. in realizing our fundamental goodness- the potential we possess and that our natural environment possesses- a chord is struck within us, motivating us to actually use what we have and who we are as healthy, good people and do some actual GOOD in the world. letting go of ego, of our desire for the fastest, biggest, quickest “solution” to our problems, and just learning to think about our place on this earth within the model of a new paradigm (or perhaps ancient…they say everything comes back around again).
it’s time for real change. we are dying, literally. our bodies, our land, our culture…it is dying. every house on the block looks the same. we eat packaged foods that contain ingredients we can’t pronounce, made up by a person in a labcoat and which need extra chemicals just to produce a taste we could easily grow in our own backyards. we are dropping like flies because our bodies are so inflamed and covered in layers of fat, and yet we are still nutritionally starving. we believe in dogma but not in spirituality. we think we are decent people, but we don’t connect with and support one another. we take pills whose side effects result in having to take more pills, and yet we don’t even realize that perhaps the treatment actually lies in eating something green with our dinner, or maybe even in getting a hug from someone we love.
it’s time to start thinking about these things. we are compassionate and good and alive. our bodies deserve better, our earth deserves better, our culture deserves better, and our hearts deserve better. let’s stop starving and start living.
have any of you ever experience one of those periods in life when it feels like all the energy of the universe is against you.? you can’t keep up with the current but you’re too far from the shore to swim to safety? i’d be shocked to hear if anyone answered no.
the universe is a funny place– literally. sometimes i can’t help but laugh out loud at the absurdity of what people are expected to undergo, and yet, i am often equally as struck by the beautiful nature of the world and the gifts we are given. lately, as i have been going through my own metamorphosis of sorts, i have found this this delicate place that lives somewhere in between extreme emotional stress and pain, and this beautiful, balanced sense of hopeful joy. i visit both sides of the spectrum many times a day, but i have found an appreciation for the space between the two, where i am able to step back and learn to be gentle with myself and others and let go of expectations about the way things are “supposed to be.”
pema chödrön, a beautiful, wise Buddhist nun, whose writings were given to me by an angel of a friend, has helped me so much in my process of letting go during this difficult time. chödrön’s teachings are so powerful because they apply to everyone. in her book, “the places that scare you,” chödrön trains us to be compassionate warriors. in doing so, she inspires us to dive into our fear (of uncertainty, loneliness, sickness, loss – any of the places we all have to inevitably face), move beyond it without denying it, and ultimately learn to truly live with purpose in this world of constant change. no one said it was easy, but what has been so eye-opening for me, is that the hard part is often the GOOD part. this is the part where you are able to sink into yourself and let the stress fall away and just feel what you feel with an open heart and a desire to be present, kind, and loving.
i have never been one of those people that could meditate for very long. i would close my eyes and try to find that place of stillness and my mind would start trailing off after a few minutes and that would be it. it is a very uncomfortable place to be. i dont know if i have ever been ready to be that aware and mindful. chödrön has a very effective way of inspiring people to meditate. she describes it as “a method of cultivating unconditional friendliness toward ourselves.” with time and practice, i am beginning to understand how to relax with myself and feel transformed from the process, and i believe it is because i have begun to understand why it is that i am practicing. my goal these days is not to “get”anywhere or to accomplish something i can brag about to my yoga-loving friends. the goal is just to do something loving for myself. and it is working!
the power of meditation and relaxation is transformative, and it is simple and yet not so simple at the same time. you have to be willing to go to those places that scare you and just sit inside them for a while. don’t think, just stay. exercise control, breathe, laugh!
here are some tips i find helpful for meditating:
1. find a relaxing, quiet place- this can be as specific as a certain corner of your favorite room. (dont forget to turn off your blackberry!)
2. stretch for a few minutes before you begin. this will make you more comfortable.
3. start with the breath. breathe in and out slowly to relax your muscles and quiet your mind. once your mind is quiet, try to feel your body parts without thinking about them.
4. focus on your aspiration. meditating is an active practice, and it requires full attention to a single purpose. (for instance, getting past a certain fear). incorporate this purpose into your breath- feel yourself breathing it in and out as if it were a tangible object.
5. feel your frustration and go with it. it is normal for people to feel their thoughts invading what is supposed to be a quiet mind. try to move past it and keep going. just breathe.
6. focus on your heart. think about your open heart and how much you have to be grateful for. naturally, your thoughts will retreat.
7. be patient with yourself and just practice meditation sincerely. you cannot go wrong if you do this.
most of the reason i began this blog was to talk about health and food…topics that are beyond interests for me; they fuel my passion for life. but an important factor that many people forget these days is that there are other types of food that nourish us that are imperative to total health– at my school, the institute for integrative nutrition, we call this primary food. at the end of the day, what we put in our bodies physically doesn’t really matter if our appetites for love and spirituality are not being fulfilled. this does not mean we must be hard on ourselves every time we don’t make time to work out, or are not in a relationship, or can’t seem to find the peace to meditate. the point is learning to go to those scary places, discover where you are lacking nourishment, and give yourself the compassion and love that you deserve to feed that hunger.
it may sound verbose and complex, but really it is not. it is so simple- the hardest part is allowing yourself to unlock the door. once you’re in, you can take that ton of bricks that has hit you– maybe you lost your job, or someone close to you is sick; maybe you had your heart broken and feel lonely, or you are struggling with body image– you can take them and you can rebuild your life, gently. these painful experiences do not have to harden us, and in fact, the more tender and open we are, the more fearless and free we become. step by step, you will begin to see that we are each given choices every day, and the real gift that we come to find through understanding this is that we have the power to choose how we want to treat ourselves and those around us; the power to create a nourished and fulfilling life.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin