Finding The Sacred Through Tea

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” Thich Nhat Hanh 

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Finding a serene moment to enjoy a delectable cup of tea is the mantra of my life, through mindfully enjoying the experience in all its nuances, delights, and contemplative intrigues; that naturally follow such a ritual of consumption. 

I purchase most of my tea from a local company, O5  Tea that sources all of their product directly from very small organic farmers, mostly in Korea. The owner of the business travels to each farm and has a personal relationship with the farmers, honoring them and the tea that they produce. One of my favourites from O5 Tea is a white tea called, White Moonlight which has a taste experience of, “nose of wild orchid and apricot, notes of berries, honey clover sensation on the palate”. 

The following quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, summarizes my own personal experience of enjoying a cup of tea, through transforming an often unconscious experience into something very sacred that allows one to be in the present moment, even if just for a few minutes.

“You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.

 Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.

 Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy.

 If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.

 You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.

 Life is like that.

 If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone.

 You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life.

 It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished.

 Learn from it and let it go.

 The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it.

 Worrying is worthless.”

© All Rights Reserved 2013


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The Spiritual Path of Simplicity

“Sadhana shouldn’t be done for one’s own liberation, but for the sake of becoming loving, compassionate, and understanding enough to remove the suffering of the world. We have to become so large-hearted that we experience the suffering of others as our own, and work to alleviate their suffering.” Amma

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For all of us, life must feel tangible and real regardless of which philosophical paradigm of thought we choose to view the larger panorama of life. We all have in common our collective shared human experience of being confronted with the ubiquitousness of negotiating between the banal and the profound, which are intertwined and imbedded within all of our experiences of being alive. Whether or not we are spiritual aspirants, we all seek a life with more peace, happiness, and fulfillment. The only difference is that a spiritual seeker is choosing to embody a truer sense of consciousness within themselves at an experiential level, often through some form of theoretical teaching and practice that is taught by a spiritual teacher.

Theoretically, the goal of the spiritual path is a process of aligning our inner selves with a greater sense of self awareness to fully comprehend the truth, through the inner purification that strips us of our self importance (ego) leading to our true sense of Self. This inevitably invokes a greater sense of inner simplicity, compassion, and humility which allows us to perceive the whole of existence as interconnected, being one unified whole.

I have spent a tremendous amount of time in spiritual environments and with spiritual seekers of all kinds. I came to strongly realize that if we are serious about evolving in this way, one needs a teacher who embodies this truth. If we do not have a teacher to help dismantle our ego of self importance, then we will not progress very far. It took me a long time to become fully aware of my own sense self importance, as it was not until after I found my spiritual teacher that I realized that feeling like I was so ‘spiritual’ was not conducive to true inner growth. Spirituality is really about letting go of our sense of; self importance, being special, spiritual pride, being self righteous, and competitive with others as to who is more spiritual.  

I too have been one of these people, who would engage in endless philosophical discussion on spiritual theory. In addition, I had a very strong sense of spiritual pride after being on this path throughout my life. In addition to having had numerous phenomenal experiences, starting when I was a young child. However, as the last decade of my life has unfolded in a seamless flow of challenging lessons. All of these experiences became a catalyst for very deep inner reflection, dramatically altering my previous perception of myself. Another huge lesson for me was through interacting with several ‘spiritual’ people who played the mini-guru to others, all the while their personal lives were steeped in controversy and hypocrisy.

I am far from being enlightened, yet throughout my life I have always been highly opposed to all forms of hypocrisy. I am well aware that all of us share our own measure of ambiguity and few of us live completely free from hypocrisy. These seemingly negative experiences made me hyper aware that if we are going to represent something, its wise to practice what we are advocating through our positive actions. I am following a spiritual path of inner purification towards developing a greater sense of empathy and compassion towards others. I am not indicating by any means that I am a fully humble or compassionate person, in contrary I have the same imperfections as everyone else.

I feel that the further we wander on this path the process of purification is supposed to bring us into a deeper sense of humility, simplicity, and compassion where we at least can try to be kind to ourselves and others, through practicing compassion, which is the essence of spirituality. When we embody a sense of compassion for all other living beings, there is a greater sense of awareness towards our actions and their consequences. Even though, the truth of the matter is that we are all beginners, stumbling along the spiritual path. The more we simplify ourselves and the less we feel that we truly know, the farther we can travel and truly learn. 

© All Rights Reserved 2013

 

The Ambiguity of Identity

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Power

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Throughout my life the concept of identity has always been a very abstract, malleable, and highly thought provoking topic. This phenomena recently became more of an experiential reality, as opposed to just an object of contemplation in the simple act of beginning to use my spiritual name, rather than my birth name. This process became an interesting experience which allowed me to learn a tremendous amount about what identity means to me within the process of embodying my own perception of ‘self’, in the transition of switching my name. Through this experience the question arose around what constitutes one’s ‘true identity’, within the context of ones main identifying agent, which is our first name.

As I began attempting to understand the concept of what ‘identity’ really means in relation to using a different name. I happen to come across several comments made by others in their reclamation of ‘self’ by attempting to cut away the outer layers of ambiguity around their identity, by going back to their original birth names and family identities, as their true identity. From my own personal experience, the truth of the matter is that our familial ascribed identity given to us at birth lacks reliable reference to our current sense of ‘self’. As we navigate and experience life through our own experiential reality via gaining certain knowledge and expertise, we are confronted with a far more precise and real sense of our own authentic identity; the person we have become and are currently embodying. 

The process of life allows us to reconstitute, contextualize, and negotiate our own sense of ‘self’ and how we truly perceive ourselves to be, rather than how others may view us externally. I have personally experienced the ebb and flow of life’s movement through the various experiences that shape and mold us into more complex versions of our selves. Our sense of self is a malleable and highly adaptable entity that must be able to grow and change as our life moves forward. In essence, as our external world is unpredictable, changing, and flowing within its own patterns; so is our inner world as it is constantly encountering and interacting with the external reality. In many ways, through doing a daily spiritual practice we learn to harness greater awareness towards this subtle process of how our sense of ‘self’ is shaped by the outer world and how our inner ‘Self’ is really a point of stillness, truth and true identity. However, since very few of us are enlightened or even close to being enlightened we are left to maintain the constant work of negotiating our sense of identity, as we feel ourselves constantly changing beyond our own understanding or ability to control the process.

The choice I made to use my spiritual name was a very effortless one, for I had lived my entire life using a name given to me by my parents. Yet, when I received my spiritual name it became more of a real identity for me than my previous name. Perhaps, the experience of this realization and epiphany is not fully captured by words, yet it was a profound certainty that I felt a very strong association with my new name, as opposed to my birth name which I actually felt never suited who I understood myself to be as a person.

In my perception of life, there is a greater potential for free-will than we may perceive, this includes how we choose to perceive ourselves as individuals. Thus, if we are open to the infinite lessons that inevitably come through living life; then we shall reap the rewards of inner growth and the inevitable transformation that comes along with such experiential knowledge. The decision to use my spiritual name made me realize that I was allowed to be who I have always felt myself to be as an individual. I felt transformed into being a sense of ‘self’ that was much deeper than the exterior ‘me’.

This entire process brought with it the realization that by having the conscious awareness to realize that we do not live in a purely deterministic world where the ascribed identity given to us by our families is our only option for identifying who we are. Perhaps, our families can lead us backward into the historic trajectory of our family history, however in this lifetime its best to live your own authentic life as your own genuine sense of ‘self’. 

© All Rights Reserved 2013


The Magic Alchemy of Tonic Herbal Elixirs

“A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession.” Hippocrates

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Throughout the majority of my life I have been using herbs, as an adjunct to eating an all organic, mostly locally sourced, whole foods, vegetarian, mostly vegan diet. My initial use of herbs was for their general tonic properties, which began over 20 years ago when I was still a teenager. As my knowledge base grew I then prepared all of my herbal remedies with concise focus on supplementing any physical weakness and treating specific imbalances. Today, my use of herbs is once again for their constitutionally strengthening and longevity promoting properties. The formula that I brew is one that most people will find great benefit from regardless of one’s constitution, as the therapeutic qualities of the herbs are very balanced; creating a powerful elixir of vitality, longevity, and health giving properties. The herbs are mainly focused on the adrenal glands, liver, nervous system, brain, and overall strengthening the entire physical body.

I only use all organic or wildcrafted herbs for my formula, with the main component being Chaga. The other herbs are added in varying amounts depending on their therapeutic properties. I do change certain herbs according to the specific season, hence the following herbs are adapted to more of a spring tonic herbal formula with extra liver support. 

Chaga, is considered the king of medicinal mushrooms according to David Wolfe’s book on Chaga. From reading much of this book it is my understanding that Chaga is a full body longevity tonic, strengthening the immune system with huge emphasis on preventing and treating cancer, cleanses and assists the liver to function better to detoxify the body, extremely rich with the highest amount of antioxidants out of all other medicinal mushrooms including red reishi. Chaga is also extremely nutrient dense with a huge array of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients such as polysaccharides, polyphenols, sterols, inotodiols, triterpenoidal saponins, melanin, betulin/betulinic acid, lupeol, trance minerals of a vast array including germanium, and major minerals, vitamins such as B2, D2, dietary fiber, and amino acid complexes.

Due to Chaga’s extensive use throughout the world numerous countries have conducted scientific studies on Chaga’s medicinal properties. A study from Korea found that a few of Chaga’s therapeutic properties are: increases the immune system, stimulates metabolism in brain tissue, anti-inflammatory effects both external and internal, antioxidant, delays growth of some tumors, lowers arterial and venous blood pressure, regulates heartbeat, decreases sugar levels in blood. Chaga has been widely used and studied in Russia for its anticancer properties, both curative and preventative: positive effect on lung and liver cancer, calms the nervous system, positively affects stomach diseases and ulcers, and stimulates the immune system.

From my personal experience of only consuming Chaga tea daily, it has a deeply grounding property to it, not only strengthening the physical body but also the energy body, specifically the lower chakras, mainly the first chakra of feeling rooted and grounded. I like to experience herbs not only for their ‘scientific’ properties, or even folklore uses, but also the energetic properties each herb imbues within its therapeutic holism. 

Ashwagandha, this herb is both a tonic and sedative herb strengthening an exhausted nervous system. This herb is renowned to assist in increasing strength, intellect, ojas, promote sleep, sexual potency, prevents consumption and wasting diseases, rejuvenative, reduces Kapha and Vata, reduces pain, and benefits breathing. This herb is specific for those with more of a deficient constitution, although most people can benefit from ashwagandha in small doses mixed with other herbs.

Guduchi, is one of my favorite herbs, also known as Amrita or ‘divine nectar’ and is described as, ‘the one who protects the body’. Its therapeutic properties lie in its rejuvenating capacity while also detoxifying and cleansing the entire body, specifically the liver. Guduchi’s main actions are, increasing appetite, quenches thirst, rejuvenate, increases strength, promotes life, nerve tonic, reduces fevers, reduces burning sensation, destroys toxins, alleviates skin disorders, relieves gout/arthritis, cleans the blood, increases sexual potency, increases lifespan, and reduces all three doshas. It also regulates blood sugar levels, heals the bowels with all imbalances.

The only recommendation I would provide is not to use too much, as Guduchi is a very strong herb and if you use too much the detox symptoms will be very strong.   

Schisandra berries, I specifically supplemented these due to the fact it is spring and the liver needs a little more assistance than normal. These berries are a herbal treasure, they work to purify the blood, sharpen the mind, improve memory, rejuvenate the kidney energy (especially sexual energy and functions for men and women) and causes the skin to become radiantly beautiful. In traditional Chinese medicine, schizandra is highly esteemed because it tonifies all three treasures (Jing, Qi and Shen, which sustain the essential energies for human life). It also tonifies and regulates all five elements and tonifies and regulates all twelve organ-meridian systems.

Olive leaf, is another of my all time favorite medicinal herbs that functions to kill a broad range of viruses, bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and other parasites in your system without harming the beneficial bacteria. Correctly used, just this property alone could eliminate the discomfort of most illnesses strengthens the immune system. Olive leaf additionally, has a tremendous amount of antioxidants, strengthens and cleanses the liver, strengthens the heart, and can be used for arthritis, and protects against radiation damage. I personally love this herb as an all round gentle herb that works for such a broad spectrum of prevalent health issues.

Brahmi, the name of this herb literally means the energy or Shakti of Brahman through its mind enhancing and nervous system calming benefits. Additional benefits include, calming Vata through re-directing the flow of Vata downward, reduces mental illness, increases intellectual power, heart tonic, rejuvenates the nervous system, increases longevity, strengthens the mind, promotes energy, promotes sleep, and alleviates skin conditions.

My personal recommendation is to use a very small amount of this herb as it does have a very calming and sedating effect that may be far too strong for many people who want to feel more energized. 

Preparation, I brew my herbal formula in a large soup pot that holds 16 cups of water. I begin by putting 4Tbsp of Chaga, then 1Tbsp of each, Ashwagandha and Schisandra berries, which I bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer on my smallest burner. I usually simmer the brew for up to 3 hours, yet for those who really don’t feel like they have the time, you can brew everything up to 1 hour and  re-brew the combo later. After the duration of time I turn the stove off and add 1Tbsp of each of the additional herbs that are better infused than brewed in a decoction.

I have greatly benefited from this herbal remedy, therefore I felt the need to share it with others. I also feel that to take herbs in extract form through capsules or even tincture may be convenient, yet you are not getting the full medicinal benefit of the herb. In my experience the MOST benefit I have ever received from herbs is through either decocting them (brewing for a duration of time), or infusing them in the form of a tea that you pour boiling water over and steep. In addition, I mostly use all organic herbs found within the lexicon of Chinese Medicine due to my training (only plant based) and Ayurveda, as I find these two systems of medicine to be very complex and therapeutic rather other herbal systems. I also strongly believe that all herbs should be consumed in a formula, rather than as a single herb, due to the energetic, regulating, and balancing effect a formula has when used long term. 

© All Rights Reserved 2013

 

 

The Abject Poverty of Toxic Emotions

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent on throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned” Buddha

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I am sure I am not the only person who has experienced a sense of carrying and living out toxic emotions. I am using the word “toxic” specifically to conjure up a sense of understanding that we all have a vast array of emotions that plague the majority of us, yet when we find we are inundated with a sense of extreme frustration, anger, jealousy, fear, or hatred; the emotion then becomes toxic. Thus, when we are feeling a negative emotion at an intense level that is causing a sense of agitation, its toxic and is not benefiting us or anyone around us.

There are numerous theories, psychological, medical, spiritual paradigms of how to manage one’s emotions that are effective so some degree. I find that the lexicon of psychology and medical intervention may be more applicable to those suffering from an extremely unwell senses of distortion, that may benefit from medication or psychological counseling. However, for the rest of us who are just trying to live our lives through navigating the most enjoyable, less stressful, and least suffering path in life; to feel extreme emotions can be a very distressing experience. Obviously, even to the best of our ability, life is unpredictable and numerous things can have adverse effects on our emotions, causing us to explode in an array of emotional expressions that are considered toxic; from the perception of attempting to live a holistic life of balance.

It has been my experience that emotional reactions almost always are caused from an external catalyst that triggers a certain reaction within us, that may not be within our conscious control. In my life, anger has been the main emotion that has come to rest with me on numerous occasions in life, not just in the form of pure anger, but also in the form of frustration and indignation. I now fully understand something that I did not many years ago; first of all, toxic emotions only harm us more than anyone else; second, our outburst of emotions or even acts of revenge will have a negative effect on others; thirdly, we have the power to change our emotional patters if we want to badly enough. I mention this last fact as it may have taken me until this point in my life to fully understand the fact that we can all change our negative emotional patters if we REALLY want to and make a tremendous effort to mitigate and have an awareness of our reactions and the harm that is inflicted when we allow ourselves to react. Of course, even against our best effort there will be moments were we lose it in some way or another, yet this allows us the opportunity to go deeper into what is still triggering this emotional response, rather than feel bad about ourselves.

What can we do to start the process of reducing our emotional toxicity is to first be acutely aware of whatever emotional reaction we are experience, to view it as it is, without any self judgement or criticism towards ourselves. The second most important point is that we must take full responsibility for our reaction, its only our fault, regardless of any external provocation, we are the ones freaking out! We MUST be able to take full self responsibility for all of our actions and emotional reactions and STOP blaming anyone or thing that exist externally, it really has NOTHING to do with them or the situation, it has everything to do with us. We all react differently to people and situations, yet a self empowered person will experience anger due to some situation and realize it comes from their own reaction, not the external trigger. On the other hand, someone who is less self empowered will never take self responsibility, instead they will blame all their toxic emotional reactions on everyone and everything that they can possible find to blame.

Who am I to comment on controlling one’s toxic emotions and do I have any credibility in this area of experiential knowledge. The answer is ‘yes’, I have had a temper that I have carried for the majority of my life, often it would lay sleeping and since I have always had extreme control over my emotions, few saw this most poisonous snake. When I would lose my temper, I would not waste my time with petty insults, instead I have always been highly perceptive to peoples strengths and weaknesses, instead I would verbally strike with lightening speed deep into that persons weakness, stripping them of everything. For, there is no need to insult others when the barren truth is much more severe and painful than mental manipulation, games, or insults. I am not proud of the harshness I can exhibit, in contrary I have experienced how much suffering that cruelty affected the other person, yet more so how deeply it cut into me. I may have a potentially ferocious temper, yet underneath there is a much more vast and deep kindness that prefers to love and nourish others, rather than try to destroy them. 

In every instance of reaction, I was acutely aware of how toxic this level of reaction was and I started making tremendous effort to reduce this energy. I have been doing certain spiritual practices most of my life, which has made a tremendous difference in allowing me to have much more awareness and control over my own emotional reactions. In addition if you can surrender the negative issues up to a greater reality of being, this makes a huge difference and allows a much lighter journey through life. At this moment in time I must say that I do still feel frustration and anger, yet it is far less intense and I am highly aware of what is going on when it comes to the surface. The real value of strong emotions is to find the trigger beneath the surface, for when you are more aware of why you are triggered, then you are less likely to be so next time. In essence, I choose to make a huge effort to find more joy and peace in my life, regardless of what challenges or challenging people cross my path. Thus, an affirmation of attempting to live a more conscious life can yield much fruit if you are really willing to make the effort and necessary work to change the things that are causing you and perhaps others pain.

© All Rights Reserved 2013

The Enigma of Potential

“One’s Personal Legend is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.
Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth”. Paulo Coelho 

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 Each one of us contains an infinite source of innate potential, even though it may seem contradictory to perceive someone and how they may appear, verses their true potential that will eventually manifest in their lifetime. Similarly, a lotus pond prior to the blossoming of lotus flowers, often appears as murky water with the leaves of the lotus plants appearing to float on the surface of the water. Yet, in due time the most exquisitely beautiful lotus flowers break through the dirty water as buds, which slowly begin to open in majestic spender, spreading their infinite beauty, fragrance, and spiritual vibration. 

 The once murky looking pond is transformed into a spectacular display of natures finest beauty, the fully blossomed lotus flowers transcend the pond with their captivating beauty. In essence, this is the metaphor for the lives we are all living as we struggle to embody a deeper sense of meaning and connection not only to who we are, but how our sense of self transfers into the larger world. Often we have a very clear idea of what we would like to create and bring forth into our lives, even if the means are not apparent. Some of the most innovative people of our time have been alone, unsupported, and struggling to make others understand what they were trying to create and bring forth into the world.

There are also numerous stories of highly successful people, who in the beginning, prior to gaining ‘success’ were struggling, living in poverty, and facing extremely challenging situations that they could not fathom a way out of. However, each of their ideas transcended the challenges that they faced; like writing a book, such as the author of Harry Potter who tried thirteen times to get her first book published and was living in poverty; to be a journalist, such as Oprah, who we all know her life story; or Vandana Shiva, who advocates for seed freedom and biodiversity of food sustainability through challenging the hegemony of corporations like Monsanto for the past 25 years, despite her academic education as a PhD in Quantum Physics. What all of these people have in common is a driving goal that they most likely have felt throughout a large portion of their lives.

Each of these people felt such a strong conviction to manifest their ideas into a reality, even though many of those dreams took most of their lives to unfold and accomplish. I am not by any means equating myself or anyone else with the latter group of individuals, I am only suggesting that we all have a tremendous untapped potential that is far greater than we can ever conceive and we are all here to create something that is innovative, even if that only affects our own life. We all live in a society that homogenizes people into very specific and socially acceptable categories of how you are allowed to be as a person in regards to how you act, present yourself, and live your life. If you step out beyond those ascribed norms into a paradigm that is not mainstream, you had better have a lot of inner strength to stay grounded, as difference triggers immense fear in others.

I was born into a highly unconventional family, raised in a highly unconventional and highly creative fashion that allowed my siblings and I to have immense freedom of a physical nature (to wander through the wilderness), intellectually, creatively, and to create games and play that were highly innovative and unique to ‘normally’ raised children. The byproduct of such a childhood for me was that I was allowed to be difference, even if others did not fully accept me, it was my birth right to do what I wanted to do in life and no one was going to deter me from living the life I wanted to live. In this way, I realized early on that we all have potential to be who we want to be, to embody certain paradigms of thought that created a sense of self, even though for me I was living my life as an authentic version of who I saw myself to be as a person. I was never overly concerned with success or monetary gain. I have always been far more interested in living my own authentic version of inner reflexivity, as breathing life through the lifestyle that consumes me and is an ubiquitous part of myself; the holistic and spiritual way of living that has become my entire life.

However, it has taken a tremendous amount of time, education, work, and numerous challenges in life for me to fully realize exactly what aspect of my potential to galvanize into my current practice and allow these to unfold.

Moreover, one thing that we all must know is that there are certain times for everything in our lives to manifest, for there are numerous lessons both challenging and rewarding, which can be one and the same. Often challenging circumstances teach us about ourselves in the most honest manner and we can learn where our strengths and weaknesses lie within ourselves, which is very powerful to know. All of our actions are like seeds in life that we plant, all consequences we must face sooner or late, yet there are also certain seeds that we intentionally plant in the soil of our life. Our inner potential is like the seeds that we plant; some of those seeds sprout and thrive to be healthy, others sprout yet are destroyed at a young stage, others do not sprout at all, and others are like massive trees that take most of your life to germinate and slowly start to grow. The small tree takes decades before it even looks like a tree, then it takes several more decades to be a strong, firmly, and deeply rooted tree that can withstand the torrential storms of life through all the seasons of life.

In many ways, its my feeling that all of us have some deeper innate sense of what we are doing here and what we are innately drawn to that we find fascinating. I find that when you are here to do something, that energy will guide you in life, rather than you being the one who is in control. Instead, you are being guided through some deeper innate knowledge that starts to manifest all around you through every possible avenue. I have experienced this many times in my life, as all of us are here to contribute to the world through some unique and beautifully authentic expression by allowing ourselves to fully embody our highest potential in life, as the innate nature of our self and the life we are choosing to live. We too must allow life to germinate our inner potential, as the lotus will inevitably blossom and share its immanent radiance, so must we brave the many challenges before we too blossom into our higher potential of being.

© All Rights Reserved 2013

 

Urban Foraging For Pure Living Water

“When you drink the water, remember the spring.” Chinese Proverb

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Similar to many people reading this who live in an urban setting, city living seems a challenging place to find oneself when it comes to seriously embodying a holistic lifestyle. In my case, I live in a small city that allows for me to experience the ambient vibrance of urban living, which I actually prefer to small town rural living. In addition, I have access to some serious, exciting, and adventure filled urban foraging for locally grown organic food and extremely pure spring water sourced directly from the spring.This weekend is an example of how I attempt to embody a healthy lifestyle through the most vibrant and politically astute food choices, such as locally grown organic food, as well as searching out the highest quality water source that exists. In my opinion the food you eat is obviously highly important, as my husband and I venture to our local farmers market every Saturday to replenish our ladders with organic and biodynamic food choices from our local farmers.

However, in many ways the quality of water you consume is one of the most important aspects being physically healthy, as water is essential to human life. I mention this fact, since our body is composed of around 60% water and all of our cells need water to function properly. Water is involved in most body functions, regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body, moistening oxygen for breathing and helping the body absorb and synthesized essential nutrients. Our bodies need a certain amount of water intake on a daily basis to function appropriately to detoxify our bodies and fuel our body.

The percentage of water making up tissues, organs, fluids and bone in the human body: Brain 75%, Heart 75%, Lungs 86%, Muscle 75%, Liver 85%, Kidney 83%, Bone 22%, Blood 83%, Saliva 95%, Perspiration 95%. Therefore, given these statistics its important to consume a high quality source of water.There is a tremendous amount of hype around alkaline, structured, and ionized water, which I have consumed for years from such filters as Kangen, and many other high quality alkaline water filters. I must admit that in the beginning I did notice certain health benefits, yet the longer I consumed the alkaline water, the more my body seemed to become imbalanced and seemed to lack vitality.

Eventually, my husband and I decided to go directly to a local spring and collect our own water, which has quickly become one of the most beneficial adjunct to our healthy lifestyle.Today we took a drive to North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley, which is a weekly outing for us to acquire some of the purest water you can find, directly from the spring itself. The water source is an underground artisan spring that has been tested several times by three independent labs, proving that this water source is 100% pure, there was absolutely zero trace of any contamination, which is quite different from any above ground water sources. This water has over 90 different minerals, is alkaline, ionized, and comes from the depth of nature.  The spring is a central location for people from all over the city, many who drive great distances to acquire this amazingly pure water.

You may think that these people are earth conscious types, but they are not, of course, there are always a few, yet the majority of people are just normal people who want pure water, simple as that. Its a place of socializing while you fill your water and a place where people are dedicated to the preservation and protection of continually having access to this water source. I have meant numerous people who have been drinking water from this water source for over 20years. Through our weekly urban foraging adventure, my husband and I find we really enjoy our lives to a much greater degree, from being a part of the farmers market movement by supporting the local organic farmers, as well as getting our water from a pristine water source. We can rest assured that we are not only contributing to the greater community, but also to a healthier and more holistic lifestyle.

© All Rights Reserved 2013

The Political Dynamics of Choosing Locally Farmed Organic Food

“In the act of eating, we are already participating in production. By eating organic, we are saying no to toxins and supporting the organic farmer. By rejecting GMOs, we are voting for the rights of small farmers and people’s rights to information and health. By eating local, we are taking power and profits away from global agribusiness and strengthening our local food community. Eaters are, therefore, also co-producers, both because their relationship with small producers is a critical link in creating a sustainable, just, healthy food system and because we are what we eat. In making food choices, we make choices about who we are”. Vandana Shiva

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In many ways, one of the pivotal aspects of living a holistic lifestyle is through our conscious awareness of the food that we are consuming. In my opinion, the first most important precursor to really embodying a lifestyle that is Whole, is to first use discrimination in determining where our food originates and what costs are associated with each of our food choices. I mention this point, as when you go to Wholefoods to purchase your ‘organic’ vegetables what you may not think about is that almost all the produce has been imported, picked partially unripe, and transported to each of their stores throughout North America. Therefore, the carbon foot print is immense. I also realize that it is not possible for everyone to plant their own garden or to find a farmers market, yet we live in such an extremely unconscious world, that if you are attempting to eat more organic food, or even attempting to make healthier food choices then it’s important to be able to discern what that means.

One of the reasons why its important to understand what constitutes making conscious food choices and the cost associated, is because there is a huge political cost that each of us contributes to when we go to our local farmers market and directly support our own community of small organic farmers, rather than supporting a massive corporation like Wholefoods. Almost all of the organic farmers who sell their produce at local farmers markets are really not profiting much more than being able to keep their small farm functioning. Therefore, its important to take into consideration that if people do not support theses small farmers through purchasing what they have to sell, they will eventually no longer exist.

In addition, each small organic farm that no longer can continue to function, opens up more opportunity for large corporate agriculture to take its place. In addition, with the loss of small organic farms we then see price increases for the organic foods available. In support of what I have already stipulated, for those of you who have been consuming organic foods for the last ten years or longer, there has been a steady increase in prices of all certified organic food items. One example is the cost of organic almonds, which has shot through the roof over the last several years due to the fact that the high demand for organic almonds far outweighs the availability. Thus, there are far too few farms producing organic almonds to meet the high demand, therefore the price will continue to rise. I have used this particular example to outline the necessity of supporting the local organic farmers that are living within our communities or near the cities where we are living. When we support those few people passionate about organic farming, we not only contribute to supporting our local economy, but also this ensures the survival and longevity of the local organic farmers to keep producing organic foods that are  available to us. In this way its a form of food sovereignty, that many of us are most likely unaware of.

In my experience, the majority of my life I have been eating ‘organic’ foods, first coming from my mother who was organic gardening way before her time, over 40 years ago. I have also lived in several countries in my lifetime and had the opportunity to experience different ways food is made locally available or not. One of the  countries that I live in was Switzerland, where  in the small villages the local grocery store sold almost all locally grown produce from around the area. In England I lived in Totness South Devon, which is one of the riches organic small farming areas of England. I was blessed with locally grown produce, even the organic wheat used in the locally bakery’s bread was grown nearby. However, when I lived in Japan for three years, I realized that attempting to find food items that were unrefined a problem. There was a small company that sold some ‘health food’ items, yet organic food was very difficult to find, although I did mange to find some items at a very small local vegetarian restaurant that also sold some organic fruit and other products.

When I came back to Canada I was very much in awe of the vast array and choices of ‘organic’ food that was available, yet I too went to the local health food store to purchase my produce. It was not until I went back to University in 2006 as a mature student and started to study Anthropology. I took a course in Anthropology and Food, one of our guest speakers was a huge local food activist, who made me realize that the city I had been living in was teeming with local famers markets throughout the year. This was an astounding find, something that I had never really thought about all that much, as I had been conditioned over the years of going shopping in health food stores to find ‘organic’ food.

During my time studying Anthropology my interest was based in medical anthropology, yet for one of my methodology classes of a 400 level we spent an entire semester working on our own Ethnography, which is essentially how anthropologists do their research in the field, as apparent ‘observers’ to formulate a theory. I chose the local farmers market, where I would spend long durations of time talking with the farmers, interviewing the local shoppers, and just watching the dynamics of the market ambiance. It was a fascinating and extremely eye opening experience that further propelled me to make the farmers market the topic of several research papers.

After conducting four months of research, I realized that the majority of the people who shop and frequent their local farmers market do so out of political reasons mainly; such as to support the local economy, to support the local farmers, to obtain the purest and highest quality food available, and to connect directly with the farmers themselves who have grown the food. I found there was a deep understanding embodied by many people regarding the impact of political economy, which stipulates that how you spend your money has a tremendous impact through directly supporting whatever you are purchasing. 

I have spent my entire life intrigued and absorbed by holistic health in all its aspects, from various paradigms of holistic medicine, diet therapy, herbal medicine systems, dietary supplements, and how the quest for health and balance is inextricably tied to the environment, our society and cultural norms, and the overall hegemony of the powerful corporations that exist. I realize that the MOST important aspect of holistic health is to have extreme awareness and discrimination when discerning how we care for our physical bodies. Thus, the quality of food that we eats directly affects not only our physical health but also our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Moreover, in my opinion we need to embody enough awareness to inquire where our food is coming from and what we are inevitably supporting by purchasing from these particular venders. I personally purchase everything I can from the local organic farmers, as I appreciate the high quality produce that they are selling. I am also aware that if we do not support our local organic farmers, then our only organic food choices will be from Wholefoods, where they offer organic produce from mechanical agriculture that is devitalized, in comparison to the fresh produce from a local farm. In addition, when I go to the farmers market I feel like I am part of a large community of people who are actively supporting our local organic farmers through continually purchasing produce and other good from them, sharing recipes, and having a friendly relationship that has been built up over the many years of continual interaction and support.

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The Concept of Holistic

“Health is the proper relationship between microcosm, which is man, and the macrocosm, which is the universe. Disease is a disruption of this relationship.” ~Dr. Yeshe Donden

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I actually went to see Dr. Yeshe Donden when I was in McLeodganj, North India several times, which is where the Dalai Lama’s main residence is located. It was an awe inspiring experience to have a consultation from him, as through taking your pulse and looking into the iris of your eyes he can tell everything that is wrong with your physical body, as well as every disease or accident you have ever had. I mention this in light of the fact that he never asked me any questions, yet knew exactly what was imbalanced within my body. Dr. Yeshe Donden is a master of Tibetan Medicine, he has lived as a Tibetan monk his entire life, and all of his consultations are free. He is someone who truly embodies the holistic paradigm of treating his patients, as his understanding of the patient goes far beyond merely the physical body.

In light of using such a revered person as Dr. Yeshe Donden as an example of what constitutes holistic medicine, I am interested in defining my own conceptual understanding of what the word “Holistic” actually means.

In my opinion, ‘Holistic’ is a far more complex and abstract term than many people perceive it to be. For example, many people think that if you eat healthy organic food, do some yoga, and attempt to live a positive life you are living holistically. This is a poor understanding of what ‘holistic’ truly means. If you look at healing systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, prior to the British colonization of India and the Cultural Revolution in China, you will see a truly holistic system of living.

The ancient form of both TCM and Ayurveda were not to function as a medical system alone, but as a whole system for living the best life possible where your microcosmic self was in alignment with the macrocosmic universe. Both holistic systems exemplified ancient knowledge passed down generationally to allow humans to live in greater harmony with themselves and their environment, thus propelling their life towards a unity with the larger universal forces, known as the Tao (Universal Intelligence), or the Divine. Within this ancient paradigm there was no separation between our inner world and our outer world, it was perceived as being interconnected as unified within a large circular flowing whole.

The ancient understanding of uniting and harmonizing your own microcosmic self with the universal macrocosmic is a profound and very abstract concept for most people to truly understand. It is difficult to comprehend mainly because all industrialized nations exemplify a highly linear paradigm of thought that functions through intellect, categorization, and purely dissecting everything through the philosophy of Cartesian dualism, the founding father of Western sciences and allopathic medicines theoretical background.

Few of us live in an experiential paradigm of life that is truly holistic, where the understanding of life is in a circular whole that supports, reinforces, and returns to the source as a single unit of wholeness. Although, today both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda are taught in a highly Westernized dynamic, no longer resembling their original power, strength, and wholeness. Thus, its noteworthy to mention that the idea of a medical system that is a circular whole, seems a concept most people have difficulty grasping, since our minds are conditioned to dissect everything down to smaller components of rationale, to fit into our perceived paradigm of conceptual understanding.

However, to understand the ‘whole’ you can not fragment it into smaller components to truly understand the overall concept, you must fully embrace the entirety of it all. Having stated the latter, to really understand the ‘whole’ as a concept it takes tremendous time and a deeper inner reflection of how one perceives the dynamic capacity and flow of life. Hence, it takes a certain amount of inner reflexivity to slowly absorb the concept of holism into our fragmented intellectually conditioned minds. In addition, the concept of ‘holistic’ can be seen in the lives of a few groups of people living in less industrialized nations or groups of people who still function as a community of individuals that are consciously interdependent with the earth’s precious resources, knowing that the effects of nature will in turn affect their own wellbeing and livelihood.

In addition, historically throughout the world there used to be a universal understanding that the natural world had its own energy and power that must be respected and kept in a harmonious and balanced state. Today, there are still a few groups of people in the world who maintain and preserved this understanding, where there are individuals within the society who perform ceremonies to maintain the harmony of the natural world, within the human, and spiritual reals of existence.

In this day and age, few of us are connected to our natural environment, nor to our larger community of individuals; rather we are highly segregated and cut off from the natural world, from our cultural dynamics of our society (especially in the West), and even from our own families. When we are living such highly fragmented lives, disconnected even from ourselves let alone a larger community it becomes problematic to embody a holistic lifestyle.

It is only when we can embody a greater sense of equilibrium and harmony on an inner level, that we can have a much greater sense of awareness to perceive our interconnection with the world we are living in and all of the other beings who are also living within this world. In essence, this is holistic living, to have the capacity to continuously embody enough awareness that we begin to understand that our actions and lifestyle choices not only affect us, but other people, animals, and essentially all of nature that also share this world with us.

It has been my experience, mainly from my childhood of living in a rural environment that I experientially feel inextricably interconnected to the natural world. The experience of feeling this connection is not something that can always be intellectually analyzed, its a sensation, a knowing, and a feeling of when in nature that it exists as a unified capacity with all of us. Therefore, it is this understanding that forms the foundation to my understanding of what the word ‘holistic’ constitutes, through feeling interconnected to something greater than our own sense of selves that is not just physical, like nature, but also spiritual in essence. Hence, the unification of our microcosmic self to the macrocosmic universe is the striving goal that we all carry within our human capacity to embody a holistic life of living as a unified whole.

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