The Holistic Balancing Act

“Some medical experts have shown that constant anger and fear undermine our health by eating into our immune system. Meanwhile, they find that the compassionate mind is good for our physical well-being.” – Dalai Lama, Ladakh, India

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The main question that I always find myself asking, is what truly constitutes living a holistic lifestyle. There is a massive amount of multimedia regarding living a healthier lifestyle. However, in my opinion all of these are just fragments to what really constitutes living a truly holistic lifestyle. I too have almost an entire lifetime of expertise in regards to almost every facet of what constitutes a truly healthy, organic lifestyle. From what I have personally witnessed in my own life and in the lives of many other, very dedicated health driven individuals, the focus primarily on the physical body is actually the least important area of focus.

I have seen this in my own life, if we go through an extremely traumatic or stressful situation in life; there is no amount of anything we can put into our bodies to maintain our health. Once we lose our emotional balance, it radically affects our physical body. Thus, most people who are fanatically into ‘health’ are mostly focused on what they put into their bodies, or the external environment of their physical body, rather than their inner mental and emotional body. I also have seen that people who have very strong minds, thus who can maintain an equanimous approach to life, tend to be much healthier regardless of what they consume physically. This phenomena has been widely studied, how our mind and thoughts directly affect not only our physical body, but our environment.

In my early twenties I was very driven by finding this notion of ‘wholeness’, seeking it through the medium of holistic health. Even though I was touching the foundation of living a holistic life, I was not aware of it at that time due to the inner turbulence of my mind. On a physical level, I have had to undergo over a decade of chronic, undiagnosed health issues; despite having access to medical opinions and every facet of alternative health care. Despite the tremendous amount of effort, time, and money exerted by me, still nothing shifted. I was living one of the purest, cleanest lifestyles that exists, yet still the underlying problems of exhaustion and a weak physical constitution did not change. During this time in my life I learned the most about what holistic health really means, in addition to a suffering that has allowed me to embody a tremendous capacity of compassion for others suffering. This is something that I previously did not have when I was extremely healthy with a strong young constitution.

It was during this time, I never gave up, continuing to try new avenues of medicine and natural remedies. Finally through extensive testing from a Naturopath, I was able to find greater physical healing. The most amazing thing really was that true healing only came when I took self responsibility towards helping myself overcome this issue. Something more fascinating and a much longer discussion, was that this entire experience was outlined and discussed in detail when I became interested in Vedic astrology. I was told that most of what I was going through was ‘karmic’, thus nothing would shift it until the time for it to be over came. Sure enough, when that time came and a new planetary influence came to direct my life, the suffering ended completely. I have experienced many astounding phenomena like this in the many years I have been interested in such things as Vedic astrology. Through this knowledge we can easily see that nothing is relative or as straightforward as we would like it to be. We are conditioned to perceive the body as a mere physiological organism, which in many retrospects, it is. However, there are numerous other factors that most of us can not understand or conceive of, such as the profound effect our thoughts and emotions have on our physical body, or karmic effects we may have to undergo on a physical or psychological level.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is well know that when someone has a health imbalance, there are actually three possibilities: physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual causes. The first cause you treat with physical medicine, the second needs to be treated at a mental & emotional level, and the third is a spiritual cause that must be treated at that level. When a very famous Ayurvedic practitioner first came to the U.S many decades ago, one of the first assumptions that he immediately had was that most of the diseases in the West actually originated at a mental and emotional level, rather than merely a physical level. He also thought that Western society was actually quite ‘crazy’, due to our way of perceiving and living life. This perception is actually a very astute observation of a society whose adults have little to no control over their emotions. Thus, the tendency for most people to get angry at others is a very common occurrence in most of our lives.

However, this was not always the case in smaller indigenous societies, such as when early anthropologist first began to study the Inuit, in the very Northern area of Canada. The anthropologist realized right away that adults in this society were not permitted to show anger towards others. When the anthropologist became overtly angry, he was compared to a two year old child, as those were the only members of the society who would react in a fit of uncontrolled angry tendencies. Thus, the majority of our modern societies are very immature, lacking any real wisdom or true knowledge, and most people are focused merely on the most superficial aspects of consumerism and materialism.

Therefore, if there are severe challenges in our lives, especially with our physical health, it may be beneficial to also observe our inner mental and emotional landscape. Through being more aware of how our minds and emotions function on a daily basis, we can find a more thorough comprehension of what could also be contributing to our lack of health, joy, peace of mind, and ability to fully feel alive and grateful to be living life.

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The Subversive Nature of Being

“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” Rumi

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We live in a predominantly homogenized society, despite the fact that a large percentage of the younger generations are acting as a unified force to counter this form of social conformity. Although, throughout history the majority of brilliant scholars, artists, musicians, philosophers, and mystics were all focused on living non-conventional lives due to their awareness of the confining aspects of homogeneity. The most brilliant minds of even today, use the faculty of discrimination, critical thinking, and even intuition to assess and weigh what is accurate and what is not.

Even Einstein was a great advocate of using one’s intuitive faculties,“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. More than anything else, this new century demands new thinking: We must change our materially based analyses of the world around us to include broader, more multidimensional perspectives.” Albert Einstein

In essence, through the intellectual and intuitive faculties which we all have a certain degree of access to, we should be able to discern what is of relevance and what is not. Yet, how many of us actually question the relevance of certain social patterns that most people blindly follow. 

The act of being subversive is a tactic that is used everyday by numerous people who have the awareness that becoming fully homogenized within society is not a true representation of imbibing their highest potential, nor a clear representation of what they would like their lives to emulate. The act of living a life that is based on subversive actions; to have the awareness to contest even basic issues lacking in transparency, reveal our basic need to know the truth of what is going on in society and the larger global world.

Through all of our actions and words, when we choose to questions certain patters in society and go against them, there can be repercussions. I recently experienced this phenomena, in which a certain individual launched an attack against the conceptual discourse and content of the discussion related to the social, political, and ecological importance of choosing organic food, over the other choices available. I realized instantly, that when people are highly homogenized, or when they are faced with concepts that they view as subversive, or even intellectual discussions that question the pattern of their ‘normal’ social conditioning; they become highly defensive. 

I first experienced this when I became a vegetarian 23 years ago, during a time when it was not mainstream or even remotely cool to practice this form of dietary choice. I was actually a vegan vegetarian, due to reading John Robins “Diet For A New America”, and several other related books. Given the information I was able to assimilate on this topic, I made a very clear choice to eat a diet that did not cause harm to animals, supported a holistic principle to health, and was more viable within the parameter of being more ecologically sound. Even though the choice was mine to make, I found myself constantly running into people who would become immediately confrontational and defensive against the choices that were inevitably affecting me, not them. I found this phenomena rather interesting as I realized that people’s deep seated fear of others doing something that is considered subversive triggers massive fear, defensive mechanisms, and can make people very confrontational.

In todays world, most of us are homogenized to some degree within the cultural norm of our social milieu. Therefore, the use of subversive action can be a mechanism to create small circles of change through discussions, or it can occur on a much large scale, such as being highly aware of the social economy of what we inevitably support with our time, money, and actions. To this day, I have lived my entire life attempting to liver more subversively than allowing myself to fall into the homogenization of becoming en-mass, like a drone in a vacuous society devoid of any depth of meaning. To live a life bound by social conformity, accepting everything at face value, and without questioning the larger social and political paradigm is to be completely asleep. “Some people live as though they are already dead. There are people moving around us who are consumed by their past, terrified of their future, and stuck in their anger and jealousy. They are not alive; they are just walking corpses.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Today when I meet people who become defensive and confrontational over the choices that I make, I clearly state that if they don’t like what I write or how I live my life, its absolutely fine, as the actions I make only affect me, no one else. Thus, “my only true belongings in life are my actions.” Thich Nhat Hanh

To choose to live a non-conventional life one must be very strong, strong enough to confront others ignorance in a non-confrontational, grounded, and calm way. Ironically, many things that were seen as subversive at one point in time, soon become mainstream. Several of todays trends were once limited to much smaller subcultures and seen as highly subversive. A few of these are: organic food, vegetarianism, other heath based dietary regimes, yoga, meditation, consuming herbs or health supplements, etc. Yet, today it seems most people have some awareness of all of the above topics.

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The Journey Towards Freedom

“Rise up nimbly and go on your strange journey to the ocean of meanings…. Leave and don’t look away from the sun as you go, in whose light you’re sometimes crescent, sometimes full.” Rumi

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I wrote this excerpt as part of The Path of The Unconventional, however due to the overall length of the entire blog, I decided to post it separately. Although, this blog is a component of living an unconventional lifestyle, challenging the ‘norms’ that we are all conditioned to accept, and to at least attempt to live a life that gives us greater meaning and fulfillment. Thus, to really make choices that facilitate this transition towards living a life of greater resonance with who we are, does not actually require one to be independently wealthy or even have that much financial stability. All that it requires is to have the focus, drive, and patience to strive for what we are seeking. In my own life I know this to be a reality, as I have been able to travelled extensively and educated myself in various fields, completely on my own with my own limited income. In life, there is both self-will and a deterministic component to life, governed by karma. Yet, we still have some aspect of free will to assert within the realm of our daily lives; to improve our inner being and to strive towards living the life that will inevitable fulfill us on a deeper level. “Destiny can be changed through austerities and spiritual practices”. Amma

To really scrutinize the terms of conditioning that we all are bombarded with is extremely important. I mention this point, as my husband and I decided to travel to India for a minimum of 6 months to go to do yoga, spend time in Amritapuri, get Ayurvedic treatments, and spend time on the beaches in Kerala and Goa. However, all of our family members questioned this extended retreat, wondering why we would give up the current life that we are living to go to India for so long.

The main reason behind this trip, comes from the reality that I used to live a life that was steeped in meaning, passion, and community that completely resonated with who I am as a person. To realize that residing in a very exclusive area of the city in which I am currently living, in an extremely beautiful property, and surrounded by very nice furniture and belongings does not bring the contentment or true happiness that I am seeking at this point in my life. Despite having a seemingly lovely lifestyle, its devoid of what I value, it feels sterile and empty. I understand that only true contentment can be found on an inner level and that the external world of objects is not where we will find any lasting peace. One could question the discontent with my current life, as the problem is always on an inner level. However, I strongly feel that we need to trust our guiding instincts that allow us to make the necessary decisions, allowing us to further our inner growth as human beings. After nine years in this city, both my husband and I strongly feel that our time here is now done, thus the transition of travelling and seeking out an external environment more conducive to our spiritual seeking, is what we have chosen to embark upon.

To live the life that you seek, you must be very clear as to what that may entail, as its you who will be living it. “When you do things from your soul you feel a river moving in you, a joy. When action come from another section, the feeling disappears.” ~Rumi

Perhaps, because I have lived with very little at certain points in my life and I have  also lived with beautiful materialism; I am able to be detached from the stagnation and trap of desiring and exclusively seeking materialism. The latter statement is a testament of the times we are living, as almost every member of my family and my husbands family are obsessed by materialism; its their god, their one and only true salvation, their only source of real joy, meaning, and status. However, underneath this false reality is a superfluous emptiness and spiritual poverty that is terrifying. To me, it seems ludicrous that anyone will ever find contentment by increasing their level of materialism, yet the entire world is brain washed to believe this fable; a very convenient product of consumerism and the hold that media and endless advertising has on everyone. 

Even though I am not free from the influence of materialism, nor do I condone materialism, I just know that ‘things’ will never bring the true contentment or lasting joy that I seek in life. I choose to live a life of unconventional dharma centered values, to embark on traveling for extended periods of time, and perhaps to move to another country to live. “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?” Rumi.

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The Path of The Unconventional

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

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It takes tremendous courage and self assurance to go against the grain of hegemony and the prevalence of conformity and homogeneity that we see world wide. It also takes a certain level of critical thinking, applied experientially to ones life, to really understand the necessity to live more of a counter-culture or subversive lifestyle. What I am talking about is not merely to be who you are in all of your unique authenticity. Actually, the implication that I am asserting is the importance of realigning our focal point of being aware of the greater society surrounding us. Thus, the motives within the consumer based cultural currency, the true value of life, and how to live a life of greater awareness and intrinsic value. Of course, we can not be fully aware of everything that is going on in society or at a global level, yet with the advent of the internet, if you are open to knowing the facts; they are abruptly visible.

The paradigm that I mostly discuss is based on holistic lifestyle, not merely a physical based paradigm of what we see as the mainstream use of ‘holistic’, yet a deeper reality of living a truly holistic life. Thus, to embody holism entails realizing that we are interconnected to all the other beings in this world, we are interdependent on our earth’s natural resources, and we are interconnected with each other. There have been numerous scientists studying the actual phenomena of interconnectivity, proving that indeed we are all interconnected, as one entity in existence. This reality has been understood throughout history by numerous holistic medical systems, healers, and spiritual practitioners.

To choose a lifestyle based on the suffering of any being or animal, is not a holistic lifestyle, as when you support a culture of death and killing animals to sustain yourself; you are living a lower conscious lifestyle where you are creating more karma for yourself, to inevitably deal with later. This concept, has been historically a prevalent and intrinsic understanding within the majority of people seeking spiritual enlightenment. To continue to partake in the suffering of any other living being only adds to ones own karma. Hence, to choose a diet and lifestyle that is based on non-violent principles, local organic foods which support the local small scale organic farmers, and to understand the principles of our connection to the natural world is a lifestyle of great value. I personally only consume, mostly local organic produce purchased from my farmers market, then I go to a locally owned store to purchase other organic items and organic-fair trade items. I avoid ingredients such as palm oil, due to the massive slaughter of Orangoutangs throughout areas where they are commercially growing palm oil. In addition, I also stay away from most ‘organic’ produce from California or other organic mechanical agriculture that is not as high quality as what I can find locally.

In addition, food and diet is only so important. Other factors, that I deem much more important are how we interact with other fellow human beings and all other creature that we share this planet with. Again, to show others kindness is something seemingly so rare, not just regular people but the less fortunate. I often will purchase food for the obvious drug addicts who beg outside of stores I shop in. I try to treat them like anyone else, even if I am uncomfortable by their behavior or appearance. I still try to make an effort to treat less fortunate people, as the human beings that they are. The reason why I practice this type of action is that I see how self absorbed we are as a society, how selfish and indulgent almost everyone has become (myself included, to some degree), thus to try to act selflessly, even if we are not completely ‘selfless’ is still better than not acting at all. The truth of the matter is that anyone could find themselves in a less fortunate position, alone, and without anything.

To really understand that we are all interconnected and that our actions and choices have a tremendous impact on others and the larger world is important to consider in our daily choices. I am always aware of what my resources are supporting, through the simple choices that I am making on a daily basis. Even though I am not the perfect ‘green’ individual, almost everything I use is organic or supports the organic movement and is produced without harm to other living beings, from my food, toiletries, and most of my clothing. To use our critical thinking, experiential knowledge, and sense of humanity for the greater good has a far more powerful and fulfilling affect, than to live a life knowing the consequences of our actions and choices, yet doing nothing to change them. Inevitably, only our actions truly affect us, therefore to at least try to create continuous positive actions and choices not only benefits us, yet many other people and animals that may otherwise suffer due to our choices.

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The Holistic Face of Beauty

“Beauty is truths smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.” Rabindranath Tagore

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Through the dawn of time or so it seems historically, woman have been adorning themselves in some way that is seen as culturally and socially beautiful. This phenomena can been see throughout the world in every form of organized society that has existed up until our current era. Even the most basic form of social organization finds both men and women highly interested in some physical sense of beautification and individualization to assert who they are and their status in the society. Of course, today we really don’t have as much social demarcation through creating distinct appearances, even more specifically, we could say it appears very shallow and superficial.
However, in my opinion, I would have to say that the current idea of women and beauty is being dominated exclusively by consumerism.

I mention the latter, as I was brought up in a very androgynous sense where my mother was highly opposed to any form of beautification and it was highly criticized in my family. However, at this point in my life I see that the masculine reform of women is a far greater problem and issue than mere beautification of women. I am not directing this discussion towards the idea of gender and gender stereotypes; which does dominate and directly affects the appearances of both men and women to a large extent today.

Moreover, I would like to discuss the simple idea of what constitutes true beauty and what does that appear to be, including various factors of adornment from changing one’s hair color, makeup, or any of the massive number of other avenues of physical ‘beatification’. In addition, my interest is more at a holistic, organic, and natural approach to this topic. As well as, looking at the deeper underlying topic of first having a healthy body through proper dietary adherence to clean, pure, organic foods, and fresh water.

The entire discourse around organic dietary preferences and keeping your body healthy through high quality organic food, super foods, pure fresh water, herbs, and lastly food based supplements is highly important for outer beauty. To truly be beautiful one must resonate a healthy vibrance. Yet, as we all age and don’t take proper care of our bodies through eating a cleansing, nutritious, and vibrant diet, the aging process will be quite apparent. Thus, women succumbed to spending billions of dollars a year on toxic products, procedures, and other harmful treatments all to preserve the inevitable from occurring.  True beauty is not looking a certain way or even having a youthful appearance; its the whole energy, feeling, and look that people embody. 

Most people living a holistic lifestyle, who work on all aspects of themselves and keep a very healthy diet, mental and emotional state, and seek to evolve towards their higher potential in life; all have an energy that is apparent, beautiful, vibrant, and youthful. There is no magic serum or product that can bring about an overall essence of true vitality and energy.

However, most of the women I know in addition to living holistically love their organic products. I too am one of these woman, yet the reason I may appear to look youthful for my age is primarily due to my diet, spiritual focus, and constantly working with my own mental and emotional equilibrium.

Thus, the true essence of beauty is found as we grown and evolve in life, shedding the heaviness of certain patters through a holistic purification brought about through dietary, mental, emotional, and spiritual efforts to reach a higher potential of being in life. This is the life I am living and striving daily to embody, a life that is filled with the essence of true beauty and vitality on all levels of being.

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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. 

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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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