From MindBodyGreen – How My Dog Made Me A Vegetarian

I like this post on MindBodyGreen. As it happens I did my weekly shop yesterday intuitively; I decided to buy whatever fruit and vegetables felt right (considering I am run down) and were grown locally. I came home laden down with carrots, broccoli, turmeric and celeriac among other goodies.

I was a vegetarian for several years, then I stopped in 1999. I became a vegetarian again in 2012 even though in truth I hardly ate meat anyway. I LOVE all animals and when I look deeply, there is no reason to eat them.

Somehow you always have to defend your choice when you stop eating meat and people suddenly become nutritional experts saying things like “you need meat for protein”. One comment that used to drive me round the bend years ago was “but you wear leather shoes”. It always seemed like people were trying to catch you out or something. I say each to his own. After eating great vegan food for a week during Thích Nhát Hanh’s retreat last summer, receiving the five mindfulness trainings and observing my true feelings about all animals, not just my lovely cat, I realized in eating meat, my actions were incongruous so the choice to stop eating meat was an easy one.

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Thich Nhat Hanh discusses the environment

Beyond environment: falling back in love with Mother Earth

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh explains why mindfulness and a spiritual revolution rather than economics is needed to protect nature and limit climate change

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says a spiritual revolution is needed if we are going to confront the environmental challenges that face us. Photograph: Plum Village

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has been practising meditation and mindfulness for 70 years and radiates an extraordinary sense of calm and peace. This is a man who on a fundamental level walks his talk, and whom Buddhists revere as a Bodhisattva; seeking the highest level of being in order to help others.

Ever since being caught up in the horrors of the Vietnam war, the 86-year-old monk has committed his life to reconciling conflict and in 1967 Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying “his ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.”

So it seems only natural that in recent years he has turned his attention towards not only addressing peoples’ disharmonious relationships with each other, but also with the planet on which all our lives depend.

Thay, as he is known to his many thousands of followers, sees the lack of meaning and connection in peoples’ lives as being the cause of our addiction to consumerism and that it is vital we recognise and respond to the stress we are putting on Earth if civilisation is to survive.

What Buddhism offers, he says, is the recognition that we all suffer and the way to overcome that pain is to directly confront it, rather than seeking to hide or bypass it through our obsession with shopping, entertainment, work or the beautification of our bodies. The craving for fame, wealth, power and sex serves to create only the illusion of happiness and ends up exacerbating feelings of disconnection and emptiness.

Thay refers to a billionaire chief executive of one of America’s largest companies, who came to one of his meditation courses and talked of his suffering, worries and doubts, of thinking everyone was coming to take advantage of him and that he had no friends.

In an interview at his home and retreat centre in Plum Village, near Bordeaux, Thay outlines how a spiritual revolution is needed if we are going to confront the multitude of environmental challenges.

While many experts point to the enormous complexity and difficulty in addressing issues ranging from the destruction of ecosystems to the loss of millions of species, Thay sees a Gordian Knot that needs slicing through with a single strike of a sharp blade.

Move beyond concept of the “environment”

He believes we need to move beyond talking about the environment, as this leads people to experience themselves and Earth as two separate entities and to see the planet in terms only of what it can do for them.

Change is possible only if there is a recognition that people and planet are ultimately one and the same.

“You carry Mother Earth within you,” says Thay. “She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment.

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“In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer. In that kind of relationship you have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change your life.

“Changing is not just changing the things outside of us. First of all we need the right view that transcends all notions including of being and non-being, creator and creature, mind and spirit. That kind of insight is crucial for transformation and healing.

“Fear, separation, hate and anger come from the wrong view that you and the earth are two separate entities, the Earth is only the environment. You are in the centre and you want to do something for the Earth in order for you to survive. That is a dualistic way of seeing.

“So to breathe in and be aware of your body and look deeply into it and realise you are the Earth and your consciousness is also the consciousness of the earth. Not to cut the tree not to pollute the water, that is not enough.”

Putting an economic value on nature is not enough

Thay, who will this spring be in the UK to lead a five-day retreat as well as a mindfulness in education conference, says the current vogue in economic and business circles that the best way to protect the planet is by putting an economic value on nature is akin to putting a plaster on a gaping wound.

“I don’t think it will work,” he says. “We need a real awakening, enlightenment, to change our way of thinking and seeing things.”

Rather than placing a price tag of our forests and coral reefs, Thay says change will happen on a fundamental level only if we fall back in love with the planet: “The Earth cannot be described either by the notion of matter or mind, which are just ideas, two faces of the same reality. That pine tree is not just matter as it possesses a sense of knowing. A dust particle is not just matter since each of its atoms has intelligence and is a living reality.

“When we recognise the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection, love is born.

“We want to be connected. That is the meaning of love, to be at one. When you love someone you want to say I need you, I take refuge in you. You do anything for the benefit of the Earth and the Earth will do anything for your wellbeing.”

In the world of business, Thay gives the example of Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of outdoor clothing company Patagonia, who combined developing a successful business with the practice of mindfulness and compassion: “It’s possible to make money in a way that is not destructive, that promotes more social justice and more understanding and lessens the suffering that exists all around us,” says Thay.

“Looking deeply, we see that it’s possible to work in the corporate world in a way that brings a lot of happiness both to other people and to us … our work has meaning.”

Thay, who has written more than 100 books, suggests that the lost connection with Earth’s natural rhythm is behind many modern sicknesses and that, in a similar way to our psychological pattern of blaming our mother and father for our unhappiness, there is an even more hidden unconscious dynamic of blaming Mother Earth.

In a new essay, Intimate Conversation with Mother Earth, he writes: “Some of us resent you for giving birth to them, causing them to endure suffering, because they are not yet able to understand and appreciate you.”

How mindfulness can reconnect people to Mother Earth

He points to increasing evidence that mindfulness can help people to reconnect by slowing down and appreciating all the gifts that the earth can offer.

“Many people suffer deeply and they do not know they suffer,” he says. “They try to cover up the suffering by being busy. Many people get sick today because they get alienated from Mother Earth.

“The practice of mindfulness helps us to touch Mother Earth inside of the body and this practice can help heal people. So the healing of the people should go together with the healing of the Earth and this is the insight and it is possible for anyone to practice.

“This kind of enlightenment is very crucial to a collective awakening. In Buddhism we talk of meditation as an act of awakening, to be awake to the fact that the earth is in danger and living species are in danger.”

Thay gives the example of something as simple and ordinary as drinking a cup of tea. This can help transform a person’s life if he or she were truly to devote their attention to it.

“When I am mindful, I enjoy more my tea,” says Thay as he pours himself a cup and slowly savours the first sip. “I am fully present in the here and now, not carried away by my sorrow, my fear, my projects, the past and the future. I am here available to life.

“When I drink tea this is a wonderful moment. You do not need a lot of power or fame or money to be happy. Mindfulness can help you to be happy in the here and now. Every moment can be a happy moment. Set an example and help people to do the same. Take a few minutes in order to experiment to see the truth.”

Need to deal with ones own anger to be an effective social activist

Thay has over many years developed the notion of applied Buddhism underpinned by a set of ethical practices known as the five mindfulness trainings, which are very clear on the importance of tackling social injustice.

However, if social and environmental activists are to be effective, Thay says they must first deal with their own anger. Only if people discover compassion for themselves will they be able to confront those they hold accountable for polluting our seas and cutting down our forests.

“In Buddhism we speak of collective action,” he says. “Sometimes something wrong is going on in the world and we think it is the other people who are doing it and we are not doing it.

“But you are part of the wrongdoing by the way you live your life. If you are able to understand that, not only you suffer but the other person suffers, that is also an insight.

“When you see the other person suffer you will not want to punish or blame but help that person to suffer less. If you are burdened with anger, fear, ignorance and you suffer too much, you cannot help another person. If you suffer less you are lighter more smiling, pleasant to be with, and in a position to help the person.

“Activists have to have a spiritual practice in order to help them to suffer less, to nourish the happiness and to handle the suffering so they will be effective in helping the world. With anger and frustration you cannot do much.”

Touching the “ultimate dimension”

Key to Thay’s teaching is the importance of understanding that while we need to live and operate in a dualistic world, it is also vital to understand that our peace and happiness lie in the recognition of the ultimate dimension: “If we are able to touch deeply the historical dimension – through a leaf, a flower, a pebble, a beam of light, a mountain, a river, a bird, or our own body – we touch at the same time the ultimate dimension. The ultimate dimension cannot be described as personal or impersonal, material or spiritual, object or subject of cognition – we say only that it is always shining, and shining on itself.

“Touching the ultimate dimension, we feel happy and comfortable, like the birds enjoying the blue sky, or the deer enjoying the green fields. We know that we do not have to look for the ultimate outside of ourselves – it is available within us, in this very moment.”

While Thay believes there is a way of creating a more harmonious relationship between humanity and the planet, he also recognises that there is a very real risk that we will continue on our destructive path and that civilisation may collapse.

He says all we need to do is see how nature has responded to other species that have got out of control: “When the need to survive is replaced with greed and pride, there is violence, which always brings about unnecessary devastation.

“We have learned the lesson that when we perpetrate violence towards our own and other species, we are violent towards ourselves; and when we know how to protect all beings, we are protecting ourselves.”

Remaining optimistic despite risk of impending catastrophe

In Greek mythology, when Pandora opened the gift of a box, all the evils were released into the world. The one remaining item was “hope”.

Thay is clear that maintaining optimism is essential if we are to find a way of avoiding devastating climate change and the enormous social upheavals that will result.

However, he is not naïve and recognises that powerful forces are steadily pushing us further towards the edge of the precipice.

In his best-selling book on the environment, The World we Have, he writes: “We have constructed a system we can’t control. It imposes itself on us, and we become its slaves and victims.

“We have created a society in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, and in which we are so caught up in our own immediate problems that we cannot afford to be aware of what is going on with the rest of the human family or our planet Earth.

“In my mind I see a group of chickens in a cage disputing over a few seeds of grain, unaware that in a few hours they will all be killed.”

An edited video of Jo Confino’s interview with Thich Nhat Hahn can be seen here.

For information on Thay’s visit to the UK this spring, which includes a meditation in Trafalgar Square, a talk at the Royal Festival Hall, a five-day retreat and a three-day mindfulness in education conference, go to the Cooling the Flames website.

Article: An Ayurvedic Superfood To Live For (By Glynnis Osher and Madhuri Phillips)

Kitchari is a traditional Ayurvedic dish that’s known for its ability to detox the body and balance all three doshas. It’s made with mung beans, basmati rice, seasonal vegetables, ghee, and spices. The mung beans are known for their ability to remove toxins, specifically pesticides and insecticides, from the body. Mung beans are also a source of protein – CM

Today there are so many “health foods” and “superfoods” marketed towards health conscious people, yogis, and athletes that it can be confusing to know what maca, goji, chia-seed, gluten-free, raw cacao, antioxidant rich, dairy-free, organic food to choose from when you peruse the aisles of your favourite health food store.

What is great about Ayurveda is that it is simple, has stood the test of time (over 5000 years), and is founded on basic principles that can be applied to everyone no matter what age and stage of life.

According to Ayurveda, all disease can be traced back to having roots in the manovaha srota, the mind, and the early signs and symptoms in the digestive system. Unfortunately we have been taught to believe that a little gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea is “normal”. Well, these signs and symptoms may be normal but they certainly aren’t natural. Even mild and transient symptoms in the digestive tract left to their own devices may eventually flourish into more serious symptoms and manifest as disease over time.

Cleaning up your digestive tract will not only prevent disease and other health problems down the road but will also give you: more energy, clearer thinking, better sleep, improved immunity, and relief from potentially embarrassing social situations when you have to abruptly excuse yourself and run to the loo.

One of the best ways to give your overtaxed digestive system a break is to eat kitchari, an ayurvedic superfood. Kitchari is a tridoshic (good for everyone) food that can be adjusted according to the season or for your individual constitution. The basic ingredients in this one-pot meal are white basmati rice and mung beans. These ingredients form a complete protein and are very easily digested. Added to the pot are spices to help kindle your agni, digestive fire, as well as yummy veggies for good nourishment and health.

This powerful dish is the staple for an Ayurvedic cleanse diet but can also be used anytime you feel your digestion is going out of whack. Eating kitchari is like pressing the reset button and allowing your digestion to return to a state of proper functioning and ease.

This is just one suggested recipe. Feel free to adjust and get creative with it. Here’s to simple eating and your health!

Tridoshic Fall Kitchari (3-4 servings)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
Half a medium onion finely diced
1 inch fresh peeled ginger, finely diced
1 cup split mung dal
1 cup white basmati rice
About 2 cups mixed veggies of your choice (seasonal root veggies and greens)
1 tsp sea salt/rock salt
6 cups water (may add more water for a more watery soup kitchari)

TIP: Soak beans/rice overnight for shorter cooking time and easier digestion

Directions:
Wash beans and rice until rinse water is clear. Discard water and set rice and beans aside. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the ghee on medium and add the onions to sauté until sweet and tender. Add ginger, cumin, fennel, and coriander seeds and sauté for two or so more minutes. Add rice and beans and sauté for a few more minutes. Add the water, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir, lower heat and simmer on low with the lid on for about 20 minutes. While kitchari is cooking, wash and chop the veggies/greens. Add to the mixture, stir in and cover. Allow to ‘steam’ for about 8-10 minutes. Add salt and mix in. (If you are using veggies that take longer to cook than greens (squash or yams for example), add to mixture 5 minutes before the greens and other veggies).

Garnish with a squeeze of lemon or lime, fresh cilantro or parsley, a small dollop of extra ghee and toasted sesame seeds or toasted sunflower seeds.

Glynnis and Madhuri are Ayurvedic Practitioners and co-authors of the upcoming book: Illuminating the Way to Your Irresistible Life, through Yoga and Ayurvedic Practices that Work. They offer seasonal on-line Ayurvedic Cleanses and Rejuvenation Programs.

November 14th, 2012

Website: Glynnis and Madhuri
Twitter: @GlynnisMadhuri

Article: Organize Your Kitchen | Aparna Khanolkar

We moved in to our home three and a half years ago. It’s a rental, so we tried to limit how much we spent on renovating it, but as it was a dump, we ended up spending a lot of money and even put in a new kitchen. That kitchen is the bane of my life. It’s big, so we were very happy to find a kitchen with all appliances from Ikea for €4000. Everything was done in a rush and I designed a layout which in practice turned out to be illogical. It drives me nuts – we have so much counter space and yet we’re always stuck in the same corner. If one person happens to need something out of the fridge and the other person decides to empty the dishwasher at the same time, the fridge person -so to speak- is stuck in the corner with no way out. Lets just say there’s always a lot of “excuse me” and “can you move out of the way?” in our big kitchen.

The boyfriend won’t let me take it all down and have it reassembled in the order I would like. He has a point. I have reorganized it more times than I care to remember. To add to my frustration, a creative acquaintance added some custom cabinets but also took down other practical cabinets because they were in his way (!) and then vanished off the face of the earth leaving us with an almost finished kitchen.

After the most recent and most successful reshuffling of cabinet contents I decided to make peace with my kitchen for now. When I have a couple of thousand to spare I will take all the cabinets down and rearrange the layout. As I obsessed about all the things I hated about the kitchen, I realized I should be more loving towards it. It is after all the place you spend time creating nourishing meals for yourself and your loved one, it’s the place you show yourself some love.

What I wanted was a space I’d be happy to be in all the time instead of being frustrated because it ‘doesn’t work’. I came across the article below by Aparna Khanolkar and I felt like it was written for me :-). I actually have an incense burner, candle and a photo of Sister Chang Khong in my kitchen but I never thought of lighting the candle before I start cooking as an act of reverence. I love that idea so I do it most days now when I cook.

Aesthetically speaking I like clutter free kitchens which is a challenge for me as I am one of these people who uses everything in the kitchen when I cook, so there’s always heaps of stuff lying around afterwards. I have always liked storing my grains and rices etc in glass jars as I love looking at them all pretty and healthy looking. I bought a nice graphic artwork and since yesterday it hangs in the empty white space that was left after some of the wall cabinets were removed, and suddenly – the kitchen feels finished! There’s a few bits of equipment I’d liked to get but I have all the basics and even though it’s not perfect, I am looking forward to hanging out in my kitchen even more.

Organize Your Kitchen For Efficient Cooking

Cooking is a pleasure and pre-requisite to maintaining good health. It can be a task of ease, grace and great joy when we have the kitchen organized and structured for proper flow and functionality. Eating healthy is vital, but how we cook directly impacts our health as well. Cooking in a hurried pace and being stressed out may still put a beautiful plate of food on the table, but it’s quality is diminished by the frustration we experience while cooking.

One of the ways to ensure that cooking can be pleasurable is by organizing your kitchen to include proper utensils as well as a stock of essential staples. Even if your kitchen is small, find ways to bring in beauty with fresh herbs and flowers. I have a small altar in my kitchen with a photo of my guru, an incense burner and a candle. I always light the candle before I begin cooking as a token of my gratitude and reverence for the act of self-nourishment.

If you do not have enough room for all your pots and pans, get a pot rack and hang them. This will open up space for organizing dry goods. One of the ways to attract abundance is by displaying what you have in an organized and abundant manner. I prefer glass jars to store lentils, beans, rice, nuts and other grains. Besides the asthetic value, it is always clear as to the supply.

Commit to using wood and cast iron in the kitchen. Invest in two cast iron skillet sizes – 9 inch and 14 inch. Use wooden spoons for cooking to avoid toxins from plastic spoons and utensils. Stainless steel is a good choice for soup pots. The use of paper goods in the kitchen is minimal in mine. I use cloth dinner napkins and cloth towels for clean-up. A good quality chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife and a couple of bamboo cutting boards are all you need for cooking healthy meals. A blender or food processor will further contribute to saving time on prep.

If your kitchen is organized and is well-stocked with staples you are more likely to be inspired to cook. And cooking at home is not only healthier, but also cost-effective. Have at least 2 lbs of rice, quinoa, a variety of beans and legumes on hand. Make available spices such as cumin, turmeric, pepper, fennel, cinnamon and sea salt. Have olive oil and grapeseed oil for cooking.

As a way to save money and time, I prepare a menu each week before I go shopping. I buy exactly what I need and don’t waste money on buying foods that are tempting but may go bad because I did not have time to cook it. Shopping at farmer’s market allows me the simple luxury of eating organic, locally grown and seasonal produce.

Like anything in life, when you are organized, you will be more productive. In the kitchen, it results in stress-free cooking, delicious healthy meals and happy diners.

From: http://themistressofspice.com/blog/?p=166

Drink Warm Water & Lemon, It’s Good For You!

I have really noticed such a difference since I’ve been drinking a cup of hot water with lemon as soon as I wake up. Lemon is very acidic of course, but once ingested in the body, it becomes alkaline (which is a good thing apparently). The best change I’ve noticed is it gets my body ready for elimination and I feel nice and clean the rest of the day :-).

I actually feel so disappointed if I forget to prepare my lemon water the evening before (and am almost asleep by the time I realise it), and the next day I definitely feel heavier in my belly.

The trick is really to make sure you drink the lemon water on an empty stomach and do not eat or drink anything for 20-30 minutes. As mornings are awful for me, here’s what I do the evening before:

You will need:

  • a thermos flask
  • 1 lemon
  • a knife
  • a mug
  • a teaspoon
  • a small saucer (I use a glass coaster) to cover the mug
  • honey (optional)

Pour some freshly boiled water into the flask, swirl it around and leave to stand for a minute. In the meantime, cut a chunk or a slice of lemon, and put it in your mug and cover the mug. Throw out the water in the flask, and refill it with more boiling water. Close the flask tight and place it with the mug with lemon, the teaspoon and honey if you’re using it, on a small tray next to your bed so it’s the first thing you see when you wake up! By morning, it’ll be the perfect temperature, not scalding hot; take the lemon out of the mug and give it a good squeeze, fill the mug with hot water, add honey if you wish, stir and drink.

If a chunk of lemon is too zingy for you, just use a slice of lemon until you get used to the taste.

I was pleased to see that MindBodyGreen published an article about the benefits of lemon water.

Why You Should Drink Warm Water & Lemon.