yoga is a way of life.. For inner peace and good health, practice yoga

yoga is a way of life.. For inner peace and good health, practice yoga

Sunday, April 25, 2010

We Are Not Separate

A number of readings, teachings, and experiences in my life lately have reminded me of what the great sages have attributed to the reason we suffer in life: We feel we are separated from each other, animals, and the earth.

I hope some of you were able to catch "Food, Inc." on PBS last week (metro NY area). I knew things were bad in this toxic mix of profits and large-scale handling of our food, but had no idea how bad. Food grown on a homey kind of country farm is now a myth in this country. I tried to shield my eyes and close my ears to the scenes of cruelty to our traditional farm animals – chickens, pigs, cows – but did accidentally see a poor cow unable to stand any longer after being fattened up so much (from forced feeding of corn and things cows don't naturally eat) pushed and hit by men trying to shove the poor creature towards its slaughter. The cow was crying and suffering. That is among the most inhumane acts I can think of. I wonder how humans have evolved to the point where we not only produce food that is like poison for other people, but have no regard for the dignity or suffering of beings that we share this planet with.

But as a contrast, I was fortunate to be treated by my radiant friend Margot to a performance yesterday at City Center in Manhattan of Lori Belilove's Isadora Duncan junior dance company known as the "Beliloveables." (Isadora Duncan's young students were known in her day as the "Isadorables"). Lori's work with these young girls, 6-16 years old, is remarkable for the polished technique enabling the dancers to express the noblest virtue through movement. They show their hearts to the universe, they pass a warm glow to each other, they touch their foreheads and hearts gently, they regard the earth, they joyfully whirl around each other smiling and acknowledging each other in friendship. I felt honored that Lori selected inspiring music by Marjan Mozetich which I introduced to her for one piece, and was flattered to see she put something I said in the program notes: "Seeing the Beliloveables perform restores my faith in humanity." It's true! Look at the photo above! To learn more about the Isadora Duncan Dance Company and Foundation and their extraordinary work:

When we see ourselves as separate from our families, our neighbors, our community, our country and the world, even nature, we are miserable. We are connected by a universal energy. Everything vibrates at a frequency which is part of the entire field of energy we exist in. To think we don't need one another, to think that our actions don't matter, to think that we can deny or hide from the suffering of others is perhaps because we cannot admit that we suffer nor care for ourselves enough to alleviate our own suffering.

In the Yoga Sutras, there are 4 states of mind known as the brahmaviharas: "By cultivating attitudes of friendship toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness." In the Buddhist tradition, the brahmaviharas reflect on social relationships and the interdependent nature of all beings. The Tao teaches that the earth is in essence a reflection of heaven, run by the same laws – not by the laws of men. The more man interferes with the natural balance governed by universal laws, the further away harmony retreats into the distance.

When I discover an ant walking around inside the house in early spring, I put a glass over him, slip a postcard underneath and escort him gently outside. He and little spiders don't mean to be inside our homes. They seek warmth and food just like we do. I don't kill them because of this. They don't mean us any harm. They might look at us and see a huge ogre and are we? I love my cat Margarita and treat her with respect and love, as I would do for any animal. I can't eat them. I can't kill them. I will live fine without killing animals, yet they must die for us to enjoy the taste. To me, it's not necessary to eat meat any longer. Not when we are treating them like inanimate objects for insatiable profit. There are so many of us humans on the earth now (the population of the United States has DOUBLED since I was born) and we can't keep going like this, raping the earth, putting helpless animals into prisons of death, poisoning the earth and ourselves. How will you treat our garden?

In closing, a little verse to start each day:

Waking this morning, I smile,
A brand-new day is before me.
I aspire to live each moment
And to look upon all beings
With the eyes of kindness and
May you, and all other beings, be
happy and free from suffering.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Food, Inc.

Many of you may have heard about "Food, Inc.," an Academy Award nominated documentary about the food business in the United States. I haven't seen it yet, but lots of people I know have and say it's very powerful. I'm mentioning it because on Wednesday night, 4/21, PBS Channel 13 (NY-metro area) is airing it at 9:00 p.m. and I will definitely tune in to watch. And I hope all of you in my area will do so as well! The description of the film: "A revealing look at the U.S. food industry and corporations that put profit before consumer health. This sweeping, shockingly informative documentary recounts how sick animals; environmental degradation; tainted and unhealthy food; and obesity, diabetes and other health issues are only the more obvious problems with a highly mechanized and centralized system, like America's, that touts efficiency as the supreme value in food production."

Sounds like China!

In fact, a news report I heard recently says the fish offered for sale in supermarkets comes largely now from Asia where regulations are loose and is contaminated. Charming, non? Why do we allow this food to enter our country?

I am grateful to have a winter farmer's market here in Norwalk that offers local, fresh food. (See above photo). The produce is grown about 20 miles away in green houses during the colder months by a farming family. The eggs are from a local farm and are a bit smaller and more delicious than what I get at a regular grocery store. The fish was caught the day before and brought to the market by a Maine fisherman. I'm eating in a way that is sustaining both for me (local food which is macro-biotic) and for local business people, not some big corporation here or in Asia. I KNOW where the food comes from. I KNOW it is not tainted. I am eating mostly plant foods, grains, and a bit of fish now and then. I feel healthy and strong.

How does this relate to peace? By not exploiting animals by treating them like they are commodities instead of living beings, nor polluting or clearing land and thus degrading the environment to raise cattle and other animals for food on a mass-production scale. By encouraging everyone to eat local and environmentally-friendly foods to support good health and businesses in their own area. Human health and animal health, both physical and mental, is tremendously important as we all try to live together in ways that bring harmony with each other and with our world. It's hard for people to live up to their personal potentials if they are sick.

As the author Michael Pollan says in his new book, "Food Rules," if it's a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant (factory), don't eat it. Processed food is sort of like plastic. It is food stripped of its nutrients to one degree or another. It's sitting on a shelf for a long time and I gotta wonder what keeps it from going bad. We are not automatons conditioned to think that food comes from a grocery store. We have to remember it is grown in the ground. We can become empowered about our food. What we can't do is sustain all the billions on this planet the way things are going right now. Just because it comes from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, nothing is the same as eating fresh foods and cooking it yourself. When you eat in a restaurant, Lord knows what's on that plate.

Check out my friend Erin's blog:
She and her husband built a small chicken coop, grow herbs indoors, and find ways to economize on natural ways to keep healthy.

Human beings come up with unbelievable ways to go bigger, faster, cheaper. Since we don't grow our own food any longer, we sacrifice our self-sufficiency and knowledge of what is right for us to eat unless we wake up and research ways to get food that really nourishes us. However, we can tend our own small gardens during warmer months and try to support farmer's markets and KNOW that the food we are fueling our bodies with is local and fresh, full of nutrients. We each deserve the very best for ourselves. We are each worth the time and energy. I enjoy how I feel eating this way!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hippocrates: Still Hip Today

With the recent passage of the health care reform bill, the topic of medicine is on many people's minds. We have heard the good, bad, and ugly about modern medicine and how it's managed. My Dad told me once that in his opinion, good health is balanced in three ways: One third by Western medicine, one third by Traditional (natural) medicine, and the remaining third by Ourselves.

Hippocrates, the "father of medicine," seemed to embody this three-fold approach in his teachings. A Greek philosopher and physician born in 460 B.C., Hippocrates based his practice and theories on physical and rational observations and rejected the views of his time that considered illness to be caused by superstitions and by possession of evil spirits and disfavor of the gods. He felt the body should be treated holistically, not just in individual parts. Much of his "prescription" was self-directed.

On his list of methods leading to, and maintaining, good health:

Good diet of fresh foods, in moderate amounts
Walking and moderate exercise
Fresh air
Proper Rest

Here is what Hippocrates said:

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”

“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.”

“To do nothing is also a good remedy.”

“Walking is a man's best medicine.”

“Let medicine be thy food, and food be thy medicine."

So sensible, simple, logical! And amazing how far today's medical community has strayed. Hospitals like sealed boxes where patients go days and weeks without exposure to fresh air and sunshine; prescription drugs with powerful and toxic side-effects; doctors who specialize in only one body part as if it was disconnected to the rest of the body; no discussion of massage and other natural treatments; limited time to be heard by your doctor; little regard for the inter-relationship between disease and lifestyle; etc., etc.

A few times, I have mentioned to doctors what Hippocrates taught, and they look at me like I'm nuts. I think today's medical establishment would do well to reexamine what the father of medicine established as the basis for human health. I realize I have been following much of it for years and I feel really good. I'm still working on my inner life, but at least my body is in tip-top shape! I encourage all of my friends and family to resist processed foods, go for a walk or swim, get plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and lots of rest. In the end, one third of our good health resides within our control and TLC. That is very empowering, encouraging, and do-able. Please stay in touch and let me know your success in taking your health into your own hands.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April 4: Prince of Peace Day

Today is Easter, a day celebrating the rebirth of Jesus Christ in the mix with pagan agricultural rituals (thanks to Constantine). It is also April 4, an important date for Martin Luther King, Jr.: When he delivered his important anti-Vietnam War speech for which he was vilified in 1967 and assassinated in 1968. Some say that it was the speech that lead to the assassination, a year to the day. Martin Luther King was a Prince of Peace for Americans, modern Americans, in an age when it matters most.

I keep thinking about Martin Luther King. Perhaps because I saw a moving documentary on PBS this past week about the Vietnam speech, read a very powerful OpEd piece in yesterday's NY Times, and watched the ever-intelligent Bill Moyers Journal on Friday night (PBS) with two scholars talking about MLK's legacy. But I think the reason he is in the forefront of my mind is because I have woken up to his message. His message is relevant today. His message is of course for peaceful, nonviolent means to, well, peace! Peaceful coexistence. Too bad he didn't leave longer. We might be further along on the evolutionary trail. I could say the same thing about Christ, but to me, Christ has a different flavor, more of a mythologic/symbolic figure people have created, but to my mind he is a place where we put our hopes and dreams and requires an unsure leap of faith which is more than my rational mind can make. MLK lived when I was alive. He is in my experience, in my cells.

Martin Luther King, Jr., of course, is known as the civil rights leader in the 1960s who brought (successfully, though hard-won) attention to the second-class status of black people in America. Things really changed in this country back then. White people kicked and screamed and there was violence, but not from MLK's corner. Like Gandhi (who he admired), he resisted violence. Most importantly, MLK brought JUSTICE for black people. For this, his family endured death threats, the bombing of their home, and he was stabbed. Talk about "terrorism!" (One scholar interviewed this week said that poverty is not the opposite of wealth; poverty is the opposite of justice. What a concept!). Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize. Shouldn't we have listened to him? Shouldn't we study and listen to him now?

But once civil rights for blacks was in motion, MLK's conscience became focused on the war we were engaged in, in Vietnam. How wasteful ($) in contrast to the poverty that existed then and still exists today. His awareness of the violence and waste of war really ticked off his supporters, the government (including President Lyndon Johnson), and many others who pigeon-holed him as just a civil rights leader--What was he doing coming out against the war? MLK was accused of being a communist. Imagine, this man, MLK, a man of depth who started to connect the dots between racial inequality, poverty, a government spending precious capital on a violent war overseas being accused of sedition. MLK apparently spent that last year of his life as an outsider, depressed, not understood. Then he was killed. God, it's like Christ. Two men of peace, killed. Like Gandhi. Like RFK. Like Lincoln. Like John Lennon. Always the same. The ones we need the most. The peace-makers. They are too much, we can't handle them, and so we kill them.

If you would like to read Martin Luther King's speech, "Beyond Silence," delivered at Riverside Cathedral in New York on April 4, 1967, here is a link:

Having read the speech (only a portion of it was covered by camera), I come away seeing that Martin Luther King saw plainly where we were--and where we were headed. What he said then, in 1967, could apply to where America is today, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where we are with the uber-rich Wall Street robbers and the sinking middle class. In the PBS documentary I was lucky to watch last week, one scholar said that Martin Luther King, Jr., is the most important American we have ever produced. That's a huge statement, but I think it is the truth! He kicked ass. He was da bomb. And he acted entirely in peace. That is really huge. How he managed to be peaceful, that is the important part. Talk about will power. We all need to think carefully about America's place in the world. We have been war-mongering violent people. We have feared speaking out in favor of peace. Ask, "Can I go beyond silence?" I suppose, I just have!