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, November 28, 2010

World Wide Web

The Web, as we know it (the Internet), celebrates an anniversary: 20 years ago the term was coined to describe this sharing of information, for its "likeness to a spider's construction." I was immediately reminded of how apt that is today, as we learn the positive and negative aspects of our world-wide web of interconnections, and how amazing it is that we are able to talk about it here, via the Web! We are connected in a way that is stupendous, unthinkable not long ago.

Chief Seattle is a noted American Indian leader who gave a famous speech in 1854, and I wanted to share with you this call-and-response text from a church service I attended a few years ago and kept the page from the program to share one day. It is a beautiful example of how we are part of a whole, interconnected as if by an invisible web:

Minister: Every part of this earth is sacred.
Congregation: Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and every humming insect is holy.

Minister: We are part of the earth and it is part of us.
Congregation: The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle – these are our brothers.

Minister: The rocky crests, the dew in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, humans – all belong to the same family.
Congregation: This we know: The earth does not belong to humans; humans belong to the earth.

Minister: This we know: All things are connected like the blood which unites one family.
Congregation: Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of earth.

Minister: We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand on it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
Congregation: What are humans without the animals?

Minister: If all the animals were gone, humans would die from a great loneliness of spirit.
Congregation: For whatever happens to the animals, soon happens to humans. All things are connected.

I truly believe that when each of us is healthy in body, mind and spirit, it affects us so positively that we can't help but affect those closest to us for the better, perhaps inspiring by example. Each thread in the web gets stronger and easier for us to connect with each other. If you think your poor eating habits are your own business, and you are ill, think of those who care about you and are unable to enjoy you more. If you think your lack of rest doesn't matter, think of how crabby you are to people around you. If you think eating animals who are treated cruelly in factory farms doesn't matter, try putting yourself in their position and consider how awful it must be for them. If you act selfishly without considering what is sacred, you spoil things for everyone. If you act "selfishly" in order that you might keep fit and fed in healthy ways and allow yourself to feel the sacredness of life, you make a positive impact on the world-wide web we all share.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You Are Welcome

On Friday I took my regular yoga class after missing it for two weeks while allowing my injured heel to heal (no pun intended!). At the end of the class, as we all were laying on our backs in the very relaxing svanasana (corpse pose), the teacher went student by student to gently push our shoulders down into the matte which releases that last bit of tension from the body. With my eyes still closed, I said, "Thank you," to her and she softly said, "You are welcome." Perhaps because she is from Colombia and has an accent, she didn't say, "You're welcome," but "You are welcome" in three distinct words. It struck me that the meaning is so different from the response we say automatically when someone thanks us.

Here I had missed the class for several weeks and felt like I would be out of shape, even though I know yoga is not meant to be competitive, and found I was still very strong and capable. It was great to be in this nurturing environment again and how nice to have this special "ah-ha" moment at the conclusion. You Are Welcome. I wish more people stated this in the beginning of our encounters with each other! Imagine walking into a store and the staff greeting you with, "You are welcome!" You would feel special and enter knowing your presence is important.

I had read in yoga texts a number of years ago that it is good to walk through every doorway as if entering a temple. It immediately reminds me that I am a divine being walking through life with respect. I can extend a warm welcome to those who enter my home or step into the space I am standing wherever that may be, treating that person with friendliness, hospitality, and respect.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, we will either host a dinner or be a guest, and have the opportunity to say, "You are welcome" or feel welcomed in someone's home, walking through their doorway into a temple. This alone is worth giving thanks as it is foundational for how we can all live together in peace in this world. I give thanks to my yoga teacher Francesca who has allowed me to see the value of three little words.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I have awakened to the reality that we are living in a time when our government is no longer "of the people" and our society is distracting itself from this reality.

Driving from my home to visit a girlfriend early last evening, the main highway I-95 was backed up in both directions the entire way, mile after mile after mile. There was no accident, no construction. Just volume. A Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Were all these people shopping? What is with the traffic getting more and more choked? Is this our future? If we continue along the path of more and more and more, I suppose that is exactly what we will get: more.

We have been lied to and manipulated by Washington for decades and now we are seeing the results. From legislating in favor of the wealthy and powerful, to ignoring the science of global warming in favor of corporate ($$$) interests, to using war for agendas we may never really know, and systematically destroying the middle class, our elected officials have created a completely corrupt machine.

Our society worries me. We scramble more and more to cram school, sports, college and expectations down our children's throats and at the end of all that pressure and fortunes spent, are there jobs for them? Is this competition healthy? We shop. We shop and consume and want more. If we don't spend, if aren't good consumers, we aren't good Americans. We are advertised to via every available surface, and we fall for it! A song I used to listen to warns that this is "participation in our own manipulation." Most of mainstream media exists either as an advertising delivery device or misinforms us depending on who sponsors or owns it. This media is not a voice of the people any more. Consumerism--all this "stuff"-- cannot continue indefinitely. The earth's resources are getting depleted and we are destroying ourselves by continually raping it for profit. There is such a tiny percentage of potable (drinkable) water left that it is laughable! Does anyone know this?

How does this tie in with Peace and Health? We must awaken and be conscious human beings, not live blindly from day to day in a semi- or unconscious way. To awaken allows you to understand finally that we are all interconnected, "one" with each other, the animals, the plants, the earth... that to destroy or mistreat or distort or corrupt creates a life of misery for ourselves in the end anyway. Our actions ripple out in hundreds of ways that can bring harm if we are not aware of the repercussions of those actions. I hope you will join me in awakening perhaps by studying the ancient teachings, by absorbing what is going on in the world, taking the time to acquaint yourself with the issues and players, by speaking out against injustice, by being "charge neutral" in the face of angry situations, by eating healthy, resting, being compassionate to yourself and therefore to others.

I do have faith in some of the young friends I have made, like Erin whose wonderful blog "Let's Be Self-Sufficient" is right on track. We need thousands of Erins to make the difference in whether we will thrive in the future.

And faith in my elders, like my Uncle Dave who keeps me on top of what is truly corrupt in government. Here is a link he just sent me about what the federal bank is up to lately:

A film you can stream on Netflix, called "The Age of Stupid," is a documentary about global warming and what the near future might hold for us. Here's the trailer:

Another good documentary you can stream on Netflix is "Iraqi War: The Untold Stories."

Thanks for listening to my rant. Now I'm REALLY awake!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Less Daylight, More Insight

After a long hiatus, I'm back on "Peace and Health." A number of you were wondering why I hadn't been writing my posts and the answer is that I have been living and thinking and experiencing and that is what it takes sometimes to be thoughtful in my communications. I don't want to blather away or preach. I want to share what is perhaps of value in making the world a teensy bit more friendly.

Today is the first evening of Eastern Standard Time and we now have the spectre of sunset at 4:30 and those long, cold winter nights ahead for a very long time. Boring? Sometimes. Crabby feelings from lack of vitamin D? Absolutely.

Here is what I have learned and applied from traditional Chinese medicine: We are all familiar with the concept of yin and yang, the opposites, in Chinese philosophy. The fall and winter are the yin time of the year, the feminine, introverted, quiet, the days short, animals hibernating and the earth going into its roots to survive the cold season ahead, everything in a state of near death. I have been putting away my summer clothes, as I'm sure many of you have been as well, but also my diet has been changing to include more seasonal foods like acorn and butternut squash, soups and other hot cooked food like breakfast grains. I have closed up my garden, brought potted plants indoors, and have accepted the fact that I will be less active for now, slowing down my social schedule and gym workouts. I have learned that I get sick, get headaches, feel edgy when I try to do too much. Deciding what is "too much" is what is most important.

My doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, who introduced this yin-yang season concept to me, says it causes illness and dysfunction when we live contrary to nature. In the fall and winter we need to be quiet, go inward, not rush around and not get enough rest. We need balance. In the spring and summer, it's the yang time of year, masculine, extroverted, expansive. Lazing around indoors in the summer is going against nature as it's the time to be outside and active.

So, it's okay to be sleepy and sluggish right now! It's okay to enjoy the long evenings in your sweats with your dog or cat on your lap, reading and sipping tea or enjoying a pleasant conversation in the comfort of home. It's okay not to drag yourself around after a long day of work. Go home and flop on the sofa and take it easy. Spend long moments thinking, writing, reading, listening to music. Insights abound at this time of year. Fatten up for the winter like the squirrels do. It's good to go with the season! Give yourself permission to simply be this fall and winter. It's only natural.

Here's a recipe I want to share, one I tore out of Yoga Journal recently. It's wonderful, simple to bake, and I hope you all will try it. Let me know what you think! Happy autumn. Let's all enjoy it and make the very best of it.

Olive Oil and Rosemary Cake
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a 10-inch loaf pan and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a hand mixer (or whisk by hand) for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is very foamy and pale in color. With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Gently fold in the rosemary.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Pour the batter into the pan.
4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool briefly in the pan, and then tip the cake out onto a rack to continue cooling.

I serve this cake warmed and sliced with a generous dollop of goat cheese with honey (they sell this at Trader Joe's) on top! Yum!