Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back to the body - honoring mystery

It's fascinating how when you take a step in a direction, the universe shows off so many more opportunities. Some seem coincidental, meeting people randomly(?) who know my closest friends. I'm starting to doubt coincidence.

I've read and posted about Eckhart Tolle, which led me to more conversations about living in the moment and what to do with the past. Today I found an article from The Sun entitled "The Prayer of the Body," in which The Sun's editor Sy Safransky interviews Stephen R. Schwartz. Schwartz focuses on what feelings are in the body, rather than the mind's way of judging, compressing and compartmentalizing. I'm highlighting just a bit of what resonated with me while reading. Read the whole interview here.

Safransky writes that "at his workshops, Schwartz asks people to sit in a circle with their eyes closed. Then, through a process similar to meditation with its focus on the breath, and to therapy, with its emphasis on feelings -- but dramatically unlike either -- he gently but persistently encourages them to turn to the pain, not the ideology about the pain; to the truth of the body, not cliches about the truth; to the actual feelings, not the words that wrap feelings in too many layers...

"Our fears and mental turmoil, he says, are the result of trying to place limiting labels on the innocent feeling life. Therefore, turning to the body, with compassionate attention, is the first step in really caring for ourselves."

(How sad, and telling, that reading this article, I thought "I wouldn't be able to identify the place a feeling resides in my body! I'm too much in my head, I'd get frustrated, and I'd fail." Talk about a self-defeating mind having too much control.)

Similar to Aqeela Sherrills' perspective on the Reverence Project and finding the gift in the wound, Schwartz says that "heroism is not overcoming what we perceive to be negative about ourselves or anything else, but rather facing right into those things -- finding the core. A heroic act is a naked encounter with what we've judged to be dangerous and then, perhaps, discovering that it is something else entirely."

Turning to our bodies and our feelings in this way is not selfish, he says. "When we turn toward ourselves in a certain way, we end up turning toward the universe. As we deconstruct emotions, we are taking apart our intensely introverted sense of identity, which is always caught in its own confines, and coming to something much broader, much more encompassing. We can give love to the world only when we know ourselves to be much bigger than a complext string of memories, ideas, and beliefs."

And what rings most true to me is that nothing in this life is static, and to embrace change. "As long as we keep looking at ourselves in the same old way, we lose sight of the ever-changing process of life. We are not static, framed, or caught. We can't be boxed in for long. Insight and conceptual analysis relate to still frames. But this life is all change. Nothing ever remains the way it was even a few minutes before. Here lies the beauty and the fear, the adventure and the desire to hold back."

Complete story here.

(Photos: human yoga courtesy yogi_johann, flickr, lizard yoga courtesy Tony George, flickr)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A little mercury with your meal? Don't blame (just) the fish!

Either because I'm getting old, or (hopefully) more aware, the conversation surrounding our sushi on Saturday centered on health issues. A friend had recently been diagnosed with dangerously high levels of mercury in her system, but she was not a big fish eater. The likely culprit? The Hershey's chocolate syrup she used in her daily morning coffee to create an at-home mocha.

Trying to nix extra calories and processed foods, I've been avoiding high fructose corn syrup. It's difficult to do: check your salsa, your yogurt, your honey, your ketchup, the list goes on. But now I have even more reason to run from it - as reported in The Washington Post, "the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit watchdog group, found that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments."

One more reason to buy real, unprocessed foods and to buy local. And to go see "Food, Inc."

(Photo courtesy - "Yummy Mercury in Your High Fructose Corn Syrup?")

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Odd Barnes & Noble bedfellows

Does B&N need work on its transitions?

Jump on the wine-tram! A virtual tour of Benziger's organic vineyards

A large man perched atop a large tractor pulled to a stop just in front of the steps leading to Caroline and Drew's outdoor rehearsal dinner at Benziger Winery. Behind the noisy machine was a tram similar to those that transport you from the outer reaches of the Disneyland parking lot (located somewhere in Michigan) to the gates of the happiest place on earth.

A nice man suggested we get a full glass of wine as we were invited to board the tram to take a tour of the vineyard. "This is the happiest place on earth," I thought, as we clinked our glasses in cheers to wine-trams and chugged through the green hills and ripe vines.

Matt, Brandy and I ride through Benziger

We stopped at a lookout point replete with a mechanized exhibit explaining something about the land -- I don't remember exactly. I was riding the WINE-tram. Thankfully, Benziger's website offers a virtual tour here, explaining the benefits of biodynamic farming. I do recall there was something about using ladybugs instead of pesticides, which seemed fitting in the happiest place on earth.

Jonathan and I in the vineyard glow

View from the tram

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Get your activist on and go see "Food, Inc."

But you might opt for water and fruit over coke and popcorn.

From the early days of fast food when the McDonald brothers brought the factory system to the back rooms of restaurants, Food, Inc. illustrates how that mentality of uniformity, conformity and cheapness has taken over the food industry.

Here are a few highlights, without going into too much detail and trying to decipher my notes and quotes written in the dark theatre. The film explores where our food comes from and asks you to do the same. It looks at the few farms that do the plumped-up work of what hundreds or thousands of farms used to do, and the control that major corporations exert over them.

It was heartbreaking to see chicken farms where, often raised in the dark, the chickens couldn't even stand or walk more than a step or two, since their bones cannot keep up with their high-speed weight gain. (Apparently America's demand for big breasts goes beyond the hills of Hollywood.)

Equally heartbreaking, for me, a new found lover of tofurkey, was the organic, open-air farm where farmer Steve espoused the health benefits of a small farm to the background soundtrack of the bleating, panicked chickens getting their throats cut while their fellow captives watched.

The entire film made me an even more careful reader of labels (and for a gluten-free girl that's already a given) and encouraged me to check the website of Monsanto, who have a patent on their genetically modified soybeans and are vilified in the film. The film stated that they, like all the major corporations in the movie, "declined to be interviewed for this film." I found, however, that they were more than willing to give their side of the story online. When I emailed and asked them why they had not made a statement for the film, I was told:

"Regarding Food, Inc., please do not assume that something is true only because is included in a movie. We tried to give our side of the story, we had conversations with the producers and invited them to attend to a big ag tradeshow to know more about the company and our customers. You can read what really happened here:

"Food, Inc. is bias film that misleads people that are really interested in knowing the facts about our food system." ~ Monsanto spokesperson

I was raised to question everything (thank you, Eugene Oregon) so naturally I do not believe everything that I see in a film. However, I also do not believe everything a PR person from a large corporation tells me. I simply ask, who has the most money to lose/defend?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Turn off your TV and read: Community and the cult of celebrity

In a feature in Orion titled "The Transition Initiative," Jay Griffiths writes about community and the Transition Initiative to reinstate grassroots action and reclaim community to move people into places of living sustainably and away from dependence on oil. I came across this bit about community and the anti-community that most of us are surrounded by on a daily basis, the cult of celebrity.

What he writes at the end of the paragraph reminds me of what I encounter every time I hear someone's story -- my realization that we all have important stories to share, and the person's relief at telling her story, and of being heard.

"For all of human history, peole have engaged with the world through some form of community, and this is part of our social evolution. Somewhere deep inside us all is an archived treasure, the knowledge of what it is to be part of a community via extended families, locality, village, a shared fidelity to common land, unions, faith communities, language communities, cooperatives, gay communities, even virutal communities, which, for all their unreality, still reflect a yearning for a wider home for the collective soul.

"...that particular social grace which seeks to create what Martin Buber called The Between. What is it, The Between? Fertile, delicious, and powerful, a co-evocation of possibility. The delicate point of meeting between you and him. Between them. Between us. ...

"Celebrity culture is an opposite of community, informing us that these few nonsense-heads matter but that the rest of us do not. Insidiously, the television tells me I am no one. If I was Someone, I'd be on telly. In this way, television dis-esteems its viewers, and celebrity culture is both a cause and a consequence of the low self-esteem that mars so many people's lives. So, the unacknowledged individual is manipulated into a jealousy of acknowledgment, which is why it is so telling that huge numbers of young people insist that when they grow up they want to be a celebrity. They are quite right. (Almost.) That is nothing less than they deserve, for we all need acknowledgment (but not fame). We all need recognition (but not to be 'spotted' out shopping). We all need to be known, we need our selves confirmed by others, fluidly, naturally. A sense of community has always provided these familiar, unshowy acts of ordinary recognition, and the Transition Initiative, like any wise community, offers simple acknowledgment, telling us we are all players."

Read the whole story at

(Photo "community orchestra" from Carf, Everyone a Changemaker, flickr)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

charity : water = 100% aid

I blogged before about charity:water as a success story of 100% aid going to the people in need. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof writes more about Scott Harrison's methods here:

"Armed with nothing but a natural gift for promotion, and for wheedling donations from people, Mr. Harrison started his group, called charity: water — and it has been stunningly successful. In three years, he says, his group has raised $10 million (most of that last year alone) from 50,000 individual donors, providing clean water to nearly one million people in Africa and Asia.

The organization now has 11 full-time employees, almost twice as many unpaid interns, and more than half a million followers on Twitter (the United Nations has 3,000). New York City buses were plastered with free banners promoting his message, and Saks Fifth Avenue gave up its store windows to spread Mr. Harrison’s gospel about the need for clean water in Africa. American schools are signing up to raise money to build wells for schools in poor countries. ...

So what's his secret? ...

Mr. Harrison’s underlying idea is that giving should be joyous, an infectious pleasure at the capacity to bring about change."

Read the full article at

(Photo by Esther Havens, courtesy charity:water)