Raw? Vegan? Vegetarian? Lacto-Ovo? Pescatarian? Mediterranean? There have been so many diets promoted in natural health circles in America over the last decades. It seems they all have various benefits. And the one thing most have in common is the avoidance of consuming of cows and pigs.
Red meat and pork have no known health benefits. The animals are treated brutally and killed in a gruesome bloodbath that is easy to ignore because so few have witnessed our fellow mammals’ slaughter. Those who are employed to do the dirty work get very low wages and often incur injuries because of the size and weight of the animals and the speed of the work. It is very difficult to watch. Even when Cargill, one of the largest meat processing companies in the nation, allowed Oprah Winfrey into a couple of sanitized areas of a processing plant, they did not allow her cameras to film a cow being killed. Out of sight means out of mind.
We are very fortunate that there are so many other things to eat! This meat can feel energizing because of all the adrenaline in the animal when it is killed, and there is iron in blood and flesh, but there is also iron in spinach, dried fruit, and lentils. There is a tradition of the hunt and the roast, and this holds a special allure and place in our hearts. However, when you realize that is far from how the animals get to our plates nowadays, the romanticized vision vanishes.
One hamburger can contain up to 100 different cows. The US kills 35 million cows a year, and 13,200 pigs an hour. That is a lot of bloodshed, death, and killing. What would our country be like if that stopped? Our cardiovascular health would improve, as would our regularity. Less suffering for the animals coincides with less suffering for humanity.
If you would like to see what really goes on behind the closed doors of the slaughterhouse, it is a great motivator for change, although very sad to watch:
These videos have a louder volume, so you may wish to mute (this also makes them more bearable to watch):
This was filmed at Agriprocessors which was the largest (Glatt) Kosher meat producer in the United States, and the only one authorized by Israel’s Orthodox Rabbinate to export beef to Israel, before it was shut down in 2008 by inspectors (best to mute):
Thank you for being willing to read this, and watching some of the videos. I know it is very difficult to consider this topic because for so long we have been removed from the reality of it and since we were children we were taught to eat a certain way. Make sure to be gentle with yourself and go slowly when making changes in eating habits. Perhaps begin with a “meatless Monday.”
This film describes the positive environmental impacts that forgoing meat just one day a week can make:
For a well done documentary about one man’s journey with this issue, watch this clip:
Another inspiring story with regards to getting back to a plant-based diet is that of Dave the trucker. He was dying when he decided he had to tackle this problem head on:
Even the Mayo Clinic recommends “meatless meals”:
Recent articles in the LA Times and the Huffington Post lend weight to this conclusion:
Because of all the droughts we have been having in the US, the cattle are starving, and the herds are shrinking:
Cows are very gentle creatures. There is no skill or chase in hunting them. They are docile pacifists who give their milk and eat grass. They hurt no one, and do not deserve this torture. Pigs frolic and forage, are as sociable and intelligent as dogs, and genetically are surprisingly similar to humans (more so than any other domesticated animal):
The slaughter house is like hell on earth. It is time for the madness to end. It does not have to be this way. Humans have freedom of choice, and when we know better, we do better. And when we learn, we care.
These items can function in place of meats in traditional American recipes when needed, they’re pretty tasty, and the most popular ones are available at supermarkets:
I had a great experience when I asked my supermarket to carry a natural product they did not already have, and they now stock it in the store – thank you Vons!
If you are taking medications or have had surgery, please consult your doctor before making any changes in your diet and only undertake such changes under her/his supervision and monitoring. This is because dietary changes can lessen the need for certain medications. Also, listen to your body – if you need red meat, eat it. If you can avoid it when possible, and still feel good, please do. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as medical advice.
America has the finest high-tech medical care in the world. If a person is in an accident, the emergency care is exemplary. We also have dedicated, energetic scientists working hard to develop new treatments every day.
I think one area we have not fully accessed is nature and indigenous knowledge. There is still a place for science within this realm, working in harmony with the natural world and people who live in close communion with it to learn from them how we too can do so more gracefully. Preventative health care begins with focusing on sustainable agriculture. This will also help stabilize the climate and prevent war, as hungry people are more belligerent. If you think I am joking, try fasting and working at the same time, and see how long you last.
Traditional crossbreeding of plants is safer and wiser than genetic engineering. Researching and testing the most reliable healing plants and fruits in each region of the earth provides a fertile field for academic and commercial institutions. If we try to leave nature behind, we will not get far, as evidenced by our current state of crisis.
For example, blackberries are incredibly healthy. They grow wild all over the Pacific Northwest of the United States. There is a wonderful blackberry breeding program at Oregon State University that has developed a number of delicious (thornless even!) blackberry varieties. If everyone in this region had a blackberry bush or free blackberries available, many health concerns could be assuaged. Daily berries (in season) really do make a difference in health. Blueberries could be cultivated freely throughout the Northeast. Mangos, avocados, and peaches can be grown in the warmer regions of the country. People’s health is in part determined by the quality of their food and drink. Organic farming will restore the land.
Before you protest and say this will never happen—asserting that we have public space set aside for nature and parks, but only planted with ornamentals—get a load of what the city of Seattle is doing!
In the neighborhood of Beacon Hill a seven acre plot is being planted with grapes, apples, raspberries, blueberries, pears, plums, pineapple, guava, persimmons, and other fruit trees, as well as herbs, chestnuts, and walnuts! It is called the Beacon Food Forest, and was designed in 2009 by students in a permaculture class. beaconfoodforest.weebly.com
The trial plot of two acres is being planted this summer, with the remaining five acres to be completed at a later date. This will be a true, sustainable food bank! Here is a video showing the first plantings:
The founding members of the project hope to educate the community of the benefits of permaculture through the site. Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect, states, “This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park!”
Jenny Pell, permaculturist, explains, “People worried, ‘What if someone comes and takes all the blueberries?’ That could very well happen, but maybe someone needed those blueberries. We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season then it means we’re successful.”
Local residents have been enthusiastically pitching in and signing up with comments like, “Put me to work – I can’t wait to get my hands dirty,” and, “Let me know when I can show up with my wheelbarrow.” Help with propagating, mulching, and pruning is welcomed. “People will come in and for example help cut the raspberries back and then be able to take home five or ten raspberry plants to put in their own backyard!” proclaims Pell.
“When we met with all the different people from the community, what they wanted actually was fruits and berries and big nut trees- that was their biggest request. So, we’re looking at paths with berry bushes on both sides, and we’re going to have mixed fruit orchards, and big nut orchards. It will be the largest food forest on public lands in the United States.”
A couple of other folks worldwide have been at the forefront of this movement to get free produce to everyone while reforesting the earth. Kenya’s Queen of the Trees Professor Wangari Maathai inspired the planting of 47 million trees in Kenya and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Her vision of environmental stewardship rather than plunder of natural resources (which has been the accepted norm) has inspired many people. She especially encouraged women to plant trees, beginning the www.Greenbeltmovement.org in 1977.
When she started her work, Professor Maathai saw that “behind the everyday hardships of the poor—environmental degradation, deforestation, and food insecurity—were deeper issues of disempowerment, disenfranchisement, and a loss of the traditional values that had previously enabled communities to protect their environment, work together for mutual benefit, and to do both selflessly and honestly.”
Simply put, Professor Maathai said, “If you destroy the forest then the river will stop flowing, the rains will become irregular, the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation… We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk.”
Anthony Anderson of www.growparadise.com states, “When we realize that we can quite easily and quickly begin to grow paradise right where we live, our power returns to us! Growing paradise requires nothing but the spirit of love and growth within us. We invite you to become a part of this, whether directly or by spreading the ideas and growing paradise in your own backyard and local community. Grow paradise. It is ours if we really want it.” He has seeded food forests in Minnesota, California, Arizona, and Cape Town, South Africa.
David Wolfe started the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation www.ftpf.org, which is a nonprofit charity dedicated to planting 18 billion organic fruit trees to “benefit the environment and all its inhabitants!”
“We envision a place where one can have a summer picnic under the shade of a fruit tree, breathe the clean air it generates, and not have to bring anything other than an appetite for the healthy fruits growing overhead. A world where one can take a walk in the park during a lunch break, pick and eat a variety of delicious fruits, plant the seeds so others can eventually do the same and provide an alternative to buying environmentally-destructive, illness-causing, chemically-laden products.”
A pioneer in community agriculture, Farmer John of www.angelicorganics.com states, “Agriculture is an underpinning of our culture. The irrepressibility of life on a farm continually manifests in myriad splendid expressions of life. This glorious unfolding provides us with the sustenance of food, while endlessly nourishing the creative spirit.”
I am very grateful for the amazing hospitals and health care workers we have in this country. They are overburdened, however, because of a lack of preventative and conservational care. With a focus on collective, populist, sustainable agriculture to grow healthy food and medicine for all, chronic disease will diminish, as much chronic degenerative disease is caused by diet and stress related to survival. Food is our first primary need. A plant-based diet is advocated as a foundation for health by leading physicians like Dr. Oz, Dr. Weil, Dr. Chopra, and Dr. Mcdougall.
Combining the skills of doctors, nurses, herbalists, midwives, doulas, shamans, gardeners, farmers, artists and other healers in the community, medicine can evolve beyond a solely symptoms-oriented approach to exploring the source, the roots of imbalance and disease. To do this we must look for help toward our origin and our sustenance – the earth.
For those interested in getting closer to the earth in the LA area and visiting the local farms, go to www.pickyourown.org/CAla.htm.
By Ashley H.
1. Blazing a Trail for a Better Bounty of Oregon Berries. (2011, July 26). Retrieved from www.oregonlive.com.
2. Seattle Food Forest. (2012, March 9). Retrieved from www.loe.org.
3. Husted, K. (2012, March 1). Seattle’s First Urban Food Forest will be Open to Foragers. Retrieved from www.npr.org.
4. Leschin-Hoar, B. C. (1, February 2012). It’s Not a Fairytale: Seattle to Build Nation’s First Food Forest . Retrieved from www.takepart.com.
As far as modern construction goes, a building of just about any shape imaginable can now be erected. From squares, to rectangles to spheres to hexagons, there are no limits to modern design- and architects are putting this limitless approach into practice every day. But this has not been a modern development; ancient builders utilized many different shapes, and many different practices to construct some of the grandest, and now longest standing, structures. The Pyramid of Giza, the tallest man-made structure in the world up until the completion of the Eiffel tower, was assembled using thousands of rectangular stones. The Pantheon in Rome was built using concentric circles fixed into a half sphere-shape set atop a rectangular building, and the Hagia Sophia, Taj Mahal and St. Peter’s Basilica all feature a similar spherical dome in their design.
A dome is essentially just an arch rotated around a central axis and continued all the way to the floor, creating an inner area free of support columns or pillars. The oldest domed structures ever found date back over 20,000 years. Found in the Ukraine in 1965, these simple dwellings were constructed using mammoth bones and tusks, though most early domes are thought to have been made out of bent over branches and layers of mud. Being so easy to erect, these structures allowed very early peoples to move with the seasons and follow their food supply. Because they have been found all over the world, it is thought that domes did not have a specific point of origin. Throughout human history the dome has been a staple of architecture for many cultures including those found in Mesopotamia, China and Syria- even the ancient Egyptians made regular use of domes in their building practices.
While domes seemed to be far more common in previous time periods, they are still being built today. Most modern domes are now designed with a bit more precision, but essentially the idea has not changed for millennia. Glass, concrete and steel has replaced many of the older building materials, and now engineered domes can be used for nearly every conceivable application. Pre-engineered and designed for any use, they can be built free standing or as an addition to almost every shape used in modern construction. There are several ways in which most domes today are built: either using a steel framed half-sphere and large glass panes, a similar metal skeletal frame around which is fixed an airfoil held up by constant air pressure supplied from within by massive fans or with a series of steel rebar set into blown-in concrete followed by layers of insulation and a finished “drywall” material. The location and intended use usually determines the dome’s method of construction
Domes have been used in the construction of many modern-era homes. So-called dome homes, geodesic or otherwise, were exceedingly popular in the 1960’s and though less popular are still being built today. Along with rather simple design and low cost building materials, domes are a very efficient and cost effective use of square footage, and can help retain heat in cooler times while dissipating it during warmer periods.
Being free standing structures, domes are also used as stadiums and gymnasiums where open space is a necessity. Since they do not need any support structures or pillars to hold up their roofs, domes have been constructed to house many indoor sports fields in less than hospitable climates all over the world. From the Astrodome in Houston and the Superdome in New Orleans, to the dome over the O2 Arena in London, many sports teams now call domes home. The Global Pagoda, now under construction in Bombay, India, is being built using modern as well as ancient Indian methods and was designed to last for thousands of years- a testament to the domes enduring characteristics.
By Will Inglis
Building Big. Domes. WGBH. PBS Online. n.d.
Welcome to monolithic.com. Monolithic Dome Homes. n.d.
ZWQ43. “Domes of the Past Present and Future.” Architecture: Domes Throughout History. YAHOOVoices. YAHOO. July7, 2008
Ever since humanity first gathered in family and tribal bands, our choice of shelter has played a major role in our survival. For a millennia we were confined to caves and forests, reliant on nature to provide us with protection from the elements. Creating more permanent dwellings allowed us to store away more food and also to survive longer periods without having to follow herds or the seasons to survive. From hobbit holes to mall sized mansions to floating apartment buildings, we have expanded our idea of housing to encompass any and every type of dwelling imaginable. Over the years we have a come a long way, from simple animal skin tents to penthouses perched high atop massive sky scrapers: The idea of a simple roof over our heads has grown to much more than the literal interpretation of the phrase.
More recently the idea of sustainable building has developers and consumers alike realizing that building green has its benefits. By implementing economically sound practices such as double pane windows, using more efficient insulation, installing solar tubes and Energy Star rated appliances, just to name a few, the money saved on utilities alone can be staggering over the life of the building. Not only that, but many consumers are now looking to purchase more energy-efficient homes. In fact, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, market share for green homes has more than doubled since 2008, from 8% to 17%. That’s not all, according to the same report, in the next few years that number could grow to somewhere between 29%-38%, or to put in plainly, as high as $114 billion annually. Sustainable construction may not be for just the hippies and tree huggers anymore, it could carve a serious chunk out of the housing market, and builders might be wise to take notice.
In 2000 the U.S. Green Building Council introduced LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in order to provide developers with guidelines to help reduce their impact on the environment. Since then several other programs have sprouted up, and nearly all offer incentives for green building practices. For example Energy Star offers a $2,000 dollar “refund” for using appliances, and a labeling system for builders to feature in their listings.
Along with a growing market share comes higher asking prices, which builders say home buyers are willing to pay for more sustainable homes. Consumers not only see green building as more efficient, but more reliable and long lasting. In fact in the study put out by McGraw-Hill, 61% of home buyers and 66% of re-modelers are willing to pay a higher premium for green homes. Harvey Bernstein, Vice President of Industry Insights and Alliances at McGraw-Hill notes, “When builders are able to offer homes that not only are green, but also offer the combination of higher quality and better value, they have a major competitive edge over those building traditional homes.”
Being a developer myself, I’ve tried to implement as many green practices as possible. Although it initially affected my bottom line, over time I noticed that the more efficient homes were much easier to sell, and like anything else the more practice you have the more you can perfect the process. Certain things will possibly never be changed, our reliance on petroleum based plastics and copper wiring may be here to stay, but who knows if someone comes out with an alternative it may be able to further reduce the carbon footprint modern construction leaves behind. The green movement seems to be permeating all areas of our daily lives. From transportation to heavy industry to sustainable food growth we are now considering our place in the ecosystem and trying to work with nature instead of against it. Perhaps our newfound love of green living doesn’t place us as far away from animal hide tents and thatched roof homes as we think.
By Will Inglis
“Quality and Value Driving Growth in the Green Building Market—According to New McGraw-Hill Construction SmartMarket Report on Green Homes and Remodeling.” Press Release . McGraw Hill Construction. May 1, 2012
Marcacci, Silvio. “Green Home Building Booming, Could Be $114 Billion Market By 2016.” Clean Technica. June 1, 2012
US Green Building Council. What LEED is. US Green Building Council. n.d.
Everyone wants to be happy. Happiness is one of the most universally pursued things for all of humanity. If everyone is trying to be happy, why then, are so many people plagued by despair and depression? What is so elusive about achieving happiness? Most people don’t understand what truly makes them happy. The people who are the happiest have mastered their perception and built relationships with themselves and the universe. Some of the healthier philosophies on achieving happiness have been floating around so I have taken the time to write out my ideas and elaborate on the best ones.
Happiness can be defined as the overall experience of pleasure and meaning. Most people believe that money, fame, success, and popularity will make them happy. For some, it does, but most people find at some point that happiness in that sense is short lived. Yes, having money will allow you to experience more pleasure, but that barely scratches the surface of the entirety of happiness. There are plenty of instances of people who win the lottery who at first feel ecstatic but find only that their happiness dissipates quickly back to a normal level even though they still have lots of money.
There are two primary relationships that you need to take care of when it comes to happiness. The relationship you have with the universe and the relationship you have with yourself. With the relationship you have with yourself, you have to accept yourself on a deep subconscious level. Once you can accept your flaws and be proud of your strengths you will be much closer to achieving happiness. Every day is an opportunity to grow closer to your authentic self. Strive for clarity about who you are and live by it. The more you know who you are, the more resilient you will be with your happiness when misfortune comes your way.
You also need to cultivate a relationship with the universe around you. Take advantage of your passions and fully embrace them. Find your niche where you can be yourself and truly express yourself. Whether it is art, music, sports, or any number of things, don’t hold back. If you feel that you don’t have a passion, start some new hobbies and explore your interests a bit. There is always room for new hobbies. If you can do something with friends, even better, sharing the things you love with other people is one of the best ways to achieve happiness.
For me, my passion is skiing. That is where I can genuinely express myself. I feel as if my relationship with the universe is in complete synchrony. I can play with gravity and nature by channeling potential energy into creative expression of freedom and control. For me there is no better feeling, and sharing that, going up to the mountains with friends, is amazing.
Don’t expect to be happy all the time. When you have a reason to feel sad, embrace it. Listen to sad music, talk with someone about it, and go through what you need to and when you are done processing, let go. Celebrate and own your feelings. It’s your life and all the ups and downs are part of it. Happiness will come with acceptance.
It’s so easy to blame everything else for your unhappiness–God, the universe, other people, bad luck. It takes courage to stand up and look at yourself for the part you play. Take responsibility for your own unhappiness and do something about it. If you are stuck in a rut, use contrary action to force yourself to get out and do something. Happiness is directly related to gratitude. If you are feeling down, simply think of all the things you are grateful for. Always remember, every moment is a blessing. We live in an amazing age where we can do almost anything. Happiness is all around us; we simply have to resist having a negative perception and go out and build a foundation of new behaviors.
Melissa Farris attended the California School of Herbal Studies in Sonoma County, California over a decade ago, and has never looked back with her medicine making ever since! She now owns www.VeriditasBotanicals.com which is an entirely organic line of therapeutic blends of essential oils. They smell amazing! Plus they actually work.
Essential oils are very precious remedies for our bodies and spirits. The sense of smell is evocative, supportive, and cleansing for the emotions as well. Synthetic scents, although initially pleasurable, are generally neurotoxic. Her natural combos are wisely constructed to work on common health challenges like eczema, sinus congestion, and menstrual cramps. The Mayo Clinic is currently doing case studies on three of the Veriditas Wellness Formulas.
Out of a concern for the earth all herbs used to make the oils are grown without pesticides, and the oils are free of adulterants. This is important as well because what we put on our skin gets absorbed into our bodies. Melissa says, “We believe that when we support small organic farms we are taking a revolutionary stand to promote healing of our bodies, the earth, and local economies.”
The oils are reasonably priced, considering the quality and effectiveness, and available online or at select
health food stores!
(image borrowed from ohsheglows.com)
1 ripe frozen banana
2 dates, pitted & soaked
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
1tbsp whole coconut milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
1tbsp raw almond butter
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Dash of cinnamon (omit if you’re feeling overheated)
3 or more ice cubes (depending on desired frosty-ness)
This is something I created out of necessity as I do with many of my raw food concoctions. I wanted a cooling, hydrating, quick-and-easy pick me up I could have in the morning after my workouts. This smoothie is incredibly functional:
Banana—Very cooling, replenishes with potassium and natural sugars.
Dates—Replenishes with potassium and natural sugars.
Chia Seeds—Combined with the liquid, they are hydrating. They also provide Omega 3s.
Raw Almond Butter—Natural protein for muscle recovery and healthy fats.
Coconut Milk—Very cooling, with healthy fats.
In terms of the apple cider vinegar, don’t worry—you can’t taste it. It’s just a little trick to round out all the sweetness in the smoothie.
The night before, chop up one large, very ripe banana. Seal in a Ziploc bag and place in the freezer.
When you wake up in the morning, start soaking the dates.
Immediately after completing your workout, get to work. It’s important to make this smoothie as soon as possible after your workout, to reap its full benefits.
Put chia seeds in a cup, and pour in almond milk and coconut milk. Stir and stick in the fridge for 10 minutes. This way, the chia seeds soak up the liquid, and will help thicken the smoothie when blended.
Once the chia seeds have plumped up into a “gel,” combine with all ingredients in blender. If you have a weaker blender, start with the ice, then the banana, then the remaining ingredients. Blend forever… or until very well blended.
Note: I am not a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, or medical health professional. This is advice from personal experience, knowledge, and research.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, foods and beverages have inherent thermal properties—either cooling or warming. This can be invaluable knowledge in . As someone who struggled for a long time with unrelenting heat, TCM really changed my quality of life. I can wear layers of clothes now. I can sit in a heated room, and not have to leave as often to cool down. I can drink hot beverages. Most importantly, I know what food and beverage choices to make in the moment to address my temperature.
Here are some quick and dirty guidelines of what to avoid while trying to stay cool:
-Overly processed, “fast” foods, will most always be heating. Of course, there are many other reasons why I would seriously advise against eating these foods, but if you’re trying to stay cool, especially stay away from these foods. This also includes processed sugars, such as candy bars and soda.
-Coffee—very warming. If you want a little boost in the morning, try green tea instead. It’s actually cooling. You can make a green tea latte by brewing two teabags, adding some raw agave nectar or raw honey to sweeten, then a milk alternative like almond, coconut, or rice milk.
-Alcohol—probably the most warming thing you can put in your body. Advertisements have cemented the “cold beer on a hot day” image in our head, but if you’re trying to stay cool, it is the last thing you want to drink.
-Cigarettes—you’re basically inhaling fire. This should be a given.
-Any spices or hot peppers, garlic, onion, mustard but especially ginger. Ginger is seriously warming.
-Red meat and Lamb—go for tofu, fish, or chicken instead.
I’ve just told you what to avoid, now here’s a quick breakdown of foods and drinks that will help cool you down:
-Herbal Tea—even if it’s hot! Peppermint and Dandelion are the most cooling. For a super-cooling tonic, I like making Peppermint-Dandelion iced tea: double the amount of teabags per cup, and steep for at least 20 minutes. Then add plenty of ice, a little raw agave to sweeten, and a little coconut milk.
-Coconut—anything coconut-related is very cooling, unsweetened (this is important) coconut water, milk, or meat. Get a whole coconut, crack it open, drink the water, and eat the meat.
-Greens and Vegetables—most are cooling, and most effectively when eaten raw or lightly steamed. For greens, go for: kale, spinach, chard, and seaweed (but not mustard greens). For vegetables: cucumber, celery, lettuce, cabbage, asparagus, and broccoli. Always choose organic, when possible.
-Fruit—Bananas are one of the most cooling things you can eat. Uncooked avocados are great, and will also help if you’re feeling dried-out. Apples are a great choice as well.
-Grains—especially whole wheat, barley, and millet. Cook up a mixed grain bowl with steamed veggies and tofu.
Just to clarify, these are only guidelines. I’m not saying that you have to give up your favorite foods, beverages, and spices completely. I want you to enjoy your favorite things. Hopefully, this blog has given you a better understanding of how to use food and drink to regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable. I urge you to approach those daily decisions with a mindfulness of your body and how what you eat and drink will affect you.
Lastly, if you’re cold—have some warming food or drink! Eat or drink ginger, use plenty of spices.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a concept which stems from Buddhism, but has been widely adapted by Western psychology. Mindfulness can be described as an awareness of the present moment; the practice of cultivating awareness of the body, breath, and mind with the intention of being completely present, moment-to-moment. The goal is to be able to experience and observe emotions and sensations in the body, without having to identify with them (i.e., be controlled by them).
When managing your day-to-day life, keeping yourself in the present moment is crucial. Staying present and grounded can prevent you from getting completely lost in your emotional experience, and losing control of your actions and behavior. It is possible to learn to experience these strong and uncomfortable emotions and sensations in the body, and greatly lessen the amount of suffering that they cause.
What can you do right now?
Here are two simple practices you can start to work with right now: Mindfulness of the body, and Mindfulness of the breath.
Sit upright. Sense the soles of your feet on the floor. Focus on the sensation of contact with the floor. Keep your focus here, and explore. Do the sensations change? Do different areas of the bottom of your foot feel different on the floor? You can practice this standing as well: waiting in line, on a crowded bus, wherever.
Start tuning in to the sensation of your breath. Notice its natural progression; the rise and fall of the abdomen as you inhale and exhale. Don’t manipulate or change your breath, just gently track and follow it. If this starts to feel too complicated, just back off and go back to the body.
You can use these practical tools whenever, wherever you are to bring yourself back to/anchor yourself in the present moment. These can be especially helpful to stay grounded when you feel increasing anxiety or depressive feelings and thoughts.
What’s the next step?
Meditation is the primary tool for practicing mindfulness.
There are several resources for this. For some basic, introductory instructions on Mindfulness Meditation (a.k.a. Insight or Vipassana), go to: http://www.spiritrock.org/page.aspx?pid=573.
Next, search online to see if there are any meditation centers in your area. There are several different styles of meditation: Insight Meditation (a.k.a. mindfulness or Vipassana meditation) is what you should be looking for. One of the best resources for assistance is Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin, CA. They are a hub for Insight Meditation, and can assist you in finding a meditation center near you. For example, here in the Venice/Santa Monica, CA we have InsightLA (insightla.com). When I lived in San Francisco, I meditated with SF Insight (sfinsight.org).
Books can be a useful introduction to meditation, especially if a nearby meditation group isn’t easily accessible. Though, I strongly recommend primarily learning meditation in person. Teachers such as John Kabat-Zinn, Sharon Salzberg, or Jack Kornfield all have good introductory books on meditation.
Start experimenting with a daily meditation practice. Even if it’s only 1 minute a day when you first awaken—you can build from there. My hope is that this may offer you some relief from anxiety and depression, help you feel more relaxed and grounded, and give you some tools for facing everyday struggles.
Water Tub for Home or Hospital Birth
For some mothers the option to birth in water provides a sense of comfort, relaxation, privacy, and support. Warm water is inherently calming and relaxing in the most stressful of circumstances. While not necessarily appropriate for all births, it is becoming more popular, and should be accessible to all women who are interested. It would be wonderful if every hospital had birthing tubs available for women who wish to utilize them! Some women like to get in the tub to relax and then get out to actually have the baby.
The term “aquadural” is sometimes used to refer to the birthing tub because women experience a reduction in analgesia requirements- some pain relief!
Birthing tubs were present in few hospitals in the US in 1987. By 1996 more hospitals had them, and today hundreds of hospitals offer that option. The water in the birth pool is around 97-99 degrees Fahrenheit. Towels are placed around the tub. Being in a water pool can enhance the ability to breath and focus, and it also allows for more flexibility of movement. This can speed labor, and provide a feeling of greater autonomy.
For video or photos of water birth please click the link below:
Looking into including a Doula in the birth experience? A Doula is a woman who offers support before, during, and after the birth, and has extensive knowledge and experience in guiding the birthing mother www.DONA.org
Books on the subject of birth worth checking out:
“Artemis Speaks” by Nan Koehler
“Lotus Birth” by Shivam Rachana
“Spiritual Midwifery” by Ina May Gaskin
“Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year” by Susun Weed
“Hygieia: A Woman’s Herbal” by Jeannine Parvati Baker
For further research please see:
Whether by water, home, hospital, or C-section, birth is the most wonderful gift and a true celebration of life!