Posts tagged ‘Mindful living’

February 2, 2013

Connectedness

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
When you take a breath what do you think about?

Do it again. This time, think about your breath and the air you breathe.
Where does it come from?
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Did you think about the plants and the trees?
I know. Many of us don’t want to stop and think about that. We feel weird. Or think others will think we’re weird.
But the plants and trees give us the gift of oxygen every second of our life.
And we, in return, give them carbon dioxide.
We have a relationship with the plants and the trees around us.

But it’s easy for us to forget.
It’s easy for us to forget that we have a relationship with the plants and trees on this planet.
But there’s more to it than that.
We have a relationship with every living species whether we want to admit it or not, we are connected.

When I stop to think about that, it makes me wonder, why is it then, that we find it so easy to abuse that relationship?
Why is it that we get so focused on “me” and lose focus on them?
Why do we find it so easy to ignore the earth and neglect the environment?

I know, some of us, myself included, like to think we’re being conscious of the environment. I recycle, I shut the lights off when I’m not using them, I don’t use chemicals in my yard, I compost and I try to be conscious of the Carbon Footprint I’m leaving behind, but the reality is, I like my life.

I like sitting on my iPad, typing away in my dining room, while the furnace runs to keep me warm on this frigid day. I like my car and the ability to go where I “need” to go whenever I want to.
I like the convenience of the stores that provide the “necessities” within a couple of miles of my home.

I like my life. And the reality is, to acknowledge that I’m connected to this planet, to the air, to the water, to the plants and the trees, and every living being from the microbes in the soil to the animals in the jungle on the other side of the world means I need to take responsibility for it.

Most of us would do anything to take care of our family and friends if they were in need. They are our blood, they hold a special place in our heart and we wouldn’t want to lose that. Yet to ask us to think about the earth, the environment or the living things around us is a different story. We take it for granted. In our lifetime, we’ve always had air to breathe, water at our disposal and food on our tables.

What if you chose not to feed your children or take care of an elderly grandparent or neighbor, how would you feel? Would you feel a pang of guilt in the pit of your stomach? Would you heart hurt knowing you’re neglecting them when you could be and should be doing something to help?

So why is it that when the plants and trees that supply the air that we breathe get neglected or the water that we take for granted that runs from our taps everyday gets wasted and when we abuse the resources that the environment provides for us, by using more than our “fair share” do we not feel equally guilty? Why do we find it so easy to disconnect ourselves from this?

What if we didn’t? What if, instead, when we go out the door or look up from our phones or out the windows of our house or cars, and we started paying attention to the air we breathe, the amount of water we use and the ways we could take care of the world around us a little better?
What if we treated the air, the water and the environment like family? Would you do anything differently? I know I would.

And when you really stop to think about it, we should. Because whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are connected. We’re connected to every living thing around us just like we’re connected to our families and friends. Yes, we have a direct relationship with some, and a more distant relationship with others, but it’s no different than the relationship we have with our parents versus our distant cousins. And while we might feel a tighter bond with our mother or father or siblings than we do with our great aunt she is still family nonetheless.

So let’s pretend, even if it’s just for a moment, that the air is our mother, the water our father, the soil our siblings and the oil our grandparents. Let’s pretend we love them and value them the same as we do our families. Let’s pretend we care. Because if we do, we might change how we treat them. We may start paying attention to them. We may begin feeding them, nurturing them and watching out for them. We may restore the neglected relationship we have and start living in harmony again.

Let’s pretend for a moment that we are connected to the entire world around us. Let’s pretend that if we care for that world, that it will care for us.

Because guess what? She’s not called Mother Nature for nothing. We are connected.

Kate

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November 2, 2012

End of The Challenge: Final Reflections, Life Lessons and New Habits Going Forward

The 8 Weeks to a Better You! Challenge ended this past Saturday, October 27th, but I have to say that I learned a lifetime of lessons on this challenge.

Last week, in Nearing The End of The Challenge: Lessons 1 & 2, I posted the first two lessons I learned:

Challenge Lesson 1: Live mindfully, but keep everything in perspective, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Challenge Lesson 2: Don’t take life so seriously.  (You can be happy, have fun and live mindfully!)

Then, in The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, I posted the next few lessons I learned:

Grow food! Eat Plants! Plants heal.

Not wanting to drag out the lessons forever, I thought I’d do a quick summary of the rest of the lessons I learned.  As a refresher, here are The Rules:

  1. Get at least 45 minutes of exercise per day.
  2. Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
  3. Drink 8 glasses of water per day
  4. No sugar, no white flour
  5. No soda, fast food, junk food
  6. Eat at least 2 fruits and 2 veggies per day
  7. No eating after 8pm
  8. Journal daily
  9. Read at least 15 minutes of scripture or uplifting reading each day
  10. Do at least one Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness or  each day

And, here’s what I learned:

  1. Exercise is my friend.  This challenge, I decided to take it easy on the exercise.  I have a tendency to push myself too hard, which usually means injury or burn-out.  When I was trying to figure out what I would do for exercise I knew I needed something I could sustain for eight weeks. I thought of the story The Turtle and The Hare.  I chose walking.  Ironically enough I’ve had two doctors tell me not to run, just walk, I actually listened.  I loved it, looked forward to it and missed it when I didn’t do it, just like a friend.
  2. Exercise in the morning.  I realized that if I don’t exercise in the morning, I usually won’t do it.  I learned that I love my morning walks, it wakes me up, fills my lungs with fresh air and lets me sort out my thoughts and plan my day.  When I’m done, my mind is clear and I feel good.
  3. Not enough sleep is not enough sleep.  With eight weeks to practice getting 7 hours of sleep, I paid close attention to what I felt like when I did get enough sleep and the days that I didn’t.  And now that I know what it feels like to get at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, I’ve learned that my patience, creativity, understanding and happiness depends greatly upon how much sleep I get.  If I don’t get enough I’ll be setting myself up for disaster the next day.
  4. Water is key.  I’ve always had a tough time drinking enough water in a day, or rather, tracking how much water I drink, but I used a few tricks this time.  I have a couple of 16 oz. “beer glasses” at home.  I realized that if I drink four of those in a day I’m done.  And the nice thing is, most restaurants serve water in the same glasses so whether I’m home or out and about I can still keep tabs on it.  The other trick, as crazy as it sounds, is that I like to sip hot water.  I grab a coffee mug and sip away just like I would a cup of coffee.  If I combine my pint glasses and a couple of cups of hot water throughout my day, I know I’m set.  Amazingly, I now rank hydration right up there with sleep.  Being hydrated makes me feel fresh and energized.  When I get enough water I’m not groggy, my skin looks full (for a lack of a better way to put it) and I feel good.
  5. Sugar and white flour are not your friend.  Oh, I know they are tempting, trust me.  Pre-challenge I had the sweetest of sweet tooths and love bread and pasta.  What I’ve learned though, is that when I eat white sugar and white flour I feel hallow.  I have cravings that don’t stop, but when I replace white sugar with honey, agave, etc. and replace white flour with whole grain flours or other grain flours I feel satisfied without cravings.  I feel in control.
  6. Soda, fast food and junk food are poison.  I know it sounds extreme.  Everyone knows that these things “aren’t healthy”, but we still eat them.  I focused a lot of my energy in the past 8 weeks on food and it’s downright appalling that most of the stuff on grocery store shelves is legal much less labeled as “food”.  Food is nourishment for your body.  The junk that fills the middle of our stores is not food, it does not nourish our bodies and in most cases we can go so far as to say they are toxic.  There is study after study that shows that this is the stuff that causes Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, contributes to ADD, ADHD, the list goes on.  What’s sad is that so many of us trust that if we find it on our store shelves it is okay to eat.  Wrong.  Basically it’s there because it won’t kill you, today, but keep eating it day in and day out and you’re just running an experiment, waiting to see which disease you will get. We all have to do our due diligence to read labels.  If it has more than 5 ingredients, has “hydrogenated” anything, high-fructose corn syrup or ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it back!  If you happen to frequent fast food restaurants, do yourself  favor, go online and look up the nutritional information for the things you usually order, if they’re bad, find some alternates and circle them.  Keep them in your car so you aren’t tempted to order the bad stuff when you go there.  And please, skip the soda, especially diet.  Your body and bones will thank you.
  7. I love coffee in the morning. The Challenge eliminated coffee.  They lumped it in with soda, because of the caffeine, which I personally had issue with because there are so many bad things about soda and no redeeming qualities, but I’ve found more benefits than drawbacks to drinking coffee.  In any case I ditched coffee for about 6 of the 8 weeks, that is until I discovered a link to coffee having a calming effect with my personality type, the reverse effect that it has on most people.  Like anything though, too much of a good thing is… too much.  Going forward I’ll keep it to two cups a day.
  8. Fruits and veggies are miracle workers.  I mentioned in my previous post, The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, why plants are good for us.  Go there, read the post, watch the movies listed in the post.  Not to sound dramatic, but it just might save your life.
  9. Vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.  As I navigated my way through food over the course of the past eight weeks, I started looking into a variety of diets.  Not diets in the sense of dieting, but diets in the sense of the way of eating.  When I realized I should be eating more plants, I naturally made my next stop at Vegetarian websites, cookbooks and magazines.  I found some great new recipes, have since subscribed to Vegetarian Times magazine but soon realized that “vegetarian” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy” like I thought it did.  The vegetarian diet still allows for junk food, processed foods and foods high in fat.  So while vegetarian can be better, I still need to make sure it’s healthy.
  10. Eating out is a challenge.  A couple of weeks ago I went out with a few girlfriends for dinner.  I had decided before we got there that I was going to look for the vegetarian items on the menu to make choosing my meal a little easier.  Sadly, other than a salad, my options were veggie flat-bread (which was really good) or cream cheese stuffed, deep-fried mushrooms.  Tasty?  Yes.  Healthy?  Not by a long-stretch.  Menus are gradually changing, restaurants are gradually adding more organic food and healthier options, but we still have a really long way to go.  Unfortunately, if we all keep ordering the other stuff, the owners and chefs think that’s what we want.  If we want change, we need to request healthier options both in restaurants and in grocery stores.
  11. 8pm has become the witching hour.  I realize until I did the challenge, how frequently I used to snack after 8pm.  Thankfully this challenge taught me to plan better.  I try to eat dinner a little earlier, leaving enough time to get a snack in by 8pm which tides me until bedtime.  If I find myself getting hungry after 8pm I drink a glass of water or simply head to bed (depending on the time).  I realized that often times I would eat when I was up too late.
  12. Journaling is cheaper than a therapist.  It’s amazing the healing effect that jotting your thoughts on paper can have.  Whether its daily frustrations, random thoughts, future plans or what have you, journaling can really help clear your mind so you can continue with your day.
  13. Take time to read scripture or something uplifting. So many people I know say they don’t have time to read.  I used to be one of those people too, but when I saw “15 minutes” in the rules I thought, “I can squeeze in 15 minutes.”  Some days it can feel impossible, but I found if I could squeeze it in the reward is so worth it and often it makes me want to read more.
  14. Random Acts of Kindness are addictive and contagious.  I love to see people smile.  And one of the easiest ways to make someone smile is to be kind to them, but sometimes we can do a million kind things and not even get a glance, or acknowledgement, much less a smile.  Sometimes people don’t respond the way we think they should and that’s okay.  To truly do an Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness it takes letting go of expectations.  Doing it just to do it.  Not for recognition, not for reward, not so we can run and tell someone that we did it or so we can get a pat on the back.  Simply doing it to be kind to someone else.  If we go into it in that manner it will feel good no matter what the response and that feeling is highly addictive.  And what’s better is that once you get in the habit of being kind for no reason at all, it becomes easier and easier to do it.  And I’ve found, that when you are kind to others, that kindness is returned, not from the same people necessarily, but from others, almost as though kindness is contagious.  It keeps spreading until it comes back to you.  Karma, I guess you might say.
  15. I choose friends over rules.  The bond of friendship is far more important than any rule we might put upon ourselves.  If I’m offered dessert, thoughtfully made by my Mother, or if a friend asks, on the spur of the moment, if I would like to join her for a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop when I’m not supposed to be drinking coffee, I’ll always answer, yes.

There you have it, eight weeks of life lessons packed into three blog posts.  Hopefully, despite their lengthiness, you found some value, some tidbit to brighten your day or something to make you think.

I wish you a thoughtful, joyful day packed with your own life lessons and healthy habits.

Peace,

Kate

October 29, 2012

The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants

This past Saturday marked the last day of the 8 Weeks to a Better You!  challenge and what a journey it has been.  If you’ve been following me throughout the challenge, you know that I shifted things slightly in the beginning to make it a Mindful Living challenge for myself.  I didn’t change the rules, I just changed my focus on them, and I’m so grateful that I did.

I started off with my sights set solely on living mindfully.  My goal was to make sure I was present in every aspect of my life and every aspect of the challenge.  Well, that became a challenge in and of itself.  I started getting messages from the universe to focus on food, but that wasn’t my goal so I kept struggling, brushing it off and trying to guide myself in the direction that I wanted to go, follow the path that I wanted to learn.  I felt like I was already eating a healthy diet and didn’t need to focus on food, didn’t need to listen.  (For your information, this is not how mindful living goes.  You don’t get to choose what you learn, you need to let go of your control, stop the power-struggles and learn what is brought to you.  It took me a while to figure that out.)

A couple of weeks into this last challenge a lot of things came about that changed my focus.  I found out that a dear friend of mine has been diagnosed with rectal Cancer, another friend from our old neighborhood has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and my mother-in-law had to have angiogram and stents put in.  Unfortunately, I’ve lost more family and friends to Cancer than I care to admit, but when your friends, people your age and younger, start getting Cancer, it’s downright scary.  If that isn’t a message from the Universe, a wake-up call to check-in on your own health, I don’t know that is.

Around this same time, I was lucky enough to have a close friend of mine, who lives in Boston, visit not once, but twice.  We started talking about our friend with Cancer.  We started talking about the other people we know with Cancer and heart problems and allergies and ADD and ADHD and more.  And when I asked “Why?”  We started talking about food.  And that’s where my journey shifted gears.

My friend and I talked and talked about food.  And we talked about movies we’ve seen.   Movies… about food.   She recommended I watch The Gerson Miracle, Forks Over Knives and The Engine 2 Diet.  I highly suggest everyone on this planet watch all of them.  They are all available on Netflix and you can even watch The Gerson Miracle for free here.  All three movies talk about what our food does to us and for us.  Some of it is literally killing us (meat and dairy), some can heal us (plants).  There is scientific research that backs up the information in all three movies and if we let go of our fear of change, acknowledge that nutrition that was taught in school in the 1950s and the food pyramid we were taught in grade school might be wrong and trust our intuition, we’ll find that plants just might be the key to our future.

Unfortunately, many of us focus our diets around meat, dairy and other animal products and add in plants like we would add salt and pepper.  Unfortunately most of the health problems we face (Cancer, Diabetes, etc.) can be tied to eating animals and processed food.  One of the films reported Cancer studies done in Norway over a period of a few decades around World War II.  In the 1940s, during World War II, Hitler invaded Norway during that time the Nazi’s took all of the animals (beef cattle, pork, etc.) from Norway for themselves to eat and left the Norwegians with nothing to eat but plants.  Ironically, prior to the invasion, Cancer was prevalent, during the time of the invasion and for a number of years after, Cancer rates dropped, significantly.  But after the war, when the animals returned, so did the Cancer.

Now here’s where I get excited (where my plant-geekiness really comes through).  In each of these films they talk about plant phytochemicals.  I know, you’re saying, “Phyto-what?”  Phytochemicals are the natural chemicals in plants that protect them from the elements, insects, etc.  and they have found that these same phytochemicals have protection and healing properties for us when we eat them.  (The more phytochemicals the darker the plant/fruit… think dark leafy greens, blueberries, etc.)  And what’s even better is that eating plants can repair damage that has already been done, even Cancer.  In 1928 Dr. Max Gerson discovered that by juicing and eating a plant-based diet that he could heal many chronic diseases, including Cancer.  Now, believe me, it makes me a little nervous to put this in print because according to our society’s standards I don’t have the right credentials to say this.  But what I can say is that it makes perfect sense to me.

I think of anything I’ve ever heard about food that was the best thing I could hear.  We often hear that if we eat this or that it will help prevent Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Heart Disease or Cancer, but in the back of my mind I wonder, “But what if it’s already there and I just don’t know it yet?”  To learn that eating the right foods, a whole group of them, not just one or two, plants specifically, can repair damage that’s already done is incredible.  Remember as a kid when you were playing and you goofed up, but you didn’t want to lose the game so as quickly as possible you’d yell, “Do over!”.  Now we, as adults, can also yell “Do over!” to our bodies.  And you can start the repair with your next snack or your next meal!  How cool is that?!?

At one point someone told me I was trying to hit too many topics with this blog, that maybe I should just focus on one… say, gardening, or mindful living, or healthy eating.  But to me, they are all intertwined, which is why the tagline is, “Living today for tomorrow’s generation.”

Eight weeks ago I started off on a mindful living journey.  When I started paying attention to my health, the health of my friends and family, I discovered I really needed to take a harder look at our food.  Then I realized that I need to limit my meat intake to just a few ounces a week.  I need to incorporate more plants into my diet.  And what’s the best place to get fresh food?  Why our own garden of course!  If we take care of the soil, don’t use herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers, then we are growing food in a sustainable manner.  If we are being mindful of what we are doing to the earth, to the soil and what we are putting into our bodies, then we are living sustainably and mindfully.  You see… all connected.

The final part of my food and plant journey includes the next steps in my life.  I’m transitioning my diet to a primarily plant-based diet, which I will elaborate more on later.  But on a business note, I have decided to begin the Urban Farming Certification Program in my area, which starts in January.  What that means for you is that I’ll be adding more ammunition to my plant knowledge, specifically edibles, which will add more services to my business. More knowledge, more experience…  more food!

Grow food! Eat Plants! Plants heal.

Kate

September 18, 2012

Facing Our Fears

A couple of years ago I wasn’t afraid to write.  At that point in time I didn’t think of myself as a writer.  A year and a half ago I started this blog on a whim and quickly fell deeply in love with writing.   To my amazement others started to give me feedback about my writing, complimenting me and encouraging me to write more.  My subject matter has changed over the past year and a half.  My goal was to write about everything pertaining to living a healthy, mindful and sustainable life.  The beginning was in the woods, then it went to the garden and all things related to gardening, then some food, and most recently, life.  More specifically, mindful living.

I realize to some of you when I say “mindful living” you might not know what I really mean by that, or maybe it makes you shift a little in your chair or makes your stomach tighten because it makes you uncomfortable.  It was like that for me at the beginning as well.  I wasn’t really sure what it meant, but the little I did know, I knew I wanted to know more.  With the current (mindful living) journey I’m on, I realize every day that there’s less and less that I know and more and more that I want to know.

It’s kind of like this, you’re having a conversation with a friend, catching up, and they bring up a subject that you don’t know anything about.  You ask a few questions, learn a little and become intrigued.  You go home, pull out your trusty laptop, log onto the world-wide web and start searching.  With each search you learn a little more and at the same time, it opens a door to even more information, more levels, more layers, more to learn.  Well, my current mindful living journey has been much the same.  I’m trying to be aware and present with everything I do and what I’ve found is that once you’re aware, you become even more aware of other things that you could be aware of.

This morning I went for a walk, just like I have nearly every morning since I started the new challenge.  The first few days out I was just glad to start a new, healthy habit.  I was looking around at my surroundings, trying to be present on my walk.  After a couple of days I realized I wasn’t paying attention to my breathing. I took note to be more mindful of my breathing on my next walk.  I focused on my breath, taking deeper breaths, filling my lungs instead of short shallow breaths.  I tried to pay attention to how it feels when I do that.  Then I realized I wasn’t paying attention to my body.  How was my form?  Were my shoulders tense?  Was I really using my muscles while I walked?  Could I feel my feet hit the earth? So the next walk I tried to pay better attention to that.  And so it has gone, with pretty much everything throughout the day.  Each day I open my eyes to something new.  Some new observation.  Some new way of being mindful.

So what does all of this have to do with facing our fears?  Well, as you may or may not have noticed, there was a considerable gap between this post and the last.  Somehow, receiving the nomination for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award made me paranoid, self-conscious and afraid to write.  I tagged it “writers block”.  I started a few posts along the way, thought they were crap and trashed them.  It’s funny isn’t it?  I received recognition for what I was doing and it made me afraid to continue.  The more posts I write, the more readers I have following, the more concerned I get that “they” (you) won’t like what I have to say.  It’s easy to write when nobody is watching, but much like when I was in dance when I was younger, the bigger the audience, the more nervous I was to perform.  I had to live by the “Dance like nobody is watching” mindset.

As part of this mindful living journey I’ve also become more in tune with my inner voice, higher self, authentic self.  I’ve been trying to listen to it and let it guide me.  This voice has been telling me to continue to write.  I kept telling it, “I can’t.”   It in turn told me, “Yes, you can.”  So I ignored it.  Ignore it and it will go away, right?  But it doesn’t work that way.  If you ignore the signs, the signs get bigger.  Just before eating lunch today I read a blog post titled Outside the Door: Indulging Creativity on the blog We Bare All.  I love reading about creativity, creative things to do, so I started reading.  Before I got very far I realized… Crap.  It found me.  A whole post by another blogger, a writing teacher, telling me to write.  I’d been had.  I’d been duped.  But in the back of my mind I knew she was right.  It’s time.  Time to get out there.  Go out on the stage.  “You never know how many will hear you, how many you may touch, but if you don’t write, if you don’t do what you were called here to do, you will never know.”  So here I am, writing.

Whether you’re a writer, an actor, a performer, a teacher, a tutor, a mother, a friend, or a mentor, do what you were called here to do.  Listen to the voice inside your head trying ever so hard to guide you to be who you were brought here to be.

Fear holds us back, prevents us from achieving our authentic selves.  Even when we’re scared, especially when we’re scared, we need to listen, let go and face our fears head on, because chances are, “the worst thing that could happen” in our mind, won’t.  But if we don’t listen we’re cheating ourselves out of becoming who we are meant to be.  And if we take those risks, we just never know where they might lead us.

Wishing you peace and courage to follow your dreams.

Kate