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The Life of Pi is a very intense experience of a movie; moving through a young boy’s life as his older self remembers it (or perhaps imagines it) the viewer can slip into the story as easily as a well-worn t-shirt. We see him stand up to bullies in a creative fashion, lose his idyllic life as his father makes a difficult decision, and find a way to survive the horrific result of that decision.

In light of the Connecticut elementary school shooting and the mass stabbings in a Chinese school, we must continually self-examine our own propensity for violence; when we feel attacked do we strike back with violent speech? When our children misbehave do we reflexively spank them or slap them?

There can be multiple reasons why someone loses self-control and becomes so over-the-top angry as to kill others. If the perpetrator had a horrific childhood, with violent role models, s/he may not know any other way to express anger. If a child is exposed to toxins in the environment or diet or if the diet is highly depleted there may have been damage to the developing brain which can cause an inability to control impulses in the face of unrecognized pain.

At the end of The Life of Pi, Pi describes the reaction he received from the shipping company executives when he told his fantastic tale of his survival; they did not believe him and asked for “the truth”. The truth he told was sad, shocking, not inspiring at all. The story he made up in order to bear the truth was an elaborate metaphor explaining how he could do what he did.

But how he lived his life afterwards defines the way out of violence. He cannot undo what was done, but he can change how he approaches what he does in the future. We should all do the same.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” ~ Dr Martin Luther King Jr


or to say it another way, Sh*T Well! If you don’t fully eliminate your wastes each day you could be vulnerable to many disorders of “Vata Dosha”, the arrangement of Air and Space (Vayu and Akasha) elements in the body which governs movement not only of body parts but of fluids, solids, and energy. Vata Dosha naturally accumulates during Vata times of day, during Vata time of year, and during Vata time of life.

When Vata becomes blocked, when it increases too much, when it becomes weak or depleted, or when it moves incorrectly diseases of Vata occur: constipation or diarrhea, hemorrhoids, excess gas, and many more (the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita says that most diseases are of Vata, 88 plus…). Things may start out merely annoying or embarrassing but left unchecked can become quite nasty as Vata can “push” the other Doshas into your tissues: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, cancerous polyps, and other life-threatening problems.

Sometimes the fix is simple, change your position when you eliminate! Squatting instead of sitting helps Vata Dosha do its job with less effort and less risk of injuries due to straining. You can also change how you think about your food – food should not only taste good, it should help keep you healthy and disease free for your entire life. Learn more about the Ayurvedic approach to food as medicine by watching this simple recording of a recent workshop I presented.

If you need more in-depth help, consulting with a natural health practitioner will help you get started: an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor can look over your current diet and lifestyle, making simple recommendations for aligning your life with your Nature (Prakriti, arrangement of the Five Great Elements from birth) and your Current State (Vikruti, showing which Elements are out of balance now). If you simply want to learn more, there are many books, cookbooks, and dvds available to teach you at your own pace how to live naturally well.

With his popular TV show Dr. Oz has been promoting healthier diets and lifestyles for several years now. He has shown how a vegan diet can help an obese man lose weight, reverse diabetes, and avoid heart attacks, highlighted Ayurvedic treatments, and even hosted a debate on genetically modified foods. So why is he now attacking organic farming?

Yes, organic food may be a little more expensive but the long-term costs are lower when you consider the health consequences of our dietary choices. Independent research has been showing for a long time that there ARE significant differences in the nutritional content of organic vs industrial food. And of course, the pesticide load is MUCH lower for organics. Loading yourself and your children up with toxic residues contributes to a host of ill effects from minor annoyances to major life-threatening crises. Do any of my 50+ year old peers remember knowing ANYONE with something like Crohn’s Disease or irritable bowel syndrome 20 years ago? Now it’s fairly common, along with major food allergies to staples like wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, and more.

When many mainstream doctors are recommending exclusively organic diets to their patients (who often reverse their illnesses completely with just that one change), and even more families make the switch because of concern for their health how can Doctor Oz reverse his previous recommendations to eat organic?

December 2012: according to some it’s once again the end of the world. The Mayan calendar, the shifting of the zodiac, the rampant corporatism slowly strangling the natural world in various ways; is it really the end?

All endings result in new beginnings. At night when we go to sleep we end our day to wake up to a new day. Each birthday we end one year in a hopefully long and fruitful life and the next day begin a new chapter. We mark traditional milestones in our lives as we grow from babies to gradeschoolers to responsible adults and finally to wise honored elders – what comes next for us as we prepare to shed these bodies?

According to many Asian traditions how we leave this body, this world, determines how we will take birth in the future – part of the Law of Karma. Karma does not mean fate, one of its meanings is action; the actions we take determine the reactions we receive. Sometimes the reaction is immediate: smack someone in the face and they smack you back. Sometimes it happens much later: smoke three packs of cigarettes a day beginning in high school and develop lung cancer before you can enjoy your retirement. But often we do not “enjoy” the fruits of our own karmas in this lifetime or we may reap the fruits of our ancestors’ karmas, as their diets and lifestyles set us up for the genes we inherit to express in a positive or negative way (read about the emerging science of epigenetics).

How can we take advantage of the Laws of Karma even in the face of overwhelming past Karmas from our ancestors? In Ayurveda, there is an understanding of the qualities (gunas) of the mind – Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Sattva (also spelled Sattwa) is Balance. Tamas is inertia. Rajas is instability or variability. Our ancestors may have been Tamasic, unwilling to change their circumstances, and so their tendency towards inertia, heaviness, depression, even criminal behaviors were passed on. For us to avoid making the same mistakes, we must first become Rajasic. We may do the right things some of the time and make mistakes some of the time. As long as we keep trying to learn from our mistakes we can begin to rise up from the worst of circomstances; this is a quality we want to pass on to our children so they can keep making progress. With each new generation, we have an opportunity for new beginnings and greater spiritual progress.

What seems to happening now is an increasing awareness by many that we as a species must make a greater effort towards “rising up” – cultivating compassion for other species (especially those we exploit for food), other nations and cultures, being more open to making sacrifices in the short term for greater benefits in the long term, moving away from destructive (Tamasic) actions towards more sustainable (Sattvic) actions. But while some are already on that path, others refuse to change and still more waver. The signs are all there for us to see: chaotic weather, rising sea levels, more destructive storms, massive pollution from industry permanently poisoning the land, water, and air (causing increasing numbers of cancer cases especially in children). The more Sattvic among us are busy inventing new technologies to replace outdated toxic ones, the Tamasic are busy resisting change.

The future of our planet, the human race, and the other life forms sharing this home with us depends on the Rajasic members of humanity learning how to rise up for our shared future.

December 2012
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