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.

Heritage Breeds and More at Accokeek Farm.

I recently posted on a couple of YouTube postings of pirated copies of the new film “Thrive”. As a practicing yogini I follow ALL the eight limbs of Patanjali’s yoga as best I can and not-stealing is part of the first limb (the other parts being non-harming, embodying Truth, moderation, and non-grasping or non-greed).

These pirates replied to me with incredulity – the producer is an heir to Procter & Gamble (and therefore, wealthy, and able to give away this work for free), many people who “need” to see this film are poor and can’t afford to buy a copy (or any of the other merchandise associated with the film), and am I for real?

While it certainly helps in film production (particularly with high quality productions) having the money to put up helps, but as with any business if there’s no return on investment there won’t be more films or whatever the business owner is producing. This affects all the other people who work in that business (the lighting guys, the camera guys, the marketing people, the distributors, the people who feed the crew, etc etc etc). So maybe this wealthy heir can afford to lose his investment once and then he’s not wealthy anymore but does making him lose his money give US any more?

We have a right to be angry at “Wall Street” for tanking the world economy and making huge profits in the process (they haven’t learned a thing and are still at it). We have a right to question the wisdom of giving huge tax breaks to those most able to afford paying taxes while cutting services to those least able to survive without those services.

But if we really want to change how the world works we must embody the changes we wish to see and continuing the zero sum practice of harming others while helping ourselves is counterproductive. We must think about win-win, fair trade, mutually beneficial, symbiotic, co-operative methods of advancing humanity (and other species).

This is why the Eight Limbs of Patanjali are so important, why the first Limb (Ahimsa/non-harming, Satya/Truth, Asteya/non-stealing, Brahmacharya/moderation, Aparigraha/non-greed) is the most important Limb, and why Ahimsa is the most important of the branches of the first Limb.

In harming others, we harm ourselves – by stealing from one we feel is “too rich” we may harm ourselves by causing otherwise compassionate people to turn away and hoard their riches. Those on Wall Street will learn their lesson soon enough – as their behavior continues to destroy a once vibrant world economy they will lose their money. Those of us who are building a new economy based on other principles will win self-reliance and self-respect.

The transition may not be pretty but it will happen. Will you be a part of the problem or part of the solution?

it's winter in Bawlmer, hon!

winter wonderland

Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions? Have you made them achievable?

So many have made promises to themselves to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier food, quit smoking only to find that it takes longer than a week or a month. Only by making a lifelong commitment to healthy living can healthy living be achieved.


The philosophy of Ayurveda provides a framework for lasting health as well as remedies for existing illness. By establishing a regular daily routine rooted in the rhythms of Mother Nature and a diet grounded in the foods grown in the season one can more easily notice when things go out of balance and find their remedy at hand.

By resisting or moderating the often toxic influences of “modern” life (like cell phones, processed foods, and recreational drugs) we can find lasting energy, a clear mind, and stronger immunity. This can take time (a lifetime) but the journey is worth making. You will seem to age more slowly than others not on this path. You will teach your children the open secrets of living sustainably and in harmony with Natural Law. And perhaps, as others notice that you have found a better way, you will teach the world by your example.

stream at Gray Bear

Breathe in the clear autumn air
and know that spring is hiding in the fallen leaves…..
Out of death comes new life.

Hawk in my yard...

looking for lunch

The hawk came back to my yard today, picking out a nice fat mourning dove to have for lunch. I wish it had grabbed one of the pigeons instead (those non-native rats-with-wings) but when ya gotta eat ya gotta eat!

Humans have become so out of touch with the natural rhythms of life in symbiosis with other creatures. We seal our homes against the outside air, add preservatives to our food and refrigerate/freeze/nuke it into oblivion, blast our eyeballs with light when we should be in bed, eat food out of season, and insist that humans feed themselves with highly processed fake foods even when it sickens and eventually kills them.

Traditional cultures hunted, gathered, and cultivated anything that was nourishing. Some peoples ate mostly starchy vegetables supplemented with fish and fatty coconuts, others ate mostly fat from the northern animals; each group ate what was available and figured out methods for naturally preserving foods for lean times. All of them had abundant energy for activities unaided by machinery.

Today many people eat mostly processed foods and have suffered greatly from it. Not only have they lost an intimate connection to Nature’s rhythms they have lost the knowledge of what food is, how it’s grown, how it’s harvested and prepared, even how real foods taste. When children don’t recognize a fruit or vegetable or understand where milk comes from is it any wonder that they are becoming diabetic and obese at younger and younger ages?

WAPF vendor

Pure Indian Foods

My recent attendance at the Weston A Price annual conference (this year in Valley Forge PA, or was it King of Prussia?) enabled me to listen to independent researchers, meet with vendors of truly natural foods (often small farmers or bakers), and dine on meals prepared from fresh local ingredients according the Weston Price guidelines for traditionally prepared foods. I must say that everything was delicious and while I really stuffed myself I never felt bloated like I do sometimes after eating out. Indeed, I feel fully nourished for the first time in a long time, like I would after eating a meal prepared by my MomMom (grandmother) on the family farm; she might go out in the yard and catch one of the chickens (you know what happens next) for dinner – chicken fried in lard, potatoes and peas grown right there. While I was upset that a chicken had to die I could not disagree that fresh chicken (or eggs, or veggies) tasted better.

Looking back over my life, I’ve noticed that at various times when my diet was less than optimal I would have “issues”: tooth decay (I admit I have always had a sweet tooth), headaches, sour moods. I always felt better physically and emotionally when my diet was cleaner. But something changed gradually over the years. Healthy eating began to have its definition redefined away from a variety of real foods that included whole fresh milk and other traditional foods and towards a more industrial and even pharmaceutical approach. It began to be said that it was impossible to get all of the required nutrients from food and we should add supplements. Traditional fats like lard and tallow, butter, whole milk, and even eggs began to be demonized.

Funny, the more I tried to eat from the new definition of “healthy” the fatter I got. Though I’ve never really been overweight (I was an aerobics instructor and lifted heavy weights during the week and rode my bike on weekends) I went from 105 pounds to 130 pounds in less than 10 years. I thought I was eating right, limiting my fat consumption and eating several small meals per day, eating protein bars full of soy because they were supposed to be good for me. Funnier still is that I began to shed the weight after becoming a dedicated yoga practitioner, giving up weight training and aerobics in favor of the Ashtanga method.

Once menopause hit my body went haywire: going off birth control pills (“you need to go through menopause ‘naturally’ ” said my gynecologist) allowed my body to tell me in no uncertain terms that it had no idea what ‘natural’ meant. Long story short, I ended up in surgery having my fibroids, endometriosis, and ovarian cysts removed. Embarking on a long quest to find out why I fell so far out of balance led me to the study of Ayurveda and the discovery of the powerful work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a 1930’s dentist who went looking for the answers to “why are all my patients so sick?”.

In a nutshell, it’s the diet. Independent research since at least the ’30’s shows that when people eat their traditional diets (whatever they are) and avoid processed “foods” they are healthy and happy people and rarely if ever fall prey to the diseases th which we have become accustomed. But when they begin eating a Westernized, processed, refined diet these same peoples fall prey to obesity, heart disease, mental illness, tooth decay, and more.

This is a reversible condition. Returning to natural foodways and relearning the wisdom traditions of following the cycles of sun and moon, getting to know the small family farmers and how our food crops and animals are raised will raise our consciousness about good food and lead us to remember the sacrifice of the living creatures that nourish us. We can taste with every bite the difference between the meat from a healthy animal raised humanely and allowed its natural behaviors and the meat from an unhealthy, unhappy animal raised in the cramped foul quarters of a factory “farm”.

And since we are what we eat, we can begin to understand the genesis of anger, greed, and discontent in the karmic fruit of our willful disobedience to the laws of Nature. In returning to our ancient traditions of honoring those we eat (from both animal and plant kingdoms) we will slowly relearn how to bring new life out of death.

Tulsi, Tulasi, or Holy Basil is a wonderfully fragrant plant considered sacred, even an earthly manifestation of the Great Mother. It has many uses in your medicine chest: it helps relieve fever by inducing sweating (though in lung infections with high Pitta, combine with other cooling herbs as Tulsi has an overall heating action), boosts digestive fire and thus enhances digestion (and combined with ginger, fennel, and/or cardamom helps with flatulence and malabsorption), it clears mucus (kapha) from the lungs and can increase lung capacity. It increases prana (life energy), helps move apana (the action of prana to move downwards and outwards) in its proper direction as well as move excess Vata (air and space element) through the intestines and calms the digestive tract. It can even help reduce weight, blood sugar, and total cholesterol levels.

Make a tea from the leaves to reduce tension headaches from high Vata (which manifests as anxiety) and congestive headaches from high Kapha (which manifests as excess mucus). Sweeten with honey to help with decongestion.

I was gifted a live Tulsi plant at my graduation from Kripalu School of Ayurveda – starting as a small (about 3″ tall) plant, it has grown to about a foot tall and bushed out considerably – I like to make a tea from a few of its leaves combined with mint that has taken over a corner of my yard and sometimes fresh grated ginger (sweetened with honey or raw sugar). Having moved it from its small pot to a larger one, it seems to be sprouting some babies (I have it outside, so I will have to observe if they are in fact baby Tulsi or some other seed that blew in). I hope I can keep this wonderful plant growing through Maryland’s winter so I can continue to enjoy its heavenly scent and divine flavor….

July 2018
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