Friday, October 29, 2010

The Foundation of Human Potential

Holistic traditions address all the aspects of ourselves as a complete being: body, mind, heart, soul, spirit. Each of these aspects of our self plays a vital role in making up who we are. Working to bring them all into alignment provides us with a framework to awaken to our full human potential. Holistic arts, by definition, are practices that assist with bringing these together and awakening the potential that lies deep within us all. Each of these aspects makes up part of the whole. However, it is necessary to understand that the body and mind are the foundation of our human potential. Like anything we build, the foundation must be firm and strong in order to support what it holds up. The body and mind must be balanced and aligned in order for us to fully access and entrain with the other aspects of our being, or we will find ourselves wobbling back and forth, unsure of who we are and what we are doing.

The body is our physical form. It is our connection to the physical world and allows us to interact with the world through our senses. Our body is the temple in which the rest of our being resides. The better care we take of the body, the longer it survives and the deeper we are able to explore the other aspects of our self. If we are eating healthy food, regularly moving the joints and muscles, and breathing properly, the body grows strong and resilient, providing us with more energy and the ability to do more. If we eat poorly, don’t exercise and maintain shallow breathing habits, the body will grow weak and fragile, unable to meet our needs. This is basic common sense. Continuing regular practice allows us to remain strong as we grow older. I remember living in Japan, training karate for four hours every day, and frequently meeting older Japanese men who, upon hearing of my training, would immediately launch into a discourse of their prowess in one or another marital art. Invariably these men were out of shape and unhealthy, having stopped training once they finished their university studies and entered the work force. They seemed to think that the fitness level they achieved in their younger days remained with them, even though they did no physical exercise at all in the present. I have found that this is a common mindset. The changes that take place in the body due to poor diet and lack of exercise are gradual. The body has a way of going numb so that we don’t recognize we have gotten out of shape. The longer we go without caring for the body, the harder it is to get back to a state of good health. The truth is that it really doesn’t take that much effort to reverse this process. Daily gentle breathing and movement practice will get the energy flowing through the body. A regular routine can soon make the body your ally, in whatever you seek to do, instead of a limitation.

The same goes for the mind. The mind is our thought process. It is that part of us that carries on the continuous inner dialogue throughout our waking lives. It is also that part of us that analyzes problems and creates solutions to solve them. When the mind is calm and centered, we are able to think clearly and adapt to whatever situation arises. If our thoughts are scattered or we are stressed out about events in our life, then the mind becomes preoccupied and is unable to deal with the problems that arise. Calming the mind is a challenge because the only method for doing it is to sit quietly and allow the thoughts to settle. If the mind is calm and centered, we are able think clearly and reason objectively. However, the modern world is full of distractions that have been designed to capture our attention. We need to cultivate a calm mind in order to navigate the challenges that appear before us. Practicing daily sitting meditation is a simple way to gain a measure of control over hectic thoughts.

Once the body is healthy and the mind is clear, we are more fully able to embrace our heart, soul and spirit. Perhaps it helps to imagine the body and mind as a garden bed. If we care for the body and calm the mind, we create the fertile soil for the seeds of our heart, soul and spirit to grow and develop. By cultivating this rich soil, our heart will open, our soul will be revealed, and our spirit will expand. It all begins with the body and mind.

The true awakening of the human potential within us is like slipping into a groove that was always there. It is as if we were bumping along off kilter until that moment when things suddenly click into position and we start to recognize our place in the universe. We begin to go with the flow, and the flow begins going with us. When such a thing truly happens there is a feeling of completeness that pervades our being. It is a wonderful experience that continues to unfold as we continue generating the energy that fuels our potential. In a world full of distractions and stress this can be a daunting undertaking. It means finding the strength within from which to begin the process. It takes courage and self-awareness in order to travel the path, and there are many roadblocks and detours along the way.

Building a strong foundation of body and mind gives us a place to begin.

Until next time...wishing you much peace.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Harvest Time

September was a big harvest month for us here in Vermont. I've been fully occupied with harvesting the bounty of my garden. We've had a bumper crop of tomatoes. The weather this summer was apparently just exactly what they needed. We had a lot of rain in the spring and then it dried up towards the end of summer. Leaving us with more tomatoes than I've ever had, lots of onions, broccoli, butternut squash and pole beans as well. Going out and picking food for dinner is simply a wonderful experience.

It does make me wonder about the stuff I find in the supermarket. If I pick a head of broccoli and leave it for a day or two is quickly goes yellow. How is it possible that the broccoli in the store stays green for the weeks it takes to get to the supermarket shelves? You don't have to answer that. I is just rather discouraging to have such a contrast with the fresh organic stuff directly from the garden. Chemical preservatives are much easier to ignore if you don't grow your own food....but hard to forget once you've made the connection.

Speaking of Broccoli. For much of the summer I had a running battle with a groundhog who was intent on chomping on my broccoli plants. Of course, I would never do anything to harm him, but it was a little frustrating. Each time they sprouted a stalk he would come along and chew it back. Well, I finally gave in and planted a separate broccoli garden on the other side of the house. The groundhog never found these plants and we had broccoli all summer. Imagine my surprise when I found these huge broccoli heads on the plants the groundhog had been munching on all summer. Apparently his munching caused the plant to grow multiple stalks and gave me a late harvest of wonderful broccoli. Living in harmony with nature is much more plesant than bending her to our will.
Finally, I want to share some of the ways I’ve been dealing with all the tomatoes.

Freezing Tomatoes - Freezing tomatoes couldn't be easier. First you dunk them in boiling water for about 45 seconds. This causes the skin to peel off. Freezing without the skin is recommended. Once the skin is off, I cut the tomatoes into chunks and squeeze most of the seeds out. I've been heir looming seeds, so they are dried and stored for next year. (Let me know if you need directions on how to store tomato seeds) The tomatoes are then put into freezer bags and put in the freezer...too easy!

Salsa - The other simple project for the tomatoes I've been doing has been making salsa. This is also very easy. Cut up 3 quarts of tomatoes and put them in a big pot with about 5 medium onions. I add a couple of chili peppers to give it a mild spice. Next add 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of salt, and 4 tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken it. Cook all of this at a low boil for 45 minutes and then simmer for another 30-40 minutes. When they are ready, pack into pint jars and seal. Boil in a hot water bath for 30 minutes. The finished product is ready for storage. You can bypass the hot water bath, but you will need to eat the salsa within a month or so.

wishing you much peace...
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