Celebrate Buy Nothing Day!

From Adbusters.org

 

It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving is this Thursday, snow is already falling in the Eastern US, and Christmas is only one month away. Are you ready for the holiday season? Beyond eating turkey dinners with family and hanging festive lights, a new tradition has emerged. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has become famous for low sales prices, all night shopping, and busy shoppers crossing gifts off their lists. Once again, you ask why would this topic be included on a website dedicated to agriculture, food, health, and the environment? And once again I reply, as I did a couple weeks ago during the US Elections, because “everything is connected”.

Tradition, holiday, or religion?

It is no secret that Americans love to shop, and it has become well established over the past few decades that the holiday season is a profitable time for retailers, but what does this mean for the health of our society and our planet? It appears that the act of buying gifts for family has moved beyond the status of tradition to that of an actual holiday. Rather than being a small task that we do for those we love as we celebrate the larger purposes of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and the New Year, there is now an entire day dedicated to shopping. The only thing missing is a Congressional declaration that Black Friday is an official US holiday. So shopping has arguably transformed beyond the status of tradition into that of a holiday, but does it stop there? As each year becomes more and more extreme the temptation arises to label shopping the new American religion. Retailers once opened their doors at normal operating hours until some of them thought it would be a good idea to open a few hours earlier. Like the US-Russian Cold War, an arms race ensued and eventually some stores started opening at midnight. Of course, it didn’t stop there, and some stores now even open on Thursday evening, barely late enough for most people to have digested their pumpkin pie. It appears to me as though the holidays have completely lost their meaning. Sorry if I’m stating the obvious here, but do we really believe that Americans are thankful for the kindness offered to them by our Native American hosts? Are we thankful for the rich and fertile soils, which are necessary to produce the abundance of foods that fill our plates? Do we celebrate the birth and life of Christ, or are we more focused on getting that new smart phone we asked for?

Buy Nothing Day

As consumerism spreads like bacteria across America’s borders into the emerging markets of Brazil, China and beyond, the planet is being devoured by our wants and needs. It would be bad enough if all 7 billion of us were simply shopping for the items we actually needed (in reality there are probably only 1-2 billion of us wealthy enough to shop). Instead, we shop for items that we merely want, or even worse we try to make ourselves happy by seeking the entertainment of some new toy that we quickly forget about. I suspect we are trying to fill an empty spiritual void with material possessions. Speaking from my formal education in Environmental Science, I would strongly argue that the planet is not able to supply our endless demands. I don’t want to sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas, but the truth is that Christmas was already stolen, by Walmart. Or did Walmart sell Christmas? Either way, if you want to show your love for somebody by buying a gift they would truly appreciate then I honestly see no harm in that. One sign of the problem here is seeing shoppers who view gift giving as a stressful chore they must endure, so they buy family members things they don’t even want or need simply to complete their duty. By now, you’ve probably heard enough, so you may be wondering what kind of action can be taken. Perhaps you should try taking no action. Buy Nothing Day has emerged as a global movement in response to Black Friday. However, if you must buy a gift then consider purchasing it from a local business, or making it yourself. Ask yourself what the person really needs, whether they will actually appreciate it, and if there is an environmentally friendly version of the product available. Instead of an item you could also purchase an experience such as a massage or a float tank session for your family member.

From buynothingday.co.uk

From buynothingday.co.uk

Mind, body, spirit

Now that Black Friday is a holiday, and Santa Claus is a corporate executive, where do we go from here? Economists always tell us that we need to grow the economy, but can the planet sustain nonstop consumerism while population rises to 9 billion and beyond? If shopping really is an attempt to fill a spiritual void with a material possession then it is probably time to reconnect to the spiritual world. Ayurveda tells us to eat organic kale for a healthy body, and to get good sleep for a rested mind, but we can’t forget the spirit. This holiday season instead of worshipping at the church of the shopping mall, consider spending some time in the wilderness on a winter hike, or take a trip to a sunny destination to connect with nature. If you must shop then be mindful, and don’t forget to have a very happy Buy Nothing Day!

Related Articles:

Everything’s Connected: US Election results

Today I floated in a sensory deprivation pod

What color is a Sattvic Planet? 

 

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Together we can abolish Daylight Savings Time

Dark Side of the Moon album art.

Dark Side of the Moon album art.

“And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking, racing around to come up behind you again”

-From the lyrics for Time, performed by Pink Floyd

 

It’s that time of year again. Here in the US we will be adjusting our clocks back one hour on Sunday, and Tuesday we will be voting in local and national elections. As the two events coincide I thought it would be a good opportunity to briefly examine the subject from a preventive health perspective, as it will clearly take action by our state or federal governments to end this confusing and arguably unhealthy practice.

Utah ponders, Russia acts

It is difficult for me to imagine having much in common with the people of Utah, a deeply conservative and religious state, yet recently there have been efforts underway by lawmakers there to permanently end DST based on a study that showed support from the citizens. Arizona and Hawaii are currently the only US states not participating in DST. Russia, like Utah, is another part of the world I ordinarily would not expect to lead the way, but the recent time change there will be the last for that country since it has decided to permanently end DST. It is difficult to imagine such a bold decision happening here in the US anytime soon given the current paralysis within the congress resulting partly from a flood of money into politics following recent Supreme Court decisions. Ridding the country of this practice will likely happen state by state just as we currently see with the legalizations of gay marriage, recreational cannabis, and possibly genetically engineered food labeling. Proponents from all three movements adopted a state by state strategy after realizing that a stagnant congress was unlikely to make any progress in the near future.

Why abolish DST?

Reasons for ending or maintaining the practice vary far and wide, from people wanting more light at the beginning or ending of their days, to businesses afraid of losing money, to researchers debating over whether the practice saves energy. Despite the diversity of opinion and scientific study results, there is one reason we should all be able to agree on; changing the clocks twice per year is quite simply annoying. Why do we do it? Does anybody really know? Who’s steering this ship anyway? For a nation full of sick, stressed and under rested people to go through this process twice per year makes little sense. We need all the help we can get and having to suddenly adjust our sleep schedules this way is just one more hassle, like the morning commute to work, in a long list of stresses that we deal with.

The natural perspective

The theme to this website is “Traditional lifestyles for a modern world”, and in the case of DST this theme is very applicable. You may argue that adjusting your sleep schedule is not that difficult, but as our lifestyles move further and further from traditional ways, the health problems begin to accumulate. They may be subtle at first, or perhaps you can’t even link the symptoms to the cause, but the effects are cumulative, and the more we can do to offset these causes the better we will be. Electricity, lighting, and clocks are all wonderful tools that allow us to live however we want, whenever we want, but in doing so we lose touch with the rise and fall of the sun and other natural rhythms of earth. A perfect example of this is the night shift worker who labors at the time when they should be sleeping. Even worse is the worker whose shift frequently alternates between night and day. Ask yourself when do you eat, or when do you sleep, and whether the timing of these activities is helping or hurting your health. One small habit I have begun recently is to try and dim the lights towards the beginning and end of my day. You can imagine how dramatic a transition it must be for our body to be exposed to hundreds of watts of light one moment and then lying in complete darkness the next, or the opposite when you awake. In addition, I find it helpful to abstain from the stimulation of internet or movies as close to bedtime as possible.

 

Photo by roy2k.com

Photo by roy2k.com

“And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon”

-From the lyrics for Eclipse, performed by Pink Floyd

A healthy democracy

Remember as you change your clocks tomorrow and drop you ballot in the box Tuesday that a vote for Sattvic Planet is a vote for better health. If you choose me as your preventive medicine representative I promise to always place the health of people and planet ahead of profit and politics. Say NO to DST, say YES to good sleep!

 

Related Articles:

Time to Abolish Daylight Savings Time?

 

 

Eating for the Equinox (chicken crockpot recipe)

pastured chicken

Photo by everychickdeservesamother.com

 

The Autumn Equinox has come and gone and since then you have probably begun to notice seasonal changes. The days are shorter, the weather cooler, the leaves are falling, and the food available at your local market is changing from foods like berries, melons and snap peas to apples, squash, and parsnips. According to Ayurvedic principles, now would be a good time to adjust your diet to match our changing environment. This can be easy to ignore when we have access to foods like strawberries in January at the grocery store, but seasonal eating makes a little more sense when you start shopping for locally produced food as much as reasonable.

Warm, greasy and heavy

According to Ayurveda, as we transition from the season of Pitta to the season of Vata, we can also transition from the foods of Pitta to those of Vata. Sour and salty replaces the tastes of bitter and astringent, while the taste of sweet continues until later in winter during the Kapha season. Isn’t it interesting that salty and sour are the tastes you would experience while eating the cabbage you fermented during the summer to eat as sauerkraut during the fall, while sweet and sour would be most noticeably tasted with the fall apple harvest? Beyond the tastes of food, the qualities transition from cool and dry to warm and greasy (oily), while the quality of heavy continues until later in winter during the Kapha season. A good example of a heavy, warm and greasy food might be a dense winter squash roasted in the oven and then drizzled with a generous amount of ghee or coconut oil for moisture.

Meat in Ayurveda?

You may find it odd that a website with an Ayurvedic theme would have a recipe for chicken, but the ancient texts never forbid the consumption of meat, and in some cases encourage it for the recovery from disease. The Hindu religion is known to be vegetarian, and is also very common in India, so since India is the home of Ayurveda it is easy to see how the connection between vegetarianism and Ayurveda could be made. However, vegetarianism may be required to practice the Hindu religion, but that does not mean it is required to practice Ayurveda. Another fact to consider is that many parts of India are low in latitude and as a result have a much warmer climate. I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this, but my appetite decreases when I’m in a hot and humid environment, which would make vegetarianism much easier closer to the equator. If you don’t believe me then try being a raw food vegan in northern Canada and let me know how that works for you. I’m not promoting eating meat; I’m promoting diets that are appropriate for your geography and your season. Simply put, those of us in the north have less access to fresh produce, and more need for nourishment during a cold winter. I’m not talking about eating meat for pleasure as most Americans do, I’m talking about eating what your body needs, which I’m willing to bet is far less than what we are currently witnessing around the country. Eating based on bodily needs will require people to be aware of their bodies, and to learn how to properly cook nutritious meals. I often say that PETA would be far more successful if they encouraged people to eat less meat rather than none, and that is because even though most people are probably eating much more than they need, telling them to quit completely can not only cause a defensive reaction, but it may also be inappropriate advice for their location and time of year.

 

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Photo by sattvicplanet.net

 

 

Crockpot time

The size of my crockpot is 5.5 quarts, or 5.2 liters, and I find that a 5.5 pound, or 2.5 kg bird can easily fit. This recipe is very simple, but that is the point, to realize that cooking high quality meals is a convenient and healthy way to live. Here is the recipe:

4-5 pound chicken

1 onion

2-4 bulbs of garlic

½ T oregano

½ T thyme

½ T rosemary

½ T black pepper powder

½ T pink salt

1 T dried parsley

1 T dried basil

3-4 cups water

Dice the garlic and allow to sit for 10 minutes to maximize the nutritional benefits. Place the bird and the water into the crockpot. Dice the onion and add it to the crockpot along with garlic and all the spices. Sprinkle the spices under, on top of, and all around the bird. I like to set my crockpot to 10 hours on a low setting. You can flip the bird after about 6 hours if you like. The final result is more like a stew than an oven roast, but you can try a shorter duration or less water if you prefer that effect. Serve with roasted squash or root vegetables and some steamed dark leafy greens. Don’t forget to save the bones for a bone broth!

Integrity Food

When buying your chicken I highly recommend a locally sourced, pasture raised product. This will require you to search beyond the deceptive “all natural” and “cage free” feel good options available at the grocery store. Did you know a cage free bird might never see the sun, breathe clean fresh air, or have enough room to run around? An organic, pasture raised bird may cost 2-5 times as much as a conventional bird, but don’t you think it is worth it? A pastured bird might be more nutritious if they are eating insects as they were meant to. I find it odd when the label says “vegetarian fed” since chickens are known to eat insects, but they obviously don’t have that opportunity in an indoor facility. My last chicken had a slightly wild taste to it versus the typical bland and neutral flavor we are all accustomed to. A pastured bird should be less likely to get sick since it is not breathing dirty air in a confined space and is therefore also less likely to need antibiotics. Wouldn’t you rather eat a healthy chicken than a sick one? I actually get at least 10 servings from a bird, so when you look at the per meal price it is not bad compared to what you would pay at a farm to table restaurant. Besides the nutrition, taste and health, I think raising animals on pasture is much more humane, and a great way to support your local family farmers.

 

Related articles:

The “Integrity Food” Revolution

The Season of Sweet

Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 2, Meat

 

 

 

The Season of Sweet

20140618_175859

“Set the gear shift for the high gear of your soul!!”

-From the lyrics for Run Like an Antelope performed by Phish

 

Locavore

Last week while I was browsing the produce section of my local food co-op I wondered what kind of fruit I should buy. Of course all the options that we are familiar with as Americans came to mind, and were definitely available to me. There were apples, bananas, pears, and oranges, as you would expect. Most of the apples and pears that we eat in this country come from here, Washington State, so that is usually a good option for me. However, this time of year most of the apples and pears we see are being imported from places like New Zealand since their harvest was likely a few months ago, while ours was nearly nine months ago. Instead of looking at these fruits that traveled thousands of miles to get here I focused instead on the many new fruits that are now available with the onset of summer. First we had strawberries, now we have raspberries and coming soon will be the blueberries. The Washington cherries have been amazing lately, and while local grapes, melons and plums are not what this state is known for, at least the California options didn’t require a plane ride across the ocean to reach my mouth. My observations continued as I passed the bulk section and saw the dried figs and dates that I normally buy, but needless to say, I passed on all these usual options and instead loaded my cart with some of the rare treats available now. As the sign on the cherry bin said, “get ‘em while you can”! And get ’em I did, in fact I have been gorging on fresh fruits lately like a black bear in an alpine meadow full of huckleberry.

20140705_185500

Short and sweet

Locavore was the 2007 Word of the Year according to the Oxford American Dictionary, so by now I’m sure we are all familiar with the concept. Evidence of this can be seen in the explosion of farmer’s markets across the country since then. Much has been said of the environmental motivations behind eating local, namely to reduce the miles your food has traveled, and to support smaller scale operations that may be more likely to follow organic methods. Of course there are also other social motivations such as knowing the person who grew your food, and supporting the local economy. From the health perspective we sometimes hear of the health benefits of eating fresh foods, which are much easier to acquire when they are grown nearby. I also wonder if there are even more subtle processes going on within the body; for example, if we eat a summer food during the winter, strawberries perhaps, then are we sending our body confusing biochemical signals? More research is probably needed on that one, and I’ll let you know if I hear anything on that subject. What I do know is that Ayurveda already considers the effects of eating seasonally on your health…

In Ayurveda

Summer is the season of pitta, so according to the Ayurveda tri-dosha philosophy there are certain foods that are better to eat during summer and others to be eaten only in moderation. Sweet is considered to be one of the tastes to balance pitta, along with bitter and astringent, and as we all know there is an abundance of sweet fruit available during the summer. How convenient! Some people may read that and mistakenly interpret this advice as encouragement to eat sugary foods like cookies and cakes, but that is not the intention. When I say that Ayurveda promotes eating sweet foods during the summer I’m talking about naturally sweet foods like plums, not processed foods with concentrated sweeteners added to them. Again, the other two tastes are bitter and astringent, so bitter foods like dark leafy greens, and astringent foods like lentils and beans are important components of a summer diet. The three tastes to eat in moderation during the summer are salty, sour and pungent.

What would Eric eat?

I’m happy to say that my kitchen is now free of all concentrated sweeteners including cane sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave, and even maple syrup. Not only are they absent from my kitchen in whole form, but you won’t even find these on the ingredient list of any products I buy, which is not too difficult since I buy mostly whole foods. The only concentrated sweetener you will find is some raw local honey, which is considered to be a medicinal food in Ayurveda. I know this may sound extreme, but with all the amazing produce available now, there really is no need to eat sugary foods. I’m not so disciplined as to avoid an occasional treat; all things in moderation, right? The point is that with all the sugars available in fruits, vegetables, restaurants, and social gatherings, why have more temptations in your kitchen? We are certainly getting more than enough even with a kitchen as sugar free as mine.

For further information on sugar see my earlier posts:

Our Paleolithic ancestors rarely ate sugar, should we do the same?

Agave *UPDATE* (Best oatmeal recipe ever, for dinner)

 

Sattvic Planet Tips

  • Shop at the farmer’s market, or food co-op
  • Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group
  • Eat local / seasonal
  • In summer eat sweet, bitter and astringent foods
  • Eat salty, sour and pungent foods in moderation
  • Remove concentrated sugars from your kitchen

 

Occupy Farmer’s Markets!

“Now let’s start by, making it clear, who is the enemy here, and let’s show them, that it’s not them, who is superior”

-From the lyrics for Marching the Hate Machines into the Sun, performed by Thievery Corporation and featuring The Flaming Lips

 

I have occasionally spoken negatively of corporations in previous articles posted on this website. With an introductory quote like the one above you must think I’m about to declare all corporations evil. Are they all evil, do we need to purge ourselves of their existence, and is there a better way of doing business in this world? The answers I believe are no, sometimes, and definitely yes, respectively. I would never make such a sweeping statement as to say that all corporations are bad, and as a matter of fact I have spent the past several months researching whether I want to start a business of my own. The following paragraphs attempt to briefly draw a connection between the role of modern corporations and our health since, after all, health and environment are the primary themes of this website.

Wall St versus Main St

The Occupy movement that swept across the US a couple years ago attempted to demonstrate, among many other ideas, the increasingly disproportionate amount of wealth acquired by the top 1% of Americans compared with the remainder of the population. Because money equates to power and influence in the American political system, the Occupy movement wanted to raise awareness of the control that a tiny minority exerted over a vast majority. Beyond these massive societal issues are questions such as what are the costs to our health and the planet’s health when profit is always placed as the number one pursuit of a publicly traded corporation. The dominant business model in America is without a doubt; profit first, people second, and planet third, at least to the extent that the customers and laws allow for. When the primary purpose of a publicly traded corporation is to make a profit then people and planet are often exploited. This exploitation will continue until the customers get upset and their negative perception of the company begins to reduce profit, or until the questionable practices are challenged in court. There must be a better way…

Planet first, people second, and profit third

What happens when a company tries to reverse the order of priorities mentioned above? Sometimes it proves to be quite successful such as when a company like Whole Foods thrives off the selling of natural and organic food. In this case we even saw conventional companies like Walmart trying follow in the steps of Whole Foods, as was the case when they attempted to get into the business of selling some organic food. Similarly we see the launch of pioneering electric car company Tesla being followed by the other major car manufacturers attempting to develop more efficient and less polluting cars of their own. I use these examples to show that it is possible to have profitable corporations that can provide their customers with the services they need while limiting their impact on human and planetary health in the process. Sure, we could spend all day debating whether Whole Foods and Tesla have truly sustainable business models, but you get the point, they are a step in the right direction.

We are what we buy

It can be so easy to always point our fingers at the big bad corporations when in reality we should often be pointing our fingers at the mirror as the number one enemy we face on our path towards health and sustainability. We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, but what if we shifted that to “you are what you buy”. Corporations may seem evil for their destructive practices, and for selling their disease causing products, but the reality is that they would not exist if we didn’t continuously give them our money. This of course brings us to the slogan, “vote with your dollars”. While the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans are clearly voting with their dollars by lobbying politicians, the remainder of the 99% can also use our money to vote. No, we probably can’t afford to make a major contribution to a Senator’s election campaign, but we can purchase products that are non-toxic, low impact, healthy, all natural, environmentally responsible, organic, fair traded, and/or locally produced. Better yet, we can exert our influence over corporations by simply not buying a product, and I’m not only talking about boycotts, I’m also talking about reducing our consumption; “minimize it, and don’t criticize it”.

eat local

In Ayurveda…

One of the major benefits of Ayurvedic preventive medicine is that there is little need for major corporations. This system of medicine has been in existence for thousands of years, long before the modern corporation was ever conceived. We may need a few companies to responsibly import herbs and spices to the US, but other than that most Ayurvedic lifestyle practices can be performed using commonly available foods. These lifestyle practices can be performed by you alone, or maybe with the guidance of a practitioner depending on your level of knowledge. Everyone wants to be healthy and happy, but if that is what we really want then we need to stop and ask whether the food and products we purchase are actually making us healthy, and contributing to our happiness. More often than not we are buying products that we don’t really need, or even worse, products that are destroying our health and the health of the Earth. There are many small scale, local companies that are genuinely trying to run responsible businesses, and it is important that we give them our support. The Occupy movement started a conversation in America that continues to this day, now it is time to take advantage of the summer season and Occupy our Farmer’s Markets.

Happy Summer Solstice!!!

 

 

For External Use Only? Tips for sun and skin care

EricSun

Here comes the sun

After another dark and cloudy winter here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I doubt there are any other people in the US more anxious to get outside and soak in some sun those living around here. Time to find the sunscreen lotion so we can apply a thick layer to protect our skin from the big, bright and evil sun, right? At least that is what we have been taught for most of our lives by well-intentioned authorities on the subject. They tell us that we need sunscreen lotion for prevention of skin cancer which definitely sounds like a disease that I would like to avoid, but is it really that simple? Life is rarely so black and white, and in the case of sun exposure it seems there are a lot of grey areas. Not only are there often grey areas, but sometimes we are told to do the complete opposite of what is good for us. For example, Time magazine recently had a cover story that said to “Eat Butter”, a radical change of thinking after we were told for decades to eat low fat food. Will a future edition of time say “Get Sun”?

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Vitamin D

Last winter I posted an article called Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 1, Tanning where I basically argued that in small doses indoor tanning beds can be an effective form of light therapy to combat the Seasonal Affective Disorder that is so common in northern latitudes and cloudy places like the Pacific Northwest. Vitamin D is an important component to our overall well-being and our bodies manufacture this chemical during sun exposure, so to cover up and avoid sun exposure seems not to be in our best interest. For a more thorough explanation of the subject read this article written by Todd Caldecott, an Ayurvedic Practitioner from British Columbia. Speaking of Canada, remember when I said life is rarely so black and white? It is important to consider factors such as your geographic location, for example, think of how much less sun people receive in British Columbia than Arizona. Besides the latitude (north vs south) and climate (cloudy vs clear), consider the time of year (summer vs winter), length of exposure (field worker vs short walk), and skin type (pale vs dark). Finally, I think it is important to understand the cultural context of where much of this information originated. When we think of summer in America we picture people at the beach wearing skimpy swimsuits and baking in the sun for hours at a time. Of course the scientists and doctors needed to find a remedy for this lifestyle, but I’m not advocating such excessive behavior here. I’m saying that some moderate sun exposure can have great benefits, especially when the factors mentioned above are taken into consideration.

“For external use only”?

Besides blocking your skin from a healthy dose of sunshine my main concern with sunscreen lotion is that you are absorbing large quantities of chemicals through your skin, and the effects of these chemicals are poorly understood by the consumer. In Ayurveda there is an inside joke that the label commonly seen on cosmetic products, “for external use only”, makes no sense since most products applied on the skin surface are absorbed into the body. There really is no separation between internal and external, which is why it is always a good idea to ask yourself whether you would ever consider eating the product that you are about to apply to your skin. Horst Rechelbacher, founder of the popular Aveda salon chain, later went on to found a company called Intelligent Nutrients. The primary focus of Intelligent Nutrients is to develop cosmetic products that are non-toxic, food grade, plant based, and certified organic. You might ask, why should we seek these products when the Food and Drug Administration is already tasked with protecting me from harmful products? I don’t mean to sound cynical or conspiratorial, but anybody who lives in the US should understand by now the power of money, and the influence that corporations have over the agencies meant to regulate them. Just because a product is legal to sell doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe for you to use.

You are what you…apply to your skin

If “you are what you eat”, and if much of what you apply to your skin is absorbed internally, then it is reasonable to assume that “you are what you apply”. Ayurveda is unique and famous for using oils on the skin as a form of therapy called snehana. Different types of oils are used to treat specific conditions; some of these oils include sesame, coconut and ghee. Not only is the type of oil considered, but often during snehana therapy many different herbs are used to medicate the oil. In extreme cases of poor digestion when the body cannot efficiently process herbal medicines, the skin can be used instead to deliver medicine to the body. If the skin is used as a medium for delivering healing herbal medicines to the body then imagine what you are doing every time you apply a sunscreen, moisturizing lotion, or cosmetic containing heavy metals, artificial fragrances, and petrochemicals to your body.

In summer-y

  • Get some sun, produce some vitamin D, and feel good.
  • Don’t get baked at the beach, you’re not a potato in the oven.
  • Wear light, loose clothing to cover your skin as an alternative to sunscreen
  • Minimize it; use fewer skin products, or find safer alternatives.

 

 

Time to Abolish Daylight Savings Time?

TheFertileDesert-playa-starsIt’s that time of year again, and if you have anything in common with me, it is a time that you are not very excited about. Tomorrow, we as a nation will change our clocks one hour forward, unless you are one of the people having the good fortune of living in Arizona or Hawaii. For me that means waking at my normal time of around 6 and then realizing that it is actually 7, one less hour in my day until my normal 10 pm bedtime. On Monday I will wake at 6 which only two days ago would have been 5, and instead of watching the sky brighten during that first hour I will be in darkness almost until I arrive at the office. It’s likely that I will feel groggy Monday due to possible sleep problems, or due to the unfamiliar dark mornings. I’m not writing this to share my complaints with the world, I’m writing this as I always do, to make the connection between the way we live and the quality of health that we experience.

Why do we do it? There is no sense in me explaining the history behind daylight savings time since there are already many well-written articles available. For example, National Geographic recently published an article that explains the controversy behind this semi-annual ritual, and the Los Angeles Times has done the same. In summary, we do it because it is thought to reduce electricity consumption and give us more outdoor time in the evenings. I am an absolute advocate of saving energy and enjoying free time, but I don’t think it is a good idea to be adding more stress to an already overworked and under rested nation, and as the articles show there are many health professionals who would agree.

Daylight savings time is really quite symbolic of our need as a culture to control nature. How bold we are to think that we can manipulate the rise and fall of the sun. This reminds me of a book I am currently reading called The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. Fukuoka practiced what he called natural farming in Japan during the later half of the 1900s. He grew rice and oranges with no inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, or diesel fuel. He strongly advocated an observational approach to agriculture with as little interference as possible, and practiced this to the extent that plowing the soil was strictly forbidden on his farm. The results of implementing his philosophy were that the yields of his harvests rivaled and even exceeded any farmer in perhaps all of Japan at the time. At one section of the book Fukuoka states that if a single bud is snipped off an orange tree that may bring about disorder that cannot be undone. He states that pruning fruit trees is often done to make it easier to harvest fruit, and to combat the onset of insect and plant disease. However, according to Fukuoka, based on years of observation and trial and error, the reason we have insect and plant disease is because we pruned in the first place. We are caught in a cycle where we prune to make the fruit more accessible, but that pruning causes pests and disease, so we prune and spray chemicals to reduce the pests and disease. In other words, it all begins with the need to try and control how the fruit tree naturally grows; yet the tree already knows how to grow without our assistance. The tree will send branches towards the light, not toward our fruit baskets. We would be better off getting taller ladders, or maybe leaving the upper fruit for the birds to eat.

In Ayurveda it is important to observe the constantly changing cycles and adjust our lifestyles accordingly. We would never wear shorts in Minnesota during winter, or wear a down jacket in New Mexico during summer, yet we don’t think twice about eating cold raw salads with ingredients imported from the southern hemisphere during winter, or eating processed food from cans, boxes and bags during the abundance of summer harvest. Though you may not have ever thought about it before, the time of day, the season of the year, and the stage of your life all influence your health in some way. For further details on this concept, and to understand why I chose the header image for this website, see my first post Meaning of the Sattvic Planet image. Masanobu Fukuoka observed that snipping a single bud from his orange tree could cause disorder that cannot be undone, and I see parallels of this to the changing of our clocks. It’s time to observe, and loosen our controlling grip on nature, or as the Beatles said, “Let it be”.

Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 1, Tanning

I admit to using tanning beds. There, I’ve said it. Why you ask would an Ayurvedic Counselor who writes about the necessity of using natural methods to prevent disease be exposing his body to an electronic artificial light? Before you judge me let me provide you with some background. First, I live near 49 degrees northern latitude in the notoriously cloudy Pacific Northwest, and during winter it can be quite dark around here. Second, I’ve noticed that during these dark winters I don’t have nearly as much energy as I do during the bright summer months. Like many people in the northern latitudes I experience a mild case of SAD every winter, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are many small steps I take to try and counter the darkness here during the winter months. I purchased and regularly use a blue LED device for light therapy while working at my desk. I take vitamin D liquid drops daily that are made of cholecalciferol, an extract from sheep’s wool. I’m moving away from supplements and this is the only one remaining that I take these days, but that will have to be the subject of a future post. I also have an apartment with a very large west-facing window overlooking the bay, and of course I exercise as much as possible. If you haven’t gathered by now, the purpose of using the tanning beds is to combat the winter blues, not to get a golden tan. It is important to note that my current dosage is only 6 minutes every 7 days, which equates to about 2.5 hours over the course of the six darkest months of the year. I started with 8 minutes and found that made my skin dry. It’s still a work in progress, and I may ultimately determine that the risk outweighs the benefits, but for now I do know that it works. Yes, it does work, especially the day of the session. In fact, the first couple of sessions I made the mistake of going during the evening and had difficulty falling asleep those nights. That makes sense, doesn’t it? It is as if you are sending a very strong message to your body that says “time to wake up now with the rising sun”, but it’s evening and you should be sending your body the opposite message. A morning tan would definitely be ideal, and may even be better than a cup of coffee.

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