The Soul of a Carrot

carrot This carrot was grown for me by Pat Nudd at Will Heal Farm. When I took it out of the bag, I thought someone had accidentally dropped in the bottom half of a Barbie doll. It was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. We’ve been learning more about nutrition the past 18 months, which makes us appreciate our CSA share even more. Michael Pollan wrote in his book In Defense of Food that

You don’t need to fathom a carrot’s complexity to reap its benefits.

Chunyi Lin told us that in China they eat all parts of the food. They believe that there is special energy in the roots that reach down into the ground, as well as the green parts that reach up towards the sky.

We started eating all of the strawberry, including the green leaves on top. They tasted fine. Now that we’re doing more juicing, we juice leaves that I never would’ve considered eating before. Who knew that kohlrabi leaves have the same zing as mustard leaves, in slightly muted taste?

If we believe that there is a microcosmic orbit inside of our bodies that mirrors the movement of energy in the universe, why wouldn’t there be a similar cosmic reflection in a carrot? Isn’t it wonderful to know the name of the farmer who planted the seed that came alive with exactly the nutrients our body needs for this day?

Posted in Healthy, Nutrition Tagged with:

Ask a Tree to Help You

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Standing Meditation

Standing meditation is mostly the same as sitting meditation – you only need to add a few mechanics.

Legs affect/determine Pelvic Alignment & Balance

Your feet should be shoulder width apart. If your lower back hurts, bend your knees a little (but the more you bend your knees the less time you’ll be able to stand). The goal is to have your legs as straight as possible while keeping your pelvis tucked under. The most important thing is having your heels shoulder width apart. If your feet are too close together, your shape becomes an inverted triangle that wobbles easily. If your feet are too far apart, your lower torso gets tired easily.

Arms can change relaxation, gravity, energy flow
  1. Hands down, at your sides, palms facing your hips. Position #1 on chart
  2. Palms facing backwards, elbows slightly bent.
  3. Palms facing front. Position #6 on chart.
  4. Arms raised horizontally to heart level, palms facing your chest. Position #3 on chart. This one is called Embracing the Moon and bringing it to your chest. This is considered a good pose to prevent cancer, because it stimulates your body to make more white blood cells. Three arm elevation options (above your heart, at your heart, slightly below your heart), move your fingers closer together or farther apart, bring your hands in closer to your chest or farther away. If your shoulders start to get too tense, bring your hands in closer (do not raise your arms or that will increase the tension).

Our bodies are designed to move, and then the energy moves inside us.

Standing meditation is a Safer Practice than sitting meditation if you have lots of head energy, since it takes energy to stand. If you’re sitting, then there is more energy for thoughts to bounce around inside your head.

Eyes – keep them open with a soft gaze if you are outside, closed if you are inside.

Homework: do this meditation every day, outside if possible. Look at something green every day. Ask a tree to help you.

Posted in Meditation Tagged with:

Having an Existential Tantrum?

image In Letting Go, Harriet Brown writes about the meaning of forgiveness. Most people know that forgiving is good for you, but most people don’t know how to do it. Fred Luskin, who wrote Forgive for Good and has been studying forgiveness for 20 years, says there are only two steps in the process: grieving and letting go. Grieving is necessary if you have been wrongfully hurt by another. Luskin says that the process of forgiveness is to let go of anger and hurt by being mindful and focusing on gratitude and kindness. He says

Forgiveness concepts are simple. It’s the execution that’s hard.

Luskin provides 9 Steps to Forgiveness as a starting point.

Kathleen Lawler-Row, a psychology professor at East Carolina University, thinks that the benefits of forgiveness go beyond lowering blood pressure and improving sleep. She says that

once you forgive someone for something very painful, you never experience life the same way again. You’re more flexible, less black-and-white in your expectations of how life or other people will be. If there’s one thing that characterizes people who have experienced forgiveness, it’s that kind of larger perspective: I can’t predict what life will hand me, but I’m going to respond to it in this way.

The experts quoted in the article believe that forgiveness is a choice any of us can make at any time, no matter the content we’re wrestling with. Harriet is dealing with anger towards her mother, which is an ongoing situation rather than something that happened in the past and is over and done with. She asks Luskin “What if the person who hurt you in the past keeps hurting you over and over, in the present?” He interrupts her before she gets the last words out, saying that it’s not happening now, this second, and tells her to try again. So then she asks

How can you keep yourself safe with a difficult person?

He tells her that is the right question, because it gets rid of the blame and the enemy. He asks if she can follow through on her own suggestion with an open heart.

Forgiveness requires a conscious decision and you have to invite it in with an open heart.

Posted in Medicine, Meditation, Positive psychology

Forgiveness as a Soup Question

tomato soup In the wonderful movie Finding Forrester, Jamal asks the recluse William Forrester why his tomato soup gets thick but the soup his mother made at home was always watery. The answer was

Probably because your mother was brought up in a house…
…that never wasted milk in soup.

Forrester then tells Jamal that

The object of a question is to obtain information that matters only to us.

August is Forgiveness month. Every day we practice an act of forgiving. August first I had something huge to work with, but by the second I was already out of ideas so I watched a documentary called The Power of Forgiveness. Afterwards, I checked out the website references they had listed in the film to get specific guidelines for forgiveness. The links were not very helpful, so that day I forgave them for having such lame links on forgiveness. It seemed like a cop out. I found the most helpful information on Zenhabits: How to Let Go and Forgive.

Yesterday I treated myself to watching Healing From Within, which is volume 3 of the Bill Moyers special on Healing and the Mind. That volume covers Eastern Meditation and Western Group Psychotherapy. The eastern meditation class taught people who couldn’t be helped by traditional medicine how to live with their condition in the present moment and the group psychotherapy involved women whose breast cancer had metastasized. The breast cancer patients who participated in the study lived twice as long as other women who received the exact same medical care but did not have the same support group. The doctor who led the support group made the observation that the women got the most out of it if they were willing to open up and share their emotions and feelings honestly with each other.

So now my criteria for forgiveness is letting go and forgiving something that matters to me.

Today I saw this wonderful quote from Marianne Williamson

The past doesn’t determine your future unless you carry it with you into the present. Forgiving yourself and others, you free the universe to begin again at any moment.

That is the real power of forgiveness.

Posted in Positive psychology

The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have

This little book is one of those daily inspirational message books. One of the things that I really like about it is that the author puts so much of himself in it. It makes the messages more personal than a random here-is-a-quote-that-I-like-now-what-else-can-I-say-about-it-x(365). The author has faced death from cancer and now knows how important it is to experience life.

Posted in Book review

The Essence of Place

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One of the things I used to love about going to San Francisco on business was flying out Saturday night and buying a Sunday Chronicle newspaper. The Datebook pink section advertised special events. I could open up the paper, drink coffee, and plan out the day. It was totally spontaneous – what did I want to do today? No kids or anyone else to consult.

One Sunday morning there was going to be a talk given by an expert on virtual reality, which was a relatively new concept at the time. I went to the lecture, expecting to hear the latest technical details. The guy talked briefly about how they had experimented with taking movie cameras in cars and airplanes to record visual data. Then he spent the rest of the two hours talking about why that would never work.

He said that he had found it was impossible to capture the essence of a place digitally. Sure, you can capture snapshots of the visual and auditory environment. But that doesn’t tell you about what is important about that place or everything that is happening there, including smells and textures. Or the people. Or the sense of change that happens when the same place is different next time you go there.

Ever since that lecture, I have changed the way I visit places. Now I seek out what is special about that particular place at that particular time. The picture at the top of this post was taken in Portland at the Chinese Garden, Over 500 tons of rock was shipped from China for the garden, and 50 chinese workers spent 10 months putting every rock in place. I had worn my vibram shoes that day, so it was wonderful to feel the rocks beneath my feet. When I looked down and saw my toes on the rocks, it made me laugh because I felt my toes were in perfect harmony with the rocks.

Posted in Positive psychology Tagged with:

Love the Hell that You’re In

One of the most striking comments I heard at WDS was from Danielle LaPorte. She was describing her formative years of growing up as “white trash.” I don’t remember the specifics of her childhood, but I was spellbound when I heard her say “You have to love the hell that you’re in before you can leave it.”

You rarely hear someone talk about any reasons to stay in a hell-hole. They do say wherever you go, there you are. If you don’t find the lesson before you escape, the lesson follows you.

Danielle said that if you have made a decision to leave, you need to set a date and honor it or you betray yourself. I come from a long line of people who believe that the promises you make to other people are more important than the promises you make to yourself. You think there’s always going to be time for working out or relaxing later, but that time never comes.

She encouraged us all to make a “Stop Doing This” list. I mentally started the list at WDS. At the top was to stop feeling responsible for a website that the corporate office behind it no longer wanted. Second on the list was to stop being a realtor. Everything has changed about the real estate market and the players since we got into it seven years ago. It had turned into nothing more than a continual monetary vampire. It was no longer fun.

Danielle left us with the thought that “The universe wants you to win.” That was one of the things I found most helpful in overcoming my fear of public speaking – that the audience wants you to be successful. It is much more positive to look at things that way.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

Awesome

While we were watching Neil Pasricha’s TEDxToronto talk about Awesome at WDS I kept thinking that I wanted to share his message with my kids. I decided to show it at my son’s girlfriend Deanna’s birthday celebration. We had already watched it again after we got back from WDS, to make sure I could find it and also to review the message. I wasn’t sure if talking about the finiteness of our lifetimes, suicide, and divorce would be too heavy for a celebration of a 21 year old college senior. We screened it for the birthday bash last Saturday, and it was a huge hit.

The three A’s of Awesome that Neil talks about in his video are

  • Attitude – maintaining a positive attitude even when things happen in our life that we don’t like. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, we can’t control what happens to us but we can control our reaction to it.
  • Awareness – Neil encourages us all to get in touch with our inner three year old, to continue to see the world through fresh eyes as though we’re seeing everything for the first time. This requires us to be present.
  • Authenticity – I loved the part about Rosey Grier (born on July 14th!) being comfortable enough with who he is to pursue his inner direction.

My daughter Molly has an email group on her website called Awesome, which she hasn’t used since she was in college at Madison. I loved the idea of it – sharing awesome things with awesome people. There was never any sarcasm or mean-spirited comments. All the posts were positive and helpful. Great concept, Mollio!

Posted in WDS - World Domination Summit Tagged with:

Great Bowls O’ Fire! John T. Unger at #WDS

John T. Unger, pic by Armosa Studios

John T. Unger

John T. Unger has clearly led a fiery, colorful life. He shared several personal stories with us in one of his talks at last weekend’s World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon, some dramatic and maybe even a little crazy sounding, but all authentic aspects of his personal dynamic:

In his youth, he won the championship swingset jump, and he still says his hip is not the same. He’s been attacked by a bald eagle. He and his buddies used to play “Catch the Spear”, tossing hand-sharpened ash poles back and forth for fun (Listen!). He has roller-skated down a Swiss Alp, never having roller-skated before. (He didn’t know how to stop, but once he overtook a moving car he was able to grab on and slow to a stop.) As part of his young adulthood, he has lived in a big-ass red truck under the Roosevelt bridge (“It was nice–it had a queen-size bed in it!”), making music and writing poetry. He once spent ten long minutes with a loaded gun to his head, held by an angry and deranged cab driver, during which John talked him out of pulling the trigger.

As he put it, discerning the difference between an emergency and a problem, and deciding to make the difference between disaster and opportunity are critical skills we should all practice, learn, and refine.

John talked about using the principles of Tai Chi to make use of the momentum of a disaster by riding its energy forward rather than being crushed by it. He did that with the profound gunpoint incident, deciding not to sweat the less important stuff, and instead focusing on his creative artistry.

He has been making art professionally since about 1995, and has made a full-time living as an artist since 2000. His medium is mainly working in “big steel stuff”, creating signature firebowls. A John T. Unger FirebowlSpeaking to our group of ~500 entrepreneurs at the World Domination Summit, Unger said “there are layers of meaning encoded in the materials. Like I’ll use a propane torch to cut flame shapes in a former industrial container for flammable gas, to make a fire bowl you can have a fire in– even a gas fire!”

Indeed, the materials John Unger uses are entirely repurposed. As he has said, “I believe creative re-use has the potential to spark new ways of looking at the world… if one thing can be turned into another, what else can we change? Successful recycled art encourages creativity in others— it’s alchemical, magical, subversive, and transformative by nature.”

On the way to a successful art career, he has been a poet and writer, a tech geek, a print and web designer, illustrator, industrial designer, musician, teacher, actor, set designer and even a paid guru once. Along the way, he has seized business, marketing, and legal aspects of his art, and learned how to master each one.

In his closing remarks, he added, “The first thing about business and marketing as an artist is, people lavish attention and money on you… What’s not to like?? The thing is, the minute somebody wants to buy your stuff, you realize you have at least that much in common– I like my art, they like my art… I’m a big fan of me, so are they…”

John T. Unger — What’s not to like?

Thank you, John!

Visit and see his work at www.JohnTUnger.com

Posted in Art, T'ai Chi, WDS - World Domination Summit Tagged with:

More T’ai Chi book recommendations

Here’s a list of titles not already on the reading list Julie Cisler brings to T’ai Chi classes:

  • Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan – by Fu Zhongwen, trans. by Louis Swaim
  • T’ai Chi’s Ancestors – by Douglas Wile
  • The Tao of Tai-Chi Chuan: Way to Rejuvenation – by Jou Tsung Hwa
  • On Tai Chi Chuan – by T.Y. Pang
  • T’ai-Chi Ch’uan: Its Effects and Practical Applications – by Yearning K. Chen
  • Tai Chi Chuan: An Investigation into the Methods of Practice – by Hsu Fun Yuen
  • The Taijiquan Classics – by Barbara Davis
  • Lost T’ai-Chi Classics From the Late Ch’ing Dynasty – by Douglas Wile
  • T’ai Chi Classics – by Waysun Liao
Posted in T'ai Chi