The Importance of Soil

This past year, as part of our journey into meditation and living a more mindful life, Mark and I began listening to talks and lectures covering topics about Buddhism, Taoism, spirituality… The app Insight Timer which is our go-to app for all things mediations also has a number of courses and talks. The talks vary in length depending on topic and teachers- some as short as 4 minutes long, others over an hour.

One of the teachers we follow is Sadhguru. Sadhguru and the Isha Foundation are dedicated to raising human consciousness and fostering global harmony through individual transformation. Sadhguru (Jagadish “Jaggi” Vasudev) started teaching yoga in southern India in 1982. He established the Isha Foundation ten years later. According to their website as part of their mission, “the foundation offers a variety of programs that provide methods for anyone to attain physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Its offerings allow participants to deepen their experience of life, and reach their ultimate potential.”

Sadhguru gives great talks – he has a wonderful sense of humor which you don’t expect from an Indian yogi. “Stop Limiting Life’s Possibility”, A Crash Course to Become More Receptive”, Enjoy the Creation” and “Inner Engineering” are just a few of the wonderful talks he has on Insight Timer. It was Mark who always does the deep diving and found Sadhguru’s website which introduced us to the Isha Foundation and his other projects.

Specifically, my ears perked up when I started to hear him discuss the importance of soil. I was a research analyst who covered the agribusiness and water sectors in another lifetime. During this time, I first learned about the importance of our soil and how our global soil is in trouble. Soil degradation is not just a problem that Americans face but also a worldwide issue.  So when I heard Sadhguru talking about it, I was intrigued.

Save Soil – Conscious Planet is a global movement launched by Sadhguru to save soil from extinction, and bring the necessary policies to address the catastrophic issue facing humanity.

This movement has garnered support from global leaders including Marc Benioff, Jane Goodall, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and institutions such as United Nations – Convention to Combat Desertification, World Economic Forum, World Food Programme, Food & Agriculture Organization of United Nations.”

#Savesoil

Yesterday was the first day of spring! A day that everybody starts to look at the ground more in anticipation of the arrival of the beautiful colorful flowers which grace our earth. Others are testing their soil and preparing their beds for planting.

Sadhguru began a quest to bring more awareness to people about the importance of our earth’s soil. Yesterday he embarked on a 100-day journey from the United Kingdom to India. 26 countries, 30,000 kilometers on his motorcycle. Sadhguru has worked for two decades to bring awareness to this soil crisis.

In 2004 he started the Project GreenHands initiative which resulted in 35 million saplings being planted over the years. They even hold the Guinness World Record for most saplings planted in a day. 6,284 trees were planted across 27 districts in Tamil Nadu, India in 2006. During the three day event, 852,587 trees were planted.

Too many people don’t fully comprehend why it is imperative to focus our attention on the global soil crisis. Sadhguru continues his mission to raise conscious awareness of the importance of our soil so that there will be nutritional soil to grow food for generations to come.

He has asked people to help him raise awareness about the soil crisis by talking about it or with your friends and family in person or on social media. I join this him in this mission – I have understood the importance of our soil for decades and have been frustrated with how our world seems to take it for granted.

When Mark and I ran our business, Homegrown Harvest, we started it to help to make it easier for people to grow some of their own food. We taught people about the quality of their soil and how commercial agriculture has decimated our farmlands with chemicals, over-fertilization, mono-cropping, and destroying the microbial organisms with heavy machinery.

I gave many talks at local libraries and clubs to help educate people about the degradation of our farmlands, encouraging people to grow some of their own food so that they will be able to increase the nutritional quality of what they eat by planting in healthy soil.

We also made it a point to teach people to be gentler with their soil and not use root-tillers that destroy the microbial organisms which are so important to good soil.

Awareness is just one step in the right direction; however, I feel that everyone can make an effort towards saving our soil each day, simply by composting their food waste. Landfills are one of the largest anthropogenic sources of the methane gas produced by this world. Food waste is about 22% of what ends up in landfills and it can not organically decompose which results in the output of methane gas. Composting food waste would keep food waste out of landfills and would nutritionally benefit the environment’s soil.

Another way that people can make a difference is by helping to plant more trees. Today is International Day of Forests, a day in which we should reflect on the importance of our global forests. Trees are a crucial ingredient in helping our lands maintain healthy soil. Their roots help maintain the soil structure, helping to reduce erosion. Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s article How Trees Make A Difference to learn more.

A Year of Mindfulness and Meditation

A little over a year ago my mother died and about a year ago I started a new habit of daily meditation. After my mother’s death, I felt untethered and my mind was overwhelmed with emotions, feeling, questions and thoughts. I needed to regain some control. There are so many things in life that we can’t control. When I get upset, I clean. It’s the one thing I can control when things seem to be spiraling out of control.

I write in a journal on a daily basis and have for well over a decade and have diaries that date back to 1980! Writing is a form of meditation for me – a download of thoughts and emotions. I found this to be incredibly helpful for me to proceed with my days having dumped out whatever was on my mind earlier that morning on paper. Unlike right now where I am typing this article directly into my computer; my diary is handwritten. I love the feeling of pen to paper. I find that therapeutic in of itself. However, I needed some tools in my tool belt to be able to help calm me down sometimes for when sitting down with pen and paper is not an option.

Many years ago when my life was spiraling out of control, I started having panic attacks. So I turned to meditation. I started a little each morning here and there. That was about 7 years ago now. I had been meditating on and off for many years but never every day as I have in the last 346 consecutive days (and counting). I have meditated 577 days using my Insight Timer app over the course of all those years.

I like the Insight Timer app since you can learn to meditate through the app which offers a wide range of guided meditations of varying lengths and focuses. I have listened to a number of talks and lectures about Buddhism, Taoism and more. I have used their app at bedtime at times when I need a guided meditation to help me drop off to sleep. They even have bedtime tales you can choose from – one night I fell asleep to The Velveteen Rabbit read to me. By the way, I don’t get anything from them to talk about them. I just really have enjoyed using their app.

I enjoy the way Insight Timer is set up allowing for searching by topics such as Affirmations, Chakras, Mantra, Mindfulness, Pranayama, Vipassana, Walking Mediations and Zen. Both Zazen and Kōan. If you want to use their timer feature to create your own customized meditation timer with the ability to use starting, interim and ending bells, chimes, gongs, or nothing at all. You can set background music or sounds or mediate in silence. You set the time and can save your presets. They make everything quite easy for you.

You can also save your favorites and can follow teachers that you like. They encourage you to donate to the teachers and make that easy for you to do charging it to your Apple Pay account. The teachers are from all over the world.

After so long by far one of our favorite teachers has become DavidJi from Los Angeles, CA. He offers a number of courses and we have taken three of the four of them that he offers on the Insight Timer. Mark and I dove into The 40 Days of Transformation where he guided us through meditations, intention setting, yoga philosophy, pranayama and so much more.

We were hooked after completing the forty days and followed it up with his course 30 Day Journey to Rebirth. We have also done his Awaken The Sacred Power of Shakti this year and plan on taking The Healing Sessions: Freeing Your Soul Through The Second Meditation of the Day.

Early on, we took the Masterclass –Mindfulness and Meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn. This was an extremely helpful class to take which broke down a lot of questions that we had about mediation and ways to do it, what it was all about, etc… Soon after finishing that class I bought Mark and I both proper mediation cushions and pillows to ensure that, as David Ji says “Comfort is Queen and feather your nest” so that you can be still during your mediation practice. It’s amazing the difference the right set up can make which will allow me to sit still and “drop in” to meditation for 30 minutes or more. Sometimes without moving at all. Other times, I may have to stretch a leg to regain circulation.

I have found that this new habit is addictive and I will do what I need to protect my precious time to sit on the cushion, although sometimes I will be laying down, using on my acupressure mat or on some ice packs for the time. It has opened a door up to so many other doors. Mark and I find ourselves exploring Buddhism, Taoism, Collective Consciousness just to begin with.

I have learned a few things about myself and what I am capable of. I have found that I have a calmness within that I am able to tap into when things around me start to get crazy. Mark and I have started to introduce Tai Chi into our lives. Although it is not a daily practice yet but that is our goal to incorporate it into our daily practice. I look forward to this continued journey of discovery.

Namaste.

Meditation

For the last five years or so, we have been trying to get in the habit of mediating. We’d be on a roll for a while and then something would interrupt our flow and we wouldn’t mediate, then we’d try again but never been able to make it stick.

This year has been different, in more ways than one. We’ve been meditating on a fairly regular basis this year. The quarantine kicked it into high gear, and we are on a regular roll. I found mediating particularly helpful in early March when the shit was hitting the fan for our family in more ways than the lockdown and COVID19. Our family was dealing with some personal stuff which highlighted to me how life continued despite the quarantine. I found that there were more moments where I started to feel panicky, the anxiety levels were entering uncharted territory. Mark and I weren’t able to be together for three weeks (one week away, two weeks in quarantine) – away from me and the kids. He’d been out in the Petri dish, we had to be cautious.

It was during this time that I clung to my meditation sessions although I had altered when I did them. Mark and I always start our day out with mediation but during that time we were separated I needed to mediate at night when I was alone in our bed. I never have trouble sleeping – it drives Mark insane since I can fall asleep in the midsentence while talking to him in bed at night. He needs to read and unwind. My head hits the pillow and I’m out cold. By 8pm. I wake anytime between 4am and 5am usually though.

But in mid-March when everything was so uncertain, I needed help falling asleep as my mind would race with all sorts of thoughts. I turned to my mediation app which I knew had nighttime, help you fall asleep mediations. I need guidance to help settle my mind.

The app we use, Insight Timer has all sorts of meditations that you can easily filter the length of time, whether you want background music or not, whether you prefer a male or a female voice, the benefits you seek, etc…They also offer courses and after over a year of using the app, we have decided to give a try. Later this morning we will do Day 8 of our 10-day course, each day has been building upon the next; teaching us how to body scan and different visualization techniques. It also keeps track of how much we’ve mediated and rewards us with milestones that help encourage you on your progress. Since using the app, I’ve meditated for a total of 2.5k minutes and reached 7 milestones. One of which is 128 days with at least one session and another being that I have meditated 23 consecutive days. I believe that is a record for me. As I said doing it everyday in the beginning was the challenge as we worked towards working it into our routine.

Since Mark has been out of quarantine, we have gone back to our usual morning sessions. My daughter would join us in the mornings when she was here – sometimes coming downstairs to sit with us in the family room while we meditated, other times simply joining in from her bedroom upstairs as she would sometimes wake up to our sessions. I’d love to get my son more involved as I know it would be a good habit for him to get into. He was usually sound asleep when we meditated. We have found our sweet spot to be around 7am before 8am when the phone starts to ring and we start off our work day. We work from home, so we have control over the schedule but have found it best to get things started earlier than latter here in the homestead.

Life is always about having to deal with unknowns, they just aren’t usually on the intensity level that they have been recently. Life will always throw you curve balls and you just try to deal with them a pitch at a time. The mediation sessions have helped me deal with each pitch, by helping me to take a step back, take a deep breath and calm my mind and my body which has allowed me to take on the challenges of life a little more effectively.

Sweet Mutiny

Things are going to be a little less sweet in the mornings… The cries for better nutrition and less sugary breakfast cereals could possibly send Captain Crunch into retirement soon. The good ole’ sugary sweetness that has kick started so many kids, myself included, has fallen from no.1 to obscurity. Shamed for having being too sugary and therefore the cause of every obese kid or adult out there.  In the 12 gram of sugar category, you have in the line up famous tasty morning treats such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops. General Mills is a little sweeter in this category with their menu of Trix, Cookie Crisps and Lucky Charms. Yeah, they’re magically delicious – 13grams of yummy sugar goodness.  One of my absolute favorite Kellogg’s Apple Jacks weighs in at 15g of sugar!  Explains why switching to Cheerios at 1g of sugar made them taste like cardboard circles at first. In the 15g group Apple Jacks sits next to Corn Pops and Smacks, all of which are Kellogg’s products. Smacks, btw, used to be called Sugar Smacks, but this obviously is no longer politically correct so they simply tossed the word sugar but didn’t bother to lower the sugar content.  Smacks sounds stupid to me. I’m sorry, I’m old school – give me my Sugar Smacks and Saturday Morning Cartoons!!

But if you take a very close look at the various ready-to-eat cereals, you’ll notice something very disturbing – many so called newer ‘healthy’ cereals out there and that is they have shit load of sugar in them!  Again, I’m not talking about the old school guys like Quaker Oats Cheerios (1g), Kellogg’s Corn Chex (3g), or General Mills’ Wheaties (4g). I’m referring to Muesli, dried fruit & nuts which has a whopping 26g of sugar! Wheaties Raisin Bran has 18g! Frosted Cheerios 13g – see it takes at least 12 grams of sugar to make those little round things taste good!