Our actions should never involve unnecessary strain, force or intervention. Keep your actions natural and spontaneous in order to find your own balance and momentum. Stay relaxed so as not to impede the process of ‘non-doing’. Our actions are more authentic, more true, if we can allow nature, rather than force, to guide us.
These are some of the central ideas in Wuwei, a key aspect of the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, and it encourages us to practice ‘going with the flow’, allowing our actions to be relaxed, spontaneous and natural, thus avoiding tension and unnecessary effort.
Seeking simplicity is for me not only about making eco-wise and efficient choices regarding the environment, my health and my home. Our thinking guides our actions, and if we find ourselves feeling under constant pressure to get things done and to get them done just right, we may want to step back a bit to a simpler, kinder way of relating to ourselves. It is all too easy to get caught up in over-thinking, which leads to tension and anxiety and can take the joy out life. We start to fear change: new opportunities are instead perceived as unwanted challenges and we start anticipating difficulties rather than possibilities ahead. I am speaking from direct experience here! And even mundane, repetitive action (housework, anyone?) can feel like less of a chore if we can relax into it rather than approaching it with a sense of dread and a feeling of tension. There is always room for improvement in the way we think about ourselves in relation to the tasks that we set ourselves and to the tasks that life itself sometimes unexpectedly presents to us.
Read Soon Teo’s fascinating posts about the power of Tao Here.
1.“The One you are looking for is the One who is looking.” (St Francis of Assisi).Beautifully explained in this post.
2. ““There exists a deep ecological tradition in Vedic culture by which human settlement, forests and water resources are carefully balanced. To achieve that balance, nature’s welfare and human welfare cannot be separated each other.” Chris Terry explains the Vedic ecology at the core of the Small Farm Training Centre, in an article from the Huffington Post.
3.“Really, to have a life of doing you need to not do.” (Will Rosenzweig talking about the Tao). Read about the four levels of non-doing, and how it may sometimes be necessary to be detached from things that you care deeply about.
4. “Animals move; people can learn about movement from animals. House pets stretch all day long, creating space in their joints. Animals sit in different kinds of positions. Monkeys and apes do things with their hands. Perhaps as humans we need to reclaim our four- leggedness. Getting down on all fours stimulates the pranic flow. Sitting in chairs tightens the hamstrings and the lower back. Animals don’t sit on furniture; they have not built things contrary to their nature.” (Denise Kaufman). From theEncyclopedia of Religion and Nature (London & New York: Continuum, 2005) Edited by Bron Taylor
5.”Whats in your cup? ….When life gets tough, what spills over for you?” fromZEN FLASH “The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step”
Many people today are interested in meditation in a more ‘functional’ way, perhaps as a means to help us to manage stress or health issues and to help us to cope with our busy, demanding lives. Meditation therefore is something we might look to simply as a tool to help us to manage our daily demands.
In his book YOGA(6th Edition_ 1983), Swami Venkatesananda describes meditation as “..the art of realising the universal self, beyond the ego-sense” and as a state of being and awareness where “..the ‘I’ has disappeared and only consciousness remains”
Swami Venkatesananda spent many years as a recluse and ascetic disciple. His yoga practice extended to serving humanity and he believed in teaching through his word and example the ideal of an enlightened life. He believed that there is a way for us all to benefit from a meditation practice and believed in a ‘common sense’ view of our seemingly complex problems.
So how CAN we use meditation in a ‘common sense’ way, in a way that helps us to feel calmer, happier, healthier and more in control of our lives?
I have used my own morning meditation routine as an example of a light meditation practice before starting the day. The practice can take as short a time or as long as you like, even five minutes if that is all you have. I sit for fifteen minutes on average. The important thing is to make it part of your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.
First, I make sure I have a hot cup of tea in my hands and I sit comfortably in bed with my back supported by pillows. The routine is more or less as follows: Continue reading →
I imagine that most people reading my blog share some of my interests and concerns about the health of the planet, and individual personal health as well. Just as I care about my own health and well being, I care about the health and well being of the environment that nurtures and supports me. Enjoying life and remaining optimistic is a priority too, otherwise what’s the point of it all! We know that as consumers our choices have impact, and if we care about the environment, we will want our choices not to add to current problems.
Yet we can’t always have exactly what we want. In a perfect world I would have nutritious, wholesome foods and healthy non-toxic self care and household products, all responsibly produced and packaged, and locally made to reduce the problem of travel distances and the accompanying carbon footprint. Everything I use and eat would be from natural origin, from sustainable resources, incur no harm to animals, and be created in an environment where fair labour practice is upheld.
Even your bulk buy, unpackaged purchases might raise some questions for you, depending on your key issues: “What carbon footprint did it leave to get to the bulk bins? Is it a natural product? Is it cruelty free? What are the working conditions of the farmers/workers who helped bring it to the store? Is it locally sourced/ packaged?” And realistically, let’s not forget “What is the cost of this and can I even afford it?” The list can go on and it gets overwhelming (speaking from experience!) when you are looking for a seamless, perfect scenario and if you expect yourself to have all the answers.
I can recall occasions, even very recently, where I have stood in the shopping aisle staring at huge, catering sized jars of pickles thinking “yes, I know it’s less packaging in the long run, but how long is THAT going to sit opened and partially eaten in the fridge at home?” and “these retail priced boxes of Epsom Salts are packaged in cardboard, whereas my usual cheaper wholesaler sells hers in single use plastic, so which is the better choice?”
And that’s just at the supermarket!
At home you notice (again) that your kitchen cupboards are rife with tired looking plastic food containers, many with lids long lost at some birthday picnic or office canteen, and you wonder if you should just replace the whole lot. But you’re not sure because you don’t know if recycling an item in order to replace it is the Greenthing to do. Thislink tells you about using plastic for food from a personal health point of view.
So to get back to the title of this post: what things do you already know and have at your disposal? What exists in your home, in your cupboards and closets and in your fridge, that is already working for you and/ or you could make better use of ? I have found that by starting with what you already have and know, you are more likely to want to continue. Here are some suggestions: Continue reading →
“We all tend to see our bodies as “frozen sculptures”- solid, fixed material objects- when in truth they are more like rivers, constantly changing, flowing patterns of intelligence.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared “You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are forever flowing in.”
The same is true of the body…. Your adipose tissues (fat cells) …is exchanged every three weeks. You acquire a new stomach lining every five days (the innermost layer of stomach cells is exchanged in a matter of minutes as you digest food). Your skin is new every five weeks. Your skeleton…is entirely new every three months….You appear to be the same outwardly, yet you are like a building whose bricks are constantly being replaced by new ones. Every year, fully 98% of the total number of atoms in your body are replaced- this has been confirmed by radioisotope studies at the Oak Ridge laboratories in California.
This constant stream of change is controlled at the quantum level of the mind body system.”
“It is not simply a cute phrase to say we are what we eat: it is an absolute truism. Every cell in each of our bodies gets replaced on a regular basis — some within hours, some years. The bones that are my skeleton today were made of entirely different cells just a few years ago, and those new bone cells came from what I ate (and drank and breathed). We are of the Earth, and it is of us. The “environment” is not something out there, separate from us: it is a description of the continuum in which we exist.”
Deepak Chopra’s point about the quantum body is perhaps a conversation for another day. The quantum level is, according to physics, the level at which matter becomes energy, and in Ayurvedic treatment, it is at this level, including in our thoughts and attitudes, that potential for true change and healing exists.
“What is minimalism then?…it’s living lightly and gracefully on the earth. … its uncovering who you are.” Francine Jay
I like the way that this quote points to two issues, without separating them:
1)Francinerefers to ‘uncovering who we are’ which leads me to a few questions: Do I have some ‘uncovering’ to do? What are the things that I need and love? What things can I do without, and am I able to let go of these? What are my non-negotiables, the true essentials that add value to my lifestyle and to my life as a whole? What things that I own express my own true needs and preferences, and which do not?
2) She also refers to ‘Living Lightly and Gracefully on the Earth’, which for me is about living with care and consideration for the earth under our feet, and for the environment that surrounds us and gives us life. Minimalism is about living with less and implies going smaller, not bigger.
“Continuous expansion on a finite planet is not the answer to our challenges: Like our built environment, bigger is not necessarily better. Rather, we need better integration and a recognition of our proper place in the bigger scheme of things”
The use of the word integration reminds us of our deep connection to the world in which we live and that our actions and the choices we make, whether carefully or carelessly, have power and impact.
Our individual motives for Living Lightly, or becoming more Minimalist, is not really the issue here. Whether you have become tired of the clutter in your home and have started giving stuff away to a good cause, or whether your concern for our oceans means you stop using plastic drinking straws in order to help stem pollution, the result is that you are making positive change for yourself and for your environment. This is a step in the right direction towards uncovering who we are and living lightly and gracefully on the earth.
I was a Hatha Yoga Teacher for many years, both while living in Cape Town and up until a few years back here in Johannesburg. The traditional Sanskrit term for yoga breathing is Pranayama, and it encompasses a variety of practices, some of which are quite intense and not intended for the yoga beginner. One of the first things that the new hatha yogi is taught is the importance of the breath as part of the yoga practice. To the outsider, Hatha Yoga may appear to be a series of physical movements and postures, but in fact it goes far deeper to a place where the inner organs and systems, and of course the breath, are involved in the practice.
One of the cornerstones of the practice of yoga is awareness of the breath, which brings me to the point of this article: The importance of the awareness of breathing in daily life. It is a known fact that our thoughts and feelings have a direct impact on our breathing and this in turn affects the inner workings of our body’s vital organs. Feelings of stress tend to cause shallow breathing which restricts the vital flow of oxygen and the removal of impurities in the body. Simply put, we need to breathe effectively in order to perform effectively, and we need to breathe effectively in order to manage the feeling of tension that is inhibiting our breathing in the first place.
The texts we studied from as teachers placed an emphasis on how to BREATHE DEEPER into the abdomen and rib cage in order to optimize the uptake of the breath, and then to extend the exhalation by drawing the rib cage inward to fully empty the lungs.
When I taught my new students about breathing I would encourage them to BREATHE SLOWER, as a starting point.
I believe that to develop “stress free breathing”, we sometimes need to focus simply on breathing slower, as opposed to breathing deeper. Try the following next time you become aware of feelings of stress, tension or shallow breathing: JUST SLOW DOWN. Relax, and don’t force your breathing -it must not feel uncomfortable in any way. Just breathe normally, preferably through the nostrils, but through the mouth is fine if you need to, and allow your breathing to slow down slightly. Feel free to sigh or yawn if you feel the urge- those are good stress relievers too. Continue reading →
Going green is not all plain sailing. Sometimes you need to make a choice as a consumer, knowing that what you have is not perfect.
Case in point:Beauty without Cruelty is very important to me,and I wont use products which are not on their Humane list. Either that, or I make my own beauty and cleaning products from natural ingredients (more about that in future posts). HOWEVER, looking at the Humane list, you may notice that many of the items are packaged in plastic, and are overpackaged in general. This is a problem, as I am trying very hard to avoid bringing plastic into my home, and to slowly replace the plastic containers I already have with more sustainable materials such as glass. And there are other issues to bear in mind, such as whether a product is locally produced or imported (shipping invariably generates carbon emissions and generates packaging waste). And whether the raw materials and fresh produce you purchase are from ethical sources where effects on land, people and animals are considered. Another issue that resonates with me is whether a product contains simple and natural ingredients, rather than the chemicals and synthetics contained in many beauty and cleaning products. So it gets tricky, and sometimes you have to choose your battles depending on what resonates in your heart, or depending on the information that you have and what makes sense to you.
The point is, greening is not an exact science, but more of an art. We need to try and strike the right cords until we can finally stand back and feel satisfied, and hopefully happy, with our choices.
So what works for you? What drives you in terms of being a conscious consumer ? How do you Go Green? And let me know if you think of some issue that I have failed to mention above. I would love to know!
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Ghandi was a man true to himself, a man of peace despite the adversity that confronted him. I love this quote of his. It reminds me that we are immensely powerful and that our words and actions can have an effect on how people around us think, feel and act. You may remember events in your own life where there was tension or anger between two or more people in a room, where high emotion such as anger, hurt or similar negatives were at play. At times like this it may take just one kind word from one individual in order to bring relief where there was tension, or peace where there was war. In such a case, that one individual has exercised their power to give, and to create positive change in the process. How we choose to act and what we choose to say is a choice, and sometimes requires that we be selfless, putting our own needs aside for that moment when we see that it is within our means to create peace. Never doubt the power of your choices, and your ability to be the peacemaker in a difficult moment, where others seem to be at war.
What about you…Have you had the opportunity to help others find peace in a moment of pain? When was the last time you were able to be the voice of calm and reason in a difficult situation?
The experience of clearing out stuff that has become an eyesore, not useful, or that we have simply grown tired of, can be surprisingly rejuvenating and leave with us a renewed energy and a huge sense of relief. How we benefit:
1.We say goodbye to stuff that is no longer adding value to our homes, our health and a positive sense of self, and that may even be hindering our ability to move forward with a sense of purpose. (if it’s still not mended/repaired after 3 months,maybe it’s time to just get rid of it)
2.Decluttering allows us an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-organize our physical space in a way that makes practical sense, thus streamlining and simplifying our routines and activities.(how many kitchen knives do you really need?) We take a fresh look at the things we use and how we can improve our use of our available space. Continue reading →