Ayurveda is a plan for self-cultivation. It is a set of guidelines about how to live well and in the end how to die well too. 

Recently my mom succumbed to a sudden illness. For years she had been saying that if she got sick she would refuse the poisons and machinery of modern medicine, refuse the prolonging of the inevitable. She was preparing my sister and I for the choice that she made -- to allow the natural course of things. 

My mother was an expert knitter, spinner, water-colorist, dressage rider, cook. She dabbled in cello and sarcasm and half a dozen other arts.  Mostly she was a master gardener. She loved the fertility she found in the Central Coast after a life in the cultural brutality of the Midwest. When she first moved to California her gardens were dense and lush; like they had been in the moist Midwest. With time her attitude towards gardening morphed;  if it thrives encourage it, if it does not let it go. Her garden was a mix of the carefully cultivated and upstart volunteer plants growing where they chose. She had become more a facilitator than an imperialist. There are tomatoes growing with the impatiens, onions in all the flower pots, roses and herbs together. Especially in these years of drought the garden took on a sort of zen cacophony.

This is how she lived and how she died. With an ear to the rhythms of nature and what that implies for us. 
 

The pomegranate tree in the front yard was fruiting in early fall as my mother passed. Persephone descends to the underworld for the dark months of the year with only 6 pomegranate seeds to eat. In Persephone's absence fall comes, all the land goes barren, humans starve. Persephone is divided between her love for her mother and her love for the King of the Underworld. A deal is struck and in the end she cycles between Hades and her mother Demeter. Summer and winter mirror her movements. 
This has always been a favorite myth of mine. There is death, love, mystery, longing and reunion, the promise of rebirth and the inevitability of natural cycles. It is a core myth of western civilization and it teaches that these things are the stuff of life; not just the fun easy bits. It is the knowledge of nature and it's patterns and the ability to live well within them that civilizes us. 

I am fortunate to have been cultivated in such a garden.


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What feeds your Body, feeds your Mind (& more subtle levels of Self too)

This may seem New-Age-y but the roots of these ideas are found in many traditional practices, like Ayurveda, where the underlying assumption is that all levels of our being reflect one another. In this video I talk with Stacy Vajta of Expanded Pathways and Elicia Woodford of Awakening360 about Candida, or Krumi, but every 'dis-ease' of mind needs to be healed by creating balance in the body and every dis-ease of the body is ultimately mirroring something going on in the subtle levels.

How do we work with this on a practical, at-home level? Notice how you feel when you eat, exercise, fall asleep. These emotional energetic states will determine how the food or experience you are taking in effects your body. If you eat that piece of cake with an attitude of reverence and calm appreciation it will have a very different effect on your body then if you eat it with a feeling of guilty shame or self loathing. Normal body processes are clearly impacted by our emotional states. This is why cultivating Sattwa, or calm alertness, is a life-long goal.

Towards this end we can:

  • Take foods and herbs that that calm the mind and avoid those that aggravate it.
  • Maintain regularity in our daily schedules. Both mind and body are soothed by knowing what comes next.
  • Have a regular meditation practice and cultivation of consciousness in everything we do and feel.
  • See a skilled energy worker to help through the rough spots (Contact Stacy at Expandedpathways.com)

How to eat for a calm mind:

The key is to avoid things which are either stimulating (creating an over active mind and eventual 'crash') or sedating (causing dullness).

  • Avoid anything with chemicals in it.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine and anything obviously mind altering.
  • Avoid Extreme Foods (super spicy, super intense flavors, lots of meat, garlic or onions).
  • Keep eggs, potatoes and mushrooms to a minimum.

Do eat what makes you feel satisfied:

  • Fragrant foods calm the mind.
  • Wheat, Milk, Almonds, Ghee. Keep in mind that foods that are calming are often heavy and nourishing. Have them in small doses-- 5 soaked almonds is a serving!
  • Freshly prepared foods will always make you feel better than anything left-over or stale.
  • Rose, basil or Tulasi, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, fresh ginger and turmeric