Monthly Archives: October 2012

Being “There” — A poem about the Redwoods

“The Cathedral” cluster of trees at The Trees of Mystery, a Redwoods park in Northern California. Photo by me.

Before the last ice age, Redwood forest covered over 90 percent of the earth’s surface. The remaining strip, along the California coast, was literally decimated after the 1850 Gold Rush.

“It is estimated that old-growth redwood forest once covered close to 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2) of coastal northern California.[22]96% of all old-growth redwoods have been logged, and almost half (45%) of the redwoods remaining are found in Redwood National and State Parks.” (Read more here.)

So of the remaining 4 percent, only half of that is protected, and only 1/5 of that is actual old-growth trees. My, how things change. Still, the vestiges are glorious. The trees are beautiful, strong and silent beings thousands of years old. You stand there and can’t help but think of bears, Paul Bunyan, native Indians, and Lewis and Clark. The air is of the highest caliber, fresh and leaf-scented, full of high-grade oxygen. You want to breathe deeply, as you stare at the 10-foot wide tree trunks and look up to where the tip soars into the sky.

Last week I went to visit the Redwood forest in northern California. Walking along a state park trail, I started to think about writing a poem that encapsulated what I was feeling. About the sadness of the commercialization I witnessed at The Trees of Mystery. About how hard it is to truly to be in the wild, a place that has no trails, no nearby roads, no signs at all, and zero people. About how different things used to look, how different and more authentic and visceral life used to be. And finally, the dichotomy between the white man’s GAINING versus the old way of BEING, as outlined in Mother Jones’s illuminating 1980 interview with the Indian activist Russel Means. The natives did not own their land, did not seek to dominate, exploit or monetize it. We have carved it up, but boundaries on it, developed it, drilled and fractured it, until there is barely any THERE left.

There

Fifteen dollars to see the trees

Signs marked the path.

A group of Asian tourists asked

“Take our picture, please?”

The way back led, as it always does,

Straight into the gift shop.

Take a trinket home

Commemorate this trip.

Down the road about an hour

We stopped again.

The place was quieter, I heard some birds

And wondered aloud about the bears.

The trail was marked but once

To note it had begun.

We met no one else and felt surrounded

By nature’s presence, alive and well.

These trees were free to see.

Yet as I trod along the well-worn trail

And stopped where dozens must have stopped,

I turned and looked into the wilderness.

You know, the way the world once was.

No trails or roads. Just you and God.

Could I ever step into it? Would I die?

Man no longer knows the ways of plants, the signs of stars

Isn’t one with earth as he once was.

My path is paved; it leads on.

I turn, resigned to parking lots and roads.

This is, after all, a state park,

With rules and camping grounds.

It is not mine. It is no place

To be alone, for long.

On the ride out I hate

The comfort of my seat

The stagnant air.

I long to be back in time,

Wild and free, out there.

How to take a good sh*t

Nice title, right? The truth is, you may have been defecating incorrectly your entire life (well, from potty-trained toddlerhood onward).

“When nature is eased of any surcharge that oppresses it … relieved when overcharged,” the body feels one of its two great pleasures — the other of course is stuffing the other end with food and drink — according to Sir Thomas More in Utopia.

If relieving oneself regularly and easily is one of life’s great pleasures, then being frustrated by irregular and difficult bowel movements is nothing to scoff at. Indeed, a healthy digestive tract and colon is the very foundation of health. Think of the infrastructure of a building or city: The pipes must be clean, sound and flowing, or there will be some serious issues: sewage will get backed up, leading to impaction, infestation, and ultimately, ill health and disease.

We know that plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, moderate exercise (like walking), sound sleep, low stress and lots of water all help move things along. But there is something that virtually all of the oh-so-modern and sophisticated denizens of the civilized Western world are doing to thwart their poop processes.

The history of the toilet is an interesting one; flush toilets are as old as the Indus Valley Civilization circa 26th century BC. But the sit-down, throne-like “pedestal” porcelain version we are so used to using wasn’t invented until the mid-19th century; this contribution to mankind was designed for the Victorian royalty and aristocracy. What was good enough for the queen soon became standard, at least in certain spheres.

Supposedly, it is more civilized to sit than it is to squat. Our ancestors went out to the woods to relieve themselves, and our bodies are totally biologically designed to defecate in this manner. Try it when you are out camping. You will be surprised how quickly it all comes out. You begin to get what Sir Thomas was raving about.

Sitting puts a kink in our intestines and works against our bodies and against gravity. It makes the process less efficient and also causes some fecal matter to remain in the colon, which can lead to colon cancer. Sitting while defecating also can lead to prostate enlargement, prostate cancer and hemorrhoids; and, over a lifetime, leads to the deterioration of a balancing mechanism built into our heels for this purpose. (see this article for more information: http://aprovechoamerica.tripod.com/id10.html).

From a Wikipedia article on toilets in Japan:

A number of medical benefits are attributed to the squat toilet.[31] It has been suggested that the squatting strengthens the pelvic muscles of females, reducing the likelihood of incontinence.[dead link][32] Furthermore, it is said that this toilet builds up strength in the hips, and improves breathing and concentration. The upright squatting position also allows wastes to be eliminated more quickly and completely, reducing fecal transit time. Slow fecal transit is a major risk factor for colon cancer.[33]Other studies find that squatting prevents and cures hemorrhoids.[34] Assuming and maintaining the squatting position on a regular basis may also help maintain the flexibility of the knees.[35]

Squat toilets are very common in Japan, a place that prides itself on civility and cleanliness. (Bidets, another no-brainer, are also popular there as they are in Europe. Come on, America the greatest country on Earth? Not until we get with it in the bathroom). In fact, 75 percent of the world’s population squats to sit. Yes, a lot of this goes on in unsanitary conditions in the third world, but it is also common in developed countries throughout the world — countries such as Japan and France. A variation is the pedestal squat toilet used in India:

File:Pedestal-squat-toilet.jpg

If you don’t have a hole to squat over, don’t despair. You can get close to the same effect (although not quite to Utopian levels of defecatory ecstasy) by pulling up the resident bathroom trashcan and putting your feet on it. Some companies actually sell special foot stools for this purpose, but a trash can or anything that allows your feet to be elevated and your knees to bend will help.

I imagine that our ancestors’ waste matter was great for soil fertility, especially since their diet was largely plant-based. Modern day humans can go for a compost toilet; this one comes complete with attached footstool:

Sun-Mar Excel Self-Contained Composting Toilet, Model# Excel

Although the price is a little much. Shouldn’t pooping be free?

Along similar lines (literally), giving birth to a child is also best done in positions other than lying on one’s back. Documentaries such as The Business of Being Born and Pregnant in America talk about how our (must use the little quotey things) “modern, civilized” approach to birth — hospitals, exorbitant costs, forceps, drugs, pain, and generally long and unpleasant labor — is very unnatural. Many European and Eastern countries use midwives and time-tested methods to give birth at home. These processes are safe and often produce shorter, less painful labor, making the experience much more pleasant and comfortable. The mother should be able to move into a variety of positions (squatting, on all fours, etc.), listening to her body to tell her how to move and work with her body, the baby and with gravity.

These examples are two of many in which we consider ourselves unequivocally advanced and superior to cultures anterior and contemporaneous, but may in fact  be utterly backwards. In my next blog I want to discuss the widely held assumption/misconception of future as equivalent to progress, and how ‘new’ does not always equal ‘better.’

Make your bedroom a Feng Shui paradise

Clear the energies from your bedroom and create a peaceful space that invites relaxation and rejuvenation by using these Feng Shui-based principles:

1) Keep your space pristine. Deep clean with natural cleansers (not harsh chemicals). Clear out all clutter and unnecessary items like old papers and things you don’t use, especially mementos that may carry negative connotations (old bills, pictures that make you feel nostalgic and wistful, broken items, items that conjure negative emotions, work-related items); this includes closets, drawers and under the bed. Make sure all dust is wiped out of corners and in places where it gathers (on top of fan blades, doors, windowsills, picture frames, etc.). Make sure everything is sanitized, including door handles and light switches. Everything must be organized and in its proper place. The more minimalist and symmetrical, the better.

2) Burn incense or candles. Preferably soy candles with pleasant smelling essential oils. Fire is the most powerful way to clean out stagnant energies. This is especially important to do after someone has been sick or depressed.

3) Allow for air circulation. Open windows and turn on a fan. Fresh outdoor air is preferable to the air conditioner. If it is too hot or cold to have the window open indefinitely, then leave it open for an hour with an overhead or floor fan also running to cleanse the air in the room.

4) Use natural lighting. During the day, allow sunlight to bathe the room. When it is night time, use soft lamps and/or candles instead of bright overhead florescent light. The best way to sleep is in complete darkness, with star and moonlight filtering in. Moonlight has a magnetic, alkalizing effect on the body, and is especially beneficial in balancing women’s hormones.

5) Hang a crystal in the window to reflect light into the room and create rainbows on the wall.

6) Bring in natural items from the outside such as stones that have been soaking up sun and moonlight. This creates an anchoring, grounding effect. Sleep with them beside your bed. If you are feeling tense, lay on your back and place one on your forehead. It will soak up your negative energies and leave you feeling relaxed. You can also use them for massages with warm oils.

7) Only allow positive and uplifting thoughts, people, words, images, music and shows. Play beautiful, soothing music as often as possible. If you have a TV or laptop in your room, refrain from watching the news or scary shows and movies before bed. Try reading a good book instead while listening to instrumental music or sounds from nature (rain, wind, waves, running water, night creatures).

8) Keep walls bare, except for maybe one or two powerful images; these images should preferably be of nature (flowers, animals, beautiful landscapes) that evoke feelings of awe and admiration and make you feel empowered, important and connected to the beautiful world. These images can be richly colored, but the rest of the bedroom should be in soft, monochromatic shades.

Click here for more tips.

Avoid and destroy all evil corporations

While browsing flights on Expedia.com the other day, I became rather suspicious when just a few minutes after searching for a flight, the price on the same exact trip had jumped about $20. I get that prices go up as flights get closer and seats get sold, but I knew that 1) Expedia put cookies in my browser and knew what I was searching for, evident by the site autofilling the fields for me; 2) it was suspicious that it happened within a few minutes; and 3) corporations are often extremely evil entities.

So I did a little online searching and found that indeed, this is a scam. A trick. A deliberate extortion. Try it sometime — search for a flight, then go back and search again. Then open a new browser (like if you were using Google Chrome, try it in Internet Explorer) and your price will go back to its original state.

So Expedia.com (and I suspect, all of its kind, such as Priceline, etc.) are deliberately extorting their customers. Is all fair in love, war and business?

Obviously, corporations can be great. They can make fabulous products that enhance our lives, and they provide jobs and livelihoods. They create healthy economies, and they are often the living embodiment of humanity’s dreams.

But since corporations are people, they can be tempted by evil, and many go straight for it. Their evil is justified by the fact that it makes them more money and/or enhances their public image. Does that make it okay?

Many corporations attempt to have ethics, to help communities and try not to hurt the environment too much. Others purport to do good, but it’s really just a marketing and public relations facade, one that they try to make even their employees believe.

And many — think of Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, and now, companies like Monsanto — engage in large-scale disinformation campaigns. This is why it is so important that people shop mindfully and really think about what they are buying. Are those pink-ribbon emblazoned cookies really going to help cure cancer? Susan G. Komen would certainly like you to think so, and they have a vested interest in doing so. Many food items pretend to be ‘all-natural’ and otherwise healthy when they are definitely not; low-fat food items and diet pills are cashing in on a multi-billion dollar industry that is only getting (pun intended) bigger by the day.

NaturalNews listed the Most Evil Corporations, with Monsanto taking the top spot. The rest:

British Petroleum 9%
Halliburton 5%
McDonalds 3%
Pfizer 2%
Merck 2%
Wal-Mart 2%
Nestle 1%
Other 7%

Monsanto created bee-killing, cancer-causing, neurotoxic pesticides and herbicides, Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs, dioxin,  the artificial sweetener Aspartame (NutraSweet), bovine somatotropin rBST / rBGH pus milk (Posilac shots), GMOs and more. They make it a point to sue small farmers out of business and directly caused thousands of farmer suicides in India. These are all verifiable facts. They are attempting to patent all the seeds, consolidating control over the world food supply.

This is a blatant example, but corporations are behaving in disingenuous ways all the time, in ways we may not notice. And that’s deliberate. Having worked in the marketing world, I know first-hand how companies will deliberately try to tap into hardwired emotions to make a sell. They KNOW you. They know their demographics and target audience, right down to what shows you like to watch and what car you like to drive. Marketing is not inherently evil and neither are corporations. I’m just trying to point out that the consumer needs to be very aware and to do the research behind the product.

Companies will eventually respond to consumer demands. The voice of the citizenry can be heard. But the citizen must be informed, and must care. They can’t go mindlessly along with the commercials and the trends. They can’t just get something because it looks good, sounds good, or is convenient. If we are slaves to convenience, we will have a land of Wal-Marts and fast-food. We need to make conscious, intelligent, independent choices: look at company histories, look at supply chains, look at ingredients. Look at mission statements and what backs them up. Look at what the parent and sister companies are.

And when you hear all of those terrible ‘potential’ side effects listed on drug commercials for the latest Lipoprozandiac, please pause and re-consider all of the synthetic pills and chemicals you may be putting into your body. I believe one day these drug companies will be exposed for the truly evil entities they are. For the most part, they are not trying to heal or to cure you. They exist to make a profit — by pushing their pills to larger and larger markets, regardless of the consequences. Do the research. The facts, as long as a free internet exists, are at your fingertips.

Give your face a natural glow

Unless you’re this girl*, you probably spend a lot of time trying to make your face prettier. For a variety of reasons that have to do with vanity, trying to impress others, self-esteem, natural instinct and societal pressures, most women feel compelled to enhance their facial beauty, and will pay big bucks for it.

You’ve probably heard the figures: the average American woman will spend over a hundred thousand dollars on beauty products over her lifetime, or about $100 a month. For the wealthy, that number skyrockets to cover Creme de la Mer ($150 for 1 oz.) and even more pricey creams and serums containing things like gold, exotic mushrooms from the Himalayas, seawater from the Mariana Trench, Japanese Koishimaru silk, royal jelly, and even the precious metal platinum (found in La Prairie Cellular Cream Platinum Rare, the most expensive facial cream in the world at $1,000 a pop).

They must work, because celebrities and trophy wives, although normally more attractive than average by default, maintain their glisten and radiance a little longer than us plebeians. Studies have shown that perceived facial attractiveness has a lot to do with the smoothness of skin, although there are quite a few other factors involved as well.

But is dewy skin something you have to pay hundreds for? Is it only reserved for the rich and famous? I think not. As evidenced by Lindsay Lohan**, it has far more to do with what you consume and imbibe and how you treat yourself. Nutrients, oxygen and feel-good hormones are the foundation for beautiful skin; many indigenous populations who ate a diet rich in fruits, seafood, nuts and proteins while living active yet carefree lives were noted for their picture-perfect skin. Here are some inexpensive ways to give your skin a glow:

1. Eat right. This is imperative. If you have skin issues of any sort (outbreaks, wrinkles, dryness, dullness) then consider this area. Sometimes it might take several weeks to see a difference. You know the drill: drink lots of water and cut out the soda; juice and eat fresh fruits and vegetables; cut out the refined salt and sugar; eat unprocessed whole foods without pesticides, preservatives, artificial ingredients, antibiotics and other unnatural additives.

2. Drink lots of water. Duh, right? But there are variations on this theme: drinking hot or warm water, especially in the morning, is very good not only for the digestion but for the complexion (the two are closely related). Water with fresh lemon juice is also very cleansing for the body and clears the skin. Herbal teas (my favorite is Passion from Tazo, which contains hibiscus, rosehips  and cinnamon, known relaxants) of many varieties are also beneficial.

3. Sweat. You can do this via exercise, sitting out in the sun (preferably in the late afternoon and not so long that you burn), in saunas, and by taking hot, steamy baths by candlelight.

4. Moisturize. But this doesn’t have to be super-fancy or super-expensive. For saturating, healing night creams, try pure shea butter, coconut oil, rosehip oil, almond oil, or even regular olive oil. For a light refreshing day moisturizer, try rosewater, jasmine, lavendar or plumeria spray (buy at Whole Foods for less than ten dollars or make your own by combining essential oils with water in a mister).

5. Relax. This is hugely important, not just for your looks but for your overall health, well-being and quality of life. You can counteract stress by meditating, taking long walks, basking in the moonlight, soaking in hot water and Epsom salt, and resting in the dark with classical music, candlelight and aromatherapy.

And what’s the single most important thing you can do to create a naturally glowing face? No, I’m not gonna say “Eat dark chocolate,” although I love me some dark chocolate and it wouldn’t hurt. The most important thing is to give your face some love. When you look in the mirror, look at yourself with love. Treat yourself gently. Think positive, loving, empowering thoughts about yourself and do not criticize yourself privately or publicly. What you think and feel can gradually become reality, and how you perceive yourself will affect how others perceive you.

You can even try this experiment. Spend several minutes repeating this mantra in your head “I am beautiful.” If you do this for half an hour or longer, then look in the mirror, you might be surprised that you actually do look more beautiful. You might also start getting different reactions from people. I have done this experiment several times myself, for example in a crowded airport. I will walk through seemingly invisible, with no one giving me a second glance. Then I will start repeating this in my head as I walk. Eventually, people will start to stare at me, and a few times they have even tried to approach me. One time a married flight attendant told me I stood out from the crowds and seemed to glow.

I don’t mean to say this in a bragging type of way. Indeed, these same strangers had been utterly unconcerned with me a couple hours prior. I do believe that thought can change reality, by some kind of unseen force. When you wash your face, touch it in any way, or put any kind of topical ointment on it, you should always send it loving thoughts when you do so. Your hands also can convey energy.

*This girl surely has a beautiful smile and a whole lot of cojones. While I personally wouldn’t choose to look this way even for religious beliefs, it takes all kinds to make a world. I’m just making a point that she is one of the very few women in the world who don’t try to enhance their appearance in some way, shape or form.

*Lindsay Lohan is gorgeous. I hope she can get back on the path to healthy living so her natural radiance can once again shine through, because she used to be one luscious looking redhead.