Tag Archives: environment

Spring Cleaning Inside and Out

16 Mar


Back in the day when I used to own a television, I loved watching those reality shows about cleaning house. The formula was simple: take one shopaholic packrat, add a professional organizer with a mission to de-clutter, blend in a little backstory, and the result is some pretty engaging television. Engaging, I suppose, because we can all use a little help getting our lives in order.

In my own life, I’ve noticed that it’s easier to keep things tidy on the outside when I’m feeling clean and clear on the inside. On the other hand, when life gets busy and my practice starts to slip and I feel I have no choice but to turn to fast, convenient calories in disposable containers, things tend to get messy on all fronts.

So, to prepare for the first day of Spring, I asked the amazing Malcolm Saunders of the Light Cellar in Calgary, Alberta for a yummy, detoxifying drink recipe for yogis on-the-go and here’s what he came back with:

Super Green Juice

Green Vegetable juice is the best way to re-hydrate, re-alkalinize, re-mineralize, cleanse, and energize. Consume in place of one or all of your meals. This drink allows for easy assimilation and integration of living enzymes and healing phyto-nutrients and helps cleanse the body of old waste materials.

1 cucumber
5-10 celery sticks
1-2 apples or pears
½ bunch green lettuce
3-4 stalks kale

Lemon and ginger juices, as well as powdered herbs can also be included for their cleansing and tonic properties.

Place chopped cucumber in your blender first. Blend lightly to create a watery base.  Add apple or pear and lightly blend again. Add remaining ingredients, blend well, strain through ‘nut-mylk bag’ and enjoy!

As one of my teachers likes to say, once you’ve purified the environment inside, it just doesn’t feel right to trash the outer environment, to disrespect Mother Nature. Perhaps Stephen Harper and the other champions of the Alberta tar sands could benefit from a yoga and raw food regime? I’d make a point of watching that show.

Stay tuned as Malcolm has promised to send us some of his unbelievable superfood trail mix. It’s the best I’ve ever had and I can’t wait to share with you.

A Grounding 75 minute Practice

16 Apr

The Worm Bin Teachings

I’ve started a new daily practice, one I do before washing my face, unrolling my yoga mat, or having a cup of tea: it’s the practice of getting down-and-dirty—quite literally—and it’s every bit as important as any other spiritual practice I do. Every morning, I pop open the lid on one of the five homemade worm bins in the living room, dig around, and get some dirt under my nails. Sometimes it’s just to say hello to our ever growing family of red wigglers and confirm our kitchen scraps are to their liking; other times it’s to harvest their nutrient rich castings for use in our garden.

Now how exactly does an urban, condo-dwelling, clean-freak from way back come to have a number of sizable compost bins in her living room, you might ask? It began quite innocently with this niggling feeling that I could be living a greener life. Sure, I’ve always recycled, used CFLs and followed the “if it’s yellow” rule, but it still concerns me that our North American lifestyles are so resource and waste intensive. Doesn’t it boggle your mind that the average North American consumes 32 times more resources and produces 32 times more waste than citizens in developing nations?

At the moment, our city’s green bin program doesn’t collect compostables from apartment buildings, condos or businesses. As a result, a full two-thirds of our weekly garbage used to be composed of smelly kitchen waste, that we double and triple bagged to avoid leaks. No wonder I felt both sheepish and relieved every garbage day when I put the whole mess in someone else’s hands.

My adventures in worm composting started with a half pound of worms, ordered online, and a rubbermaid container. I drilled holes in the container, for ventilation and drainage, filled it with a generous amount of torn up newspaper and put it out on the deck for the summer.

The moment of truth arrived with the first frost. Left outside, I knew the worms wouldn’t make it through a harsh Canadian winter, but I couldn’t quite fathom having a box of worms and rotting food in the house for six months either. In the end, I grudgingly chose inconvenience over frozen worms, and the worms moved in.

Surprisingly enough, the bins don’t smell. If anything, worm compost smells fresh and clean, like rich, dark earth after a rainfall. And, no, we don’t have worms, fruit flies or other pests in our living room—the worms stay put, that is unless you feed them something they don’t like (they follow a basic vegetarian diet, and stay away from anything too salty, oily or acidic) or forget to feed them altogether, and we avoid fruit flies by burying the sweet stuff deep in the bins. I’m thrilled because we’ve significantly reduced the amount of garbage we put out on the curb each week, including paper and cardboard. And, yes, we do intend to keep the bins indoors all year round.

I think of my earthworm practice as a way to get grounded and set my foundation before getting swept-up in the headiness of a busy day. It reminds me of my oneness with the earth and all its inhabitants, and, as such, it’s a yogic practice in the deepest sense of the word. My time with the worms is a death meditation, an exercise in loving-kindness, and a way to focus the mind on the sweet details of the here-and-now, all rolled into one.

A Deep 10 minute Savasana

28 Feb

Feeling Blue

When e.e. cummings wrote: “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea,” do you think he contemplated the possibility that we might lose the very sea itself one of these days? In the fifty some-odd years since he penned these words, much has changed on our watery planet, and fragile marine ecosystems everywhere are under serious threat from overfishing, pollution, and climate change. The facts are alarming:

■ Humans have taken—eaten, actually—more than 90% of the big fish in the ocean, including tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut, and flounder. Some of the world’s most productive fishing grounds have been depleted and entire coastal economies have collapsed. If current trends in industrial fishing continue, scientists predict the world’s fish and seafood populations will be totally extinct by 2048.

■ Much of the waste we produce on land eventually reaches the oceans through both deliberate dumping and run-off. In coastal areas, untreated sewage and fertilizer are responsible for algal blooms that suffocate other marine life and create enormous dead zones. According to a recent study, there are 405 dead zones and counting.

■ Nearly half the coral reefs have disappeared. They are among the first casualties of climate change. Higher surface water temperatures have resulted in coral bleaching, while ocean acidification due to rising carbon dioxide levels is making it harder for coral to build their calcium carbonate shells. The rising sea levels, decreases in sea ice cover, changes in salinity, shifts in ocean circulation and increased storms that come with climate change will undoubtedly change marine life forever.

If we care at all about the fate of our seas, we humans need to be more mindful about what we take out of and what we put into the water.

Why should we care? Well, for starters, over three quarters of our planet is covered by water and up to 60% of our bodies are composed of water. All life came from the ocean and 90% of life on earth still resides there. Healthy oceans are absolutely necessary for a healthy planet. We land dwelling creatures mustn’t make the fatal error of thinking we’re immune to cataclysmic, or even subtle, changes at sea.

On the bright side, it’s now easier than ever to stay abreast of the issues: as of earlier this month, Google Earth includes the oceans in its maps. This means users can now dive underwater, see ocean topography, and watch regions change over time. You can get it all free at Google Earth.

Compelling and eye-opening information from leading ocean researchers is also just a mouse-click away. Legendary oceanographer, Sylvia Earle’s extraordinary TEDTalk, “Here’s How to Protect the Blue Heart of the Planet,” has been spreading virally online since it was delivered in mid-February. Educational and inspirational, it’s a must-see for anyone who dares to care about the planet and its inhabitants.

I’m also greatly buoyed by the fact that people like my friend Jeff Warren, an author and explorer of consciousness, are still out there during these turbulent times looking to the sea for insights into the true self. His most excellent radio documentary, Ocean Mind, explores the world of dolphins and whales as a way of moving beyond the confines of the human experience. Episode 2 is a favourite of mine. As Jeff explains: “This episode is about the limits of human knowledge. It’s about imagination and empathy – and science – and how we may be able use all of these things to get insights into the fantastic alien world of the great whales.”

Hoping for a taste of this “fantastic alien world,” I spent an hour in a flotation tank earlier this month. I went in expecting something completely outside the realm of my experience, but was, instead, pleasantly reminded of the time I spend on my yoga mat lying in savasana, or corpse pose.

The way I figure it, yogis are experts at stepping outside the human unwelt, a German word usually translated as “self-centered world.” We try on the various forms of nature—in dog, tree, and even fish pose—partly as a way to get over ourselves and partly as a way to gain insight into the essence that underlies all form so that we may better know ourselves.

A Quick 30 minute Practice

10 Dec


We’re running out of time, that much is clear: the population bomb continues to tick, an unprecedented number of species are facing total extinction, Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than anticipated, peak oil may have already come and gone, and the very pillars of the global economy are crumbling as we speak. The details may vary depending on whom you speak to, but the chorus of voices predicting the end of days is now too loud to comfortably ignore.

In actuality, we don’t need a Mayan Calendar, ancient prophesies, modern science, or the news media to tell us things are changing… and fast. But I, for one, have always worked well under pressure and I kind of like the notion of using 2012, the Doomsday Clock and the 100 month countdown to the climate tipping point as memes to an end—that is, as tools to motivate and structure intelligent discussion and practical action. As my friend Daniel Pinchbeck, an authority on the Mayan prophesy, explains:

“My view is that ‘2012’ is useful as a meme if it helps us to catalyze a shift in global culture and consciousness. Rather than fretting about what may or may not happen on that date, we should concentrate on the work that needs to be done now, on an inner as well as outer level.”

So put up your Mayan calendar, synchronize your Doomsday watch and write your 100 month strategic plan for sustainable living. And don’t delay, for you may have less time than you think.