Food For The Soul

 
Food for the Soul
 

Food For The Soul

  I have always loved going to farmers markets, but the last two years, my weekly visits to buy freshly harvested vegetables have taken on a whole additional level of significance for me. That’s because the market vendor I am buying my freshly harvested, chemical-free vegetables from is Blue Heron Community Farm, a Wisconsin farm started two and half years ago by my hard working daughter and son-in-law.  

  I have learned more about how to grow and choose healthy food in the last few years than I ever knew was possible. To walk the fields with the farmers who are growing your food and to see first hand how food can be grown without herbicides and pesticides (but with a lot of hard, manual labor) has helped me to connect with the source of my food in a way that no trip to a grocery store ever will.  

  I recently read that there are over 8,000 farmers markets in the United States each summer, and that this number is increasing rapidly. What is it that people are longing for that accounts for the growing popularity of these markets? I can think of at least three reasons. 

  The first  is community. Farmers markets are communal by nature. They bring together producers of various kinds (vegetable farmers, growers of flowers, organic meat producers, bakers, local artisans, musicians, and more) and at the same time they bring together the local community. Part of the fun of going to a farmers market is running into neighbors and friends. Since the beginning of time, food has brought people together as it is grown, gathered, cooked, and shared with others.

  I think a second reason we love farmers markets is that, as the saying goes, “They are keeping it real.” Most of the produce offered at farmers markets is like my daughter and son-in-law’s in that it is grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. In a world where much of our food is processed and filled with artificial ingredients, it is all the more appealing and important to purchase and eat food that is produced the same way it has been produced for hundreds of years. Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, Cooked, and The Omnivore’s Dilemna captures this perfectly when he suggests, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”  

  The final reason that I love farmers markets is because they directly connect me with the source of the food I am eating. When I buy my produce from the grocery store, I don’t have that same direct connection to the farmer and the land where the food is grown. In thanksgiving for all those who make healthy food possible I find another quote from Michael Pollan to be appropriate, “Whenever possible, shake the hand that feeds you.” 

  Spirituality is central to my life, and so I do many things to practice and nurture my spiritual life. It occurs to me as I write about what I love about farmers markets, that I am describing what, for me, are three cornerstones of spirituality: community, “keeping it real,” and connecting with the source from which all life comes. It’s no wonder I love farmers markets so much!  

  If you haven’t visited a market yet this summer, you still have time to support your local farmers and other artisans, and your own well-being all at the same time.

You can learn more about Blue Heron Community Farm at their website HERE.

Great photos of their produce can be found by visiting and liking their Facebook page HERE.



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Love Is Greater Than Hate

 
Love Is Greater Than Hate
 

Love Is Greater Than Hate

     Portions of these thoughts were shared in a previous column I wrote several years ago, in response to acts of hatred that had occurred that week. Regrettably, these words are still timely in response to the horrifying acts of violence that occurred once again this past week.  

  Some of the most beautiful words ever written about love were authored two thousand years ago by the apostle Paul. The words appear in the Bible’s New Testament. If you have attended a Christian wedding this summer, you may have even heard his words read at the ceremony. No matter how many times any of us have heard or read these words, they are always a good reminder of how we are to live in relationship with others. I, for one, am always moved by them. Here are Paul’s words from his first letter to the Corinthians written almost two thousand years ago.  

 

Love is patient; love is kind.

Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. 

It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 

It does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth. 

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. 

And now faith, hope, and love abide, 

these three; and the greatest of these is love.    (1 Corinthians 13)

 

  Sometimes we are better able to understand something when we reflect on its opposite. And so when I read the words below this week about hate, I found that they made me appreciate even more the power of Paul’s words. These words are intended to help us deepen our understanding and commitment to living out the words from 1 Corinthians 13 by looking at its opposite.  

 

Hate is impatient; hate is cruel.

Hate is jealous; it puts on airs.

It is snobbish; it is always rude.

It is self-seeking; it is prone to anger.

Hate rejoices with what is wrong, but does not rejoice with the truth.

There is no limit to hate's malevolence, to its untrustworthiness, its despair, its weakness to sustain.

Hate never wins.

There are in the end three things that fail:

Deceit, despair, and hate.

And the weakest of these is hate.

(Rob MacSwain, shared with permission)


  Each of us must do our part to stand up and speak out against hate, both in our public, and private lives. We must work to ensure that, “Hate never wins” and that, “Love never ends.”


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There Is No Time Like The Present

 
There Is No Time Like The Present
 

There Is No Time Like The Present

    A core principle of centering practices, including mindfulness, meditation, and centering prayer, is focusing on the present moment. Concentrating on one’s breath, or a centering word is often helpful to keep one’s mind from wandering. 

    I have had a mindfulness/centering prayer practice for many years, but in all honesty, it’s a challenge. Sometimes I am very disciplined in practicing daily, and sometimes not. And I always struggle with my attention getting hijacked by a myriad of thoughts and concerns.  

    This summer, I have had the good fortune of spending some extended time with two of the most exceptional mindfulness teachers I have ever known. To be in their presence is to experience what it is like to be singularly focused on the present moment, free from all worries about the past or future. These two teachers are my five and three-year-old grandsons, and when I am with them, I am aware of the Zen saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I am grateful to have two such fun-loving, adorable teachers.  

    Here is an example of what I am learning from them. The other day I played a board game with the five-year-old for over an hour. All he did for that entire time was play the game. I played the game the same amount of time, but here is a partial list of what I was doing during that same time: playing the game, worrying about a friend who is ill, thinking about five emails I needed to send and several more I needed to answer, rehashing a conversation I had with someone a few days earlier, and making a to-do list of various tasks I needed to complete later that day.

   When young children play a game, they are completely invested in that present moment. That’s how they approach every activity actually. Young children are so fully present in what they are doing that it is often hard for them to transition when an activity needs to end. Adults, on the other hand, seem to have the opposite problem—we are so good at multi-tasking and bouncing from one thing to another, that we have difficulty being fully focused on doing just one thing. 

   I am now intentionally working on being less distracted and more fully present with my grandsons. With the help of my young teachers, I am making progress. I have also committed myself to extending my practice of being more fully present in my interactions with adults, too.

   You might want to give this a try yourself. irst, notice how able you are to be fully present and free of distractions when you are with others. Without telling anyone, simply make the intention to be singularly focussed with others and see what difference you (and maybe even they) notice.

   And if you think you might benefit from spending time with a wise meditation teacher, I hope there is a young child in your life that you will commit  to spending some time with soon. 


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Banding Together

 
Banding Together
 

Banding Together

      Our office mail always comes with a rubber band wrapped around it. About a year ago, I started saving the rubber bands and making them into a ball. Each day I add a new band to the ball, which doesn't seem like much, but my ball has gradually grown to the size of a baseball. Given its composition, it is naturally bouncy, and I'm finding it makes for a fun diversion when I take a break. 

    I once used a rubber band ball as an illustration for a children's sermon on the importance of having a group of supportive people in our lives.  I held up a few individual rubber bands and asked the kids what would happen if I tried to bounce them on the floor. They looked at me rather strangely when I threw a few individual bands down to the floor, and nothing happened. Then I took out my ball of bands and demonstrated how easy it was to bounce it on the floor, and how fun it was to play catch with the ball as well. We talked about how a large, tight-knit group of rubber bands could do something impossible for a few separate ones to do. We then concluded that the same was true of people. Together we could do much more than each person could do on their own.

    I am an avid fan of the Tour de France, the famous multiple stage bike race which concludes this Sunday.  As I watch the race, I often think of my rubber band ball. If you know anything about biking, you know about the importance of the peloton, the large group of tight-knit riders who stay together over the length of a day's ride. It just so happens that peloton is a French word, which literally means "little ball." Makes sense when I see the participants riding so close together that they resemble a fast-moving ball of riders.

   So why is the peloton so important in competitive cycling? Why do the riders choose to ball together so tightly, sometimes riding thirty to forty miles per hour just inches from each other? Wouldn't it be better and safer to space themselves out? The reason is the same as the message of the children's sermon I mentioned earlier: good things happen when we have a supportive group of people surrounding us. 

   In a bike peloton, riders alternate taking turns breaking the wind (pulling) and drafting behind other riders. This makes an incredible difference, allowing all cyclists to achieve results that would be impossible to accomplish on their own. The effort it takes to ride in the middle or back of a peloton is so much less than is required at the front, that it actually provides a rest for the cyclists who are benefiting the hard work being done by the riders who are pulling up in front.  


   In biking, as in life, individual skills are highly valuable. But the best results are always achieved when we have a community, a peloton, of people with whom we can ride and bounce through life together.  


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A Higher Perspective

 
A Higher Perspective
 

A Higher Perspective

  I was thirteen years old in 1969 when the first Moon landing, that we are all remembering this week, occurred. A boy that age is quite impressionable, and I will never forget the photos that were beamed into my family’s living room. Then, as is true now, the photos that most captivated me were not the close-ups of the Moon itself, but rather the first images anyone, in the history of humankind, had ever seen of planet Earth from some 240,000 miles away. I was awestruck then, and fifty years later continue to be so whenever I see a photo of the blue and white marble that is our island home.  

  When, as a therapist, I have the privilege to work with an individual, family, or organization that is “stuck” in some way or another, after hearing all sides what is going on, I often comment, “I wonder if we can take a moment to zoom out and get a larger perspective on what’s happening.” I then explain that we all have benefited from looking up a location on our smart phones, and then using our fingers to zoom out so we could gain a larger perspective of what we are viewing. That is what I am asking to do with them and their story.

  I don’t know about you, but when I am stuck in some kind of conflict with someone, I tend to get tunnel vision. Within my narrow perspective, my limited view has a way of confirming that I am right and that the other person is clearly wrong and is the source of the conflict. If only they would change or go away, then the problem would also go away. On a good day, and often with the help of others, I am able to “zoom out” and see that the problem is more complex than my narrow view is allowing me to see. If I am willing to look at the complexities of the situation, I’ll often then see that there is far more that unites us than we realize. A higher perspective or a “zoomed out” view opens up possibilities of healing and bridge-building that are not evident from the tunnel of my fear-based, limited view.  

  The early flights into space, including Apollo Eleven’s trip to the Moon, provided the ultimate “zooming out,” giving the world a newer, higher perspective of our planet than had ever been possible before. This week I have read dozens of quotes from astronauts who have remarked on how their view of Earth from outer space was for them a spiritual, transcendent experience.  

  Read the quote from Michael Collins found above in the meme. He was the person who remained in the spacecraft orbiting the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked below on the Moon’s surface. 

  And here’s a quote from Edgar Mitchell, who flew on Apollo 14, in 1971, the third mission to land on the Moon. “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty.”

  The ego focuses on what is petty, and its agenda is to divide, exclude, and protect. I am sure my 13-year-old middle school self back in 1969 was all about that, as children that age frequently are. The ego is our immature self, one that needs to boost itself by mocking and demonizing those who, in our tunnel vision, we deem to be “other.” The soul, on the other hand, offers a higher, spiritual perspective, and its agenda is to transcend and include, and to connect around the universal needs and longings we, across the globe, have in common.  

  There may not be plans for anyone to return to the Moon again any time soon, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t all celebrate what was achieved fifty years ago by aspiring to “zoom out” to a higher, spiritual perspective. Let’s breakdown our tendencies to be tribal and to turn against the “other” as the problem. 

   I can think of no better way to celebrate the new perspective we all gained of our Earth, our shared home, fifty years ago this week, than seeing that there is so much more that unites us than divides us.  


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