Mother’s Day and Michael Pollan: Cooking and Honoring the Feminine!

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Michael Pollan just put out another great book called Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. I first got wind of this new book via a beautiful photo-story about it in O Magazine (thanks, Oprah!) and now it’s popping up everywhere. The inspiration for the book was that Michael, who’s become one of the leading voices in national/global food activism realized that even though he was promoting the idea of home cooking as a way to reclaim agriculture, culture and health, he wasn’t very good at it. So, he set out to rectify this deficiency and we have another great book that will hopefully inspire us all to get back to “scratch”. It explores cooking via the elements Fire, Air, Water and Earth (as cooking mediums like roasting, baking, stewing and fermenting).

I found and read a great interview  with Pollan about the book on Democracy Now!. Coincidentally, I actually ran into the interview because I was, in a deepening state of outrage, reading a Democracy Now! story presenting a feminist perspective on the Cleveland kidnapping case and how it is basically an outlying offense on the continuum of the pervasive culture of sexism and violence against women in both this country and globally-see my previous post about Jackson Katz’ important work on this topic.

What was interesting/ironic was that in the click of a mouse, I went from the most horrific example what is wrong with masculine culture’s relationship with women to a really lovely example of a SOLUTION, so beautifully exemplified by Pollan’s willingness to whole heartedly engage in what is often considered a very “female” activity: the cooking of food to nourish the family.

One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Alakananda Ma, points out in one of her talks that Ayurvedic doctor/teacher Vasant Lad is one of the only male Ayurvedic doctors to put out a cook book and really focus on cooking as a practice. She says that he does so specifically because it is a way of connecting to the Goddess/Feminine principle. I have certainly run into a few men who were great cooks and also had “issues” with women, but I fundamentally resonate with the idea that encouraging men to participate in cooking good food, offering of nourishment, might be a great way of stepping out of the stream of embedded negative gender-role identification that is the cause of so much suffering in our world.

So, thank you to Michael Pollan for being a wonderful example of Masculine ability to lovingly embrace the Divine Feminine! And I might add that I’m sure Vandana Shiva, Physicist/Eco-Feminist/anti-Monsanto crusader, would agree with me that Pollan is already honoring the Divine Feminine with his sustainable agriculture activism!

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Michael Pollan’s full Democracy Now! interview and be accessed by clicking through here: or in the link already provided above.

*A note about the “cover” picture for this post: it is the Indian goddess Parvati nursing a baby Ganesha. This is a great example of how the feminine nourishes life -even that of a powerful God. As many people know, Ganesha (Gana-Isha -Lord of the Ganas, or Senses) is known as the remover of Obstacles. But, according to Scott Blossom, the esoteric breakdown of this is that Obstacles are usually the result of one’s erroneous sense-perception of a situation. Thus, clear perception leads to removal of the self-imposed obstacles that thwart us. But, as this picture shows, we also have to be well-nourished to have clear sense perception. And that nourishment is provided by the Divine Feminine, starting from the moment of conception by our mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

 

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Dr. Jackson Katz: Leading in the Right Direction!

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I’ve been feeling a little deflated recently in the face of the malingering (growing?) problem of gender and sexual violence. It seems that everywhere I look there’s either a new horrible news story about sexual violence or a new TV show/movie with highly sexualized violence purely for entertainment’s sake. All this feels especially sad because I honestly thought at one point (in the ’90’s) that we were going to be over this as a culture. Maybe I was naive, but it really seemed like things might take a turn for the better with all the gender equality activism that started in the ’70’s.

So, thank goodness for amazing male feminists like Dr. Jackson Katz! I just watched his TEDx talk on the important role men can and should play in ending male-perpetrated violence (against women, girls, boys and other men) and I was once again feeling a little more optimistic about our collective future. Here’s his awesome 20-minute TED lecture -so worth the time to listen to his wise words! Below that you can check out his list of 10 things men can do to prevent gender violence. Let’s share this great info with the men in our lives!

ten things men can do to prevent gender violence (from Dr. Katz’s site)

  1. Approach gender violence as a MEN’S issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers
  2. If  a brother, friend, classmate, or teammate is abusing his female partner — or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general — don’t look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don’t know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor, or a counselor. DON’T REMAIN SILENT.
  3. Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don’t be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else. Try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
  4. If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
  5. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help NOW.
  6. Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support the work of campus-based women’s centers. Attend “Take Back the Night” rallies and other public events. Raise money for community-based rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters. If you belong to a team or fraternity, or another student group, organize a fundraiser.
  7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse also has direct links to sexism (eg. the sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism is often questioned, a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men do so).
  8. Attend programs, take courses, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence.  Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
  9. Don’t fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
  10. Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men’s programs. Lead by example

Sense Medicine

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Yesterday I was talking with a good friend about the little things we can do to try to get grounded and relaxed when we feel like our lives are getting too crazy. We talked about things like cooking simple meals, taking walks, disconnecting from the computer/internet.

But this morning I realized that I forgot to mention the one thing that REALLY helps me to feel more, well, human: harvesting medicinal herbs from my small garden. This can be as simple as picking mint or lemonbalm to make a fresh infusion. It can also certainly include harvesting greens for cooking (I’m about to try get some dandelion going -sadly there are none of these ubiquitous super weeds in my own yard). But my very favorite herb to harvest is rose petals!

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I have a number of rose bushes of various kinds and sizes in my back yard: I have a Cecil Bruner that only flowers (gloriously) once a year. I also have an Iceberg rose that is pretty much a spring-only bloomer. Then I also have a Marie Pavier (a very happy accidental purchase) that blooms almost all summer and a number of ultra hardy, ever-blooming Martha Gonzalez roses.

Morning is the best time to harvest the rose petals. I place them in a thin layer in a paper grocery bag and hang them in the kitchen to dry. It takes about 3-4 days. I then put them into a glass jar for storage. They will last for many months and really retain their great flavor/aroma.

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Roses (Sanskrit: Shatapatri) are especially good for cooling the heat and irritation associated with over-active Pitta Dosha. Just the sight and smell of roses can instantly help relieve a Pitta blow-out on a hot summer day! In Chinese medicine, roses (pinyin: Mei Gui Hua) are considered a Qi and Blood mover (blood being very closely associated with Pitta dosha and stagnant Qi being a major contributor to creating pathogenic Heat in the body). In Chinese herbal medicine, roses buds especially promote the proper movement of women’s blood (don’t use if pregnant!), while the rose hips (Jin Ying Zi) actually help to stabilize and bind women’s “Essense/Jing” in cases where there is too much downward movement in female reproductive system.

The next time you feel like life has gotten too complicated, try taking a few minutes to commune with nature by harvesting some of her bounty. We’ve been doing this simple act from time immemorial. In fact, harvesting plants is probably one of the things we’ve been doing since before we were even Homo sapiens! Connect to your “roots” (and buds) and see if it doesn’t bring a little glimpse of Peace!

“Holding Identity Lightly”: A Beautiful Dharma Talk by Jack Kornfield

 

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This talk touches on how we are much more than our “I”-dentity and how releasing our grip upon a limited concept of who we are leads to more peace and freedom in the face of life’s inherent instability. The talk was delivered at Spirit Rock the evening after the Boston Bombing and is woven through with reference to that event. A must-listen for anyone struggling to make peace with the events of 4/15/13.

http://dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/85/19077.html

 

“Little Plum Blossom of Hill Garden” by Lin Bu

Image“Little Plum Blossom of Hill Garden”

Lin Bu (林逋) (Song Dynasty 960–1279)

When everything has faded they alone shine forth,
encroaching on the charms of smaller gardens.
Their scattered shadows fall lightly on clear water,
their subtle scent pervades the moonlit dusk.
Snowbirds look again before they land,
butterflies would faint if they but knew.
Thankfully I can flirt in whispered verse,
I don’t need a sounding board or winecup.

眾芳搖落獨暄妍,
占斷風情向小園。
疏影橫斜水清淺,
暗香浮動月黃昏。
霜禽欲下先偷眼,
粉蝶如知合斷魂。
幸有微吟可相狎,
不須檀板共金樽。

Prunus mume (pinyin wu mei) is not only a beautiful ornamental tree (that can live more than 1600 years!), but the fruit/plum has many medicinal and culinary uses. It is the Chinese herb Wu Mei and is used traditionally to strengthen the Lungs; Strengthen the Intestines; Promote generation of Body Fluids; Calm roundworms; calms pain of the abdomen. Modern use includes treating H. pylori infection which can be the cause of gastric ulcers and gastric hyper-acidity.

It is also used to make plum wine (delicious!) and ume boshi paste and vinegar (so delicious!) among other Asian culinary delights. Ume boshi vinegar is especially yummy on rice dishes and mixed into salad dressing and sauces. Ume boshi plum paste is AMAZING on corn on the cob (I figured that out waaaay back when I was a little hippy kid!).

I highly recommend adding some Ume boshi to the diet if one is having any pesky acid reflux or digestive issues. You never know, it might be just the remedy one needs!

 

Matters of the Heart

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This week has been all about Hearts: Broken Hearts, Open Hearts, Beautiful Hearts and one Heart that stopped beating too soon.

My dear friend lost her beloved husband two weeks ago.

It seems there were many complicated factors involved in his death, but a cardiac dysfunction played a major role in his untimely passing and so there’s been a lot of discussion in the past two weeks about Hearts, especially how they function and what can go wrong. There have also been plenty of discussions in our extended community about Heart Health and how to take good care of the “Emperor” organ.

There have also been many tears shed and the feeling among our community of a very real Broken Heartedness: For many of us, this is one of the most tragic close-to-home events to which we have borne witness. A young wife left to care for two small children alone, the great loss of a beloved son/brother and friend. We have all stared into the abyss of loss in our friend’s eyes. It is hard to bear. One asks: “What do you need? What can I get you?” knowing that the one thing they need can never be delivered.

But this tragedy has also uncovered an amazing capacity for community to come together with Open Hearts to offer succor to the wounds of loss. People dropped their lives and came to my friend’s assistance, offering all sorts of help, creating “Care Calendars” to make sure she is surrounded by love and support as she navigates this difficult transition, donating to her children’s college fund (in lieu of condolence flowers), making incredible trans-oceanic voyages to be there for the memorial… More distant community members wept to hear of the love and care that has poured forth in the wake of the tragedy.

And then there is Daniel: the husband, father, son brother and friend that was lost. What a legacy of Love he left behind.

Since the first time I met him, I have always felt (and said) that Daneil was one of the finest, kindest, most graceful humans I ever had the pleasure to know. He always radiated a warmth and openness that made one feel perfectly at-ease in his presence. And, it seems, this is how everyone who knew him felt about him. As his close friend said in their eulogy: “if everyone lived as fully as Daniel did in his 41 years, the world would be a very different place!”. I agree.

Even while Daniel’s physical Heart had its hidden fragility, his Spiritual Heart was a Mighty One.

Might we all learn to live with our Hearts so open, so full of love and kindness as Daniel did in his short time with us…

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the paddle-out @ Daniel’s Memorial. photo credit: Pieter du Toit