[all photos by p.j.lazos]
Okay, so it’s almost February, but it’s still a new year and never too late to make a few resolutions. Perhaps this post by my sis, Stacey Lazos will help you figure out what that looks like. So go ahead. Get your joy on. I dare you.
New Year, New You
Welcome to 2017! Every year, around the middle of December, I start to really look forward to the New Year. I think about all the ways the old year kicked my ass and how the new year will be so much more gentle, kind and loving. Something about starting fresh, wiping the slate clean, endless possibilities (and on and on).
The same stream of consciousness seems to be true for self-help tools, exercise regimes, diets or any type of make yourself better endeavor. We always start out strong. We want to succeed, to become the best possible version of ourselves. And at the beginning we fall in love with the way the new exercise or diet or whatever makes us feel. There’s a bit of euphoria around the new and improved us. We buy the cute tights, the equipment, the supplements and we think, this is it. I’m finally going to be the person I want to be. But a week or two into it (perhaps an hour or two), we start to lose momentum. We get a little tired. Our old patterns start to emerge and taunt us from the sidelines. “Dinner really isn’t complete without some ice cream for dessert.” “It’s probably better if I skip my run today because my ankle is a little sore.” And before you know it, the make yourself better activities become less and less because it’s just easier to fall into your old patterns. Yogis call these samskaras (mental and emotional patterns left on the subconscious mind by experience). Think of them as your default settings. Patterning is something that we learn at a very young age, but in the context of math, science and art. How often do you think of it in the context of your life experiences?
I’ve been a yoga student for many years. I LOVE to practice. I have friends that make fun of me because they wonder what I’m practicing for. Almost nothing makes me feel better than getting my sweat on for an hour and a half with a teacher I enjoy, some like-minded people and a safe and sacred space. And even though I would choose this activity over most others, there have still been weeks and even months where I have abandoned my practice because I was living my life. Sometimes it was because I was having too much fun, but most times it was because I was too worried or stressed or just caught in my own desperate mental loop and I forgot that I knew how to feel better. My samskaras led me to worry even though joy is so much more appealing and really, just as close as a shift in perspective.
Joy is always in our hands (our minds really), but our western culture teaches us that joy is a thing or a place, a person or an accomplishment. It is none of those things, but rather a state of being, a place of union inside ourselves, which is either simple or elusive, depending upon your vantage point.
This year of 2017, I choose to be my biggest fan, to be selfish in my decision to feel good and to delight in the world in general. I will do this with the help of some very special people in my life, but mostly I will do it by aligning myself to a higher perspective and staying there, no matter how my previous patterns impose. Which of your patterns are worth breaking this year?
stacey lazos 1.27.17
[photo by PJL, Landis Valley Farm Museum, Lancaster, PA]
I’m no expert, but I do know that the food we put in our bodies create the future for those bodies. To that end, the freshest, sustainable, most pesticide-free food we can eat is the way to go. Here’s what my friend, Sharon Wong, health and wellness practitioner (and kick-ass butterflier!) has to say about it. pjl 10.19.16
Because Food Matters:
A Voice For Change For A Generation In Jeopardy
by Sharon Wong
I’ve known Pam since childhood and have very fond memories of our time together swimming for the Dolphin Swim Club. Both of us loved swimming the butterfly which moves much like a dolphin in the water. I share Pam’s passion for raising awareness about our environment so when she asked me to write a post for her blog on what I do for a living, I agreed.
I’m a doctor’s daughter and a holistic wellness practitioner. One of my specialties is nutrition and, like my father, I strongly believe in preventive medicine. The difference is he practiced allopathic medicine (treating disease with drugs) and I practice holistic medicine (treating the whole person, not just the disease). Thanks to my dad I’ve been exposed to the best of both worlds. How does it get any better than that? What if the famous quote by Hippocrates going back before Christ (c.460 – c.370 BC) is true and “food is thy medicine and medicine is thy food?” Then what we eat becomes extremely important. My intention as a wellness practitioner is to raise awareness in this area and educate people in a way that will help them make good food choices.
But for real change to happen, it’s up to the next generation which is why I’m passionate about teaching them. Sadly, I’ve seen first hand how we are failing them. I taught Montessori pre-school in the public school district for eight years in Tempe, Arizona where the only nutritious meal was the daily snack that I planned for the month, provided by the parents. Needless to say, I was appalled by the cafeteria food being offered to the children. Canned fruits and vegetables. Everything processed with loads of salt, sugar, preservatives.
I totally understood. Many teachers would force the kids to eat their school lunch. Not me! I’d say “go have some more snack,” which consisted of fresh fruits, vegetables and some type of whole grain. That was four years ago. Now after more extensive research in holistic nutrition, I’ve learned that our processed foods have zero nutrition and are loaded with preservatives while our whole foods are laced with pesticides harmful to the body. No wonder most children wouldn’t eat it! Our food — so important to the human body — is causing health and behavioral issues like we’ve never seen.
I would definitely recommend buying 100% organic or SOUL (seasonal, organic, unprocessed and local) food or if you can, grow your own. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if school’s taught gardening and sustainability in early childhood like the Waldorf schools? Founded by Rudolph Steiner, the Waldorf school seeks to educate the whole child through holistic learning, intellectual, practical, artistic, and empathetic.
According to Pesticide Action Network North America (PAN) our next generation is in jeopardy and kids are on the frontline. There is ample scientific evidence that pesticides harm children, increase cancer and alter brain development. Many parents are not aware of this so I am delighted to be a voice for the children.
According to PAN:
Each year, more than 680 million pounds of pesticides are applied to agricultural fields across the country. This 2007 figure—the most recent government estimates available—climbs to more than a billion when common non-agricultural pesticide uses are included. We believe this is too much. Ever-stronger science shows that even at low levels of exposure, many of these chemicals are harmful to human health—and children’s developing minds and bodies are particularly vulnerable. It is also increasingly clear that alternative, less chemical-intensive approaches to farming are not only viable, but would strengthen the resilience of agricultural production. Put simply, there is no need for our food and farming system to put our children’s health at risk from chemical exposure.
Scientists have known for decades that children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful affects of being exposed to pesticides, even at very low levels. “Pesticide residues on food are a primary source of childhood exposure,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it will take an army to raise awareness. Are you in? “As we noted in our 2012 A Generation in Jeopardy report, the burden of protecting children from dangerous chemicals cannot rest solely with individual families; policy change is required.” PAN’s recommendations reflect both the increasing urgency of the challenge they face and the growing opportunities for progress. Check out the detailed report.
How can you help? First — learn more. Millions against Monsanto are challenging this biotech bully, the major corporation responsible for causing harm to our food supply, our environment and our next generation. “For over two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. Finally, public opinion around the biotech industry’s contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We’re fighting back.”
Just like the dolphins & whales are not able to digest plastic waste found in the sea, humans were not created with the ability to digest toxic chemicals on land. Choose your food wisely.
~Love For Thyself equals Optimum Health~
I’ve been toying with the idea of expansion for some time now. After all, matter doesn’t exist in a state of stasis and neither should I. We’re either living or dying, growing or shrinking, thriving or decaying, joyful or morose, and even in stillness we’re always moving in some direction. The universe itself is in a constant state of expansion and I guess it will continue as such until it implodes into itself and becomes that single, sacred still point once again. In the meantime, may as well have a bit of fun and create something, eh? To that end, here is my next page on what what I hope is an ever evolving project in the blogosphere entitled, “On Growing Things,” dedicated to holistic, authentic, sustainable living. The first in what I hope to be a long-running series is a guest post by my sister, Stacey Lazos, an educational consultant who in her day job teaches wellness in schools, creating curriculum to address the whole person, mind, body and spirit, and in her other job walks the talk as a yoga instructor which just so happens to be her hobby and her passion.
So without further adieu, here’s post one of “On Growing Things”:
Because I’m Happy (or Actually Trying Hard to Get There)
I’ve been threatening to write something for my sister’s blog for almost a year. It started when I turned 50. I’ve always been a bit, how would you say, distracted, and the milestone, although not debilitating, did have its contemplative (and complicated) moments. Throughout this year there has been a budding (no pun…) force to step forward and grow something. Be patient with my initial attempts.
Happiness has always been a potent motivating factor for me. My ability to be flooded with delight is impressive and sometimes unparalleled. However, like an addict, I’m always chasing the high. According to the Yoga Sutras, the kleshas, of which there are five, are the obstacles to liberation. Attachment (raga) is third on the list. I used to call my ex at 3:30 everyday as we toiled in our 9 to 5 existence and ask, “When is the happiness coming?”. The day he told me never to ask him that again (not because he was dismissive, but because it was killing him that he couldn’t answer the question) was the beginning of the end for us.
Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist Monk and the happiest man on earth, suggests anyone can be happy if they only train their brain. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, has done extensive testing on this man (hence the acquisition of his subtitle) and many other advanced meditation practitioners, in an effort to make this happiness thing a little more accessible. Turns out, ‘when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves — those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory — “never reported before in the neuroscience literature”, Davidson said.’
Impressive! Ricard himself suggest you don’t need 40 years of spiritual seeking to obtain results. For the beginner he recommends thinking happy thoughts for 10-15 minutes each day; concentrating on not letting your mind get distracted and keeping focus on the positive emotions. Of course the happiest man on earth would give these easy peasy lemon squeezy instructions for obtaining truth, consciousness and bliss.
And so, I will commit to practicing 10-15 minutes a day in my quest to grow things, anything, many things. And it will be good.