Mindful eating – connecting with our food system

This short video was inspired by exercises from Dr. Jan Chozen Bay’s book Mindful Eating, which I had the pleasure of experiencing during a mindful eating weekend retreat at Great Vow Monastery and also at a professional conference sponsored by UCSD Center for Mindfulness. Over the years, I’ve had a chance to participate in various mindful eating exercises led by secular teachers (often healthcare professionals themselves) who studied with Theravada and Zen Buddhist leaders. Although food is an important part of many cultural traditions, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Buddhist communities who have so significantly shaped current clinical applications of mindful eating to this day.

Mindful eating provides us with a doorway into the present movement. We gain access to essential information about our emotional and physical state, to include our body’s preferences, hunger, and satiety (fullness) cues. Psychologists call this our “internal wisdom” or “appetite awareness,” but we might as well call it our true nature.

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Future horticultural therapy leaders?

Check out the following video as well as a description of the H.E.A.L.T.H. (Healing Environments Ambassadors Learning Through Horticulture) program from a post on Instagram today by the Chicago Botanic Garden. This kind of program gives me hope about the direction that horticultural education, and horticultural therapy in particular, might increasingly take in the future.

From the CBG’s website:

“The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Healing Environments Ambassadors Learning Through Horticulture (HEALTH) internship launched in April 2019. The program connects high school students, their schools, and families to the health-promoting benefits of nature. Over the course of a spring-to-spring year, including an eight-week paid summer leadership intensive, students learned about therapeutic horticulture, videography, environmental stewardship, and landscape design. A new session starts in spring 2021.”

Right now, I’m knee-deep in Plant Science classes at another botanical garden and early in horticultural therapy (HT) training, although I’m already a healthcare professional. You know how I love food and edible gardens. In the best of all worlds, HT’s would partner with local community leaders so we have a program like this in every city (for those that don’t have one already).

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On Gratitude

I’m a lover of Sun magazine; their collection of poetry and prose continues to astound me. In one of this month’s essays, a series of letters exchanged between Ross Gay and Noah Davis touched me deeply with their expression of intimate, loving masculinity. I recommend you check it out, especially since Sun removed their paywall temporarily and all of these great pieces are free to read (although do subscribe, if you haven’t already!).

I’ve seen a few of Ross Gay‘s poems circulating lately, so here’s an excerpt from Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which calls out to be savored and taken into your bones:

“…thank you/the ancestor who loved you/before she knew you/by smuggling seeds into her braid for the long/journey, who loved you/before he knew you by putting/a walnut tree in the ground, who loved you/before she knew you by not slaughtering/the land…”

Just like Gay’s essay, my heart ached the entire time I read it. You can find the poem in its entirely on the PoetryFoundation.org website.

Mindfulness in nature – savoring color

I adore the color purple. Put me in a full-bloom field of lavender come July and I’m giddy with happiness. I’m continually impressed but not surprised by what we’ve learned in the field of therapeutic horticulture about the many health benefits available through our interactions with plants.

Savoring nature is especially important because it’s helpful to intentionally seek out positive experiences to balance out the more difficult parts of our day. But savoring isn’t about clinging to pleasure, or surrounding ourselves with things that make us feel good 24/7 (as if that were possible). Savoring is a useful tool, one of a number of mindfulness-based practices that ground us in our body, combat stressors, and boost mind/body health.

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green spaces belong to everyone

Black Birders Week: May 31, 2020 through June 5, 2020. Follow on Twitter and Instagram.

“We should be out here. The birds belong to all of us,” he said. “The birds don’t care what color you are.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/27/nyregion/amy-cooper-christian-central-park-video.html

“This is a story beyond one person, a story beyond that park. It is a story writ large of who owns spaces, who has privileges to those spaces,” says author and black birder Drew Lanham. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/may/31/being-black-while-in-nature-youre-an-endangered-species

“We are a coalition of social media influencers – bloggers, athletes, activists, and entrepreneurs – who share the goal of promoting diversity in outdoor spaces where people of color, LGBTQ+, and other diverse identities have historically been underrepresented. We are passionate about promoting equity and access to the outdoors for all, that includes being body positive and celebrating people of all skill levels and abilities.” https://www.diversifyoutdoors.com/

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the earth is a living thing

Some days I need poetry just as much as I need the garden. I’ve read a little of Lucille Clifton but in a new book I recently ordered – “Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry,” edited by Camille Dungy, a whole new world of words has opened.

The following poem is in this book and can also be found here.

the earth is a living thing

is a black shambling bear

ruffling its wild back and tossing

mountains into the sea

is a black hawk circling

the burying ground circling the bones

picked clean and discarded

is a fish black blind in the belly of water

is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal

is a black and living thing

is a favorite child

of the universe

feel her rolling her hand

in its kinky hair

feel her brushing it clean

Lucille Clifton (1936 – 2010)

A local therapeutic garden

This Memorial Day weekend I visited the Portland Memory Garden, a therapeutic garden designed for individuals experiencing memory disorders (and their caregivers), although the park is open to the general public as well. On the day that I visited, I noted that both elderly community members and very young children were enjoying the space, with their families. I chose to pause my recording at times (and to skip several sections) in order to respect the privacy of those present.

As you gaze upon the garden’s imagery, notice where your eyes are drawn. Which aspects do you find most pleasing? Quite predictably, my eyes went immediately to the vibrant purple of the Oregon irises in their sunny raised bed. Did you observe any changes in your body between the beginning of the video, and its end? Is this a space you might like to visit – and why? Read More

Why we’re here

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry (hear the poet read this poem)

Love in the grocery aisles: mindfulness and compassion

About eight years ago, I attended a brief women’s metta retreat. Following a weekend of meditation and near silence, re-entry back into the “real world” proved surprisingly difficult even though I’d participated in previous retreats.

The challenge started once I left the rural retreat center and attempted to merge onto the freeway. I found that I couldn’t force myself to drive any faster than thirty-five miles per hour – big problem, even in the slow lane! Drivers swerved around me, honking their horns.  Eventually, but oh so slowly, I increased my speed and somehow made it safely home.

Later that day, I visited a crowded grocery store, one that I usually dreaded. However, that afternoon, I felt something inexplicable arise within me from the moment I pushed my rickety cart through the grungy automatic doors and gazed around at the sea of shoppers. An unfamiliar emotion, something that I’d never experienced in that grocery store before.

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Mindfulness in nature – savoring sound

Sound is all around us, throughout our day. We encounter sounds that may be sweet or soothing, and occasionally, sounds that we might not want to hear.

However, sounds provide information and help us navigate in, and connect with, our larger world. A growing body of research supports the many health benefits of interacting with nature, and we can use our sense of sound as one doorway to connect with nature, literally or virtually.  Savoring practices also help us to “take in the good” and to balance out our inherent negativity bias, which is hardwired into our biological survival system but can lead to heightened stress. Read More