Fermentation

After spending the last few months falling in love (again) with fermented foods, I just adore the concept of fermentation. In Sandor Katz’s book ‘Wild Fermentation‘, he talks about fermentation being an agent of change in our society. I have to say that I swoon over words like these. I am a hopeless idealist (or is it hopeful?). Yes! I am a hopeful idealist! I like spending more time thinking about how brilliant we are as humans and how we have the collective ability to sort out most of the issues that face our world.

This is where the metaphor of fermentation really gets bubbling. For so many years, we have been packaged and processed, much like our food. There has been a great cultural homogenization that has happened and bringing fermentation back into our kitchens is a powerful first step. Why? Why does food matter? Why would retrieving and experimenting with old time methods of food preparation mater? Because food is basic to life. Unless you have become a sungazer, drawing your prana from the sun, you need food to eat. Food is more than calories and macronutrients, it is energy, vibration. The vibration you consume as food affects your whole body-mind. Everyone knows the curative properties of Grandma’s cookies. Food prepared with love and consumed with gratitude is completely different than food that is plopped down by uncaring hands waiting for a shift change. There is a huge array of biochemical changes that occur when we digest food, and our emotional state is directly tied to our bodies.

So making food that makes you feel good, that is nourishing and healthy, that uses local ingredients, that bubbles with life, this is a recipe for health. But there is more. The process of fermentation is slow. It relies on a few brave pioneering microbes to get the party started. Slowly, the change bubbles through the whole dish, and the food is transformed. I think change, lasting change is like this; a few brave pioneers, with a radical view of a harmonious world, begin to share their vision with anyone who is near, they just beam and bubble with their enthusiasm and dream. The dream catches the imagination and slowly, the whole world is bubbling. A complete transformational shift, to love, to harmony, occurs as if overnight.

What would you do to change the world?

Question #3 of 10 of Ten Questions to Know Someone: If you had unlimited power, what would you do to change the world?

My answer to this question is much harder than I thought it would be. I’m passionate about so many causes, the environment, social justice, peace. The list is long and I immediately wonder if one person, even with infinite power, could really do it all single handedly. For change to stick, it requires the agreement and cooperation of many people, organizations, businesses, and governments. Massive, worldwide change does happen, though, when an idea takes hold of people’s imagination. Behavior that was once acceptable becomes unthinkable. Solutions appear where once their we’re only problems.

The idea that I keep returning to is to help children who are at risk. Children living in poverty, children who are abused, children who are forgotten. These precious ones are the world’s most valuable resource. They are tough and resilient and are the source of the solutions to the problems they face. A lot has been done by adults to solve the big problems, like poverty and war, but has anyone really asked the children who are living it what can be done? If they have asked, has anything been done? My guess would be no.

We all too quickly dismiss the ideas our children have and arrogantly assume that we have all the answers. We jump to the conclusion that because their language is simpler and they are small that they couldn’t possibly know what the world problems are, much less know how to fix them. But I’m convinced that children are more clear, more in tune, and more wise than most adults truly understand.

So I guess I would ask the world’s children what they would do to change the world, and then I would do it.

I Love Myself Exactly as I am

All too often, ‘beauty’ magazines do their best to make us feel ugly, fat, and completely undesirable. Probably because they are driven by advertising dollars for products that we don’t really need (22 shades of pink lipstick), don’t even work (wrinkle cream), or only look good if you look more like a skeleton than a woman. So, it is refreshing that Glamour magazine in the U.K. actually published a picture of a woman who actually looks like a woman.

Lizzie Miller’s Glamour magazine shoot: How one model’s picture shook the world (flabby tummy and all)

This is a step in the right direction, to be sure, but there is a giant chasm still to cross. The beauty industry has systematically undermined women’s confidence for decades. All in the name of pushing products that will somehow magically restore our confidence (that was shamelessly robbed from us in the first place). We now live in a world where even the models don’t look as good as their photos in magazines. We are chasing an impossible ‘ideal’ that not one person can achieve.

So, clearly the system is outdated and not working. Rather than push against it, we can do something far more powerful. We can repair our collective self-esteem as women. How do we do this? Well, we start small. You can start by finding something to admire in yourself and others every single day. When you start looking for what you like, you find more things to like. You can also start a program of radical self acceptance. Repeat this affirmation:

“I Love Myself Exactly as I am.”

How does that feel? A little odd? Crazy? Outrageous? Good! Start wherever you are and embrace it. Just keep saying this little gem of a phrase until you begin to feel a shift. Basically, fake it till you make it. Eventually you will begin to believe that you are a worthwhile person without needing to drop 20 pounds or have perfect boobs or have flawless skin. Soon, you will find that ‘beauty’ is on the inside.

Beauty lives in the twinkling eye and the easy smile. It lives in the genuine ‘Thank you’ and the generous ‘Please’. Beauty is found in the warm hug of love and the hand that helps you up. Beauty is found in the tear that is shed over a stranger’s sorrow and the grassroots campaign to help change lives. Beauty shows her fine self in the careful kick-in-the-butt a friend gives us when we have lost our way. She flexes her muscles when she protects all the children, and all the homeless, and all the lost ones. She stands over the gate between life and death, she bringsĀ  babies into the world and she midwifes us back into the eternal Love. Beauty is reflected in the eyes of our grandmothers as they hold our small children. Beauty is found when we look at our sisters and see all that she does, all that she gives, all that she lives. Beauty, you see, is already in you… and me… she is just waiting for us to see her.

Rethink Africa

I’ve been thinking a lot about Africa lately. After learning that the Western Black Rhino is extinct, I felt alternating waves of sadness and anger. Poaching of their horns seemed to be the cause, but like most causes it caves in on itself after gentle questioning. What is the cause of poaching? Greed? Desperation? Ignorance? Poverty? Like most large issues we face, they are the result of many forces; some that are clear and others that are not.

The oversimplification of the causes of a tragedy like extinction cut us off from the solutions. This issue reminded me of Chimamanda Adichie‘s wonderful discussion “The danger of a single story.”, where she illustrates how telling only one type of story about a person or place can restrict our minds to the fuller story that waits for us.

In a case like the Western Black Rhino, this story can be told from thousands of sides, or the worst, no side at all. The absence of important stories like these are very dangerous. Our western media has a giant blind spot when it comes to Africa. That is unless something horrendous happens, but by then we are too late.

We also lose out on something else when we only hear overly simple stories; we lose our ability to contribute meaningfully to any kind of solution to the problem. We only have a terribly one-sided slice of the full picture. To act quickly on such limited information will likely cause more problems than it solves. We westerners often smugly decide what will ‘fix’ the problems in the entire continent of Africa quite often on limited or faulty stories.

While it is important to help others, true help is the help that has been asked for. The people who are experiencing these massive problems are also creating the massive solutions. Microlending is a great example of this concept; it was created, not at Harvard or Oxford, it was created at Chittagong University in Bangladesh. The whole premise of microlending is that people are inherently valuable; they provide their own collateral, not with money, but with their intelligence, creativity and determination.

It is clear that, while there are very serious issues facing Africa right now, Africans have an abundance of intelligence, creativity and determination. This makes Africa a huge untapped opportunity for investment. There is tremendous growth in store for Africa as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala discusses in her fascinating talk ‘Want to help Africa? Do business here.”, a must see for any investors out there.

On a smaller scale, you can help fund entrepreneurs worldwide through microlending at kiva.org. You can pick who your loans go to and how much you want to lend. While you don’t earn interest (that goes to the microfinance institution in the country), your principal amount gets paid back so you can just keep on giving, or you can cash out. If you ever are feeling a lack of abundance, lending a few dollars to help start a business halfway around the world will make you feel like a billionaire. Perhaps we, in the west, are the richest 1% to the rest of the world.

Make it good

Sunrise First Light, Last Lights

Image by cobalt123 via Flickr

“Macht gut” is something my Grandma used to say. It roughly translates to “make it good” or “makes good”. The true meaning of this phrase, though, is profound advice for life. Basically you only have one shot at this life, so you might as well make it a good one. The concept of ‘makes good’ is also there too; you take your life, the world around you, and you make it better. You make it nice for people. You help when you can (even if butting out is the best thing you can do).

This phrase also teaches without telling. She rarely told me what to do to “Macht gut”. It was implied that I already knew what ‘good’ was and all I had to do was do it. How true is that. Most people could easily sit down and write out a long list of things that would help them live better, happier lives, but how often do we follow through? Things like ‘drink more water’, ‘eat more vegetables’, ‘exercise’, ‘forgive’, ‘spend more time with my children’, ‘use less throw away containers’, the list goes on.

Where to start? If you start, how do you keep it going past the first week? When you apply the “Macht gut” principle, then it all gets pretty easy.

You can filter the list of things that would improve your life by asking yourself: “Does this new behaviour, make it good, for me, for others, for the world?”. You get a quick sense that some items are better than others and will make a bigger impact. The ‘goodness’ part of you knows that small little changes, done every day add up to a big, great, wonderful life.

It really is the small things that makeĀ  the difference. Taking time to listen. Taking time to play. Taking time to share a few laughs and a few tears. Saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’; they are so basic. These small things add up. People hold these little things in their heart for years. Ultimately, these little kindnesses are very big, important things. Those little things are the foundation of friendship, of marriage, of love; without them we wither just like untended house plants.

There is another aspect to this phrase that a bit of Googling taught me, but what my understanding always knew. “Macht’s gut” means ‘Take care’ or ‘So long’. It means travel well, get home safe, call me when you get there. It is also a request to care for yourself as much as you are cared for by the person. Take care of yourself because you mean the world to me. Be good to yourself.
I miss her.
But her words and wisdom live on; and now I get to share them with you.

So, macht gut!

Too right

Talking in the evening. Porto Covo, Portugal

Image via Wikipedia

Would you rather be peaceful or right?

This is something that Wayne Dyer often says on his radio interviews on HayHouseRadio.com. During conversations and arguments we quickly take sides and vigorously defend our ideas. We are right and they are wrong. But clinging to the concept of ‘being right’ means we also cling to the concept of ‘being wrong’. We put ourselves in an endless loop of suffering.

There is an easy technique to figure out if you are struggling to be right. When you are having a conversation, take a moment and listen with your heart. Just let the wisdom in your heart interpret the words the other person is speaking. Through this filter you can quickly see any verbal attack as a cry of pain. Your heart can quickly see that you are an independent spirit and you do not need the agreement of another person to be a valuable being, you are a slice of the Divine with cherries on top. Your heart can also see that the other person is also equally valuable. Indeed, your heart also has the wisdom to know that the Universe is large enough to contain all opinions and beliefs simultaneously with zero conflict.

Heart listening is a tremendous practice in any conversation. It opens the doors to understanding and resolution. You will find that you naturally listen more than talk. When you talk, it is relevant, clear and inclusive. You begin to hear, not just the words the other person is using but their true message, you hear their need. People automatically relax when they are listened to on such a deep level. They feel respected, and what’s more you have a deeper respect for yourself.

When you tune into what your heart has to say to you, you realize you no longer have to be wrong or right. You can have your opinions, choices and preferences without needing to have them, or you, be accepted by one other person. You begin to see your own infinite value and limitless potential. You become more of your true essence in a way that opens the door for everyone to do the same. Your light does not diminish anyone, but it becomes a source of inspiration to the world.

Superhero Feet

I’ve been thinking about superheros lately. Most likely because my little boy is fascinated with them. He is so fascinated that he now prefers to be called Spiderman or Iron Man rather than his name. The archetype of the superhero is captivating, not just to little boys, but also to society at large. The idea of an ordinary person containing an extra-ordinary power and using it anonymously for the benefit of all, it sparks something in our imaginations.

One way to look at the superhero is that it comes from our wish to be rescued, and to have all our problems solved. Another would be that we wish we had the power to save others and solve big problems. Maybe it is a mix of both. To be helped, to be helpful, it reaches back to a time when we were small and wanted to be big.

A challenge of the superhero archetype is that it is one half of a duality. In order to have heros, we also have to have villans. In reality, there are few villans out there. Global warming is caused by the collective action of billions of people over hundreds of years. It is hard to think of a superhero that could fight that one.

The problems we face today are complex, where the causes are many and it is not always obvious which ones to fight first. And maybe fighting is the wrong approach in the first place. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

I consider Dr. King to be one of our times greatest heros. While he may not have seen much change in his lifetime, great change did, and is, taking place.

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...

Image via Wikipedia

He had the insight to see that the giant problem of racism and inequality is not one great villan, it is accumulated through many, many small deeds of villany by ordinary people. He inspired people to look at the things that are uncomfortable within themselves and within society, and ultimately to change their behaviour.

So perhaps all the problems we face in the world can be solved in two ways: leaders with the courage to sing a hymn of peace, when the whole world is chanting ‘war’; and ordinary heros, like you and me, who are willing to choose kindness over selfishness.

For what its worth

MotherEarth

I was listening to Caroline Myss‘ “Essential Guide for Healers” today and she said something that stopped me in my tracks. She said “I’ll tell you why nations don’t heal, and probably why it will be a mighty long time until they do, and that is because there is no money in peace.” Meaning that the profits of peace, the benefit of it, the economic benefit, is hidden. But the total value of peace is not something that most people need explained. The ability to be safe, to work, to raise babies, to have love and friendship, it is something that we have in common with everyone on the planet. It is priceless.

The price of war is quantifiable, it is easy to demonstrate the economic benefits of war. It creates jobs in a down economy. If you were a business person and only looked at the balance sheets you might be inclined to think that war was a good company to invest in, even better if it paid dividends. Peace is nebulous, it is spread out over millions of people, hundreds of thousands of local businesses. It is hard to invest in peace or think about profit margins. Peace’s true value is only felt when it is lost. It is felt when we come to understand that the only thing standing in the way of starving babies and food is bullets in a gun and a propped up ideology.

How many other things in our world do we only truly value when they are lost? Peace is one. But also, health, clean water, clean air, forests, relationships, people we care about. These are things that have quantifiable, monetary value only when they are gone. We intuitively know that these things are precious. That the true worth is not something that can be expressed by money alone. But the interesting thing is, that until we start making choices based on the foundation of love, we easily slide into making the choice that costs the least money, or rather what makes us the most money.

I think the most dangerous force in our economy right now, is love. If people truly cared for their neighbours, their global neighbours, they would stop making most of the foolish decisions they do. Love would crumble the system. If you loved others and loved yourself, then no need to buy the latest keeping up with the Jones’ item. It would be easy to spend more to get less if it meant you were buying local, sustainable and responsible. For a long time we have kept the true cost of our little daily decisions at arms length. It is uncomfortable to acknowledge that our decisions might have hurt the things we hold dear.

But there is power in acknowledging this pain, because it is like the cancer patient that finally stops smoking, through the realization we are given the gift, the push to change. To choose better, to choose wiser, to choose love.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: