The New Good Life

John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America and son of Baskins-Robbins co-founder and owner, has written The New Good Life – Living Better Than Ever In An Age Of Less.  It is full of ideas for spending less money while living better and more consciously, but, even better, explores what wealth really means.

It was interesting to read about his walking away from the family business and from any financial assistance from his father to live a simple life on an island off the coast of British Columbia where he and his wife spent about $500 a year.  They grew most of their own food and earned an income from yoga classes and retreats.

It was also interesting to read about the different money types – The Saver, The Innocent, The Performer, The Sensualist, The Vigilant, and The Giver – and to see how our predominant type shows up in the way we think about and deal with money.  As with every area of life, knowing yourself is the first step to freedom.

One fascinating fact that the author brought out is that once a person has their basic needs met and are above the poverty level, the amount of money one has is not a predictor of happiness. When the author lived the simple life on the island, he describes the way he felt as glad, grateful, alive in a way he had never felt before, “at home in myself”, and at peace – words seldom used by the richest of men.

Bottom line:  We need to rethink our ideas about what constitutes prosperity.  Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer said ” One thing I know.  The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought, and found how to serve”.  John Robbins wrote: ” The new good life is yours whenever you appreciate life, whenever you live with a sense of meaning and purpose that goes beyond the material veil, whenever your heart is filled with wonders, large and small.  It is yours when you see life anew, when your faith is restored, when you find the sacred in the midst of the mundane and the beauty of your spirit in the way that you live.”

He also wrote: ” I believe there is a hidden blessing in the economic crisis, in the necessary return to reality from a make-waste society.  Many of us know at some level, that we have become caught up in something deeply out of balance, that we are going way too fast, that we are speeding past too many of the things and moments that could really matter.  Many of us sense that life is too precious and too precarious to live the way we are living.  This book will help you to prosper in times of economic disaster and also to appreciate the sometimes bitter medicine that our society needs in order to regain its soul.”  Well said. . .

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Countdown to Clean

Clean by Alejandro Junger, M.D. is a book by a New York City cardiologist that highlights a “revolutionary program to restore the body’s natural ability to heal itself”.  While at the present time I don’t feel the need to heal anything in particular except an occasional headache, I support the idea of reducing and removing toxins and restoring the body to a more natural, cleaner state.

In addition to increased energy, I think this could result in clearer thinking and a more balanced life.  So. . . I am beginning a week of an elimination diet which will be followed by three weeks of gentle detox and clean eating.  I am writing this here with hope that the act of writing it down will help me to follow through.

While I already eat a fairly healthy diet, I do drink coffee, eat some white flour and white sugar products, and occasionally have red meat.  The hardest part may be planning ahead to have plenty of fresh greens on hand plus acceptable vegetables, fruits, and fish.

I will keep you posted on the difficulties as well as the benefits.  With the lettuce and spinach in the garden big enough to eat now, I am looking forward to fresh salads and juices, but getting rid of my daily cup of coffee may have to be a gradual thing.  Wish me luck!

Incidentally, everything the author learned came about because personal experiences led him to seek out answers; as a physician, he had never had a nutrition class!

The Healing of America

Having recently read The Healing of America by Marianne Williamson, I am still thinking about some of the ideas she presented.  Although the book was written in l997, it is still current, perhaps more so than it was when she wrote it.

Rather than try to review that book, I am going to quote several sentences that had the most impact on me.  The following are principles that apply to social change, as well as to personal change.

“1. It is always our prerogative, as individuals and as nations, to choose again; to say no to a direction we’ve been moving in and yes to a new one. Our greatest capacity is our capacity to change our minds.

2. Alignment with higher principles is always supported by invisible forces.

3. If an energy is not in alignment with divine Truth, it is ultimately temporary.  It will not last forever, and is more vulnerable than it appears.

4. The universe is impersonally invested in evolving toward goodness, and uses any available conduit for the purpose of doing so.  Willingness to be so used activates the conduit.  You’re as good for the job as anyone else, and your past is totally irrelevant.

5. Don’t expect the old order to like you.

6. A life of love and effort on behalf of the collective good promises the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing what you were born to do.  You are not, however, promised specific results as you might define them.

7. Your happiness regarding the reality that’s coming is a more potent method of social conversion than is your anger regarding the reality now.”

One other paragraph stands out for me: “Leadership itself is changing, from a top-down, old-fashioned, Newtonian model of someone acting on a system from the outside to try to change it, to a new paradigm image of change from within.  The primarily responsibility of leadership in the era now upon us is to hold a space for the genius of others.  In the presence of someone who believes in us, we move more quickly into who we might become.  But the major work to be done is still up to each of us.”

My choice is to try to always align myself with higher principles (mainly love), and to try to believe the best about every person and every situation regardless of the present appearance.  There are a few situations in my life right now that require a daily commitment to these ideas, and it isn’t always easy.  I know it’s the only way to go though because I do believe that “love never fails”.

I also believe that the small personal victories are what make is possible to apply these principles on a larger scale.  And when you are coming from the right place on the inside, whether you are desiring harmony in a relationship,  writing a letter to a congressman, working for change somehow,  or even running for an office, you will be bringing something besides greed, anger, and arrogance to the process; you will be bringing God’s truth and a desire for the highest good.

Molecules of Emotion

Molecules of Emotion – The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine- by Candace B. Pert, Ph.D., is a fascinating book which explains how our thoughts and the subsequent emotions they produce have a physical equivalent in the chemicals they generate, and how these chemicals have a profound effect on our physical bodies.  There is a lot of science mixed in with a story about the author’s life  as a scientist and a woman (not always a good combination in the last decades of the twentieth century).

I wish that the science was in a separate book (maybe it is) because I am now having to go back and reread sections of the book to get a good understanding of the workings of the brain, peptides, and receptors, etc.  The first time I read the book, I was caught up in the story and didn’t “get” a lot of the scientific explanations.

It seems like the simplest way to describe what she is saying is  “feel your feelings”. There are no “bad” emotions as long as you allow yourself to feel them and don’t stuff them somewhere in your body where they will cause you physical and emotional pain down the road (in the form of a melt-down, a break-down, or an explosion).

A lot of the addictions we have are an attempt to do something else or feel something else so we won’t have to experience our emotions.  For maximum health and well-being, deal with your emotions as they come up as much as possible, and if you need help with this, then get it.

Some of the helpful tips she gives in the appendix are: take responsibility for the way you feel (other people can’t make us feel good or bad – we choose how we feel), pay attention to the quality and quantity of your sleep, spend time in nature every day, cut way back on sugar, don’t take prescription drugs unless absolutely necessary and only as long as necessary, drink eight glasses of unchlorinated water every day, always tell yourself the truth, never wind down before sleep with the nightly news, and live in an unselfish way.  We don’t need to understand a lot of science to do these things, but they can be life changing.

Half The Sky

Half The Sky  –  Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide

Eye- opening, painful to read, yet brimming with hope, this book brings to light many issues facing women around the world today; issues such as forced prostitution, rape, maternal mortality, poverty, and illiteracy.  Shocking accounts of gender inequality and unthinkable abuse will make you sit up and take notice, but stories of changes made in women’s lives with help from groups and individuals will make you want to cry and cheer and do something yourself.

One of the most important things to remember is that these aren’t just women’s issues.  What husband or family or community or country can prosper and flourish when half the population is not only devalued, abused, and denied education and adequate health care, but is also not allowed to bring their unique gifts and talents and wisdom into manifestation?  It is impossible. I have seen bits of ignorance and superstition in action, but I had no idea they were causing such massive damage around the world.

I loved reading stories of girls and women whose lives were transformed by education or by being rescued from prostitution, or by a small loan which, along with hard work, turned them into a successful businesswoman and community leader.  The authors of this book, a married couple who have received the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, have learned so much about what works and what doesn’t when trying to tackle some of these issues, yet they stress the importance of flexibility and being open to what works best in different places and different situations.

Here is the final paragraph in the book:  “The tide of history is turning women from beasts of burden and sexual playthings into full-fledged human beings.  The economic advantages of empowering women are so vast as to persuade nations to move in that direction.  Before long, we will consider sex slavery, honor killings, and acid attacks as unfathomable as foot-binding.  The question is how long that transformation will take and how many girls will be kidnapped into brothels before it is complete and whether each of us will be part of that historical movement, or a bystander.”

Several ideas are given for steps we can take to help women around the world as well as web sites of organizations that support women.  Yes, this is a serious, often unpleasant subject, but one I know we can’t ignore.  This has to be one of the most important books you will ever read.

The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook

This wonderful, colorful book, with a forward by Garrison Keillor, highlights restaurants from the North Shore, Pine and Lake Country, Red River Valley, Minnesota River Valley, Bluff Country, and the Twin Cities Area.  Full of gorgeous pictures of food, people, and landscapes, it tells the stories of chefs and cooks who work hard to bring delicious, quality food to their patrons, and to use local, organic, seasonal food as much as possible.

Stories of farmers, food gatherers, and foodmakers are also included, and all of these stories are as inspiring as they are interesting.  When I was reading the book, I said to my husband more than once, “I can’t believe there are this many people in Minnesota who think like this!” (I guess I don’t get out and about much, but it is still amazing to me).  Lucky for us, they bring their philosophies to their work of raising animals and growing and preparing food.

Reading this book will do your heart good and make you want to eat in as many of these restaurants as possible and meet these wonderful  people.  There are also 100 recipes in the book – I can’t wait to try Cranberry Multi-Grain Bread and Prairie Bay Pizza Margherita and Butternut Basil Soup and many others.  I checked this book out of my local library, but I will definitely be purchasing a copy.