Forest Bathing In Your Own Home this Holiday

The concept of Forest Bathing derives from Japan. The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku. They have discovered that by breathing in alpha-pinene, an essential oil from Pine trees, there is an increase in human Natural Killer (NK) Cells, NK activity and anticancer activity in lymphocytes. To achieve this, it is recommended that you slowly walk in a pine forest covering about 1 mile in 2-3 hours. This is slow enough that it is mediative too. That slow unhurried pace is, in itself,  healthful. The average walking speed is about 2 miles per hour. In Forest Bathing, you are then walking at a maximum speed of only 25% of the normal walking pace.

Not all of us can easily access a forest. But what about a Fresh cut coniferous tree for the holidays? For many years, I have avoided a fresh Holiday tree because of the concern for fire. But this year, I was not motivated to do a fake tree. The subtle smell of plastic has become depressing. 

So I filled our home with a fresh pine tree and garland*. It smells so good. Nature does take care of us. I am, like most others, naturally attracted to the aroma of pine. The whole process of Shinrin Yoku, forest bathing can be described as Biophilia: our innate tendency to seek connections with nature. The stimulations of NK cells must be the evolutionary advantage.

Happy healthy decorating to all!

For fire and smog prevention, fireplace use is forbidden. The tree came from a YMCA fundraiser for underserved youths. These trees are farmed for the purpose of decoration. 

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

*For those with allergies to coniferous trees, sorry. 

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Reduce Flu, Cough and Cold Transmission… it is the season

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You can reduce spread of Respiratory Infection by wearing a mask. You can reduce the spread  by up to 60-80%. Of course good hand washing is a must too.

This is common practice in Asia. Healthful cultural practice we should adopt.

It is the season. Be a trail blazer. Just do it.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm

 

My Tibetan Vacation

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I would like to share with you my journey into Tibet and some of the wisdom I gained from this experience.

Tibetan culture is very spiritual. Tibetans believe that there are 3 evils in society: Anger, Greed, and Ignorance. Throughout their life time it is a person’s responsibility to overcome these 3 evils. Tibetans pray to become kind and compassionate; honest, and generous. To spend a lifetime gathering wisdom from education, to know right from wrong, and to learn from the teaching of your elders. It’s a main focus of their culture. 

Individuals in Tibetan society have a collective goal to grow beyond these human weaknesses. It is just a beautiful way to live.  They use meditation with various mantras to help reach a special spiritual place they call Nirvana. To become enlightened – which can be defined as a state of perfect happiness; an ideal or idyllic place, with neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self. Tibetan society and its people have a defined path to Nirvana. Along the way, they teach and reach beyond themselves and selflessly give back. 

Now contrast this to life in the United States. There is an abundance of anger, greed and ignorance in our current American culture. It seems we as a collective entity have forgotten to address the existence of these negative and hurtful attitudes. How and when we got off track is difficult to say maybe we just started this way. Unfortunately, it has become part of the fabric of this country. Just read some of the hateful comments on the internet. So much negativity. I wish we had a clear path to rise above the 3 evils, to become better people in a society without anger, greed, and ignorance. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could call out people when they embodied the 3 evils? Wouldn’t it be nice if Anger, Greed and Ignorance became shameful?  Wouldn’t it be nice to hear people say I am working on raising my level of enlightenment? How much more advanced would our society be if we spent our collective energy, intelligence and spirit on positive creativity rather than trying to keep the negative energy of the 3 evils at bay? For example the amount of time we need to spend to fight against hackers, corruption, arguing amongst each other, etc. It is not productive.  It is such a waste of the short amount time we all have on this planet. We could be so much more advanced if we spent our time creating and working on new, inspirational and positive ideas. Our society is stuck at the level of the 3 evils. The anger gets us into aggressive behaviors, high murder rates and generations after generations of wars. The greed can make some people extremely rich and self-centered, instead of using their platform to help others rise up for a more balanced society. How many billions is enough? Yet there will never be enough to fill the inner emptiness. Our ignorance is reflected in our failing educational system. A future of ignorant people is a formula for a society to fail.

These 3 evils aren’t in our conscious minds. How we behave and what we accept as decent and graceful behavior has been lost. Sometimes our own truth is too difficult to face or we don’t know how to find it. So we hide it behind protective layers of facades, live in denial, blame others for our problems. But if we ignore our own inner truth, it will bubble up as anger, greed, anxiety, and depression that has no end. We use addictive behaviors to cope. That’s what happens when we are ignorant of our true selves. Our society does not provide a pathway, such as in Tibet. Americans have to purposely seek this out.

Then an inspiring turn of events.  

As I was contemplating these ideas,  I coincidently (although maybe there are no coincidences), I watched  a documentary called “The Work”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm6fiDXmTkw on the airplane back to USA. 

“The Work” is filmed in Folsom prison, a  Level 4 prison in California. They follow the transformation of “lifers” defined as those who are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole: people who have committed horrific crimes. 

In this film, we follow selected lifers as they go through 4 days of intensive group therapy where the wall that they have erected to hide their true selves is torn down. The truth can be unbearable and so difficult to face that one subconsciously lives a life of crime rather than face the real issue. That protective wall that separated themselves from their true selves allows them to disconnect. This disconnection in part enables them to perpetrate those heinous crimes. 

During the therapy sessions many of the prisoners broke down into tears, to reach that emotional state of who they really are and to face the truth about themselves. When the tears start, “The Work” can begin: breaking down all those tough guy hard core barriers and finding the path to discover their truth. The truth can be very painful. Those deep feelings of not being good enough, feelings of inadequacy, shame, fears of being (self) judged and not being accepted and loved as a child can consumes one’s spirit. Acknowledging them is the beginning to healing. Many of the individuals open up about their unbearable childhood. The damage of adverse childhood events, including chronic racism, exposure to violence, abandonment, etc., no matter how subtle, can cause a lifetime of illness and dysfunction.  https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about_ace.html . Our painful truth. 

I highly recommend that you watch this documentary. The Folsom program has had impressive results. For those lifers who qualified for and completed the program, some were subsequently released back in society. So far none have returned.

We all live at various levels behind our protective walls, the highest wall being the most exterior of walls, the wall that is furthest from your true self. The higher the wall, the higher the level of disconnect and dysfunction. 

There are 5 levels of walls that need to break down before we get to the level of Nirvana.

Starting with the most exterior wall to the inner wall:

Level 1 – This level would be the people with severe disturbances in thought patterns. 

Level 2 – Level where the people have little insight to their behavior- examples sociopaths, borderline personalities, narcissists. 

Level 3 – The “Robot” level – people who function without emotions and lack empathy and compassion.  

Level 4 – The majority of us with our anxieties, worries, depression and neuroticism

with various stages of severity. 

Level 5 – Nirvana recognizing and living as your true self – the inner core

It takes constant work to get to break down the barrier and stay at level 5, the ultimate level, But the more you practice, the more it stays with you. 

It takes work (with or without trained professional guidance). You have to keep digging and when you  dig deep enough you will get there. Sometimes on the other side of the protective wall is a deep dark space. That dark reality about yourself may not be easily confronted. Rather than do the work, it is easier to stay the course at the familiar superficial layer. Not to step out of the comfort zone. But the shorter, seemingly easy path will end up the most difficult path of a life of anxiety, depression, chronic illness, pain and addiction. The (self) hate and racism, stems from this space. 

Discovering your truth, helps you to understand why you behave the way you do and your emotional reactions towards life events. To face your shame and your emotional pain. Take the path that moves away from the 3 evils. Your behavior and actions mirror the feelings you have for yourself. If you hate someone, look at what you hate about yourself. 

Getting back into your inner layer is where the healing starts. Start with building yourself up with self love and self compassion. Then this can become your new mirror. A new reflection that is available to you and that you can have if you do the work. Shift your path towards acceptance, kindness, compassion, generosity, wisdom and being enough.

How do we do “the work” within ourselves? 

There is a path. Rather, there are so many paths and options to reach to your inner spiritual true self. A combination of them is ideal, but there is no magic. You have to do “the work”. Examples of healing modalities are: mindfulness, meditation, healing touch, aromatherapy, Reiki, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, yoga, books, hypnotism, Classical 5 elements acupuncture, music therapy, art therapy, talk therapy, connecting with nature, community connections, friends and family. Of course proper nutrition is assumed (covered in my other blog posts).  

Life is a truly a journey to finding your path and then bravely taking it. Let your adventure begin. 

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Epilogue

To see and feel the auspicious mystical energy of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world soaring up with a peak of 29,035 feet is a truly transformative experience. We saw Mount Everest from the Tibetan base camp which is at an altitude of 16,900 feet. We lucked out, as the clouds cleared for the 2 days that we were there in July. We were able to see Qomolangma (the Chinese name for Mount Everest, which sounds much like its Tibetan name Chomolungma) in all its glory. 

The altitude of the base camp is above tree line so zero greenery. Just rocks and snow. In this barren landscape, there is a sense of solitude. As we stood in awe of Qomolangma’s grace and beauty while immersed in Tibetan culture, one can’t help but become inspired and to contemplate the meaning of one’s own existence and ask who am I really? What does it matter? The hypoxia at this altitude may have contributed to these questions 😉

On a practical note about traveling in Tibet: 

The Chinese side of Mount Everest, one can easily drive up to Everest Base Camp (like a true Californian :). Whereas in the Nepalese side, one needs to hike in several days before getting to the base camp. 

The cuisine at high altitudes is was not great because food can’t be heated to high temperatures. 

The non flushing stand/squat toilet are to say the least yucky. I coped with the thought that most of the world lives like this. Still I really appreciate home and my flushing toilet.

My Tibetan references include the information that was gathered from our Tibetan tour guide, Gyaltsen from Wonders of Tibet. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294223-d557334-Reviews-Wonders_of_Tibet-Lhasa_Tibet.html

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Veterans Day: We Remember

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In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

This is part of a poem that I grew up reciting every year at school in Remembrance of our fallen soldiers.

https://www.history.com/news/world-war-i-poppy-remembrance-symbol-veterans-day

I wish America had a larger tradition of using a poppy symbol to visibly honor our Veterans.

Easy Dinner #3 – Bowls

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This meal’s prep time is not 10 mins but around 25 mins with some pre-planning.

Pre planning –> Make ahead:

Miso dressing (See Sept 2017 blog for recipe or way down at bottom of this recipe) and set up rice cooker with brown rice. Turn on rice cooker few hours before guests arrive. Serving a whole meal in a bowl is simple and it was a hit with guests.

The base is Brown Rice or whatever grain you prefer. You can buy precooked rice in frozen food aisle. I like to use my Rice cooker because once it is set up, I don’t have to think about it until I am ready to serve the rice. For added flavor, I prefer using vegetable broth instead of water to cook up brown rice.

Set your oven for 400 deg.  Toss precut Butternut Squash with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Best if all the Squash cubes are about same size so cubes can bake consistently, preventing small ones from burning and bigger ones from undercooking. Bake 20-30 mins, until soft.

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Meanwhile: Toss ready to serve pre washed Baby greens with Miso dressing.

Heat/prepare your protein. You can use, for example, Smart Tenders (see below) or some chickpeas or tofu cubes.

 

I added some sliced pre cooked beets and Kim Chi for sides.

Best to serve Bowl Meals in some 6-8 inch diameter bowls. Asian markets are the best place to find these.

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Putting it together –> First layer in some brown rice, then the Miso greens then squash, beets and Kim Chi (can use Sauerkraut too) on top.

Bon Appetite 🙂

 Miso Lime Dressing with Honey 

1 1/2 tablespoons miso paste*
2 tablespoons rice vinegar*
1 1/4 tablespoons raw honey*
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Add toasted almonds (optional)

Mix the above ingredients. Serve in a mixed green salad

*these ingredients are rich in probiotics

Easy Vegan Dinner #2

This dinner takes about 10 mins to make.IMG_3037

Needs to get these ingredients together from Trader Joe’s and some basics from Costco.

Prepare Carrots as per package but bake convection oven at 400deg for about 8 mins to brown carrots. Then Microwave covered for about 2 minute to soften (depends on wattage of your microwave). Salt and Pepper optional.

Then for stir fry –

Add to frying pan, olive oil, garlic, ginger, stir a little and add veggies, and sliced sausage. Keep on medium – low heat, stirring as needed to prevent from burning.

Meanwhile in microwave heat up rice and use Coconut Aminos to season to taste.

Easy Vegan Dinner #1

 

IMG_3010You can make this in 10 mins- I was at Costco and bought these 3 things-

Potato and Spinach Pierogies, Korean Gondre Herb Rice and precooked Beets

 

I pan fried the Pierogies with avocado oil over medium heat, covered, 4 minutes on each side with a splash of water in the last minute to steam and soften a bit.

The Rice was heated in microwave. Beets sliced and served cold.  It was deliciously simple!

You might think this is cheating because I did not make everything from scratch. But it is still higher quality food than fast food, and you know the ingredients. This meal not as expensive as restaurant food, saves time because a trip to restaurant takes more time than you think, and finally you can certainly have food delivered but there is an energy carbon foot print cost to that if it is a gasoline powered car (plus some electric car depending on how the electricity is generated). The amount of foods that I bought is enough for several meals too.

 

California Recycling Pays

Getting kids involved with recycling has so many positives.

  1. Environmental awareness. The future of the planet is in their hands.
  2. The responsibility of a job.
  3. Appreciate the value of money.
  4. Interacting with the public as a business person. It’s equivalent to a “paper route”. Years ago, kids would go door to door delivering newspapers to their neighbors. Now our kids can potentially collect bottles from their neighbors, businesses in the neighborhood, etc
  5. They could donate the money they raise to a local charity or earn some spending money.

The California Refund Value bottles are worth in California  5 to 10 cents. Five cents for under 24 oz size and 10 cents for bottles greater than 24 oz. Although I have not found this to be consistent. Some of the bigger bottles (>24 oz) have CRV of 5 cents. This means you deposited 5 cents when you bought them, but since they are bigger and heavier, you receive more back for that 5 cent spent when you return them by weight.

Here is summary of our most recent transaction at Nexcycle Recycling Center.

We had 27 Aluminum cans: deposited 27  x 5 cents =  $1.35  -> Received $1.76

We had 62 Plastic bottles: deposited 61 x 5 cents =  $3.05  ->Received $6.40

We had 54 Glass bottles: deposited 54 x 5cents =  $2.70  -> Received $3.16

Please keep the bottle tops on. They need to be recycled too. Animals can choke on the caps. Additionally,  the caps add to weight of the bottles so you get a little more money ;).

Generic glass and plastic bottles have a value too. Much less but worth it.

See below for the Price per pound. These prices are set by the State.

Happy Recycling!

 

RECYCLE SIGN