I love this analogy, it made the concept so clear in such a simple way. I was so inspired by this teaching that, while pregnant, I painted a yantra (a geometrical light formation that emanates from sound vibration) of the Cosmic Mother for the nursery, and included the image of the cupped bird at its centre. As my husband and I raise our children, this painting continues to remind me that our children are not ours, but that they are entrusted to us for a time. They are born with free will, yet we hold them for a time until they are ready, and it is safe, for them to fly.
The image of the cupped bird also reminds me to be balanced in my parenting because sometimes the power of separation anxiety and the desire to protect is so strong. I want to keep my children safe. Safe from physical danger, but also safe from emotional danger. It is easy for me to go overboard in trying to control my son's movements, activities and social interactions throughout the day in the name of "safety," or "protection," and I find that sometimes what is really at the centre of that might be my own insecurity. I do think that children need the freedom to explore, learn and discover for themselves; at the same time, I do need to be close by to step in when needed. That's the sticky bit for me right there. "When needed."
The cupped bird reminds me that, if I hold my children too close to me due to my own insecurities and fears, I may end up harming them by preventing them from developing the skills they need to thrive in this life, and the resiliency and confidence that one absolutely needs in order to bounce back from inevitable hurts and failures. I have found that it takes so much courage and strength on my part to allow my children the freedom that they need and are entitled to. To give them my love, versus my attachment.
On the flip side, what happens when we don't hold our children tight enough? My family is such a great example of this analogy. If left unchecked, I have the tendency to be controlling. My husband has the opposite tendency towards permissiveness. This is something I think we are seeing more these days in a very well-intentioned attempt at "democracy in the family." It's not bad in my eyes, as long as we strive to keep things in balance. I think we now know that, in order to feel safe and secure, children thrive with a certain amount of routine, boundaries and predictability. Otherwise, they may not feel held, but a bit lost instead as they move throughout their day and social interactions.
Lastly, the image of the cupped bird helps me reflect on my own self-care as a mother. Enter the tendency towards perfectionism as a mother, toward being the "perfect mother." Ahhh. When I had my first child, I allowed so little self-care for myself. We all know the mom-bun. I rocked that bun for weeks (maybe a month!) at a time without taking it down to comb, let alone wash it. When I would finally take my hair down, it ached from the root from being tied up for so long, and had actually dreaded in several places. I had thought that I was being a great mother, giving my all to my child and so little to myself, but in the end not being balanced in my self-care led to inevitable burn out, not allowing me to be my most healthy self for my son. This may seem obvious, but it was really difficult to distinguish when was a good time for me to engage in self-care. It always seemed equally important to be available to him, and then once he was asleep, I didn't have the energy to get up and do self-care.
The promise I made to myself before having our second son was to not hold myself so tight, to relax my ideas and to allow for a little more self-care, because I knew that I couldn't do it the same way twice. Now, I make sure to brush my hair (every few days), and my teeth (almost every day) and shower (well, more than before!).
AND I'm FINALLY writing this blog! It's not perfect... because I don't have time (or enough sleep) for that! Maybe, in some cases, good enough is perfect after all.
Om & Prem.
Gratitude and Grief are two sides of the same coin in the currency of Love. Just as fear is our experience of Apana Vayupushing up when Trust is moving down; Gratitude is the expression of Prana Vayu emanating outwards when Grief is imploding.
One of my favourite teachings of Martin Pretchel is ‘You have to praise (read be grateful/love) to the dead in order to grieve, and you must grieve the living in order to Love’. And it is through this lens that I feel the medicine of gratitude comes forth. For, when we bring gratitude, which lives in the heart and therefore is connected to the past, to the forefront of our mind we are allowing the positive flow of energy (prana vayu) of the past to empower the present.
As with Spring, Fall is also connected to one of Niwas’ Sadhanas - Navaratri; the nine nights of Durga. This Sadhana is a wonderful way of taking all that moving energy of the Fall, the change and the transition, and consciously directing it into a practice of mantra to refine and harness the energy of transformation for Spiritual evolution. The first three days of Navaratri are dedicated to Kali - in her ability to help us let go of all that is no longer serving us. The next three days are to Lakshmi, which allows her energy of abundance to come forth and fill the space created by Kali. The last three days are dedicated to Ma Sarsaswati to create integration and wisdom around the transformation (an important aspect that many in sadhana skip or avoid). The whole experience gives one a tangible cultivation of the energy of Ma Durga. Powerful, pure, loving and all-encompassing. If you missed the opportunity to practice the Navaratri sadhana this Fall, not to worry, you will have another opportunity in the Spring.
'Til then, keep your heart flowing in gratitude; love the people and beasts in your present and your past, and drink many cups of warm turmeric milk. A wonderful elixir for this time of year.
The root of Oregon Grape, taken as a tincture or tea, can help with digestion, and can balance many issues that cause stomach and GI upset. The flowers and berries are edible, but should be consumed sparingly.
Immense gratitude to all of the plant wisdom found throughout Ktunaxa Ɂamakis wherein Ishtadev Niwas Ashram and Farm is so blessed to find itself.
~ by Atmanidhi Herman
During one satsang, Swami Satsangi (Swami Satyasangananda) told us how Sri Swamiji used to say that we are all doing Panchagni, that we are all slowly burning up in the 5 internal fires of kama or desire, krodha or anger, lobha or greed, moha or attachment and mada or intoxication with pride. She explained that panchagni sadhana is done by a Paramahansa (someone who is no longer bound by the reality of dualism, and who has control of the elements - so please do not attempt this yourself as it can be potentially fatal for one who is unprepared) to purify these 5 internal fires completely and permanently, thus resulting in a permanent state of Atmabhava, the experience of oneness with everything.
These 5 frequencies of affliction are inside us all, and that is the key word here. Inside. If we don’t identify with one of them, say, anger for example (or if it has at least been purified enough not to be a habitual response), then no matter what comes at us in life, it cannot be the root of our response. It takes a healthy dose of courage to see when these 5 traits are calling the shots on our reality but, with dedication and persistence, when the noose of habitual responses is finally loosened, we evolve into a functional perspective steeped in awareness, clarity, and swadhayaya - self enquiry, which to me are the corner stones of true freedom.
Later in the same series of satsangs, Swami Satsangi uttered a sentence that I found so multi-layered that it is still reverberating in my being today. She said that this year it was Rikhia's sankalpa, or resolve, and our own duty, to be happy. She didn’t say enlightened, she didn’t say selfless, she didn’t say compassionate, she said happy.
My western mind at once dismissed it, “you can’t just ‘be happy.'" “That's a lovely sentiment,” my mind offered, “of course you can be happy, you live in Rikhia!” But as I sat with this, and all the other things she was talking about, I realized that she was right. It is our duty to be happy. We are responsible for our own 5 fires, and accountable to do the work to purify their hold on our reality. No matter what the outside world is dealing us, happiness is a choice. It is not the result of everything on the outside being ok, it is the fruit of having the right perspective on life from the inside. Happiness is an act of inner strength and the result of purification, since happiness is who we are, and not what we feel. Consider all the tools, techniques, examples shown by the masters guiding our lineage, blessings of all the aradhanas that we have born witness to and been a part of. It becomes clear. YES, we most certainly do have a duty to harness all the blessings and experiences in order to spread that love around by being happy. Genuinely happy.
Now, it's not that we won't experience hardship, challenge, sadness, nor upsetting events. We may. But when our happiness is not dependant upon the outside world, there is a space, an expansion inside our consciousness that allows us to be present with our reality in the current moment, and to then choose to be happy at the same time. It is not that we suppress or negate the things that trouble us. This happiness does not limit the pallet of our emotional experience; rather, it is a frequency, a perspective of awareness that can simultaneously experience the ups and downs of the duality of this external realm, while not becoming disturbed at the deepest level of our inner joy, of our inner happiness.
So, after sitting with this mandate for a week or so, while I appreciate Swami Satsangi's words that as sadhakas it is our duty to be happy this year, I believe that what she was actually saying is that it's time for us to take responsibility and be accountable for the 5 fires burning inside of us, because those fires deplete our ability to hold a space of inner happiness while moving through this dualistic world. We need to step up our commitment to Self, become stronger in our resolve to know thyself, have the courage to face our inner fires, not reject them, and then cultivate the opposite of them. When so many of our impulses are to buy into greed, hold onto attachments, placate our desires and unleash our anger, may we instead strive to cultivate and express the ability to choose different, to choose the opposite; to loosen the noose and experience our innate state of happiness.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” You cannot drive out anger with anger, you must cultivate acceptance; you cannot irradicate greed with greed, we must learn to let go, to share, and to give; we cannot neutralize pride with more pride, we must be the example of humility.
So, as we step into this beautiful February of 2019, may you find some time, no, may you make the time to explore your 5 fires, to cultivate your positive traits, and to be unwaveringly Happy.
Om and Prem,
Hybrids are the result of crossing two varieties to create a plant that contains the benefits of both parents, however it is not possible to save seed from hybrids, nor to locally acclimatize them to your growing conditions. Hybrids work great in large-scale and mechanized systems, however may not be the best choice for long term sustainability.
Open-pollinated seeds contain a lot of genetic diversity and although they show some variation when grown, this variation ensures that the crop can adapt to climate change and weather extremes. The seed saved from open-pollinated varieties will grow true-to-type, meaning you can expect similar growth, traits, and yields every year. The added benefit to being able to save your own seeds is that every year you will be saving from your best plants, and as a result will be acclimatizing the crop to your own specific micro-climate! Of course, you'll also have your own seed, which saves money and increases your self-reliance.
Heirlooms are also gaining popularity, and for good reason. Heirloom seeds are simply open-pollinated varieties that have been grown in a specific location for many generations. Passed down by family members, heirloom varieties will have significantly acclimatized to their region and will have developed a chosen trait over time, such as a purple carrot!
Whatever type of seeds you choose, there are many excellent companies that sell a large variety of high-quality seeds that will ship to your door. We encourage the use of open-pollinated seeds, especially heirlooms in order to preserve rare and valuable varieties.
We’ve had great success Saltspring Seeds, West Coast Seeds, and especially Rare Seeds.
So, what’s next? We have to determine how many seeds we need before we order! There is a valuable resource to be found in the book titled How to Grow More Vegetables. The master charts contained within the book outline the volume of seed required to plant a pre-determined area, as well as optimal spacing, and details on how to grow every crop from seed to harvest. Typical yields are also included, so if you are aiming to grow 100 lbs. of potatoes, you’ll discover how large an area is required to do so!
Seed shopping is one of our favorite tasks, and we encourage you to take your time and enjoy the process. Before you know it, it’ll be time to sow those seeds!
~ by James Christie-Fougere and Sharon Coombs
Priyatma and I recently concocted a beautiful (and tasty) korma paste and paneer dish last month. So much joy and happiness was experienced in cooking with a friend and fellow student. I’ve pieced together a tasty and easy korma dish, adapted from Jamie Oliver's and the Hare Krishna veg cookbook. Enjoy!
For the Paste:
Toast (in a dry pan) and set aside:
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
Combine in a food processer or blender the toasted seeds and the following:
• 2 cloves garlic
• Thumb-sized piece fresh ginger
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp garam masala
• ½ tsp salt
• 2 tsp melted coconut, almond or peanut oil (add more if needed to make a paste)
• 1 large tbsp tomato paste
• 3 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
• 2 tbsp almond flour
• Small bunch cilantro
For the Korma Dish:
You can now add the paste you made above with 1 can of coconut milk according to any vegetable curry recipe of your choice.
For example, try frying 1 large onion in coconut oil, toss in another thumb-sized piece of ginger, another bunch of cilantro (or the stems from the paste), some cubed paneer and butternut squash. When the squash softens, add in the paste and can of coconut milk. Once it starts bubbling, throw in 1 or 2 handful of peas.
Serve with rice, naan or cauliflower rice, sliced almonds and/or plain yoghurt. Serves 6.
Enjoy with friends and family!
~ compiled by Om Shanti Pelkonen
Kinnickinnick likes sunny, dry slopes, sandy & rocky soils, riverbanks, and is ground-cover in coniferous forests. The thick, evergreen leaves of bearberry can be gathered early spring through late autumn. In the winter, if needed, they can be harvested from under the snow. When harvesting, give thanks and be mindful to take only what you need.
In terms of medicinal uses, Kinnickinnick's are manifold. The leaves can be made into a tincture and are predominantly used as a urinary antiseptic for urinary tract infections. The leaves' anti-microbial actions help to kill bacteria in the urine. The leaves are infused by steeping them in water just above the boiling point to make a tea and then is drunk as a tonic. This infusion could also be used as a mouthwash for canker sores or weak gums.
It has also been made into a decoction by boiling the plant material in water, and then drunk for colds and Tuberculosis. This decoction could also be used as a wash for broken bones. Moreover, decoction of Kinnikinnick has also commonly been used as an eye medicine for sore eyes.
There are many ways that the Kinnickkinnick is/was used by First Nations, from dried leaves smoked as a part of a ceremonial smoking mix in Indigenous pipe ceremonies, to the leaves being chewed on to suppress thirst. In daily living, Kinnikinnick fruit berries were also mashed to create a sealant on baskets.
~ by Denise Holden, Atmanidhi Herman and Shannon Duncan
A great first step to designing a garden is deciding what to grow. By focusing on foods we enjoy eating, we'll have more motivation and excitement in growing these foods in the garden. To answer the second question, we need to do a bit of research. We all live in different climates, and not everything we're used to eating on a daily basis can be grown in every region. Once we have a list of foods we most like to eat, we can narrow that down to foods we can actually grow at home. Check out this link and enter your postal code to get a good idea of how long your growing season lasts, and when your first and last frost dates occur.
Once you know your growing zone, you can make educated decisions on crops that will likely be able to survive and reach maturity in your climate. Many seed companies list the compatible growing zones for food crops, taking the guesswork out of which crops can be grown.
The last question should be answered from the heart: how much of your food do you really want to grow? If it's just a few staples, great! Want to grow your entire diet? Don't be too quick to dismiss such a goal, it's definitely possible! When answering this question, don't worry about the logistics, we'll get to that in the next issue!
~ by James Christie-Fougere and Sharon Coombs
~ by Sannyasi Shivani
Ishtadev Niwas Ashram
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