Free Art strikes again…

Yes, my closets are still quite full of unsold art and so once again I decided to donate art to strangers. This means that I am moving, … again.


It was a bit funny to hang art in the snowy landscape of Montreal East and I was a little worried that a freezing rain storm was coming to town. Wouldn’t that be a tease, free art, once it thaws from the fence a few days later. As with most worrying, non of this came to pass and they found new homes by the end of the week.

Free art, take one, it's yours 2014

Happy holidays everyone and all the best of magic and miracles in 2015!

A study by Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, supported by the United States National Institutes of Health, found that there might be a link between anxiety and dementia. The study analyzed data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative that documented changes in cognition, brain structure and mental health in 376 adults, from age 55 to 91, all of whom had mild cognitive impairment related to mild memory problems such as forgetting why you went to the kitchen or forgetting where you put your keys. Over a three-year period, patients reported whether they felt anxiety, or experienced symptoms of anxiety such as shortness of breath, nervousness, shakiness or trembling. The Baycrest study found that in patients with mild, moderate or severe anxiety the risk for developing Alzheimer’s increased by 33%, 78% and 135%, respectively. The suggested reason is the higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people with anxiety disorders. A steroid hormone released in response to stress and low level of blood glucose, cortisol is known to damage the hippocampus that is important for memory processing and emotion.

It is already understood there is a link between depression and Alzheimer’s and the study was able to separate the effects of anxiety from those of clinical depression as they only studied patients with low depression scores. In patients whose condition deteriorated into Alzheimer’s disease, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detected structural changes such as atrophy in brain regions involved in creating memories and in processing emotions. It was considered unlikely the patients’ anxiety was only an emotional response to cognitive decline. Previous research on depression and emotional stress also points to shared mechanisms that could lead to or exacerbate Alzheimer’s disease.

Since anxiety medications for patients with mild cognitive impairment could interfere with sleep and dull cognitive function, researchers are suggesting lifestyle changes. Better sleep, learning a new language or dance to stimulate the synapses and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Basically to try to live in the present moment and enjoy things is what they recommend. [1] Try being the key word.

A Medical Outcomes Survey deals with three levels of human experience and how they tie into our health and well being.

  1. Physical Health: Physical functioning, satisfaction with physical ability, mobility, pain effects, pain severity, role limitations due to physical health
  2. Mental Health: Psychological distress (anxiety and depression), psychological well-being (positive affect and feelings of belonging), cognitive functioning, role limitations due to emotional problems
  3. General Health: Energy/fatigue, sleep problems, psychophysiological symptoms, social functioning, role functioning (eg, unable to work), current health perceptions, and health distress

But how capable are we to ensure all these factors stay in a healthy range, all the time? We can see that psychological distress refers to anxiety and depression. Here are some facts on anxiety and depression from The Canadian Mental Health Association.

  • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
  • Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness affecting Canadian adults. More facts:

  • One in four Canadians will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
  • 4% of the Canadian population experiences anxiety disorders at serious and chronic levels.
  • 58% of OCD clients experience academic underachievement.
  • 47% report occupational impairment.
  • 40% are unable to sustain long term employment.
  • The presence of an untreated anxiety disorder in youth is a risk factor for the development of depression and substance abuse in early adult years.
  • Anxiety disorders are also more chronic than other groups of mental disorders, including affective disorders and substance use disorders.
  • They disproportionately affect individuals from lower social classes.
  • Anxiety disorders are associated with a ten fold increase in suicide risk.

So we have large numbers of people experiencing depression and anxiety and the health, financial and social issues they can cause yet many are not seeking help. I would extrapolate that this is not just a Canadian problem. In an interesting experiment involving two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions in order to see how emotions are felt in the body people were asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while viewing each stimulus. The significance of this work is in how emotions coordinate our behavior and physiological states during survival-salient events and pleasurable interactions.

Bodily maps of emotions, Lauri Nummenmaa

Bodily maps of emotions
Bodily topography of basic and nonbasic emotions associated with words.
The body maps show regions whose activation increased (warm colors)
or decreased (cool colors) when feeling each emotion.

Recent research is shedding some light on what stresses are doing to the body. We are not so evolved from the Hunters and Gatherers that were our ancestors, although our lives are so very different. In his article Stress -and Allostasis- Induced Brain Plasticity, Dr. McEwen explains how the brain is the key organ of stress processes. The brain has a dynamic and plastic neural circuitry that coordinates, monitors, and calibrates behavioral and physiological stress response systems in order to meet the demands imposed by particular stressors. These processes can be adaptive in the short term (allostasis -the process of achieving stability, or homeostasis, through physiological or behavioral change) and maladaptive in the long term (allostatic load -“the wear and tear on the body” which grows over time when the individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress).

“Stress and stressful experiences have long been implicated in the etiology and pathophysiology of chronic physical and mental health conditions that now pose a great threat to public health. Historically, disciplinary variation in defining and studying stress and stressful experiences posed both methodological and conceptual challenges to the medical community’s understanding of how an individual’s health status could be affected by such complex processes over the life course. These challenges have been addressed by current perspectives, which build on recent advances in translational animal and human research and emphasize that the relationships between stressful experiences and health status depend on a dynamic interaction between genetic liability and exposure to environmental factors. This interaction begins in utero and continues until death.”

Although we are rarely trying to outrun a tiger, or take down a bison to feed the family, we still live in a state of stress based on what we perceive as dangers or as threatening. We maintain homeostasis through the allostatic adaptation to the external and internal demands that are registered by the brain.  This allodynamic adaptation comes at a cost of the wear and tear on the body and brain, which is termed the allostatic load. The allostatic responses to stressful experiences are best when they are also rapidly employed and then terminated. You climbed the tree to escape the tiger and now you can appreciate the clouds in the distance while you wait to descend. Or, the bison has launched off the cliff and you can now celebrate with your hunting comrades while your heart rate slows and you catch your breath. When the allostatic responses are prolonged and not terminated promptly, the allostatic systems undermine mental and physical health. [2]

“An important aspect of allostasis and allostatic load is the notion of anticipation…psychological states, such as apprehension, worry, and anxiety, as well as cognitive preparation for a forthcoming event. Anticipation arising from neural activity within the brain can drive the output of allostatic biomediators, and it is likely that states of prolonged anxiety and anticipation can result in allostatic load. Other important aspects of individual responses to stress in relation to allostasis and allostatic load are health-damaging and health-promoting behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep, diet, and physical activity, collectively called lifestyle behaviors. These may be embodied within the overall notion of allostasis—i.e., how individuals adapt to and cope with a challenge—and they also contribute to allostatic load.”

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 9.58.59 PM

Conventional holistic view of pathogenesis showing
contributing factors of chronic disease (Dr. McEwen)
Judyann K. McNamara © 2014

Wiki defines anxiety as an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints and rumination. It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat; anxiety is an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. Anxiety can be appropriate, but when it is too much and continues too long, the individual may suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are partly genetic but may also be due to drug use including alcohol and caffeine, as well as withdrawal from certain drugs. They often occur with other mental disorders, particularly major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, certain personality disorders, and eating disorders. Common treatment options include lifestyle changes, therapy, and medications.

Again, a suggestion of lifestyle changes to remedy anxiety. I would argue who does not want to feel happy, healthy and calm! If it were as simple as making choice, would we not all just do it? Would it not be wonderful to be lit up like an orange Christmas tree as the above diagram suggests happiness feels like? Ok, so you make the choice to be happy and not anxious, yet nothing happens. So the next best idea is to seek out help. We have a problem when we go to the doctor complaining of anxiety however. How can the root cause be determined? It is obvious the cause would vary from individual to individual and it is not likely to found by blood tests, MRIs or other scans and tests when we ourselves feel that something is not quite right. So how can we help someone suffering from anxiety? It was already made clear from Baycrest’s study that treating it when a person is young can avoid serious health complications such as Alzheimer’s, atrophy in the brain, and studies suggest you could also avoid social problems, lost income and substance abuse issues. Certainly, it needs attention before it reaches the level of serious depression or of suicide. Too many people wait until there is disordered functioning of the affected organs and systems and the problem of allostatic load sets in. Then the problem is on an unconscious loop and starting to affect all parts of our life. At the very late stage when signs and symptoms indicating structural alterations in the tissues and organs appear, the doctor can finally give a definite diagnosis. [2]

Yet, what is their treatment at that late stage point? Medication or lifestyle change. So going back to the big argument, medication is their answer because most of us don’t succeed in making a lifestyle change big enough or sustained enough to save us from our own thoughts and perceptions. Yes, the tiger will likely eat me, I know it is around the corner and it probably, oddly, looks just like my boss, so I run into that scary monster five times a week. This means we are kind of up shit creek as my mother would say, since we can’t think our way out of a problem that our thoughts got us into.

Albert Einstein quote

In her article, the Noumedynamic Human, Judyann McNamara explains the problem of stress and anxiety and how homeopathy can help. Stress is essentially the application of or resistance to a force. “Stress, by definition, is the process through which adaptation and evolution occur in response to externally and internally driven forces. Life is movement, a dynamic interaction of forces. Stress can be environmentally induced or self-induced. Self-induced stress can be experienced as two forms: a force pushing the individual or a force resisting change or life.” [2] This comes from a homeopathic understanding of disease and health. In order to help someone with chronic disease states such as anxiety or depression, a homeopath needs to understand an individual’s processes of adaptation and susceptibilities. The causes are often found to be self-induced stress and what current research also shows is that the discrepancy between the real and the perceived in a stressed individual causes stress-related consequences on a very subtle level of biological organization. [2] This is the allodynamic component of an individual where the balance is now tipping from happy allostasis to miserable allostatic load.

Modern research now shows that mitochondria are also susceptible to physical, mental and emotional states in the person. When the individual perceives challenges beyond his or her reach, perceptions are altered, stress responses become fixed, or there is a dichotomy between the real external environment and what the individual perceives, this shows up in how the mitochondria organize themselves. [2]

Mitochondria as bioenergetic portals (McNamara)

Mitochondria as bioenergetic portals (Judyann McNamara)

“The top section of the chart illustrates a situation of optimal health and susceptibility. When the difference between the external and perceived realities are somewhat consistent, the mitochondria can coherently channel the vital field to enable to cell and the organism to adapt to changing conditions, and evolve. In this scenario, the mitochondria show themselves to be fusional, in close contact and together, as a group forming a coherent image of an underlying electromagnetic field through the alignment of their cristae. When the difference between perception and reality increases, this coherency is lost. Perhaps with this loss is the loss of adaptation, freedom of response and the possibility of evolution. When the difference reaches a certain threshold, the mitochondria change shape (balloon out) and become dysfunctional. If environmental factors are too extreme, they lose their shape completely, become pale and anemic, and begin a process that will lead to the death of the cell in which they are enclosed.” [2]

With the help of homeopathy we are able to fill in the source of both what inspires the individual and of the unhealthy delusional state that leads to disease. In order to decipher the true root cause to be addressed in chronic disease, a homeopath must understand the individual’s processes of adaptation and evolution. This is the beauty of it, the healing process can help in cases of depression, anxiety and stress without causing further harm, and all without or in conjunction with medications. The state of having the discrepancy between the real and the perceived reduced by homeopathy is difficult to describe unless it has been experienced. Einstein knew what he was talking about when he said that we can only solve our problems with a different level of consciousness than where we started with it. It requires an evolution and the mitochondria play a role in that, so does homeopathy.


[1] Article resource.

[2] Judyann McNamara. Montreal Institute of Classical Homeopathy

Reflecting Spirit Gallery

Eagle totem mask in greenware


Ah, nothing is as delightful as selling a sculpture and knowing that someone has appreciated your gift and would like to treasure it for a while. This past summer I sold a couple of my bird totems at Reflecting Spirit Gallery and it was the push I needed to send some of my latest works to Vancouver Island. Farewell Mr. Eagle and Mr. Green Phoenix.

Green Phoenix totem mask in clay

In my early days of art making, I was living around Nanaimo and working at a production pottery studio that had two huge kilns, and do I mean huge. I  had my own wooden framed pottery wheel my boyfriend Dave bought for me at home and I had boundless energy to work all day and throw and sculpt in the evening and weekends. It was exciting as I had no limits after my apprenticeship and was finally able to discover my own voice as a ceramic artist.

I found a few galleries around Nanaimo and in Vancouver that were open to displaying my work. Some galleries never moved a piece, others did move something once and a while. Artworks on Gabriola Island was great, I sold a lot of my original pottery pieces there and I even lived on the Island for a year with my own kiln in the back yard. That was also the place where I dug my own smoke firing pit and spent many happy hours putting sculptures into sawdust, smouldering them for a day or two and then retrieving them from the ashes. I recall that one gallery in Chemainus actually asked me to leave as my emerging work was too Pagan for their audience!

Yin Yang tile


I first approached Signy Cohen around 2000 after the gorgeous drive across Vancouver Island to the very West Coast of BC with boxes of my sculptures in the back of the Toyota Tercel ready to offer. After checking out all the galleries in Tofino, I was keen to ask if she would be interested in carrying my sculptures at her gallery. Reflecting Spirit was a splendid match for my work and I have been displaying there on and off ever since. The gallery is wonderful and has expanded with another location in Ucluelet where my work is now located.


RTown TV Long Beach on Vimeo


Reflecting Spirit Gallery has numerous one of a kind pieces from over 200 visual artist and crafts people originating from BC, both First Nations and non-Native, established and emerging artists. If you visit the West Coast, be sure to stop by.

Sugar on the brain

Sugar. It is without a doubt something that takes the edge off, it gives us comfort and provides us with energy. It is found in much of what we eat and yet modern research is suggesting it is toxic to the human body and may even be considered a drug. It is linked to physical symptoms related to diabetes, heart disease and obesity and many mentally sited symptoms such as memory loss and addiction.

Sugar jar image


Humans have not always eaten sugar apart from what is naturally contained in foods such as fruits and grains, and certainly they have not eaten it in the quantities now consumed world wide. At the end of the medieval period, table sugar was considered a “fine spice” and was still very expensive. Around 1500, technological improvements and more convenient sources meant sugar became a cheaper bulk commodity. Beginning in the late 18th century, the production of sugar was increasingly mechanized which reduced the fuel required and the amount of sugar lost in the process eventually making sugar affordable to the masses. High-fructose corn syrup was first developed in 1957. It can be six times sweeter than table sugar and was added to many processed foods and drinks in the United States from around 1975 to 1985. It is now added to processed foods as a sweetener or preservative.

Different types of sugars

Not all sugars are metabolized the same way in our body. Glucose is the preferred energy source. We process most carbohydrates into glucose, either to use immediately for energy or to store in muscle cells or the liver as glycogen. Our glucose levels signal that insulin is to be secreted to facilitate the entry of the glucose into cells. Fructose is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables but is not metabolized in all cells but only in the liver. Unlike glucose, it does not cause insulin to be released or to stimulate the production of leptin, a key hormone for regulating energy intake and energy expenditure.

Sucrose, or table sugar, is made from sugar cane or sugar beets and some fruits and vegetables naturally contain it. Sucrose contains one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose. After it is broken down in the body, both sugars are taken up by their specific transport mechanisms as described above. The body responds to the glucose in its usual manner and uses it as its main energy source. The excess energy from the fructose, if not required, will be transferred into fat synthesis. High-fructose corn syrup contains from 55% to 90% fructose, the rest is glucose and possibly other sugars.

Current science argues that each of these sugars eventually ends up as glucose and fructose in our guts, and because our bodies react the same way to both, and the physiological effects are identical no one form of sugar is more deleterious than another.

So what is the problem?

Robert Lustig, an American pediatric endocrinologist, argues that the way the human body metabolizes fructose makes it singularly harmful, especially if consumed in large quantities. The calories are the same, the taste is the same, but the metabolic consequences are quite different.

The glucose from sugar and starches, such as an apple, is metabolized by every cell in the body because every cell readily converts glucose into energy while the fructose component of sugar, from say a soda drink with ‘empty’ calories, is metabolized primarily by the liver turning it into useable glucose and lactate. This means the soda is more work for the liver. A super sized soda is even more problematic, since the speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes fructose and glucose. If fructose hits the liver in large quantity and with high speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This may lead the way to insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease, certain cancers and many other possible health problems.

Insulin resistance is basically a metabolic syndrome when the cells in the body are actively ignoring the action of the hormone insulin. We secrete insulin when we eat food, especially carbohydrates, to regulate blood sugar levels. When the cells become resistant to insulin, the pancreas responds by pumping out more and more insulin. Eventually the pancreas will no longer keep up with the demand and the blood sugar will rise out of control.

Life without the liver

The liver is one of the organs necessary for survival and although the organ’s total number of functions vary, most textbooks generally put it at around 500 or so.
Since fructose taxes the liver, it may not have much energy left for all its other functions. One consequence of this energy depletion is the production of uric acid linked to gout, kidney stones and high blood pressure. Lustig suggests the harm is really in the amounts and not that sugar itself is harmful. By the early 2000s the U.S.D.A. findings suggest the average American consumes between 75 and 90 pounds per year beyond what they might naturally consume in fruits and vegetables. The suggested healthy range would be 40 pounds of ‘added sugars.’

Another major issue is the need for fiber to metabolize sugar. Processed foods are made by removing fiber and adding sugars. The removal of fiber is damaging because it reduces the time it takes for food to become a usable form of glucose for the body. Insulin stimulates the liver and muscle cells to store glucose. Processed foods tax beta cells by boosting them to produce insulin faster.

There is also the effect of a weakened liver on the brain. The relationship between these two organs has been known for many years. Patients typically present early with liver disease or later with neurological syndrome which consists of various subtle neuropsychiatric symptoms such as a change in behaviour or performance at school and abnormality of movement.

Is sugar a drug?

I don’t know many people who have cut sugar cold turkey for more than a month. If you have ever tried it, you may have found it nearly impossible. The fact that some people can’t actually stop eating it if they seriously tried would suggest that sugar is addictive.

Nicole M. Avena, Pedro Rada, and Bartley G. Hoebel published the results of a such a study in 2008. “Addiction” implies psychological dependence and is therefore a mental or cognitive problem, not just a physical ailment. Drug dependence is characterized by compulsive, sometimes uncontrollable, behaviors that occur at the expense of other activities and intensify with repeated access. After a month of specialized sugar feeding schedule, rats exhibited a series of behaviors similar to the effects of drugs of abuse categorized as “bingeing” (unusually large bouts of intake), opiate-like “withdrawal” (indicated by signs of anxiety and behavioral depression), “craving” (measured during sugar abstinence as enhanced responding for sugar) and “behavioral sensitization” (increased locomotion in response to repeated administrations of a drug). These four categories of behaviour are similar to those observed with the abuse of drugs.

Chemically, sugar has a powerful affect on the reward centers of the brain. After we consume food with a lot of sugar, a massive amount of dopamine is released in the Nucleus accumbens in the brain. However, if we eat sugary food often, the dopamine receptors start to down-regulate which means there are fewer receptors for the dopamine. Similar to the experience with drugs such as nicotine and cocaine, the next time we eat a sweet food, the previous effect is blunted so we would need to consume more sugar to achieve the same feeling. Comparable to any type of addiction, there can be anatomical changes in the brain and this can lead to a full-blown addiction to sugar.

If we pay attention we may also notice withdrawal symptoms when sugar is completely removed from the diet such as headaches, mood swings and lethargy. This can happen with many types of foods and drugs and can correspond to an allergy or sensitivity to the food or drug as much as an addiction.

Sugar tricks the mind

As we eat, the human body strictly regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose stimulates the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin, which helps remove excess glucose from blood, and bolsters production of the hormone leptin, which suppresses hunger. Fructose does not trigger insulin production and appears to raise levels of the hormone grehlin, which keeps us hungry. Some researchers have suggested that large amounts of fructose encourage people to eat more than they actually need. In studies with animals and people by Kimber Stanhope and other researchers of the University of California Davis, excess fructose consumption has increased fat production, especially in the liver, and raised levels of circulating triglycerides, which are a risk factor for clogged arteries and cardiovascular disease. Some research has linked a fatty liver to insulin resistance, a condition that exhausts the pancreas until it loses the ability to properly regulate blood glucose levels.

Fiber also helps in curbing sugar intake. It alerts your mind that you’ve consumed calories and you don’t need to eat anymore which fructose and processed foods devoid of fiber won’t do. We need fiber and fructose to work together. “Fructose makes up for fiber’s lack of sweetness while fiber makes up for fructose’s uselessness.”

astrolldownavenidacentral.JPG by puravida

The brain on sugar

Having memory problems? It is a total misnomer that the brain requires glucose as a fuel. It actually functions better burning other fuels such as ketones, substances that are made when the body breaks down fat for energy. Dr. Ron Rosedale suggests that Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders may be caused by the constant burning of glucose for fuel by the brain. In early 2005, Alzheimer’s was tentatively dubbed “type 3 diabetes” when researchers discovered that, as well as the pancreas, the brain also produces insulin, and this insulin is necessary for the survival of brain cells.

A study by Gomez-Pinilla, a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute, found that rats’ memory deficits were triggered by an onset of insulin resistance caused by their prolonged high intake of fructose solution. This in turn damaged their synapses, the connections between brain cells that enable learning. This dysfunction was mitigated and memory improved when a second group of fructose rats were also given omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which protected against such damage. Rats that did not receive omega-3s and drank regular water instead of fructose also did better than the ones that were given only glucose as their drinking option.

I once did a three month sugar fast, which meant the removal of all sugars not coming from basic foods. This meant no added sugars, no fruits and sweet vegetables, no ingredients ending in ‘ose,’ no hidden sugars such as citric acid and basically removing 99% of all processed foods from my diet. This short regime changed my life, my mind and my body but it was one of the hardest things I have accomplished. I dare you to try it and tell me sugar is not addictive!


Gary Taubes. Is Sugar Toxic? 2011. Editor: Vera Titunik. The New York Times Magazine.

Ferris Jabr. Is Sugar Really Toxic? Sifting through the Evidence. 2013. Scientific American, Blogs.

Allie Beattyhttp. Why sugar is a 21st century drug. 2012. The diabetes resource.

M. Lewis and P.D. Howdle. The neurology of liver failure. 2003. Oxford Journals, Medicine and Health, QJM. Volume 96, Issue 9, Pp. 623-633.

Kris Gunnars. How Sugar Hijacks Your Brain And Makes You Addicted. Authority Nutrition.

Dain Wallis. Why Sugar Should Be Reclassified As a Drug. 2013. Huffpost Living Canada, the Blog.

Adam Dachis. What Sugar Actually Does to Your Brain and Body. 2011. Lifehacker.

Suzanne M. de la Monte, M.D., M.P.H. and Jack R. Wands, M.D. Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes. 2008. Journal of diabetes science and technology. 2(6): 1101–1113.

Gergana Koleva. Binging on Sugar Weakens Memory, UCLA Study Shows. 2012. Forbes Magazine.




What does October bring? For me it is always a time of looking forward, anticipation, of gratitude for what has passed. It is also the fall of the blossoming, growing and becoming and the moving into the seed, the dormant, the potential. Basically, winter is coming.

The environmental movement seems to also be moving into its fall and winter. We need to find the most probable ways to change and grow up in order to save our place on the planet, and soon. We need to stop looking outside of ourselves and start looking inward. Thích Nhất Hạnh’s book, The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology provides us with a road map of how we can do this. It is only through a profound personal transformation that we will have the ability to address the present environmental crisis we all face. It is inside, where we find our spiritual practice, that the map leads us.

We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. Whether we can wake up or not depends on whether we can walk mindfully on our Mother Earth. […] We need a kind of collective awakening. There are among us men and women who are awakened, but it’s not enough; the masses are still sleeping. They cannot hear the ringing of the bells. We have built a system we cannot control. This system imposes itself on us, and we have become its slaves and victims. Most of us, in order to have a house, a car, a refrigerator, a TV, and so on, must sacrifice our time and our lives in exchange. We are constantly under the pressure of time. In former times, we could afford three hours for one cup of tea, enjoying the company of our friends in a serene and spiritual atmosphere. We could organize a party to celebrate the blossoming of one orchid in our garden. But today we can no longer afford these things. We say that time is money. We have created a society in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, and in which we are so caught up in our own immediate problems that we cannot afford to be aware of what is going on with the rest of the human family or our planet Earth. In my mind I see a group of chickens in a cage disputing over some seeds of grain, unaware that in a few hours they will be killed.

He points out that the American dream where everyone has to have a car of their own, a bank account, a cell phone, a television set, is not possible any longer, not even for the Americans who devised it. A sustainable economy was not created yet we all cling to this dream, depend on it, and believe it to be true. So how do we now become to see ourselves in another ‘reality?’

We have to have another dream: the dream of brotherhood and sisterhood, of loving-kindness and compassion and that dream is possible right here and now. We have the dharma; we have the means; we have enough wisdom to be able to live this dream. Mindfulness is at the heart of awakening, of enlightenment. We practice breathing to be able to be there in the present moment, so that we can recognize what is happening in us and around us.

The important thing is that we all act. The individual has to take action in their own life, we can’t wait any longer for the petitions, the politicians and the scientists to save the world. That is all looking outwards anyways. Violence, corruption, abuse of power, self-destruction, superstition and cruelty are just the outer reflection of what is happening within us when we are unaware and asleep. It is cultivating faith, determination, awakening and a big dream that can lead us to peace and hope. We have to learn to live with responsibility, compassion and loving kindness and to remember we each hold the power to decide the destiny of our planet. This means doing the inner work first, to awaken to our true situation, to initiate a collective change in our consciousness. To help people wake up to the fact that they are living in a dream. No one life is independent of all other life, each depends on the other in order to manifest and continue. We are outside each other at the same time as we are inside each other, in other words we are connected, whether we are comfortable with that or not yet, it is the truth.

Earth Holder is the energy that is holding us together as an organism. She is a kind of engineer or architect whose task is to create space for us to live in, to build bridges for us to cross from one side to the other, to construct roads so that we can to go to the people we love. Her task is to further communication between human beings and other species and to protect the Earth and the environment. […] When you contemplate an orange, you see that everything in the orange participates in making up the orange. Not only the sections of the orange belong to the orange; the skin and the seeds of the orange are also parts of the orange. This is what we call the universal aspect of the orange. Everything in the orange is the orange, but the skin remains the skin, the seed remains the seed, the section of the orange remains the section of the orange. The same is true with our globe. Although we become a world community, the French continue to be French, the Japanese remain Japanese, the Buddhists remain Buddhists, and the Christians remain Christians. The skin of the orange continues to be the skin, and the sections in the orange continue to be the sections; the sections do not have to be transformed into the skin in order for there to be harmony.

Thích Nhất Hạnh suggests we follow the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Since they are non-sectarian and universal, they can be practiced regardless of religion, culture or ideology. They are one way to start the path of inner transformation and healing.

  • First Training: we vow to cherish all life on earth and not support any acts of killing.
  • Second Training: we pledge to practice generosity and not support social injustice and oppression.
  • Third Training: we make a commitment to behave responsibly in our relationships and not engage in sexual misconduct.
  • Fourth Training: we practice loving speech and deep listening in order to relieve others of suffering.
  • Fifth Mindfulness Training: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body and my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and the transformation of society.

The last training holds the key to the way out of the environmental crisis we are in according to Hạnh, by recognizing what to consume and what to refuse in order to propagate health in our own body and for the Earth and to reduce suffering for ourselves and others. I do hope we find a way to make wine and cheese that is mindful. I don’t feel we have to become a Buddhist monk to become an aware cultivator of a healthy planet. Yet we do need to all become environmentalists and to see that we are one family, all children of this planet and that we need to take care of each other and the Earth.

Love Letter to the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh


Do you want to Quant it?

This new take on the electric car by the German company Quant runs on an electrolyte flow cell power system developed by NanoFlowcell. It can generate 920 horsepower, pop 0-62 mph in 2.8 seconds and whiz along the autobahn at 217.5 mph!

The flow cell battery is a beacon of hope because it is an especially simple and effective storage medium for electrical energy. Flow cells are chemical batteries that combine aspects of an electrochemical accumulator cell with those of a fuel cell. Liquid electrolytes circulate through two separate cells in which a “cold burning” takes place, during which oxidation and reduction processes happen in parallel and thereby produce electrical power for the drive train.

The flow cell battery offers up a greater range than lead-acid batteries or lithium-ion batteries found in current electric cars. The recharge can also be much faster. “All that is required to recharge them is to exchange spent electrolytes (which can be recharged outside the vehicle) for new, charged fluid.”

The car, which in the video looks like something only Batman is allowed to drive, debuted at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, is now approved for testing on public roads in Germany and Europe and will cost you $1.7 million to get on the delivery list. I am wondering how long it will be before a sustainable, electric car affordable to the masses will become available. A few dudes roaming the highways in tuxes is not enough to save the planet from the groan of fossil fuel usage by gas powered vehicles.

Everyone I talk to who just bought a new car decided going electric was still too expensive. The other sexy car maker, Tesla, also started out at the luxery level. Currently, their cheapest electrically powered car is the Model S which retails for around $70,000 and a proposed model for 2015-17 is estimated to cost $35,000. The Nissan Versa 1.6 S, a gas powered car, by contrast costs only $12,800. Infrastructure will still be an issue as well, for both salt water and electric fill ups. Anyone living in a city condo or apartment can’t go electric even if they could afford to since they can’t recharge their cars in the evenings if they have to park on the street. So for now, driving without polluting is only a rich person’s game and best left to the sexiest among us.

Happy October !

T. Dylan Moore illustration

There is a good kind of waiting which trust the agents of fermentation. There is a waiting which knows that in pulling away one can more wholly return. There is a waiting which prepares oneself, which anoints and adorns and makes oneself plump with readiness for love’s return. There is a good kind of waiting which doesn’t put oneself on hold but rather adds layer to the grandness of one’s being worthy. This sweet waiting for one’s fruits to ripen doesn’t stumble over itself to be the first to give but waits for the giving to issue at its own graceful pace.

2014 © Toko-pa Turner. Illustration by T. Dylan Moore.


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