Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Green Way to Healthy Living

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.
-C.F. Alexander

We share the earth with millions and millions of species of plant and animal life, and all creatures - from ants building a colony in a tropical rain forest to a family of elephants sashaying through an African savannah - have a critical role to play in the ecosystem. While scientists continue to record new forms of life, countless species disappear every day. The focus of biologists and environmentalists is on the preservation of endangered species, but, in fact, all animals are endangered - by the darling of creation (and greatest predator of all) - man, himself. We significantly impact the balance of nature by the choices we make at the dinner table.

By eating low on the food chain, we not only support conservation efforts, but we also improve the ethical treatment of animals. In earlier times, the quest for survival put our ancestors into daily contact with "the hunt" and "the kill.'' Today, this is left to anonymous middlemen, and our food comes to us sanitized and wrapped in plastic. We are so far removed from the cruel act that we overlook the reality that to sustain ourselves we are constantly taking life. Animals are no more immune to suffering and pain than we are. Although their behavior is instinctual, they often display remarkable intelligence when it comes to preserving life. Observe how a dog puts itself in great danger to save the life of its owner, or how any animal will protect itself or its young when it feels its life threatened. We all want to live.

Humans are also animals. Although we have mastered many of the forces of nature, we are still subject to the same process of birth, growth, and death as other organisms. But it is our ability to think, discriminate, and to choose that sets us apart from the lower species. What we choose to eat not only affects our own physical, spiritual, and emotional health, but it also affects the world in which we live. The relationship between humans, animals, and plants forms an interconnected web which is fundamental to life. The first step in healthy living is to maintain this fragile web by living in harmony with nature. Respect for the creation is not just an ethical imperative. It is a necessity of life.

The order of nature is this: life must subsist on other life. Only plants draw their sustenance directly from light, water, and soil. When we choose to eat plants, we are still taking life, but it is the simplest form of life. Even human law provides a different punishment for snipping a neighbor's rose, killing her chicken, taking the life of her dog, or murdering her child. Although the penalty varies according to the level of consciousness, a balance sheet is kept and plays itself out. The wheel of life turns; we do reap what we sow. The animals we eat in this life may be eating us in the next.

Francis of Assisi used to call animals our brothers and sisters, but many of us have difficulty in acknowledging this kinship because we see only the body which is different for all. We have been in this world before and we have had other bodies. We are hardly free of one, before another stands ready to replace it. It is only after many births that we receive a human birth. If, because of our karmas (deeds), we are born as a cow or a goat, we are not eager to be slaughtered in order to satisfy someone's palate.

As humans, we have the unique ability to look beyond the body to the soul within and, in this way, to consciously experience God. The soul, which is the essence of our being, remains largely unknown to us. It is like living in a house where the light is never turned on. The soul has the same relationship to the body as the light or other source of energy has to the house. We depend upon it to supply light and energy to our existence. The available power is always there, but when we turn it on, we become connected to our source and we feel energized and well balanced. We feel alive.

The body is like a garden. An inverted tree is growing in the center of the garden. It is the Tree of Life. It represents an infinite and indestructible source of life. Plato described man as a plant with roots in heaven and branches to earth. It is the same tree from which the ancients took the symbol of the caduceus, the winged staff; that physicians still use as the symbol of healing. The mystics tell us that the roots of this tree are in the head, where the soul and mind are knotted together between and behind the two eyes. If we are able to concentrate our attention at this level, we experience the spirit that is our life. This spirit is a sound; a vibration; the music of the spheres. But twin serpents are coiled around the tree. Their purpose is to keep our attention scattered into the world and away from the source of energy and life which supports us.

Health, to the early physicians, was a state of balance between body, mind, and soul. Healing involved a reorientation of this downward and outward tendency of the mind. Energy flowed from above downward and man was nourished by his "heavenly roots." The ancients and mystics are supported in many respects by the theories of modern physicists who describe the universe as - vibrating energy – a reminder that man is not simply a crust of matter suspended randomly in space. We are fields of energy; part of an organic whole, and, like other organisms, we maintain life by the constant exchange of energy between ourselves and the larger universe. Physicians are beginning to examine the relationship between food and health, at least in part, based on this more dynamic understanding of the body.

Einstein, the most pre-eminent of physicists, offered his view that "nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution of a vegetarian diet." It is clear that life is, in fact, moving in this direction. The shape of the optimum diet has changed from the meat-centered "four foods group" to the grain - and plant-based "food pyramid." Scientific studies now support the value of a vegetarian diet, and there is evidence to suggest that it lowers the risk of many diseases, including cancer and heart disease. People are turning to it in ever greater numbers for its health benefits and its effects on animal welfare and the environment, as well as for its spiritual benefits.
Abstention from animal foods is not a new idea. One finds instances of it in ancient Egypt, Persia, India, and Greece. The word "diet" itself comes from the Greek diata, meaning way of life. People of very diverse philosophical and spiritual paths have given up the use of meat in order to raise their consciousness. A lacto-vegetarian diet, rich in natural fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, as well as nuts, seeds, and dairy products, is suitable for this purpose.

The book Green Way toHealthy Living, offers a compendium of recipes to assist those who are interested in this way of life. It does not recommend any particular vegetarian diet or "health food." Its objective is only to show that in every country in the world there is an extraordinary variety of fruits and vegetables from which to choose. Health continues to be a question of balance. The ideal diet is one that is non-violent and promotes inner equilibrium. It helps to balance the body, mind, and soul. It is the foundation which supports a balanced and healthy life.

Planning a Vegetarian Menu

If you are new to vegetarianism, planning a well-balanced meal may seem a bit daunting at first. What to serve for the "main course" or focal point of the meal?
The "main course" is primarily a Western concept derived from a meat-centered approach to eating. Vegetables, which can serve as the basis for a nutritious meal, have always been considered the "side course" simply because they are vegetables.
There are many ways of presenting a meal. In parts of Europe, a sequence of courses is offered one after the other. In Asia, a variety of small dishes is brought to the table at the same time. There is no "main" focus except perhaps rice or noodles.
Try different ways of presenting a meal. One approach to vegetarian dining is simply to move those vegetables back to the center. Baked potatoes and green beans, two favorite "side vegetables," for example, make a complete light meal when served with a salad. Or try the Asian approach, and serve a few small dishes at the same meal.
Still looking for the "centerpiece?"
There are plenty from which to choose: casseroles, savory pies, gratins, and nut loaves. Stews and soups served with a hearty bread are other possibilities. If you keep a few guidelines in mind, you will have a vegetarian meal on the table in no time.

GO WITH THE GRAIN: The idea of putting carbohydrates or grains at the center of your meal is a "secret" most of the world has already discovered. Rice is a staple of three-fourths of the world's population. In Asia, rice is the center of the meal. Everything else simply accompanies the rice. To express well-being in China, one says "my rice bowl is full." In Japan, "gohan" is the word for both rice and meal.
In Europe, the traditional foods that form the basis of the diet are grain-based. In Italy, it is pasta, risotto (rice), and polenta (cornmeal). In Spain, it is rice. In Eastern and Northern Europe, dumplings and crepes or pancakes are an important part of the culinary repertoire. In the Americas, com was the grain of survival for the Native Americans, as it was for the newly arriving colonists. It continues to be a frequent addition to the table in both North and South America. Bread is the staff of life almost everywhere - from the griddle-breads of the Middle East and India to the hearty country loaves of Europe.
Grains are high in fiber, fat free, satisfying, and delicious. They are much better suited to a healthy diet than meat. Rice, wheat, and corn are the most important and commonly used grains in the world, but there are also many lesser known grains from which to choose. Select from bulgur, buckwheat, millet, oats, rye, quinoa, couscous, teff, amaranth, barley, and wheat berries.

CONSIDER THE BEAN: Beans have been around since the Bronze Age and have spent a good deal of that time overcoming bad press. They are a staple for most of the world: the rice'n'beans of the Caribbean, frijoles de olla of Mexico, hummus of the Middle East, the daals of India, tofu of China and Japan, and the cassoulet of France. The variety is endless. Since beans are low in fat and contain no cholesterol, they make a nutritious and economical addition to any vegetarian diet. Be sure to include bean dishes in your weekly menu plan. They may be combined with rice, pasta, or other grains to make a satisfying and complete meal. Beans also make excellent additions to soups and salads and can even be made into bean cakes or "burgers."

KEEP IT GREEN: No vegetarian meal would be complete without the star of the table - VEGETABLES! Leafy green vegetables, fragrant herbs, potatoes, winter squash, vine-ripened tomatoes - the natural world offers extraordinary inspiration for a wealth and abundance of meatless meals. Plan your meals around seasonal fresh produce. If you have a garden, grow as many fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs as you can. If you are unable to maintain a garden, purchase fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables from a farmer's market. Have a windowsill garden of herbs. Pick them fresh and use them to enliven your food. Use spices to add zest and flavor, as well as to aid digestion.

DO ENJOY DAIRY: Cheese and other dairy products are enjoyed as a traditional part of many cuisines. In moderation, or for special dinners, they offer a rich and nutritious addition to the diet. If you choose not to eat dairy products, simply leave them out or substitute tofu and other soy products.

BE GRATEFUL: Prepare your foods and eat them in a happy and relaxed state of mind after duly thanking the Giver.

SOURCE: “The Green Way to Healthy Living” @ http://www.scienceofthesoul.org/product_p/en-185-0.htm

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