Dirty Carrots

Anger, we all get afflicted at times, but instead of spreading anger, be creative with it!

John Shuman is a Professional Actor when he is not out climbing mountains or canoeing rivers.  John is a vegetarian who is partial to carrots.  Here is his story:

Carrots  Along  The  Allagash

I recently canoed the Allagash River in very remote Northwest Maine. The area is north of the famed Mt.  Katahdin and it’s northern terminus is quite close to Canada’s New  Brunswick. This was a Sierra Club trip of 10 participants, a leader, and a guide who works as a ranger on the Allagash.

It’s an amazing experience not without lots of challenges. We hit very hot weather which changed with a rainstorm and turned into a cold chill. Bugs of all kinds ruled the roost:  no see ums, horse flies( and do they hurt), black flies and of course mosquitoes. Our Ranger told us we were lucky to have only a mild bug condition. That “mild” was the worst I’ve ever encountered.

Our leader spoke to us of the importance of getting along, working together to make the ex-perience a worthwhile one. This was indeed a key factor,  I broke my tent on the first day and lots of folks pitched in to enable me to get some shelter. Cooking and cleaning of meals was shared.

With no background in preparing dinner for 12, I was beyond my comfort zone but received help.  Then again the others must have realized without help there may just not be a meal that day.

My test came with a bag of carrots. Our busy leader grabbed some carrots out of the bag one evening during hors d’oeuvres and placed the carrots next to my waiting hands.  As she turned away the  bag toppled over and about 14 carrots hit the dirt.  She noticed the fall, turned to me and said , “John- you can pick those up.”  She had assumed that I – who had already broken a tent- had dislodged the bag.

She moved on to other challenges and I had wanted to inform her that it was she- not I- who was responsible.  I have no problem with the assignment but the blame needed to be rectified, and then I realized it didn’t matter and I didn’t want to start a “you did it” argument…Getting along was more important.

So I let sleeping carrots lie.  If only the horseflies slept with them.

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Diversity of LIfe

“Life is like a tomato.  When it falls to the ground, it begins to rot.”  Dooley explained, “Life rots unless we experience different things and have new adventures.”

I was inspired by Dooley’s perspective on life, being a man who celebrates diversity. Dooley currently teaches inmates in prison, helping them to achieve their GED diplomas.  He expressed that his inspiration is to help redirect prisoners lives.  He said he always goes to work being “hopeful” and said that he retains hope in difficult situations.

In the past, Dooley worked in the wool industry in Boston, the fish industry in Los Angeles, and in New Mexico where he worked in politics with Ralph Nadar.  Now he lives and works in southern Florida.  Dooley said some people say that he doesn’t know what he wants, but he said this is false because his goal is to experience the fullness and diversity of life in many ways. Dooley has run the Boston Marathon six times and bikes 20 miles a day on average.

Dooley has a great attitude towards life and says that his message is to “Stay positive and move forward.”

Unlike the rotting tomato, Dooley’s life is full of life and flavor!

Minimal Abundance

Living abundantly minimal sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t.

Having recently relocated to the tropics, I have been envious of people who have mango, coconut, orange, lemon and lime trees in their yards. I often see mangoes rotting on the ground, with the exception of birds and other small animals that eat the fruit, I wondered why people did not give their mangoes away for free.  Isn’t it better to share your abundance than to waste it?

Yesterday I drove down a new street and saw a box of mangoes on the side of the road with a sign that said, “Free”.  I quickly pulled over and walked across the street and excitedly picked out four large mangoes.  I was grateful to the person who was offering to share their abundance with random strangers. There was even a pair of men’s shoes there for the taking.

Later I thought about how living minimal, doesn’t mean you can’t live abundantly, in fact, the opposite is true.  Living minimal means there is more to share with others!

This morning I drove back to the box of mangoes and left a thank you note to let them know how grateful I was for their kindness and generosity.

My goal is to live minimally and abundantly. Think about your own abundance and what you can share with others, whether it is your garden, your clothes, your wisdom or your time.  You probably have more to share than you realize.

Happiness is a mango lunch!

The Psychology of Tea

I met Dr. Dave several years ago when our paths crossed while working in the field of mental health.  Recently he offered to mail me some herbal tea that he had grown in his garden. Being a tea lover, I was interested in his background and personal history of herbal teas.

“For me, growing tea allows me to reflect on my family and our history. As a child, I remember being at my grandparent’s resort, smelling the chamomile and rosehip tea that my grandmother Rose harvested each year. She would explain the benefits of these exotic and foreign teas with love, passion, and excitement, sharing that chamomile was used by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians to sooth the muscles, calm the nerves, and promote sleep. Now I know that Chamomile is used for many different ailments including my grandmother’s list, but also to help with diabetes, fight against diseases such as cancer, and aids the digestive system. My grandmother loved rosehip tea and would patiently wait for the flowers and pods to dry. “This tea”, she informed me, “Helps make you feel better and has 50% more vitamin C than an average orange, and contains vitamin D, E, and K.”

It wasn’t just about the tea for me, as much as it was about the time I spent connecting to such a wonderful and loving person in my life. I still have fond memories of processing, harvesting, and drying the tea and sharing a warm aromatic cuppa with my grandmother.

I once read a quote by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, “If you ask Zen people they will say that tea is something that you pour with unawareness and drink like any other drink. It is not a drink, it is meditation; it is prayer. So they listen to the kettle creating a melody, and in that listening, they become more silent more alert.”

“For me, the entire process of relaxing has taught me patience, as it is processed, just as change is a process. My life used to be a daily borage of seeing patients, answering phone calls and writing notes, with little time left for myself. By creating a space to heal, grow and slow down, I have changed.”

Dr, Dave said that he has traveled to many exotic and remote locations in the world, including Egypt, Israel, and Europe, where he had the opportunity to taste and sample many different teas and coffees and learned that tea is a staple in many cultures.

Dr. Dave reported that he used to be a coffee drinker, but about ten years ago he developed acid reflux. He noticed that after drinking coffee, he would wake up in the middle of the night with horrific acid reflux. Dr. Dave said he tried to cure the symptoms with Rolaids, but eventually went to the doctor who prescribed medication for the condition unsuccessfully, so he stopped drinking caffeine and went back to his family roots, drinking Chamomile and Rose Hip tea, which improved his symptoms.  He also began exploring other teas including ginger and mint, which both have been reported to help aid in digestive problems.

Dr. Dave was asked if he incorporates herbal teas into his work with patients.

“Yes, I have dealt with a number of individual’s who have significant anxiety that is ramped up with caffeine. Each person has his or her own journey, and sometimes it’s not about just making mental changes.  I have noticed as a person begins to change, they make changes in other areas of their lives such as spiritually or physically. Many people struggle with sleep disorders, so I encourage them to reduce caffeine intake, as this allows sleep difficulties to ease.

“I have been an individual that has dealt with depression and anxiety since childhood. It’s not easy, but through support and making changes in my own life, I have become more resilient when dealing with issues and problems. Alcohol was used as a way for me to cope, but I can say that through the support of my family, friends, and programs available, I have been able to develop other coping skills. Tea is something that allows me to escape for an hour with a good book, a friend, or through gardening. My grandmother offered a sense of comfort and love for me which is far better than a drink at this point in my life,” Dr. Dave said  “As Audrey Hepburn once said, “When you have nobody you can make a cup of tea for, when nobody needs you, that’s when I think life is over.”

“Life has been a journey over the past several years.  Just like tea, as a detox, I have detoxed my life and made my life simpler and less chaotic. I have eliminated people, places and things that have caused me to live in fear and shame. While this has not been easy, it has been a journey that has allowed me to show up and be present with people who are meaningful to me. I have been in the field of mental health for over 25 years, working in both the public and private sectors. My current work focuses on coaching, writing, speaking, traveling and creating workshops on professionals in recovery.”

Dr. Dave’s story is an important reminder of how the simple act of drinking tea can benefit us psychologically, physically and spiritually.

Time for a tea break!

 

Chicken Therapy

Not Just for Your Dinner Plate!

I was familiar with Equine Therapy with horses but had not heard of Chicken Therapy until I met a woman who has eleven pet chickens.  The chickens are a variety of colors and breeds and all have their own individual pet names.  According to Heidi, the owner, she said that the chickens have distinct personalities and similar to people, have their own pecking order. Some chickens get bullied, while others are more dominant and take the lead role, others are curious, some are playful or adventurous, but all chickens are uniquely different.

Having experienced a stressful weekend, I asked if I could hold one of the chickens, and was handed a beautiful soft golden brown bird.  As I held the feathery clucking chicken in my arms, I felt an immediate sense of peace and calm, which lead to a conversation about how the chickens, like therapy horses, or other therapy animals, are helpful for a variety of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and dementia.  Chicken Therapy is not commonly known, but it exists, and research confirms that chickens make great therapy animals.

We love our pets because they make us feel better on rough days, they sit on our laps, lick our faces and cuddle with us when we feel sad.  They calm us down when we feel angry and give us unconditional love.  There is no question that animals are healing and therapeutic both emotionally and physically.

Next time you’re having a rough day, feeling, sad, anxious or frustrated, try some Chicken Therapy!

Mental Decluttering

I began the process of decluttering my life through the release of my collection of numerous worthless items during a recent relocation and sent them off to Goodwill for other collectors to enjoy.

During the process of simplifying my life and working towards my goal of minimalism, I realized that the material clutter was only part of the problem.  The real issue was going to be decluttering my mind and thinking process. As a thinker by nature, I realized that I could empty my house, but my head was still full of clutter, so I began a Zen practice and through sitting and walking meditation, I became aware that I carried too much mental baggage.

Although both processes of internal and external decluttering can be difficult, the biggest challenge is to change our thinking patterns. It is easy to dwell on the negative or to stay in a thinking loop that takes you nowhere.  I decided to get off that train, and now as I continue releasing my material items, I work on releasing stinking thinking, and other excessive thoughts that have kept my mind from having clarity.

Simplifying your life begins with the therapeutic process of both internal and external purging.  Both are necessary if you are to live an authentic minimal life, otherwise, it’s like cleaning out the basement but leaving the attic full of junk.

Dr. Garlic

Maplewood Gardens

Dave, or “Dr. Garlic”, as he is known in the Stevens Point Farmer’s Market in Wisconsin, grows certified naturally grown organic garlic which has been described as, “beyond organic.” Dave explains that he rejects USDA organic’s guidelines and doesn’t use anything unnatural. He has been growing garlic and other veggies for over 33 years. Dave said he didn’t set out to grow garlic, but that, “Garlic found me.” He actually builds the soil, not using any pesticides because it kills off beneficial insects.  Dr. Garlic claims to have the “purest” soil around.

Dave grows and sells a variety of garlic including Montana Giant, Georgian Fire, Persian Star, Killarney Red, Music, Chesnok Red, Romanian Red, and Georgian Crystal, all of which have distinct and unique flavors.

Garlic is known as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Health benefits are many and include, being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, cancer preventing, reduces blood pressure, prevents colds, improves bone health and most recent research includes antioxidants may help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Maplewood Garden’s is a division of Whistling Candleman Enterprises.  He self-designs his own labels which originated years ago when he made and sold candles out west. Dave said he would play the whistle while he sold the candles, once bringing the attention of someone who was so inspired by Dave that he wrote an epic poem titled, “The Song of the Whistling Candleman.”

Dave reported that at a young age, he “Formed the habit of excellence”, and “Explores things seriously.”

Not only does Dave grow garlic, but he also makes wine out of golden raspberries sweetened with maple syrup on land that he cultivates, grows the berries, and taps the maple syrup, which he has been doing for over 44 years.

Dave is also an Artist and Opera Singer. He is a man of many talents and has led an interesting and self-sufficient life. At the age of 75, Dave works, “Almost 90 hours a week during the summer.”  He believes that work is good for him but hopes to slow down someday to return to other passions including singing opera and woodworking.

“Don’t just be one thing in life, be many things”, Dave said, and explained that often times, “People separate themselves from their work.”  Dave believes that we all have many skills and talents but people get lost focusing on one thing, while other interests or passions get lost along the way. Dave truly inspired me to continue to pursue my varied interests and passions and to fully embrace all of them.

Dr. Garlic is truly one of the most inspiring people I have ever met.  He said he loves the farmer’s market because he gets to meet people and educate them on organic farming. He also shares his passion for healthy food and for sustainable gardening, excelling every organic inch along the way.

Next time you’re at the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning, stop by Maplewood Gardens for some great garlic, pure maple syrup, and for some words of wisdom about organic gardening or about life in general, you won’t be disappointed.