Unity Points

Our connections to each other

Winning at all costs. It permeates our social culture, embodies a philosophy that is at odds with all things spiritual, even our own happiness. How can we justify feelings of empathy, love, and togetherness, when all that is coming at us through the media and through our leaders embodies the opposite?

We can search for unity points. We don't have to look far. We already have an internal compass with a foolproof mechanism that enables us to discern the way of conflict from the way of peace. Do I feel myself tightening and preparing for a fight? That is a red flag to look for a unity point with the other person. When a conflict is unavoidable, how can I influence the outcome to be more "frictionless"? Can I avoid ratcheting up the drama, foregoing whatever dubious satisfaction I might receive by doing so?

The answer is yes. Always.

We can start by asking ourselves what we are in conflict with. If it is, in fact, an aspect of ourselves we dislike, are we not engaging in hypocrisy? We are condemning a person for behaving as we do. We are forgiving ourselves and damning them. This is patently unfair.

We can extend the hand of understanding, acknowledge that we share similar unifying traits, and go from there. When another person is not an "other," but a brother or sister, it becomes a pleasure to learn more about them. If they are belligerent, we can withdraw, refusing to feed their conflict energy. If a conflict is inevitable, we can enter it with compassion, making the encounter short and decisive.

Unity is not about connecting two separate things. It is about uncovering that which is temporarily hidden, the underlying oneness.

I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
Abraham Lincoln

Where does our food come from? Part three

Seed Saving

We as free citizens can play a huge part in preserving what is left of the world's biodiversity by engaging in the practice of seed-saving. The war being waged against conservation and self determination of the small farmer is real, and it's being advanced every day by companies like Monsanto with deep legal pockets and immense lobbying power on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

Seed savers and seed banks do their parts to save biodiversity, but we can, too. Seed Savers is a non-profit organization that promotes the preservation of heirloom varieties. http://www.seedsavers.org/ 
We can support and donate to them. We can buy organic, raise crops ourselves, and save the seeds or exchange them with others. Food can be grown in pots or buckets, in backyards, or on city terraces and windowsills. Seeds can be scattered in vacant lots. http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2010/01/30/urban-seed-bombs-next-generation-green-ballistic-missiles/ Anywhere that sunlight meets soil, we can raise healthy food.

Our children and grandchildren deserve to eat real food just as we do. We as meditators can execute our dharma to the earth and others, and to consciousness itself by aiding nature when we can.

There is an excellent film on seed saving: Seed: The Untold Story .http://www.seedthemovie.com/

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. Confucius

Where does our food come from? Part Two

Loss of biodiversity

Biodiversity benefits humankind by creating ecosystems from which we as a species derive nourishment and sustainability. Big agribusiness is based on a system that limits and wipes out this diversity. The practices of sustainable agriculture may indeed be the better way, but evidence of the benefits won’t readily show up in the short-term profit cycle.

Since the 1900s, some seventy-five percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers are forced by economic competition to replace diverse local seed varieties with central-sourced high-yield crops.

When we as farmers (anyone who works the earth to grow food) rotate our crops, many beneficial things happen. The nutrients in the soil are not depleted. Each successive crop leaves artifacts that are plowed under to build and benefit the next. This requires fore-planning and thought. Luckily there is a wealth of knowledge we can draw from to plan our gardens and fields most effectively. The changing of crops cuts down on insect blight, because a balanced ecosystem naturally discourages overpopulation of pests. We are then able to cut reliance on chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides.

The decision to not use these chemicals results in food that is safe, that our bodies recognize as food, and that we as a species have been assimilating for millennia. Genetically modified, chemically soaked food that has been processed and packaged is poisonous, and it is wise to avoid it.

What in the last fifty years has become known as the “Standard American Diet” (or SAD) has not been based on nutritional worth; its value is determined by profitability. SAD includes ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. This magic ingredient seems to find its way into every processed food item. It is highly addictive, contributes to obesity, is a major cause of inflammation in the body, and contributes to the generation of cancerous tissue. It fosters poor health and early death.

If a corporation can successfully justify using such toxic ingredients in something so basic to survival as food, it is easy to extrapolate that being of benefit to humanity and the planet is not paramount on its list of priorities.

Can we avoid corporate food?

Yes. We can buy certified organic. But it's expensive and not always readily available at the local supermarket. We can support local organic growers by shopping at Farmer’s Markets, but again, this can get expensive. We can grow our own food. This is tough for city dwellers and those with limited time. But we should and can strive to move toward establishing these priorities of health in our daily lives.

We can become re-acquainted with our kitchens. Modern convenience often means eating at restaurants or drive-thrus, buying prepackaged microwaveable fare, and eating junk food while watching TV. Re-learning the lost art of food preparation is pleasurable and rebuilds connection within our family relationships. Slowing down and making a ritual out of food sharing can become the most pleasurable part of the day. By putting earning money above all other things, including taking responsibility for our own nourishment, we have lost one of the secrets to a happy life.

Next week, Part Three: Seed Saving

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
Virginia Woolf

Where does our food come from?Part one

Home grown organic raspberries, Ashland, Oregon.

Home grown organic raspberries, Ashland, Oregon.

Corporatization is not competition

In the United States, our food sources have become corporatized. This means that over time, large agribusinesses have bought out family farms. Vast tracts of land have been given over to mechanized monoculture.

Monoculture: Bad for the soil, good for short-term profit
The US has 96,000,000 acres dedicated to the production of corn, the majority of which is used for livestock feed. This corn is grown in the same geographical area again and again. This practice depletes the soil of nutrients over time. Monoculture crops are very vulnerable to insects, so increasing resources must be spent on chemical pesticides and herbicides. Chemical fertilizers must also be used to amend the soil.

Monsanto: Products that harm us for short-term gain
The Monsanto corporation has engineered solutions to these monoculture problems. Glyphosate is an herbicide. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. It has recently failed to conclusively pass tests which would absolve it from a direct link to cancer in humans. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto'sRoundup. Monsanto has recently been shown to actively recruit scientists at the EPA who would be amenable to signing off on conclusion papers written by Monsanto executives. This would go a long way towards muddying the waters of scientific consensus regarding Roundup's safety.

GMOs: Utilizing the "straw-man" argument
Monsanto is at the forefront in genetically modified seed products. One of it's most successful GMO efforts are crop seeds that resist the toxic effects of Roundup. This way, the plants are protected from harm, but the humans who ingest the plants that have been soaked in Glyphosate are not. This is the main reason people are clamoring for clear labeling of GMO products. They simply want to know if they are buying products that might be toxic to themselves and their families. Many in the skeptic community have used the argument that GMOs have gotten a "bad rap" and that, if clearly labelled, their products will not sell. They label those of us who are resistant to Monsanto's efforts as "anti-science." This is a classic use of the straw man fallacious argument. "Straw man" is defined as an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument.

What does all this have to do with meditation and consciousness?

Stick with me. More will be revealed in parts 2 and 3.

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”  - B.K.S. Iyengar