"No European who has tasted Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies." — Benjamin Franklin

Monday, December 24, 2007

But That's Not Paleo!

Humans like to be extremists; Americans especially have this tendency. We think if we are balanced that we have not reached our fullest potential. We feel we must strive, reach, and persist until “the end”, whatever that may be.

In eating paleo, I find myself confronting this tendency and treating it like a good, loving friend. I listen to some things it says, and I ignore others with an understanding of why I do so. “Let's have rice with dinner”, I say. “But it's not paleo!”, replies my friend. “You're right, but that's OK. I'm healthy, there's a large portion of meat and a bowl of veggies, as well as fruit for dessert. A little rice doesn't break anything except the ‘extreme perfection of the diet’.”

Don't cling to the paleo diet — or anything, for that matter — so tightly that you cause your knuckles to whiten. Relax. Adhere to a path because it is good for you and you enjoy it, not because you “should”. Relax. Have some rice with dinner, and enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We Are Running Out Of Food

The International Herald Tribune had an article yesterday whose headline was:

Global food supply is dwindling rapidly, UN agency warns

That's scary, isn't it? I mean, there must be something we can do, right? Plant more crops? Convert the entire population of the planet to a vegetarian diet? Reduce emissions so as to mitigate global warming?

How about the one that no one wants to talk about? How about: reduce the human population on Earth. Everyone always gets agitated by this suggestion. "We have the right to breed!", they scream. And I agree. But you also have the right to die, and that's what will happen to your children if this continues. And starvation is not a pretty way to die.

I'm not suggesting that we go shoot a bunch of people. What I am suggesting is that we are currently unable to feed the population of the planet, so we need to either fix the problems (most of which, in my opinion, seem political and religious instead of technical) or to reduce the problem at its source: population. Don't have 12 kids because your religious leader says that "families are a blessing". Don't have three or four more children because you need help on the farm. Instead of breeding, adopt a child or two. Over time, the exponential growth curve we're currently experiencing will soften and reduce. Then, maybe, our technology and level of humanity will allow us to feed the mouths we have before we go making more.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Don't recycle!
Don't "Buy Local"!

This is one of my mantras. I try to keep my possessions to a minimum. This is very helpful in many aspects of life: I don't need much living space, I can move easily, I worry less about the security of my "stuff", etc. A far-flung result of this attitude is that I'm causing less to be dumped into landfills later, and polluting less by not requiring that things be made for my consumption.

Hunter-gatherers are known for having few possessions. What they do have, they can often carry on their backs. They don't worry about their stuff because it's simple and easily-replaceable.

We can learn a lot from hunter-gatherer cultures.

Edit : Here is a good article concerning a doctor marrying a yoga teacher, and how they both re-thought their attitudes to money and possessions.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Physical Therapy via Video Games

Why do I think this is crazy? "This" is an article about physical therapists using a Nintendo Wii gaming console to provide physical activity for their patients.

Why do people think that technology can "save" us? Why do people use shiny new tools instead of tested, reliable methods?

Why aren't these people doing yoga?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Milk: The Perfect Food?

To a traditional Indian yogi, milk is considered the perfect food. It is so revered that the maker of the substance, the cow, is considered holy; when you visit an Indian city, you'll see cows wandering around, munching on grass here and there, like stray cats in American cities. Some yogis only drink milk; that is their diet, without solid food of any kind. They say it is the only physical food that they need.

In the United States, milk is considered a poison, full of harmful little beasties like tuberculosis and salmonella. So, we boil it mercilessly. We shatter its structure because we want the entire container to be of uniform density; no cream on top for us, thanks. If you drink raw, unprocessed milk, you are believed to have a deathwish.

I'll guaran-damn-tee you that those Indian yogis haven't been pasteurizing and homogenizing their milk for thousands of years. They wander up to one of those docile, feral cows, milk them a bit, and exchange devotion and love for that cup of sustenance. Here in the United States, we cage them, feed them unbelievable meals (such as the remnants of their relatives - bones, brains, meat), and their milk is stolen from them via machine. If you "are what you eat", then these cows are made of disgust, capitalism, and poison. No wonder our milk supply is so bad for us.

This system is propped up by outdated and unfair laws which prohibit raw milk from going pretty much anywhere. In some states, raw milk is effectively close to illegal; it must be processed immediately before it can even leave the premises of the dairy. Yet, if you own your own animal, you can drink the milk from it; it is, after all, your own property. In some states (such as Colorado), this leads to "milk co-ops"; you buy a share of a herd of cows, and you are entitled - as an owner - to a portion of their milk. The plus side: most co-ops don't pasteurize or homogenize their milk; even if they do, you can often still request raw milk.

If you've never had raw, unprocessed milk still warm from the teat, you have missed something wonderful. I'm not a regular drinker of milk, but I love butter, ghee, and ice cream. Yet, after reading more about milk, "modern" milk, etc., I wonder if raw milk would be good for me. According to Ayurveda, my constitution (50% pitta) benefits greatly from the cooling, soothing, and nourishing aspects of milk. Milk is a sattvic food, assisting in meditation and self-realization.

In the past few days, I've eaten probably a pint of ice cream to myself. When I was younger, I would eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting - almost every night. Yes, you heard that correctly. I liked the cold, moistening sweetness. Some people like ice cream with "things" in it; I prefer simple vanilla (a few simple nuts thrown in for textural balance is fine, too; my current favorite is Haagen-Dazs "Vanilla Swiss Almond"). This is obviously for my constitution: cool for the pitta, sweet for the pitta, moistening for the pitta. Of the doshas, I have the least of kapha, so it doesn't seem to aggravate that too much.

I think eating the ice cream lately has brought dairy to the forefront of my mind. We've also made a couple of pints of ghee lately, and have been cooking with it (if you've not cooked with ghee, go get some right now!). The place we buy meat also has milk (both cow and goat) from a raw dairy. So, we have a source, and it's reasonably inexpensive for what some consider a "perfect food". Modern agricultural practices have always bothered me, but none so much as how we treat our cows and chickens; it's abominable. Buying from a local co-op allows me to see how it's produced and to get an idea of the ingredients of the milk. Is it made from "anger, disgust, and violence" or "love, care, and respect"?

If you think that "attitude during preparation" doesn't matter, bake a pie for your worst enemy; think about them the whole time, remember why you hate them, and talk out loud about how you'd like to hurt them. Then, bake a pie for your closest loved one; remember them, smile, talk about how wonderful they are. I'll guarantee you that the second pie will not only taste better, but would be more nourishing, both physically and energetically. This is often the reason why a daily dinner may taste "just OK", but a Thanksgiving meal tastes like the best food on the planet. Both Ayurveda and Zen have strict kitchen procedures and rituals to promote good energy around the food and its preparation, and it pays off.

Ayurvedic medicine also uses "milk decoctions"; herbs are steeped in warm milk, which is then drunk as a medicine. Medicated ghee is also used. Maybe I'll have to try to come up with "Ayurvedic ice creams", as they seem to be non-existent. ;-)

So, is milk a "perfect food"? No, I don't think so. This universe isn't perfect, so nothing within it can be perfect (some people may argue this point, but it's my point-of-view at the moment). But, can a single food provide a lot of what someone needs? Absolutely, it can. So, I wonder if all of our dairy intolerance issues in the U.S. stem from not the milk itself, but the energies implanted into it during its production. The processing itself could definitely cause issues, but so can the hate, disgust, and profiteering. We in the west usually forget - or actively discount - this. If we do, we do so to our detriment.

I think I'll find out more about that raw milk co-op. I think it's time to experiment with good, wholesome milk for a while, and to test the yogic theory of "milk as the perfect food".

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rant : Yoga Competitions

Oh, barf. Read this article. Frankly, it makes me sick.

I'm a yoga teacher. Yoga is not "just exercise"; it is a complete toolkit to help to focus one's mind. Here in the United States, most people think that "yoga=stretching", and that's just not true. Out of the 198 sutras of Patanjali, only 3 of them are about asana, the physical postures of classical yoga. Yoga is so much more than just physical poses.

I'm also not a fan of Bikram yoga. During my teacher training course, we were required to take classes in various styles - Iyengar, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Kripalu, Bikram - so that we would have exposure to the different kinds of yoga available. I didn't take the Bikram class, as not only is it contraindicated for my constitution (I'm already very "hot"/pitta, and very warming practices basically cause me to burst into flames), but I completely disagree with pretty much everything Bikram teaches. Instead, I spent a couple of hours and wrote a short paper, "Why I Will Not Attend A Bikram Class", accompanied by about 30 pages of highlighted news articles about Bikram's attitude, approach, and injuries suffered by people in his classes. I can see the therapeutic aspects of a flow style of yoga, and even the heated environment, but I can't stand Bikram's attitude. It's not yogic; it's "Western, greedy, arrogant capitalist".

The sponsors and participants have even figured out a way to justify this event in their minds:

"It's actually a championship, not a competition," said Sarah Ittmann, owner of Bikram Yoga Hampden. "In a competition, you compete against other people. A championship is a measure of your own prowess - your own strength and determination."
Oh, yeah, that's it; "champions" aren't champions because they are better than others. That makes it all better.

When I see western culture and society warping such an amazing tradition and practice so badly, I can't just sit here and let it go. I have to yell, "NO! That's not yoga!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Place and Food : Eating Local

I'm currently living in the Denver, Colorado, area. There are many farms, free-range organic butchers, and wild animals around here. One can eat locally-grown or harvested food here pretty easily. I know; I do it.

I've thought about moving to Alaska. Fewer farms (but more than you may think!), but plenty of paleo food: wild meats, fish, berries, and herbs. A very large percentage of Alaskans live a subsistence lifestyle, living off the land. Some of them live in very remote areas, but many live in cities or towns. The land and its resources allow such a lifestyle.

I lived in Tucson, Arizona. In southern Arizona, there are many wild resources, but they are mostly plants and fruits. There are some animals around, including some large game, but it is a bit harder to find than in some other places in the continental U.S. Most of the Native American tribes in the area survived by combining wild foods with farmed foods such as corn.

Not only are "raw resources" part of the equation, but also the societal acceptance (or lack thereof) of such a lifestyle. In Alaska, for example, a subsistence lifestyle is considered pretty normal. Even city-dwellers eat wild meats and berries, even if only occasionally. Yet, in northern Colorado, the idea that we are interested in eating items that don't come wrapped in plastic from Whild Foads is weird; many people think we're nuts. They don't freak out too badly when we say we eat locally-grown, free-range, grass-fed meat, because that's pretty trendy and "eco"; when we mention that the meat is buffalo, we get funny looks. In Tucson, we did some dumpster diving and ate large amounts of fresh, clean produce that we found; most people there thought we were completely insane except for the other divers.

Does the area in which you live provide enough natural resources to sustain a healthy, varied diet? And, if so, does your surrounding society support such a choice?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Still eating, straying, and beer

I haven't written much here lately, though I have a couple of articles I'd like to share. I'll write those here sometime soon, I hope.

I've strayed out of the "strict paleo" area - I'm drinking milk (specifically half-and-half in my black tea and chai) and eating corn tortillas. I also drank beer this past weekend. Last week, a plate of nachos I ordered at a restaurant were made from fried flour tortillas, so I ate them; the next day, I had serious diarrhea. And the nachos didn't taste as good as corn does. Live and learn. As my partner said while sharing the food with me: "Eating out, paleo-style, is pretty much impossible." I agree. Maybe we should go ahead and start our own paleo restaurant.

Yes, I had barley-based beer this weekend, but I also tried a gluten-free beer made from sorghum. It was Dragon's Gold from Bard's Tale. It was good, but was very thin and had almost no body. It was malty in flavor, with a reasonable shot of hops for good measure. I'd drink it again, but it's nowhere near my "top 20 beers" list or anything.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What Does One Eat When One Is Poor?

I just read this article about higher food prices on Yahoo! News. A few things really jumped out at me (well, more than a few, but I talk about some of the finer philosophical points at my other blog, "infinity: this way"). Concerning how to "stretch your food dollar", people:

  • "are running out of food products, paper towels sooner"
  • "And 7-Eleven says...shoppers can't afford to load up at the supermarket and are going to the most convenient places to buy emergency food items like milk and eggs."
  • are buying "one gallon of milk a week instead of three"
  • "sometimes skips breakfast and lunch to make sure there's enough food for her children"
  • "cooks with a hot plate because gas is too expensive
  • "depend more than ever on the bags of free vegetables and powdered milk from a local food pantry"
  • "cut fruits and vegetables from [their] grocery order"
  • are "buying more peanut butter and pasta. And they're going for hamburger meat"
  • are "spending anywhere from $7 to $10 extra a week — $40 more a month — on groceries alone, compared to a year ago"
This is despicable. We should be ashamed that we, as a society, are forcing people to exist like this. And, later in the article, you see the reason:
And while overall wage growth is a solid 4.1 percent over the past 12 months, economists say the increases are mostly for the top earners.
There it is: greed. Pure, unadulterated, uncaring greed. The people "at the top" make more money, and the people at the bottom starve because they can't buy vegetables (which, as an aside, makes them unhealthy and easier to control).

So, since I harbor no illusion that our society is going to reform itself sufficiently in the short-term, let's talk about the subject of this post: the diet of the poor.

Above, you notice that people buy cheap carbohydrates (pasta) and cheap, low-quality protein (peanut butter and cheap ground beef). Most of us have probably been through a stint of eating beans and rice for a few days (or longer) while we were a bit less flush than we'd like. Is this a healthy diet? No, not by any means. On the other hand, meat is very nutrient-dense, and we're built to eat it. Frankly, I think those with little money should concentrate on eating natural, wholesome meat. It's not perfect, but if one must concentrate on a single source of food, natural meat is probably the best candidate.

A lot of the increases in food prices stem from the fact that transportation costs have risen significantly, which is due to higher fuel prices (see "greed" above coupled with a diminishing supply of oil worldwide). So, a simple fix is to buy locally-produced items. When you shorten the distance from the producer to your table, you increase the percentage of your purchase that actually goes into the food itself as opposed to its transportation costs. Sometimes, locally-produced goods are cheaper; sometimes they aren't. The thought process then comes down to a few things: keeping money in your community, reducing the amount of processing needed in preparation for shipment and transportation, increasing the available nutrition in the food (much of which can be lost in processing), and regaining a measure of control over your life.

Recently, my partner and I have started purchasing our meat at a local butcher as opposed to a large chain store. He raises his own buffalo; we've spent time with his herd. The meat is processed locally and sold on his farm. He also purchases and sells items from other local producers of pork, lamb, chickens, eggs, and meat. All of this food has been born, raised, and prepared within 20 miles of our home, using natural processes and organic feed, by people who care. Not only does it taste better than any other meat I've ever eaten, its nutritional profile is so different that it may as well be a different food than that which you'll find wrapped in plastic at your local grocery; the fat ratio is completely different, the protein content is higher, and since it was minimally processed, we can cook it less which provides more vitamins than we would otherwise receive.

So, am I suggesting that you find a local source of meat, and even enter into a personal relationship with its proprietor? Absolutely I am! And if you are willing and able, take up hunting and fishing; not only is it a source of food, it is excellent exercise for the body and the mind.

As for vegetables and fruits, what should be done? If you have space in your yard, pull up that ridiculously worthless grass and plant food. It's really not that difficult to grow a few things to supplement - or even significantly increase - your diet. If you don't have space, see if there is a co-op or community garden near your home where you can inexpensively rent a plot and grow your food. Borrow space from your neighbors in exchange for produce. In some way, shape, or form, grow what you can, where you can. Also, if you have wilderness nearby, learn your local native plants and harvest wild foods.

What are the results of an approach such I've suggested? Better health, exercise, a connection with the source(s) of your food, and a reduction of support for those who are greedy enough to let other people starve. Those sound pretty good to me.

A Bit of Fic: They're Made Out Of Meat

Read this hilarious, very short story by Terry Bisson.

Makes you think a little bit, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How Often Should One Eat?

Diet isn't just about content; it's also about timing. Some people say that a person should eat 3 times per day. Others say one should eat 5 or 6 small meals per day, while some people suggest only eating once per day. Which is right? Or is one right at all?

Everyone's body is different. Some people have very fast digestive systems and they burn through food very quickly; these people must eat often so as to prevent things such as a blood sugar crash. Some people digest more slowly; they can eat less often, as their body evens out the peaks and troughs. Some people limit the frequency of their meals due to non-nutritional criteria; for example, Buddhist monks eat only once per day. One shouldn't eat anything for at least and hour - preferably two - before a yoga practice, and should wait to eat afterwards for at least 30 minutes.

As the years have gone by, I've tried many different things related to my diet. I've been vegetarian, vegan, and omnivore. I've eaten once per day, twice per day, three times per day, and many times per day. I know one man who eats a light breakfast, a "second breakfast" around 10:00AM, lunch at noon, a "second lunch" around 3:00PM, dinner, and an evening snack before bedtime. He says that his body requires such frequency or else he gets very tired.

My suggestion: try various things. If you're currently eating "normally" (usually 3 meals per day - breakfast, lunch, and dinner), see how you feel. Then, either increase your frequency and decrease your content at each meal, or go the other way and eat more food, less often. In any case, make sure you are eating an appropriate amount for your body and getting all needed nutrients.

Everyone is different, and everyone needs to realize their uniqueness and work with it instead of against it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

How Does One Support The Environment? (Blog Action Day Post)

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day Today, October 15, is Blog Action Day, a time when thousands of writers from all over the world write about a single subject. This year's subject is “the environment”. I feel that our diets and lifestyles directly affect the overall surrounding environment, so that's the tangent I'm going to follow today.

My premise is fairly simple: one can only change oneself, and by changing oneself, one changes the world. Of course, this is both very easy and extremely difficult. There are many aspects to change, as well.

Respect & Connection

I think that the most important thing we can have is respect — respect for ourselves, respect for others, and respect for the environment. If one has respect, any other needed changes follow.

Everything is connected, in some manner, to everything else. If one has respect for one thing, it will flow along the connections to other things. Before you know it, other seemingly unrelated attitudes and outlooks have shifted.


We all eat. What do you eat? Meat? Veggies? Organic or natural foods? What you eat is what is used to build your body. But your dietary choices cause ripples outwards into the environment. If you eat something that came from the store wrapped in plastic, you've used oil (an unsustainable resource) and placed non-biodegradable trash into a landfill somewhere. As an aside, notice that it is often the case that the food with the most unsustainable packaging is also the least healthy. So, not only have you damaged your body by eating trash, you've also damaged the environment.

So, how does one go about having a diet that is not only healthy for the individual but also for the environment? There are many ways. The most important action you could take is eating locally-grown natural & organic foods. These foods have been grown without a lot of artificial fertilizers, and haven't used a lot of unsustainable resources to transport them from the producer to your table. By doing this, you probably do another important thing: supporting local stores and producers. Most large grocery chains won't carry such things as “grass-fed beef from 20 miles away”, so you may have to go to a local butcher, farmer's market, or health food store. This supports local small businesses, and is a way to build strong communities.

Another way to eat in a sustainable manner is to hunt and gather for some or all of your food. By eating local wild animals and plants, one comes to learn about one's environment and their effects upon it. Wild meat is known for being very healthy for a human being; its nutrient, protein, and fat profiles fit very closely with the dietary needs of an active human being. Literally, we are built to eat wild meat. Wild plants offer a wide range of nutrients and tastes as well, and they grow in soil that has not been depleted by damaging farming practices. And an added benefit: it all tastes so much better than store-bought food that you'll forever question the worthiness of anything from the aisles of the chain grocery down the street.


Do you drive an automobile? How often, and for how far? It is probably arguable that the automobile has done more to damage the environment than many other creations of man. Not only does it produce toxic exhaust, but it consumes massive amounts of energy in its construction and operation, and fosters the development of anti-social living patterns (picture gated suburbs where no one knows their neighbors and where everyone drives many miles each day to their jobs). Frankly, I think the best thing that we could do for ourselves, our society, and our environment is to make cars prohibitively expensive for most people, improve our public transportation infrastructure a hundredfold, and reform our cities and towns into a more mixed-use style of organization.

What can one do to bring their modes of transportation more in-line with healthy patterns? Use public transportation. Bicycle. Walk. If you have a car, only use it sparingly, and then only when needed for reasons of distance, carrying cargo, etc. If you are an urbanite, live near your work and the other places you enjoy, not way out in the 'burbs. If you live in a rural area, consolidate your trips so that they serve multiple goals, hence making your travel more efficient while reducing its frequency. If you often travel long distances via plane, consider other options: carpooling with other travelers (craigslist has a rideshare section under "community"), taking the train or bus, or reducing long-distance travel significantly (jet airplanes cause a significant percentage of the pollution in the atmosphere).

From my personal experience, I can tell you that changing from “driving everywhere” to “bicycling most places, and taking the public bus for longer distances” has been an incredible boon to my life. I'm healthier, I'm more aware, and I'm less stressed. Also, my exhaust isn't as toxic for the environment as that which comes out of a tailpipe.

Lifestyle & Socialization

Another aspect of supporting or damaging the environment is one's lifestyle. This can encompass various things such as one's job, social interactions, exercise, and spirituality. Diet can be considered a part of one's lifestyle, too, but I've discussed it separately.

What do you do to make a living? Do you have friends? How close are you to your family? Do you exercise regularly? Do you go to a church, a temple, or a mosque? Each one of these things can improve the environment, either directly or indirectly.

Let's take one's job, for example. Do you sit in front of a computer all day with fluorescent lights beating down upon you, doing the same abstract task over and over? Do you have a job that takes place at least partially outdoors? Do you work directly with others, or mostly alone? If your job is unsustainable, then it is damaging both to the environment and to your health. If you could change your job to something that would be more worthwhile and would support the health of the environment as well as you, what would that job be?

Social networks also help the individual, which in turn helps the environment. If you have close friends and family, it has been shown in various studies that you are less easily stressed. If you attend some sort of spiritual services regularly, you believe in something greater than the individual, and it improves the functioning of your immune system. Notice that I'm not talking about “having a lot of friends on MySpace”; that's not a social network, no matter what its creators may call it. A social network includes face-to-face interaction between people.

On a related tangent, anthropologists have what they call “Dunbar's Number”. This represents the largest social network that a human brain can understand. Anything larger than this is unsustainable with regards to a human's neural network. I believe that smaller, more coherent social groups cause less damage to their environment (this has actually been proven in studies of tribal societies). The interesting thing about this is that it was the predominant social structure of mankind for hundreds of thousands of years before the Neolithic Revolution; it's called “tribalism” and has a modern form called “neo-tribalism”.

Form or find your “tribe”. Share your respect, your lives, and your food with one another, and by your acts you will respect the environment.

Overall Approach

At the beginning of this post I said, “one can only change oneself”. Often, we seem to think that others can make these large changes that we seek. We give money to environmental charities, hoping that their actions will solve the problems. We vote for politicians because they say they are "green" and love the outdoors. I have news for you: this approach is backwards.

I can't change your mind; only you can do that. Yet, if you do that, other things will be affected. Instead of the “top down” approach described in the preceding paragraph, I suggest the “bottom up” approach: improve self, then improve family, then improve tribe, then improve world. You can also look at this as “individual-centric”.

Start with yourself, and the effects expand to fill the entire universe.


I have already started down the path I describe in this post. After 15 years in the IT industry, I have changed to a more fulfilling and wonderful career; I am a yoga teacher. I have changed my diet from one of junk and processed "food products" to natural meats, organic vegetables and fruits, and locally-grown items. I often grow some of my own produce in a co-op garden plot. Sure, I still have habits that are unsustainable (I drink teas from India and China, shipped halfway around the world), but nothing in this universe is perfect, especially me. And that's OK.

Some people (such as me) have advertisements on their blogs and receive a small amount of money in return. On this Blog Action Day, some people have pledged to hand over their earnings for the day to environmental charities. So, I will do something similar: if I receive money from this blog today (if you click an ad, I get a few cents; it will cost you nothing but a few seconds of your time), I will put it towards my own personal improvement. Maybe I'll take more yoga classes (hey, even teachers are students!). Maybe I'll buy a book that will help me to understand my place in the universe a little bit better. Maybe I'll buy a locally-grown, grass-fed bison steak and eat it for dinner. In any case, I will improve myself and therefore improve the environment around me.

If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them here. You must have a Blogger or Google account to comment, and comments are moderated by me before they are published. If you wish your message to remain private, just say so.

I would also like to apologize if this post seems a bit disorderly or has any grammar or spelling errors. I was unaware of Blog Action Day until this morning, and this post was written fairly quickly. Nonetheless, I hope that you find my blog useful to you.

Thank you very much for reading my blog today. I invite you come by more often and see what I've done. I would also like to suggest that you read those blogs written by people whom I deeply respect. They are listed on the right sidebar, under "Related Blogs".

Love well. Eat well. Think well. Live well, and the Earth will be well.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Yoga Books Espousing Vegetarianism

I was looking through a large number of books about yoga yesterday. Some of them were more than just "asana picture books"; some had information on meditation, diet, and lifestyle. This is good; yoga isn't just about putting your foot in your ear. The issue I have is about the diet they propose.

Let's go back a bit. Yoga has always been considered a sort of "spiritual science". That doesn't mean it's "religious". It is a collection of tools, a path, that can help one to focus on whatever it is that one wants to focus on. Most of the time, traditional yogis focused on their Self and Brahman, and how they were really the same thing.

A vegetarian or vegan diet has a certain energy to it. That energy is uplifting, airy, space-y, rarefied, light, expansive, cool, and dry. These are all qualities that a meditator wants to embrace, as they assist the mind and spirit in "rising above" the body and the Earth and into other realms.

So, since the goal of yoga is mastery of the mind, and the mind is helped to roam free by a diet lacking in heavy foods, yoga suggests a vegetarian diet (lacto-vegetarian, to be a bit more precise; they consider milk "the perfect food").

Yet, not all Indians are vegetarian. The ancient Indian medical science of Ayurveda suggests different diets for different people and for different purposes. Ayurveda suggests cooking almost all food, at least a little, to help pre-digest it. It suggests more meat for some people, and less meat for others. It suggests special diets for certain things like illnesses, detoxification, or certain times of the year.

Different people practice yoga for different reasons. Some change their reasons over time, or as their body and mind change. Some want a "yoga butt" and strong, flexible muscles. Some want to control their mind. Some just want to relax. These are all good goals, and yoga provides all these things.

If yoga is so wide as to provide these different things to different people at different times, why does it only have "one diet" - vegetarianism?

I think that your diet should be modified to fit your body, your mind, and your goals, in that order. A simple list may help make this a bit more understandable:

  1. Start by eating what your body is built to eat, and by not eating what your body is not built to eat. Human beings are omnivores. Our evolution dictates what our body requires for sustenance. Listen to millions of years of development! Also, if you are allergic or even slightly intolerant of a food (say, gluten/wheat or milk), stop eating it completely as it stresses your body.
  2. Next, modify your diet according to your activity. For example, if you are building muscle, you need lots of protein. If you are meditating more than exercising, you need less protein and more airy, light foods.
  3. Next, modify your diet according to other various factors such as the time of year, certain individual conditions, or suggestions of a physician or teacher.
  4. Then, if you'd like, you can modify your diet by your personal preferences and tastes.
Each of these items are cumulative and possibly subtractive. So, you start in step 1 with, say 1000 foods. Then in step 2, you may remove 200 items. Step 3 may remove another 100 things, and step 4 may cut out some more. You may be left with 500 items you are built to eat, that are tailored to your activity at this time, that are appropriate for the season and personal conditions, and that you enjoy eating.

As a yoga teacher, I might suggest a high-protein, meat-heavy diet for someone who is doing a strong asana practice, and maybe a pesco-vegetarian diet for someone who is using light asana as a preparation for lengthy meditation. At all times, I would modify the diet according to the results, the time of the year, and the person's preferences. In all cases, I would insist on natural, organic, free-range or wild meats, organic vegetables, organic fruits and nuts, and raw milk (if the person can tolerate it). No factory-farmed anything, and nothing from a box!

Everyone is different. Everyone has different goals. Hence, everyone's diet should be tailored to them, now, for that purpose.

(P.S. I am following a paleo diet for two reasons. First, it is an experiment; I have been vegan or vegetarian in the past. And second, my yoga practice is currently very asana-heavy, and I am trying to build muscle, connective tissue, and bone, so I want more nutrient-dense foods.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oh, Look, There's A Car Coming At Me While I Stand Here

I'm in the mood today to point out interesting news articles. Here's one about how we recognize the threats from animals like lions but don't realize the threats from things like speeding cars and electrical outlets. I've highlighted what I think are some important points. I think this could help explain why, when people are planning to move somewhere remote like Alaska or a jungle island somewhere, everyone says ridiculous things like, "But...you'll be eaten by a bear! YOU'LL DIEEEEEEEE!"

Modern Humans Retain Caveman's Survival Instincts
Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience.com Staff Writer

Like hunter-gatherers in the jungle, modern humans are still experts at spotting predators and prey, despite the developed world's safe suburbs and indoor lifestyle, a new study suggests.

The research, published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that humans today are hard-wired to pay attention to other people and animals much more so than non-living things, even if inanimate objects are the primary hazards for modern, urbanized folks.

The researchers say the finding supports the idea that natural selection molded mechanisms into our ancestors' brains that were specialized for paying attention to humans and other animals. These adaptive traits were then passed on to us.

"We're assuming that natural selection takes a long time to build anything anew and that's why this is left over from our past," said study team member Leda Cosmides, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Ancestor's eyes

Immersed in a rich, biotic environment, it would have been imperative for our ancestors to monitor both humans and non-human animals. Predators and prey took many different forms—lions, tigers and bears—and they changed often, so constant eyeballing was critical.

While the environment has changed since then, with high-rises emerging where forests once took root and pampered pets taking the place of stalking beasts, our instinct-driven attention has not followed suit.

"Having this pop-out attentional bias for animals is sort of a vestigial behavior," said study team member Joshua New of Yale University's Perception and Cognition Lab.

In the study, groups of undergraduate students from UCSB, watched images displayed on computer monitors. The flashing images alternated between pairs of various outdoor scenes, with the first image showing one scene and the next an alternate version of that scene with one change. Participants indicated each time whether they detected a change.

The photographs included animate categories, such as people and other animals, as well as inanimate ones, such as plants, artifacts that can be manipulated (stapler or wheelbarrow) and fixed artifacts, such as landmarks (windmill or house).

Modern hunter-gatherers

Overall, the subjects were faster and more accurate at detecting changes involving all animals compared with inanimate objects. They correctly detected nearly 90 percent of the changes to "living" targets compared with 66 percent for inanimate objects.

In particular, the students spotted changes in elephant and human scenes 100 percent of the time, while they had a success rate of just over 75 percent for photos showing a silo and 67 percent for those with a coffee mug.

Though we are more likely to meet death via an SUV than a charging wildebeest, the results indicated subjects were slower and less successful at detecting changes to vehicles than to animals.

The researchers compare our attentional bias toward animals to the appendix, an organ present in modern humans because it was useful for our ancestors, but useless now [that bit about the appendix is debatable -- ed].

These results have implications for phobias and other behaviors that involve focus toward specific categories of objects over others.

"People develop phobias for spiders and snakes and things that were ancestral threats. It's very infrequent to have somebody afraid of cars or electrical outlets," New told LiveScience. "Those statistically pose much more of a threat to us than a tiger. That makes it an interesting test case as to why do tigers still capture attention."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cow Farts Are Destroying the World!

I just read this article and I'm flabbergasted. I've highlighted things that stuck out to me and added my comments next to them.

Eating less meat may slow climate change

By MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer Wed Sep 12, 9:06 PM ET

LONDON - Eating less meat could help slow global warming by reducing the number of livestock and thereby decreasing the amount of methane flatulence [We're seriously arguing over cow farts?! - ed] from the animals, scientists said on Thursday.

In a special energy and health series of the medical journal The Lancet, experts said people should eat fewer steaks and hamburgers. Reducing global red meat consumption by 10 percent, they said, would cut the gases emitted by cows, sheep and goats that contribute to global warming.

"We are at a significant tipping point," said Geri Brewster, a nutritionist at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York, who was not connected to the study.

"If people knew that they were threatening the environment by eating more meat, they might think twice [Twice? People don't even think once! - ed] before ordering a burger," Brewster said.

Other ways of reducing greenhouse gases from farming practices, like feeding animals higher-quality grains [Whew! Saved by monoculture and incorrect diet! - ed] , would only have a limited impact on cutting emissions. Gases from animals destined for dinner plates account for nearly a quarter of all emissions worldwide.

"That leaves reducing demand for meat as the only real option," said Dr. John Powles, a public health expert at Cambridge University, one of the study's authors.

The amount of meat eaten varies considerably worldwide. In developed countries, people typically eat about 224 grams per day. But in Africa, most people only get about 31 grams a day.

With demand for meat increasing worldwide, experts worry that this increased livestock production will mean more gases like methane and nitrous oxide heating up the atmosphere. In China, for instance, people are eating double the amount of meat they used to a decade ago.

Powles said that if the global average were 90 grams per day, that would prevent the levels of gases from speeding up climate change.

Eating less red meat would also improve health in general. Powles and his co-authors estimate that reducing meat consumption would reduce the numbers of people with heart disease and cancer. One study has estimated that the risk of colorectal cancer drops by about a third for every 100 grams of red meat that is cut out of your diet.

"As a society, we are overconsuming protein," Brewster said. "If we ate less red meat, it would also help stop the obesity epidemic [HAHAHAHAHA! *can't...breathe* HAHAHAHAHA! - ed]."

Experts said that it would probably take decades to wane the public off of its meat-eating tendency. "We need to better understand the implications of our diet, [You're damn straight you do! You're all confused right now! - ed] " said Dr. Maria Neira, director of director of the World Health Organization's department of public health and the environment.

"It is an interesting theory that needs to be further examined," she said. "But eating less meat could definitely be one way to reduce gas emissions and climate change."

I get more disgusted with modern people and society by the minute.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wasps and Liverwurst

Eating lunch today on the patio of the coffeehouse, I saw the strangest thing: a yellow jacket wasp flew to the table, landed on my liverwurst, carved out a bit, rolled it into a ball, held onto it, and flew away. My partner and I were amazed. A few minutes later, the wasp returned. I let it land on the meat. It repeated the same process. We watched in awe. Then, we were done with lunch and cleaned the table.

The wasp came back as we walked away. The table was empty.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Telepathic Gorillas, and Lack of Doing

So, I'm reading "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn. It's a good book and basically suggests adopting a paleolithic lifestyle. It's told as an interesting, somewhat warped, story taking place between a disgruntled man and an intelligent, telepathic gorilla. Worth a read.

And where does the author live? In Houston, Texas - in a city, living a neo-neolithic life.

Why don't people actually act upon their beliefs?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why I Don't Listen to Doctors

The largest part of a paleo-style diet is meat. For most people reading this blog, that meat is probably purchased at a store. I am of the opinion that such a separation from our food source is very unhealthy, especially spiritually. Farmed meat has a significantly skewed nutritional profile; the omega-3/6/9 ratio is often completely wrong for the human body. There are toxins from intensive clustering of animals. One should also consider the spiritual matters of harming the creatures needlessly, the damage to the environment, and the corrupted and rotten energy of the capitalistic food farm imprinted upon the meat. It is for all these reasons and more that I have decided to start hunting and fishing for my meat.

Of course, society is based on control. And it's easier to control people if they believe that they have no choices. This article, "Deer Hunting May Put Men's Hearts at Risk", makes people think they have no choice. From the article, I quote:

In a study of 25 middle-aged male deer hunters, researchers found that the activities inherent to hunting -- like walking over rough terrain, shooting an animal and dragging its carcass -- sent the men's heart rates up significantly.

In some cases, this led to potentially dangerous heart-rhythm disturbances, or diminished oxygen supply to the heart.

So, getting exercise in a natural environment, doing a natural activity, can KIIIILLLLLL YOUUUUUUUU!!!!!! BOO! Fearfearfearfearfear. Another quote:

Of the 25 hunters, 17 had established coronary heart disease, while the rest had risk factors such as being overweight, smoking or having high blood pressure or cholesterol.

The findings suggest that for men like these, hunting could boost the risk of heart attack or cardiac arrest...The combination of physical exertion, adrenaline rush and the stress of rough terrain and cold weather may explain the "excessive cardiac demands" seen with hunting.

So, they had a tiny sample, and it's pretty normal: a bunch of beer-gutted fat, white Americans who eat junk then go out hunting "for fun". Hunting meat will do these people no good whatsoever. One more quote:

[M]ost of the men in the study were taking part in an exercise program to treat their heart disease, or were regularly physically active. Hunting could be an even greater strain on the heart in men who are usually sedentary, the researchers note.

So, these men were already being "treated" by the medical industry for their heart problems in the typical allopathic manner: WRONGLY! They were in "exercise programs", but I'll almost guarantee that those programs were warped and unhelpful, and I'll bet none of the men made significant dietary and/or lifestyle changes.

This article is an example of societal control of the individual, to the individual's detriment (which, although society would disagree with me, also damages society). So, I will try to counteract that influence with a simple statement: you can have control over your life! You must only take hold of your life and stop letting others steer you where they want you to go.

So, how do we keep ourselves away from such a fate? Well, it's easy: change your lifestyle to one which supports your life, and away from one which damages it. Eat natural foods in the proportions needed by your body and spirit. Get a wide range of exercise to keep your body in good shape. Meditate or pursue some spiritual path to keep your mind and spirit healthy. And never stop trying, learning, and living.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An Article About Switching to a Paleo Diet

The Stone Age Diet: Why I Eat Like a Caveman, by Jimmy Lee Shreeve, Independent UK. Posted August 16, 2007.

An interesting article about someone trying the standard "low fat, high carbs, plus some exercise" diet and then going paleo, and the differences in result.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

An Introduction to a Meat-Eating Yogi

Hello, and welcome to this blog. You may be wondering what it will discuss. Its subject is fairly simple, yet extremely complex: how can someone eat meat and practice yoga for both physical and spiritual purposes? I will attempt to answer that question based on research, interviews with other yogis and yoginis, and from my own experiences.

This blog is not a proselytizing tool. In no way am I attempting to convince anyone of any specific viewpoint, nor am I trying to change anyone's mind (I consider the latter impossible; one can only change one's mind, not others'). I am only giving an account of my experiences and collected data concerning my admittedly eclectic yoga practice and diet and its effects. If you have any comments, feel free to post them; they are moderated and I will only publish those which further the discussion in a peaceful manner (if you don't want a comment published, just say so and it shall remain private).

A bit of background is in order. I am a middle-aged male in good health. I have spiritual leanings and have taken part in various traditions. I am a certified yoga instructor (an RYT 200 according to the Yoga Alliance). In the past, I have followed both vegetarian and vegan diets for long periods (many months to years). I am currently following what many call the "paleo diet" or "caveman diet".

The "paleo diet" is basically an approximation of what our ancestors ate before the creation of agriculture. This includes meat of all kinds, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. In paleolithic times, storing large amounts of food would have been impractical, so things were eaten fresh (or possibly frozen), and they were minimally processed, if they were processed at all.

Due to the hunter/gatherer lifestyle of the time, there was another - extremely important - quality to the diet: a close and direct connection to food sources. In most cases, people caught or harvested what they ate, or they were no more than one degree separated from the source (e.g. a grandfather whose son catches and provides the food). From this connection grew an understanding of the world and the universe, and a deep understanding of the connectedness and oneness of all things.

As I said earlier, I have followed both vegetarian and vegan diets, both for health and religious reasons. I've never really noticed a seriously large change in my health based on my dietary choices, although I have seen small changes. I have received various benefits at various times from all my various dietary experiments. I see "changing one's diet" or "following a diet" as a tool.

Some people ask: what about the energetic effects of meat? That's a good question. We need to realize that food isn't just composed of physical elements; it also has energy that affects us in various ways. For example, from an Ayurvedic perspective, meat is rajasic, heating, pitta-aggravating, and excitatory, whereas raw vegetables are sattvic, balancing, and vata-aggravating and calming. These qualities should be known and understood just as the vitamin and mineral content of a food should be known and understood. One could say, "This meat provides X grams of protein, this much omega-3 fat, this much vitamin B12, and this much rajas." The energy and the nutrition of food also change based on how it lived. Farm-raised animals who are butchered in slaughterhouses are much less nourishing than wild game, and a carrot grown in a monocrop with artificial fertilizers are much less nourishing than one grown organically with manure and a soil full of humus. This is one instance where the connection to one's food comes in handy.

Knowing what your own constitution needs is probably the largest part of any diet, as each person's diet is unique to them, yet connected to everything else. Some people are allergic to certain foods, such as gluten or lactose, so they much monitor their food closely. Some people seem able to eat almost anything. In any case, awareness of one's body and mind are foundational to developing and maintaining a diet, as well as monitoring its effects. Without this awareness, you're just spinning your wheels.

Thanks for reading!