Friday, August 31, 2012

The Power of Silence

There is a verse that comes down to us from Mikao Ushi, the creator of Reiki, the belief in healing energy.

Just for Today…

Be thankful for all blessings
Do not be anxious or worry about anything
Treat all living things with respect.
Be kind.

Given the frenetic world we live in, we might add, 
just for today, I will spend some time in silence.

Silence may not come easy.  There is little in our restless world to support being alone in a quiet place.  Some homes have the television on constantly a way of escaping silence.
We are familiar with the conflicting complaints, “It’s just too quiet,” and “Oh for some peace and quiet.”

Noise impacts us.  It affects our nerves, as many harried mothers can attest.  But beyond the home, street sounds in the form of boom boxes and construction drills have negative health effects on our nerves and even hypertension.  Exposure to the loud sounds of video games and music can affect hearing.  One survey showed that children between the ages of 6 and 19 evidence hearing problems as a result.

Can one deliberately create silence?  It may mean turning off the “talking heads” on television, no radio or telephone calls.  Imagine the discipline it would take to put off that first cup of coffee or refrain from CNN for the first 12 minutes of our day.  Janet Luhrs, pioneer of the Simplicity Movement suggests this in her book Simplicity Living Guide and Simple Loving.  The joy of emptying the mind has relaxed people from time immemorial.  No talk or noise to disturb our being alone without fear of a soundless few minutes.  You might receive answers to important questions or ideas for a project just by being in a listening mode. 

If possible, take a walk in the park attuned only to natural sounds.  The natural world is a wonderful place to experience a silence where we don’t analyze, remember, plan.  Acoustic Ecologist, Gordon Hempton, suggests that silence is an endangered species.  He defines real quiet as presence, not an absence of sound but an absence of noise.  He is author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Preserve Quiet.

From time to time it can be so sweet to hold oneself in a lone cocoon or stand with arms, ears and heart alert to the sounds of silence.

Image: WicketNox (Cory Brooke) on DeviantArt

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spices with More Than Just Great Taste

Eating fast foods has become part of the American Way. But as consumers become more aware of healthy eating, the food industry is changing and responding to new expectations.  Consumers may or may not be aware that some of the ingredients that make hamburgers and fries so tasty are actually full of nutrients.  The rich spices used to season to them are often powerful antioxidants.

Antioxidants inhibit oxidation of stored foods and remove potentially damaging agents in a living organism.  Oxidation produces free radicals, articles that fly around looking for something to attach to, such as cells and tissue.   Adding spices to fresh foods, especially dark, leafy colorful vegetables, provides a savory, nutritious boost to any meal.

So the creative cook, conscious of what to eat and what to avoid, sprinkles these same spices on healthfully prepared foods that mimic the great taste found in their favorite restaurants.

  • Craving a big cinnamon bun for breakfast?  To a slice of 9 grain bread, spread a thin coating of butter, then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and a tablespoon of honey.  Toast for an aromatic healthful start of your morning.  In addition to its taste cinnamon has been used since ancient times to manage blood sugar levels, aid digestion and a help fight colds.  
  • For lunch, mix chili powder with your veggie burger before broiling and top it with avocado spread and multicolored peppers.  Chili contains the compound capsaicin that gives chilies their heat.  It is good for relieving pain, boosting heart health and is a good source for vitamins A and C.

  • For dinner, enjoy breast of chicken prepared with garlic sautéed with turmeric, the yellow spice found in curry. Turmeric contains curcumin.  Studies show that curcumin may inhibit the growth of cancer.  It is used as an anti–inflammatory in the treatment of arthritis and as a protection against Alzheimer’s  Disease.

  • Love your pizza?  Shake on some oregano to that delicious slice.  Oregano is a major source of thymol and carvacol, two antibacterial agents that fight off infection.
What do these simple meals have in common?  They taste good and are healthful choices.  We have become a spice nation, reaping benefits in more ways than one.