Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter Solstice Blessings


In honor of the Winter Solstice, this poem came into my inbox from  the Sisters of the Integral Way a group of women who nurture  and cultivate the study of the Tao in their lives.  It is an excerpt from the book, The Five Healths for a New Humanity by Hua-Ching Ni & Mao Shing Ni.  It is most gentle, very exquisite yet powerfully strong in its meaning.

玄 女 真 經 

The Teaching of the Mystical Lady

天 地 孕 育 生 民,

Heaven and Earth conceived and nurtured human life.

至 黃 帝 之 世,

Until the time of the Yellow Emperor, 

塵 世 大 亂.

The human world was in great turmoil. 

九 天 玄 女 乃 降.

A mysterious lady from the highest Heaven descended to Earth.

或 謂 玄 女 乃 北 極 玄 氣 化 形.

As it was told, the Mystical Lady was the manifestation of the

Chi, or energy, from the North Star, 

云: 輔 弱 冠 之 黃 帝 登 位,

Destined to aid the young Yellow Emperor to the throne, 

以 安 天 下.

That the human world might know peace.

黃 帝 純 質 聰 穎,

The Yellow Emperor possessed the high intelligence. 

啟 玄 女 曰:

He requested her, saying:

何 以 為 至 中 ?

How may one become truly centered? 

何 以 為 至 神 ?

How may one become most spiritually efficacious?

何 以 為 至 正 ? 

How may one achieve uprightness to the highest degree?

何 以 為 至 聖?

How may one become most sagely?

九 天 玄 女 曰:

The Lady of the Ninth Heaven said to him:

帝 位 為 至 中 ,

The position of the healthy humanity is the most centered.

帝 位 為 至 神 , 

The position of the healthy humanity is the most subtle and effective. 

帝 位 為 至 正 ,

The position of the healthy humanity is the most upright.

帝 位 為 至 聖.

The position of the healthy humanity is the most sagely.

何 以 為 至 中?

As to how to strike the true center,

發 心 若 發 箭,

Use the mind like a shooting arrow,

無 偏 但 適 中,

There should be no deflected attention,

一 舉 而 中 的.

But with one shot, it hits the target.

能 所 歸 一 處.

Concentration brings this about.

何 以 為 至 正?

As to how to be most upright,

帝 心 若 發 箭,

The heart of the emperor should be as if shooting an arrow.


不 上 亦 不 下,

Its aim cannot be too high or too low.

不 左 亦 不 右,

Nor should it be too far to the left or too far to the right.

不 差 毫 髮 適 中 的,

There should be no slight deviation from the target.

所 發 所 至 歸 一 處.

From shot to impact, the arrow’s flight should be one and precise. 

何 以 為 至 聖?

How can one be most sagely? 

上 天 下 地 人 為 中,

From the high Heaven to the Earth below,

People are the center.

上 頭 下 腹 心 為 中,

Betwixt the high head and the low belly,

The human heart is the center. 

五 官 百 骸 氣 為 中,

Among the five organs and the whole body structure,

The vital chi is the center. 

萬 般 思 慮 神 為 中,

Among all types of thinking, the conscious mind is the center.

若 能 懂 得 守 中 理,

The one who is able to understand high truth

Enjoys remaining faithful to the center.

宇 宙 一 氣 永 居 中.

The cosmos is but one energy that always remains at the center.

何 以 為 至 神?

How can one be most spiritual?

一 物 無 可 分,

It is something that cannot be further divided.

It is to be presented in metaphors 

有 以 為 光 明,

Some think of Light.

有 以 為 道 路,

Others of the Way.

有 以 為 生 命,

Some think of Life.

有 以 為 真 理,

Others of Truth,

有 以 為 永 恆,

Still others of perpetuity.

How indeed can one be the most spiritual?

合 者 為 之 有,

When things come together,

There the new can be created.

分 者 為 之 無,

When they are divided,

非 無 亦 非 有,

There can be nothing or no existence.

惟 此 是 至 神.

This is how to know the highest spirituality. 

帝 啟 曰:

The Emperor respectfully asked:

人 有 此 可 能 乎?

Can humans have this potential? 

玄 女 曰:

The Lady answered.

吾 有 中 空 理,

We have the principle to be empty centered.

且 看 離 中 虛,

Look at the trigram of Li[2],

空 明 歸 一 處,

Where the empty center stands for light.

從 此 識 初 氣.

From this, one can understand the source of chi.

帝 又 啟:

The Emperor again requested:

均 人 也 ,

If people are the same,

何 有 思 維 之 不 同?

How can their thoughts be so different?

玄 女 曰:

The Heavenly Lady replied:

人 貴 得 天 啟,

Thoughts are valued as coming from nature.

以 天 地 為 用 心 者 為 正,

Where thinking meets Heaven and Earth there is uprightness. 

失 之 私 心 , 則 不 正.

But to treat others according to personal preference,

That deviates from what is right.

發 心 通 天, 則 合 上 帝.

Set your mind on reaching the wishes of Heaven,

To concur with the will of God.

若 以 發 心 正 否 為 判.

Once the mind is made up

Right and wrong can be judged

By the resolve of the mind.

邪 正 可 分 , 道 魔 立 判.

Then right and wrong can be known

By the purpose of the mind.

帝 曰 : 天 啟 有 異 乎?

The Emperor asked: 

Does Heaven inspire human beings differently? 

玄 女 曰:天 啟 非 異,

The Heavenly Lady replied:

There is no difference.

心 有 邪 曲 耳.

But in the minds of people lie the differences.

帝 曰 : 若 以 發 心 為 上 帝 , 可 乎?

The Emperor asked:

To make the upright use of the mind the God-self, 

Can this be proper?

玄 女: 宜 其. 否 則 , 則 涉 妄 測 天 意.

The Lady responded: Yes indeed!

Otherwise, there can be wrongdoing to exploit the Heavenly will. 

人 之 所 能, 貴 其 行 其 正, 得 其 中 耳.

A human being is capable of being upright and centered,

此 為 履 踐 天 理, 自 合 天 心.

This means to realize the Heavenly Law,

To accord naturally with the Heavenly Heart. 

帝 謂 者, 此 云 天 地 之 心 耳.

That which is called the Heavenly God by humans,

Is simply the heartfelt expression of Heaven and Earth.

帝 曰: 人 為 何 能 久 生 長 年?

The Emperor asked:

How can people be long lived?

玄 女 曰 : 無 他 .

The Heavenly Lady replied: There is nothing other than

但 守 中, 知 節; 敬 事 上 帝.

To be centered, know things have their limitations, and

Respect the highest reality. 

In the universe,

There is only one great divinity that is God.

“G” represents Great,

“D” represents Divinity.

What does the “O” represent?

Whosoever knows to keep to the “O”,

God is with that
individual.

Li is the trigram of fire

in the I Ching. 下,





Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Each One a Shining Star

December 14, 2012 will from now on be  remembered as a dark day in America's history.  It is unimaginable the way someone's life can turn on a dime.  I am amazed and struck by the collective suffering this despicable event has caused as well as the incredible outpouring of compassion and human caring.  We are truly One....what happens to one of us affects all of us.

I am inspired by the advice of Mister Rogers to look for the helpers.  This darkness calls all of us to shine our light, our big light, our giant light and to spread our  love and our light  to our neighbors.   This darkness brings out the helper in each of us and  hopefully inspires us to drop our petty differences and draw closer to the ones we love.

Feeling somewhat hopeless on Friday afternoon....I read somewhere on the internet to make a star for those that lost their lives that day, so that's what I did.  I cut out gold stars decorated them with glitter and taped them on our front door.  It helps me to be reminded to pray for their  safe and peaceful passage to the next world, to pray for peace on earth and to never stop praying.

"As spiritual seekers, our responsibility is to pray for the suffering souls and even for the people who caused these situations.  All we can do is to keep praying and serve each other in every possible way."
                                                                                                -Sri Swami Satchidananda

Blessings of Love and Light!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Magic in the Garden


12/12/12 was a good day. After breakfast I decorated the mantle, then went for a walk where I found some special treasures...two pretty feathers and a heart stone.  I worked a little bit,  pampered myself and got a massage.  At 12:12pm  I went outside to breathe in the good energy of the minute and the date.....you know 12:12 ON 12/12/12! I spent a few minutes in my garden that was newly cleaned of leaves and decorated for the holiday season. I have to say my little garden really feeds my soul. It doesn't get much sun but I can grow flowers and herbs and lettuce and the birds and squirrels love it. I  adore the smell of earth and the untidiness of it all.  It can get pretty wild out there...but today it was awesomely special....it was cold and crisp and slightly windy as the chimes were ringing. The birds were busy and I could see the holes in the soil where the squirrels had been searching for their hidden nuts. I started taking pictures so I could document the beauty I found there, beauty that I had a hand in creating.










It was a magical day and the sunset was breathtaking!  The magic and the beauty really fed my soul. These kinds of days,  and experiences are necessary and provide me with sustenance of a different form.  This is a self care practice that is vital to my health and wellness.  I'd love to hear some of the rituals in your life that provide you with food for your soul.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rendering Pumpkin

This weekend I rendered pumpkin. I always turn the leftover pumpkins into mashed pumpkin to be used in puddings, soups, pies, smoothies, breads and any other recipe requiring pumpkin.  Some folks say that the big pumpkins, not the pie pumpkins, taste blah but I disagree especially if you roast the pumpkin like I do.  Roasting vegetables will always produce a more intense concentrated flavor and that's exactly what happens in the case of roasting pumpkin.

Before I tell you how I do this I want to say that pumpkin is an extremely healthy food. What is so healthy about pumpkin anyway?   First of all any brightly colored fruit or vegetable is going to be a healthy food as the food pigments also known as flavonoids supply many protective antioxidants.  Beta carotene which contains flavonoids gives the pumpkin it's extreme orange color . Pumpkin is also high in Vit A which protects  the eyes and vision, as well as  Vit C for the immune system and  potassium for maintaining electrolytes and keeping the muscles healthy.  A high fiber food, pumpkin is excellent for maintaining a healthy weight and controlling blood sugar levels.

So......let's get started rendering this amazingly healthy food substance:

                               First get a big sturdy sharp knife and cut the pumpkin in half.


Then get a big spoon and start scraping out the seeds and goop.  Take the spoon and literally scrape the inside of the pumpkin...this is the hardest part to this whole process.  Sometimes if I'm in the mood I will save and roast the seeds but this time I just discarded the seeds along with the stringy goop.



Take the pumpkin half and invert it onto a sturdy baking sheet and pour about an inch of water around the pumpkin half. Place in the oven and bake for about a 1 and 1/2 hours at 350˚ until pooped out.



Here is what a pooped out roasted pumpkin half looks like:

Then turn the pumpkin over so you can to scoop out the cooked pumpkin.  This one was so well roasted I couldn't turn it over so I peeled the skin off.   I couldn't stop munching on it, it was so sweet and delicious.  I think if you'd ask me what my favorite food I would have to say it is pumpkin and winter squash and sweet potatoes, I can't ever get enough of these foods.  I then put my cooked, mushed pumpkin in containers for  freezer storage. I put some in little snack bags that I folded in half so I can use those individual portions for adding pumpkin to smoothies or my morning oatmeal.

The next day I made pumpkin soup which I've been eating each day for lunch....I am so addicted to soup for lunch.  My husband found a pumpkin cheesecake recipe which I think I'll be making soon and a dear friend was raving about the pumpkin cheesecake she made for Thanksgiving so I think this is going to be in my future very soon...but I love pumpkin the best as is eaten with a spoon  right out of the container....My son thinks I'm crazy!

Have fun roasting pumpkin....and using your pumpkin throughout the winter.  Share your favorite ways of using pumpkin by leaving a comment below.


Lisa Olko RN is a Certified Health Coach and Lifestyle Educator, to read more about her and the services she offers visit her website.  To get a Free Health Consultation with Lisa click here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

NUTS and SEEDS

Everybody knows that nuts and seeds are good for you.  They contain healthy fats, are high in fiber,  protein,  vitamins and  trace minerals. They can help with weight loss and maintenance, controlling and preventing diabetes, as well as promoting heart and brain health, reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol.  That's quite a rundown!

A lot of people are afraid to eat nuts and seeds because they are high in fat and calories and that is true but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.  Certainly eating too much of anything is a bad thing and nuts do lend themselves to eating alot in a short amount of time however in the proper doses they can really support and promote good health, keep your appetite in check and boost your metabolism.  Eating a variety of nuts and seeds in controlled serving sizes is a good idea. Stay away from nuts that are  heavily oiled, salted or candied.    When I counsel my patients, here are the serving sizes I suggest: (which are the equivalent of 100 calories)

  • walnuts and pecans: 7-8 halves
  • almonds: 10 - 12 whole almonds
  • peanuts:  18 nuts or 2 TBS
  • pine nuts: 2 TBS
  • pistachios, sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds: 2 TBS
  • coconut, unsweetened grated: 3 TBS
  • nut butters: 1 TBS of above nuts
  • cashews: 12 whole cashews
  • brazil nuts: 4 whole nuts
  • macadamia nuts: 5 or 6 nuts 
  • hazelnuts: 10 or 11 whole nuts

Nuts can be used in smoothies,  as a snack, in casseroles, on salads,  in raw fruit crusts, gravies, and in burgers.  Nut butters are delicious and if you like peanut butter please make sure to buy certified organic as peanuts are one of the most heavily sprayed nuts.  Before eating nuts I do usually soak and slow/ low bake them to make them easier to digest and to release the acidic enzyme prohibitors that are naturally protecting the nut.  You can eat them raw or roasted however but if you have the extra time to soak and roast them you won't regret it and I guarantee that you will really love the crispy texture of them.

Here is the method I use to soak and roast nuts and seeds: (This method works for any of the above nuts and seeds).

Today I was preparing pecans.  I took 2 # or 8 cups (knowing the holiday season is here and I will probably be baking with them)

Then I covered them in filtered water and added 2 tsp of sea salt.
I set them on a counter and let them sit there overnight.  You can place a dishtowel over the bowl.
In the morning, I strained them through a colander and rinsed them off.


Then I spread them on two baking sheets.  I use only stainless steel,  I don't use aluminum or teflon coated pans as they impart toxic chemicals to the food while stainless steel pans do not.


I then placed the baking sheets in the oven at the lowest possible temp my oven goes and that happens to be 170˚ and I baked them all day long at least 8 hours but sometimes even 12  hours just as long as possible.  You can also use a dehydrator for this job but I don't have one yet so I use my oven.
After all that time in the oven they came out so crispy and delicious.   I let them cool off at least an hour before placing them in mason jars for storage on my pantry shelf.  They last for weeks.
Have fun soaking, roasting,  baking and eating. Please feel free to experiment with the different varieties of nuts and seeds and leave me a comment to share the ways you are using nuts and seeds.







Monday, November 19, 2012

Kale Chips

YUM......YUM.......these are addicting.    Kale chips, our favorite new way to eat kale.  Kale is really trending these days as THE green to eat.  But this is not news....we've known this all along!  Kale is probably the most nutritious green of all time.
Just looking at it with all it's curls and extra surface area.......it packs more bang for your buck than the average green.  Here is a quick rundown of some of powerhouse Kale's health promoting phytonutrients:

  • Beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin= high antioxidant and anti -cancer activity
  • Zeaxanthin and Vitamin A= excellent for the eyes
  • High Vitamin K= excellent for bone health as well as helping to prevent Alzheimer's
  • High in Vitamin C=immune building
  • High in Folates=oxygenates the blood thereby supercharging the metabolism
  • Rich source of minerals necessary for all systems to run efficiently        
So here's how I make Kale Chips:
First, I preheat my oven to 350˚  then I wash and dry the kale.  Then I remove the heavy stalks by holding each leaf with stalk side up and run my finger and thumb down to the end.  Next tear into bite size pieces as pictured below.
Place all the pieces of torn kale an baking sheets being careful not to overcrowd.  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil all over the kale and sprinkle sea salt, garlic powder and nutritional yeast as well.  Stir gently to mix and coat all of the kale pieces.
Place on middle rack of your oven and bake for 15 minutes.   Check the kale to see if it's done you may have to gently stir the kale around to loosen the edges from the pan.  Put back in the oven for 5 more minutes.  After the five minutes of time shut the oven off and let the kale sit another 5 minutes in the oven.  The kale chips are ready when they are crisp.   Serve warm.


WARNING:  These are highly addictive.....you may never steam kale again.  By the way if your kids are not eating their greens they WILL LOVE these!!!!!! I know this for a fact.... as my son who is not fond of greens will  absolutely devour these!!!!!

                                                                Happy Cooking!!!