What do you mean ‘connect to my food’?

You might know a friend who all of a sudden has a deep interest in knowing where their food comes from and with how much care is it raised. This is happening more and more as we are collectively recognizing the link between our It starts to bring one closer to the cycles that keep them alive in a state of wellness. In focusing on what nourishes us, we may then be able to see we can see the nourishment or lack thereof in our lives.

Here are a couple of ways to connect with what keeps us going.

1. It is of course important to reach out to your local farmers. Why do we want to eat local?

– It is fresher. Local means it didn’t have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to get to your table. It also will taste better being that it was actually allowed to ripen instead of being harvested prematurely to make the voyage!

– You are eating your local bacteria. Yes, you get to consume the little beings that help the party out in your stomach.

– You are supporting your neighbors and creating relations. This is crucial in keeping the ball rolling because these farmers usually face the competition of large commercial producers.

Connect with actual farmer’s markets (don’t be afraid to ask folk where the food comes from!)

*** Being certified organic shouldn’t be the deciding factor for your dollars placement. Some folk can’t keep up with the costs of maintaining the certification, where others see the errors that are externalized. Finding people that grow food in an honest way is it.***

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Papaya, glorious in it’s abundant ways

2. Start Gardening

Getting our hands in the soil is now a days considered a form of therapeutic activism. We are coming together over what we actually have in common and in that, there is much to be done. We are choosing in what conditions will our food grow. We are nourishing ourselves with wholesome foods. We are remembering our roots as human beings.

Have a yard or access to one?

-Grow perennial crops (plants that you dont have to replant every year)
-Grow cover crops
-Understand your local wild weeds
-Learn permaculture principles and approaches (see inhabit and PRI)
-If you use chemicals to control pests, find natural means to eradicate them or recognize that that plant may just not want to live in your region

All that good stuff being mentioned, still feeling challenged in starting a food forest in your apartment’s patio? Don’t know the difference between a tomato and a potato? Want to understand what plants you could eat when walking around? There are solutions!

One way is to reach out in our local area to see where the community gardens are located… We can get invested in a plot or volunteer and learn how it all functions and flows. We can meet our neighbors in the garden and share in the ways of learning from those with more experience than us.

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Edible Hibiscus, a perennial green!

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Wild weed Spanish Needle

3. Gratitude. I feel it is almost indicative of our current mainstream cultural disconnect to what is actually important when it seems we need to have lists such as this one. Bless us all!

There exists a multitude of ways to show gratitude for what keeps us going (I am reminded of Rumi’s “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground”). It can range from the direct prayer and gratitude blessing, done by everyone at the table. Or it can be even a silent feeling of gratitude before touching the fork to the mouth, envisioning the journey your food has made to reach your plate. The spirit dance ain’t your style? Well, we can at least all agree that feeling gratitude for the plants and animals that keep us alive isn’t a bad thing to do… It relaxes us into digestion and brings presence to our activity. Thank the plants, thank the cook!

If you eat animal protein, consider its source and if it can be found closer to your home or if you are able to raise it yourself. Also, consider the frequency of meat consumption and if it is truly what your body needs (I am not advocating eating one thing over another for there are many variations of diets and it is good to respect the diversity).

Of all these steps listed, I feel that above having the privilege of choosing which foods to eat, practicing gratitude for whatever is able to make it to your plate is most important. There exists too many food deserts all around us and in bringing the community together through gardening and permaculture, I hope to bring more awareness to all those in need.

***In working in the vegetarian/vegan community for a few years, I came to find that even if one is eating a pure diet of ultra healthy conscious this’ and thats, it doesn’t mean you are all good to go on the holy road to liberation! There is still of course the behavior that happens all around our meal and its ordering i.e. how we treat others! So what if the body is running perfect if the mind and heart are sour?***

Further reading: The Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein
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Interested in personalized herbal routines for yourself?
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Whats Growing On

A few months ago, I got the email heads up that the Swinton Community Garden was looking to redesign their plot as a permaculture based intensive project. The focus will shift from individually cared for raised beds, to a vast array of interdependent guilds as well as annual vegetable production as well. In this, we will come to see the output in the years to come only increase more and more as the perennial polyculture system grows and becomes mature, and the system starts to produce its own biomass and builds soil and life in place, rather than consistently relying upon imported resources.

I have been working alongside great minds. We are Michiko Kurisu, Rachel Bissonette and Jody Mountcastle. It has been wondrously synchronous; I met Michiko years ago when I barely knew what a basil plant was and would just stroll the garden, looking in bewilderment. Rachel’s best friend is currently at the Paititi Institute, a place where I had spent about 2 years living and learning the ways of reconnecting to the Earth. Jody happened to be in the Rosemary Gladstar intensive that I was to be at, had I not stayed home with my mother to help her in the healing process, I would have met her then… what a small world!

This is a project that has been on going for the last 7 years… even though the property has been for sale for that entire time, the garden was only planned to last one season. Yet, here we are, now in the stages of deepening the growth and learning. We know not if it will ever see its full maturity, but to me, that doesn’t matter as much as how many people will inevitably be affected by the community coming together over this. It is also a great tribute to the fact of impermanence and to truly make best of what we have while we have it!

We are planning it to be the host of pop-up events… these can range from live music, to classes, to small mini restaurants utilizing the surrounding vegetative abundance, among other things. I have been feeling called to know more about the ways of creating food forests out of the sadly frequent food deserts that typically surround downtown areas. I feel that making an example of what is possible with locally resourced help and materials, no chemicals, and the intention to benefit others will hopefully show the city that we can share in the inherent tropical abundance. The amount of people traffic this site gets is remarkable, that being that its placement is right on Atlantic Avenue and Swinton, in the heart of Delray Beach, Florida. This level of publicity will allow for many to be exposed to what it is we are capable of when we put our hands together and think beyond just ourselves!

Troy, an old friend and incredible permaculturist, sitting in the heat and envisioning a lush future on paper
Troy, an old friend and incredible permaculturist, sitting in the heat and envisioning a lush future on paper
We have had the pleasure of working with intuitive healer Patricia Hardman... she led us around the property giving us the message of the land.
We have had the pleasure of working with intuitive healer Patricia Hardman… she led us around the property giving us the message of the land.
One of our design jam nights...
One of our design jam nights…
Troy making the best use of Mother in Law's tongue... laying on her.
Troy making the best use of Mother in Law’s tongue… ye old green chair.
James and his brother Alex showing us how to use the fast spinning blade cutter machine.
James and his brother Alex showing us how to use the fast spinning blade cutter machine.
The joinery of the raised beds. This beautiful Cedar wood was donated to a new friend, James Jackman who is making a nearby demonstration garden called Gladiolus. He received 10000 dollars worth of soon to be trashed wood and donated to us 6 raised beds worth!
The joinery of the raised beds. This beautiful Cedar wood was donated to a new friend, James Jackman, who is making a nearby demonstration garden called Gladiolus. He received 10000 dollars worth of soon to be trashed wood and donated to us 6 raised beds worth!
This couple... Incredible! They stopped by and asked me how to grow a papaya... faster. Faster? I said it already grows so fast! They then noticed the papaya behind me and its strange flowers. I mentioned how it was a male and one is necessary for every 12 female. The old man raised his hand and said, "i'll volunteer!" and his wife then "me too!"
This couple and friend were strolling on by as I filled some soil into a wheelbarrow. They spoke in broken English and then I met them in their native Colombian tongue and we spoke strongly of community and food growing. The gentleman then asked me how to grow a papaya… faster. Faster? I said it already grows so fast! They then noticed the papaya behind me and its strange flowers. I mentioned how it was a male and one is necessary for every 12 female. The old man raised his hand and said, “i’ll volunteer!” and his wife then “me too!”
Like I have said before, happiness is a truck full of (free and fallen) wood
Like I have said before, happiness is a truck full of (free and fallen) wood
A before shot of the eastern end of the garden...
A before shot of the eastern end of the garden… This area will be a mix of raised beds and wooden log beds as well as a trellis of passionfruit and chayote to the far left!
I am here, pointing out the helper of presence and proper saw alignment, mr lizard
I am here, pointing out the helper of presence and proper saw alignment, mr lizard
Lindsey plays with the saw... carefully cutting out the pieces to join the boxes together
Lindsey plays with the saw… carefully cutting out the pieces to join the boxes together
The pathways have begun to be created... that is a butterfly garden to the left and right that is being brought back to life as we... type
The pathways have begun to be created… that is a butterfly garden to the left and right that is being brought back to life as we… type

In the City

I am sitting with Don Lucho, a Peruvian healer of the Witoto tribe, when he expresses a way of maintaining the connection with the Earth, even in the chaos of the city. Especially when it seems like we are not in Nature, or disconnected from what is. He expressed it so well, just looking up at the tree off in the distance, beyond the market, maybe outside the bank window, and looking at how its leaves wave at us… Then following its waving leaf down to its branch and from its branch to its trunk and then down to its roots. In its roots, you know that just underneath the floor you stand on is the essential foundation to Mother Earth. That, even the concrete that seemingly separates, is a certain form of mountain. In this way, it is less about creating good or bad, and more about seeing the totality… in zooming out far enough, we can see that all of this; the computers we look at, the chemicals we try to avoid, the people in between; is all the same nature, some aspects being more harmonious than others, yet all connected.

Naturally Nervous

In the last few months, I came across a fair amount of people that are very close to me that were dealing with anxiety. I started to piece together the different themes and associated feelings that were being shared with me. I wondered how it started to be that bad, how it became to be so difficult to do what they needed to do in the day or night. This is the list of thoughts and ideas and even questions that pertain to the beginning of self discovery…

(note: it is beyond understandable that anxiety is a condition that is reflected of our cultural disease; one of disconnection and a deeper seeking of what humans truly thrive off of. I am not saying that this is a definitive list, but only a trickle in the ocean named, let’s start somewhere)

  • The nervous system is incredible. It gives us our ability of feeling, and receiving messages from within and outside of ourselves. With this knowledge, we can come to see that our nerves are actually giving us information through our feelings. It is quite okay that we receive anxious feelings, since inherently, these are not bad things per se, but only keys to the fact that something is causing it to occur and calling our attention to be present.
  • Anxiety is one of the ways our body lets us know that the life force isn’t flowing as fluidly as it could be through our organism. This is evident in things such as trembling, shaking, unconscious gritting of the teeth, maybe even locking up of the jaw, and tummy aches to name a few. It has been said that our issues are in our tissues. What are we carrying around in ourselves from experiences that we are unable to move on from in some way? I find that these are the things that make us most uncomfortable about our lives, our history and so on. Could we see these events as necessary to our evolution? Can we practice forgiveness and compassion? Who is that pain in your neck? What is the heart broken over? If energy is constantly flowing through our bodies, in a circuit board like fashion, what does a blockage look like? Where do we store our worries and fears in our bodies?
  • Are you willing to consider the inclusion of a daily spiritual practice such as meditation or prayer or what have you? Are you connecting with that of which is greater than yourself? Are we stuck in old fears of religious boxes and have given up on our spiritual birthrights? Do you connect to the Earth on a daily basis? Are we acting from a space of gratitude to have a chance to be here on this planet? How do we show this gratitude?
  • Practice authenticity. This speaks to being true to how you feel and not just speaking to fill space or to be in agreement in order to be included. This is gentle. It is about being who you really are. So maybe it is rough too.
  • Is there a strangeness included with this recent propulsion into technology where there are less surprises in the daily life? Where every moment can be documented and shared in between driving to another moment? How a red light has become an internet station. I find that since being in constant internet zones across homes and public places, I am once again, head lowered, constantly checking my phone. For what? For connection, for messages, for seeing what the world is doing. What is wild is that we pick up that world to miss the one we are in and in this have the table full of people at a restaurant, all looking down at their devices, waiting for their food to come. I am a part of this electronic world too, and I am sharing this as means to check ourselves out. Are we clicking to click, or is there a deeper reason to connect? Is the internet just a bunch of colors that move around on foreign precious metals for us or can we utilize it to transform and remember ourselves?
  • We can learn to listen to ourselves again, the inner voice, the intuition. Whats funny about this voice is that sometimes we don’t want to hear what messages are coming through because maybe they don’t fit the picture of what we think we want in our lives, or what we feel is comfortable or what have you. The truth is, we know already, and it takes a message or two (or a 1000) to come through and remind us of this innate human potential.
  • Who do you surround yourself with? Do the people that ‘just so happen’ to be your friends lift you? Do they inspire you to be your best? Or is it a competition of some sort?
  • Are we remembering the ‘kindergarten qualities’; the givens of humanity, including love, compassion, understanding, care, kindness, forgiveness, acceptance, patience, gratitude and so on. Are we connecting with these qualities less than the ones associated with stress and dis-ease such as fear, guilt, shame, judgement, anger, jealousy, and hatred?
  • This is about becoming our own detectives. We get to be present with ourselves in all situations, seeing where the mind wanders to… It’s about catching ourselves in the moment of a judgement or the beginning of that anxiety in our belly… where did it just stem from!? A healthy curiosity can take us to its origin. Can we find its root and gently bring it up and out? Much like gardening, as we fine tune our systems from the plants we may not so desire, they appear with less and less force (unless its a weed that is trying to help you, of course), just like chipping away at these habitual forms in our minds by being present with them as they come up. We can, little by little, eradicate the illusion that may have come into our lives via negative self talk, unconscious habits, and so on.

There are plants that can help us in these processes. There are different styles of anxiety and depression and to blanket them all with one plant is somewhat on par with blanketing them with one pill. So, seek out your local herbalist, and dig in. I would say even in the way of starting out on this path, healing already exists as life meets us halfway in our adventure.

There is no one way for anyone. The blanketing of many different unique causes for anxiety with SSRI’s (anti anxiety pharmaceuticals) may do little to support the person through their processing of emotions if too much is being numbed out, message wise. The inner voice becomes quieter, if not completely silenced. Now, from a perspective that Charles Eisienstein elucidates; (The Yoga of Eating, an incredible read!) that whatever substance we happen to be with is essentially the medicine that we need, whether it be pills or alcohol or even stronger substances. They are having an effect on us and they let us do something or feel a certain way which can bring us to a breakthrough point of not needing them anymore. Yet, we can come to recognize that there can be a fuller level of healing and actual resolve from what is being simply repressed from a biochemical standpoint, and not then allowing the real reason for the anxiety to be present to begin with.

These are questions and points to instigate a process of discovery. Almost 50 million people in the United States are taking anti-anxiety medicines. I am not here to bash pharmaceuticals as much as I may not agree with their mafia like systems, I know that all substances inherently have a place (which could be the trash in some cases). It is more to me, about how to recognize why we have a need for them, and at that, such a growing one in this country. There must be another way to truly move on from just a dependency on medications that should make life easier and livable once again… This has been shown to me through the processing of our emotional baggage and histories, knowing that at the core, all beings suffer and go through the pains of existence. We can find solace in the fact that as we work on ourselves, the world is being worked on simultaneously.

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Mom Has the Time

It was while I was strolling the streets of Brooklyn, in the middle of June 2015, keeping my eyes peeled for the prophetic love, that I got a phone call from my mother about what she was just informed of… Two tumors, one of 8cm and the other 9cm, on each ovary. She was in a dark place about the news, yet I felt in all of my body in that instant, a deep peace about her process. I had a deep knowing that it could be the key to her ultimate freedom of stale habituals of the last 15 years.

From my experience, I have seen that the disease process unfolds (or ‘suddenly’ emerges) as a strong wake up call usually following the unread messages through dreams and seemingly coincidental events that knock gently at the door of our hearts/minds. It made me realize that having a strong feeling of support through love without pity is the best medicine I could offer, rather than scrambling to find a ‘cure’ from this plant or that. This is what got me through the process of healing guillain barre syndrome, and regardless of the actual named dysfunction, it is the same medicine that is needed across the world.

After much wagering back and forth, she decided to go full on with the hysterectomy. My brothers, sister, and I gathered at a hospital on August 4th, surrounding my mom with what she really wanted. At one point, I read from the I Like You book (Sandol Stoddard Warburg, thank you Lindsey) in a strange accent and received the surprising remark of “I didn’t know you were so funny, Ralph!” Amazing what we notice when we have the time to!

We spoke of different things in the waiting room, naturally calling in the usual looks of those who keep to themselves. You know, we are a lively bunch, and the hair is a bit curly and wild and well, we don’t stay in our seats too much.

When we finally were at the point of seeing my mother off, a group of men and women in their scrubs stormed in from an unseen part of the room, enveloping my mother as she lay in her ready-to-roll bed, instantly anxiety stricken from such an encounter… “woah, woah…” She strongly felt their presence shift the energy of the situation. They approached as if ready to go to war with someone’s insides. A routine probably so familiar to them, that the compassionate grace a fresh patient requires was far away on the list of checking off.

This coldness is what calls in such a needed look into the medical establishment (and all establishments?) It is business as usual, which is understandable but doesn’t make it okay nor desired. It begs questions pertaining to what actually heals us… and if we can’t completely remove the root cause, what makes us feel better in the long run? If the Hippocratic oath of ‘either help or do no harm to the patient’ were to be truly followed, then could it be something to look at in regards to all ways of increasing well being?

Maybe this can include a retraining of attitude in hospital settings. Where it is of course important to know what we are doing, but equally important is how we do it. What kind of feelings and thoughts are we bringing to the table when dealing with those that are imbalanced and seeking restoration? How does centering and grounding ourselves reflect in our relationships with those that we are treating?

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So, the perfect plan could finally be concocted! Excitedly, my mind rolls: I’m going to load her up on every adaptogenic herb and use the Anamu (anti cancer herb) in the backyard and wake up at 5 am and do chi gong and meditation and take her on vacation out of the state while forbidding all sugar intake! Of course, almost none of this happened, as my projected idea of a perfect plan, was just that. I strongly resisted her never ceasing desire for key lime pie on drip and was more so feeling a regiment that would be akin to a healing centers itinerary… well guess what? As it turns out, the game plan must be flexible and at times include key lime pie. Actually, the most divine moment of her experience was receiving a homemade key lime pie from my partner. The medicine of sweetness pervaded her being, especially the sweetness of gathering with family and friends, something that was a rare occasion in working so frequently for so long. Could it be said that this togetherness is the substance that is sought after by individuals in need? That our attitude is felt into the things we offer to each other? I would vote, yes.

As the weeks rolled forward, a lot of things came up. I mean, one can imagine that after working 6-7 days a week for 10 years plus, there might be some facets of life that have gone unchecked or unresolved. Tensions were discovered and with as much grace as possible, dived into and explored… asking questions like, “where does this originate?” and “how am I responsible for this too?” Granted, none of this was particularly easy, but I know that if long lasting healing is desired, then it takes doing the work on ourselves to free us from our habitual patterning. At times, deep silence and deliberate space was needed, and so it was given. I am no angel, and so it was naturally a beautiful and potent challenge to my levels of patience and compassion! Always learning.

The most moving of the experiences thus far occurred a few weeks before her surgery. We were on the veranda of our home and she was facing the stress of choosing between operating or not. She then came to the cold and ever true idea of “why should I heal myself if I’m just going to die anyway?” With the most authentic of tears streaming down her face, I felt inside myself for the answer that I knew was there. “We heal ourselves so we can help others, Mom. There is no other greater inspiration than this. You will get better so you can help people, because you will understand.”

In this journey, it is a given that we will fall ill and eventually lose our faculties in some way or another. Most may wish to die in their sleep, peaceful as can be, but some will go out in seemingly harsher ways. My mother reminded me of this, due to her out of nowhere health crisis, and brought to our family and circle a reminder: to truly be grateful and present with what it is that we currently have been gifted… because it really is a gift, whatever it is that we are dealt with.

Mom getting vitamin D as she rests among the Spanish Needle, Mango, Moringa, Mexican Sunflowers, Papaya, Chaya, Starfruit, and herbs.

Empezar

Rememberplants. What is this.

It comes down to a realization that came upon me a few weeks ago. If one were to recognize our inherent interdependence on all of Nature (not just the parts that we like to like), we would eventually come to see that it is absolutely essential that we all get our act together. How so? We can see at the smallest level (and of the utmost the largest step for it is the first one, practically speaking) that we do in our homes and around our homes matters very dearly. How we treat the Earth all around us, how we understand our relationship to this great blue and green sphere we just so happen to need so badly… this is the reason I chose this name a few years ago. It is at once a sad yet funny poke at a hopefully never to be seen future where one elder goes to another, “Remember plants?” and also a solid truth that we must re-member plants (including all relatives and associates) right n o w.

In this way of seeing, we can also come to the conclusion that we are ourselves are very much plant-like… We thrive in community, we apparently love water and air and sun and some of us still know our food comes from soil nearby. This is another aspect, where remembering plants is remembering ourselves and our place in the chain of absolute perfection that is the only dance there is. Get shaking.

“That’s great and all Ralphito, but I have a 9-5 and 4 kids and a mortgage and you are all good and privileged enough to have had the opportunity to travel to far off places and see the world…” This is true. I recognize my privilege and realize how it is my duty to share what I feel can benefit us as humans as opposed to hoarding my little seedling ideas on my itouch’s notes app and never looking at them until I’m in the bathroom ‘bored’ and scrolling…

So, we can start with curiosity! That is, what tickles you into wanting to know more? Are you satisfied with how you feel on a daily basis? What is it that you heard about your herbalist neighbor that you may want to explore for yourself? What things do you find yourself doing mindlessly in ‘free time’ that can be spent in researching ways you can become closer to the processes of the Earth?

I have spent countless hours being insanely hard on myself for not knowing yet enough to share about this or that, justifying the paralysis of not sharing anything at all about my experiences of the last few years traveling through the jungles and mountains of Peru, in search of that which heals us. I have in the last few months, however, received enough internal inspiration to know that this is where I need to start: with where I am.

I am at a restaurant with a friend of mine who is letting out so much to me on the ways of her being, things that she feels she can’t tell anyone else. She goes to the bathroom after an hour or so of straight and intense conversation revolving around the nature of her anxiety. I realize that this is the 6th person I’ve talked to this week about the same exact things. I realized at that moment that I need to write about what I have come to learn and share it, if I can feel that it might benefit others, without worrying about what others will think. In realizing this, I looked up and saw on the tv sub captions “it’s amazing how you let the ego to the side and allowed the spirit to come through.” I smile and know that it’s time to start sharing.

In infinite gratitude,
Rafael

a winding road on the way to Hualla, Peru.