Tag Archives: Inner Nutrition

Inner Nutrition: Overcoming Our Disease of Dis-Ease, by Keith Glendon

As I read an inspirational article on the Internet the other day, I noticed tension building in my chest. I felt slightly inadequate. I watched a cloud of self-doubt form over my perspective. I became curious—why was this inspiration bringing me down? In the coming days, a pattern emerged. I noticed more articles on the Internet. More news headlines and connotations. More advertising and social media event invitations. It seemed wherever I turned, there was a common message: ‘Do more, achieve, strive, compete, stand out, be everything, have it all!’ I was un-inspired. Instead of motivating me to greatness, the undercurrent seemed to shout “You’re not enough!!”

Leonardo da Vinci spent sixteen years delaying his work on the Mona Lisa. For several years, the painting just sat there unfinished. He was criticized for dabbling in distractions that spanned painting and sculpture, music, the sciences, architecture, and other pursuits that kept him from progressing in the eyes of many as an artist. What his critical contemporaries didn’t recognize was that da Vinci’s rambling genius and creative process simply didn’t work along a timeline. He needed time, distraction, procrastination, unstructured puttering. It wasn’t about achievement or greatness but the process of exploring his unique interests and gifts, giving his piece into the flow of things.

After I caught myself being sideswiped by dark feelings from the “inspiration” with which I was being bombarded, I was reminded of the recent passing of my dad’s wife. Gail enjoyed many things but one thing she loved was quilting. A talented craftswoman, she always had a few quilt projects underway. Her creations were expressions of joy and of love. They were often gifts to those for whom she cared. They were artwork and simple, functional beauty – the product of her creative soul expressed in fabric. They were a gathering of friends. They were an investment of her heart. At times, she was intensely-focused at work on her quilts. Other times, projects would sit there in a corner while she read a book, gardened, or went on long bike rides with Dad. Taking time, setting aside, relaxing into life was an essential part of the process.

Gail was taken by disease. Cancer was the culprit. In life, though, she didn’t live in dis-ease. She didn’t strive or compete or seek to stand out or have it all. What she did have was joy in simple things, dedication to creativity, quiet consistency in her passion and love. She shared it freely. She took her time. Not long after she passed, Dad and I stood on a beach at sunset. As I felt his grief, I also felt gratitude for the quiet moment. The beauty of the sky. The lesson in Gail’s life.

There is a disease of dis-ease sweeping our world. Lest we lose our lives to it, let us remember it’s okay to take our time, to dabble, to be distracted, to simply be. In this fast-and-furious ‘modern world,’ let’s remember to express our love, take walks, enjoy one another’s company, create, garden, ‘waste’ time together. Let’s remember it’s okay to be at ease.

Keith Glendon is a grateful husband, father of four, writer, poet, global technology something-or-other, and generally life-loving seeker, learner, and gratitude-spreader. Having grown up in Marquette, traveled the world, and returned to settle in his hometown, he now focuses on being Daddy and offering what he can to the flow.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Inner Nutrition: What Camp Means to Me, by Christine Saari

Photograph by Christine Saari

 

It all began with a clearing in the woods cluttered with ramshackle buildings from a former homestead: the remains of a cabin, a leaning barn, a decaying pig sty and chicken coop. I was horrified to learn this was to be the site for our camp. Why would we want a camp to begin with when we lived amidst a beautiful landscape waiting to be explored? “I’ll never come here,” I said to my husband. If he wanted a camp, so be it. I did not!

Jon proceeded without me. One day he took me to the transformed site – the buildings were gone, the clearing pristine. Then he purchased a 100-year old log cabin which had brambles growing inside and no windows and doors. Again I was aghast. But Jon was undeterred. The building was taken apart, transferred and rebuilt. Trees were felled for replacement logs, windows cut, doors made, layers of wallpaper stripped off the cedar logs. Endless work, but I participated, helped lay the floor, chinked, found furniture, worked to make the place cozy.

The two-story cabin has been proudly standing in our clearing since 1994, over time joined by a two-seater outhouse bought from an aunt, a shed and sauna rescued from a pasture for cows who rubbed the dovetailed corners round. Finnish relatives equipped the smoke sauna with a hearth and benches, and a deck was added to the house.

Although I said I’d never come, I have grown to love our camp above the West Branch of the Whitefish River. Why? What does camp mean for me?

With a thirty-mile trip, it is close enough from home to come for just an evening in the summer or for an overnight stay. Of course, if we can we stay longer, but whatever the length of our visit, we return to town refreshed.

Thanks to the “primitive” nature of the place – no electricity, a spring in the woods, a wood stove, life there slows down immediately. We forget about the news, e-mail or phone connection. Instead we make sure the kerosene lamps are filled for the evening and that there is enough wood to stay warm. This is a place just to be. We cook simple meals, talk, write letters, read and play scrabble. We take time to take a nap, we go to bed early. In summer we take canoe rides on the river, in winter we ski. We watch the natural world around us: a wild turkey has lost a beautiful feather, irises are blooming on the shore, a heron flies overhead.

Although we are close to a road, we seem far away from civilization. I can sunbathe unobserved. There are berries and mushrooms and flowers to pick. The stars shine brightly at night, the moon lights up the clearing, fireflies glow in the dark. Because the area is small, we have gotten to know it intimately. Every time we come we see changes. The river swells from melting snow, spring leaves unfold, white trilliums cover the dark forest floor. Here we are aware of the annual cycle of growth and decay and of our place in this universe.

Aside from all that, at camp we are surrounded by our ancestors: the flour bin reminds us of Jon’s grandmother’s farm. Jon’s father brought the cuckoo clock from the war in Europe, and camp brings me back to my childhood, to the Austrian mountain farm without electricity and running water where I grew up. Here I am connected to the past and to nature. Here I feel whole.

Christine Saari, an Austrian immigrant,  is a writer and visual artist. She has published a book, Love and War at Stag Farm, The Story of Hirschengut, an Austrian Mountain Farm 1938-48. It tells the story of her family in Austria during WWII and its aftermath.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Inner Nutrition: Guffaws for Good

by Nicole Walton

When my mental meter is buried in red, digging a spiritual hole to China, I don’t reach for a wine glass and a bottle of white, or for high-powered aerodynamic sneakers that propel me over hill and dale.  I reach for the phone and dial the number of a friend who I know will make me laugh.  “Hey wench!” Sonya will answer, using her pet name for me, a moniker generated long ago in a now-forgotten but undoubtedly thigh-slapping conversation.  I smile and am on my way to feeling better.

Laughter nourishes me like nothing else (except maybe house special egg foo yung).  Aside from the fact that the act of laughing releases endorphins, diminishes the intensity of pain and lowers the level of stress hormones, it’s just plain fun.  Laughter breaks me loose from my intellectual bonds and springs me into a much lighter atmosphere where I can deal with my issues in a less bleak way.  It lets me know that life is good and should be enjoyed wherever and whenever possible, even when it seems no light can penetrate the fog.

A cousin of mine was involved in a terrible car crash when I was 13.  My mom and I headed downstate to help her family, and as I walked into her hospital room, I burst into tears.  She was in a coma and I didn’t know how to handle it.  As I was led into the visitor’s lounge to compose myself, an older woman sitting in one of the chairs looked up and saw my obvious upset.  “Hey there,” she said, very kindly.  “Those are some pretty boots you’re wearing.”  I looked down at my brown leather zip-up boots and thanked her.  “Where did you get them?” she asked.  When I said they were a Christmas gift she responded, “Oh!  So did you get one from your momma and one from your daddy?”  I laughed.  And I think that was the very first time I recognized the healing power of laughter.  A woman I’d never met before knew I needed to be taken out of my situation, just for a moment, so she made me laugh.  I was lifted up and out, carried away to a better place, enlightened.

Let’s face it: it’s just really hard to feel horrible when you’re guffawing, chortling, and chuckling.

I also get a big charge out of using humor to get a reaction out of others.  “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people,” Victor Borge said.  It breaks down barriers and creates the common ground upon which we meet in jovial sister- and brotherhood.  Our defenses drop and intimacy  is allowed to blossom.  I always feel more connected to the person who giggles at my jokes.

I have a feeling some people envision spiritual practice as being strict and serious.  I’d like to remind them that Jesus laughed.  Buddha laughed.  They knew that a good ole joyful hoot rejuvenates body and soul, creating greater balance within and allowing a greater flow of energy.  I always feel more open to the world in general when I laugh, much like a child.  And how do we enter the kingdom of heaven, according to Jesus?  Like little children.  Perhaps there’s much more of a connection between humor and spirituality than most people think.  I’d like to believe so.

So whenever my batteries need a jump, I just remember the film Monsters, Inc.  At the end, the monsters discover they get more power by collecting kids’ laughter instead of their screams.  As their energy cylinders are quickly filled with each belly laugh so are my own energy centers recharged and replenished, helping me live a more nourished and complete life.

Nicole Walton is a broadcaster, writer, and human companion to two intelligent and slightly pushy felines.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2011 – 2012

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Inner Nutrition: Mindfulness

by Lee Goodwin

There is a movement afoot these days.  It is not a political movement, but it has implications for the lives of countless people every day.  It is a movement deeply rooted in religious traditions, but it is not the property of any church or synagogue, mosque or temple. It is a movement that is accessible to every person and holds the promise of great healing.  The movement is known in shorthand as “mindfulness.”  At its core, mindfulness is rooted in contemplative practices that can be found in all of the world’s major spiritual traditions.  However, it finds its clearest expression in the twenty-five hundred year old Buddhist tradition of meditative practice.  In the past thirty years, there has been a tremendous acceleration of interest in the application of mindfulness practices, especially as a complement to mainstream medicine and mental health practice.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a prime example of this movement.  It began at the University of Massachusetts with the work of Jon Kabat Zinn (Full Catastrophe Living).  Kabat Zinn felt that there could be no better place to introduce those long tested meditative practices than in a hospital.  He created the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Course in order to work with patients for whom it seemed medicine had reached the limits of its capacity to help.  Kabat Zinn also understood the importance of doing research.  The practice and effect of mindfulness practice would need to be replicable and verifiable in order to gain acceptance in the mainstream of medicine.  It has.  Since 1979, at UMass alone, over 17,000 patients have completed the MBSR course and MBSR is being taught in over 240 medical centers around the world.

Each MBSR class immerses students in a variety of meditative and attentional capacities.  Sitting meditation, walking meditation, yoga and simply attending to pleasant and unpleasant events during the day, all are aimed at helping participants become more open and aware to more of their lives. The aim being that being more awake leads to greater freedom to choose how to live each moment of this precious life.

As an indication of the scope of this mindfulness movement, the University of Wisconsin’s Dr. Richard Davidson was recently awarded a major National Institutes for Health (NIH) grant to study the effects of meditation practice on the brain.  The Mind and Life Institute has for decades now carried on significant discussions between scientists and contemplatives at the behest of the Dalai Lama.  Major studies of the effects of mindfulness practice are going on every day.  A quick Google search of mindfulness and the NIH will reveal the wide range of clinical trials and other studies that are being conducted across the country.

Still, for all the promise that this research and mainline acceptance holds, there is a dimension of this work that eludes the precision and technical skills of the scientific mind.  It has been said that in most Asian languages the word for mind and the word for heart are the same.  So, to understand mindfulness fully one must also see it as heartfulness.  There is a deep mystery that is being uncovered in this movement and it holds tremendous potential for healing.  There is a also a delightful joke in all of it  – and the joke is that after all the searching and study, the capacity for health and wholeness was there lying close all along just waiting to be found.

Lee Goodwin is a Lutheran pastor currently serving as the director of The Sabbath Project, a program providing support for professional leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who serve parishes in the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin.

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