Sunday, February 13, 2011
The Virgin Mary (Catholic), or Theotokos (Orthodox)
In most religious traditions, the repetition of a mantra or Holy Name is used as a form of prayer or spiritual practice, as a way to deepen one's connection with God (or Higher Self). This is just as true in Christianity as it is in the more exotic Eastern spiritual paths. Many saints from the Orthodox and Catholic traditions have used the Jesus Prayer or repeated the name of Jesus (Jesu Christi) or Mary (Ave Maria) as a simple but very profound form of unceasing prayer (as Saint Paul recommended).
Mary is often somewhat foreign to Christians who, like myself, have been raised in a Protestant tradition but, once introduced to her, most grow to love her. Mary is the archetypal Divine Mother who is there to nurture us all. In Kathleen Norris's book Meditations on Mary, she shares the story of an East Indian Hindu woman who had a shrine dedicated to Mary in the corner of her home. When asked about this, the woman said, "I am not a Christian, but I love her." Mary, it seems, is everyone's mother.
Below is a beautiful sermon on Mary by one of the leading lights of Western Christianity.
Let us say a few words about this Name
which means "Star of the Sea"
and is so appropriate to the Virgin Mother.
She -- I tell you -- is that splendid and wondrous star
suspended as if by necessity over this great wide sea,
radiant with merit and brilliant in example.
O you, whoever you are,
who feel that in the tidal wave of this world
you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales
than treading on dry land:
if you do not want to founder in the tempest,
do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.
When the wind of temptation blows up within you,
when you strike upon the rock of tribulation,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.
Whether you are being tossed about
by the waves of pride or ambition,
or slander or jealousy,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.
When rage or greed or fleshly desires
are battering the skiff of your soul,
gaze up at Mary.
In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt,
think of Mary, call out to Mary.
Keep her in your mouth,
keep her in your heart.
Follow the example of her life,
and you will obtain the favour of her prayer.
Following her, you will never go astray.
Asking her help, you will never despair.
Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away.
With your hand in hers, you will never stumble.
With her protecting you, you will not be afraid.
With her leading you, you will never tire.
Her kindness will see you through to the end.
Then you will know by your own experience
how true it is that the Virgin's Name was Mary.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
For the past week, I have been sticking pretty closely to the straight and narrow with my food and only eating what I already know is okay. My diet has consisted of celery juice, tangerine juice, blueberries, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, seaweed, buckwheat, and steamed or sautéd vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, green beans, asparagus, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, beets), and lemon juice for flavoring. I have been making vegetable broth and using the broth to cook my buckwheat or sauté my vegetables. All of these foods feel pretty good.
I have experimented with both lentils and garbanzos (chickpeas) several times, but the jury is still out. Neither one gave me a headache, but they did cause my throat to burn. However, there is a cold virus going around, and several people around me are quite sick with it. I can tell that my immune system is fighting it, but it is keeping it at a very low level. So I don't think I am getting a true reading on the beans right now because every time I tried them I felt like it was a distraction to my immune system and took energy away from the task of eliminating the virus from my body. The buckwheat does not do this (and neither do the cook vegetables) and I think this is very much worth noting. Beans are higher in protein (25%) than buckwheat (18%) and I know that viruses thrive on protein. But I don't think that is the whole answer. I suspect it may have to do with the type of protein as well. As Peter D'Adamo N.D. points out in his book Eat Right 4 Your Type, different foods contain different lectins (a type of protein) and, depending on your blood type, certain lectins (and the foods that contain them) are a drain on the immune system. Most people are aware of this concept when it involves wheat gluten (a lectin), but are not aware that other foods can do the same thing in genetically susceptible individuals. That is probably the case here, which certainly makes one wonder whether they should eat a food at all, if that food makes them feel worse when they are fighting a virus. Food for thought!
I also tried some leeks this past week and they messed me up almost as much as the black pepper, so I had my Radionics practioner treat me for that as well. I am planing to try quinoa, sweet potatoes, and winter squash in the near future. One of the wonderful things that is coming out of all this experimenting for myself is that I am discovering all kinds of foods that my dog loves. He is crazy about lentils, garbanzos, quinoa, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and zuccini; however, he does not like pinto beans, asparagus, green beans, mushrooms, or brussel sprouts. So now he is getting a lot more variety in his diet which I like.
I recently learned that the diet of the Japanese Okinawa Islanders was comprised largely of sweet potatoes before 1950, providing almost 70% of total calories. (Please note: the sweet potatoes eaten by the Okinawans is dark purple inside and very high in anthocyanins compared to the cream and yellow colored ones available to us in supermarkets.) They also practice a form of calorie restriction and eat 300 less calories than the mainland Japanese (1700 kcal. verses 2100 kcal per day). Their diet is also very low in fat (6%). Their diet was also low in protein (9%) and high in carbohydrate (85%). Fruit provided less than 1% of total calories, nuts and seeds less than 1%, and vegetables 3% (remember Dr. Doug Graham recommends 2-6% of caloric intake should come from greens)of total calories.You might also find it interesting that the primary caloric source for the mainland Japanese was from rice (54%) and other grains (24%), whereas only 19% of the Okinawan diet is derived from grains. The ratios for the Okinawans was 85/9/6, while those for the mainlanders was 79/13/8, both of which were very close to Dr. Graham's recommendation of 80/10/10. But the source of their carbohydrate calories was very different. The reason that these facts are interesting is that Okinawa has one of the largest populations of centinarians in the world. Since sweet potatoes must be cooked before they can be eaten, it appears that a diet which is mostly cooked can, in fact, support excellent health and longevity (depending, of course, on the particular cooked food consumed). Another group of centinarians from China eats a diet that derives almost 60% of total calories from sweet potatoes. They also practice a form of calorie restriction, eating an average of 1400 kcal. per day. Their diet is also very low in fat. Unfortunately, with globalization, the traditional diets of these population groups has changed somewhat during the past few decades and the number of long-lived healthy individuals is beginning to decline.
Keep your eye on the sunshine, and you will not see the shadows.
Helen Keller (1880-1968)
Monday, February 7, 2011
Blessed Rosalie Rendu, a Tireless Servant of Christ
Today (February 7) is the Feast Day of Blessed Rosalie (she is still being considered for Canonization) according to the Catholic calendar. She was born in France in 1786 and grew up in the middle of the French Revolution. Priests were being asked to swear allegiance to the State and those who refused to do so were either killed or exiled. Blessed Rosalie's family provided a refuge for several members of the clergy, including a Bishop, whom they hid as farm hands (much like the Germans who hid the Jews during Hitler's reign of terror).
From the age of 9 to 11, Rosalie attended an Ursuline school for girls and every day she had to pass a hospital where the Daughters of Charity helped to provide care to the sick. She was so taken with the work and mission of these Daughters that she asked permission of her mother to assist them in their work. Her mother agreed, and by the age of 17 Blessed Rosalie decided that she wanted to dedicate her life to such service and left to join a community of the Daughters of Charity.
Blessed Rosalie was eventually sent to serve in the Mouffetard District, one of the poorest slums of 19th century Paris, where she spent the remaining 54 years of her life. She ministered to the sick and poverty stricken, taught girls to read and write, started a free medical clinic, a free pharmacy, an orphanage for children, and a home for the elderly. She was also a co-founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, a mission dedicated to helping the poor and disadvantaged. Here are two telling quotes that demonstrate her ability to live in the presence of God:
If you wish for someone to love you, you must be the first to love, and if you have nothing to give, give yourself.
You will go to visit the poor ten times a day, and ten times a day you will find God there. Our Lord hides behind those rags.
The past four days have been much easier for me. I spoke with my Radionics practitioner on the evening of Day 8 and asked him to check me for problems with garlic and/or black pepper. I started to feel better the very next day, but he did not call me until this evening to tell me what he had done. Apparently he did not find any problem with garlic (could be I did not actually ingest any, not sure), but he found a big problem with the black pepper and started treating me for it that evening. He told me that he is personally sensitive to white pepper and can always tell when it is in something he has eaten, but black pepper has no negative effect on him at all.
Day 9 (February 4): I ate two meals today (12 pm and 7 pm) which both consisted of celery juice (24 oz), followed by blueberries (10 oz), followed by lettuce (1 head) and cherry tomatoes (8 oz) and buckwheat (2 cups cooked). Felt pretty good all day. I have no more pain in my colon or the lymph nodes below my ears where they meet my jaw. Started my period (34 days since my last one which began on the first day of my fast, January 2). Light flow, no pain.
Day 10 (February 5): I ate two meals today (12 pm and 7 pm). The second was the same as my meals yesterday, but with the first I substituted pinto beans (1 cup) for the buckwheat. I had a low grade frontal headache for about six hours after eating the beans (level 4 on a scale of 1-10). Period, medium flow, no pain.
Day 11 (February 6) I ate two meals today (12 pm and 7 pm) which both consisted of celery juice (24 oz), followed by blueberries (10 oz), followed by lettuce (1 head) and cherry tomatoes (8 oz), and buckwheat (1 cup) and pinto beans (1 cup). I got a low grade frontal headache after both meals. The headache is definitely due to the beans and it doesn't seem to matter if I eat them with or without the buckwheat. Buckwheat by itself does not do this to me. Period, medium flow, no pain.
Day 12 ( February 7): I ate two meals today (12 pm and 7 pm). I have decided to drop the beans for a few days and just get back to even again. So I did everything the same as I did on Day 9, except I replaced the tomatoes with steamed vegetables. Celery juice (24 oz), followed by blueberries (10 oz), followed by lettuce (1 head) and cherry tomatoes (8 oz) and buckwheat (2 cups). With my first meal, I had broccoli (1 lb); with my second meal, I had green beans (1 lb). Both of these seemed to work just fine. Felt much better again overall today. Period, only light spotting. I am pleased that my period has been so easy this time. Since one lives on their own body fat during a water-only fast (which is somewhat like being on a high-fat diet), I thought I might experience some pain again with my first post-fast menstruation, but that has not been the case.
I really don't understand why there are so many foods that I cannot eat without getting some sort of negative reaction or other. This is not simply a post-fasting reaction. I have not eaten beans for a very long time because I did not do well with them before. Perhaps there are some beans and legumes that will not give me a headache, but I will have to try each one separately with a clean slate in order to find out.
I tell you one thing ~ if you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather, learn to see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. For no one is a stranger, my child.
Sri Sarada Devi (1853-1920), known as the Holy Mother to her disciples
Friday, February 4, 2011
Saint Blaise, Patron of Wild Animals
Today (February 3) is the Feast Day of Saint Blaise on the Catholic calendar. Saint Blaise was a physician who lived in the 300s (4 th Century) who was asked to serve the local Christian community in Armenia as a Bishop. There were many persecutions of Christians occurring during his time, and he was forced to flee into the wilderness in order to protect himself.
Unfortunately, his whereabouts were eventually discovered by the Governor's men. When they finally located him, he was living as a hermit in a cave. Those who came to arrest him were flabergasted to find wild animals of all types (vegetarian and carnivore) who were sick or injured hanging around his abode waiting to be healed by this good and generous man.
When Saint Blaise was being escorted back to the Governor, a woman with a young child knelt in front of him and ask him to heal her child who had a fish bone stuck in his throat. Saint Blaise quickly and easily extracted the bone from the child's throat, and many people with throat aliments have found healing through their prayers of petition to Saint Blaise.
I am surprised at the difficulties I am encountering in breaking this fast. With all of the other fasts I have done in the past (lasting between 2-3 weeks) I never had these kinds of problems. However, I was always in complete control of what I chose to eat because I was at home. The last fast I did 4 years ago was 18 days and I was on my raw paleo program of raw meat, olive oil, and raw greens, and those are the food I used to break my fast. I did not even have a juicer at the time. I just re-fed with a small size normal meal and had absolutely no problems whatsoever (I blended the greens though). Of course, I do not feel that the raw paleo diet is a healthy choice for the long term, and I don't like eating animals, so I don't intend to go back there. But it is interesting how much easier the re-feeding experience was with foods that you would think would be a lot more difficult for the body to process. I wonder if it wouldn't be better to just start re-feeding with a small balanced meal, instead of just fruit or just vegetables that leave one feeling hungry and dissatisfied and incline one to over eat them.
In Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey's book The No-Breakfast Plan, he presents several case histories of individuals who did long fasts and re-fed with the exact same foods they were eating before they went on the fast.
A 57 year old gentleman (Leonard Thress) who was dying from pneumonia in 1899 when he commenced his fast went without food for 50 days before he became hungry. His pneumonia and several other chronic health problems cleared up during the fast. When his hunger finally returned, he broke his fast with a a slice of whole wheat toast with butter and pickled pigs feet jelly. He enjoyed it and felt well afterwards. He did not eat again until the next day at which time he consumed a dish of mashed potatoes, red cabbage, another portion of pickled pigs feet jelly, applesauce, and a cream puff for dessert. He enjoy this meal and felt still better afterwards. His case was written up in the North American.
Another 54 year old gentleman (Milton Rathbun) did a 28 day fast in May of 1899 and a 35 day fast in January of 1900 for weight loss and cardiovascular health (we was 5'6" and weighed 210 at the start), working at his business the entire time of both fasts. When hunger finally returned after each period of abstinence, he recommenced eating with beef broth, followed by several oranges, followed by a dozen oysters on crackers (at night), followed by crackers and cream (in the morning), followed by clam broth, 6 steamed clams, a bowl of mock turtle soup, a half of a chicken, canned peas, fried potatoes, and a lemon ice for dessert (for lunch). From this point on he continued with his usual routine of The No-Breakfast Plan which he had followed for 5 years prior to either of his fasts. In the New York Press, he was quoted as saying that he never felt better in his life. He ended up losing a total of 85 lbs of superfluous fat.
A 22 year old woman (Estella Kuenzel) who had been diagnosed with severe depression in 1899 and was sent to an asylum was taken into the care of one Mr. Henry Ritter who believed a fast would be of considerable help to her. During the first three weeks of her fast she was completely bedridden, but after that she began to feel well enough to walk. During the last 23 days of her 45 day fast, she walked every day. On her 44 th day, she walked 7 miles and went to an all-day Exposition without experiencing the slightest fatigue. With every passing day of her fast, she became happier and brighter, "life became once more a joy instead of a burden." When her hunger finally returned on day 45, she broke her fast with one poached egg and two slices of whole wheat toast. This meal amply satisfied her for the day, and she did not get hungry until lunch the next day at which time she had the same meal again. She had a light dinner that second evening and from that point on continued with The No-Breakfast Plan. She weighed 140 lbs at the beginning of her fast and 120 lbs at the end of her fast, so she only lost 20 lbs during her 45 day fast. Her case was reported in the Chester County Times.
Don't these stories give you pause for thought?
On Day 6, all I had was celery juice all day and I started to feel a great deal better by the end of the day. I then had some steamed vegetables and still felt okay.
On Day 7, I woke up hungry and had a celery juice for breakfast. Got really hungry, did not eat anything, hunger went away after an hour or so, felt pretty good all morning. Intestinal inflammation much less and the pain in my lymph nodes below my ears was 50% less than the day before. I had a second celery juice at lunch and then decided to try some more steamed vegetables even though I wasn't really that hungry. I felt terrible almost immediately and for the next four hours. I had vegetable broth in the evening and felt hungry (probably more in my mind than my body) and decided to have some more steamed vegetables. I immediately got a headache and felt terrible. My reaction to the steamed vegetables today is really confusing to me since I seemed to do okay with them last night. I don't really think that the problem is the cooked vegetables per se but, rather, that my system has been thrown off balance by the garlic, black pepper, or something else that was in the food prepared at TNH, and now I am reacting to something that should be totally fine.
On Day 8, I felt like crap when I woke up. The pain in my intestines and lymph nodes is not any worse, but I have a lot of mucous in my throat and right sinus area, a general feeling of dis-ease in my head, a burning throat, and no real appetite. When I first came off this fast, I was doing brilliantly with the juice and steamed vegetables, but then I ate something that my body did not like at all (I think it was garlic, black pepper, or some other spice in one of the soups at TNH) and it seems to have shut down my digestive system even to the foods that were working originally. Its like throwing a wrench into some gears and preventing them from operating properly. When the gears are out of alignment, nothing works. I really don't want to have to go back on the fast, but it may be necessary to get my body back on track again.
I went ahead and had a celery juice in the morning and that felt okay and the mucous began to clear. At noon, I had another celery juice and that too felt okay, so I decided to try some Stahlbush frozen organic raw ripe blueberries. I did good with those, so then I had some romaine lettuce with some sweet ripe cherry tomatoes. I still felt okay after this and, in fact, started to feel much better in general. For dinner, I had another celery juice followed by blueberries and then I went out on a limb and had buckwheat with the lettuce and tomatoes. It has been several hours since I ate dinner and I am still feeling okay from it, and I feel considerably better than when I woke up this morning. Maybe I just need to eat mostly raw for now. I do feel like my digestive system is still off though, but I am hoping it will gradually work through it without my needing to stop eating altogether again.
Goodness is the only investment which never fails.
Henry David Thoreau
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Today (February 1) is the feast day of Saint Brigid. Saint Brigid appears to have been born around 450 to a pagan father and a Christian mother. It is believed that her mother was baptised by Saint Patrick (d.461) and that Brigid heard and was deeply influenced by the preachings of that great saint. From a very early age, Brigid wanted to enter an convent and dedicate her life to Christ. Her family was fairly well off and people would often knock at their door and ask for food or other assistance. Brigid never hesitated to give what was asked, and once when they were out of food she apparently gave her father's jeweled sword to a leper. This last incident seems to have convinced her father to allow her to enter a convent.
Saint Brigid received the veil from Saint Mael of Ardagh and, by 470, she had founded a double monastery (one for monks and one for nuns) on the plains of Kildare (Cill-Dara), or the Church of the Oaks, where she had a cell underneath a large oak tree. The Abbey of Kildare became became one of the most prestigious monasteries in Ireland, famed throughout all of Christian Europe. The Abbey was also the very first monastery for women in Ireland. Again, she became known for her self-less hospitality to visitors and travelers, and there always seemed to be plenty of everything to provide for the needs of everyone, and no one was ever turned away empty handed. Her generosity is represented in the writings on the scroll in the close-up below (to care for the poor, to lighten everyone's burden, to comfort the suffering):
It is said that she performed many healing miracles during her life and became widely known as a saint while she was yet living. One of the sweeter miracles that has been passed down through the ages (whether fact or fiction, the story nonetheless contains truth) is this: One evening, the holy abbess was sitting with a blind nun named Dara. From sunset to sunrise, they spoke of the joys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and of the love of Christ, losing all track of time. St. Brigid was struck by the beauty of the earth and sky in the morning light. Realizing that Sister Dara was unable to appreciate this beauty, she became very sad. Then she prayed and made the Sign of the Cross over Dara’s eyes. All at once, the blind nun’s eyes were opened and she saw the sun in the east, and the trees and flowers sparkled with dew. She looked for a while, then turned to St. Brigid and said, “Close my eyes again, dear Mother, for when the world is visible to the eyes, then God is seen less clearly by the soul.” St. Brigid prayed again, and Dara became blind once more.
Well, I am sorry to report that the past three days of re-feeding have not gone well at all. I have not been able to get the foods I need, prepared the way that I need, when I need them. I did okay for the first two days because I made my own food in my room and was able to steam the veggies to the right softness. But then the staff told me that I could not prepare my own food in my room because it created to many smells for my apartment-mate (who incidentally did care). I ended up trying to make due with under-cooked vegetables and some light (under-cooked) soups that had spices in them and this was a huge mistake. The staff subsequently told me that the kitchen would prepare anything I needed. I told the doctor that I had been requesting zucchini for the past three days and the kitchen did not have any. I told him that I had given the kitchen a recipe for some well-cooked vegetable soup with the vegetables I knew were safe and they never made it. That is when I asked them to bring me the vegetables and I made it myself. But then the next day they did not have the vegetables I needed to repeat the process.
So, the long and the short of it is that I ingested something or several somethings that has made my body extremely unhappy. My intestines are inflamed and ache, my throat has been burning for the past three days, I have glop at the back of my throat, and the lymph nodes below my ears are extremely tender. These are all symptoms I have had in the past (I don't need to have been on a fast to get them) when I try to eat things that my body does not want. They do not offer much in the way of fruit beyond bananas and melons, neither of which I can eat. I made the decision to come home yesterday so that I can have more control over the re-feeding process. I am not real happy about this part of my experience at TrueNorth Health. If I was to do it all over again, I would just have juice for 4-5 days and gain my strength back enough to come home and not even try to start re-feeding there. I absolutely loved the care I got while on the fast and would recommend them in a heartbeat for that, but the whole re-feeding thing has been a complete nightmare for someone like myself. Clearly, these problems I have experienced would not be true for others who can eat melons (which is such a perfect food to break a fast with if you can eat it). I have no doubt that many other people have wonderful experiences at TNH, and I will still highly recommend the facility. The main caveat I can give is to definitely make your needs known to your doctor (not just the kitchen) and insist that they get you what ever you feel would be best for you. By the time I figured this out, I decided it would be easier for me to just come home.
I am back home now and had a celery juice this morning, but even juice does not feel good at this point. I may need to actually go back on water for a few days in order to get back to even and then start over with reintroducing food the right way for me. I am so happy with the way the fast went and all the benefits that will flow from it, but coming off the fast is equally important (if not more so) if those benefits are to be maintained for the long term. I am feeling a little demoralized and depressed about the way things have gone for the past few days, as I do not want to mess up all the good work that has been accomplished. I will post again in a few days, after my body has had a chance to settle down (and I am in a better mental space), and let you know how it is going.
On a positive note, I will also add that in spite of feeling bad and having negative reactions to some of the foods I've tried, I actually look surprisingly good after only five days of re-feeding.
To love someone is to see him as God intended him.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russian Novelist