Saturday, November 24, 2012

Planting a Tree: Sadhana Forest Style

I was lucky to be at Sadhana Forest during the time of planting trees!

They plant trees 1 month out of the year, the rest of the time they do water conservation work- creating bunds and reservations of water.

It was great to see how they planted trees because I had never seen anything like it before!

Planting a Tree:

what you will need:
-Shovel or a mumtee (Indian Shovel)
-3-4 buckets of water
-1 bucket of compost
-Cut plastic pipe - 2 feet high with a diameter of 2ft
-Pick axe or a crow bar
-2 wheelbarrows full of mulching material (dry leaves, woodchips, dried plants, paper, etc)
-a tree!

If you are feeling extra ambitious
-an empty water bottle- cap included
-1.5 foot long rope
-small cut pipe or hose 3inches long with a diameter of 1 inch
-adhesive- glue

- Instructions for the latter -
This is  new technique we started using in Sadhana forest to increase watering efficiency for the trees, typically when you water trees from the top, only about 40% of the water makes it to the tree- if that.

- cut a hole in the bottom of the water bottle a little over an inch in diameter.  
-put the rope through the pipe and tie a knot at the end of the rope.  
- Put the side of the pipe with the knot into the hole of the water bottle.  Make sure that the knot is inside of the water bottle, while the pipe can just be touching the hole of the water bottle from the outside. 
-Glue the pipe to the water bottle so that the hole of the water bottle meets the hole of the pipe.  Ensure that there is no point where water could leak.

-Find a place to plant your tree!  If you know what kind of tree you have, it would be helpful to look online how big your tree will get, and plan your place accordingly.  Read up on what type of soil your tree likes and what kind of climate it's used to, as well as how much water is needed.  Also consider if your tree does best in full sun, partial sun or shade.

-Get a crow bar and make the point you wish to plant the tree,  draw a circle around that crowbar, leaving a circle with about 1 meter in diameter.

-Place your 2ftx2ft cut pipe in the center of that circle.

-Start digging outside of that circle you just created.  Don't dig inside of the circle.  All of the dirt dug from outside of the circle will need to be put next to the pipe - not inside of the pipe.  This will eventually create a mound surrounding the center pipe.

-Once your mound is created, pour 2-3 buckets of water inside of your central pipe.  This allows water to be absorbed where it's needed the most.  The reason we dig outside of the circumference of the circle is so that we don't disturb the soil directly in contact with the tree roots.  There are many processes at work under the surface, and for maximum tree growth efficiency those processes need to be left as is.  This is why we dig outside of where the tree will be planted and have direct contact with the soil.

Day 1 is complete!

Continue your work the following day, to allow water absorption!

- get 1 bucket of compost.
- one tree
-one special water bottle (made above) optional
-1 bucket of water
-lots of mulching material - few wheelbarrows.

- First place the water bottle in the center of the pipe, make sure the rope attached to the bottle touches where the tree will be placed.
- Put the tree in the pipe.
-Start pouring the compost in the pipe, burying the roots of the tree and the waterbottle
- Once the roots of the tree is covered, pour about half of the bucket of water over the compost.
- Make sure the soil on the outside of the pipe and the compost on the inside of the pipe are about at equal height.  Try to flatten the soil within a 5'' radius of the outside of a pipe - preferably create a small mote with you hands in this area.  Pour some water into this little mote.
-Take out the pipe! You may need two people to do this.
- Smooth out and pat down the area that the pipe was.  Making sure the tree is well secure.
- Fill the water bottle with water, and close the lid - the water bottle can now water the tree slowly over the next few days.  However, the tightness of the lid will determine how much water is able to flow out.  The tighter the lid, the less water will trickle to the tree, the more open the lid, the more water.  -Experiment with what works best for your tree!
- Now cover the base of the tree and the sides of the mound with mulch!  We used dried leaves from the forest, but whatever you have access to will also work - dry grass clippings, hay, straw, saw dust.. any dry plant material would be great!  This prevents erosion and increases soil processes which keep the tree healthy, it's also a great way to preserve water in the soil!

Happy Plantings!

Friday, November 23, 2012

2 weeks in Sadhana Forest

Past couple of weeks, were spent in Sadhana Forest (70 acres of land being replanted with native trees, started by a family 7 years ago, who came from Israel and welcomed every volunteer that came their way)

I've posted already a brief description of the forest in one of my blogs from October.

What I love about Sadhana Forest, is their attention to detail.  Upon arrival for my stay I was greeted immediately by one of the long term volunteers and given a brief tour.  A more extensive welcome was to come later, so in the meantime I wandered around and made myself useful in the kitchen! Helping to prepare lunch.

After lunch they set us up ( me along with 4 other volunteers who arrived the same day) in our rooms and gave us toiletries along with a more detailed explanation of their rules and norms.

Quite simple accommodations, but a great way to reconnect to nature!  We had a roof over our heads, blanket walls, and a tall bed with a mosquito net.  No floor, no AC, no electricity, no heater, no lights, no table, no shelf, no drawers.  Me, a roof, a bed and hey, a roommate!

Completely open to the outside, to all the little squirrels, dogs, cats, lizards, and yes even snakes.

I know, this intimidated me at first too.  But soon it's very apparent, that it's as comfortable or as uncomfortable as you decide to make it.

In the beginning I was pretty scared of the whole.. what if I see a snake under my bed??  What if some strange creature tries to crawl into bed with me?

But night after night, I found the nighttime to be peaceful, free of all of my abstract stories of, what ifs..

okay okay, fine apart from one, where a cat did jump on the side of my bed, meowed and jumped off.. granted she did scare the dickens out of me.. but only for the moment because just following it was both mine and my roommates roaring laughter.

It's the community cat.  There is one cat in Sadhana forest, and she is a complete cutie.  Super fluffy and elegant.  She likes to make her rounds.

Sadhana forest is a community with a strong ethic.

They are clear about making a positive impact on our planet through the way we live.

They presented us upon arrival with all natural soaps and toiletries.  We received this amazing smelling cinnamon soap, powder shampoo, powder toothpaste - made from their own neem trees, and discouraged us from using any of our own products that would leave contaminants in the soil.

I decided to follow their rules and only use neem sticks and tooth powder to brush my teeth, along with only using water to wash my face, as well as only shampoo powder for the hair.

To be honest.. I was a little unsure if I could do it.. especially my skin is very sensitive and prone to breakouts.  And I am very finicky about cleaning my teeth.

However.. I found all my fears were far from the actuality of things.  After a few days of cleaning only with neem sticks and tooth powder.. I could tell my teeth were actually much cleaner than with toothpaste!! If you think about it.. toothpaste has soo many preservatives, and additives.. not to mention sugar to make it taste good and glycerin that coats your teeth inhibiting your bodies natural ability to clean your teeth.

Now that I have the opportunity to brush with toothpaste again.. I miss the neem sticks!

In regards to not using soap on my face.. you wouldn't believe.. but no breakouts!  Not one in Sadhana forest.. and maybe that also had to do with the overrall amazing lifestyle.

-24/7 access to fresh air- sleeping basically in the open.. living in the open - all buildings are open to the outside.
- daily(if not more) access to a beautiful pond to go swimming in!  Not only just a pond, but the bottom is this rich soil/clay.. which is an awesome exfoliate!
- physically active lifestyle
- fun environment
- plenty of time for vitamin D absorption from the sun!

So no problem with the toiletries!

The community aspect of Sadhana forest is definitely memorable.

The community is very welcoming and happy for everyone and anyone to come and stay.

The day is set up like this:
5:45am wake up song (2 members of the community go around singing for everyone to wake up)
  ( don't get intimidated by the early rise.. basically getting up this early is easy here, because it's the same time the sun gets up.. being basically outside.. it's much easier to be connected to the natural rhythms of our systems)
6:15am morning circle ( goodmornings to the other volunteers, selection of 1st seva, morning hugs, songs and other waking up activities)
6:30 am 1st Seva - tree planting, breakfast making, water conservation - bunding, watering, childrens land, etc. etc - they are also totally open if you have a project in mind that you are interested in doing!
8:30am Breakfast!
9:30am 2nd seva
12:30 pm Lunch

Free for the rest of the day!

6:30 pm dinner

Then every week each person is given 2 extra community shifts, and if anyone is interested in volunteering for other community weekly tasks for a week, they are welcomed and encouraged to do so.

Apart from that, you have a lot of time to explore auroville, surrounding farms, chatting and attending any workshops that may be held at the forest....
-tree meditation
-other meditations
-language workshops - italian, french, german
- basically any talents that people feel like sharing.

Then their are weekly norms:
Sunday evening - community forum - volunteers speak about community aspects that are working or that aren't working.  Long term volunteers go through the rules of the forest, the sevas, the schedule and assign weekly sevas out to people

Monday evening - community sharing - everyone has the opportunity to communicate his or her feelings.. challenges they are facing, joys they are experiencing.. just anything they wish to share.

Wednesday evening- Open stage- untalent show!  Anyone wishing to share a talent or an untalent.. welcome to perform! Afterwards chanting and songs happen!

 Thursday evening - night out!  no dinner is served- you can stay if you wish but otherwise can make a trip to pondy or auroville with everyone.

Friday - tour, dinner and eco movie night!  Sadhana forest welcomes anyone interested in learning more about their work for dinner and a movie - along with a tour.

Saturday and Sunday only breakfast and dinner are provided, no sevas - except particular ones are expected be done on these days.  Free days :)

Overall the life at Sadhana forest from the outside, may seem intimidating but actually it's very fulfilling.  The relationships built with others at the forest become quite strong even after only a few short days.  Because everyone is experiencing something new and fun together.  Everyone is helping each other and no one person is responsible for everything.  It's a great feeling to be a part of something bigger than yourself.

More to come about Sadhana Forest, but I'll stop for now :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

100 ways to know you've made the right decision, or have been making a string of the right decisions.

So yesterday I had a lot of fun making the list of 100 things, I decided to make another one.

It's interesting to me, that the more learned, the more you realize you actually don't really understand it.  I mean, there is an understanding, but really diving into one field, it's as if knowledge is a tree, and every time you think you've zoned in on a specific aspect of that tree- perhaps one branch, it's as if that branch becomes another tree, and every time you further specify your search, you notice dozens of little branches actually coming out of that branch, and each smaller branch containing just as many smaller branches connecting to it.  Life is really amazing that way, everything is so connected that trying to only learn one thing, is either very disconnected from the entire picture, or learning one thing means actually learning many many things.

I'm learning the art of making decisions.  So I decided that this would be a nice topic to try and go for a list of 100 in.  looking at it now, I'm going to pretend I know 100 ways to know if you've made the right decision, but we will soon find out if I can off the top of my head, list some!

1.  You feel at peace.
2. Maybe no one else agrees with what you've decided, but your inner determination is so strong that no other voice but your own matters.
3.  You feel free.
4.  You feel excited and ready to start every day.
5.  Even with the thoughts of all of the worst possible outcomes of that decision, your heart is happy and singing regardless.
6.  Your brain may still be in a bit of turmoil, but despite it's attempts to sabotage your happiness, you cannot stop yourself from making this decision.
7.  There is no doubt in your heart, that this choice was 100% in line with your most innermost values.
8.  People may not agree with what you've decided, but some of them really can't help but notice the sparkle in your eye!
9.  Suddenly the choices of others don't really bog you down, or phase you even, because you feel so content with where you are, and the choices that you are making.
10.  Getting out of bed every day, is as enjoyable as a date with your best friend.
11.  Even if the body may be experiencing some health challenges, your mind is clear.
12.  Even if the body is experiencing some pain, the mind doesn't attach suffering to it.
13.  Not only can you see the benefits for yourself directly, but you see the positive effects of this decision actually also benefiting others - either directly or indirectly.
14.  Whether you are aware of it or not, you've become an inspiration to others.
15. Even the seemingly most daunting task, doesn't seem so serious.
16. All the negative remarks you may still be getting from others, hardly phase you.
17. Previous addictive behaviors you may have had, have either vanished or have significantly reduced.
18.  That inner yearning for appreciation from others isn't quite there anymore.
19.  You can feel the compassion for yourself, ever expanding.
20.  Your happiness feels one with others happiness.
21.  There is a bubbly bursting feeling inside of your gut.
22.  An excitement for life is full, and everything has become interesting!
23. Your ability to focus your attention has increased!
24.  Despite some fears, you don't allow them to get in the way of what you really want.
25.  Any worry over money is gone.
26.  Any worry about how you are spending your time, is less or absent.
27.  The smallest things, become fascinating and life changing for you.
28.  Your skin has taken on a bit of a glow
29.  You find yourself craving fresh fruits and veggies.
30.  Somehow time seems to be expanding.
31.  Insight starts to come in a different kind of way, which you could never have expected.
32. Synchronicities seem to be in full bloom
33.  Laughter happens more often than not.
34.  You find yourself surrounded mostly by people who are joyful to be around.
35.  People who you typically didn't associate with or who weren't really your type, suddenly you are able to find so much in common with them!
36.  Every moment of your day, seems to be in line with your higher most values.
37.  The thought of your family, brings a smile to your face.
38.  Sometimes you are so much in the present moment and enjoying, mealtimes are no longer the central feature of your day, you even find yourself forgetting that a meal time had come and gone!  Yet, no hunger pangs!
39.  The quality of the air that fills your lungs, brings you joy.
40.  You feel complete.
41.  Instead of seeking so much advice, you start noticing people seeking you for advice.
42.  It's joyful to tell your story.
43.  It's inspiring to tell your story.
44.  Your story connects to the hearts of everyone who listens to it.
45.  You feel great appreciation for your journey.
46.  You feel great appreciation for each and every person in your life.
47.  You see the truth in any words spoken.
48.  The need to impress is gone.
49.  The need to show off any material wealth is no longer needed.
50.  You feel comfortable being you.
51.  There is absolutely no other place that you would rather be.
52.  There is absolutely no other feeling, that you would rather be feeling!
53.  There is absolutely no other journey that you would have rather taken.
54.  There is absolutely no person in your life that you wish would disappear.
55.  The blessings in all of life, are clear.
56.  All of your challenges, seem more like opportunities.
57.  Learning hasn't ever been so fun.
58.  You feel strong about asking for what you want.
59.  You feel strongly about not taking things at face value.
60.  It's easy to disconnect what others say and what they actually mean.
61.  You feel strong to try things you have never tried before.
62.  Suddenly your ego, has taken a bit of a backseat.
63.  Accomplishments are no longer the goal.
64.  Connection ignites the motivation
65.  Energy is abounding
66.  Doubts come, but the joy overrides it.
67.  Less overeating
68.  Less sleep is needed
69.  The mind is quieter
70. Meditation is easier.
71. New ideas are in flow.
72. Creativity abounds.
73. You no longer feel the need to defend yourself.
74. You no longer feel the need to judge yourself.
75. You no longer feel the need to convince anyone.
76.  Trust flows.
77.  The heart feels open and receptive.
78.  The mind is optimistic and curious
79.  Negative reactions are less.
80.  Because of the choice, suddenly it feels there are so many doors opening up to you!
81.  Things you once easily overlooked, become almost impossible to overlook now.
82.  Time is no longer rushed
83.  It seems even if you aren't physically smiling, it always feels like your smiling.
84.  External temperatures effect you a little less.
85. The world seems to have really developed a keen sense of humor
86.  It's difficult for  you to deny anyone or anything your love
87.  you recognize everything in your life as a gift
88.  You find that there is hardly anything to complain about.
89.  The past isn't even a part of your thinking anymore.
90.  The future is only bright
91.  It's easy to express yourself.
92.  You feel calm.
93.  Your ability to learn and acquire new skills has doubled
94.  There is an inner glow of confidence
95.  There is an excitement to share your heart with others.
96.  There is a deep sense of belonging.
97.  Everything is good the way it is!
98.  Friends seem to be there, wherever you are!
99.  There seems to be less negative reaction on a cellular level to your surroundings, less sunburns, allergies, mosquito bites.
100.  You would be willing to go through the decision making process all over again, because of the bliss you are currently living!

My husband talks about, whatever you are seeking for yourself, freely give it to others.

I do feel I have made a lot of right decisions in my life, and now that I am at another cross roads, it's helpful to look at all sides of the situation.  These lists according to my husband help open doors to your heart that maybe haven't fully been explored in seeking the answers to life's questions.

May you be happy, may you make awesome decisions!

All the best. :)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My list of 100 sustainable life options for the year or years to come

So, I am still feeling this tension between going back to school and not going back to school.  My husband gave me a good idea about writing a list of 100 possible things you could do in the next five years:

1- Go back to school in Utah - spend time with family, friends and pets.  Time in Nature, learning about soil science and agroecology.  Will be able to use that knowledge wherever I go.

2- Go back to school somewhere else - for example canada- learn water and land management be able to do city planning work.. or other land development work.  Relatively inexpensive and a one year program.  Or study green technology - green walls and roofs  Study sustainability management - the art of helping companies become more green and sustainable.

3- Study live food nutrition.

4- Work on a vegan farm

5- Get a job in a green company - rainforest alliance, greenpeace, etc.

6- Work again for an environmental consulting company, save up for more expensive programs - for example .. like the 2 month long multicourse for permaculture in Australia.

7- Start a vegan cafe

8- Continue on and promote the current vegan catering

9-Spend a few years at Sadhana Forest - really get involved.

10- Spend some months or more at Gorukana - write a book about the indigenous people and draw
up a list of all of their plant species and what they use them all for.

11- Continue working more proactively with my husbands foundation.  Dedicate myself to helping it become more sustainable. (which basically it really wouldn't be much to do, but maybe things like - order pen and notepads from sustainable contributors, make sure when he travels - he travels by train... etc.)

12- yoga teacher training

13- raw chef training

14- Stay in Pune and take a bunch of classes - botany, land remediation, hindi, music classes, dance
    -year long ecological course - with ecological society of Pune

15-Start painting full time for sustainable causes - currently I am working on a painting of horse, once finished it will be sold and all proceeds will go to a horse ranch in New York which saves horses about to be slaughtered or who are badly abused.  They also save other animals like, cats, dogs, goats, sheep, etc.

16. Get Hula Hoop teacher trained.

17.  Dedicate myself full time to only using sustainable energy, bicycling everywhere, grow as much food in my apartment as possible, no electric appliances and no gas.  Find natural alternatives to food preparation, lights, cooling and heating systems - DIY stuff.

18.  Make seed bombs full time.  Spend all of my time throwing them around town :)
 Or get seeds from Vandana Siva and other organic farms, plant them in otherwise throw-awayables and give them away to people so they can start their porch gardens.

19.  Make a fermenting business - fermented fruit and vegetable drinks for probiotics and health.

20.  Start playing piano again, hold concerts for supporting ecological causes.

21. Continue to network with all of the vegans, raw foodists, permaculturists, organic food producers, sustainable communities, eco-resorts, eco-businesses.  Keep blogging about their work, form stronger networks and pathways between their work.

22. Work on my mindfulness.  Enjoying every moment.  Chewing every bite atleast 30x.  Practicing gratitude everyday.  Working on Inner peace, no matter my outside choices.

23.  Dedicate to learning something new everyday.  Researching where our 'stuff' comes from, how it is made and what the most sustainable options are in terms of, watches, computers, etc.

24.  Take some classes on sustainable technologies, water filtration systems, alternative energy - for example - sustainable dance floors (floors harvesting energy from people!)

25.  My friend is an art teacher who makes art with the kids out of otherwise throw-awayables - pencil shavings, small pieces of paper.. etc.  They also collect used film from movie theatres and create cool things, like lamp shades out of them!

26.  Work/volunteer in an orphanage

27.   work/volunteer at an animal shelter

28.  Study wholistic animal care/ animal nutrition.  Many of our beloved pets are fed sick animals from slaughter houses, and roadkill.  Many of our beloved pets develop all sorts of strange diseases over time due to this unhealthy food.  Is there a better way to care for them?  Can our animals be fed a more wholistic diet?

29.  Another friend here in Pune works in collecting other peoples unwanted stuff, and sells it at huge 'garage-like-sales'  Not only does she re-sell, but she re-creates them into beautiful works of art.  She has a workshop where she cuts glass bottles in half, paints them and puts lights inside of them!  A great decoration for any modern/metro type household or would be fabulous in any cafe, restaurant, bar or club!

30.  Create a recycling center in India.  There are hardly any here.

31.  Travel the world and find communities like Gorukana who have only recently blended with modern society.  How can we learn from them?  Can we show genuine interest in their lifestyles so they can see that their way of life is amazing as well!  How can we work among the indigenous people's so we can get the best of both worlds - westernization and our roots!

32.  Eco fashion -
some the issues with the system we have today:

- I met someone in Delhi who uses natural/plant dyes for all of her organic cotton clothes!  Beautiful stuff and actually affordable!
Here is another link in the same line:

33. Exploring energy healing more.  I have my Reiki level II, I use it just about every day.  For everything from minor aches and pains to any emotional or other issue.  I've used it in a few situations and surprisingly I've gotten pretty good results!  Every time I don't take western medicine I support a world which doesn't test animals in a cruel way for all of our medicinal needs.  I support a world where we aren't giving our health into the hands of anybody but ourselves.  I'm not saying there aren't situations in which we need outside support, but just saying, there may be a better way.

34.  Studying holistic teeth care.  Currently finding practitioners who understand the teeth on a much deeper level, than just giving quick fixes or pulling out the problem (root canals) is difficult.  I do believe that teeth are meant to be healthy, and I do believe our diet influences them.

35. Converting my car to work on vegetable oil.  Start a small business in helping other cars convert.

36.  Learn clay pottery.  Many people in the world still use clay pots, they are great for oil-free cooking!  And much healthier than Teflon.

37.  Travel to South America, stay at a friend's organic farm, learn to save seeds and all else that happens there

38.  Experiment with making homemade soaps, lotions, mixtures or just plain recipes for skincare, shampoo, and other cosmetics.
       - I've already been experimenting with different natural powders for teeth and other products that are organic and traditional, which I've purchased here in India.  Flax seeds - ground mixed with water actually makes a pretty decent soap.  It would be pretty cool to learn more about natural stuff.

39.  Make more of my own household cleaners - to be honest, I rarely buy any kind of household cleaners and if I do, I try to get the most natural cleaner there is.  Mostly I've started cleaning everything with water.  In India, dust settles very quickly all over.  So it's common for the floors to be mopped once a day.  They generally use cleaners, but I've stopped using cleaner, because mostly it's just to get the dust out.  I've also started making my own dish soap - for handwashing.  Basically flax seeds (ground), vinegar and baking soda.  Works as far as I'm concerned :)

40. Collecting as many seeds and plants as I can - just from vegetables bought from the store, allow some to go bad so I can collect their seeds, and start my own container nursery on my balcony!  I could also collect any containers that would otherwise be thrown to plant in :)

41.  Start vermicomposting.  Both in my apartment and maybe I could volunteer at the place down the road which composts all of our food waste with worms :)

42.  Really start promoting my permaculture design business, be serious about it and take on offers - either voluntarily or having costs covered for stay and what not.

43.  Spend more time outside.  So much happens on the streets of India!  Feed animals, bring the really sick ones to shelters, sit with the homeless, sort trash - separate bags from food - some statistic I read was something like an average cow in India, when it dies, 27 plastic bags are found inside of it's belly.

44. Get a translator, and start speaking to the homeless, asking them their stories and how they ended up there, what they used to do and what's the stories of the families, backgrounds, what their skills are.   Maybe even write a book about it.  Similar maybe to the "Help"

45.  Or, even more similar to movie, "the Help", speak to the actual maids and other workers here in India, find out their stories and how they perceive their lives and life in general, how they compare themselves to it all.

46.  run a marathon

47.  Learn to scuba dive.

48.  Visit all of the farms and organizations on my list of permaculture related stuff in India.

49.  Go to Bangalore and learn from my friend the art of container gardening.

50.  Go to Thailand and apprentice at a permaculture farm, they have permaculture teacher training programs in the summer as well, along with apprenticeships to learn natural building.

51.  learn the ins and outs of natural building!

52.  Learn Botany!

53.  Learn wild foods, indigenous foods/ native species of India and what people used to mostly eat from the wild, in all different parts of India.

53.  Learn wild foods from around the globe, what indigenous people eat, and how they eat it :)

54.  Collect seeds of wild foods both for regions and globally. Rehabilitate unused and bare soils by mulching and planting these wild foods!  Allowing for nature to grow as it does, while we can also make use of it!

55.  Create community gardens in my area and offer to other communities as well!  Have residents get together and ask them if they'd be interested in having gardens and signing petitions to get gardens in these communities.

56.  Work together with the government to create more green spaces, especially for kids.  Kids in India tend to have to play on the roads, due to a lack of place to play.  - Maybe if unused batches of lands could be cleaned up into nice parks?

57.  Have a gathering of people bring any old coats, blankets or clothes that are no longer used.  Take a day and give the material out to the homeless.

58.  Open up the apartment to hold regular clothing swaps, everyone brings clothes which are nice, but they would be willing to give away for something 'new'.  So they come and bring their clothes and other stuff, and take a look at everything else to see if they'd want anything else.  No costs.

59.  Find out all the hidden skills of friends, maybe one friend likes to cook, another likes to sew, another is great at poetry.  Every week, a friend can teach and show everyone else their skill.

60.  Do nothing!

61.  Learn to surf.

62.  Move to Auroville, help out with SHARAN

63.  Learn more about no till farming techniques

64.  Go on a huge hiking trek in the Himalayas!  Maybe meet some yogis!

65.  Visit Bhutan, learn the ways of the happiest place on earth.

66. Volunteer at an elephant nature park in Thailand,

67.  Volunteer at a vegan community in Hawaii or New Zealand:
The description of the place in New Zealand from the website: 
454 acres of magnificent New Zealand countryside that we call Shangri-La; a private valley, with two pristine rivers. Here we accept volunteers each summer season (from November-May) to help lift Shangri-La up to its name, which includes the planting and maintenance of hundreds of fruit trees, lots of flower gardens and several veganic vegetable gardens.

68.  Study oceanography, learn about the huge pile of trash we have in our ocean.. I think actually it's multiple piles of trash.. :/  Can we turn this into an island or something?  Put an airport on it?  Plant some trees?  What can be donee??
- check out the ted talk on this one!! amazing, yet very sad.

69.  My previous option, inspired this option.  Choose no plastic!  Can it be done, can I live a plasticless life?  I could email all of the companies from which I like to buy products and ask them whether they will take my plastic product back and reuse it once i have finished their product or if they can send it to me refilled with their product.  Maybe I could start petitions, have them go viral about getting companies to switch out of using plastic.  Can we get over our plastic addiction!  Help!
- I pasted the same link from above.. because, yes, it's that good, check it out!

70.  After watching that ted X talk about the state of our oceans and the trash island two times as big as Texas.  I could easily spend the next five years of my life filtering plastic from our oceans.  Hey, maybe we could use plastic as some insulation in our buildings?  Possible?   Maybe I can start a plastic building proposal, and maybe this is our solution for mountain top removals (since currently we are cutting open many mountains for all of their metals and what not for building everything) ?  Maybe we can start making our computers and cell phones from used plastics?  What else.. cupboards, tables, chairs.. hey!  Used plastic could be the new oak.. if we start using trash at at least the same rate as we use pristine ecosystems.. We might be able to rid ourselves of this pollution problem?? Hey maybe we will even save a few forests!

71.  Get into the 'business' (more like NGO) of stopping illegal animal trade.  Teach people alternative ways to make money, in fact ways to make money sustainably and in a much more grandios way then their previous disrupting lifestyle of illegal trade of wild animals.  And of course rescue all the wild animals and help them back to their natural habitats.  I could even be a watchmen for these areas, and make sure no one tries to steal them!  lol.

72.  Travel to China and other countries which eat dog and cat.  Give workshops on raw and vegan food with all of its health benefits.  Charm them into loving our animal friends :)  We could also sneak some really adorable baby cat and dog videos in there, all of the really sappy ones, that show that actually these little creatures are not much different from us.

73.  Organize prayer meetings everyday, to send positive wishes to all of the baby animals in the world.  Send positive wishes to earth and the all the people of earth. (as well as the plants, the bugs, the soil, the water and everything else that makes up this world)  The power of prayer!

74.  I can't believe I made it to 74.  At 34, I thought that I was done for .. meaning I wasn't sure if I'd be able to think of anymore.. haha.  kk. let's see.
I could experiment with eco-friendly paints. I could use vegetable and fruit colors.  I could sell them and maybe even hold art classes, using all of these natural vegan materials.

75.  Find out people creating sustainable packaging, start marketing these packaging to big companies as well as small ones, YAY no more plastic!

76.  Or, for all of our plastics, create a culture of washing things out and sending them back to the company to force them to re-use.

77.  Do something nice for someone else everyday, that normally probably wouldn't have happened.

78.  I could make a list like this everyday.  haha.

79.  Learn to knit

80.  Even better learn to use the hair from my llamas ( I know I am a vegan, but my home in Utah is completely an unvegan home - my mom, dad and other relatives.  No matter what I know they will keep their farm, and the hair from the llamas, they will continue to have anyway.  So might as well make use of it right? )  and learn how to make yarn from it :)

81.  Experiment with alternative refrigerator systems, meaning no electricity.

82.  Start city foraging - find out myself, about plants that grow in abundance in the city, make my own names for them, if I can't find them in a reference guide.  Ask locals about them.

83.  Go on walks in the parks, bring my botany book, further refine my indian plant identification skills.

84.  Learn to make bags and jewelry out of trash.

85.  Start collecting unique small trinkets of throw-awayables.  I could maybe make little puja trays with using them, or I could get creative and make ganesh statues :) or bird baths and bird homes.

87.  Start teaching in schools, I could start an eco club at a local highschool, we could collect trash and then make huge beautiful statues out of them.  Or even better, I wrote about this on one of my older blogs but make a green house from bottles!  When I visited the Nilgiris - Earth Trust, they worked with kids and the kids actually did this project.  Their green house was so cool!

88.  This might be more meaningful in the states, where families are a little more separated then they are in India.  But bring kids in to retirement homes.  Let them interact with the elderly - play games and maybe they could do interviews and what not.

89.  Offer a catering service of healthy organic vegan maybe even raw food to hospitals and prisons.  Maybe it could even be an NGO.  Why are we feeding our patients basically airplane food?
I was actually also even considering introducing health foods to my grandmothers retirement center.  Since they have started living there, it seems they have been experiencing more health problems as soon as they moved in.  Basically the diet is pretty laden with dairy and meats.  Like a lot of America.  When I go home, I would like to offer to prepare food for my grandparents on a regular basis.  It's her wish only, I won't force her to eat my food, lol.  But it might be an interesting thing to watch to see if my grandparents experience any improvement in their health?  Might be interesting.

90.  Live everyday to the fullest, get up early, eat light, exercise more than not, never miss an opportunity for that particular moment.  Smile to the biggest, laugh the deepest, love the fullest.  :)

91.  Almost there! Lol. I could start playing more sports, involve all of the kiddos on the streets.

92. Collect all of my leafy green scraps in a separate container, and take that container out every day to feed the cows.  (which are found all over in India)

93.  Continue to experiment in the kitchen with raw cuisine.  Visit villages and find out if they grow different stuff in their garden from what they sell at the market.  Find as much local/ non gmo produce as possible. Contine to experiment with making raw indian food.
- I made an awesome raw saag paneer recipe today!  haha which is entirely misleading because I didn't use saag nor paneer.  I used amaranth leaves and cashew cheese.  If you are interested in the recipe give me an email, I'd be happy to send it out

94.  Learn how to make coconut chutney from scratch, I love coconut.  They say that eating seeds is karmically not the best, so what is better is to regularly plant trees to make up for it.  Check out David Wolfe - The Sunfood Diet successsystem. Awesome book

95.  My husband teaches a "thank you" meditation.  I could do a "thank you" meditation every day.  Basically it is just saying thank you, over and over again in your mind, for the duration of the meditation.  I can't remember which society it is,but they say if you say thank you 1 million times, your life is changed forever.  It's a nice teaching  :)

96.  I can be grateful for all the ways in which I do live sustainably, and all the ways in which I do help others throughout my day, and all the ways in which I already contribute to society at large.

97.  I can learn the Indian Dandiya dance

98.  I could take a weekly fasting day.  Yesterday I fasted, and I found even though I was kinda headachey yesterday, all of today I have felt much lighter as a result, and I found I have been much more aware of the food I have been eating as well as the quantity.  Food in our today's society has become so much of a gobble-it-down culture we really have no idea the work that goes into our food and not to mention the ingredients, many of them pretty toxic to our systems, esp in the quantities that we typically eat.  So I think I could definitely incorporate fasting into my life, if not on a weekly basis a monthly one.  And of course, I can't leave out the impact that regular fasting could have on our world. Everything adds up, and the less we demand from the planet, the better for everyone.

99.  My husband just walked in, and said I could be a meditation teacher. Lol.  I guess I could, what does it take, I guess I would first have to learn to meditate more wholeheartedly.  I have a tendency to get distracted a lot.

100. I finally made it!! this list probably took a good 4 hours.  Which is kind of embarrassing.  But no worries, there were a few breaks in between.  My last one is.. a commitment to having fun, to not taking life too seriously, even with all of my crazy environmentalism shoopla.  I can everyday, remember to be with people I enjoy, relax when needed, laugh at myself, and just have a good time.

Hmm, so I think my husband is right about making a list of 100 answers to a question in your head.  Even if at the end of it, you still feel a little unclear, suddenly the world just doesn't look so black and white anymore... which makes the decision more peaceful.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the Spirit of Fasting: Karwa Chauth

My husband's family is Hindu. I don't consider myself a very religious person, but today is a special Hindu holiday, Karwa Chauth.

It is one of those holidays, which it's hard for me to tell whether it is a very cute holiday, or a little bit degrading towards women?

However, in the big scheme of things, many holidays have both an endearing side and a somewhat degrading/shadow side – especially American ones, on one hand being a very pleasant experience- surrounded with friends and family, and the other- the shadow of it all, is that mostly they have become huge commercial operations.. Only furthering the pollution and oppression in our world. Unless the family celebrating is one of a kind and spends these days volunteering or donating money to worthy causes instead of buying into the whole consumerism package. I remember Christmas as a kid, being the most joyful day of the year.. apart from my birthday. And now, the one thing I look forward to, is being with family.. yet I dread presents! I dread getting presents and I dread buying presents. I just feel it goes against all of my values. In the past I have chosen not to purchase things.. and that doesn't feel nice, because I ended up getting all of these gifts, and had nothing to give in return. Other times, I have donated large sums of money to different charities, and told my family and friends about it. But I guess that doesn't always feel the best either, because for some reason we have it in our minds that giving gifts, is the way we show our love.

Which is a little strange that our love should depend on what materials we buy for each other.  And I also hate the feeling of forcing my values onto others- not celebrating, not buying other's gifts for the sake of not supporting consumerism.  And how to tell a child that you gave a gift to someone else for his sake?
Maybe it's okay, it could just be my ego that I'm working with, and my upbringing in the states.

I guess a third alternative is to make gifts. Unfortunately I am no knitter, or crafts maker.. but maybe that's just a story. I am good at baking! Another option could be to buy gifts from local craftsmen, who harvest their material sustainably, and no unnecessary packaging is involved. One could easily spend a fortune on something like christmas, buying all of their gifts like that. But the overall world's benefit I guess would outweigh the cost.

Today in India, is the holiday for the women to keep fasts for their husbands. The idea is that the fast will help them have a strong relationship together.

My family here, keeps asking me, are you going to do it? I keep replying, I don't know. I've never really made an intention before to completely fast for a whole day before.. for someone else!

I've tried fasting in the past, but usually what happens, is things are fine, until later in the day, and I get really headachy or cranky, then I find myself eating fruit or what not.

My husband is sweet though, he says if I fast, he will also fast.

But I feel the weight scale is a little uneven in this festival. Either, lol in my opinion of it all, there should be a holiday where the man should also fast for the woman. Or today should actually be about both parties fasting for each other. I don't understand that the weight is entirely on the woman. Seems strange to me, but again, I grew up in a feminist household. :)

None the less, I am in India and it seems all the women in my family are doing this, so I might as well try too! Currently it's only 10:00am, I am feeling hungry. The strictest followers of this holiday won't even drink water. That's where I'm drawing the line. I will drink water, and I'll see how far in the day I make it. I should be fine.

We'll see how it goes!   

Think Greener: Think Local

Last night I watched a film called, "The Economics of Happiness."

I figured since my husband was keen on watching it, that it was an inspirational film about being happy.  I mean it was, but  it was focused on sustainability and some of the effects of globalization on our world.  They addressed many key issues and boiled them down to a few causes, okay okay fine.. maybe one cause.


They addressed globalization as the biggest threat to our happiness, well-being, community and economy!

The film started off with a lady from England who spent about 30 years in Ladakh, Nepal.  The people there lived in a very remote place, and they lived off of the land sustainably.  When she asked one of the Ladakhi's which home was the poorest, the boy replied that there was no such thing, everyone helped everyone.  No one went hungry.  Everyone had a place in society, giving each person confidence and self worth since they all recognized that every one had different skills to contribute.

Basically this is before they were struck with globalization.  I'm not sure how long ago it was, but a road was built to Ladakh, and soon things were coming in from outside, including tourists.  Suddenly this exposure to the western culture, made the Ladakhi's feel primitive.

Overtime, their way of doing things had completely changed, suddenly they were being faced with problems they had never experienced before, pollution - of water, soil and air (from the introduction of motor vehicles and throw-awayables).  Among people even, the same boy who had told this lady that there were no poor people in town, was overheard saying to a tourist, "Please help us, we are so poor here."

Obviously this is just a little snapshot, I recommend seeing the movie actually, it's very well made.

They address many problems with globalization as well as ideas that people have about globalization.

For example,  the question:

If we stop importing grains and other goods from poor nations, won't the people and the economy suffer?

They answered this question in a very clear cut way, they were saying that as it is, these countries have little access to clean water and other resources needed to grow food, if you make them grow for others to have food - at world market prices (very cheap!), it is only furthering the damage to their own livelihoods.

But the interesting thing about this situation is that due to subsidizing on certain big industry products, as well as the industries need to cut costs at every corner (environmental and socially), these big brand names are able to produce cheaper products than locally produced!  For example, in Ladakh today, butter which is shipped in, is half the price of butter made by local residents!

Supporting local isn't always more expensive, but it is always more ecological as well as socially responsible.  Small and local farms typically can grow much more food per acre, because it serves them to have a variety of vegetables and fruits to offer.  Big industrial farmers, really must specialize their business in having one crop.  Because there are acres and acres of land, and in order to process it at the speeds and the quantity needed, they use machinery as well heavy use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  Not to mention that in regarding the economy in all of this, small locally farmed- especially organic operations support people much more, their wages are higher and more people can get jobs!  I feel we have a tendency to blame foreigners for taking 'our' jobs.  But actually, in my opinion technology is the main culprit for taking our jobs away, as well as MASS MARKETING and FACTORY JOBS.  Think of  world where people spent their time doing things they loved to do, where they used skill sets which took years to develop and created beautifully crafted products for us to enjoy and relish for generations.  These days everything comes in plastic.  Where is the ingenuity?

I went to a museum here in India and they had all of these intricate beautiful copper or other metal made containers for all sorts of household items - eyeliner, cooking oil, combs.. etc.  They were beautiful! And maybe these days we could even try for something a little more eco friendly.. lets say, bamboo?

 Many products are shipped out from one country, packaged in another country then perhaps shipped back to the original country it started from!  The world has promoted exports and imports so much that our consumer miles are a little bit outrageous.

And to what avail?  Smoggy air?  Supporting big industries?  Not to say that I'm perfect, I guess I have  tried to do as much local as possible, but it's true, sometimes convenience or 'needs/wants'  can play a 'bigger' role in what you purchase.  Also for the most part, I go out of my way to buy organic, even if that means I am buying it from a different country.  But I think definitely after watching this movie, I am going to be a much more conscious consumer, lol not like I haven't been, but I could definitely work on finding local options.

The awesome thing about India is that over half the country is farmland.  So no matter where you go, most likely you will be eating local.  For the most part, as long as you aren't blatantly buying apples which say 'fiji' or some other country on them.  Organic is a little tougher to come by here, but atleast we have Local going for us!  And when I go back to the states, it may not be the easiest to find locally
produced products, but I will do my best!!

At the end of the film, they took a couple of the elders of Ladakh to the western world and showed them some of the problems with our lifestyle - depression rates, landfills, old women and men in nursing homes with no families, waiting to die.  None of these things did any Ladakhi's ever have any experience with before.  They also showed the Ladakhi's some modern conveniences for example, a washing machine.

It ended on a nice note, showing how they are now working with the Ladakhi's and restoring their faith in themselves and how their lifestyles aren't backwards, they are forwards!  They also were installing new technologies which made their lives easier yet didn't compromise their landscape - solar panels, windmills etc.

Anyway, check out the movie, it's a good one :)