Friday, April 29, 2011

World Tai Chi and Qigong Day

Hong Kong, China
In case you are out and about on Saturday morning and see groups of people in the parks practicing some Martial Arts forms, April 30th is World Tai Chi and Qigong Day.  It is an annual event that is held the last Saturday of April each year to help promote the related disciplines of T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Qigong.  It is held in over 60 countries and has been going strong since 1999.

This multinational effort is ongoing and it's purpose is to expose people to the growing body of medical research related to Traditional Chinese Medicine and to help them fine resources and teachers in their own towns and areas.  Our class in Montclair, New Jersey will be at Verona Park this year and among other forms will be doing the Circle Walk Practice of Ba Gua Zhang which we have been studying for the last few months.

World Tai Chi and Qigong Day's stated goals are to:

 1) Educate the world about emerging medical research revealing health benefits that Tai Chi Chuan and qigong offer.

2) Educate about the increasing use of these ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities in business, education, penal and drug rehabilitation.

3) Provide a global vision of cooperation for health and healing purposes across geopolitical boundaries, and also an appeal to people worldwide to embrace wisdom from all the cultures of the world.

New Jersey, USA
If you are suffering with medical issues, emotional difficulties or if you simply want to learn how to use Qigong, Tai Chi and Traditional Chinese Medicine to cultivate better health, prevent illness; while also embracing, enhancing, and celebrating your spiritual connection to heaven and out classes where you live.   

~ diane fergurson

You may also enjoy reading:
From Jing to Qi to Shen: An Interview with Healer Darren Orr
Eating with the Qi Diagram
Qigong: An Interview with Joanne Kornoelje

photos courtesy of Wikipedia and the Mir-Yam School of Tai Chi, Chi Kung and Meditation

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Odyssey Interview with the Barefoot Shaman - Organic and Heirloom Seeds

Five Colors Organic, Heirloom Swiss Chard
It's Spring... probably one of her busiest times of the year... but I was able to pull RaDonna Fox, The Barefoot Shaman, aside for a few minutes for a quick Mind Body Spirit Odyssey interview.  I wanted to ask her a few questions about organic gardening and NON-GMO seeds.  I'm such a fan of her shop on Etsy, and am very enthusiastic about some of the plant varieties she has to offer, especially after having receiving my seed order in the mail!

As a bonus to this interview, RaDonna has generously offered to send some free tomato plants to one lucky reader who will chosen at random.  To sign up for the drawing, just leave a comment under the interview along with your email address!  Also make sure you follow of our blog!  The deadline for the drawing is Sunday May 8th, 2011.   Happy gardening!
                                                                                                    ~ diane fergurson

MBS:  Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How you got involved with herbs and gardening?

Black Russian Tomato -Organic Heirloom Seeds
RaDonna:  Sure, I actually have a degree from Metropolitan State College of Denver in Holistic Medicine, a certificate in Aromatherapy, and am currently working on a Master's in Psychology from Regis University. I have other degrees but I don't think you want the entire list.
My mother was raised on a farm in Brewster, Kansas and there have been farmers in my life forever. My mother actually still lives in Kansas on a smaller farm these days. She taught me a lot, and I have spent an extensive amount of time learning and gardening myself.   I lived in Kansas on a farm for about six years. I raised goats, and chickens, and grew gardens and flowers on over an acre of land. I had not gone to college yet though.  That happened after my time on the farm.

Well I love the environment, people, and herbal medicine more than just about anything.  And I started to see grand improvements in people who took herbs correctly.   The problem was though, that many of the herbs people get from the stores are only 3% pure.   Check out sometime for more information.

Eventually I decided that offering herbal seeds, something I loved, would be of great benefit to people and is something that is very much needed in the world. I combined my education with something I loved to do and went forth!
Someday I would like to have a "peace" center where people can come and garden, get herbal medicine, reiki, massage, psychotherapy, a place where they come to just find some real peace - in this chaos of a world we live in. I also love to write, and that is really the foundation of much of this, that and doing something I truly love. I hope that answers your question. I could give you a whole dissertation but, I will spare you!

Organic Heirloom Purple of Sicily Cauliflower
MBS:  I was really surprised to read just now that you said that many of the herbs in the stores are only 3% pure.  Can you tell us a little more about that? I didn't know that! That's amazing! Is that because the plants themselves, the manufacturing process or what?

RaDonna:  Yes, there really is no standardization or regulation.  So it is commonly found, through independent studies, that much of what is in the bottle on store shelves consists of...pardon the pun... "floor dust" or inert ingredients. You never really know what you are getting, unless you look over some of the studies, which can be found at quackwatch and other online sites.

It's really sad that so many people don't know about the quality of the herbs they are buying and are being duped by some dis-honest manufactures.  Then there are other problems... like with Kava Kava. It's popularity surged and the grower started to harvest 2 types of Kava that the Polynesians never used before in addition to young plants and aerial parts of plants. Unfortunately, this carelessness and greed created a problem with our ability to safely use the plant.

This again is why I offer the seeds.  If you know what you grow, it really helps. But, there are also issues with growing your own though.   A drought year, for example, can produce stronger medicine so it is wise to "know" what you plant. Take small steps with tea, start with one teaspoon instead of two, etc....

MBS:  I noticed that you sell a lot of organic and heirloom plant seeds in your shop. What is an heirloom plant or seeds for readers who may not be familiar with that? Also, what is the difference between organic and heirloom?

RaDonna:  Organic seeds are untreated with chemicals and fungicides for at least 3 generations of that plant species or 3 seasons. There are many seeds that are untreated, but have no guarantee that previous generations of seeds were untreated. Some of the fear is that the chemicals etc, may alter the genes of seeds for many generations of that plant. An heirloom seed is one that reproduces itself from it's own seeds. Hybrid seeds are designed to produce one crop and then the seeds are basically sterile, they will grow, but won't produce say tomatoes. Hybridization, in my opinion is really just a way to corner the seed market so people can't grow their own.

What's most important though, is that I would like people to know that NON-GMO seeds are the most valuable kind of seeds for everyone. Monsanto has created a variety of corn known as insect guard. Several varieties in fact. This corn, and it's pollen has been genetically modified so that it kills the bugs getting on it, a real convenience to the farmer. The problem is that this corn is also the cause of the death of the monarch butterflies as well as the collapse of the honey bee hives. It is so very important to choose seeds that not genetically modified, there is no testing of these seeds, and I believe they will one day prove to be dangerous.

Thank you very much for taking the time to interview me!

RaDonna Fox
The Bear Foot Shaman

thank you RaDonna!

The Moon and the Stars, Organic and Heirloom Watermelon
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You may also enjoy reading:
Going Vegan- Discovering a Wonderful Variety of Delicious Foods
Baby Carrots- Do You Know What You are Eating?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Going Vegan - Discovering a Wonderful Variety of Delicious Foods

Well, it’s a month since my first post about going vegan, and I’ve settled into this new lifestyle change even more, so I thought I’d share some updates and another quick recipe! 

One of the most remarkable things I’ve noticed about following a plant-based diet is the variety in my family’s menu. There’s a fairly common misconception that because a vegan diet is restrictive in the sense it does not include any animal products, it must be boring and lack variety. And honestly, when my husband and I followed a macrobiotic diet many years ago, we were guilty of a lack of creativity and inspiration in our cooking. We ate a lot of brown rice, adzuki beans, steamed vegetables, and miso (not to mention lotus root and umeboshi plums!). In the years since, we’ve learned a lot about cooking and both of us have worked professionally in kitchens and bakeries. Our approach to this way of eating is as open and exciting as it was when we were focused on gourmet cooking until just a few months ago.

Before embarking on this new dietary path, our weekly dinner menu might consist of grilled salmon, turkey chili, tofu stir-fry, homemade pizza, and pasta with chicken sausage. We would stick to a certain repertoire for a few weeks, then switch it around, maybe opt for baked cod rather than salmon, turkey burgers instead of chili, and so on. In the past week we’ve enjoyed for dinner, multigrain noodles and vegetables with peanut sauce, Cuban black bean soup, falafel pitas, cauliflower and sweet potato curry, and a family-size vegan calzone. All of these dishes and the others we enjoy include good sources of protein, as well as the same fresh vegetables and whole grains we were already including in our diet – and most of them are also low in fat. So far, there is as much variety now, if not more, simply because we are having fun learning new recipes and ways of incorporating new ingredients – or ways of not incorporating things like butter and cheese. Also, the main ingredient in each of these dishes is not meat or dairy, so overall the dishes are much healthier.

What became obvious very quickly was just how many cuisines we can choose to cook from, that don’t require animal products at all. For example, we have always enjoyed Indian cuisine, and except for the inclusion of ghee, many of the recipes are ready-made for the vegan lifestyle. An Indian dish is almost always on our weekly menu now, often using the same recipes we had used before, only with slight alterations. There are Mexican dishes that can be made without cheese – or using a vegan cheese substitute, and our family was simply amazed by how “real” the tofu “ricotta” tasted in our calzone. Many of the Mediterranean or Middle Eastern dishes we had been making are also perfectly acceptable on a vegan diet – focusing on pasta or rice, olive oil, beans, fresh vegetables, and herbs and spices. We’ve even done an all-American sloppy Joe using tempeh. I admit, I was at first skeptical about this, but was impressed by the taste and texture of the tempeh filling. The sloppy Joes were also as much fun to eat as they were when we were kids!

For the first few weeks we did do a lot of simple substituting, and it’s great that there are now some fantastic products that make this easy and delicious (and they are not all soy-based). If we had previously made pasta with chicken sausage, for example, we could easily replace the sausage with a flavorful, meatless seitan variety. The cost is a bit higher, and for those who really love meat – i.e. the particular greasiness of meat, perhaps the seitan isn’t an exact duplicate, but for me (never a big sausage lover), the seitan is almost too much like meat. We have made pizzas using a vegan cheese substitute and although they are not entirely like the best New York style they are darn good, especially when loaded up with fresh or roasted veggies (think perhaps, California style). 

I hope that if you are considering a vegan diet, you will be reassured that it can be a truly bountiful way of eating – and I mean that in the best, most beautiful way – eating vegan truly is an enjoyment of nature’s bounty! 

~ Nellie Levine

Vegan Sloppy Joes with Tempeh
8 oz or 1 package tempeh, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil or water
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 cup cooked or canned white or black beans
15 oz or 1 can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
4 large buns, lightly toasted

Steam tempeh in a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of water - not enough to cover the tempeh. The tempeh is ready when you notice a strong nutty aroma, approximately ten minutes. Drain the tempeh, and mash coarsely in the pan with a spoon or potato ricer.
In a large saute pan, heat oil (or water) over medium heat, and saute onion. Key to a good flavor is letting the onion brown. Add pepper, jalapeno, tempeh, and beans, and saute for a few minutes. Stir to prevent sticking. Add chili and chipotle powder, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato sauce. After adding sauce, simmer for a few minutes. Finish by turning up the heat a little and stirring rapidly to thicken sauce.
Serve on toasted buns, either as sandwiches or open face.

Shown served with">Original Tings (or as my family calls them - Cheesy Poofs; they are in fact dairy-free and vegan, but with a great cheesy flavor) by Pirate Brands, sweet gherkins, and a glass of almond milk. Very kid-friendly!

* This recipe is adapted from the Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Resources: Field Roast Grain Meat Co. – delicious sausage-like seitan. Never having been a huge fan of sausage, I actually find these products almost too meat-like! These are flavorful and high quality. Soy free. Daiya cheeses are our first choice for vegan cheese, for their flavor and meltability. They come in two varieties – cheddar and mozzarella. We are now seeing these in our local major supermarket! Soy free.

Almond milk is my personal favorite alternative to dairy milk (in fact, I’ve been drinking it for years and prefer it to cow’s milk). It tastes great in tea. The chocolate is delicious.  Silk and Breeze are both good brands and widely available. Soy free. So Delicious makes coffee creamers with coconut milk that are quite good – we have not found a substitute for half & half that we really love, but so far these are our favorite. Available in major supermarkets. Soy free. Mimiccreme is another brand that makes coffee creamers, but from nuts. Mimiccreme is heavier and creamier than So Delicious. Soy free. Earth Balance, available in major supermarkets, is a brand of vegan margarine that is a great choice as a butter replacement.
Soy and almond milk can be used as a replacement for cow’s milk in many recipes. Other choices that we have not used include rice and hemp milk. Also, many of these brands make other products that are definitely worth checking out. 

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Other articles in this series:
Going Vegan – Embarking On a New Path for Better Health

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Living with Balance- Earth Day

Having an awareness of the earth and environment has gained a much needed, critical boost in popularity lately. To the Taoists however, the celebration of earth (and heaven) has always been as it should be...and will be.

The wonderful excerpt below is from a favorite book of mine,  "Everyday Tao:  Living With Balance and Harmony" by Deng Ming-Dao.

It is under the section, "Earth".

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

   "what is bountiful?"  the ancients asked.  True bounty was not the treasury of the emperor, but the generosity of the earth.  The golden hills provided home, country, belonging.  The rich, black, fertile-smelling soil gave grain, vegetables, and fruit.  The blue-shadowed mountains gave shelter from the wind and storm.  And the seemingly endless plains and deserts provided ample room for exploration and adventure.  Why worry about the abstruse, the ancients asked, when everything we require has already been given to us?

If you want to follow the Tao, the ancients said, first understand the perfection of heaven and earth.  Wind, rain, and sun come to us through the sky.  The earth gives us our home, our nourishment, jewels for our adornment, minerals for our use, places to travel.  As the old saying goes, "Why look far away for what is close at hand?"  You, like the students of the ancients, may want to study the Tao.  Doing so may be as simple as bending down to pick up a clump of earth.

 So many of us look and look for the Tao.  The masters, it seems, are still pointing one hand to the sky and the other to the earth. ~

 Enjoy "all" your Earth Days
  ~ diane fergurson

"Colorado Rocky Mountain National Park" courtesy of Julie Magers Soulen

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series: Jude McConkey

If you have been reading the Mind Body Spirit Odyssey blog for the last couple of years you've probably noticed the superb photography and artwork we have used to illustrate our articles and reviews. Jude McConkey is one of the contributing photographers who has been with us right from the start.  Allowing us take a peek of the world through her eyes and imagination, Jude's unique, insightful and hauntingly beautiful images with a twist, keep inviting the viewer back again and again.  We hope you find Jude McConkey's work as magical and extraordinary as we do!    ~ diane fergurson

MBS: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started as a photographer?

Jude:  I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. I've always been artistic- drawing, painting, writing and I concentrated on art when I was in high school. When I had my four children in 5 years I had to put everything away because I was just too busy. By the time my kids reached high school age though, I was craving that need for artistic expression and really wanted to get back at it.  So, I experimented and tried a lot of things.  Painting, painting on silk, batik, jewelry design.  Although I was good at it, I thought most of the things were hard to do and I did not enjoy doing them. I did not enjoy the process but liked the outcome.

Strangely enough my father was a photographer, and even though I had been in his studio and knew how to use the enlarger, etc... I was never really interested in taking pictures. It wasn't until 2003 that I decided to try my hand at it.  My motivation was pretty unusual. A friend and I had decided to get Glamor Shots taken just for fun. They were so hideous, and I kept wondering why the photographer "didn't do" this or that with poses. I kept thinking I would have done a much better job because I believed there is something beautiful about every woman - be it her eyes, her smile, etc.. and that beauty didn't have to be what the masses think it is.

So, I got my first point and shoot camera and joined a site called where I started a project called PAD (photo a day). It taught me how to see something from nothing sometimes because I HAD to post a photo regardless of anything amazing coming into the view of my camera.

Soon after that I realized that photography was something I was successful at it and that it was so easy for me. The "easy" part scared me and it probably took another year before I realized that it wasn't a fluke... that I could actually take good photos. I have to say photography is the first and only time in my life that I've never doubted myself or what I was doing.

Under the Cover of Queens
MBS: What kind of equipment do you like to use?

Jude:  I love my camera - a Canon 50D. Besides that I have a few crappy lenses and 2 wonderful ones, including my new 60mm f2.8 macro lens... very yummy. It's also great for taking photos of my wearable art up close. My favorite piece of "equipment" though is Photo Shop - it is a creative person's gift from the gods! When I take photographs I see what I imagine, which isn't necessarily what is actually in front of me. But I know what I can do to make it become that way through Photo Shop magic.

Memory of Roses
MBS: One of the most striking things to me about your work is that it creates a mood and is so atmospheric. I don't know how many times I've seen a group of photos and I can actually pick out your work from all the others. That's a real compliment because so many photographers strive for that signature look and it's not easy to achieve. Is that something you seek in the subject matter, or is it an effect that you create after the photo is taken? (or both) How did your "look" evolve?

Jude:  It's funny about my "signature" look. When people first started saying "Oh, I knew that was your photograph" it bothered me. I kept thinking I was being redundant in my photography and doing nothing new. I was worried.  Then I realized it was the "essence" of my photograph that had my signature to it. I not only accept that it is what it is, but I also love that my style is my own and can be recognized.

Through Frosted Glass
You know the old saying "necessity is the mother of invention"?  Well, my subject matter often stems from that. I live in Michigan where winters are usually long and hard. There is nothing "new" to shoot at least a few months at a time. Because of this, I learned to find a story in everyday things and expand on that by trying to make the viewer see what I did. I find a story in most things I see - an emotion. I think that's the highest compliment I've ever received from people is that there is huge emotion in my photographs,  regardless of what the subject is. I like it because that is what I'm all about.

I am drawn to all things quirky and dark (Tim Burton is my hero). That style developed early but I was a bit afraid to use those photos. A gallery owner had told me that people want normal photos so that's what I was decided to show. One day I thought "I don't want to be known for doing the kinds of photos that everyone else does.. I want to do what I do." I took those photos out of the gallery and replaced them with my more moody, unusual photos and I began to sell.

MBS:  That's interesting about Tim Burton and the season of winter being such a big influence on your work. Are there other things that have impacted you as an artist?

Jude:  Well, just about everyone has heard about "The Secret".  I have always been someone who searches out self-improvement, knowing that I'm a flawed person. I watched the movie and it just clicked with me. It's all about the law of attraction and how you bring to yourself what you put out or think about the most - that the Universe gives you exactly what you want or focus on.

Some people scoff (husband and grown children here) but I know it's true. I know it because the only thing in my entire life I've ever had total confidence in has been my photography.  I always knew I would be successful even though my friends used to say to me "Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a camera nowadays, what makes you think anyone will buy your work" ... my answer? "I know what I know - I will be successful." That was it, PERIOD.

Beach Memories
I've never worried about it, never wondered, never been afraid about it. I just know. And I believe that the law of attraction has a lot to do with the success of my work - true belief in oneself never fails. And it draws others into your belief.

Because of this, I knew the law of attraction was a real and viable thing and tried to embrace it into the rest of my life (which I'm not so confident in). It's worked very well, although I do still have times when I forget the teachings and lose my way. But all I do is watch the movie again and I'm fired up. Oh, by the way, if you want to rent the movie, make sure it's the correct one. I came home with "The Secret" starring David Duchovney the other day.. no exactly the inspiration I needed..:)

Valentine Kiss
MBS: Good to know, although David may not like to hear you say that!   lol
Back to photography... most of the photographs I've seen of yours revolves around images of landscapes and still life settings, not too many shots of people. Do you prefer one over the other? 
Jude:  My earlier work consists of a lot of portraits - self and otherwise. I don't do as many now because of the lack of subject. I have a large family but none of them are into posing any more. I don't have friends who really like to either. One of the problems is that people want photos of themselves to be a certain way... not necessarily my vision.  I usually want something a bit dark or mysterious and most people just want to be pretty in photos. I do love doing portraits, though. It's not a preference of one over the other, really. It's a matter of what I have at my fingertips and, luckily for me, trees can't run away.

Racing the Dogs

 MBS: Didn't you work as a photographer for a newspaper too for awhile? What was that experience like? I'd imagine it's a whole different mindset.

Jude:  I worked as a newspaper photographer for almost 6 years until last October of 2010. The style of photography is totally different plus the fact that photo shop is only allowed to be used to size, crop, lighten, or sharpen photographs. So my photography was in two totally different directions. While a lot of the assignments were boring giant-checks-handed-to-charities, etc., there were some things I'd never have gotten to see and take photos of otherwise. From spending an entire day on a U.S. Coast Guard Ice Cutter breaking ice in the middle of winter for large ships, to meeting Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" fame, to being at a KISS concert where I got to take amazing photos up close and personal.

Necklace:  Separation in Color
MBS: In addition to your photographs and prints, you also design and sell a line of jewelry that actually incorporates your images into the pieces. It really is stunning. You've managed to marry the design of the jewelry pieces so well to the photographs. How did this jewelry line come about?

Jude:  About 2 years ago when the economy pretty much collapsed, a gallery owner told me that no two-dimensional art pieces were selling. So, I was trying to figure out a way to use my art in a way to make it more "usable" than just being on someones wall. I decided on jewelry, started with necklaces and I have to say it took me a good year before I got the resin correct and was pleased with what I was producing. It's been highly successful in shops, my Etsy shop, and it sells well when I do art/craft shows. I think what people like about it is that they are a unique piece of jewelry for them to wear - a great conversation piece.

I would love to design my own bezels someday and have just now started to actually draw out my designs for the jewelry instead of just playing with pieces. It, of course, is more time consuming than photography and sometimes I have to remind myself to get out of the house and take more photos..

MBS:  What is a typical work day for you? Do you work every day on your photography/jewelry, or are you less scheduled about it?

Jude:  Up in the morning about 6:30 or 7, get some coffee and off to my computer to check to see if I've sold anything online or answer emails. Usually I resin jewelry pieces overnight so they are ready to be put together in the morning. I try to get some pieces done before 11 a.m. because the light where I shoot (I use natural window light) isn't great after that time. I then download the photos, work them up, and start to list. I work on photographs after that and try to list a few new ones. Order prints if I need them, etc. The rest of the time is spent doing something I dislike immensely - marketing. Online selling depends on it, so I list photos on my Facebook pages, make treasuries.

My friends and family joke about me being a lady of leisure and smile knowingly when I tell them I have work to do. My husband, though, has been telling me I need to take time off at least one day a week. It's constant work for me, but I can do it in my pajamas :)

MBS:  I know many artists who are very hesitant about selling their work online. I've noticed that you are quite active online and have sold quite a bit of work that way. How has selling online worked out for you as an artist? Any advice you can give to other artists who are thinking about selling their work this way?

Jude:  I highly encourage anyone who has confidence in their work to sell online if possible. It opens your art up to a whole other world - how else would someone from Israel have ever bought a very large photograph from me? How else would they even know my name? In fact, last fall I sold two photographs to the set designer for the hit sitcom "Modern Family." If I hadn't been online they would have never found me. And I think that's a wonderful thing :)

My advice would be to remember, the work doesn't sell itself. You have to market, promote, get the word out there. The other advice is to stick to what you believe your work is worth when it comes to pricing. I know photographers who sell their work for quite a bit less than I do and they sell way more. But I still know what I put into it and I still know that it is worth what I charge.

MBS:  Care to offer up any advice for those who wish to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?

Jude:  For those who wish to pursue an artistic path the most important thing is to just do what YOU want to do. And you'll know what that is by how you feel inside. People have told me to crop my photos to standard sizes in order to sell more and I can't bring myself to crop a composition I worked on just to make a few dollars. You have to be confident in what you do and love it .. and if you feel that way, others feel it too.

Thank you Jude!

~ ~ ~ ~ 

You find out more about Jude McConkey and her work by visiting her stores on Etsy:
judemcconkey    (photography)
wearableartbyjude  (jewelry)

or you can email her at:

From our Mind Body Spirit Odyssey Artist Series, you might also enjoy interviews with:
Joanne Miller Rafferty
Laura Milnor Iverson
Emily Balivet

Follow our daily updates at the Mind Body Spirit Marketplace on Facebook

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Curry With A Twist: Green Pepper and Peanut Butter

Whenever we have an international luncheon at work, I always struggle to come up with a dish that will appeal amidst all that meaty splendor spread on the buffet table. It was when I noticed Scott, my son-in-law, eating it with relish, that it occurred to me that I should make it for this year's international luncheon. Sure enough, every one liked it, wanted the recipe and here it is.

This is an improvised version of the Goan curry that is made with homemade ground peanut and coconut paste. One day, feeling lazy, I decided to substitute peanut butter. I have not looked back since then :)

medium sized green, red bell peppers (capsicum)-- 2 or 3
medium sized red onion-- one
fresh ginger to taste
Chunky peanut butter--1-2 tablespoon
Olive oil-- 1-2 tablespoon
salt to taste
red chili powder (optional)
turmeric-- 1/2 teaspoon (optional)


1. After removing the core and the seeds chop the pepper into small chunks. Cut the onion and the ginger also into small pieces.

2. Heat olive oil in a skillet; add the onions and the ginger. (Note: I have also added black mustard seeds. That is the way I cook but you do not have to.)

3. Cook till the onions turn translucent.

4. Add the chopped bell peppers, spices and the salt.

5. Cook till the peppers turn soft.

6. Add the peanut butter.

7. Mix it thoroughly into the cooked vegetables with a spatula till it is all melted and gooey.

You can eat this with nacho chips, pita bread, naan or roti. Any which way, it is finger lickin' good! ~ ~ ~ 

Thank you to Indira Govindan for sharing this delicious recipe with the Mind Body Spirit Odyssey!  Indira's wonderful artwork, Dharmakarmaarts, is available on Etsy.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Odyssey Book Review: The Evolution of the Spirit

The Evolution of the Spirit
Walter D. Pullen
Ozark Mountain Publishing

Reviewed by Christina M. Dudley

Each of us are travelers embarked upon a journey.  Some of us may arrive at our destination sooner than others, and yet others among us may take different, longer routes. Yet we arrive, nonetheless, at the appointed destination for our course.  As set out as beginners, however, we often find ourselves in need of a guide.

The Evolution of the Spirit, by Walter D. Pullen, may serve as an excellent guide for seekers in need of early direction.  The text itself is rich with detailed descriptions of divinity concepts, karmic laws, spiritual bodies, universal planes and more.  Each chapter contains detailed analyses of its contents, providing the seeker with an informative narrative that not only defines these realms and realities, but describes their importance and their role in the evolution of a seeker's spirituality.   It contains excellent but concisely written details of various disciplines and studies and an overall narrative of the evolution of the mechanics of spirituality, and may best benefit the less seasoned seeker looking for a layout of the demographics and history of spirituality. 

Pullen incorporates into the text details of every aspect of the pursuit of the spirit path:  personal mastery, devotion, meditation, sex, love, and even politics.  As the author illustrates, each of these realms is worthy of attention and study, in order that the seeker and/or student may not only further his or her knowledge of spiritual paths, but increase his or her skill and level of mastery, as well.  Perhaps the most important portion of the text to this reader was Pullen's narrative on the mastery of personality; wherein the author describes not only the importance of the mastering of the self, but also of the emotional and intellectual faculties as a whole, so that a balance of power may be realized in order to gain spiritual maturity. 

It is worth noting, however, that this is not a text that can be engaged lightly.  A student must devote time to reading the text, and then, as this reader did, perhaps re-reading it again, with a focus on each chapter as a separate setting.   With this in mind, its quite possibly one of the most essential reads for any neophyte, and the text itself may well accomplish the author's goal, which in his words are "not to say "this is the answer," but rather "to inspire and encourage people more about spirituality"  and to ultimately find their own path.  
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Friday, April 1, 2011

Every Precious Moment

"You see this goblet?" asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master. "For me this glass is already broken.  I enjoy it; I drink out of it.  It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns.  If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it.  But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say. 'Of course'.  When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious."
                                             ~ Mark Epstein, Thoughts Without a Thinker

This was a story told by Mark Epstein in the PBS documentary, The Buddha. Though I've heard other sayings and sentiments that echo the message here, this gave me one of those wonderful "awake" moments. Since hearing this story, I'm still finding that I have a deeper moment to moment appreciation for everything in my own life.

All things do change, nothing is permanent, that is truth. What better thing to do than to savor and appreciate who and what is in your life this moment while knowing it's already broken, already gone?

Now, if you find these thoughts distressing, you aren't in appreciation for what's in your life; you've moved into thinking about how you might feel in the absence of these things. This is truly a waste of the time you have with the people and things that you love. Take the time to truly feel appreciation, and perhaps you'll find you're able to release things from your life, when it's time, with grace and appreciation that you had them in your life. As the wonderful and wise Dr. Seuss says:

           Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened - Dr. Seuss

Every moment is precious.

 ~ Karen Casey-Smith

Karen's wonderful photographs can be found in her Etsy shop.

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I'd like to thank Karen for contributing this beautiful blog post.  Karen wrote to us, saying that when she watched the PBS Documentary on The Buddha and heard the story of the broken glass it really had an impact on her and inspired her to write this piece.  If you've watched any shows or read any books that have had a profound effect on you, we'd love for you to share it with us in our comments section or if you'd like, submit a blog post.   ~ diane

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You May Also Enjoy Reading:
Wu Chi
My Path, Your Path - Many Roads Lead to Oz
From Jing to Qi to Shen:  An Interview With Healer Darren Orr


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