Grow Your Own

8 06 2012

One of the great things about this time of the year is the access we have to fresh produce. And while there is plenty to be found at the grocery store, local farm stand and farmer’s market, I need to go no further than outside my door to begin enjoying nature’s bounty. We have several small garden’s going this year and delicious organically grown veggies are quickly on the way.

I recently tried one of our homegrown strawberries. It was tiny but packed such an amazingly intense and sweet flavor, I could not believe it. The giant strawberries purchased at the store have nothing on these little wonders. Since I can remember, I have always loved strawberries. They are my favorite fruit. My grandmother told me a year ago or so that when she and her mother immigrated to the United States from Italy in the 1930’s, they initially went to work picking strawberries. So you see I’ve been genetically programmed to love them. it’s in my blood. I really hope though that we get a decent yield because the few that we have gotten so far have been an absolute (and fantastic tasting) tease!

Speaking of grandparents, mine have their garden in full swing again this year. This means that when I go over to visit them, I always leave with fresh, home grown produce. My grandfather, though in his 80’s, spends a huge amount of time in his garden. It is his pride, joy and therapy. I’ve been enjoying some of their sweet leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and several other varieties. I also am adding fresh dandelion to my salads. While I admit that i’ve never been much of a fan of it, since going plant-based I now try to eat a wide variety of different things in order to keep meals interesting.

The only downside to all of this fresh produce is the washing. I think I had to quadruple wash this latest batch. The piles of dirt at the bottom of the sink were the proof that all of the effort to clean had been necessary.

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from growing your own food both in the taste and the quality. I know that in our garden, the use of compost, compost tea, occasional garden maintenance and regular conversations with the plants goes a very long way towards bigger yields. And the act of gardening itself can be a really nice stress reliever. Admittedly,I have not been the guy who has toiled out in our garden this year. But when I have gotten my hands dirty, I have continued to find a peace that comes with it. As if the generations of landscapers and gardeners of my family have smiled down on me. My great grandfather used to say “a cool breeze is God’s air conditioner”. I think of that often when a slight wind picks up in the midst of harvesting our bounty on a hot summer’s day. I’ll probably never be the gardener that my grandfather is or that his father was before him. But I’m happy to grow what I can. I’m fortunate at the age of 37 to have three living grandparents. Growing your own food and enjoying vegetables and fruits was one of the great things I have learned from them.


17 04 2012

Let me live among passionate people! It doesn’t matter if its a passion to make it as an actor, get a promotion or land a dream job. Maybe its a passion to become a renowned photographer, grow the largest tomatoes or to be the best at Parcheesi. It doesn’t matter what it is, the drive is the exact same.

Let me be around people who enjoy life. People who savor each and every moment. People who reach to obtain the seemingly unattainable. People who are perpetually on fire with excitement.

Let me be near strong, resilient people so that when I fall they will be there to remind me that I have to pick myself up and get back on track. Let me know people brave enough to walk through the fear and the pain in their lives. People who persevere long after the rest of us would pack it in. People who have the physical and emotional scars of life but recognize that in these experiences they have discovered their strength.

Let me know emotional people who truly “feel” life. Let me know men who can cry. People who can connect and empathize. Let them be close at hand for the times when I find myself disconnecting from life around me. For the times when I feel disconnected from myself.

When I check out, I want to know that I did a little bit of everything and that I did it as well as I was able. That I put pieces of me into everything I did and that I did it with pride and passion and love. That I butted up against every wall in front of me and tried my best to break through. That the times I met wih failure, I learned from it and did not give up. That time and time again, I surpassed my own expectations which I had set for myself. That in obtaining what I had sought, I appreciated it fully but was only momentarily complacent – wanting to strive further. That my life was interesting to me. That I lived the life I wanted to live and not the one that others expected I should live. That I had a little bit of passion in every aspect of it. That I did some good while I was here while minimizing harm to others. That when I did harm, people found it in themselves to forgive me. That those who truly knew me, didn’t judge me but saw me for the person I was. That I was able to see others in this same way. That I saw things not in black and white but in shades of grey.

Life is hard and its short. I just want to be able to say when my spirit separates from my body that I took the life that was given to me and I used it to its fullest. That for all of the times that I pissed my time away, there were more instances where I used it for something worthwhile. That after some years of stagnation, I finally stood up and inherited my destiny. That I actually LIVED.

Then I will rest peacefully.

You Can’t be a 376 Pound Buddhist!

11 02 2012

“What are you – 376 pounds?” she said sharply with a disgusted scowl and a piercing tone that cut through the silence so that everyone in the room took notice.

“Yes, about that.” I replied in a hushed voice, now looking down at the floor and refusing to make eye contact with anyone. In came the familiar rush of shame. She had hit the number exactly which was no great surprise really, as she’d been slowly sifting through my “obstacles” over the past nine months and showing them to me like the perfect reflection in a mirror. This one was handled a lot less delicately though. It was akin to bringing a chainsaw into surgery and I felt my heart just come spilling out onto the floor.

“I want you to go home and think when you eat! Pay attention!!! That is the only meditation you need to be doing! You can’t be a 376 pound buddhist!” she said angrily. Class dismissed. And with a huge lump in my throat, I made my way down the stairs to the small coat room, slipped on my shoes, grabbed my prayer book and headed for the door with car keys in hand.

As I drove out of the long drive way, I thought about what another teacher there had told me recently – “Long after The Dalai Lama visits, long after the crowds have left, long after we are gone, John will still be here studying the practice.” That is what I wanted. I wanted to be the perfect student and deep down inside I knew my teachers wanted the same for me. I thought about it, tried to rationalize the experience. Sometimes the asian way or the buddhist way seemed to be to shock the student into confronting the elephant in the room. And maybe it was a test to see if I could get over my pride and my ego and return more humble; return like an empty vessel ready to be filled with knowledge. That’s what I would do. I would show them that I would not be dissuaded. I’d come back the following week. I would show them that I’d make the necessary changes.

Except I didn’t. Instead I pulled into Burger King, bought a king sized value meal with a extra thick vanilla milk shake and a second burger and nurtured my pain with that old familiar poison. Sitting in the parked car, eating lunch through my tears. Angry that someone who could seemingly peer inside of me wasn’t more delicate with my vulnerability. I never returned to class. Instead I went home and did the exact opposite of mindful eating. This has always been a pattern for me. Get lectured about my weight, self destruct and let my weight skyrocket. And it did. That was late 2007.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in many different expressions of spirituality. I’ve amassed a huge collection of books, most of which I’ve read, some several times. But I’ve never really mastered much. I’m not a very good student. I find the study so very fascinating but putting it all into practice is often difficult for me.

Many times, I repeat mistakes until I’m backed so far into a corner that I have no choice but to make a change. That is was happened 4 years later. I was sick and it was time to get on the path to better health and wellness. There really was no other choice anymore. To not address it and do nothing was a road that I could not afford to stay on any longer. My pride and ego completely shattered, it was time to chart a new course.

This weekend I prepare to take my first vows with an independent catholic Franciscan community. I’m blessed to have brothers who are supportive and encourage me. I’m thankful for the way things have worked out. The journey to get to this place has not always been without it’s challenges. But those challenges make us who we are. They hopefully impart some wisdom on us and we come out the other side stronger for having worked through them. I pray that I will continue to be a better student in the many facets of my life. I pray that after years of abuse, brother body will continue to get healthier and will become well. The road is long but “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I’ve taken a few finally. Better late than never.

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