Monday was our first day of online learning in lock-down number 3. It also happened to be the first nice weather day that we have had in a while so after spending all morning on google meets and zoom calls with my two kids, my only desire was to spend the afternoon outside. Over the winter months my husband and I have been excitedly planning our holistic yard upgrades and I was feeling motivated to get into it and enjoy the sunshine. My afternoon mission; to take out the black mulched mediocre and virtually useless display garden in our front yard and cut in a vegetable garden.
As I started digging into and turning over the soil, my five year old son collected and lovingly redistributed the worms I was displacing. We chatted happily about how these worms looked different than the ones in Dad’s composting bins. We named a few of them and noticed all of the other interesting bugs in the soil. I could feel my heart rate rising as I worked my shovel into the compacted soil. I inhaled the earthy aromas that were released as I shook off precious top soil from grass clumps and I felt the dirt accumulate under my fingernails.
Ahhhhh!!! This is what I had desired to do in my day. I felt re-grounded. Settled. More peaceful. More connected. I day dreamed happily about the food that we would harvest from our garden and how it would nourish us through the winter. I also chuckled to myself for a moment thinking that I should invite any overwhelmed parents over to dig in our yard that afternoon.
Oh right, but I’m not allowed to do that right now. (Insert eye roll).
The thoughts that followed form the basis of this post. The long and short of it is that I got to thinking about just how f*^king backwards we are.
If our governments and health authorities were really looking out for our well-being, they’d focus less on making us all terrified, bombarding us with restrictions and essentially turning us into an ugly 2021 version of Dr. Seuss's, The Sneetches. They would instead give us all a prescription for living well. Perhaps they would even go so far as to mandate it. It would be simple, low cost, accessible in some way to everyone and would embrace a holistic philosophy for improving our own health and wellness and for living in alignment with our beautiful Mother Earth.
It would look something like this.
1. Get outside daily.
Get into the sun and soak up some vitamin D. Vitamin D supports a healthy immune system and has additional benefits for mental/emotional health and a healthy inflammatory response. During the winter when it is more challenging to be outside, take a Vitamin D supplement. In the spring and summer it’s much simpler. Just get outside.
2. Start Gardening.
By gardening I don’t mean rock mulch and lawns of Kentucky Blue Grass. I mean, garden! The government could mandate us to dig up our city lawns and plant gardens. This covers the exercise factor. For all of us missing our gyms and fitness classes, we’ll get our heart rates up and build some muscle mass on the end of that shovel and our happy endorphins will flow thanks to the physical activity.
The reality is that our modern cookie cutter yards are extremely inefficient. They require a lot of care and water and in the end, we don’t eat grass!!! We are wasting space and precious environmental resources. When good quality food isn’t available to everyone because of the cost, it only makes sense to grow our own food. For those who don’t have their own yard, condominium and apartment communal spaces (mostly covered in water-eating, inefficient grass) could be converted into garden spaces supplying tenants with ample exercise and the ability to grow their own food.
Some will certainly say they don’t know how to garden. Others will say they just don’t want to and I get that. It isn’t everyone’s jam. Neither however, are lock-downs. I’d prefer to at least try gardening.
3. Eat good quality, whole foods.
A healthy immune system is built upon the nutrients found in natural foods. If you want to have a robust, healthy immune system, then eat good quality, nutrient dense foods. Period.
Even better is to eat the food that you have grown, nurtured and harvested. The food that we care for carries a positive energetic vibration that is transferred back to us when we consume the food. This also has beautiful benefits to our overall health and wellness.
Growing our own food allows us then to stop buying the processed and packaged foods that are laden with sugar and that actually suppress our immune system.
I could go off here on another LONG tangent, but I will try to keep it succinct. There is money in sickness and chronic disease. It’s sad but true. If public health and wellness was a true priority for our governments, this kind of prescription for healthy living would have been mandated long ago. If we are healthy we need fewer medicines and expensive medical procedures and we spend less money on health care and unfortunately this doesn’t serve the bank accounts of those who benefit from our sickness. So our governments continue to allow these dis-ease causing, nutrient deficient non-foods to be produced and sold in stores. We are making ourselves sick.
Working in the nutrition industry I often work with clients who are fearful of the monetary implications adopting a cleaner diet. “It’s expensive to eat well”, they tell me. During the 2021 pandemic when many are facing uncertain financial times, this fear of not being able to afford good food is very real. So how do we eat well and stay within our budgets? The answer again, lies in our yards and in the soil that is covered by grass. Dig up your lawn and grow your own food!
3. Get Dirty
Dig with your hands in the soil. Walk barefoot. Inhale the aromas of the earth and plant life and allow your children to get dirty along with you. There is more and more research showing the benefits to our bodies and minds when we interact with the bacteria that lives in the soil. Too many years of being hyper-vigilant about cleanliness and sanitization has put our relationship with these beneficial bacteria out of balance and we are suffering for it. Go play in the dirt.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is defined simply as paying attention to something in the present moment, on purpose and without judgement. We do not have to sit for hours in meditation to practice being mindful (although a short meditation each day has amazing benefits to your entire body and mind). The garden is a beautiful space in which to practice mindfulness. Notice how the shovel feels in your hands. Notice which muscles you engage to dig into and lift the earth. Notice what you smell. Notice the tiny ants and grubs inhabiting the grass and dirt. Notice the plants and their roots. Just notice.
When thoughts start racing through your mind, and they will, notice this as well. You then have the opportunity to gently escort your thoughts back to the present moment where you are right then. Standing in your garden with your hands on the shovel and your feet in the earth. The practice of mindfulness is one of the most impactful mental and emotional tools that I know of and like anything, it feels easier with practice.
6. Practice compassion.
As you are digging through the soil, observe the living creatures that are sharing this space with you. Can you pause long enough to understand that they are living their life, just as you are living yours? Can you place them back in the earth with care and appreciate their contribution to your garden. Can you teach this to your children and help your children understand the importance of respect for all life? Compassion for ourselves and for others is an often missed component of our health and happiness and is something that we can take more care to practice daily. If we can show compassion to the smallest creeping creatures living in the soil, perhaps we could show more compassion to our neighbors.
The saddest, most frightening thing about this pandemic is the cruelty, judgement and lack of compassion we are showing to our fellow human beings. I still believe we can cultivate a world where we lead with compassion and understanding always. 2021 could certainly use more of this.
There it is. Simple. Cheap. Virtually a free prescription for wellness.
Just imagine for a moment that the next time our provincial leaders stand up for their press conference, they propose a new mandate.
All Albertans are required to get outside for a minimum of 60 minutes a day. On days when this is not permissible due to bad weather or illness, one should supplement with vitamin D.
All Albertans are to replace their grass and rock mulched yards with vegetable gardens. Neighbors and family members should work together to support each other and in particular any members of the community that may not be physically able to lift a shovel or kneel down on the ground.
(Herein lies the answer to exercise, quality food for little cost, healthier balance of bacteria that supports mental and emotional health and immunity and practices of mindfulness and compassion.)
Additional resources would be provided on sheet mulching, lasagna gardens and other holistic land care processes to make turning lawns into gardens as simple as possible. But for those looking for exercise, digging is a viable option.
Information would also be provided as to the best foods to grow in certain climates, companion planting to reduce pests and the need for toxic chemical pesticides, and foods that contained specific immune boosting nutrients. One would also be able to easily locate information about foods dense in nutrients to support other health conditions and ailments.
This would essentially being the process of returning us to a foundation of food as medicine and pro-active self care. I would stand up and cheer if this was such a message delivered to us from our provincial leaders. A prescription for living well that would serve us and the planet during this pandemic era and beyond. Sadly, I fear that such a message will never come from our leaders, but the truth is it shouldn’t need to. We can do this on our own.
My husband and myself have made it our mission to live in this way. It is what we do and what we teach. This is our prescription for living well.
With light and love.