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December 28, 2008

Ideal weight or average weight?

I hope you all had a really wonderful and peaceful Christmas and that none of you are worrying about the extra kilo's that may have appeared as a result!

I've been reading a little about the 'obesity epidemic'
. This is based on the inherently flawed Body Mass Index (BMI). I became interested in the BMI when my mother got onto one of those Wii computer games and was told she was overweight. I was so surprised, because she is the healthiest 50-something I know. She eats well and walks plenty and she certainly doesn't look overweight. The BMI also put my seven year old second-cousin in the overweight range, which I also thought was outrageous because he's seven! He still has all his puppy fat!

So I began looking into what the BMI actually means. It's based on a statistical tool invented by a Belgian mathmetician in the 1800's. The tool was never intended to be an indication of health.

Furthermore, in 1998 the US government adopted the World Health Organisation's BMI figures, which are actually based on world wide average weights, not ideal weights for optimum health or longevity. The world averages include significant numbers of malnourished people in Africa and Asia, who are in no way representative of the ideal weight we should all be striving for.

So, before you start that post Christmas crash diet-don't! Chances are that you are perfect the way you are. On the other hand, if you want to start eating more vegetables and wholegrains for health and vitality-by all means do it.

December 22, 2008

Let sleeping dogs die?

A couple of years ago, whilst sleeping in India, at 5am there was a knock at the door. My husband answered it and there was a young Swedish man there. He explained he had found a dog who had been hit by a car and was in a very bad way, and he wanted my husband's help to put him out of his misery.

My husband did help, but after that night we decided emphatically that we didn't believe in putting animals down. Suffering is part of life, a big part, and a part we can learn from if we only take the time to go through it. I'm not really sure how much conciousness animals have of these things, but who am I to take that opportunity for growth and spiritual development away from anything or anyone?

But, as always, when I decide to believe in something emphatically, the universe throws up a situation which reminds me I'm really not sure of anything after all.

Last week, after months of agonising over the decision, we put our old family dog down. She was 18 yrs old, and had been blind and arthritic for nearly two years. We put it off for a long time, because we wanted to make sure we didn't just put her down for our own convenience, we wanted her to actually be ready. But it went on for years and she just wouldn't let go. She could barely walk by the end of it, and the final straw was a bed sore that couldn't heal due to lack of circulation. She stopped drinking and I was faced with the decision all over again.

We decided to have her killed.

Many of my friends have been saying it's not killing, it's euthanasia, but euthanasia requires consent and how on earth can we have the consent of a creature who doesn't speak? It is killing, and I'm not really sure I did make the right decision.

So I prayed that I made the right decision, and I prayed for her soul, and I prayed for some opportunity to repay my karmic debt to the animal kingdom.

Then yesterday I went to the river for a swim and found literally 70 or 80 fish beached on the sand and the rocks. They were still flapping and gasping for air. I didn't really know what to do, most of them looked long gone, and they are a kind of fish with poison in their scales so you can't touch them.

But one was just on the edge of the water and the waves were lapping up against him. My husband took of his shoe and pushed him into the water. For a moment it looked pretty sad, but once the fish caught his breath he swam off. So I took off my shoe too and we started flicking all the fish back into the water. It took us about half an hour and only about two thirds of them survived. A few more were stuck in between crevices in the rocks so we had to leave them.

I have no idea how they got there. Maybe a fisherman caught them and left them because they aren't eating fish, but I can't imagine how you could catch that many fish. My other thought is that the whole school became disorientated and somehow beached themselves, but I don't know enough about fish to know if this actually happens.

Either way I am grateful for the opportunity to offer life to some little animals. And I am sorry for the lives I have taken, whether or not it was the right thing to do.

December 14, 2008


Of course things are always a bit hectic at this time of year. I'm struggling to get to my blog for the first time. I am very happy to be home, spending lots of time with my family and friends, and at the beach and the river. It's such a beautiful part of the world. I feel very blessed to have been born here.

I thought I would take a moment to pay homage to the simple things. Last week someone made the best comment I have ever recieved on my blog. They wrote that after years of constipation the simple Ayurvedic recommendation to drink warm water first thing in the morning has changed their life. The constipation is gone.

Another example of the simple but powerful nature of Ayurveda is a friend who has hiccoughs every day. He has attacks that last hours and finds it very upsetting. I advised him to add a pinch of asafoetida to every meal and for a week now he hasn't even hiccoughed once!

I shouldn't really be surprised by these events anymore, but even after experiencing the power of Ayurveda time and time again I am surprised all over again every time.

I just feel so blessed to have access to this knowledge, and so priviledged to be able to share it with other people. So in the silly season, take a second out for the simple things. They really are the best! And, in keeping with the season, give thanks for what we have.

December 08, 2008

What should we be teaching in schools?

I've been watching Jamie Oliver's new show about teaching people how to cook. He's found a whole town called Rotheram (but don't fool yourself, it's not the only one of it's kind) who can't cook. My main criticism of his approach is that he's teaching people who live on welfare payments to cook salmon. I think he could have started with some simpler, cheaper, more accessable recipes. But he's still doing a great thing.

Meanwhile I've been reading my sister's thesis on environmental education, and how in Australian curriculum there is no room to learn about the environment. Her research shows the value of teaching children to be stewards of their environment and how naturally they want to help their environment, at least until adults intervene.

It becomes apparant that we aren't learning how to live any more. We graduate from school being able to read and write and do maths, but we don't learn how to brake bread or recycle or shop frugally or grow carrots or get stains out of the carpet. We are taught how to make money, but we aren't taught any living skills at school.

The best thing I learned at school was actually Physics. Whilst almost failing for years, I really loved learning about the world I live in and how it all interacts. If I had my time again I would study human biology too. Those subjects aside, the things I do everyday were learnt from my parents, and I've totally forgotten how to do long division!

December 01, 2008

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

As usual, Sunday is baking day. We go to a meditation group every Sunday evening, and everyone brings some food to be blessed and shared. Today I made a Deepak Chopra recipe from The Chopra Centre Cookbook, with some alterations. He uses low fat vanilla flavoured soy milk, and canola oil, neither of which are particularly well regarded in Ayurveda, so a few substitutions later and here it is...not too sweet, and pretty healthy, a good breakfast muffin.

One overflowing cup finely chopped pumpkin
2 cups atta flour
1/2 cup grated jaggary (or dark brown sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped dates
1 cup unhomogonised milk
2 Tbs ghee
1/4 cup maple syrup


Preheat your oven to 180' and grease a muffin tin.

Put the pumpkin into a pan with a tight fitting lid, and cover the bottom of the pan with water (just a tablespoon or two). Cook the pumpkin with the lid on till it's soft and the water has evaporated, but you may need to add a dash more if it starts sticking before it's cooked. Mash it with a fork. You should get about 3/4 cup of pumpkin mash.

Mix the pumpkin mash with all the wet ingredients while it's still hot. This will help combine everything.

Mix the dry ingredients well in a separate bowl, then mix the wet and dry together as briefly as possible. Put into muffin tins and bake for twenty to twenty five minutes. best served hot, and they won't keep very well.