January 19, 2018

Why Do We Do Harmful Things?

Never mind GDP - we need a measure for GNC, or Gross National Consciousness

As we approach all kinds of planetary limits, a few questions come to mind. Questions are a big favourite in my home. We have lots and lots of questions. Not so many answers, but we are working on those as well.

Why do good people do things that are harmful to themselves, others and the environment? And why do these behaviours persist even when up against ample evidence as to their harmful effects?

There is a common conception that something is right if everyone is doing it. It is easier to "bind together in the wrong direction, than to be alone in the right one". But right is right, even when no one is doing it, and wrong is wrong even when everyone is doing it.

Which leads to another question (they have a way of piling up).

How do we tell right from wrong? I could talk about educational and religious notions of these concepts. Or about the information gathering technique we know as science. But when it comes right down to it, one can feel in their gut the difference between what is effective and harmonious, and what is ineffective and unbalanced. All modes have something to offer.

However, our brains are involved as well, and our third largest organ must be taken into account as well. Just to show that I do have some answers, I will note that the second largest organ is the liver, and the largest is our skin. Unlike matters of the human brain, those are easy answers.

When it comes to the brain, there are no easy answers. But we do have some answers, and are finding out more all the time. Using what we already know can and should be used to train ourselves to recognize harmful habits, and work toward eliminating them for the good of all.

It is up to each of us personally to strive to eliminate our harmful ways. Taking control of our minds is essential in this pursuit, and there are many methods for doing just that. Spending time observing the mind is just as important as physical exercise.

Such a situation is preferred to having someone else tell us what to do, because insistence is always (initially) met with resistance. That is something I try to keep in mind.

It helps to focus on the things that I do that my body and my mind lead me to feel/think are harmful for me, others, and the planet. Hopefully my pursuit to live the best possible life for me, with the least possible harm, will be adopted by others if it makes sense and feels right.

What else can we do?

One other thing - practice forgiveness. We can practice being gentle with ourselves and others.

We must forgive all shortcomings, so that we can move forward together. Eckhart Tolle explains how this can be done. You forgive yourself and others, he says, "by realizing that nobody can act beyond their level of consciousness.”

So we continue to ask questions, seek answers, forgive, and along the way raise consciousness in ourselves and those around us. Together we nudge the way of things toward peace, harmony and balance.

This is a life-long project, but that is the thing about living the simple life - there is time. I can't think of anything more important or deserving of our attention. Eventually, if we keep on this path, we will all do less harmful things.

January 16, 2018

Eat Plant-Based Food, And Less Of It

It looks like eating as entertainment, and competitive calorie consumption, may be off the menu some day soon. Gluttony is not only unhealthy, but also increasingly socially unacceptable. This will usher in healthier alternatives, like caloric restricted ways of eating, or "eating for need, not for greed".

Shortly after restaurant average portion-size increases were reported, along came news that mindful eating may help one avoid an early death.

As reported in Science in July 2009:
"In a population of rhesus macaques maintained at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, moderate calorie restriction (CR) lowered the incidence of aging-related deaths. At the time point reported, 50% of control fed animals survived as compared with 80% of the CR animals. 
Furthermore, CR delayed the onset of age-associated pathologies. Specifically, CR reduced the incidence of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and brain atrophy. These data demonstrate that CR slows aging in a primate species." source

Such research results have been consistent since the 1930's, and with a variety of species. The Calorie Restriction Society International thinks that people who follow a careful diet of fewer calories, while maintaining adequate nutrition will experience similar benefits.

The following list from their website gives a small serving of the type of food consumption they are advocating:
  • Avoid simple sugars and flours.
  • Eat both green leafy (salad) and other vegetables.
  • Carefully select your protein and fat sources.
  • Make sure your protein intake is sufficient, but not overly abundant.
  • Make sure your proteins are complete and balanced.
  • Non-animal proteins can be balanced by combining different food families
  • Select monounsaturated fats, avoid saturated fats, and consume some Omega-3 fats
Do caloric restricted diets improve longevity in humans? Maybe, maybe not. But would it matter if such a diet saved you money, cut your ecological footprint, and made you feel better? Longevity, when seen this way, would be an added bonus to what looks like a good thing anyway.

As in any diet, it is important to make sure one gets enough nutrients to promote good health. Such diets need to be planned carefully, and assessed on an ongoing basis.

While we don't strictly follow any particular kind of diet, Linda and I are intrigued by the idea of eating differently than the standard western diet, which has been shown to be detrimental to health via metabolic syndrome. For us it boils down to, "eat yummy, nutritious, plant-based food, and less of it".

Goodbye gluttony, hello eating just enough for good health and a long life.

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