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Chisai (small) harvest

The first “bumper” crop came in from my garden. Let’s just say it was a bumper from a Mini Cooper instead of a Hummer, but at least I’m keeping it green 🙂 Chisai (small) is the word my Japanese mother-in-law used to describe my harvest. Although these plants are tiny compared to the one’s seen in the store, they are indeed some delicious delicacies. I’d like to share them with you.

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Above is how the cucumber from a few posts ago turned out. It was near the ground and grew into a circle. This was probably the first bona fide vegetable I grew from seed, so I am extremely fond of it. As Fukuoka’s theory of gardening was based on the concept of “mu” or “nothingness” this cucumber reminded me of an enso circle in Zen Buddhism which symbolizes that we are nothing and everything. In a strange cosmic way, I felt this was Fukuoka’s way of giving me his blessing for my garden. I also harvested this near his birthday on Feburary 2 (he would have made 104 this year). After showing this to my family, I cut it into three pieces and we all enjoyed it.

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Below are some Romanine lettuce mixed with daikon leaves. The daikon leaves were spicy and mustardy and mixed well with the mild Romaine. As you can see this is about a tenth of the size of the variety that comes in your caesar salad. But we ate these without any dressing and they were delicious!

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Below are snap peas. These have come from a confused plant which has tried to latch on to anything it can to trellis itself upward. I thought the windy dry weather had done them in, but they rebounded nicely and produced these beautiful pea pods. Sweet, crisp and succulent.

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Below is a “preemie” daikon. If you have ever seen one of these in real life, you’d know that they are huge with a root the size of toddler’s leg. This little guy was growing right next to another daikon and was competing for space, so I decided to pluck him and add him to my stir fry. When they are small and young like this they pack a spicy punch much like horse radish or wasabi. Bold, assertive flavor from this pint sized offering.

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A few haricot verts from my bush bean plant. These grow quickly. The beauty of bush beans is they magically keep giving and giving. In fact is in encouraged to harvest often so the plant does not flower and go to seed.

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And last but not least, this wonderful Kabocha pumpkin plant is snaking through my garden like a dragon complete with scales. I’ve never grown a pumpkin before and didn’t realize what a regal and dynamic plant it is. It uses its tentacle like vines to secure it to the ground like staples and behind the “head” large yellow flowers bloom on the body like fireworks. A female flower finally emerged but has not opened. The large black bees which circle overhead will certainly pollinate this plant once the female flower opens.

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Although the plants are small, these mini harvests have given me hope. As one of my Facebook friends said “Don’t be put off if things grow smallish this year. They will grow bigger and better each year.” There is a nice quote from Audrey Hepburn: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” With all the craziness in the world right now, my garden and my yoga practice have kept me grounded and optimistic about the future regardless of world events. Although you couldn’t taste these, I hope they were a feast for the eyes. Many blessings!

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MPY is an outdated term

Seven years ago, Mark Singleton published a made-for-the-average-Joe version of his thesis in Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice which states in so many words that yoga as we know it today is less than 100 years old. This has started a whole wave of thinking that yoga is some kind of scam dreamed up by Hindu nationalists who pirated asana-s from Kerala wrestlers and Swedish gymnastics manuals. Sadly, this has also inspired a new wave of yoga commentators in pushing a hate-filled anti-Indian agenda that is critical of teaching techniques by Krishnamacharya and his disciples. It has also given a slew of yoga teacher trainings self made license to do what ever kind of contortions they want to do and call it “yoga” which has led to an epidemic of yoga-related injuries. I have been reticent to delve into this debate as I had to educate myself more on the issue before having an intelligent voice in the matter.

Recently Singleton has teamed up with researcher James Mallinson to go on a fact finding trip to India to really find out where yoga came from. In the forthcoming press about Mallinson’s recent book Roots of Yoga, he states that yoga is not exclusively Hindu, but draws from Buddhist and Jain practices as well. Just like in a rainforest, a botanist finds a mysterious leaf peeking out of dense foliage and tries to find the root of the leaf only to find it is part of much larger matrix of life from which it is impossible to find a single source, it seems as though Mallinson et al. have found themselves in a similar conundrum. I have yet to read the book, but the press that has come from the findings of this team is leaving one with more questions than answers.

Which brings me back to the point of the title of this post: MPY or Modern Postural Yoga is an outdated term. We are not sure how old asana-s are and if what we are practicing today even resembles asana-s of yoga past before photography. What some of us know who are Iyengar practitioners is that the asana-s that our teacher taught have given us far more than we bargained for when we first stepped foot in class. Iyengar’s method of teaching and asana-s that he presented are transformative to one both physically and mentally. For those of us who stuck with it for several years, the practice continues to bring us more fruit with each consecutive year. At least that has been the case for me.

I am not a scholar, but a practitioner. But being a good practitioner means one has an element of scholarship in one’s sadhana, particularly in reading the classic texts like Patanjali Yoga Sutra-s. I read several translations as I am not fluent in Sanskrit so I can get a better gist of what the Sutra-s are trying to impart. The one truth I continually glean from my readings is that when one’s mind is silent from practice, one gains insight based on one’s own reality. The true yogic knowlege is gained from direct experience. Just like when you first learned to tie your shoes without help from your parents, you were forever empowered with that skill. There are many “tied shoe” experiences with continued uninterrupted practice.

So may the term Modern Postural Yoga find its way into the lexiconic trash bin of tired phrases. The yoga we practice today is from the same body infrastructure of humanity’s several millennia. The body of 2017 reacts the postures the way the body reacted to it in the times of the Upanishads. In case you didn’t know, that is far more than 100 years old.

 

 

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Anything worth attaining takes patience

I have to admit I’ve been in a bit of a rut of late. After the election, the holidays, and the daily press after the inauguration, I have lost quite a bit of my inspiration. My yoga class this morning made me feel like my teaching has gone to pot, but I am wise enough to know that my critical voice is sometime irrationally loud.

After an unusual hot spell in Hawai’i, followed by a strong windy weekend, many plants in my garden were damaged, and birds ate a good number of my snap peas which were just about to ripen.

In mental health counseling, people who get in bad emotional shape tend to have several stressful events in a short period of time and somehow lump all of these events as coming from the same source. Like it is some kind of fate they had these things happen to them. I caught myself having this kind of thinking and am wrestling my way out of it.

Today I did a few positive things to set me in another direction. After the “bad teaching” yoga class, I gave myself a few minutes in a restorative pose to lengthen my spine which is something I haven’t done for a while. Afterwards, I came home and spent some time in my garden. I felt the soil and it was dry and sandy. The garden in its own way told me what it needed. When the day cooled off I gave it a good watering and pruned a few of the damaged parts of my snap pea plants that were ravaged by those horrible birds.

I realized that I will not have a bountiful harvest after just a few months of gardening with no prior experience, but also saw that it is a process which will encompass many years. Just as I have been teaching yoga for many years and still have a long way to go to have any sense of mastery. This is the way of all things in life that are worth attaining. You may never attain them, but the process is satisfyingly challenging.

Featured image Buddha with a mango

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Flowering Fukuoka garden

I am about three months into my Fukuoka gardening project and am starting to see a lot of plants flowering. To bring new readers up to date, this is a method of gardening pioneered by Masanobu Fukuoka, whose philosophy is to allow nature to do the work with minimal interference from human interaction. This is easier said than done, as human nature likes to poke around as I often do to my poor plants in this garden. Keep in mind, I just planted this on my bare lawn without any soil, chemicals, or soil amendments. This is simply from laying down a bed of straw, casting seeds in the form of seed balls, broadcasting White Clover seeds, and just a small amount of pelleted chicken manure. Also keep in mind that I have had very minimal previous experience in gardening prior to this experiment.

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This is the very first cumcumber in the making from the garden. My wife and I hand pollenated it by removing flowers from a male, and inserting the stamen into the open female flower. The female flower has a “tiny” cucumber looking stalk. I believe this is successfully pollenated and growing at a rapid rate.

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This is a healthy looking snap pea plant (above). I added this wooden trellis as the plant started expanding beyond the garden stick.

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A kabocha pumpkin plant (above) produces huge yellow flowers which ants seem to love. Perhaps they will assist in pollination when a female flower comes about. I am finding the ratio of male flowers tends to be quite high compared to female flowers which come later.

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A bright green head of Romaine lettuce is extending its ribs up through the hay. I snapped a leaf off today and it had a rich “lettuce” taste that I haven’t been able to get from the store bought variety.

img_1767If you have been following this gardening project, you will have known that I have had a hard time growing beets. I finally have a batch that made it past the seedling stage under the protective leaf from a Chinese mustard green. To date, I have planted about 50 different kinds of seeds, but many have not made it.

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With a hand sickle, I cut tall grass in the garden and place them on top of other unruly plants. I have stopped using the term “weeds” because I realize that in this method, all plants have a purpose. The biomass from the non edible grass and horse herb provide mulch and suppress the plants in the garden that are bullying the young crops. When decomposed they in turn feed the garden with nutrients.

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The “skyline” of my garden is rapidly changing and getting taller.

 

 

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My New Year’s Resolution? No goals

Early January is an interesting time of year. My brother posted on his Facebook page that the week after the New Year is like Black Friday for the gym. As he is a triathlete who trains through the holidays while everyone is Ho Ho Ho-ing, I can empathize with his annoyance of now having to share the stationary bike with someone who will use the gym every day for two weeks, then never again until next January. Resolutions don’t seem to last long.

After teaching yoga class one of my students was chatting with me and asked me what I did all day aside from teach yoga. I proceeded to tell her my “second job” where I go into psychiatric facilities, and substance abuse rehab centers and assess people. After the assessment, I work to get them the help they need in the community. Then after work I told her about my duties as a caregiver taking care of my mother-in-law who is in a wheelchair. She seemed floored.”That sounds exhausting,” she said. I told her I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

I had plenty of goals going into 2016. I even thought toward the end of 2016, I’d better start working on my 2017 goals, but got an unsettling feeling when I started to think about what I wanted this year. After reading Masanobu Fukuoka’s book One Straw Revolution, I reflected on what he considers the fallacy of thinking in terms of “progress.”

The more people do, the more society develops, the more problems arise. The increasing desolation of nature, the exhaustion of resources, the uneasiness and disintegration of the human spirit, all have been brought about by humanity’s trying to accomplish something. Originally there was no reason to progress, and nothing that had to be done. We have come to the point at which there is no other way than to bring about a “movement” not to bring anything about. -Fukuoka pg. 201

2016 turned out to be a personally difficult year where just managing was difficult enough. So this year I am chucking my goals. Perhaps it is because I feel I am at a place of Santosa (contentment) that I am on the right path. Perhaps it is because I am too lazy to stop what I am already doing. Or perhaps I have developed enough confidence in myself that I can “manifest” what I need if I need it. Author Carlos Castaneda is famous for saying “all paths lead to nowhere, so choose a path with heart.”

Right now I am on a path with heart. I enjoy my jobs. I enjoy caregiving. I enjoy teaching, doing, and studying yoga. I enjoy gardening. I enjoy writing about all of it. Although I could do well with fewer of the hardships I face, all of the above provide well for me financially, spiritually, socially, and healthfully. Who needs goals when you have all that?

 

 

 

 

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Fukuoka was right: weeds and plants coexist nicely

One nice thing about the holidays is the time off from work has allowed me to spend more time in my garden. But as my mother-in-law likes to point out, I don’t do much in my garden except stare at my plants. Guilty as charged! I find the evolving life mesmerizing.

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You can see from this wide shot how lush my garden has become. The steady rains of Hawai’i in December means all the time I would have spent watering can just be spent in observation. I have added a few large round flat bricks to give me better access to the garden.

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This snap pea plant (above) is using both my trellis and a long grass blade to prop itself up. These can grow up to 6 feet tall (2 meters).

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In my determination, I have replanted new beets which are coming up out of their seed balls. The lesson I learned is not to move the straw around too much as there is tons of new life hiding inside. That decimated my original crop of beets.

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A tiny tomato plant (with the jagged leaves above) has peeked through the ground cover. The “weeds” that my neighbor identified in a previous post in combination with White Clover have proven to be fertile “green manure” for a host of other plants. This proves Fukuoka’s theory that plants can live in harmony in conduction with other plants which many consider “weeds.”

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Underneath this tall grass (above) is a patch of Romaine Lettuce. The grass has protected the lettuce from the onslaught of slug invasions that have also claimed many of my plants. I am finding the more lush the “weeds” and grasses grow, the fewer plants succumb to the slug and snail attacks.

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This bitter melon plant (above) is thriving with its roots in the straw, weeds, and clover underneath.

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You can see this nice row of daikon growing (above). At least I think it is daikon. The constant challenge in Fukuoka gardening is identifying seedlings and young plants as they randomly pop up. Before I thought it was annoying, but now it is fun as it forces me to constantly learn about new plants.

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On the other side of the yard, my wife has a “traditional” garden. As you can see her plants are doing very well. She has had to replant and resoil a few times to keep her garden in good shape. Every night we go on “slug hunts” with our flashlights to keep pests out of both our gardens. It is actually nice bonding time for my wife and I 🙂

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A nice Christmas day sequence by Iyengar teacher Hong Gwi-Seok (Peggy)

I want to wish all of you a merry Christmas.

Here is a wonderful sequence by Junior Intermediate III level instructor Peggy Gwi-Seok (aka “Badass Yoga Nun”). She has a very nice message and works to spread Iyengar yoga to the Detroit area.

As Blogspot and WordPress don’t play well together, I simply added the link.

 

Many blessings everyone!

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