Meditation can be thought of as the art of awakening. Through the mastering of this art we can learn new ways to approach our difficulties and bring wisdom and joy alive in our life. By meditation’s tools and practices, we can awaken the best of our spiritual human capacities. The key to this art is the steadiness of our attention. When the fullness of our attention is cultivated together with a grateful and tender heart, our spiritual life will naturally grow.
Learn to Meditate
Some healing of mind and body must take place for many of us, before we can sit quietly and concentrate. A basic level of attention is needed to begin our healing, to begin understanding ourselves. To deepen our practice further, we must choose a way to develop our attention systematically and give ourselves to it quite fully. To learn to concentrate we must choose a prayer or meditation and choose to practice with commitment and steadiness. This practice instills a willingness to work with our quiet time day after day, no matter what arises. This is not easy. Many people would like their spiritual life to show immediate and cosmic results, much like flipping the remote to a television or changing an app on our phones. But what great art is ever learned quickly? Any deep training and knowingness develops in direct proportion to how much we put into it…. meaning we reap what we sow.
Photo by Fotolia/SolisImages
Think about this for a moment. Have you every tried to learn a musical instrument? I have recently picked up my flute again that I used to play in my junior high school days. How long will it take to play well again? In my early years, it took months of lessons once a week, practicing every day. I remember struggling to learn which fingers go for which notes and how to read basic lines of music. After some weeks or months, I could play simple tunes, and perhaps after a year or two I could play a chosen type of music. But to master the art, to be a part of the orchestra, I had to give myself to this discipline over and over, time and again. So if we want to learn something fully, to be the master of it, we would have to give ourselves to it wholeheartedly over a long period of time—training, an apprenticeship, a cultivation.
Nothing less is required in the spiritual arts including yoga and meditation. Perhaps even more is asked. Yet through this mastery we master our lives and ourselves. We learn the most human art, how to connect with our truest self. Geshe Michael Roach, author of The Diamond Cutter, calls spiritual practice manual labor. It is a labor of love in which we bring a wholehearted attention to our own situation over and over again. In all sorts of weather, we steady and deepen our prayer, meditation, and discipline, learning how to see with honesty and compassion, how to let go, how to love more deeply.
Whether a practice calls for visualization, question, prayer, sacred words, or simple meditation on feelings or breath, it always involves the steadying and conscious return, again and again, to some focus. As we learn to do this with a deeper and fuller attention, it is like learning to steady a boat in waters that have waves. Repeating our meditation, we relax and sink into the moment, deeply connecting with what is present. We let ourselves settle into a spiritual ground; we train ourselves to come back to this moment. This is a patient process. St. Francis de Sales said, “What we need is a cup of understanding, a barrel of love, and an ocean of patience.”
For some, this task of coming back a thousand or ten thousand times in meditation may seem boring or even of questionable importance. But how many times have we gone away from the reality of our life? —Perhaps a million times! If we wish to awaken, we have to find our way back here with our full being, our full attention.
St. Francis de Sales also said: “Bring yourself back to the point quite gently. And even if you do nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back a thousand times, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”
In this way, meditation is very much like training a new puppy. It takes awhile, with several attempts, to use the hand signal of down and say, “Stay” for the puppy to understand what to do. Does the puppy listen all the time? It gets up and runs away. You sit the puppy back down again. “Stay.” And the puppy runs away over and over again. Sometimes the puppy jumps up, runs over, and pees in the corner or makes some other mess. Our minds are much the same as the puppy, only they create even bigger messes. In training the mind, or the puppy, we have to start over and over again. When you undertake a spiritual discipline, frustration comes with the territory. Nothing in our culture or our schooling has taught us to steady and calm our attention. One psychologist has called us a society of attention spastics. Finding it difficult to concentrate, many people respond by forcing their attention on their breath or mantra or prayer with tense irritation and self-judgment. Is this the way you would train a puppy? Does it really help to beat it? Concentration is never a matter of force or coercion. You simply pick up the puppy again and return to reconnect with the here and now.
Check back next week for more on the art of meditation.
J. Renée DeTar earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University in communicative disorders and sciences and liberal studies. She is the founder and director of Yoga Teacher Training of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Yoga Studies, a subsidiary of ReneeYoga since 1991. She offers yoga teacher trainings and spiritual events in Kansas City, MO. She has two children, David and Jamie, and lives with her significant other, David Schafer in north central Missouri on a sustainable farm.
This past weekend a friend and I were chatting about living on a budget. Both of us are trying it in earnest for the first time. We were commiserating about the difficulties of reducing our food costs, especially when shopping for healthy, fresh and unprocessed foods. Not to mention, we both have families of four with two small boys. A fact that makes reducing our food costs a necessity. The question then was, is it possible to eat healthy, organic, real food on a budget?
Photo by Fotolia/Goran Bogicevic
It is commonly recommended that your food bill equal no more than 5 to 15 percent of your total budget. Before I started paying attention and making an effort to reduce my family’s food costs, we were spending more on food than on our mortgage. I obviously had a lot of room for improvement.
According to the USDA the average family of four is spending between $544 and $1235 per month for food eaten at home. They break it down into 4 plans: thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal. We were in spending beyond the liberal plan and looking to move to a low-cost or moderate food budget. That gives us a budget of about $800 per month.
After some trial and error (and actually looking at my receipts after shopping), I discovered that our most expensive items were meat, condiments, juices and deserts—organic or not. Eliminating some or all of these items has cut our grocery bill in half.
To reduce your food costs, here are some helpful tips that are working for my family. Using these, we have found that healthy, organic foods can still be affordable and keep us on budget.
Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget
1. Keep a list. On your refrigerator write down items you use most often as they run out so you aren't guessing when you get to the store.
2. Create a simple weekly menu. I have had success searching the internet for recipes with minimal ingredients. 5-10 ingredients seem to be the magic number for cost savings while also saving you time in the kitchen.
3. Grocery shop only once a week. I have found that reducing my trips to the grocery store to one time per week reduces impulse buying that can add frivolous items your food costs. If I run out of something I ask myself – do I really need this now, or, can it wait until next week?
4. Create a shopping list. When shopping at the grocery store, purchase only the items on the list.
5. Eat vegetarian a couple times a week. Meat, poultry, and fish are big ticket items. Eating vegetarian meals even 2-3 times a week will make a big impact on your food bills—in the right direction.
6. Shop for the season. Purchase foods when they are in season, especially produce. Prices skyrocket for off-season foods.
7. Buy fresh herbs and freeze or dry the excess. Chop up soft herbs such as cilantro or basil. Place them in a glass jar and freeze. Or dry your herbs on a cooling rack with parchment paper underneath. I almost never use an entire box of fresh herbs for one recipe so this method is a money saver.
8. Avoid boxed cereals. Compare the per-weight price of any packaged, processed cereal to that of quick rolled oats, and you'll see how much the boxes mark things up. There are lots of delicious ways to eat plain oatmeal, and it takes only 3-4 minutes to prepare.
9. Avoid buying prepackaged meals. These shortcuts do not really save you time, and, pound for pound, they cost far more. If you are in a rush, pick up a roasted chicken instead.
10. Skip the beverage aisle. Buy milk or 100% fruit juice if you need it (we typically stick with orange and apple), but remember water quenches thirst just as well. You can squeeze in a slice of lemon if flavor is what you crave. We keep refillable glass bottles of tap water in the fridge for a cool refresher.
11. Skip dessert. Sweets are essentially an indulgent grocery item and add to your grocery bill (and your waistline) quickly. But who doesn't like to indulge once in a while? So go ahead, but try keeping desserts to one night a week. (Your kids' pediatrician will thank you). Make your own desserts to save on costs.
If you are willing to trade more of your time to reduce food costs and improve quality, you can also look into bulk group buys, or, improving your cooking skills to be able make most of your food from scratch.
Christina Selby is a writer, blogger, environmental educator, and mom. She lives on two acres of tumbleweed-ridden land in Santa Fe, NM into which she is constantly trying to breathe life. On her blog, Tumbleweeds and Seeds she shares tips and ideas to help readers live simply and sustainably—freeing up time and resources to follow your dreams and make a difference in the world. Visit her blog at Tumbleweeds And Seeds.
Apple cider vinegar is packed with health benefits from the apples it’s derived from. Apples have powerful antioxidants, help regulate blood sugar and some studies have shown that eating apples regularly may prevent various types of cancer. Check out these ways you can use apple cider vinegar around the house to fight pests, treat damaged hair and more.
Photo by Fotolia/edu1971
Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar
1. Treatment for Healthy, Shiny Hair
Repair damaged hair and get naturally shiny and healthy locks with apple cider vinegar. In a glass jar with a lid, mix 2 cups apple cider vinegar with 10 drops essential oil (of your choice). Let the mixture blend for one to two days. To use: Rinse hair after shampooing with 1/2 teaspoon vinegar mixture and 1 cup water.
2. Medicinal Extracts
While not as potent as alcohol-based extracts, infusing medicinal herbs with apple cider vinegar is a great alternative for children or those with alcohol sensitivities. Medicinal extracts treat a variety of ailments depending on the herb used. Learn how to infuse your own extracts in the article “Make Medicinal Vinegar Extracts”.
3. Skin Toner
Beneficial for all skin-types, this toner will help restore acidity to the skin and help resist infection. Mix 3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 1 cup distilled water. Let sit for three days. Strain out the solids into a bottle with tight-fitting lid. To use: Apply to skin with cotton pad.
4. Acid Reflux Relief
Because acid reflux is actually due to too little acid in the stomach, adding 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to water will provide the acidic environment your stomach needs to help break down food.
5. Relaxing Bath
Relax and unwind in this herbal vinegar bath. Apple cider vinegar’s slight acidity helps rinse away soap residue and may help counteract yeast infections. Get the recipe: Herbal Vinegar Bath.
6. Salad Vinaigrette
Apple cider vinegar adds a tasty kick to salad dressings. Dress fresh spring greens, such as our Arugula, Pear, Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad, with our Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
7. Treat Swimmer’s Ear
The acidity of vinegar helps kill bacteria and clear infection. To help treat swimmer’s ear, lie on your side with the infected ear facing up and place a few drops of apple cider vinegar in the ear with an eye dropper. After a few minutes, get up and let the vinegar drain from the ear.
8. Get Rid of Ants
If you have a problem with ants, try deterring them with apple cider vinegar. To use: Spray undiluted on ant routes. The vinegar will cover their invisible pheromone tracks, preventing them from finding their way back to their foraging sites.
Healthful Apple Cider Drinks
Aunt Bea’s Apple Cider
Victoria Pitcher is Web Editor at Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.
The simplest things are what make summer so enjoyable—feeling our feet in the grass, hearing insects hum, enjoying the shade of a wooded trail. Seize the moment by taking your family out to enjoy the natural world with these ideas.
Photo by iStock
A Day at the Beach
Suit up: Even if you aren’t close to the seashore, everywhere has a place where locals wear their bathing suits, whether a river, reservoir or community pool.
Swim time: Spend some time floating in the water, just enjoying being buoyant (and cool).
Cool down: Whether it’s homemade popsicles (find recipes at 3 Easy and Delicious Herbal Popsicle recipes) or a trip to the local ice cream parlor, a cool treat is the perfect way to wrap up a beach day.
A Day in the Woods
Lunch on a blanket: Follow the tips in “Pack a Perfect Picnic” later in this article for a perfectly portable lunch.
Cloud watching: Kick back to see what everyone envisions in the clouds while lunch digests.
Nature walk: A leisurely walk along a wooded trail is even more fun with a nature scavenger hunt—make a list of interesting items to search for such as smooth stones, feathers, flowers or shapely branches.
Pack a Perfect Picnic
Try these tips for an enjoyable meal eaten in the park, on the beach, on a boat or wherever strikes your fancy.
To-go tales: Whatever food you pack, it must be easy to both transport and eat while sitting on the ground. Try salads or rice bowls packed in Mason jars.
Bring on beverages: Be sure to plan for a refreshing beverage: Easy ideas include homemade lemonade in Mason jars (see Turn a Mason Jar into a Spillproof Cup with a Straw!) or herbal iced tea in a big steel bottle.
A tisket, a tasket: If you need a picnic basket to hold all these goodies, Boxsal offers reusable ones complete with compostable utensils and plates. Just need utensils? Check out the reusable bamboo ones in The Dangers of Plastics: 25 Ways to Eliminate Plastic in Your Home, specifically made for on-the-go.
Sit pretty: Don’t forget to toss an old blanket in your picnic basket—one big enough for everyone to fit on.
Consignment, thrift, vintage, old, worn, used, hand-me-down. These words describe clothes or items that have been used before and are now for sale or have been given to someone else to use. They have been recycled and used again. There are many benefits of consignment clothes shopping that may entice you to purchase used goods the next time you’re ready to shop. Check out some of the benefits and don’t forget about the personal satisfaction you may get when you find that awesome shirt squeezed in the row of not so awesome shirts… shopping high, yes!
One of the best benefits of buying used goods is the price. A used t-shirt for $2.50 versus a brand new shirt for $25.50 says it all. Savings, yes!
2. Environmentally Friendly
Purchasing used clothes and goods helps give life to something old, making it new again. Rather than only buying brand new clothes, that old pair of jeans can be worn again and again rather than being thrown away as a perfectly good pair.
The amount of variety from style to brand and everything in between lends for every person to find their unique style and functional piece.
Higher quality clothes that are very expensive brand new can make their way to consignment shops for less than half the price.
5. Less Chemical Residue
This is something to keep in mind particularly when shopping for young children and infants whose skin may be more sensitive. A used piece of clothing may have been washed numerous times releasing any chemical residues from the fabrics, dyes and manufacturing process.
If you are like me and like the looks and style of newer fashions, you can look online or in magazines to see what the latest styles are and purchase items that have similar trends. Lastly, just because you are choosing to buy used clothes and goods does not mean you have to or should only buy used clothes and goods. My personal experience has been to buy new and used clothes and/or goods which can also be an interesting approach to fashion that may add depth and creativity to your style and wardrobe.
Photos by Kristy Severin
Kristy Severin is a mother of two, a certified art instructor, photographer, painter, writer and cook. She earned her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, East Africa. Inspired daily by her children and love of the earth, you can find her fine art and writings at The Art of Green Living.
Do you have a pair of jeans that you out grew or have a hole in a ‘tragic’ area?
Do you wash dishes or craft and are tired of the leak-through?
If you said yes, then this craft is for you. This DIY jeans to apron upcycling project is easy to complete in one hour. I know I kept a pile of jeans around because it felt wasteful to throw them away. I also hang on to the random 1/2 yard of fabric left over from other projects. Over the years I’ve come up with a few great uses for old jeans and this DIY apron is one of my favorites.
1 pair of jeans with the knees intact. Mine were husband size 35-35
1/2 yard of fabric 45in wide or more.
Thread to coordinate with (or accent!) your fabric
Step 1 – Put your jeans on a flat surface and smooth them as much as possible. Cut diagonally from the groin seam up toward the side of the leg. See the photo below but think ‘short shorts’ as you are cutting.
Step 2 – Examine the cuff of the pants. If there is a bad section, like all my husbands pants have where he walks on them, you want to cut directly in the center of the worst part. If all things are equal go equidistant between two seams. CUT down the leg as straight as possible.
Step 3 – Unfold and refold the leg so the cuff is straight. The bottom will not be level, don’t worry, the top needs to be straight as possible.
Step 4 – Cut a ‘J’ curve into the fabric on the open side (not the fold). This will be the arm hole(s) and for me the measure was 7.5 inches long and 4 inches wide; measure on yourself but remember the top of the apron will not be on your shoulder, and, aprons tend to be one-size-fits-most style fit.
Step 5 – Cut 3 strips of accent fabric then finish the edges with a serger or a zigzag.
Step 6 – Finish all but the top edge of the apron. I used a serger; you could just as easily turn it under and zigzag. In this tutorial I do not show decorative edging around the side edges but you can do that too, however, raw jeans edge look frizzy after washing so choose your method to combat the fuzz.
These next steps sound complicated but they are really easier then it looks. Think about making a fabric sandwich; accent, jean, accent.
Step 7 – Choose what arm you want to start with. Take one of the accent fabric strips and place it 1/2 inch in from the arm hole cut out *Leave 4 inches ABOVE the top of the apron. On the FRONT of the apron pin the accent fabric strip, right side down, around the curve of the arm hole. You will see there is a long tail left over, that will become the tie on the back.
Step 8 – Sew the curve. Wrong side up. Do not stress if it is not perfect!
Step 9 – Pick up the fabric and wrap it around the armhole edge.
Step 10 – Flip over the apron.
Step 11 – Fold under the edge of the accent fabric and fold it around the apron.
Step 12 – On the back, sew down the accent fabric onto the apron. Try to sew on the inside of the first seam to hide the seam best.
Step 13 – Move to the parts extending from the apron; fold the fabric, raw edges in, and sew it to itself.
Step 14 – Take the (sewn) fabric on the top of the apron and loop it down to the apron. Sew securely. This is the loop half of the neck hole.
Step 15 – Sew the two remaining accent strips together end to end to make one very long strip.
Step 16 – Position the seam of the accent strip at the bottom of the unfinished arm hole.
Repeat steps 8-13. You should finish this with a long tail extending up from the top and out from the side.
Step 17 – Thread your long tail through the loop to make the adjustable neck, tie it where you like it. You can stop here if you want, continue to add a pocket or any other accents you would like.
I like pockets, and, you have a perfectly good back pocket on those jeans so unless you do want some short shorts (on my husband! Ack!) I took the pocket right off the back of the pants.
Step 18 – Cut out the pocket leaving a boarder you can easily sew around with your machine.
Step 19 - Position your pocket wherever you want it: top center, bottom right… pin and sew around using a joining stitch or a zigzag.
This is just one way to finish the apron. I have made many versions and for an easier kids apron I just added ribbon for the neck tie and back; that is a 20 min project—10 if you are fast!
Women’s jeans tend to work best for kids, men’s jeans work for woman. If you want to make a larger apron you can use the other leg for extra fabric, just join it to the center part. If you need it longer, add a strip of fabric to the bottom. For me, this size is perfect; I wash dishes and bake and it covers well enough that my shirt does not look like I have 3 little kids/work in a warzone when I go out.
I would love to see how you choose to accent the basic center shape; link to your post or picture in the comments. If you would like more projects from me, or my views on life and raising 3 little girls check out my blog Katy Stuff.
Kate Luthner is a mother of three little girls. Transplanted from Ny to MN, Kate began to blog about life to keep up with her family at home. Her blog, Katy Stuff is updated most every day with posts ranging from DIY projects to kid updates and an occasional book review or view on the news of the world. Kate thinks that if you can make it… don’t buy it.
“It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis.” – Margaret Bonanno
Happiness can be found right at home. When you create a natural and healthy home, that’s where you can find happiness. Here are ways you can make the most of your home, so you can focus on spending quality time with your loved ones.
5 Ways to Be Happier at Home: Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” and “Happier at Home,” shares five ways for being happier at home in your daily life.
Clear Clutter for a Tidy Home: Use these tips and ideas to clear clutter and preserve your sanity.
Versatile Vinegar: Versatile vinegar has many uses around the home. Discover 17 household uses for this multitalented kitchen staple.
DIY Personalized Wall Art: Transform special photos into personalized wall art with this simple but stylish project.
Try This: Round Candles: Clean, simple lines give these round candles the versatility to blend in anywhere. Try making your own!