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A Pregnant Woman Eating Organic Vs. Eating Conventional: It’s Time To Think About Your Baby

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It seems as if it was yesterday when the masses were completely unaware of the concerns being raised by a number of internationally recognized scientists regarding Genetically Modified Foods (GM). Now, dozens of countries in Europe have completely banned or have severe restrictions on GMOs, which includes the pesticides that go along with them. In fact, 19 new countries in Europe recently banned the growing of Genetically Modified foods in their countries, citing a number of health and environmental concerns. You can read more about that here.

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The Difference Between Organic Food & Conventional Food

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic farms and processors must not use any genetically modified ingredients. This means that organic farmers can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO feed, an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients, and so on. Farmers and processors must show that they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances from farm to table. In order for something to qualify as organic, it must also be free from most synthetic materials, like pesticides and antibiotics. (source)(source)

Conventional food is (obviously) the exact opposite. Conventional food can be sprayed with pesticides, contain genetically modified ingredients, as well as administer antibiotics.

Eating Organic vs Eating Conventional

In 2012, a widely reported Stanford University study concluded that there is little difference in the healthfulness and safety of conventional and organic food. (source) Since its publication, experts in the environmental and health sciences department criticized the study for completely overlooking a large and growing body of evidence regarding the adverse effects of pesticides. More specifically, a letter accepted for publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine pointed to the lack of information in the study regarding extensive data on the number, frequency, potential combinations, and associated health risks of pesticide residues in sprayed food. This publication calculated a 94% reduction in health risk attributable to eating organic forms of six pesticide intensive fruits. (source)

So is organic food more nutritious?

“In carefully designed studies comparing organic and conventional apples, strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, milk, carrots, grains and several other raw foods, organic farming leads to increases on the order of 10% to 30% in the levels of several nutrients, but not all. Vitamin C, antioxidants, and phenolic acids tend to be higher in organic food about 60% to 80% of the time, while vitamin A and protein is higher in conventional food 50% to 80% of the time.” – Charles Benbrook, research professor and program leader for Measure to Manage (M2M): Far and Food Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health at Washington State University (source)

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A team led by Kristen Brant, a scientist at the Human Nutrition Research Center Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, carried out one of the most sophisticated meta-analysis of the “organic-versus-conventional food” nutrient-content debate. Their analysis was published in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences in 2011, under the title, “Agroecosystem Management and Nutritional Quality of Plant Foods: The Cause of Organic Fruits and Vegetables.” (source)(source)

This study documents significant differences in favour of organically grown food and explains the different, yet basic farming system factors that lead to these differences. They concluded that increasing the amount of plant-available nitrogen, which is typically found in conventional farming, reduces the accumulation of (plant) defence related secondary metabolites and vitamin C, while the contents of secondary metabolites such as carotenes that are not involved in defense against disease and pests may increase.

They also found that secondary plant metabolite based nutrients in fruits and vegetables are 12 percent higher, on average, in organic food compared to conventionally grown food. Another group of nutrients that are composed of plant secondary metabolites that are involved in plant defenses against pests and response to stress were, on average, 16 percent higher.

“This subset encompasses most of the important, plant-based antioxidants that promote good health through multiple mechanisms.”

The team of researchers estimated that the consumption of organic fruits and vegetables is associated with a 12 percent higher nutrient level intake.

This is just one example of research conducted showing higher nutrient levels in organically grown food, and we are not even talking about pesticides yet.

One thing about organic food is that it’s not sprayed. A recent study conducted by researchers from RMIT university, published in the journal Environmental Research, found that an organic diet for just one week significantly reduced pesticide exposure in adults by 90 percent. (source)

Cynthia Curl, an assistant professor in the School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Community and Environmental Health at Boise State university, recently published a pesticide exposure study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Results of her research indicated that among individuals eating similar amounts of vegetables and fruits, the ones who reported eating organic produce had significantly lower OP pesticide exposure than those who normally consume conventionally grown produce. You can read more about that here.

Below is a very interesting clip titled “The Organic Effect” from the Swedish Environmental Research Institute. Watch what happened when this family decided to switch to organic food. Here is the full report.

“The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases. We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before. The tobacco companies denied the link between smoking and cancer, and took decades to recognize the truth. The biotech and agrochemical corporations are the same as the tobacco industry; they lie and favor business over the health of the population.” – Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a paediatrician specializing in environmental health (source)(source)(source) (Related CE Article on the GMO/Cancer link in Argentina here)

The list literally goes on and on, the pesticides that are sprayed on our food have been linked to a variety of diseases, and high risk pesticides rarely appear as residues in organic food, and when they do, the levels are usually much lower than those found in conventional foods -especially the levels in imported produce. (source)

“I recently completed an assessment of relative pesticide health risks from residues in six important fruits – strawberries, apples, grapes, blueberries, pears, and peaches. Using the latest data from USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (USDA, 2012) on these foods, I found that the overall pesticide risk level in the conventional brands was 17.5-times higher than the organic brands. The differences translate into a 94 percent reduction in health risk from the selection of organic brands.” – Charles Benbrook, research professor and program leader for Measure to Manage (M2M): Far and Food Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health at Washington State University, from his letter that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (source)

This is very clinically significant, and this is why more and more people are starting to be concerned about pesticide related health risks.

The work of Chensheng (Alex) Lu, from the Harvard School of public health is well known. He has shown that when school-age children switch to a predominately organic diet, exposures to organophosphate (OP) insecticides are almost completely eliminated.  (source)

“Children today are sicker than they were a generation ago. From childhood cancers to autism, birth defects and asthma, a wide range of childhood diseases and disorders are on the rise. Our assessment of the latest science leaves little room for doubt; pesticides are one key driver of this sobering trend.” October 2012 report by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) (source)(source)

Organic Versus Conventional If You’re Pregnant

“How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?…As part of the process, they portrayed the various concerns as merely the ignorant opinions of misinformed individuals –and derided them as not only unscientific, but anti-science. They then set to work to convince the public and government officials, through the dissemination of false information, that there was an overwhelming expert consensus, based on solid evidence, that GMOs were safe” – Jane Goodall

Now, take all of the information above (which is just a fraction of what’s out there), and think about a woman who is pregnant. GMOs (and the pesticides that go with them) are fairly young. They’ve only been around since the late 1990’s, and the children born when the emergence of GMOs was just starting are now growing up. We have yet to see the long term effects, and it’s scary to consider that no long term studies have been cited by major government organizations confirming the long term consumption of GMO foods. Just like geneticist David Suzuki said, “by slipping it into our food without our knowledge, without any indication that there are genetically modified organisms in our food, we are now unwittingly part of a massive experiment.”

The only long term study that’s been conducted was done independently, obviously away from industry sponsorship. It was published in Environmental Sciences Europe last yearand found GMO maize, along with roundup herbicide exposure led to cancer, liver/kidney damage as well as severe hormonal disruption. Roundup ready is sprayed on GM crops that have been engineered to resist it.(source)

The active ingredient in roundup is Glyphosate, which was recently linked to cancer by the World Health Organization (source).

Pesticides sprayed on our food have also been linked to birth defects. (source)  A paper published in the journal Pediatrics found that prenatal exposure to some of the pesticides sprayed on our food could impair the anthropometric development of the fetus, reducing the birth weight, length, and head circumference. (source)

There are a number of studies that have examined pesticide induced diseases when it comes to the fetus. You can view some of them here.

Numerous studies have linked agricultural pesticides to autism. You can find those studies here.

Canadian research has also identified the presence of pesticides associated with genetically modified foods in maternal, fetal, and non pregnant woman’s blood. They also found the presence of Monsanto’s Bt toxin. The study was published in the Journal Reproductive Toxicology in 2011. (source)

The study concluded, apart from pesticides, that Monsanto’s Bt toxins are clearly detectable and appear to cross the placenta to the fetus. The study pointed out that the fetus is considered to be highly susceptible to the adverse affects of xenobiotics (foreign chemical substances found within an organism that is not naturally produced). This is why the study emphasized knowing more about GMOs is crucial, because environmental agents could disrupt the biological events that are required to ensure normal growth and development.

Affording Organic Food

I believe if you can afford to eat conventional food, you can afford a wide variety of organic food. If you don’t believe me, try adding up what you spend in a month on conventional fruits and vegetables. Then switch to organic (only fruits and vegetables) and see what you spend in a month. If you’ll do that, you’ll notice no significant difference.

Cut out most of the junk food in your life, and try it with all of your food, and you still probably won’t. That being said, the way the system is set up to make organic food more expensive is ridiculous.

As far as feeding the world, what we throw away could do that. The money we spend on war in a couple of years could do that, and we are being told that GMOs do that when they actually don’t?

Sustainable agricultural practices could be set up all over the world. GMO farming is not really sustainable and this has been demonstrated time and time again. One example is in India, where  Monsanto’s insect-repellent Bt cotton wreaked havoc on the country’s farmers. Those seeds cost twice as much as conventional ones and required greater inputs of water and expensive herbicides and pesticides. As a result, thousands of Indian farmers committed suicide.

The Union of Concerned Scientists reminds us that GM crops are not guaranteed, as promised by company advertising. They still fail to produce promised yields, and farmers are not permitted to save seeds due to the company’s patent. As a result, entire communities can be pushed to the brink of starvation.

Every person on the planet can feed themselves with just 100 square feet of well managed land. In 2008, the UN Conference of Trade and development supported organics, saying that organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and is more likely to be sustainable in the long term. You can read that full report HERE.

Book Recommendation To Learn More

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public.” 

The book reveals countless examples of scientific fraud. It educates people on how genetic engineering of the world’s food supply came to be, and how the movement progressed by violating the protocols of science. It touches upon how many scientists and institutions have systematically twisted the truth in order to hide the risks associated with GMOs. It is supported by an internationally recognized group of scientists, who have written some great reviews about the book.

Thanks for reading.

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Awareness

Box Top$ For Education Is Not Supporting Education (Here’s Why)

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The Box Top$ For Education program has kicked off yet again with messaging to suggest it helps schools across the country. However, when you go beyond the surface it's far from what it seems and promotes itself as.

  • Reflect On:

    What labels and initiatives do you let impact your behavior as a consumer?

National Box Tops for Education Week kicks off coast-to-coast fundraising.  For over 20 years, the Box Tops for Education program has provided families a way to help raise money for their school. The program was created to “help support education and benefit American schools” by providing a small amount of money from each item purchased. Does this program truly benefit education and support learning?

Who’s Really Benefitting?

General Mills, Inc., an American multi-billion-dollar multinational manufacturer, and marketer of branded consumer food is genuinely the benefactor. Giving a school 10 cents for every item bought is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money General Mills earns at the expense of our health. At first glance, it appears this company has been extremely generous, donating $719,000,000 in the last 20 years. If you do the math and divide each year’s totals by the 80,000 plus schools in the United States, it equates to a whopping $449 per school. As one can see, General Mills has done a fantastic marketing job, encouraging our kids to eat their garbage. Sure, we can buy school supplies, Kleenex tissues, and a few toxic cleaning products on the list, but what’s the fun in that.

Crappy, Overly-Processed “Food-Like” Products Do Not Support Learning

Diet and nutrition deeply affect a child’s learning ability. Sadly the qualifying products on the Box Top list including Hamburger Helper, Lucky Charms, Pillsbury Toaster Strudel, Fruit Roll-Ups, and alike do not achieve this.

Did You Know? The ingredient list for strawberry fruit roll-ups doesn’t include strawberries!

Instead, it contains genetically modified corn syrup and dextrose (refined sugar derived from GM corn, and artificial food dyes – red 40, yellow 5&6, blue 1 (derived from coal tar and petroleum).

Nutrient-rich homemade meals are being replaced with boxed, frozen, and canned foods due to higher prices of healthy food, our hectic lifestyles, and brainwashing tactics, such TV ads and campaigns such as the Box Top program.

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The Truth

Processed food lacks essential whole food nutrients the brain needs to function correctly. They contain ingredients such as genetically modified corn syrup, refined sugar, synthetic salt, unhealthy fats, artificial colors and flavors, chemical preservatives, and unrevealed heavy metals and pesticides. All of these ingredients work against a child’s ability to learn. 

Pesticides and antibiotics found in food today are detrimental to our healthy gut microbiota which are essential to brain function and development. Both are designed to kill bugs. So, we are destroying our gut bugs that help regulate and keep our immune systems strong and healthy to support our brain.

Studies have also shown that the high sugar content of processed foods may contribute to diabetes, which can affect a student’s learning in many ways. Blood sugar levels can affect cognitive functioning and school performance. According to many scientific journals and newsletters from prestigious universities like Harvard Medical School, processed food consumption are also linked to neurodevelopmental disorders, sleep problems, hyperactivity, attention; and mood symptoms including depression and anxiety.

Boxed foods are also linked to other severe health issues like obesity and high blood pressure. Two extensive European studies published by BMJ in May 2019 links processed foods with a range of health risks, including cardiovascular death. Another scientific study conducted by scientists from Yale University in the U.S. and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany indicated that “excess refined salt used in fast-food restaurants and the over-consumption of sodium from other processed foods may be one of the environmental factors driving the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases.”  Processed foods can also trigger cancer.  The researchers warn that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods “may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades.”

Don’t Be A Victim To The Marketing Ploy

We are poisoning ourselves, and the consequences are starting to show with the incredible rise of neurodevelopmental, mental illness, and diseases like cancer, asthma, diabetes, and many autoimmune disorders. So, let’s forgo the Box Top’s and find healthier and more productive ways to raise money for our schools. These big ag companies have no interest in changing current practices no matter how sick they’re making all of us. Or how many medications we are all dependent on. These companies are generating trillions of dollars of their products, and creating customers for life. General Mills and most food companies are owned by Monsanto/Bayer. They are adhering to FDA guidelines and are not violating any federal laws because they fund the FDA (Industry User Fees).

Fighting big lobbyist groups can seem like an impossibility for most of us, so we need to take our power back by voting with our dollar. We must refuse to purchase products with barcodes that are making 10 cents for our schools. And choose healthy instead.


Looking to help your family overcome ADHD, autism, anxiety and more without medication? Get access to download my FREE eBook ‘Every Parent’s Starter Kit to a Healthy Family’ by signing up HERE.

 

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Awareness

Why Vegan and not Vegetarian? Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh Answers The Question

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh explains why he chooses not to consume any meat or dairy products, and points towards the overwhelmingly cruel food industry.

  • Reflect On:

    What gives us the right to torture animals, steal their babies, abuse them simply for our consumption? Where is our compassion, morality and empathy? Have we been made and brainwashed to believe that it's ok?

The most heartbreaking thing to see and to witness is an innocent benevolent being getting tortured and suffering. This is the realty of eating animal products today. Billions of animals are raised for slaughter every single year, and the overwhelmingly large majority of them go through horrific and terrifying experiences. It’s hard to imagine how anybody could eat or wear the clothes of diseased animals knowing what they went through. It’s also hard to believe that anybody who does eat or purchase products that have used animals in their manufacturing process would do that kind of “labour” themselves.

The truth is that many people still don’t know what these beings are going through. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, immoral, and unethical. Morality, empathy, and love are all emotions that need to return to planet Earth, and as long as we have multiple industries exploiting animals, that can’t happen.

If you’re unaware of what these animals are going through on a daily basis, a recent PETA investigation on two of the world’s top cashmere exporters revealed extreme cruelty, including the violent killing of cashmere goats. You can read more about it and see some footage of that here, if you’re interested.

You can view more examples of graphic footage in the trailer of “The Buddha Bowl,” a documentary in the making featuring personalities and some of the most influential and renowned spiritual leaders from all over the world sharing their perspectives on veganism. These include viewpoints from Buddha himself and from spiritual leaders from the past and present, totalling about 30 interviews on animal rights, environmental issues and health.

One of the people in that documentary is Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who is recognized as a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist. The video below is not part of the documentary listed above, but from an interview taken a few years ago at a conference.

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Are We Even Designed To Eat Meat?

There is no doubt our world is becoming more awake, aware, and compassionate. Millions of people around the world have transitioned towards a plant-based diet. This represents the kind of compassion and empathy our world needs more of, and this diet can do nothing but benefit human health, the planet, and the animals.

It’s no secret that eating meat and animal products is destroying the Earth, as clearing land for animal grazing and slaughter is one of the leading causes of deforestation, and factory farms are an environmental disaster.

More people are also starting to become aware of plant-based diets and their health benefits.

A recent study conducted by researchers in California and France found that meat protein is associated with a very sharp increased risk of heart disease, while protein from nuts and seeds is actually beneficial for the human heart. The study is titled “Patterns of plant and animal protein intake are strongly associated with cardiovascular mortality: The Adventist Health Study-2 cohort,”

It’s one of many studies that’ve emerged over the years showing the benefits of plant-based diets and their ability to reverse diseases. On the other hand, many studies published have shown how the consumption of meat has the exact opposite effect.

Below is a clip from a recent CETV episode where CE founder Joe Martino and I go into the discussion a little deeper, with a specific focus on plant-based protein compared to meat protein. If interested, you can watch the full episode here by signing up for your free trial. CETV is a platform that we created to combat the censorship we’ve experienced over the past couple of years.

I also go into this type of discussion, if you’re interested in reading about it, in an article I recently published: “Another Study Suggests Humans Are Not Designed To Eat Meat.”

The Takeaway

Human beings are born with compassion and empathy. What we are doing to animals on our planet today, and how many continue to ignore it and be unaffected by it, is simply as a result of mass brainwashing and marketing by big food corporations. The truth is that we’ve been taught to ignore it, we’ve been taught to believe that it’s OK and it’s our right to do this to others who share the planet with us. No child would ever stand for such a thing unless they were taught to do so. It’s the same thing as racism, we are not born with it, we are taught it. I urge all those who are reading this to do their research into where the vast majority of our food and clothes are coming from, watch what these animals are going through, look into their eyes and and feel what they are feeling.

The ability to feel and understand the emotions of others, animal or human, is a HUGE and VITAL step towards creating a better world and a better overall human experience.

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Health

Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 4: The Island)

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The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.

From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.

Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.

‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”

4. The Island

The island of Allandon was born of a fiery volcanic eruption that came out of the ocean. At first the island was nothing more than a mass of molten lava which was cooled by the air and the ocean tides into hard rock formations. As more time passed, life began to spring up through the cracks and crevices, until one day Allandon was an island of great character and beauty. As if gradually awakening from a long sleep, the island eventually recognized itself as an island, separate from the ocean. During noontide of his first day of self-awareness, the island noticed the ocean’s waters rushing upon him and then receding back. So he spoke to the ocean thusly:

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“Would you please stop splashing onto the rocks on my shore?”

 “It is the way of the universe,” she replied. “You were born of me and this is how I care for you, softening the rocks on your shore until they become tiny crystals of sand.”

“Why do you do that?”

“So that creatures that walk upon your beach can feel how gently the infinite and the temporal can meet.”

“Will you then leave me alone?” asked the island.

“I can never leave you alone, not until you have melted back into me and we are one.”

The island was outraged. “No! I may have been born of you, but I will not die at your hands!”

“Death is an illusion,” she said.

“Quiet!” he retorted. “You will stop what you are doing immediately!”

“I have no choice in the matter.”

“Well I have a choice,” said the island of Allandon. “I will resist you to the end!”

“Yes, you have that choice,” the ocean replied. “What would be my delight in you otherwise?”

An essential concept that we will come back to many times throughout the course of this book is that of duality. Our conversation itself would not be possible if there were not a duality: you and I. A listener and a speaker. Without a listener, speaking would be pointless. Without a speaker, listening would be impossible.

But it goes even deeper than that. This world, indeed existence itself, requires duality. What something ‘is’ can only be determined when it is measured against something that it ‘is not’. The shadow only ‘exists’ in the presence of light, or that which it is not. The root Latin word ‘exsto’ meant ‘to stand out or stand forth, to project; to be visible’. Existence itself as we know it is only possible where there is duality. While we can truly understand the ‘being’ of darkness only in its relation to light, light as well only exists when cast against a background of darkness. There would be no ‘good’ without ‘bad’, no male without female, and so on.

Duality is what makes it possible to be conscious. We are conscious when we distinguish subject from object, ourselves as perceivers from what we perceive. The day that the island sees itself separate from the ocean and distinguishes the ‘I’ (the island itself) from the ‘you’ (the ocean), that is the day that the island becomes conscious. And being conscious, the island and the ocean are able to talk to each other, just as we are. As we continue to speak about the evolution of consciousness, both on the personal level and the global level, the importance of the concept of duality will become ever more clear.

There is no better or more profound elaboration on the concept of duality and its role in the world than the Chinese symbol of yin and yang, which represents the two basic forces in the universe. Consider them polar opposites, like the positive and negative ends of a battery. Just as electricity is made possible by the dynamic between opposing charges, all movement in the world, all change, is made possible by the interplay of yin and yang.

In figure 1 black and white represent these two opposing forces. White is the cosmic force of yang, the masculine force, sign of the Sun, aggression, light, heat, growth and movement. In contrast the black is yin, the feminine force, sign of the Moon, passivity, darkness, cold, senescence and inactivity.

Figure 1

The small black and white spots signify the precise interrelationship between Yin and Yang: the seed of one is always contained in the other, such that all movement in the universe is the growth of one force out of the other. You can see in the diagram how the polarities literally turn into each other, like night into day and day into night. Our planet’s entire ecology depends on this complementary pattern, where everything that grows eventually decays, giving rise to new growth.

In the new conversation the subject of change is always in the forefront. We seek out support from each other in dealing with and making changes in our lives, because we all have some resistance to change. Change can be difficult. Change can be threatening. But in the back of our minds we know change is inevitable. We see the sun rise and fall, we see the seasons come and go. We know that we are always growing older and one day will die. And even knowing this, we often live as though the circumstances of our life are frozen in time and will stay the same forever.

Of course they never do. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted that in the world ‘the only constant is change.’ And we should all be grateful for that. Imagine if the world around us actually did stay the same and every day was just like the next, if the weather never changed and plants and trees didn’t grow. Imagine if we didn’t age and our children never grew up. Imagine if there was never anything new. It wouldn’t be very much fun and we know it. Despite our resistance there is a part of us deep inside that wants change. That part of us wants us to grow, to evolve, to experience new things. We also want to make our relationships better and more fulfilling. We want to be more powerful in our working life and create more abundance. We want to finally climb the mountain of our dreams and enjoy the breathtaking view from on high.

Fine. But this all doesn’t happen until we are willing to make a first step, and start declaring our aspirations out into the world. If we at least shared our dreams with someone else, and expressed our disappointment that our lives were not moving towards anything worthwhile, we would likely find that we are not alone. Sometimes the friction of mutual discontent is enough to spark us into action. Or we might turn right around and stop talking about it. Our fear of the unknown can be so strong sometimes that we will shy away from the very conversations that we suspect will encourage us to actively make changes.

Now if we decide to keep sitting back and waiting, life will eventually make changes happen to us, and they are not likely to be the ones we are looking for. When we just hang on to our relationships, life will make them slowly slip away. If we endure a job that we don’t like, work will become ever less satisfying and we may even get fired. And if we don’t keep lighting the torch of our greatest hopes, they will fizzle out into oblivion. When that happens, the only way we are able to console ourselves is by rationalizing that our dreams were never possible to begin with, if in fact we still remembered what they were.

In Chinese philosophy change is likened to a constantly flowing river. All the forces of nature move with the current downstream, in a perfectly balanced and synchronized manner. The real exception to this is human beings. We have made for ourselves a raft on this river, symbol of our self-consciousness, our awareness of ourselves as self-determining creatures. This gives us the power of choice. At any moment in our lives we can choose to embrace change and travel downstream or we can fight against the flow. While we may appear to be staying in the same place for periods in our lives, the forces of change are always at work. If we try to stay in the same place for too long, we are actually expending a lot of energy fighting our own evolution, and we are basically allowing life to pass us by. Eventually, the force will be too much and we will be carried a little ways down the river. In these moments we experience letting go, and when we let go we see that the changes we have been avoiding are not so bad after all.

In the transformation of yin and yang in figure 1, all change is contained by the outer circle which, as you can see, is the only part of the diagram that remains the same throughout. This circle represents the source of all change and all things in the universe. It is called the Dao (also written ‘Tao’), which can roughly be understood as the All or the One. In other spiritual traditions the Dao has been called Brahman, God, Allah, Supreme Being, the Unchanging, the Almighty to name a few. The name itself does not really matter. As Lao-Tzu reflects in Dao De Jing,

The Dao is too great to be described by the name ‘Dao’. If it could be named so simply, it would not be the eternal Dao.

Because the Dao (or whatever else we call it) is the unchanging All, then it is necessarily beyond all duality, and therefore beyond description. There is nothing it is not, and so we can never know the Dao. However, we can still experience ourselves as part of the Dao. By definition all things in the universe, including ourselves, are part of the Dao.  Since the Dao is the source of all change in the world, the part of us that feels a connection with the Dao is where our own desire for change comes from. I would like to call this part of us our Dao Self. If it was up to our Dao Self, we would always follow nature in moving with the current of the river.

But there is another part of ourselves, the part which does not recognize our connection to the Dao. It is the part that enables us to function in the world as individuals, to experience ourselves as apart from one another. This part of us I would like to call our Ego Self. The Ego Self  is programmed to survive at all costs and to maintain control over our lives. It is resistant to change because change threatens to destroy a part of the identity we have created for ourselves as distinct entities. It is worried that change will cause our entire being to fall apart. And so our Ego Self wants us to work our way upstream, so that we stay in the same place and remain as stable as possible.

This gives us pause to think about what it means to be human. Are we a part of the universe or apart from it? Is our real self the Dao Self or the Ego Self? While we may live our life predominantly from the perspective of one or the other of our two selves at any given time, they are always both with us throughout our life. Our basic nature is comprised of this duality, and being human means living with the paradox of this double identity. Our Ego Self is connected to our senses, and keeps us focused in the physical or ‘material’ world, the temporal world of matter. It’s voice is the voice of reason. Our Dao Self transcends sensory experience and calls us to look inside, to an invisible world that holds us to be part of the whole, the infinite world of spirit. Our Dao Self speaks with the voice of our intuition.

When we start to accept ourselves as having this dual nature, it is much easier to understand our conflicting desires: we resist change in our lives and yet we deeply desire change. When we live from the perspective of the Ego Self, change becomes associated with pain, suffering and loss. However, as we learn to live life more from our Dao Self it is easier to embrace change and let go of resistance because change is no longer associated with loss. We don’t experience loss because we feel connected to the wealth of the universe.

When John Donne said that ‘no man is an island,’ he was speaking about this interconnectedness that we have with our world and with each other. All of the great spiritual traditions of the past have been saying this in their own way. They all call us to a greater awareness of our union with the source of being, the One of many names which I am calling the Dao.

Like the island ultimately returning into the ocean from whence it came, we too are on a course for a union with the Dao. But like the island we fight against this. When our Ego Self is in charge we worry that if we do not struggle to hold on to our identity we will lose ourselves completely. We become protective of the welfare of our individual selves because we cannot see our greater connection to the whole. This is the paradox of our existence, source of both our profoundest miseries and our greatest delights. And we would not have it any other way.

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