Sensual Gardening ~ Part 1 ~ Taste

Blindfold taste test

Whilst doing some research for the follow-up of my introductory post, Sensual Gardening ~ A Taster, I’ve become increasingly aware that chatting to you about enhancing your senses isn’t going to be as straight forward as I anticipated and these posts are going to be slightly different to how I originally intended. But let’s just call that evolution. The more I learn the more I evolve and the more I am able to share with you all. Surely that’s an integral part of what we’re here to do, evolve and share our knowledge no matter how significant or insignificant we think that knowledge is. Anyway, on with the show and let’s see how it evolves ….

I’m starting off with the sense of taste mainly because I’m changing my eating habits and experimenting with a variety of new (to me) ingredients and flavours which has naturally piqued my interest in what taste is and how we sense the sensations we do. This is where the research distracted me away from my normal thoughts and perceptions of food and eating. All of our senses combine to give us the tastes we experience, our senses of sight, smell, touch and even what we hear all play a part. Throw the fact that our sense of taste has six senses of its own into the mix; salt, sweet, sour, bitter, fat and the one we often forget to mention, umami, you can see how and why these posts are becoming less straightforward than I thought. But I haven’t finished yet, let’s toss our memory into the pot, our childhood and other past experiences all affect our perception of what we are tasting. How many times have you heard yourself or someone else say, ‘Mmm, tastes just like how Mum used to make it’ (or not as good as ..)  So in this post I’m going to allow the links I’ve included to do all the hard work whilst I chat to you about my culinary education and gardening.

health on a plate

I decided to change my diet not only for health reasons but also to add a bit of spice and variety into my life, try new experiences in the comfort of my own home and garden. Notice another connection with ‘evolving’ going on here? For years I’ve grown a variety of herbs in my garden, mainly for aesthetic and aromatic gardening reasons, which I explained in my introductory post, than for culinary use. Okay I’d snip a few leaves and use them in a typical English salad then smother them in the ubiquitous shop bought salad cream. I’d make the occasional cup of mint tea, but not much else. That’s changing, and so is my garden. By experiencing and discovering ‘tastes’ that give me that hit of ‘Wow-ness’ allied with the sensation and knowledge that it’s doing me good has awakened my awareness to what other herbs and plants I can grow in my garden pantry. I already grow garden, apple and pepper-mint mints but there are so many others to try. It’s the same for many other herbs, there so many more varieties to be found and experienced in a collection of seed packets than the usual supermarket offerings of parsley, coriander (cilantro), chives and basil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Everything I’ve mentioned here is developing my senses. From growing herbs, vegetables and other edible plants, harvesting them, preparing them for a meal and finally eating them, involves the full range of my senses; touch, smell, hearing (yes, hearing!), sight and of course taste. Engaging with our food more connects us to and develops our senses. It brings new experiences into our lives and enhances our wellbeing at so many levels. So my latest catchphrase and message to you is “Enhance Your Senses and Enhance Your Life.”

Sensual Gardening ~ a Taster

Sensual Garden

To stand at the bottom of the steps that lead down into my garden each morning, taking in the array of colours, breathing in the air full with the perfume of awakening flowers, whilst listening to bird songs being carried on the breeze as it rustles its way through the willow leaves. To run my hands through dew soaked blades of grass and herbs that grow so freely at my side; all bring my senses back to life after having rested in stillness within me as I slept through the night.

Entering through the gate as I arrive back from work on a hot summers evening I rub the oil filled leaves of lavender and rosemary, releasing their therapeutic aroma as it mingles with the essence of basil, garlic-chives and mint that cling heavily to the warmth of the south-facing wall.  I linger for a brief moment to pinch out a few young green tips, feeling their individual textures embracing my skin before tasting the sensual aliveness that only nature shares for free. ~ Welcome home Steve, in many more senses than five!

This could have been a long spiritual uplifting post but I want instead to take you out of the spiritual arena and step alongside me into the world of You as a human being and into my garden for what I hope will be a sensual delight. Although it’s difficult to avoid a spiritual element when discussing nature and our connectedness with it I want to try if I can to detach you if only for a few brief moments from the land of spirit and light which we can often confuse with the feeling of it just ‘being a great day to be alive and enjoying the moment we’re in,’ and to draw you back into the simplistic childlike sensual enthusiasm for life and the world of nature we live in

smelling nature  touching nature  tasting nature  listening to nature

Spiritual or not we’re all human which is why I intend to start writing a series of posts based on improving our wellbeing; physical, mental and emotional without overwhelming you with clichés about reaching higher levels of spiritual awareness but by simply using nature from a purely human point of view as much as I can and based as much as possible around my own gardening experiences.

Gardens, gardening and horticulture in general are being used more and more as a therapeutic treatment in many areas of healthcare including rehabilitation centres of all kinds where they are used as a means of providing new life skills as well as providing therapy to those who find themselves unable to cope with life for whatever reason. Local community parks, gardens and schools are also being turned into what I term ‘wellbeing playgrounds’ by providing areas where we (especially our kids) can all have everyday experiences that connect us to and raise our ‘senses’  of awareness of nature. By nurturing our senses in the same way as we would nurture our gardens we can begin to regrow ourselves into the fully sensual beings we really are. By nurturing I mean touching, smelling, feeling and tasting for ourselves the nourishment that nature provides for us to be able to feel the very best we can!

brain connected to nature

The brain thrives on being nourished and it feeds off of the information supplied to it by our senses whilst creating a nerve tingling cascade of neuro-chemical stimulations throughout our bodies. So the more beneficial stimulation we can supply ourselves with on a regular basis the more our brains will stimulate our wellbeing on a regular basis too. I wont touch on the scientific, neurological, medical or nutritional research/facts here or in the future as I’m no expert in those matters but I will occasionally be sharing a few links to informed websites and other related resources with you, like the ones I’ve included in this post, but there is a whole wealth of great information out there on the internet if you want to explore any those topics further for yourself.

So what’s next; information, tips and anecdotes including ….

  • How to reduce and avoid urban noise pollution by diving into the sounds and even silences of nature.
  • How to enhance your visual and auditory senses by using houseplants, cut flowers and herbs to bring the garden indoors.
  • How to tickle your taste buds, often for free from natures’ own natural store of sensual deliciousness.
  • How to Invigorate yourself (and others) with touch. Which plants you’ll want to hug as well as a few you’ll want to shrug away!

In the meantime can I suggest that you take some timeout to sit, walk or play in a garden of sensuality near you!

The Un-Tamed Spirit of Change

untamed spirit

There is so much change going on around the world, change for the good, change for the betterment of of the planet, nature and mankind. Change of a return to the natural rhythms  of life, an Un-Taming of the spirit of creativity and healing. These changes are far too often obscured from our view by the sanitisation of our environment of which we are all an integral part of and which affects the way we see it and operate within it.  There is a regeneration happening that those who take the time (and effort) to use or at least develop their full range of inborn senses, including common-sense, will see with an ever growing clarity.

Un-Taming: ~ More and more people are talking, writing and sharing with an open heart, teaching and guiding others from their own amazing life changing experiences. For far too long these guides/messengers have been classed as evildoers, witches or simply insane and ostracised by a society that thought it knew better. However with the rapid advances in natural medicines, nutrition, neuroscience, quantum physics and many other scientific fields these brave spokespeople are at last being recognised, listened to and heard.

Un-Taming: ~ Re-wilding of our countryside, conservation of natural resources, architects designing buildings with rooftop and/or vertical gardens and in a smaller but no less important way, local authorities are returning native wildflowers to our urban verges and so called wasteland. Possibly triggered by the increase in urban guerilla gardening and the amazing (shock-horror!) fact that they look great and in these days of budget cutbacks are cheaper to plant and maintain as opposed to those homogenised rows of uniformed bedding plants many of which don’t have the attributes needed to attract pollinating bees or other beneficial insects. This great article, ‘Let A Thousand Wildflowers Bloom’ from Richard Louv, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Children Nature Network explains far better the point I’m attempting to make here.

wildflowers

Un-Taming: ~ There are more and more organisations bringing positive awareness of the importance of nature to the wellbeing of our children in more ways than you might imagine. Apart from the Children Nature Network I mentioned earlier there are many more; the International Association of Nature Pedagogy is worth checking out, but also look for organisations in your own local area as I’m sure there’ll be something to whet your own appetite and that of your kids somewhere close by. These young minds are the future and it’s time to un-tame them from the constraints of old beliefs and modern day fears so that they may live a better life now and continue to create a better one for the generations of leaders, educators, entrepreneurs and creative minds yet to come.

Un-Taming: ~ I’ve noticed a big swing in people’s perceptions of who and what they are; in their outlook on life in general and certainly on what they expect from those ‘in control’. The political world is being confronted by a new shift, an awakening of their electorate demanding change. Change away from the old systems that have continuously failed to serve anyone but those with their fingers permanently stuck in the honey pot. The recent Brexit decision here in the U.K. is a prime example along with the increasing number of groups campaigning for change by successfully challenging governments and corporations alike. There is an un-taming process going on, the populous are gradually re-wilding themselves and women (I’m happy to announce) are becoming more and more to the forefront, becoming empowered and gradually addressing the feminine/masculine balance in many walks and aspects of life.

Theresa May    Angela Merkel    Hillary Clinton

Finally …..

Un-Taming: ~ The title of this piece is ‘The Un-Tamed Spirit of Change’ which brings me to spirituality. Or perhaps I should say my own perception of main-stream spirituality which I’m saddened to say doesn’t appear to be welcoming or embracing the un-taming process as comfortably as it perhaps should. Having said that there are many people, some referred to in an earlier section about the emergence of more and more ‘authentic’ guides and teachers, but there still seems to be a reluctance or maybe even fear for what I call the ‘main-stream spiritual drum beaters’ to un-tame themselves. To free their souls and allow their spirit the freedom to speak out as the authentic and conscious voice it is. Which, to me is what spirituality is all about. When you class yourself as spiritual it doesn’t mean that you never feel angry or ‘pissed off’, it means that you’ve learned to control those feelings and emotions but it doesn’t stop you from being passionate, from speaking out, channeling that energy and taking occasional drastic action to change what you want to change.

Look back throughout history and you’ll find that the biggest drivers of positive change were both spiritual, outspoken, action takers and unafraid to tread on a few corns when needed.  If you don’t follow their lead, then you’re not being true to your-self and need to un-tame yourself, step out of that spiritual cloak of invisibility you’ve been hiding under and start wearing your true colours whatever they may be.  When was the last time you read a ‘main-stream’ article or blog post that disturbed you enough to let out a “Wow”, words that stopped you in your tracks because it went totally against your own beliefs but somehow still made absolute sense? I’ve read a lot of ‘main-stream’ articles lately but only one or two have given me even a lingering “Mmm” moment. It still seems to me that being spiritually authentic in the ‘main-stream drum beaters club’ is to turn out the same old ‘copy & paste’ articles which could have anyone’s name accredited to them, no personality or punch and overuse of the same of quotes and cliches. Like everything else spirituality has to move with the times and although the inner foundation stones remain in place its (our) presence in the outer-world has be managed and maintained to survive and be of continual service to others.

Mother Teresa    Dr Martin Luther King Jr    Mahatma Gandhi

Of course I can also see that there is a place in the world for some of these ‘main-streamers’ as there is for those outdated municipal gardens but to me an un-tamed spirit is the voice of free thought and expression, of creating positive progress which brings change; and the sooner that many more of the ‘main-stream’ grasp that and join in with all the other game changers showing up in the world they’re going to be left behind gathering cobwebs as this global shift rolls over them. So, wake up guys, smell the change and un-tame the spirit within you … it’s there waiting to break free and become the authentic spiritual driving force you write about week in week out.

Looking Beyond the Landscapes of Nature & Inner-Being

Human landscape

Looking beyond the landscape that in truth is a momentary image of whatever vista we perceive in that single moment can reveal a thousand stories hidden (or partially hidden) from view. It becomes the silence of a broken or unspoken word which can answer many a unasked question.  As you connect deeper with Nature you absorb the energies that She sends out, much of them generated from a time long before mankind ever came into being. These ancient vibrations come to us as does a gentle breeze, unseen but felt. A caress that often sends a shiver of awareness like a sonorous voice reaching out and calling to us through our hearts and souls. Connecting us to the core of our spirituality, the foundation of what makes us who we truly are.

The scars of Nature past, as in those left by the forming of fjords, mountains and valleys, weathered and gouged by the seemingly timeless power of natural forces. Those geological wonders which are the remnants of cataclysmic evolutions and finally the scars left by ourselves in more recent times. They lay there before us, all telling their stories to those who are prepared to see and take the time to learn how to read and comprehend them. As humans we are no different from the landscapes of the world, we carry the marks of the past in our DNA, bygone beliefs, hopes and fears all play a part in creating the landscapes of our present and future selves . If we don’t take the time to get to know our own scars we can be in danger of succumbing to them; allowing them to control our everyday physical, cerebral and emotional energy and preventing our ability to live, grow and expand into our true and authentic selves.

Fjord glacial landscape      Ancient landscape

These signs can, as in the natural landscapes we live in, be read not just by ourselves (if we allow ourselves to do so) but by others too. Those silences, misdirected thoughts, ill-considered words, acts and deeds that we send out as vibrational energy which does not match up to the image we believe we are portraying; they are the signs that give us away and reveal the truths that lay hidden under the surface of our personal landscapes. They can be seen too in our physicality, our posture, that smile that hides some pain and in the eyes that reflect our inner wellbeing. Perhaps it’s because I’ve wandered far and wide through the landscape of my own past that I have recently begun to recognise these signs more and more in others, not just amongst those I come into personal contact with on a daily basis (it’s amazing the hidden stories being revealed during this period of political chaos!)  but on social media too. They can be seen in “quotes” which hide an authentic voice crying to be released, inside of casual comments (not usually in the main post, but in the comment threads where people often post in a less considered manner than usual). There seems to me to be a greater need than ever before for all of us to engage in some continuous inner-research, to reconnect and return to the authentic reality and connection between our past and present human-landscapes before we can even glimpse let alone hope to arrive in the future that lays beyond our self-limiting horizons.

 volcanic landscape    Man made landscapes

There’s a lot of things that need healing in this wonderful world that we live in, but first and foremost we must learn to heal ourselves. I’m not here to tell you how to do that, I’m no expert on the healing processes. it’s not about me or my own personal journey, I’ve made more mistakes along the way than most others have, as those of you who know me will be aware of and my posts here reveal for all to see. It’s not about anyone in particular, it’s about a society and a spiritual community (which we’re all a part of) needing to recognise the lessons from the past and carrying the wisdom from them into the present to build a better landscape for the future. But as I’ve just mentioned, I’ve been working hard to understand, come to terms with and release my own scarred landscapes, it’s not easy, not always pleasant but the reward of seeing and feeling a new healthier and happier landscape unfold makes it more than just worthwhile. There has been no one single ‘cure’ ‘treatment’, I’ve tried a combination of many and when one hasn’t worked I’ve looked for and discovered an alternative way. Hand in hand with my own connectedness with Nature I’ve crawled through an undergrowth of brambles and nettles and have been scratched and stung on more occasions than I care to dwell on. Until finally I’ve arrived at a place of conscious awareness, of understanding and appreciation, free of all those brambles and nettles. Of course, as in Nature the undergrowth expands into unexpected places so it is always wise to keep a wary eye out for it creeping back up on you and to keep it under control.

So, If I’m not here to tell you how to recognise, accept, release and heal your own scars, what am I here for?  I’m here only as a messenger and you’ve just read the message I carried. How and if you accept it is up to you. Personally I hope that just a few of you take a little time to explore and discover the past landscapes of Nature and your own Inner-being and …… well, as I’ve already said; what you do next, is up to you!

Maybe I’m a Dreamer or ……

Maybe I'm  dreamer

Maybe I’m a Dreamer or Biodiversity, Ecosystems & Sustainable Infrastructures or why I Voted to Leave the E.U.

When I look at the landscape I live in, both urban and rural I not only see and feel the beauty and wonder I so often write about I also see and feel the darker side; waste, overuse, misuse  and a failure to sustain the land that Nature provides to sustains us. Long before the agricultural revolution mankind has been reshaping the landscape until what we see today bears no resemblance to what Nature intended. Of course we need agriculture, of course we need our cities, towns, factories, homes, transport links, etc.. etc.. to live as we do. That’s not my gripe, I rely on those things as much as the next person, but until ‘we’  rebuild the infrastructure that supports those necessities alongside the ecological and natural biodiversity of this tiny island as well as coming to grips with the effects of both natural and unnatural global warming England and many other countries will not be able to support the numbers of people wanting to live in them.

Flood 1

Flooding is now a regular occurrence yet we continue to build on flood plains, those plains which along with trees, plants and grasses which Nature designed to soak up excess rainfall and return it to the Earth are still being destroyed. There are some efforts being made to repair and reproduce the original landscapes mostly by some wonderful charities and environmental groups whilst the Government agencies do little but make promising noises. Many coastal regions are being eroded by ever-increasing storms, washing away homes and causing more inland flooding which sours the land, ruining crops and grazing pastures whilst taking away the local inhabitants means of making a living; their sustainability. Yet we only provide emergency first aid to the problem, short-term remedies and in some cases nothing at all to prevent this from happening on a long-term basis.

SewerSewer

The U.K.’s infrastructure, its drainage and sewerage systems are inadequate, its road and rail links are in need of complete overhaul, there is a shortage of ‘decent affordable’ housing, it needs more schools, hospitals and care homes, a full range of public services that can cope with an ever-growing population. Unfortunately the list this country needs to ‘get right’ is far longer than I care to write about here and please don’t get me wrong; I love my country, I wouldn’t live anywhere else and there is a lot to be grateful for in living here but I need to explain what I mean in harsh terms to get my point across to you. I need to explain all this to you as it’s what more and more of my blog posts are going to be about: ‘Biodiversity’, ‘Ecosystems’ and ‘Sustainability’.  The way we choose to see and apply them as both physical earth-born tools and natural vibrational and spiritual dynamism.

Dynamism

I also need to explain this to you so that you can understand why I voted for the U.K. to leave the E.U. Each member state is like an individual with its own personal needs, each has a different cultural outlook, each has its own geological, ecological and natural resources which need individual management. The one regulation fits all theory doesn’t work and the time and expense wasted in negotiating ‘special’ amendments amongst 28 countries could and hopefully will be better spent ‘at home’ doing real good at a national ground roots level. Our green and pleasant land needs a rest, to recuperate, repair and heal itself (with our help) which is also why I voted to leave and revise our immigration policies and control. This is not based on racist nor patriotic flag waving. I don’t want to throw anyone out and I don’t want to stop people who are prepared to work and contribute to making this country a better place for themselves, others and future generations from moving here. My decision was made based upon just some of the things I’ve mentioned. This country cannot survive longterm without a process of healing, of slowing down the arrival of more and more users of our weakening infrastructures and dwindling resources. Until this is done there must be restrictions on permanent immigration (not freedom to travel). Maybe I’m a dreamer but if we can get this right then maybe we can become the inspiration for other countries to work individually within a worldwide network (rather than a private members club) to heal the world before it’s too late.

Whilst I’m being open and frank with you on my views on leaving the E.U. I’ll tell you that there were also other ‘political’ reasons which influenced me. Extreme right-wing political groups (that’s a polite way of describing them) are gaining more and more influence within the community. In Germany, France and Spain in particular and I for one don’t want to be a part of an organisation with that kind of influence working inside it. I wanted us to leave before it caves in on itself. The referendum result has shaken politicians, bureaucrats, financial markets and corporations and I want to keep shaking them. I want to be a part of a better future and I truly believe that we can create it, perhaps not in my lifetime, but if I can play a tiny part in kick starting that change I’ll leave this world smiling.