a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for September, 2009

“Vivo Barefoot”

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

I’ve always told my yoga students that the worst thing that ever happened to our feet was the invention of really, really sturdy shoes. We became addicts, buying expensive running, biking, walking shoes and our feet became weaker and less flexible. We bought shoes and arch supports to correct supination or pronation and/or many of the other things that feet are usually meant to do. In fact, a recent article in the NY Times says, “the injury rate among runners is virtually unchanged since the 1970s, when the modern running shoe was introduced. Some ailments, like those involving the knee and Achilles’ tendon, have increased.”

Although I highly covet my hiking boots, I go minimalist on my other shoes and make sure to be barefoot when possible. Of course, yoga is a great prevention and cure for foot health (and much much more) and can balance out the effects of time spent in shoes, if done consisitently (that would be close to everyday, yoginis!). As a teacher, I’ve seen weak or fallen arches come back, bunions disappear and ankles straighten. Once your feet are doing what they’re supposed to, your entire body will feel better. My own feet are genetically a bit wacky (dropped metatarsals) but after starting yoga, the pain that used to cause is 100% gone, despite the fact that I still run, jump and play on them.

But it sounds like I could do even more for my feet, like toss (recycle, actually), my cushy running shoes – there’s a group of runners who advocate running barefoot – claiming that foot, knee and other issues disappear when the feet have natural form and function. Go slow and you can build up your soles to handle trails or pavement, or you can opt (and splurge) on the back to basics design of the new shoes that protect your skin but allow you the benefits of being bare. I found the five-toe styles a bit too ridiculous to look down at, but I admit to loving the styles of Terra Plana, a shoe company which also strives for eco-sustainability.

Not a cheap price tag on the latest and greatest, but when it comes to shoes, I like to keep just a few pair of sturdy, functional shoes around that I wear for years at a stretch, instead of a closet full of fad followers, so in the end, it makes sense. Wearing Earth shoes the past several years (with recessed or “negative” heel design) already has me convinced that elevating our heels in shoes is not logical for our feet or spines, so it’s not a big stretch to take the next step to a more natural gait in another way.

What is the moral of the story? Our bodies know what they are doing and our technology is not always as smart as we think it is. It’s going to be more and more logical and important to think nature-based not only when it comes to our environment, but our health and bodies, too.

“Shit Theology”

Monday, September 7th, 2009

It’s dry again here in the SouthEast. I hesitate to speak the “D” word, but the truth is, like many parts of the world, we’re getting drier more frequently. I’d like to say that as a community and as a culture, we’re learning more sane ways to use, reuse and conserve our drinking water supplies, but it’s obvious that we’re mostly still stuck in the illusion of endless, luxurious supplies. The account below shows just how much –

from Lib Hutchby, Cary, NC, Sludge

If I could find the man who told me the story, I’d be able to give his name
and you could contact him, but until such time, here’s the story of how one
missionaary kid’s experience changed his life:

Once there was a Christian missionary family who lived in Kenya.  The son
grew up to be called an Educational Director in a local Baptist Church in
North Carolina.  As an adult, the son spoke freely of his “shit theology.”

I dare to tell Dan’s story:

“One day the chief of the village came to our house for a meeting.  While
there, he asked to use the bathroom.  The chief came back to the meeting,
very agitated, confused, and disturbed.  That’s when he looked squarely at
my father and asked him about his toilet.  The chief told my father that if
that is how Christians treat God’s sacred water, he wanted no part of his
religion. The chief walked away.”

Kenya was in a drought.  Famine was experienced in Ethiopia and people were
dying of thirst.  Water, life’s soulforce, wasn’t something into which the
chief was willing to place waste.

The last I heard from Dan, he was living in Texas and working on natural
sewage treatment systems.

In the meantime, drought or not, I’m still baffled by our antiquated sewage system, am “Peeing on the Earth”, taking navy showers, washing my dishes camping style, driving a dirty car, and not buying bottled water, and saving water simply in about 96 other ways So many of our environmental issues are in the critical stages, but when the clean water supplies dries up, it’s over. Let’s get perspective. Start at home. Then start talking. Tao

As The Man Burns

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

By Tao Oliveto

Burning Man is on again. Below is a re-post from 2007 after I had watched a documentary about Burning Man and came close to attending the festivities myself. It’s 2009, I haven’t yet gone – yet – and still have lots of questions to ponder about the whole thing.

At each Summer’s end, when Burning Man energy begins to build towards this momentous event, I find myself drawn to the experience, yet wrestling with some lingering questions…
As a long-time student of yoga, I’m not a stranger to the possibility and power of the transformational process and I wholeheartedly support this tribal gathering and ritual. Having been subjected to the twists and turns of the spiritual path, I understand that change within (and therefore without) depends on our ability to go beyond our earthly day-to-day responsibilities and find ways to come together and take a deeper look within.

There’s no denying that the survival (and celebration) of 40,000 people for 6 days in the desert has its environmental impact, but a thorough perusal of the BM web site shows that “leave no trace” is taken sincerely and seriously. As portrayed, most “Burners” pack out what they take in, including trash, compost and ashes. Even used water (forbidden to be dumped) is collected in evaporation pools. Water bottled in plastic is discouraged – most people bring large stainless steel tanks. Although generators are allowed, more are now powered with biodiesel and many use solar powered lighting. Designated “green camps” are growing in number, for those who want to pool together their renewable resources and make a stronger environmental statement.

There’s still the problem of finding your way (from all over the country and possibly the world) to Black Rock City. Booking an airline flight, then renting a car or RV is the modus operandi. Tent campers arrive with carports (or have them sent ahead) for more shaded personal space. This is a consumption issue at best and a pollution issue at worst.

Offsets to the rescue. Burning Man uses, encourages and advocates retail Offsets for all energy use and carbon emissions. And, though not entirely clean, burning the Big Guy is a worthy and life-changing spectacle in my opinion. Fire is more than a metaphor. It is primally linked to all cultures and to our very existence. Destruction before creation, death before rebirth, the mythical Phoenix rises from the ashes transformed. Burn on, Burning Man. My spirit goes with you.

Root – the Art of Brewing

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

By Tao

Oh, the Root!
I was supposed to get back to you on that last week! oops…I would love to spread  a mischievous story about how I became so enamored with the spicy, sweet and potent concoction that I took several lefts instead of one right and ended up on the ocean shore. Well, that part is true. I’m at the beach right now. And perhaps I have taken some unusual turns recently, but that’s another story entirely…

Back to Root. First, here’s some tantalizing background: “ROOT traces its heritage all the way back to the 1700s when colonists were first introduced to the Root Tea that Native Americans would drink as an herbal remedy. Brewed from sassafras, sarsaparilla, wintergreen birch bark, and other roots and herbs, Root Tea was used to cure a variety of ailments. As colonial settlers passed the recipe down form generation to generation, the drink grew in potency and complexity.” Read more here.

Doesn’t it make you long for those good old days when everything we did involved our connection to nature and a sense of art? My first experience with Root, an herbal, organic root liqueur, was a similar one. So, I gathered a table of friends together to share it with me.

I’ll start with one important piece of advice – sip, don’t gulp. This taste is big and bold and complex, so take your time. Then take a second sip immediately. Then wait. You’ll first feel the warm sweet taste, which will quickly change to spicy and almost “cool” going down. I challenge you to not read all of the ingredients beforehand, but instead try to find the flavors freehand. Mixing is not necessary, but encouraged by some mixologists. I discovered my own favorite – Root with Kombucha.

I could instantly pick out the cloves and the anise, the other 11 herbal/plant flavors took some time. But who could anticipate the rich, earthy taste of birch bark?? This was certainly a first for me. To call it unique is only a beginning. And, sustainability geeks like me don’t have to worry about that part since the birch bark used in Root is only taken from fallen or dead trees – the incredible natural properties keep it viable. Learn more about all the ingredients here.

In fact, Root will soon get all of these organically and sustainably grown ingredients from 200 acres of its own farmland in NH, devoted to the entire brew process, comingling with the local community, and yes, supporting Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

What I also discovered and appreciated during these past 5 days sipping and sharing my Root with friends at home and beyond is the value of my own comingling, stopping to sip, be with friends and pay attention to all things Art.

(You can order Root online and/or find it at select PA liquor stores.)

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