Category Archives: Community Building

Who Cares About What They Wear: Choosing Who To Vote For

A lot of important elections have been happening around the world lately, and, as many prepare to vote, it has come to my attention that we spend way too much time looking into things that do not matter at the expense of looking carefully into what does matter.

For example, I was reading about the presidential elections in the United States a couple of months ago, and the first bunch of articles I found had a significant number of paragraphs commenting on such things as the candidates’ outfits, their speaking style, and the way they carried themselves.

Granted, these things tell us a lot about an individual; however, they do not seem as important as the proportion of coverage they were given in the news.  There was little on their policies and approaches to various problems they would have to face should they be elected to the Oval Office, only the usual answers that seem to say a lot without really answering the question.

It makes me wonder…

How did we get here?

One reason I can think of is that we, as a society, have perhaps become so removed and uninvolved from the question of governance that we don’t know how to discuss these issues.  If this is the case, then we can’t fault candidates for not wasting their time and energy explaining their position on various topics and issues more thoroughly; it would be like working on a speech to a little baby for hours at a time when whatever words come out of your mouth will entertain it for hours on end.

Not convinced?  Well, just think about your reality and that of those around you.  Can you have an in-depth conversation about the issues facing your neighborhood, city, region, or country?  Can you describe their reality?  Can you explain why the reality is the way it is?  And can you trace a concrete way out?

If, like most of the people I interviewed for this post, you answered “no”, then neither you nor I can fault either the candidates or the news outlets for reporting the not discussing more in-depth these issues with us.

The way out is, in my opinion, for us to get involved in understanding our local reality and, when issues are identified, contributing to their resolution in a proactive way.  This will yield deeper and deeper understanding on the process of governance which in turn will help us gain an increasing understanding of the issues at hand on an increasingly larger scale.

From Nurturing to The Opposite: The Dark Forces that Take Mothers from One to the Other

This is a very difficult post to write, mostly because of the sensitivity of the topic at hand.  But please bear with me—I think it is an important topic that we, as members of a community, really need to deeply think about and, hopefully, be inspired to do something about.

There is something so horrific about mothers who kill their children.  It seems to illogical, so contrary to nature, that it can be understood why we tend to condemn these women.  If all mothers were to act in such a way, the human race would become extinct in a matter of years.

But the horrific nature of this act is what makes it so important for us to think about and reflect on.  What is it that drives a mother, who, biologically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, is driven to love and protect their offspring?

Think about it: the most natural, normal thing for a mother to do is to protect her young ones.  It is a very powerful drive that has yielded amazing stories of women performing incredible acts when their children were in danger.

Which really begs the vital question: what would drive a mother to commit such as act?  Whatever it may be, the negative force that counters the positive instinct to protect and nurture is a very powerful one.

My own mother told me stories about some of the difficulties of being a parent.  They include isolation and exhaustion and the pressure of being the perfect mother, wife, and homemaker despite it.  Not just that: we are meant to achieve all of this without the traditional family and community structures that used to support mothers.

When my close friends started becoming mothers, they told me of isolation and exhaustion, and also of the pressure to be the perfect mother, wife, and homemaker, and on top of that, of maintaining a career, an active social life, and making it all look good on social media.

Since I’ve become a mother myself, I have gained a taste of what the pressures society exerts on us can do to a mother.  Even when I was at my most exhausted, all I could think of sometimes, instead of sleeping because the baby is sleeping, is that I had to clean the house, clean myself, bake something, wash dishes, do chores, go out.  If all those things were done, then I would start thinking about exercising to lose weight, because I had been, at less than two weeks after giving birth, the target of comments about the way my stomach looks (despite the fact that I am quite slim and healthy-looking and that my weight and stomach are of absolutely no medical concern.)  If that was done, I would start thinking about my career, about working, writing, applying for jobs.

In other words, there always was, and still is, something pressuring me to do more, rather than sit back and take a deep breath, just enjoy motherhood, and just be.

If I didn’t have the support I have from my incredible husband; some measure of financial stability; the support of my amazing parents and lovely sisters; a healthy baby, a healthy husband, and a healthy body; a job that was on hold and waiting for me to pick up again; well, honestly, I can see why someone would be driven to commit the unthinkable.

Because it’s hard being a mom, and if we don’t give moms the support they need—which most of the time, we don’t—they will crack.

So instead of looking at moms who kills their children with the eyes of judgment, we should look at them with concern not for themselves and those like them.  Rather, we should look at them with concern for the state of the society they live in.  More importantly, we need to take a long, hard look at our own contribution to creating and maintaining a society the structures of which allow for the perfect storm of pressure to build on moms to such an extent that some would commit such horrible acts.

It can be very simple, and each one of us can do something right now about it.  When we see a mother, we should ask them how they are doing, instead of focusing only on the baby.  We should comment on everything they are doing right, rather on what they are doing wrong; we should do little acts of kindness for the ones we don’t know, like opening the door for them, making their baby smile, handing them that can of tomato sauce they are waiting for, letting them pass in front of us at the grocery store, helping them with the stroller.  For those mothers we know, we can also drop off food, visit them to say hi, pick up a little something for them from the store—a couple of apples, an orange, flowers—anything to make them feel loved and appreciated for the service they are providing humanity.  And for the mothers in our intimate circle of friends, we should go over to their place with our laptops and keep them company, watch their baby for half an hour while they linger under the shower head, make them food, hug them while they cry because they are so tired, and assure them that whatever they choose to do, they are wonderful and incredible.

We should also not forget about the fathers, who soldier on beside their wives and are allowed even less leeway when it comes to showing any change in their “productivity” after having a child.  They have to be strong, they have to be energetic, they have to keep exercising to keep that six pack, they have to not cry, they can’t admit to being tired, they can’t acknowledge that they are overwhelmed.

Thankfully, on an individual level, the conversations are changing, and more women and men are admitting to all of the above that applies to them.  It means that we have already taken an important step towards changing the discourse in our society on these topics; and hopefully, once the discourse reaches a tipping point, we can create a world in which no mother will ever get to the point of committing the unthinkable ever again.

Guest Post: Life Lessons From An Ant Infestation, by The Ten Thousand Hour Mama

This is a shortened version of Catherine’s post. To read the full article, or to have access to a large number of great posts, visit her insightful, hilarious, and just plain wonderful blog, The Ten Thousand Hour Mama.

It’s probably a bad sign when a household ant infestation feels like a metaphor for your life.

A few times a year since we moved into our house, tiny sugar ants appear. They swarm on crumbs and march in lines along room perimeters. After a while—and usually more rigorous housecleaning—they go back to whatever outside home they have.

This time is different. I keep fighting the ants, and, predictably, more show up. And they are spreading.

Perhaps it’s not shocking that this particularly bad ant infestation mirrors a time in my life that also feels chaotic.

More tasks than hours

I know this sounds dramatic. And things are fine, really. These are just the musings of an overstretched mom/writer/daughter/grandmother/wife/entrepreneur with a bug problem.

Just so I’m not vaguebooking, suffice to say I’m busy at work, looking into starting a new business and helping my elderly grandmother whom we just moved from Alabama to Oregon. In an ideal world, I would also spend time with my husband, occasionally work out, see friends and—oh, yeah—keep my house somewhat sanitary (and ant-free).

Yet—and yet. My to-do list gets longer, and the ant infestation is now, apparently, permanent.

A less than surprising ant infestation

Anyone who has been to my house will say I am not the most fastidious housecleaner—as long as they’re being honest. Most nights I’m too tired to make sure every dirty dish is out of the sink, and let’s just say that scrubbing the shower is not at the top of my priority list.

So when a few ants find stray crumbs under the kids’ booster seats or behind the toaster, it’s not that surprising.

I’ve stepped up my attempts to June Cleaver my house since the most recent ant situation, though. I wipe down counters. I vacuum every time my toddler upends her plate of Crispix. I rinse out the sink obsessively.

But when I wake up in the morning, I’m inevitably greeted by a pile of ants that have turned the most minuscule of crumbs into an invertebrate rave. That overnight mess reminds me of my running list of responsibilities: My tasks multiply like so many ants on a stray Cheerio.

Ant high-fives

Toward the end of a very long day recently—a day that involved an epic car tantrum from my older daughter and no end to sibling rivalry—I had to use the bathroom. During the five seconds of alone time a potty break bought me, I noticed a stream of ants marching up and down the tub.

I noticed that whenever two ants passed each other, they paused. They touched each other with their feelers. And only then did they go on their merry way.

Every single ant did this. Not a single ant ignored another. No ant’s high-five was left hanging. No ant shunned another for their baby ant’s unbrushed hair or lack of proper rainy day footwear.

Yes, I’m projecting. But I’ve been thinking about those ants constantly.

Life lessons from invertebrates

I should probably be pissed that those ants stop to gently tap each other’s antennae. After all, they’re communicating something along the lines of, “Hey, I just found the motherlode of crushed bunny crackers under the couch. TELL EVERYONE!”

But being the person I am (read: an overanalyzer who has a lot of feelings), I have been thinking about how that constant stream of check-ins might help me, too.

So despite feeling overbooked and overwhelmed, I reach out. I’ve been making a conscious effort to text with friends I don’t see often enough. I invited a friend I know wouldn’t mention the Great 2017 Ant Infestation Situation over for a play date. I send pictures of the girls to family spread across the country.

When I get a text back, even though it’s just a gentle “ping,” it makes me feel a little more connected to my hive. (Yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors. Give me a break; I’m hosting close to 100 million ants in my home.)

In this way, I’m trying to be a tad more ant-like. I still will spray the eff out of an ant conga line with my Mrs. Meyer’s counter cleaner, but I’m also taking my lessons where I can get them.

I’m also giving some of those ants a free pass—not because I suddenly feel emotionally connected to them but because there are just more important things in life than sanitizing my house.

As I finish up work, I can hear my kids playing with my husband, dad and grandma upstairs. We’re about to eat a big pile of spaghetti, much of which will probably end up smashed in booster seats and flung under the table. (Hey, ants, more food!) I’ll hold my grandma’s hand, listen to her retell the same stories and tell her that she is loved. I will pretend to be Pluto or Elsa or whatever character my preschooler requests, and I’ll tell my toddler the word for every single snake, lizard and tortoise in her new-favorite reptile book.

Just for tonight, ants, I declare a truce.

————————————

Catherine Ryan Gregory writes about becoming a good mom—or at least a good-enough one—at TenThousandHourMama.com. She shares craft projects, children’s book recommendations and ideas on how to raise a generous, caring and socially conscious family.

What’s Love Got To Do With It? The Importance Love In Community-Building

Learning is essential for both personal development and the building of a community.  But it’s easier said than done.  When, for example, one has spent a lot of time and poured a lot of energy into one’s education, it can be quite a blow to hear that one might be wrong.  Similarly, when one identifies oneself with a certain knowledge base, it can be quite difficult when it becomes clear that this knowledge base might be, even just in part, false.

It seems that this difficulty is in large part related to our ego, which can create a formidable barrier between us and something new, even if this something new is clearly better.  The ego is what makes us defensive in the face of something new.  The ego is what can make us lash out in anger at something new.  The ego is what can aggravate us when our ideas, previously avant-garde, now seem obsolete.

Love is one of the best lubricants to facilitate learning despite the ego.  There is the love that others have for us, making of our mistakes nothing more than a passing event that does not define our inner worth.  This same love makes others never feel superior to us because they know more than we do.  This same love makes other happy when we succeed, and proud of us when we surpass them.  There is the love that we have for others, which makes us react to them in a similar fashion.

Then there is the love we should all have for learning.  When we love learning, our identity is not wrapped anymore in what we know; it becomes wrapped in learning.  Someone presenting a new and better idea to us becomes a source of joy as we are able to adjust our knowledge for the better.  Interestingly enough, this love for learning makes us love those that are learning with us, and those that contribute to our learning.

This is why an environment imbued with love is so important to learning, and therefore, to both our personal development and to the building of our communities.

Carbs, Garbs, and Barbs: Cooking and Community Building

There is no such thing as a dichotomy. We are noble, spiritual beings, and everything in our lives is meant to help us reach our full capacity. This is why we should challenge ourselves to understand how the various pieces of our life fit together as part of one seamless whole, rather than separate parts that live side by side.

Women are unfortunately judged for the body that we don’t have. You know the one I’m talking about: the firm, flexible, thin and toned body that graces every magazine cover. Objectively, we know what the process behind creating those images is, and we know that looking like that either takes some excellent genes or a lifestyle that many of us cannot afford, either because of a lack of time, or a lack of finances. We also know how enhanced these looks are, through makeup, lighting, the use of special lenses, and, of course, digital manipulation.  But subjectively, many of us kind of want to look like that.

Needless to say, the relationship we have with that perfect, impossible to attain body is a complex one, affecting our relationship with exercise and dieting. These two normal parts of a healthy lifestyle which should be a source of pleasure become instead a bit of a burden. If we eat too many carbs, we won’t fit into the garbs of the size we want to fit in, only to be subjected to many a barb, imagined or real.

This is a very sad state of affairs, mainly because exercise and dieting can be a wonderfully satisfying part of a healthy lifestyle. On a side note, it must be specified that by diet, I mean paying attention to what one eats so as to have good blood pressure, good cholesterol, etc, and not restricting the amount of food one eats for the sake of losing weight. Similarly, by exercising I mean partaking in an enjoyable physical activity that makes one feel energised and happy, not over-exhausting oneself only for the sake of, again, losing weight.

There are so many reasons why exercise and dieting should be a part of a healthy lifestyle, and not just because of its obvious benefits. Many of these benefits are personal, such as developing discipline. But some of them can also benefit the community. For example, when one makes the effort to cook at home with those one lives with, it helps increase the strength of the bonds between the family (or the flatmates). One can invite people over for supper, which can be participatory (pot-luck); one can even invite people over to cook. These all create great opportunities to discuss issues revolving around food, from its benefits to one’s health to the injustices permeating the current food industry.  It also creates great opportunities to develop strong and meaningful friendships.

At the time I first drafted this post, I has been filling my house with people. In the three weeks prior, I had had some 40 people over at different times.  I noticed that even with those with whom I am already good friends, something changes for the better after I willingly open my home to them. And since one of my main passions is community-building, one can easily understand why I have been collecting recipes for so long.

Another thing I did, which long time readers of my blog will not be surprised by, is watching TED talks about the topic. One in particular tickled my fancy: Jamie Oliver’s passion for the cause of better nutrition is infectious. But just as I was about to rededicate my life to it, I remembered a sobering fact: there are thousands of causes worth fighting for. So I put down the phone – I was about to call my boss and quit (OK, maybe that’s a mild exaggeration right there) – and instead, I decided to see what I could do in my day to day life to make food, a vital part of my life, contribute to my efforts to build a community.

I know how to cook. I’m no Jamie Oliver, but I can whip up simple and tasty dishes easily and quickly. I also am involved in community building at the grassroots. I cooked for all of the abovementioned forty people, many of whom do not know how to do so themselves. And a couple of times, I cooked alongside someone who had never made anything more complex than Kraft dinner.

I soon realised that I had the answer before me all along. I had been subconsciously coherent, in that my cooking was already helping the community building process I was involved in. At the simplest level, the fact that I was cooking for all these people made them feel welcome in my home. And at a level that is slightly more complex, I had been helping friends who do not know how to cook to learn this important skill. I’m sure that what I have been doing is nowhere near what I could do, but it’s definitely a great beginning. The first steps had been taken subconsciously, and now, consciously aware of the potential that cooking has in community building, I can take more steps to integrate the two. For example, I can cook with different people, both novices and experts, increasing bonds of friendship and skills at the same time.

But perhaps even when I am not cooking, I can help make eating a community-building experience. I can contribute to making each occasion involving food a festive, elevated and joyful one, from the planning phase to cleaning up after; instilling everything that has to do with food with the same joy that can be found in other aspects of community building. It’s also a fair thing I can do, since the same person bearing the burden of feeding is not really just. And also talk – reflect – consult with others about this process in the hopes of generating learning and creating a positive mindset about food.

And, seeing the importance that dieting has on both personal and community development, I refuse to let that impossible female body ruin the potential food has to better myself and the community in which I live.

Move over, Barbie, make way for an Easy Bake Oven.

What’s Love Got To Do With It? The Importance Love In Community-Building

Learning is essential for both personal development and the building of a community.  But it’s easier said than done.  When, for example, one has spent a lot of time and poured a lot of energy into one’s education, it can be quite a blow to hear that one might be wrong.  Similarly, when one identifies oneself with a certain knowledge base, it can be quite difficult when it becomes clear that this knowledge base might be, even just in part, false.

It seems that this difficulty is in large part related to our ego, which can create a formidable barrier between us and something new, even if this something new is clearly better.  The ego is what makes us defensive in the face of something new.  The ego is what can make us lash out in anger at something new.  The ego is what can aggravate us when our ideas, previously avant-garde, now seem obsolete.

Love is one of the best lubricants to facilitate learning despite the ego.  There is the love that others have for us, making of our mistakes nothing more than a passing event that does not define our inner worth.  This same love makes others never feel superior to us because they know more than we do.  This same love makes other happy when we succeed, and proud of us when we surpass them.  There is the love that we have for others, which makes us react to them in a similar fashion.

Then there is the love we should all have for learning.  When we love learning, our identity is not wrapped anymore in what we know; it becomes wrapped in learning.  Someone presenting a new and better idea to us becomes a source of joy as we are able to adjust our knowledge for the better.  Interestingly enough, this love for learning makes us love those that are learning with us, and those that contribute to our learning.

This is why an environment imbued with love is so important to learning, and therefore, to both our personal development and to the building of our communities.

The Woman Carries the Baby, The Man Does… Nothing? More Thoughts on Supporting the Partner of a Pregnant Woman

Nothing about the birth of my child was about the other person that had so much to do with it: my husband.  I have already discussed this matter previously, but I think it’s such an important topic that I have to bring it up again.

During labor, no one took care of my husband.  And the funny thing is that, because I could see how hard it was on him that I was in so much pain, I was worried about him—which made it all worse on me.  So ironically enough, but not taking care of him, the medical and nursing staff were undermining the person they were focused on—me.

It remained the same after the birth.  As one hospital staff after the other came into the room to check up on me and the baby, my husband was barely acknowledged, let alone addressed.  And when, in response to a question, I would tell the staff member that I had to consult with my husband, I was met with looks of surprise and even confusion.

Even now, a couple of months later, I find that people address all their questions and comments to me.  And when I consult with my husband, they are surprised, some of them even exclaiming: “But she’s your child!”

To them I try to explain that yes, she is, indeed, my child, but she is also his.  While I was the one that carried her for nine months, I didn’t fall because he was the one carrying me.  While I was the one that labored to deliver her, I was able to do so because he was laboring in his own way right beside me.  While I am the one breastfeeding her, he is the one feeding me.  He is just as involved and as sleep-deprived, reads just as many posts, articles, and books about parenting, asks just as many questions about what to do, and wonders just as much as I do on how well he is doing as a parent.  His heart clenches as much as mine when something happens to her, he worries as much as I do, he suffers right there alongside me when something is wrong.

And yet he doesn’t get any of the support that I get.

I’m not sure what the underlying assumptions to this pattern of behavior are.  They could be only positive—perhaps it is a sign of the respect we give mothers for what they go through.  There is definitely a lot of that, thankfully.

But I think there is also negative underlying assumptions, one of them related to the definition of what it means to be a man.  Being loving and nurturing, caring and supportive—it is assumed that the woman, and only the woman, has these.  The bills, the heavy items, and the logistics—all of those are given to the man.

The challenge seems to be that we have yet to overcome our constraining definitions of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man.  There is a lot to be said about this matter, and surely a short post like this one can’t hope to touch on all aspects of this complex matter.  But when it comes to how each one of us, as individuals, can address this matter, I think it’s quite simple, really.

Don’t forget about the father.

Ask him how he is doing.  Ask him how he is feeling.  Ask him what support he needs.  Make sure that this essential piece of the puzzle remains sane and whole.  Because both the baby and the mother need him, and no family can hope to achieve its full potential if all of its members are not functioning at peak capacity.

More People, More Power: How Small Acts Can Contribute to a New World Order

The concept of progressive revelation (that God sends us Revelation in increasingly big doses through the different Manifestations of God) is based on the reality that humanity is maturing.  It is going through stages that are akin to one human’s development from infancy to childhood, onto adolescence and, finally, into adulthood.

As a human being evolves, its understanding evolves as well.  For example, a little child that sees a homeless man begging on the street will only see the man.  The junior youth will see the people ignoring him; the adolescent will see the contrast between the luxury store in front of which the man is begging and the poverty that brought the man there in the first place.  And the adult will be able to make the connection between the greed that drove said luxury store to manufacture its product at a low cost to increase its profit margin and the man begging on the street.

We know that Manifestations of God all come with the same basic Message: to share Guidance with us on how to act as individuals and as a community if we are to remain true to our higher, noble nature.  There are a set of virtues that we have always been told are important.  For example, we are always told that we have to be just.  Initially, this concept was shared in simple terms for simpler times: an eye for an eye, for example.

But now that humanity is going through the final phases of adolescence and stepping into adulthood, its understanding of the concept of justice is becoming more complex.  While at its core, the concept of justice remains the same, its application needs to reflect the increased complexity of the world in which we live.

It comes as little surprise then that we can’t translate the concept of an eye for an eye literally in this day and age.  In the case of the homeless man above, should he choose to steal a hot dog from the nearby cart, should we cut his hand off, as some religions say we should?  What about all the people that contributed to the system that got him there in the first place, should all of their hands be cut off for being accomplices to the theft?

Of course not.  It would basically mean that we would all end up being punished, since, well, we all are contributing in one way or another to the that specific situation.  Humanity has evolved, the relationships between us have evolved, and therefore, the rules regulating these relationships also have to evolve.  The current world order, based on old rules for simpler times, cannot sustain a just international environment; although the foundational concepts remain the same, their application needs to be recreated from scratch to reflect the complexity of the times we live in.

This is a huge endeavor!  But thankfully we can start somewhere small: at the grassroots.  Each one of us should question our contribution to the injustices in the world, be it within our immediate circle of family and friends to our contribution to child labor through our shopping choices.  Slowly, one step at a time, we can make decisions that are more and more aligned with the kind of just world we want to live in.

One such example has to do with food.  If we have access to a Farmer’s Market, where the food comes from a farm we know functions justly, should we not support this market, purchasing our produce there, be it at the price of variety?  If we can choose to buy from a company whose practices are more just than another, shouldn’t we support it?

We have a lot of little choices we can make which compounded, lead to an impressive amount of power to make the world a better place.  But we need to stop fooling ourselves that we can passively live our lives, shaking our heads at the injustice that brought that homeless man to the luxury storefront, and do nothing about it.  The same layers of complexity that now define our relationships give us more power than we ever had before.  We only need to start using it, regularly, systematically, and with our sight firmly fixed on establishing, together, a brand new world order based on our current reality.

Is it a baby boy? No? Then why is she wearing blue?

Even before we knew if our child was going to be a girl, her father and I started shopping for clothes.  On the one hand, we were looking for any excuse to get our hands on the ridiculously adorable miniature versions of what we wear that grace the stores (I mean have you seen the selection that Carter’s Oshkosh offers?)  On the other hand, we knew that a large part of our child’s wardrobe would be gender-neutral.  After all, it’s not as it there is a big difference between boys’ and girls’ proportions at that age!

But it seems that what we consider neutral is gender specific in the eyes of many after all. When our daughter wears grey, black, orange, or green, we are inevitably asked if she is a boy and, when told that she is a girl, we are met with confused looks. Out for curiosity, I asked a friend of mine to dress her baby boy, who is around the same age as my daughter, in yellows, creams, and lavender; she was asked if he was a girl and, yes, met with a lot of similarly confused looks.

Are my friends and I, who shop on both sides of the stores to fill our children’s closets, being avant-garde by throwing away some if the superficial societal expectations placed on their wardrobe? Or are we breaking a necessary social rule by which young babies, who for the most part do not look like they are of a specific gender, are dressed in pink and blue to eliminate such awkwardness? Or is it time for a maturing society to grow out if this rule by accepting that clothing does not define gender, but rather, that genetics do?

I personally think it is a balance between the two, as we are in a period of transition between the old ways and the new ones.  It used to be necessary to have certain patterns that governed our interactions, including clothing that clearly identified us and, of course, defined us.  But now that our understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman evolves, what we do naturally evolves as well.

So to those of us who are dressing our children according to the dictates of beauty and esthetics rather than limiting ourselves to only the colours assigned to our child’s gender: keep at it.  But remember to be patient and loving towards those who question our choices; of course they are confused, they never thought about things the same way.  And we must be very careful to never, ever judge those parents who stick to social conventions.  Because who knows; we might be completely wrong after all.

Coffee: From Crutch to Companion

As my Instagram feed can testify, I love me a good cup of coffee.  I think that there is a great culture around coffee, such as the Swedish fika or the tendency for college students to get together in coffee shops.  I have made friends with not just the staff at Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue’s TWIGS café, but also with its other regular patrons, making living in the area a lot more fun when I cross paths with them on a day-to-day basis.

But there is a dark side to coffee—and not just for those who drink their coffee black.  It often feels like the dependence of so many on coffee is the unfortunate necessity of a society focused on productivity in terms of money-making and impressing others by having a certain personal look and certain material possessions.

In other words, there is no way we can do everything we are pressured to do in order to be considered “productive” or “successful” while getting enough rest.

I mention “rest” and not “sleep” because I don’t think the solution is to make sure to sleep eight or nine hours a night.  To feel rested implies so much more than that.  Of everything that it entails, I feel like there are two things that are routinely not taken care of.

The first is what goes on in our heads.  Think about the number of thoughts that roll around in your mind all day.  If you are like most people that I have questioned, in my usual non-scientific scientific poll, you always have a bunch of thoughts moving around, colliding, making you alternatively nervous, distracted, or even sick.  How can anyone feel rested when their mind is so, well, restless?

The second is the care we put into the health of our souls.  It takes time and effort to nurture one’s soul, time and effort that our restless minds and pressures selves often feel could be put to better use in the short-term so that in the long-term, we can take care of our souls.  In other words, we think that if we put off praying, meditating, journaling, fasting, reading Sacred Writings, so that we can take care of other things, we will have a mind that is more rested and thus be able to take care of our souls better.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but for me, that time never comes.  If I don’t take care of my spiritual health today on account of trying to free up the time to do it later, I never take care of it.

And so, we drink coffee.  The International Coffee Organization estimates that 152.2 million bags of coffee were consumed in the 2015 calendar year.  That’s a mind-boggling 9.132 billion kilograms of the stuff.  And that’s not counting tea, chocolate, sugar, and energy drinks—all the other stimulants that we use to keep going.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen to the global consumption of coffee if it were instead part of an overall healthy lifestyle rather than one of the fuels we use to keep going.  What if we instead turned to a healthier fuel, something that filled our souls, hearts, and minds with an endless supply of “clean” energy?