Saturday, 2 March 2013

the sustaining of life... part one

After I finished my music degree, I worked as a carer for people with severe physical and intellectual disabilities for a few years. It was a hard job, but boy, was it a rewarding one! It was a job I absolutely loved but had to give up because I wasn't able to physically cope with the work anymore due to my own illness, and I could no longer handle the crazy hours that go hand in hand with shift work. Almost a year and a half later I still think about the beautiful people I had the privilege of supporting during their day to day lives. And I miss them. I cooked a lot of meals, gave a lot of showers, and wiped a lot of bottoms... but what struck me the most about assisting people with disabilities was this - we are not that different. In fact, we are more similar than we are different. And this is because we are human beings; and humans, we all need the same things in order to sustain the lives we have been given.

In the world of natural living we find seven elements that sustain life: air, water, food, sunshine, rest, exercise, love. I would like to briefly explore air, water, food and sunshine in this post, and the rest of the elements in my next post. Hopefully, this inspires you to look into these elements, and to test out the importance of including these elements in the structure of your life.


You may never have heard this surprising little nugget of information but... we get more energy from the air we breathe than from the water we drink and the food we eat! It is through the act of breathing we obtain the oxygen our bodies need to function at their best. Oxygen is the key to energising the body, and the more oxygen we deliver to our cells, the more energy our bodies will have. 

I learnt the power of oxygen on a flight to London at Christmas in 2011. I was so exhausted from the active lead up to my trip that I ended up suffering from nausea that could not be alleviated once on the plane. The kind air stewards decided to give me nearly three tanks of oxygen through a breathing mask to help settle my nausea. It not only helped my nausea but I felt my energy level pick up during the flight. In the end, I felt slightly addicted to this amazing substance called oxygen!

Without oxygen the body cannot perform the functions it needs for the sustaining of life. Oxygen is involved in processes such as digestion, assimilation of nutrients from food, and the elimination of wastes. Without access to oxygen tanks the best way to increase your intake of oxygen is to practice deep breathing. Our main breathing muscles are the intercostal muscles, which are the muscles between the ribs, and the diaphragm, an involuntary muscle which is basically the "floor" of the ribcage. You will see and feel deep breathing. As the air goes in there is an expansion through the ribcage and the abdomen, and as the air goes out there is a contraction through the ribcage and the abdomen. Try some slow deep breaths in this pattern: in, out, pause, repeat. Imagine your lungs are like balloons that get bigger as the air goes in and smaller as the air goes out. 


Though I am a vegan mainly for health reasons I cannot ignore the ethical side of choosing to follow a plant-based diet. Our choices do affect the world around us. For example, it takes up to 50,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef compared to only 2,500 litres to produce 1 kilogram of white rice, and less for most fruit and vegetables (Vegetarian Network Victoria, Eating Up the World, February 2009). I don't know about you but I can think of better ways this water could be used. Fresh water is an invaluable resource. Humans need water to survive and our thirst is the guide to how much water we need to drink, which is about 2 litres a day depending on the climate, your diet and your activity level. 


I've previously written a post about my view on food, which you'll find on this blog under the name finding food. To put it simply, food is fuel, and my belief is that we function best when we follow a plant-based diet. So, I suggest to do as your mother told you and eat your vegetables!!!


Now I know that in Australia we have a massive hole in the ozone layer but we still need the benefits of the sun's rays! There are only two ways to obtain our vitamin D - sunshine and supplements. Unless you live in foggy Londontown I'd suggest trying sunshine out for a change. The ultraviolet rays of the sun trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin when you are exposed to sunlight. The production of vitamin D is essential for human health and for providing energy to our bodies. The recommended level of exposure to sunlight every day is 10-15 minutes on bare skin in direct sunshine in order to produce the vitamin D we need. I've also found sunshine to be a natural way to highlight the colour of my hair... it's not only chemical free but it's actually free!

For more information I highly recommend the book How a Man Lived in Three Centuries: The complete guide to Natural Health by Roger French, which is an excellent resource for those inspired to live in a more natural way.

To be continued... 

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