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Celebrate World Environment Day!

Nature, unique landscapes and the joy that they bring into our lives are at the heart of the World Environment Day which always takes place on 5 June and has been running for over four decades. This year’s theme ‘Raise your voice, not the sea level’ discusses the effects of global warming: rising sea levels and flooding worldwide. In fact, the IPPC predicts a sea level rise of 0.18 – 0.38m increase by 2100 in the most optimistic scenario and 0.26 – 0.59m in the most pessimistic.

Consequently, we should all get involved to halt global warming and protect this precious planet that is our home. Why not swap the car for your bicycle or use sustainable bags for your shopping? Every little action matters.

Therefore, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) asks people to join the WED Challenge which is embraced by celebrities such as Gisele Bundchen, actor Don Cheadle, footballer Yaya Toure and Ian Somerhalder. Reducing your footprint by managing your meals smartly and supporting environmentally friendly companies are amongst the actions of the challenge.

Here, Claire Thompson, our author of Mindfulness & the Natural World, will also get you in the mood to enjoy the greener aspects of life – and World Environment Day 2014 in particular!

 

We Are Life Itself!

We are alive. Along with every other living being on our planet, we have been gifted the simple yet wondrous opportunity to embody life. What if the point of our lives were simply to live among all the beautiful life forms that have arisen in the natural world?

Consider for a moment that the joy of being alive could be our only purpose. We belong in the natural world. We are the natural world, just like the trees, the flowers, the sun and the sky.

Richmond Park, London

Richmond Park, London

When I am out in nature, I feel an innate sense of belonging. I don’t feel alone, I feel alive. Experiencing the mystery of a forest, noticing the sunlight flicker on a tree’s leaves, watching the flow of a stream trickling over rocks or listening to the song of a bird, I always find companionship in nature. We are not separate. We are integral parts of each other.

As human beings with the ability for conscious thought, it is easy to live our lives wrapped up in our problems, dwelling on the past, planning for the future, caught up in urges of obtaining pleasure and trying to rid ourselves of pain. What if we stopped for a moment and opened up to life as it is right now, in front of us? Live in it. Listen to it, look at it, smell it, touch it and taste it, as often as you can. Feel the simple experience of being alive. It is always accessible, wherever we are, whatever we are doing and whatever is going on in our lives.

Have you ever just sat down for a moment and felt the warmth of the sun on your face? Appreciated some beautiful flowers in a park on your way to the supermarket? Or marveled at stunning displays of autumn colours in the trees? Try it. Notice nature around you. Give it your full attention from time to time. Experience it with all your senses, and really look, as if you are encountering it for the first time. You too are nature. You too are alive.

 

Mindfulness Practice: In Touch with the Earth

When we are in touch with the earth, we can appreciate that

we are part of all that is around us. Find some grass, a meadow,

a park or a bit of garden where you won’t be disturbed. Lie

down on the ground. Become aware of the earth beneath you.

Close your eyes and become aware of your breath. Notice

what your breathing is like. Bring your attention to how each

part of your body feels as it is in contact with the ground. Feel

the warmth of the sun on your face, breathe in the scents,

notice the breeze against your skin and hear the sounds of

nature. Allow yourself to experience this moment and

gradually let go of the idea that you are separate – you are

connected to the earth and part of life itself.

 

TO WIN A COPY OF MINDFULNESS & THE NATURAL WORLD

Follow us on Twitter and retweet on of our #WorldEnvironmentDay tweets to be entered into a draw.

Include the hashtag #MindfulnessNaturalWorld so we can track re-tweets.

The winner will be chosen at random at 9am on Friday 6th June 2014 (all tweets up to this point will be included).

We will then ask for the winner’s details in a private message.

 

Global Sharing Day 1st June 2014

Community; collective action; the we generation; smiles!: yes, it’s all about the sharing! And to mark that lovely ethos we have Global Sharing Day tomorrow where millions and millions of people get together to share food, skills, clothes, music, and more. Hoping to create a global feeling that yes, we can live better together, the idea is to get practical and actually do something to experience that. Easy peasy! All you have to do is join in and be part of it!

Visit http://www.thepeoplewhoshare.com/global-sharing-day/ to see what’s going on around you OR for those who like a teeny bit of a challenge then go for it and set up your very own dinky event. Roll on zocalo time!

zocalo

ZOCALO – The Mexican word for ‘piazza’ or ‘town square’ a zocalo brings neighbours together with minimal fuss. All you need is a chair, your front door, and good will! What could be simpler for a true community fiesta, perfect for connecting people across streets, neighbourhoods and cities. Think global; act local.

THE STORY

Co-creator of anti-TV campaign Whitedot.org, David Burke decided the age of the box in the corner was over and surely he and his neighbours could enjoy each other’s company instead! And so he advertised his first neighbourhood Zocalo, simply asking people to pledge to his idea: ‘I’m going to turn off the telly, put a chair outside, greet my neighbours, and enjoy real life!’

Past zocalos have seen sofas, tables, standing lamps and oriental rugs out on the street with neighbours meeting each other (often for the first time) sharing snacks, drinks and smiles. Less of a street party and more of a meeting of minds, focusing on the group rather than individual; look forward to watching the sun set over deep conversations and fun times under starry skies.

THE FEEL GOOD FACTOR

What’s not to like? Community spirit, affordable and fun, these people events are a whole lot more friendly than a neighbourhood watch scheme! Encouraging folk to turn off their televisions and escape from behind net curtains to interact with each other, zocalos place the emphasis on social spirit and people power to help build that community.

Add the bonus of heading indoors and out when you want, and it’s the perfect people party! So relax, smile and look forward to making a whole new bunch of pals who happen to live just around the corner.

TIPS FOR ZOCALO BEGINNERS

  • Advertise your event online, with a cute poster or flyer, and by word-of- mouth!
  • Invite your neighbours
  • Choose a comfy chair
  • Bring music, food and drink, and maybe a football
  • ‘Be brave,’ says UK co-campaigner David Bramwell. ‘Be the first to put your chair out on Zocalo day and others will join you. Bring a pack of biscuits, a bottle of wine and knock on a few doors and it will grow from there!

FACT BOX: Loneliness and social isolation can be problematic to city life and impact on our mental health according to the mental Health Foundation but it doesn’t have to be. Socialising and a sense of community are fab for wellbeing so go on – zocalo it!

 

The circle of fear, anxiety and shame: mental health awareness week 2014

Mental Health Awareness Week runs this week from the 12th – 18th May. We’ve taken this excerpt from Mindfulness at Work by Maria Arpa, which helps to explain how conflict  can manifest itself as fear or stress and visa versa, when the root cause lies in feelings of anxiety.

How Fear, Shame & Stress as Manifestations of Anxiety

Fear and shame manifest as anxiety and anxiety manifests as stress. The instinct to reduce stress drives us to make choices that are self-defeating.

Here’s an example: John’s manager asked him to write a report in time for a directors’ meeting at the end of the week. John enthusiastically agreed to do it because he liked to say ‘yes’; but halfway into the work he discovered that the amount of research involved could not be completed in the time so he could not meet the agreed deadline without a cost to the accuracy of the information.

His self-demanding belief triggered feelings of fear and shame. He believed his manager would judge him as incompetent and his anxiety was related to the fear of how he would feel if she did and how it would increase his shame. The anxiety manifested as stress, which caused him to panic – and he ended up having a bad conversation with his manager. In that conversation he was defensive because protecting his own reputation was more important to him than the manager’s needs. It’s the sense of someone putting their own needs first that escalates the conflict.

Connecting with Yourself

To prevent conflict arising from fear, anxiety or shame, you need to be in a compassionate state. This means to be aware of yourself, to have some cognition and comprehension of your own triggers and behaviours and to understand what is going on inside you.

To do this you will need to find a practice that helps you to be in control of what, how and to whom you communicate. If you are fearful and stressed, you are less likely to contribute positively in a conflict. This is an interconnected process in which all the pieces need to be functioning simultaneously. It is not a linear sequence of consequences.

Albert Ellis, founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (rebt), suggested that there are three core beliefs with which humans disturb themselves:

1. The belief that we must perform outstandingly well at all times, under any set of conditions, and win the approval of others; and that failure to do so proves we are incompetent, unworthy and destined for failure, and therefore deserve to suffer. This is the state of being self-demanding.

2. The belief that any person with whom we have reason to be in any form of relationship must treat us decently, with considerationand fairness at all times. Failure to do so on their part means they are rotten, bad people who deserve to have a bad life and should be punished for being so despicable. This leads us to be demanding of others.

3. The belief that our life is impossible and not worth living if the conditions in which we live are not favourable to us. If it is not safe, hassle-free and quickly and easily enjoyable then we can’t stand it and can’t ever enjoy ourselves. This leads us to be demanding of the world. When a conflict arises, it is easy to allow these beliefs to surface. Escalation of the conflict deepens our suspicion that the beliefs might be true and we become anxious that we will not be able to contain or cope with the associated feelings.

The anxiety then manifests as stress so we plan our lives around avoiding actions that trigger feelings of stress – and this is where fear comes in. Without awareness of this inner process, we live in an energy of fear. Fear energy will hinder conflict resolution because the motivation for resolution is to save ourselves from our own feelings.

How Will You Take Responsibility?

Are you genuinely doing everything in your power to make amends or are you consciously or unconsciously trying to sidestep your part in it? Are you willing to learn from the mistake and make the necessary changes? Are you willing to understand the impact of your mistake on the others involved?

Anyone who is party to a conflict can change the outcome, whether they are the person making the mistake or the person who the mistake is impacting upon, and whether they are the manager or the report.

Einstein & the Art of Mindful Cycling with Ben Irvine

Dr Ben Irvine is a writer, publisher, campaigner and recovered philosopher. He is the author of Einstein and the Art of Mindful Cycling and the editor of the Journal of Modern Wisdom and Cycle Lifestyle – publications which aim to put mindfulness and the good life back onto the social agenda. In this video, Ben explains the meditative qualities experienced on a cycle ride. Whether your journey takes you through the city or the countryside, fitting cycling into your lifestyle will benefit your physical and mental wellbeing.

Community Composting for International Compost Awareness Week

A special week of activities, events and publicity, all helping to improve awareness about composting organic waste, have been taking place since Monday for International Compost Awareness Week.

Across the United States U.K., Australia, and Canada, composting advocates will be encouraging everyone to use compost. After all, if we don’t take care of the soil, how will it continue to take care of us?

Here at Leaping Hare, we all know why making compost is important and fun, but how can we make it even more enjoyable? Doing something on your own is good, but composting with other people is even better. Ben Raskin tells us why! (If you new to the concept you can read Ben Raskin’s recent blog on the Soil Association website to find out his 7 steps on how to make your own compost.)

Why compost with other people?

Bigger heaps get warmer, so everything composts better! Your family may not have enough veg waste to keep a really good compost heap going, but you can contribute your material to a big community heap with other people, getting a better quality compost back at the end of it. Collecting from a range of gardens also means community heaps get a better balance of woody and green material.

It can also help to deal with some of the trickier waste, like big, woody bits. By collecting all the woody stuff together in
a big pile, a machine called a chipper can be hired to produce woodchip, which you can either use as mulch or add to your compost heaps.

How does it work?

Rather than building a heap in each garden, people in a community bring all their material to one central place to compost. You can take all of your waste there, or you could have a small compost bin at home that you put kitchen scraps in but bring your bulky woody material to the central point.

What do you need to get started?

The two most important things are somewhere to do the composting – this should be a biggish, flat site with access for cars and preferably for bigger vehicles too – and a group of people who want to do it. It’s good to have one person who knows how to compost and has some time and lots of energy to help lead the project too. 

Who can help?

While all you really need to start a community composting group is some people and a plot of land to compost on, there are some people who can really help you get started and make a success of it.

✻ Community composting organizations have lots of experience of helping groups to start up and avoid some of the things that might go wrong.

✻ Community gardens or allotments are great places to start a community composting system (many will already have one set up).

✻ Local schools are a great place to find other people who might want to compost. How about starting one up in your own school? Perhaps a corner of the school grounds could be used?

✻ Farmers have land and machinery and they, or the local stables, may be able to spare a little manure to add to your compost occasionally.

✻ Tree surgeons sometimes need to get rid of the woodchip they make from cutting down trees. They might also have chipping and shredding machines that you could hire or borrow.

More fun composting ideas can be found in Compost: the family guide to making soil from scraps

compost-web

Make Seedbombs for Guerilla Gardening Day

Today is Guerilla Gardening Day – a day which encourages us to get out beyond the borders of our own gardens and plant seeds within our neighbourhood – who better to ask for advice than our top free-spirited gardening expert Josie Jeffery. Read our interview then see below for the recipe so you can take part in some guerilla gardening and go wild with seedbombs!

You grew up living in a bus with your family, who collected and distributed seeds and rescued tree saplings from roadsides on your travels. Looking back, is there anything that makes you think ‘I can’t believe we actually did that’?

Whenever I imagine living in a bus and raising my own children on the road I think that! My parents were incredibly brave to have so much faith that ‘everything will be alright’ we relied on the generosity of the people we met on our travels, people who let us park in their gardens, farms we picked fruit for, and people who threw some spare change into our buskers hat,  and I don’t know if it is a sign of the times? would people be so generous in this day and age, id like to think so.

I reckon not everybody knows what seedbombs are. What has been the funniest assumption you have come across?

There are tow things people assume they are, bird feeders and chocolate truffles, I have had a hand full of reports back from brides who have baight them as wedding favours saying there is always a drubk uncle who tries to eat one, even if it says DO NOT EAT in bold italics on the label!! apparently they taste horrible, especially if you are expecting chocolate!
 
Where would you trace your passion for seedbombs back to?

I have a very inquiring mind and anything that is slightly unusual or magical captures my imagination, I first heard about them when I was working in a Lab cutting up tiny pieces of plants to grow on in test tubes. I liked the fact that the poor used to seedbomb the land of the rich in order to grow food for their families. I suppose you might say it struck a chord with me as my family have had to squat land in the past too, to seek sanctuary and in some cases to grow food. More importantly it shows the imbalance of land in the world, I feel like people who have land don’t need it all and those that need it don’t have any. it’s a crying shame as we al walk the earth together. 

What achievement involving seeds / seedbombs are you most proud of?

It will always be running my workshops and teaching other people about seeds and seedbombing in the hope that our collaboration will bring about lots of pocket wildlife gardens throughout the U.K. and inspire people to garden more.

If you could choose any place in the world, where would you launch your seedbombs and why?

This might be a bit of a lame answer but I would choose anywhere in the world that is baron and in need of a widflower meadow. It would  be incredible to help out on any habitat restoration projects especially those that have come about due to intensive farming or other  natural or manmade disaters, that would be such an achievement!

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There are many different recipes for making seedbombs and experimenting is part of the fun! Seedbombs are like miniature gardens – they will be the first soil the seedlings grow in and they need to supply nutrients and have good drainage, just like a full-sized garden. It is best to use something to bind the seedbomb which makes it hard enough to survive impact with the ground. But whatever you use needs to be water-soluble also, so that water can infiltrate the seedbomb, get to the seeds and break their dormancy.

How much seed you use depends on the size of the seed; for example, the bigger the seed, the more compost and clay you’ll need to add to the mixture and the bigger the bomb will need to be in order to accommodate them.

THE SEEDBOMB BASE RECIPE

Ingredients

Makes 6 sizeable seedsbombs

 5 TABLESPOONS OF SEED COMPOST
4 TABLESPOONS OF TERRACOTTA CLAY POWDER
1 TEASPOON OF SEEDS (Note: Base this on poppy seeds as a size guide and add half a teaspoon more as the seeds go up in size)
1 TEASPOON OF CHILLI POWDER AS A PEST DETERRENT (optional)
SPRINKLES OF WATER AT INTERVALS
 (the geek in me worked out it was about 20ml!)
LIQUID FERTILIZER if NPK is absent in the compost

TIP: To make larger quantities of seedbomb mixture, use the same proportions but measure using larger containers – mugs rather than tablespoons, for example – and use a bigger bowl, of course!

YOU WILL NEED

A BOWL
A STRONG SPOON
KITCHEN TOWEL OR EGG BOX
WATER
A PEN
YOUR HANDS AND SOME ELBOW GREASE
AN APRON IF YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT STAINING YOUR CLOTHES

 AND NOW FOR THE MIXING AND MAKING

1. Pour the compost into your bowl.
 2. Pour the clay powder into your bowl.
 3. Pour in the seeds.
 4. Stir the dry ingredients together until well mixed. 5. Add water in small amounts at a time, mixing and adding until you form a dough-like consistency that sticks together nicely (not too sticky and not too dry). 6. Separate the mixture into six even lumps.
 7. Roll each lump into a smooth ball. 
8. Place the finished seedbombs on something absorbent like kitchen roll or an egg box.

TIP: When rolling your seedbombs, keep your palms flat to get a rounder shape. If your palms are slightly cupped, you get a shape not unlike a spinning top. Use your fingers to adjust the shape until you are happy with it.

WHAT TO DO NEXT

When you have made your seedbombs, you can:

1. Launch them immediately (if it is the right time of year); they will germinate quicker because they are still moist. Let them dry for a couple of hours so they are not too squidgy and don’t lose their shape.

2. Dry them for up to 48 hours. 
The seeds will remain dormant 
until activated by water. They can be stored for up to two years and beyond, though some seeds may not germinate if left too long, especially vegetables.

TIP: Dry your seedbombs on a sunny garden wall, shelf, windowsill, radiator or in the airing cupboard.

 

Goldfinch on Old Teasle Head

SEEDBOMBS FOR BIRDS

The plants in this recipe attract insect larvae from which the birds will feed, as well as offering a rich seed source throughout the season.

Birds help with seed dispersal and some seeds cannot germinate unless they have first passed through the digestive system of a bird. The RSPB (www.rspb.org.uk) believes that a healthy bird population is indicative of a healthy planet and the human race depends on this.

Climate change, modern farming methods, road and rail networks, exploitation of our seas and expanding urban areas all pose an enormous threat to birds.
We can try to increase the bird population by growing foodplants and creating healthy habitats for them to live and breed in.

PLANTS NEEDED (add at step 4 in the method above)

SORREL – Rumex acetosa

TEASEL – Dispascus fullonum

FIELD SCABIOUS – Knautia arvensis

LESSER KNAPWEED – Centaurea nigra

GREATER HAWKBIT – Leontodon autumnalis

 

Living in the now with Adam Ford

“Mindfulness is the ability to stop in the present moment and to understand: ‘This is where I am. This is what’s happening. I’m here.’”

Adam Ford, our author of The Art of Mindful Walking, knows his way around mindfulness. He knows of the struggles along the way, but also of the great experiences and more fulfilled life you can get out of it. And he certainly knows that it’s not just another fad. It has been around for 2500 years.

“Mindfulness isn’t always easy. It’s not a sloppy thing. You’re not just going off with the fairies and putting a flower in your hair, thinking I’m going on the mindful walk and it’s all very lovely […]. Mindfulness needs effort. In fact, the early stage is right effort. You have to work at it in the way that you do if you’re reading a book which you want to understand […].”

Listen to Adam Ford’s inspiring talk from the Mindfulness event in Brighton here:

 

 

Discover a love of healthy chocolate with white & dark raw chocolate-orange hearts for Easter

Easter has always been about chocolate. So it’s no surprise that everyone from toddler to granny is getting excited about the deliciously sweet and heartwarmingly soft chocolate bunnies and eggs that are going to be hidden in our gardens across the country on Sunday. Yes, we are excited too … but we also know how unhealthy this rather innocent looking food can be. Seeing the high fat and sugar levels on the packaging of our favourite chocolate bar actually can send us into shock.

However, Jessica Fenton, the author of Jessica’s Raw Chocolate Recipes, has worked up a HEALTHY solution for all of those chocoholics amongst you who are keen to have less of the sweet stuff. It will take a bit more dedication than just popping into the next supermarket, but there are some serious health benefits from making your own raw chocolates!

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Raw chocolate contains raw cacao, which has roughly a third more essential nutrients than roasted cacao. It has high levels of magnesium and also holds the so-called “bliss chemical” which can propel us into the blissful state of wellbeing. For more obvious results, its beauty mineral sulphur is responsible for building strong hair, nails and skin.

So let’s get started on 20 ‘White & Dark Orange Creams’

EQUIPMENT

• power blender

• bain-marie or dehydrator

• one 20-hole or two 16-hole silicone chocolate moulds

chocolate1

INGREDIENTS

• 100 g/31⁄2 oz raw cashew nuts

• 3 tbsp xylitol crystals

• 2 tbsp raw coconut oil

• 4–6 drops orange essential oil

• 90 g/31⁄4 oz raw cacao butter

• 40 g/11⁄2 oz raw whole almonds

• 1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out

• 1 tbsp lecithin granules

• 60 g/21⁄4 oz raw agave nectar

• 3 tbsp raw cacao powder

• pinch of pink crystal salt

1 Add the cashew nuts to your power blender jug along with the xylitol crystals and process together on full power, using the plunger, until they form a fine flour. Use a butter knife or chopstick to scrape the milled mixture away from the base and side of the blender jug if stuck.

2 If the coconut oil is too firm to blend, melt it down gently into a soft or runny consistency in a bain-marie or dehydrator. Add it to your blender with the orange essential oil and blend on full power, using the plunger.

3 Take 2 teaspoons and use one to spoon half a teaspoonful of the orange cream from the blender. Use the handle end of the other teaspoon to help push the mixture off the spoon and directly into the base of one hole of the mould. Continue until you have used up all the mixture. Place the mould or moulds in the freezer for about 15 minutes until firm and set while you make the dark chocolate part.

4 Melt the cacao butter gently in a bain-marie or dehydrator until runny.

5 Add the almonds, vanilla seeds and lecithin granules to your power blender and process the ingredients together into a fine flour, as before.

6 Add the melted cacao butter with the rest of the ingredients to the almond mixture in the blender and blend on full power, using the plunger, until runny and smooth.

7 Take the mould or moulds out of the freezer. Add 1–2 teaspoons of the runny chocolate mixture directly on top of the orange creams and then return to the freezer for 10–15 minutes until firm and set.

Jessica’s top tip

It’s best to be sure that the orange cream layer has completely set before adding the chocolate layer, otherwise it will be impossible to get a straight line between the two flavours.

8 Remove the chocolates from the freezer and pop them carefully out of the mould or moulds. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 3–4 weeks.