23 08 2011
Find beauty in life, appreciate things around you, be ready and prepared for sudden changes in life, be kind and gentle, and you will see surprising results.
The art of meditation has been practiced since times immemorial. Be it Sufis or Buddhists, all have employed meditative techniques like yoga with different postures, breathing exercises and different goals.
The common thread, however, is that meditation is a pathway to peace, a way of connecting with the divine or finding the ultimate truth. It is a practice that not only soothes the body but heals the soul, the inner being, bringing one peace and contentment.
Meditation is the skill of focusing on an object or a thought. It enables one to understand everything in life. It lets one observe and indulge with the inner self, allowing people to get acquainted with their whole entity. In a nutshell, meditation is a corridor to one’s inner self, through which one can access and address inner conflicts, inner demons and discover true inner strengths. Meditation makes one feel more fulfilled, relaxed and more in control of themselves
Besides aiming at developing a deeper understanding of one, meditation also allows one to discover one’s true abilities. It gives life a new perspective, which is more positive and more productive.
A meditation session begins with sitting calmly in an extremely comfortable position, focusing all one’s attention inwards or towards a specific object or topic. To meditate, you will need to breathe consciously, creating a slow, deep rhythmic breathing cycle using your lungs, diaphragm and abdomen. Inhale from your nose, observe as your diaphragm descends and abdomen rises, then exhale and the exact opposite will happen. Observe your breathing pattern; deeply inhale: pause. Exhale: pause.
Once your breathing is in order, try and open your mind’s eye. Try to focus on an imaginary rose as you meditate. Imagine looking closely at its vibrant colours, feeling its velvety soft petals, smelling it. You can actually smell its refreshing fragrance if you are concentrating deeply enough.
Concentrating requires your mind to be organised. Thoughts that pass your brain need to be trained or organised. An untrained mind is like a chattering monkey; always restless, jumping here and there and never calm or still. You can control this chattering monkey by training your stream of thoughts
Sometimes sitting sill and trying not to think or focus on any thing specific can be helpful in sorting out your thoughts. Sitting quietly will help you unravel what is going on inside you. It will surprise you how many thoughts, distant memories, future plans, dreams, and unexpected thoughts you will unearth. It is helpful to try and create order in your mind by detaching yourself from your surroundings for some time.
Different objects or symbols can be used to meditate, which can either be found in nature or around you. For instance, a candle is the universal symbol of peace and hope. Light up a candle in a dark room and concentrate on its flame if you lack hope and peace in your life.
Other examples can be of evergreen plants, for they symbolise the continuation of the cycle of life as waterfalls represent the flow of life. Discover your own symbols; vastness of a starry sky can be an example too.
Nature has blessed us with objects around us to observe and enjoy, and with five senses so that we can benefit from nature’s many blessing by seeing, thinking, hearing, tasting and smelling. Colours found in nature have their own mysterious influences on us. Each colour is known for its specific attributes and to draw upon their qualities, you need to visualise a particular colour in your mind, trying to assume qualities you seek.
Visualise a red flower, fire or any red object when you need strength, direction, energy and courage in life. Look at the sunset to gain the properties of the colour orange such as vitality, brilliance, activity, or to break down barriers or get more fun out of life. The colour yellow is a sign of spring, a colour representing clarity. Green is a colour of renewal and of personal growth. Amplify relaxation in your life with the colour blue — the colour of the sea and the sky. Indigo is a rare colour in nature and is related to the expansion of mind. Violet insinuates peace and harmony within you. For pureness and wholeness meditate thinking of the colour white
Find beauty in life, appreciate things around you, be ready and prepared for sudden changes in life, be kind and gentle, and you will see surprising results. Make it a habit to relax before you go to bed, and to greet whoever you see each morning with a smile.
Always remember, to achieve fulfillment in life, live each moment happily, positively, for time is constantly running away. Make positive choices in life and be aware of the power of you mind. Always be in control of your thoughts, because it’s very true that ‘you are what you think’. Remember that meditation is not about being cut off from the world. It is all about finding inner peace amidst the hassle bustle of life.
published: 6th June 08 DAWN
image credit :http://www.sxc.hu
22 08 2011
Since time immemorial, South Asia farmers have cherished Okra or Bhindi — a vegetable that originated in Africa. These dark green, tender seed pods were a favourite of Cleopatra of Egypt. Today, after travelling from Ethiopia to North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, Arabia and India, they have found their way to the fields of urban farmers in Pakistan.
However, this is not where their journey ends; you can start your own kitchen garden by simply planting some Okra seeds in containers where ever you find a sunny spot in your house or apartment.
Sow the seeds 1 inch deep and 12 inches apart, directly into well-worked soil. If you are using containers, use a 14 inch container for each seed. If you wish to plant the seeds in your vegetable patch, make rows which are 36 inches apart.
For fast germination, soak the seeds for a few hours before you plant them. For best results, use 30% organic compost and 70% soil.
Growing Okra in your garden
Okra seedlings sprout within 2-3 weeks and after a passage of 4 weeks you can harvest your first Okra pods. The plant grows up to 40 inches tall and spreads around 30 inches in width.
Your plants will love regular watering patterns. Water 1 ½ inch each week and do not let the soil dry out or become too wet. The Okra plant also loves a treat of organic fertilizer every 3-4 weeks.
Peppers, tomatoes, basil, onions and garlic are the best companion plants for Okra. They help repel pests, and if grown together in same soil they will help each other grow better.
To avoid pest build up, plant okra on a different patch in your garden each season.
Harvesting and beyond
Okras first blossom as stunning yellow flowers with a crimson center and then quickly turn into tender pods.
Watch closely! Do not let the pods become hard. Harvest Okra as soon as the pods reach 3-4 inches — freshly picked Okra tastes best.
For harvesting, cut the pods from the stem just above the cap.
Farmers around the country plant Okra from February to September. Unlike seasonal vegetables, Okra can become perennial in some conditions, which means you can enjoy harvesting vegetables the next season too.
You can get an extra winter crop by pruning your plants to 2 inches after its yield in summer. Soon the plant will produce new shoots and more vegetables.
Store Seeds for the next season
Okra is a seedpod itself. Imagine how many seeds your plants produce each season? Why not save some to plant again or share some with fellow gardeners?
You simply need to scoop out all the seeds and put them in a glass filled with water. Let them soak for some time. Some seeds will sink to the bottom and some will remain afloat. Dispose off the water along with the seeds that are floating. Sun dry the seeds that are left and store them in an air tight container.
Be an Organic farmer
There is nothing like growing your own organic food — the feeling of picking your first home grown vegetables is unmatched. Make a resolution to yourself — Whatever you grow, you will grow it organically. Allow nature to do all the work for you.
To take a step in this direction, start your own exotic kitchen garden by planting Okra this season!
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 21st, 2011.
11 08 2011
Its dark and silent outside. I have got my bombs ready and I know exactly where to attack.
When I was watching clouds cover the sky yesterday, I knew its going to rain hard soon which means free watering system all over the city. If only I could spread the seeds all around and make those ugly empty plots look greener.
I remembered, I saw a tutorial to make seed bombs at a guerrilla gardening website. I had everything with me so I started making my seed bombs!
Make your own seed bomb:
You will need:
Clay soil ( potter’s powder ) – 5 parts
Compost – 1 part
Seeds -1 part
some water to bind
‘What to do next?
Simply mix everything together and keep the mixture easy to mold. Make 1 inch balls out of it. Keep it aside and let it dry for a day or two.
Which seeds to use?
I made mine using Spinach seeds. I know they grow fast and add so much color. You can use any easy to grow vegetable or herb seeds or any seasonal flower.
Where to attack?
Once you have got the seed bombs ready, simply go out for a walk and place some on the empty plots, barren roundabouts or any place that needs little greenery.
What ever place you chose, make sure you are not intruding into people’s privacy. I live on the 7th floor. At least 3 empty plots are easy to target from my lobby !
I am not sure what will happen to them when there is no rain to water them. But I hope that during these few weeks of monsoon, people will notice them and start taking care of them. Many people who will pass by can get inspired. Or I can simply water them once a week!
Clouds are getting darker and the silence tells me that its going to rain hard soon. I have got my bombs ready and now I am going to bomb my neighborhood!
So why don’t you join me ! Lets drop our seed bombs onto the barren lands near us and let the rains do the rest!