April 2, 2014

The Modern Primitive: What are We Striving For? ~ Kathleen Buchanan


Remember when we could hear the alarm, hit the snooze one or two times, give ourselves a quick stretch, then head bleary-eyed and shuffling to the shower? Times were so simple then!

Now we wake up ready to set an intention for the day as we stuff a spoonful of coconut oil in our mouth and wait for it to melt to begin our 20 minutes of oil pulling for oral health.

While our cheek muscles get a workout swishing the fragrant oil through our teeth, we peruse our latest life-altering book of good stuff and find a passage or a quote that we can use later in our yoga class.  We spit out the bacteria-laden goop (into the garbage so as not to clog the drain!) and we reach for a glass of room-temperature alkaline water—rinsing, spitting and then drinking it down.

Turning to the yoga mat, we begin the ritual of bringing our intention into our physical practice.

Perhaps we spend 15 minutes on asana (yoga pose) or maybe it’s closer to an hour, but we check in with ourselves and know when to lie down and honor our bodies with a little savasana (corpse pose).

Next we make our way to our special meditation area—a room, a closet, or just a little table—whichever. We may light a candle, or grab our mala (blessed by a guru or acquired in a special place), adjust our cushion and set the timer. At times we may use a recorded meditation practice, other times we just focus on our breath—making it slow and even and deep. Or maybe we use a mantra.

Either way we’re fortifying ourselves for the day ahead. Finding our equanimity, our rootedness, so we can be present with those we encounter.

Now we can eat!

We go for some eggs from the neighbor’s chickens—fresh yesterday, cooked in organic grass-fed butter or ghee; half an avocado; a huge handful of organic greens; a sprinkling of hemp seeds; maybe a little raw-milk cheese from the farmer’s market. Or perhaps we drink a bulletproof coffee instead, French press with MCT oil and butter. Or a smoothie of colorful organic fruits and vegetables whirred together in a $300 blender.

And, of course, make sure to take a picture to post later to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Your people need to know!

Off to the shower! But first a quick allover dry brushing to stimulate the lymph. Starting with warm water, we move to cold and back a few times to really invigorate our circulatory system. We wash with sustainable, fair-trade, goat’s milk soap we bought on an exotic trip last month. Or maybe we’re no-pooing: eschewing chemical-saturated shampoo and soaps in favor of baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

Leaving the shower we dress in certifiably crunchy wear: organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, linen, recycled, upcycled, vegetable dyed, sweatshop-free, USA made, sustainable, responsible, gonna-change-the-world togs. We ladies might use some cruelty-free, all-natural kohl eyeliner, or mascara, or blush or beeswax lip gloss infused with clove or cinnamon to give our pucker a little plump.

After all this, it’s almost time for lunch and we haven’t even attended to our kids, our pets, our businesses (with all of their requisite social media), our home, yard, etc.

Every practice listed above is something I fervently believe in, something I cultivate and try to find time for, but what of actual life? Where’s the actual living if the bulk of our day is taken up with these time-consuming, yet nurturing, concepts? Is it even possible to do all the things we ‘should’ do in 24 hours?

How nurturing is it when all of these wonderful and ancient rituals turn into line items on a To Do list? Is it just one more thing to potentially overwhelm us, and eventually turn us off to these practices?

I have no real answers, I just know for me: five minutes every few days is all the oil pulling I can muster. If I only make it to my mat for five minutes, it impacts my day in the most wonderful way. I would be lost without regular meditation, but when I can only fit in seven minutes because my 8th grader wants to talk politics, it’s okay.

I drink water from the tap. I shop my conscience both at the grocery and elsewhere, but I’m far, far from perfect. I wash my hair with shampoo and I’m not ashamed to say so. I love greens and eggs, I love butter and cheese, I love teaching yoga and posting smoothie photos on Facebook. I love riding bikes and watching TV with my daughters.

At my somewhat ripe age I know that the most nourishing practice—physically, mentally, spiritually—is love and connection. And that’s what I strive for daily.


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 Apprentice Editor: Lizzie Kramer / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Courtesy of Pixoto/Sattapapan Tratong and Pixoto/Prachit Punyupar

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Kathleen Buchanan