Morning Mantras

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” Dalai Lama

goats ahimsa compassion photo

Photo: ColorfulFoxes

10 Thought Patterns that Keep You from Happiness

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We tend to view our minds as our whole being. But through meditation we learn to watch our thoughts, almost like leaves floating by on a river. You can’t watch yourself, so that must mean that your thoughts aren’t all of you, but rather, a part of who you are. Even still, our thoughts undoubtedly shape our mental state.

Another side effect of watching your thoughts through meditation is the realization that your thoughts are cyclical, meaning the same thought patterns run in and out of your mind multiple times on a daily basis. As a result, negative thought patterns become the root of unhappiness.

What’s your attitude toward life and is it holding you back from finding peace and happiness on a daily basis? Here are 10 thought patterns that may do just that.

1. Obsessed with Perfection

Are you obsessed with perfection? If you’re constantly thinking that everything around you needs to be improved, then you’re likely never satisfied with what you have. Sometimes good enough is just fine, and it’s our ability to see this that brings us happiness.

2. Comparison Thinking

“Why am I not married?” “Why don’t I have children?” “Why don’t I make as much money as so-and-so?” These are examples of comparing yourself to those around you–a toxic thought pattern that will almost always bring you down.

3. Polarized Thinking

Looking at issues and opinions as black or white is ineffective because it’s largely inaccurate. You’ll often find shades of grey hidden between the lines. Try to truly put yourself on the other side of issues and understand where those around you are coming from even when it’s not so easy.

Read the Rest on Naturally Savvy.

Photo: fechi fajardo

Morning Mantras

“We all want to be extraordinary and we all just want to fit in. Unfortunately, extraordinary people rarely fit in.” –Sebastyne Young

13 Ways to Be a Free Spirit

It’s not the path of least resistance, in fact, being a free spirit may mean feeling like you don’t perfectly fit into the society around. It’s the feeling of wanting to get to know life beyond the surface and of truly getting to know yourself.

“We all want to be extraordinary and we all just want to fit in. Unfortunately, extraordinary people rarely fit in.” –Sebastyne Young

It may seem irrational to want to live outside the lines, but what’s really irrational is living life through its mundane details. While the society around you may seem to reward those that stick to same job, same location, and same set of friends for the entirety of their lives, a free spirit always wonders “is this it?”

If you’re looking for a life beyond the details, here’s my guide to being a free spirit.

Read More: 13 steps on my Discovery Fit & Health Column:

photo: hsld

South Africa Grants Approval for the Import of GE Soy Beans

soy bean farm photo

South Africa has granted approval for the import of DOW’s genetically engineered soy bean variety (DAS-44406-6). It’s genetically engineered to resist the liberal application of glufosinate and glyphosate, main ingredients in various pesticides.

Those critical of the soy bean variety fear an increase in the use of pesticides as a result of its modified resistance. Because the soy beans resist glyphosate, the main ingredient in Round Up, farmers overuse the pesticide, creating dead zones, when all life surrounding the crop are killed off. Today, according to The New York Times, farmers use five times more weed killers on their crops then they did in 1997, and with 94 percent of soybeans and 72 percent of corn being grown this way, herbicide use has exploded.

The massive increase in pesticide use isn’t just occurring in the U.S. In Argentina it’s increased by 11 fold and in Brazil by 360 percent between 2000 and 2009.

“We condemn the decision by the South African authorities. Once again, economic interests are riding roughshod over our government’s stewardship role to protect the health of our citizens and environment. The decision to approve this GE soybean variety is all the more galling in light of a current motion by the African Christian Democratic Party before the South African Parliament, to overturn a previous decision to allow imports of Dow’s 2,4-D tolerant GE maize into South Africa.” said Mariam Mayet of the African Centre for Biosafety. This GM maize has been dubbed “agent orange” maize by the media, owing to the use of 2,4 D as an ingredient in the infamous chemical, Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War to devastating effects.

Fears of Glyphosate

Studies have shown that glyphosate even in small amounts may cause changes to the body’s DNA.

“Any increase in the use of 2,4-D in association with Dow’s 2,4-D resistant corn will hit rural communities especially hard, as numerous medical studies have linked 2,4-D and related herbicides to increased rates of cancer and Parkinson’s disease as well as low sperm counts in farmers, and to birth anomalies in their children,” said Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Scientist with Pesticide Action Network North America. “Farmworkers and other rural residents will also be at risk. 2,4-D has been shown to cause liver and nerve damage, as well as hormonal disruption and is classified by the World Health Organisation as possibly carcinogenic,” she added.

While the rest of the world is still far behind the 165 million acres of GMO crops in the U.S., it seems crop modification is making its may into agriculture worldwide.

Photo: eamoncurry123

Senate Rejects Provision That Would Strengthen Reporting of Antibiotics in Animals

cow antibiotics senate politics photo

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) rejected a provision to the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) that would strengthen FDA reporting of antibiotic sales. The provision would verify for the public which antibiotics are sold for use in livestock, how many are used, and how they are being used.

The provision takes significant steps toward getting a hold of the amount of antibiotics used in factory farming. Specifically, the FDA would report on the volume of antimicrobial drugs sold categorized by medical importance, dosage form, and target animals. It would also report on whether providers were complying with FDA Guidance for Industry 209 and 213, or any subsequent guidance, using valid and robust performance metrics.

New FDA Guidance

New FDA Guidance limits medically important antimicrobial drugs to uses in animals that are considered necessary for assuring animal health as well as limiting medically important antimicrobial drugs to uses in animals that include veterinary oversight or consultation.

The FDA hopes that this new rule will help vastly reduce the use of antibiotics and decrease the 99,000 deaths each year from hospital acquired infections that are resistant to antibiotics. Over time, low doses of antibiotics allow for surviving bacteria to form a resistance and while we’re not sure about the connection between resistance in animals and in humans, we do know that 80 percent of antibiotics are used in livestock.

Keep Antibiotics Working

While the Senate did not include the provision in ADUFA, the organization Keep Antibiotics Working hopes that they will include it later.

“At a time when Americans increasingly are becoming ill from bacteria that cannot be treated with commonly used antibiotics, we need leadership to protect the public health. Today, the Senate HELP Committee failed that leadership test. The Committee had an opportunity to adopt critical, yet very reasonable, accountability and transparency measures that would strengthen how sales data on antibiotics for food animals are collected and reported to the public. Instead, the Committee sided with industry, keeping the public in the dark and unsure of the extent of routine antibiotic use on farms,” said Richard Wood, Chair, Keep Antibiotics Working.
Wood added, “We thank Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for their leadership on this issue and urge others in Congress to work to curb the routine overuse of antibiotics on farms.”

Photo: Lehigh Valley, PA

Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Many Others Reject GMO Salmon

Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Whole Foods, and Marsh Supermarkets have all signed on with the Campaign For Genetically Engineered Free Salmon. These are just a few of the nearly 2,000 stores likely to join in rejecting Aqua Bounty’s genetically engineered salmon.

On the Brink of Passage

The gm salmon is on the brink of passage. The FDA completed its environmental assessment in May of 2012. The assessment sought to clear up fears that the genetically modified salmon could escape, as well as whether interbreeding with wild salmon was a practical concern.

According to the FDA: “The likelihood of escape is extremely small due to the multiple containment measures at the sites of egg production and grow-out.” And even if they did escape, the agency claimed survival was unlikely, and additionally, interbreeding would be impossible.

In an effort to avoid fear from consumers, retailers are rejecting the gm salmon before it even hits the shelves. The genetically modified salmon is engineered with extra genes from two species of fish which make it grow two times faster than traditional wild salmon and non-genetically modified farm-raised salmon. 

Unlabeled Goods

But the fear isn’t just that the salmon will exist, but rather, that it will remain unlabeled. Unsuspecting consumers may purchase Aqua Bounty having no idea that it’s genetically engineered. Advocacy groups welcomed the move by retailers.

“We applaud these retailers for listening to the vast majority of their customers who want sustainable, natural seafood for their families. Now it’s time for other food retailers, including Walmart, Costco, and Safeway to follow suit and let their customers know they will not be selling unlabeled, poorly studied genetically engineered seafood,” said Eric Hoffman, food and technology policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

“Consumers Union has serious concerns about the safety of the first genetically engineered fish, a salmon engineered to grow to maturity twice as fast as wild salmon,” said Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist with Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. “FDA decided based on data from just six fish that there was no increased risk to people with fish allergies. However, even these meager data suggest that these fish show increased allergic potential.”

Though it’s unclear whether it’s a reaction to the public’s apparent disdain for the so-called Frankenfish or not, the FDA has extended the public period of comment which was set to end in February until April.

Photo: ilovemypit

Getting set for the week.

zucchini bread photo

We were slow to get the week started around here–it was an eventful week/weekend. One of my oldest friends came through town last week leaving this delicious zucchini bread shown above. Paired with an ample dollop of Earth Balance spread and a cup of black tea, it was an irresistible breakfast.

Earth Balance is vegan, made without artificial ingredients or hydrogenated oils, free of gluten, lactose, and eggs. It’s also Non-GMO Project certified. I use it instead of butter when I can, especially if there’s no local, organic butter on hand.

breakfast photo

I’m also a fan of black tea, which helped me to wake up this morning. As you can see, Madison wasn’t having it. A study done at Rutgers showed that black tea may help prevent stomach, breast, and prostate cancer. A study in the Netherlands showed that drinking black tea daily decreased by 50 percent your chances of dying from heart disease. It also prevents tooth decay. And it looks more like coffee, which for some reason, appeals to me.

Bella guarded the basil as I planned ahead for the week to come. I made a curried butternut squash bisque (I’ll publish pictures of it later this week) and a simple cold sesame noodle salad with mustard green shavings. Hopefully this will last the husband and I a few days, so I can get ahead on my work and avoid take out all at the same time.

cold sesame noodle salad photo

Cold Sesame Noodle Salad with Mustard Green Shavings

1 package soba noodles
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp organic peanut butter
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp hot sauce (add more if you like)
1 tsp cold pressed sesame oil
2 cloves minced garlic
The juice of 1/2 lime
2 large leaves minced mustard greens
1 tbsp sesame seeds


1. Cook noodles as per directions.

2. While you’re cooking the noodles, whisk oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, hot sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and lime together.

3. Dress noodles and top with greens and sesame seeds–toss well. Refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld.

4. When serving, drizzle with sesame oil and a squeeze of lime.

Breakfast of champions.

breakfast of champions photo

I get asked all the time what I eat for breakfast and to be honest it changes. But I am rather picky about my morning intake because it’s the way I start the day. Start with junk and the day is likely to move in the wrong direction.

I’m a big fan of Earth Balance crunchy peanut butter with banana slices, raw honey, and sprouted grain bread, which of course gets shared with Madison and Bella. Bananas are undoubtedly their favorite.

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10 Meatless Thanksgiving Dishes

artichokes with walnut stuffing photo

It’s the Thanksgiving countdown. Whether you’re late to pack or hit the grocery store, the holiday can involve a lot of pressure. But if I were to give one piece of Thanksgiving advice, it would be to keep your recipe as simple, fresh, and local as possible. Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember that Thanksgiving is about relaxing with family and friends. Cheers to remembering what matters!

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Sara Kovak
Welcome to Serene Kitchen, your destination for tasty meatless eats and mindful living. My name is Sara Novak and I'm a health and wellness expert for Discovery Health and TreeHugger.