The bosk, or common bush, resembles the human in many ways. It is messy and multi-layered; thick in some areas, patchy in others. But that’s where the similarity ends. While people are apt to complain about the slightest problem, the bosk remains imperturbable in its approach to life.

The bosk lives in concert with its surroundings. It asks nothing of others. It requires no heavy care or maintenance. The bosk is neither envious of its flowering neighbors, nor takes pity on those considered less fortunate. The bosk does not wish to trade its unkempt appearance for that of the manicured hedge, row of daffodils or climbing ivy. The bosk is comfortable in its own skin, no matter how many layers of itchy vines and bushy leaves hide its Jackson Pollock-like skeleton.

The bosk watches bemusedly as bipeds march past, busy with their efforts to landscape every square inch of yard. People like to try controlling nature, but the bosk knows it’s a fool’s errand. Take a lesson from a nearby bosk and relax into your surroundings. You’ll be glad you did.

Many centuries ago, zen monks of the Rinzai school disavowed the notion of man’s superiority to animals, plants, water, fire, or even the earth itself. These monks spent years communing with nature, never seeing another person as they retreated to the mountainous caves to meditate. They reached out their hands to the universe and became one with it. Their meditative skills equipped them with the skills to handle both the isolation and the elements in good health.

Zen Teachings of the Rinzai

Later, 19th Century naturalist Henry Thoreau wrote of his fondness for solitude, wandering alone through the forests, beaches and back roads of Massachusetts. In fact, he gave himself a position which demanded he strike out from his one-room cabin no matter what the weather.  “For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms, and did my duty faithfully…”

Today, we find ourselves in the crux of winter, amidst a pandemic, with more snow forecast in the coming days. What would Henry do? He’d bundle up, head outside and lose himself in the day. Not content to simply traipse through the cold, he would pause to listen to a storm and it’s special characteristics.  He’d look closely at the snowflake, marveling at the amazing symmetry of each hexagonal formation. He might measure the accumulation.  (And if he had a smartphone, he might take some pictures.

So the next time you see the flakes start to fall, why not go inspect them yourself. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to cozy up to a tree and offer your hand. Give a plant a warm greeting. Say hello to a small pile of dirt, or a nice fat rock, or a bird that has seen fit to remain near rather than flying south. All of a sudden, you have an infinite number of new friends* who remain constantly by your side, in “good” weather and “bad.”

*But take care with the snakes, you never know if they are poisonous.

Who among us has a sunnier disposition than the indomitable Betty White? She turned 98 last week, which is no surprise, given that she’s still a force in the entertainment industry. *

So what’s the secret to an existence like Betty’s? Research shows that optimism contributes to 11 to 15 percent longer life span, and to greater odds of living to the age of 85 or beyond. But White has exceeded that by more than a decade. To what does she attribute that extra oomph?

“I know it sounds corny, but I try to see the funny side and the upside, not the downside” she said in a recent interview.  That’s right, Betty knows it’s best to look at every situation, even the crappy ones, and at least get a laugh or two out of it. (Like her first marriage to a rural chicken farmer that lasted six months.) As Betty is proving, it’s not just optimism, it’s SuperOptimism that can propel you to the century mark in style.**

And while you’re at it, it never hurts to light a votive candle just in case.

*Guinness has awarded Betty the world record for longest TV career for an entertainer — 75 years (and counting).

**You’ll also find vodka, hot dogs and red licorice on Betty’s training table. 

Lemons have suffered from an image problem since they first came to fruition. Perhaps this is due to their stinging acidity and tough skins (although both are considered positive traits in news columnists and football coaches). Not only does a “lemon” refer to a substandard product — most typically a used car — but it’s also used to mean “disappointing result” or “something unwanted.”

But as any SuperOptimist can tell you, it pays to step beyond conventional thinking and seek the truth for yourself.  Lemons are healthy fruits, rich in vitamin C and other nutrients, used in a myriad of wonderful products, from lemonade and lemon meringue pie.

Even better, lemons are a natural way to gain control over spiritual forces in the universe. They’ve been used for years by Feng Shui practitioners and Buddhist monks to keep negative energies at bay and enhance both health and mood. By placing a lemon in your pocket and taking it with you as you travel, you can protect yourself from the bad juju you may encounter while you are on the go.* Even easier, you can sport the positive lemon on clothing and save yourself any lemon-juice clean-up.

On the home front, you can halt negative vibes from entering and spreading through your domicile by cutting a lemon into four and spreading salt on each slice. Then place the slices at the entrance to your house and the lemon will absorb the creepiness from anyone who comes to your door.

What’s more, sleeping next to a cut-up lemon on your nightstand will add to your positive energy, as lemons have been used as a powerful aromatherapy oil for ages. Increased concentration, decreased stress levels, and smoother respiratory activity are just some of the benefits the night-time lemon will have on your health.  And as an added benefit, lemons also act as natural air fresheners and deodorizers. So why not put the power of the sour to work for you.

Wear this lemon t-shirt for good luck.

You are perfection when you wear the lemon.

*Note: If you choose to carry a lemon, it may dry up rapidly depending on how much negative energy you encounter. So make sure you replace your lemon with a fresh one, especially if you visit Washington, DC or any of these places:

Another day, another set of absolute miracles taking place. And in every direction!

Wait, you didn’t see them?

Perhaps you have become inured to such marvels. You are not alone. Since humanity started about 6 million years ago with primates known as the Ardipithecus, miracles have become so plentiful in life, we take them for granted.

Yet all it takes to reignite the senses to the incredible phenomena that surround us is to pause and consider that it wasn’t very long ago that humans walked on all fours and had body hair they could neither groom nor shampoo. And today? In haircare alone, you have your choice of hundreds of fabulous shampoo brands! (Here are the statistics on the favorites from 2018.)

See how everyday occurrences we take for granted can become jaw-dropping revelations, just by reframing your perspective? Here are a few more examples that we’ve recently found deserving of deeper appreciation.

DAILY COMMUTE: We take a “train” pulled by a “diesel engine” that runs on “steel tracks” from one “state” to another. That’s amazing!

PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT: We work in a “building” that’s 52 stories tall, has 21 “elevators” and 189 “water fountains”. That’s amazing!

LUNCHTIME IN THE CITY: We eat a “pulled pork sandwich” from a “food truck” one block away, and they give us an “extra side of coleslaw” because it’s almost closing time. That’s amazing!

CHANCE AT GREAT FORTUNE: Twice a week we buy a “ticket” that qualifies us to win hundreds of millions of “dollars” if our numbers are chosen. That’s amazing!

MOBILE PHONE: We all stare at a “computer” the size of a human hand that offers endless news, games, televisions shows, weather, and “shopping opportunities”. That’s amazing!

STREET BUSKER: Every morning there’s a man near the 42nd St. “shuttle” who wears a “paper crown” on his head and plays “House of the Rising Sun” on a red Telecaster “guitar”. That’s amazing!

We could keep going like this all day. And you can too!  Any time you feel the heavy burden of routine starting to drag you into the darkness, close your eyes, click your heels, and remember that you have eyes and heels to close and click.  Then open your eyes, point at the nearest object, and marvel at it out loud.

“Wow, that’s a ‘metal file cabinet’ that contains sheets of ‘paper’ with words and pictures on it.  That’s amazing!”*

*Note: You may need to explain to onlookers why you are behaving like this, as they probably aren’t as attuned to the miracles of everyday existence as you are.

First, the lawn. According to noted biologist Edward O. Wilson, “Lawns are a monoculture of alien species, a rapacious consumer of water, and require toxic chemicals to maintain which eventually make their way into aquifers and stream headwaters.”

Now, Kim. According to the tabloids, “Kim Kardashian has had fat transferred from less desirable areas and put into her buttocks and hips. She has most likely had an open septorhinoplasty to slim the bridge of her nose. She has undergone breast enlargement and uplift. And she has most likely had laser treatment on her hairline to make it neater.”

So how have we arrived at a point where we’re attempting to contour nature the way a pop culture celebrity surgically alters her body?

We owe the start of lawn maintenance to the British aristocracy of the 1860s. These sophisticates first introduced the idea of the “weed-free lawn” in an attempt to show affluence. Homeowners were encouraged to display their wealth by keeping pristine grass lawns instead of using the space to grow food. Before this trend took over, people actually pulled grass out of their lawns to make room for weeds, which were often incorporated into family salads and herbal teas.

Today, homeowners proudly display their “green thumb” by making sure their yard is micromanaged like a Martha Stewart dinner party. Most have no idea that this carpet of chemicals ranks just above bare concrete as a pox on our planet.

To which we say: let thy lawn go native!* Not only will this positively impact the environment by dispensing with gasoline, pesticides, and unnecessary irrigation, you’ll immediately begin to enjoy the simple pleasures of fresh air, blue skies, and plenty of extra hammock time! Plus you’ll gain an appreciation for the beauty of wildflowers, and learn to love such growths as Digitaria Sanguinalis.

If you still have a hankering for landscaping, then it’s best to choose species indigenous to your area, rather than planting exotic trees and shrubs with no concern for their geographic origin. The local variety produces more insects, which in turn attracts birds that provide a check on pests. It is personalized conservation at its best, or what landscapers refer to as “biophilic design” – integrating nature into our modern environments.

It may be too late for Kim Kardashian.  But it’s not too late for us!

*Even better, knock down your house and live in the wild. Your neighbors might object; it can take awhile for humans to adapt to new situations. Offer them some tomatoes and beans from your new organic garden, and perhaps they’ll think twice about calling the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission to have you removed.

We are raised to believe that there is “good weather” and “bad weather.” So we learn to say 80 degrees and balmy is good, and 33 degrees and rainy is bad.  Above 90 degrees is “miserably hot,” below 20 degrees is “freezing cold,” and what we are experiencing now with the polar vortex is just plain awful.

Yet what if we were to drop the designations of positive and negative, and just accept that the weather is simply weather; constantly changing, oft times challenging, and always interesting!

Sometimes when the weather seems ungodly, it is a fine exercise for to run out the door and experience the truth of it.  Bitter winds, jaw-dropping temperatures, the works. If the spirit moves you, scream and howl and let your body awaken to it.  Feel the truth in your body, not what the 5-day forecast is telling you. You will almost immediately discover that the weather may not be bad at all — but is actually quite stimulating.*

On the flip side, severe weather can remind us that the world is made up of forces bigger than we are, which makes our issues feel minor in comparison. Plus, there’s less social pressure to get together with others, which means you won’t have to make small talk about “how f-ing cold it is” or hear about your neighbor’s latest trip to Florida “where it was sunny and 85 degrees.”  Better to hunker down with a good read and a cup of soothing Djarling. How about Nikolai Gogol’s “The Overcoat?

*It’s also recommended to take your camera with you, for as the professionals say, “Bad weather makes good photographs.”

 

As America continues to lead the world in racing from place to place, grasping at riches and attempting to stay busy for fear of missing out (on what, we’re not sure), we are reminded of an old adage that exhorts us to pause in our frenzy and actually acknowledge the moment we find ourselves in.

For that, we have a Mr. Walter Hagen to thank. The dapper Mr. Hagen was neither a Buddhist practitioner or a self-help author, but a seminal figure in the world of golf. His winning ways ushered in a world of riches for professional athletes, as he became the first to earn a million dollars playing a sport for a living.*

What he said was: “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way. ”

Notice Hagen didn’t just choose roses to sniff. That’s a relief, as it gives us more opportunity to appreciate all flowers along the way. Jasmine, hyacinth, peony, wisteria: each deserves our undivided attention.

But why just limit your olfactory sense to flowers? To be truly awake and in the moment, we suggest you take a good whiff of everything that crosses your path.

We’re not just talking about the good smells either — a fresh-baked cherry pie cooling on the window ledge of Aunt Millicent’s kitchen, or that sweet huff of unleaded gasoline while you fill up at the Exxon station. Focus your nose on the questionable smells too, like a New York subway platform on a hot summer day, rotting fish left out to wither in the sun at the seafood market, even a freshly minted poop from your labradoodle Sadie. Such smells wake us up to the moment, and should not be pushed away just because we find them off-putting. They’re just as valuable in our ongoing education as the waft of evergreens in a forest or a demitasse of freshly made espresso.

And speaking of Sadie the labradoodle, you might notice just how devoted she is to smelling the world, whether it be a pant leg, a tree trunk, or a Goodyear steel-belted radial. Like all dogs, Sadie possesses up to 300 million olfactory receptors in her nose, compared to a mere 6 million in humans. And the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours. No wonder the cops are always walking a Labrador around the airport in search of the odd bag of cocaine.

So take your olfactory senses for a walk and get a whiff of everything. Though when sniffing fellow humans, be discreet. Some take offense if you get to close.  Even though it is only natural!

*Hagen once stated that he “never wanted to be a millionaire, just to live like one.” A fortunate man, he achieved both!

Taking on too many tasks during the day? Constantly checking your phone? Easily distracted?  Let us help you get centered once and for all.

“Centering” isn’t just another term for being focused.  There’s an actual physical center of the body, located just below the navel. In Qigong, it’s called the “lower dantian.” Concentrating on this center will help quiet your mind.  Once you’ve reduced the chatter in your head, you can get in touch with your badass higher self.

Then again, maybe you need a bigger shock to your system, something that will completely remove you from your current situation and give you what we call “Superoptimal Centering.”  In that case, pack a satchel, jump in the car and head to Lebanon, Kansas. Here you’ll find the geographical center of the 48 contiguous United States.  Just take US Highway 281 north 1 mile, and turn west on K-191.  Go for another mile until you see the marker at the end of the road.*

There’s very little to do once you get here.  And isn’t that the point?  Relax, slow down, sign the guest register and luxuriate in the great expanse that is the Sunflower State.  Just think: now nobody’s more centered than you!

*Note: the actual geographical center is about a half mile away, in the middle of a former hog farm.

Nothing says “You’re welcome here!” like a pineapple — without question the most historically valid symbol of hospitality of any fruit or vegetable, and bursting with healthy goodness besides.

The first account of the pineapple was given by Christopher Columbus and his men, who landed on the island now known as Guadeloupe on their second voyage of discovery. One of the first things they saw was a pineapple (though they had no name for it).

Columbus brought the succulent fruit back to Europe in 1493. Its cylindrical shape and rough, spiky surface caused the Spaniards to name it “pina,” after the pine cone, although the pineapple is much larger by comparison. The English noted the same resemblance, but also liked apples, hence the word “pineapple.”

Spaniards began placing a pineapple at the entrance to a village as a sign of welcome. This symbolism spread to Europe, then to Colonial North America, where families would set a fresh pineapple in the middle of the table as a colorful centerpiece, especially when visitors joined them in celebration. The fruit would then be served as a special desert after the meal. Often when the visitor spent the night, he was given the bedroom that had pineapples intricately carved on the bedposts or atop the headboard — even if the bedroom belonged to the head of the household. Thus the phrase “I slept with the pineapples” means getting a good night’s rest.

Today, the medical community sings the praises of the pineapple, since it’s rich in vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. A serving of pineapple contains 130% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, as well as thiamin which assists the body in energy production. Pineapples also contain the anti-inflammatory enzyme Bromelain. What’s more, drinking pineapple juice is said to be five times more effective than cough syrup when you have a tickle in your throat. What’s not to like?

Shown above: British politician Margaret Thatcher holding up a pineapple for good luck during her 1978 campaign. It must have worked, as she won the election to become the first woman prime minister in the western world.