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Want to strengthen your immune system this winter?

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.
~Edith Sitwell

Winter means snuggling up in front of a crackling fire, building snowmen on the lawn, and gathering family and friends together for a holiday meal. Imagine snowflakes falling softly, bright red berries on branches, aromatic herbs and seasonings, and warming soups and stews. Because the energy of winter slows down and turns inward, this is an ideal time to nourish your body deep inside and build up your immune system.

Seasonal cooking will help your body stay attuned to the order of the universe, becoming stronger and more resistant to illness. The key to achieving this balance is cooking according to the seasons. For example, in winter time, avoid eating cooling foods, like salads and frozen desserts. Instead, you want warming, strengthening dishes like the following recipe, which includes hardy winter greens.

Emerald Sauté with Cranberries and Pecans

This delicious side dish infuses rich flavor and color to any holiday meal. Bitter winter kale nourishes heart function and expands the heart’s capacity for love and joy. Rich in calcium and antioxidants, kale also protects against macular degeneration and osteoporosis.

Serves 4

1 bunch kale, chopped
2 teaspoons untoasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons spring water
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries, fruit juice sweetened
lemon juice, to taste
shoyu soy sauce, to taste

  1. In a skillet, sauté greens in oil 2 minutes.
  2. Add water. Bring to boil, lower heat, and simmer, covered, 2 minutes.
  3. Season with lemon juice and shoyu. Garnish with chopped pecans and dried cranberries.

Food is not just about nutrition and calories—it’s also comprised of life force energy, related to the energy of the seasons, the time day, and your moods. When you balance your inner energy with external forces through seasonal cooking, you’ll not only have a stronger immune system, but also a more balanced life.

Eating Meditation

Give up everything [in the way of food and drink] that is not absolutely necessary to your life for at least a week or two. You will catch a glimpse of freedom, happiness, and justice. You may soon understand why Macrobiotic persons are completely immunized from disease. The decision is yours.
~ George Ohsawa, Zen Macrobiotics

Would you like to boost your immune system without pills or tonics? A long life, free of disease, and filled with peace and happiness, is available to you right now. You can discover the natural ability of the body to heal itself through simple meditation and the art of eating.

What is meditation?

There are two kinds of meditation: concentration meditation and mindfulness meditation.

  1. Concentration meditation

    Concentration meditation is like a laser beam, which illuminates any object of focus. This kind of meditation produces a calm, unruffled mind, that is detached from emotional and interpersonal attachment. Any object of awareness can be the focus of concentration, whether internal or external, including words (mantra), an image (flame), a spot on the body (abdomen), or a kinesthetic feeling (breath). When the mind wanders, the mind returns to the object of concentration.

  2. Mindfulness meditation

    Mindfulness meditation is like a searchlight that shines over a wide range of objects as they arise in awareness, one at a time. You notice whatever predominates in awareness from moment to moment. Relaxed, choiceless awareness develops in the mind, which directs conscious attention instantly and naturally toward the changing elements of experience. Meditation begins with focus on the breath. Then you direct your awareness to include other experiences, including the senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, and hearing. When the mind wanders, the mind returns to the breath.

Unlike concentration meditation, which focuses on internal and external objects, mindfulness focuses on experiences and broad awareness. However, both meditations return to the focus object or experience when the mind wanders. This combination of detached emotions and an absence of interpersonal involvement in the development of awareness is central to both meditations.

Eating Meditation

Eating meditation is an example of mindfulness. Follow these steps when you are sitting down to a meal to become aware of the present moment, and help boost your natural immunity:

  1. Take a bite of food and put your chopsticks or fork down.
  2. Chew between 50–100 times for each bite. Proper chewing is important to stimulate digestive enzymes and alkalinize your food.
  3. Swallow your saliva. (Saliva and the water in your body are reflections of the oceans on earth.)
  4. As you chew, breathe in and out five times. (The breath inside and outside your body contains life force energy, called prana in India.)
  5. Repeat this process until all the food is gone.

What did you experience? If you experienced peace and a heightened awareness of being in the present moment, this is what mindfulness meditation is: the process of slowing down, with directed, moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental attention. When you practice eating meditation, you open your heart to the present moment, the universal source of natural healing. Your appreciation and gratitude for the food and all who contributed to providing it for your nourishment are the keys to long-lasting health, peace, and happiness.

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