Sustainable Living

One evening my daughter who just completed her degree in textile design was telling me about sustainable practices in the textile industry that she was pitching for a film series. It set my thoughts rolling on how we can bring sustainability in all walks of our life. The thought excited me so much that I could take it up as a project for the rest of my life!

Another evening she told me that we need to do something at the community level to make people aware of sustainable living. That very evening I saw in my building WhatsApp group that we need to conserve water given the current situation.

This was a great opportunity to also talk about sustainable living like my daughter was suggesting. So here are a few points that we discussed in the meeting that happened the very next day!

What is sustainability?

Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.
“the pursuit of global environmental sustainability”

Sustainability is most often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

It has three main pillars:

economic,
environmental,
social.
These three pillars are informally referred to as people, planet and profits

Sustainable living requires a paradigm shift. It requires us to form new habits. It requires us to come out of our comfort zones. It requires us to not just think about our and our family’s convenience, but to think about what is good for the larger community and the planet. Its requires a change in consciousness.

Why is sustainable living important today? Why should we care?

http://www.greenewit.com/inmedia/blog/why-it-is-important-to-live-sustainably.html

Let us set an intention to live a sustainable life and set an example for our larger community.
How can we bring sustainability in our everyday lives?

1. Reduce waste. Read up the zero waste movement. On how we can reduce waste disposal in our homes. Its great that we are already practicing segregation and composting in our society even if there room for further improvement.
One example is to switch to menstrual cups. No more disposing pads and adding to landfills.
https://www.nykaa.com/personal-care/feminine-hygiene/menstrual-cups/c/9475?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIkeHavtuQ4wIV0worCh1hjQ9JEAAYAiAAEgJQtvD_BwE&ef_id=EAIaIQobChMIkeHavtuQ4wIV0worCh1hjQ9JEAAYAiAAEgJQtvD_BwE:G:s&s_kwcid=AL!599!3!282173849468!b!!g!!&utm_source=GooglePaid&utm_medium=Search&utm_campaign=DSA_Main

2. Recycle and reuse: As far as possible do not throw stuff.
Clothes, shoes and some other household articles can be repaired, reused or upcycled. There are facebook pages to sell gently used or pre-loved items and clothes!

One need not be ashamed to use and buy used things anymore! If its going to save the planet why not!!!

We can conduct a workshops for children and youngsters on how to make simple repairs on clothes like hemming, sewing, sewing buttons and button holes.

3. Avoid plastic products- for example, plastic tooth brushes take 400 years to decompose.

Avoid wrapping gifts with shiny plastic gift covers. It will anyway go to landfill. Instead get children to draw on white paper or paper bags!

One can buy bamboo tooth brushes, straws, pens, ear buds, etc instead from here or other sites: https://www.bambooindia.in/

4. Use biodegradable products:
Bamboo fibre sanitary pads
https://www.heydaycare.com/

Use bamboo fibre napkins

https://letsbeco.com/shop/beco-sustainable-bamboo-serving-napkins-25-pieces/

Use baby diapers only when you go out or when its unavoidable once in a while. Use biodegradable bamboo nappies: https://wonderhood.in/collections/bambo-nature-premium-diapers-buy-online/products/bambo-nature-premature-size-0
Let’s go back to the exemplary Indian toilet training practices. At home only use washable cloth nappies.

5. Stop buying more. Let’s go back to buying new clothes just twice a year. Once on your birthday and one for your special festival….like old times when new clothes were really special.
Encourage fair trade, Slow fashion and handloom.
Let’s encourage crafts made by hand. Industries indulge in sweatshops with unfair practices and underpay and use child labour.
Slow fashion where we can buy handloom material and get it stitched is good for everyone even if it costs more- at least those of us who can afford it.

Let’s learn more about minimalism.

6. Go back to pre industrial practices. Speak to older generation on how they did things in their time.
Let’s see if we can buy groceries in loose and avoid plastic packaging materials.

7. Go vegan. Plant based food takes up lot less resources than animal based food including dairy.
https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/why-go-vegan
Contact me for vegan alternatives.

8. Use natural products like Reetha, shikakai, methi for hair wash, stuff from the kitchen for facials and scrubs like fruits and lentils. Let’s avoid products that come in plastic bottles and those that contain harmful chemicals although they may seem enticing.

These do come in plastic bottles but are completely chemical free: http://bubblenutwash.com/

9. Encourage small home businesses for buying various products. For example I buy shampoo bars and dishwasher soaps from my friend who makes them at home and the products are great!
https://m.facebook.com/fatimashaikh2229/

10. Let us go organic and encourage organic farmers. Let’s buy directly from them. As more and more of us demand pesticide and chemical free food, the cost will reduce as production goes up.
Let us avoid giving our children processed food as far as possible and give them homemade food.

11. Let’s conserve limited resources such as fuel, water and electricity. Let’s cut down on using ACs at home. Let’s patiently educate our domestic help to conserve water. Let’s spread awareness on rainwater harvesting.
Let’s walk instead of driving wherever possible.
I heard of an 80 year old lady, a scientist who has been living without electricity for the past 60 years!!
Did you know Solar panels are available for home use!?
https://www.amazon.in/Belifal-Lighting-System-20Watts-Battery/dp/B01DPBSE9Y?tag=googinhydr18418-21

12. Let us be vigilant when it comes to children’s gadget use. Let us encourage them to play outside more. We’re lucky that our kids have that possibility.
Let’s teach our children to live and consume responsibly by example.

These are some of the things we can do every day in our homes. Most, if not all of the links are of products I use. Some I found just now!
I’m not sponsored by them. My intention is to give examples of such alternatives.
Let’s us indulge in conscious consumerism. Let’s preserve the planet for our children and grandchildren.
It’s now a very real and urgent problem that needs our heart and mind space.

Nirupama Rao

UNDERSTANDING AUTISM AND SPECIAL NEEDS FROM AN ANTHROPOSOPHIC PERSPECTIVE

(Written on request from a friend to create awareness about Anthroposophy and its importance in Autism from my perspective)

My name is Nirupama. I am a psychologist. I work with children with special needs and mostly autism. Currently my focus is on parent training, education and support. I started my career in 1994 when the incidence of autism was relatively low, that is six for every ten thousand children. Today it is one in every sixty. It is worth pondering over the rise in its incidence.

A decade into my career, the conventional therapies mainly focused on academics, speech and behavioral therapies which focused on correcting, educating or ‘fixing’ the children. And I was doing the same.

It was in 2008 that I attended my first annual conference on Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy is the philosophy founded by spiritual scientist Dr Rudolf Steiner in the beginning of the 20th century. It’s a philosophy that when applied to any walk of life or field of work our everyday tasks become more enlivened, conscious, and more humane.

That was where for the first time I heard someone talking about ‘connecting’ with the child. The concepts I heard in that conference shifted completely my paradigms, not only on autism but on life itself.
The branch of anthroposophy that works with Special Needs, is called Curative Education. Without going into the details of the spiritual-scientific principles, I would like to mention the concepts that I found useful for all children, but more so those with autism, ADHD, Learning disabilities, sensory processing and developmental disorders. These concepts are now more widely accepted in the mainstream society. The following is what became clear to me, personally, in the past nine years with Anthroposophy with regard to autism:

• A child’s behavior, emotional state and ability to learn depend on his well-being and his internal health. A healthy child is a happy child. No amount of therapies can yield complete benefit until the child is feeling well and balanced. For this, it is important to look into what he eats, when he eats, when and how much he sleeps, what he does during the day, his lifestyle, the environment at home and so on. This is much in line with the principles of Ayurveda.

• Autism is known as a neurological disorder. However, like Rudolf Steiner said about almost a hundred years ago, it has a lot to do with metabolism and gut health as it is being widely accepted these days and parents are seeing amazing results with special diets like wheat, milk, sugar free and other diets.

• A child with autism has an intact intellect (unless there’s comorbidity with other conditions). However, the body doesn’t cooperate with the mind. Therefore therapists need to focus more on the physical body with movement, balance, core muscle development, reflex integration, physical fitness, massages, sports, horse riding, walking, trekking, and most importantly, real, meaningful work with hands, etc., to help the child ground into his body, to become aware of his body, so that his body is able to access the intellect that is already present and use it to function more productively in this world. In other words, improve the mind body connect. This is the reason that Occupational therapy, when done effectively, yields positive results.

• Even if the child is non-speaking (lack of expressive language), it is incorrect to assume that the child is unable to comprehend, follow or grasp what is being said (intact receptive language). We need to assume intellect and address his actual age in teaching him academic concepts, exposing him to books, stories and life experiences, as their receptive language is much better than their expressive language. Children have proved this true with the help of the RPM method that is helping them learn and communicate age appropriately.

• Children with autism, because of their awareness not being completely grounded in their bodies, are less individualized and much more at one with the natural world as compared to typical persons. Hence, it is extremely beneficial to keep them close to nature, maintain eco friendly and natural living styles, food, rhythms and routines that are in harmony with the natural world.

  • They do not have a sense of “I” or Ego and hence they are not capable of any negative thinking or actions and are pure hearted. Interestingly, many verbal children on the spectrum do not use the word ”I” to refer to themselves. Instead they use names in third person!

• Therapy is more effective when therapists connect deeply with the children, respect and accept them for who they are and gain their trust by working from the heart and soul as opposed to working mechanically.

No two children with autism are the same and it is important to observe them and allow ourselves to be guided by their needs and not be bound rigidly by schedules and agendas although it is important to have a structure to begin with.

Steiner strongly recommended that teachers and Curative Educators do ‘Innerwork’. That is, work on their own conscious growth and development. Get in touch with their inner core and find their internal balance. This would help them serve the children and adults alike in a deeper, compassionate and a more intuitive way.

• Children are more deeply and subtly connected with their parents’ and more so the mother’s well being than we are aware. The sensitive children often reflect the mother’s state of mind. Hence it is equally important to work with the mothers, help them deal with their anxiety, help them accept their children unconditionally, to help them identify their children’s strengths and build on them. In addition, most importantly, to find something that will fulfill the mother’s personal need for joy and happiness. A happy, fulfilled mother is able to better care for her family than a mother who is giving more than she is receiving.

• Although technology is proving to be a boon for children on the autism spectrum, we need to be careful not to expose these children to too much technology as they are sensitive to the EMF and radiation that comes from the wifi and signals. The TV and video programming ensures that the children are highly stimulated and hence hooked on to them.
Children are responding positively to methods like communication charts, PECS and RPM which do not involve the use of technology. In this time and age of excesses, it important not to expose children to over-stimulation of the senses (example: noisy videos, malls, arcades). Care has to be taken to keep the children in calm and peaceful environments as many of them are hypersensitive to loud noises and to reduce the occurrence of hyperactivity which is rather environmentally induced.

• Children on the autism spectrum and other special conditions need to be helped to live a life of dignity and productivity. This is the central guiding principle behind the Camphill Communities (residential communities for adults with mental and psychological disabilities) based on principles of anthroposophy, located all over the world including India. It is important to keep the youngsters and adults productively engaged in order to help them become contributing members of the society in their own unique capacity.

These are just some of my takeaways from anthroposophy.
Hence, anthroposophy is not just a method of education or medicine, but it is a way of life. It is a holistic way of looking at the human being and serving humanity with a deeper understanding.
I sincerely believe that anthroposophy can improve the quality of life of everyone that is touched by it in one form or another. It has made my life and work so much more meaningful.

Nirupama Rao
Psychologist, Parent Consultant.
Author- The Autism Story
raonino@gmail.com

Curative Educational Institutes in India: http://www.anthroposophyindia.org/education.htm

ARISE, AWAKE AND QUESTION

(Especially written keeping in mind the young adults, people who are contemplating marriage and parenthood and parents of young children. This is not what we want to hear, but what we need to hear)

The world has changed a lot more in the last 5 years than it has in the last century.

Ola, Uber, flipkart, Amazon, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Google maps and numerous other apps have significantly changed our lives. Life is going to become increasingly impossible to live without our ubiquitous cell phones that can, incidentally also be used to make calls.

Technology has definitely improved the quality of our lives. It has helped save a lot of money, energy and time. It’s like any other invention like the knife or the atom bomb. It all depends on how we use it.

Netflix has a series called Black Mirror (the ipad, laptop or tablet screen that’s turned off) which projects into the future where technology takes stranger turns and transforms humanity in unimaginable ways. Many works of science fiction have been prophetic and that thought is quite scary!

In fact, even infants have their eyes glued to their gadgets that are stuck to their prams, as mom is busy shopping. Six month old babies don’t eat anymore without watching their favourite cartoon/nursery rhymes on YouTube or listening to their favourite Bollywood number.

My now adult nephew’s friend is earning in Crores by making nursery rhyme animations of questionable quality.

Ten year olds want have their own Youtube channels. Children are not going down to play as much as they used to earlier.

Parents in restaurants are feeding their babies but not before handing them their smart phones to keep them distracted.

You go to any social get together and you find children and adults alike busy with their screens, even relatives who get together after a long, long time. Couples in restaurants are busy looking into their own smart phones instead of looking into each other’s eyes.

Parents are not able to set limits as they are themselves hooked on to it as the IDEA 4G AD says “Look look, India hua hook”

Social networking apps have several people employed only to make sure people are always hooked.

I wonder if there’s an app to measure the number of hours people spend with their phones….(update: yes there are many)

HOW ARE OUR LIFESTYLES AFFECTING US

Given this situation, young children who are affected the most, are speaking less, moving less, playing less. This is giving rise to many issues like speech delay, poor muscle tone, coordination and many sensori-motor disturbances. It’s hard to imagine the repercussions this is going to have in the future.

Just as cardiac problems, hypertension, BP, infertility, cancer and diabetes are called lifestyle diseases among the adult population, children are also exhibiting various lifestyle related symptoms like hyperactivity, low muscle tone, sensory processing disorders, autism like features, speech delay, aggression and so on.

There are 4-5 children with issues in a class of 20 children at a playschool I visit. Since it was too time consuming to talk about the same causes and effects to each parent individually, we decided to address the parents of the whole school regarding these modern challenges faced by today’s children, and in turn, parents and teachers. The talk was surprisingly very well received by the parents who were being swept by the wave of technology and lifestyle. But when this was brought to their awareness, it was like an awakening.

Most of us adults are sleep walking through life, flowing with the current and doing what everybody is doing. As humans, we have individual egos that help us to think independently for ourselves unlike animals that are governed by a group ego and herd mentality. ‘Normal’ is no longer most healthy.

We need to think for ourselves and consciously question our choices, especially when it comes to our children. Is this the best that I can give my child? At every step, we need to question ourselves about the choices we are making. Is this what is good? Will this calm my child or excite him? Do I satiate him immediately or do I deal with the tantrum? Do I spend time with him or do I hand him the I pad?

HOW LIFESTYLES ARE CHANGING

Technology is only one part if the lifestyle changes we are witnessing. The world we live in and how we are living is changing in many different ways. Now let us look at what are the lifestyle aspects that are impacting the true potential of the future generation.

What are we doing differently from the previous generation that is giving rise to issues that they did not face?

  • Increase in the number of vaccinations and antibiotic As we are developing resistance, we need to look for stronger doses! The body is no longer allowed to fight infections on its own. We are reducing natural immunity by resorting to unnatural prevention.
  • The missing family physician that used to listen more, diagnose simply by checking the pulse, and not immediately order a battery of tests. Counseling was part of his job profile. Today there is no time for that. There is no time to lose. We need to get better immediately even if we have to suppress the symptoms- child or grown up.
  • A surge of packaged, instant, refined, fast and processed food in the market. As far from real food as it is possible.
  • Increased use of GMO in agriculture.
  • A sudden flooding of technology into our lives which is becoming increasingly indispensible. Children and adults are equally glued to gadgets, no matter where they are. Some schools have started using gadgets too. Movement and physical activity is reducing.
  • Early start in school and academics: Children are packed off to schools even before they are two (a mistake I admit to making with my elder one and am not proud of it). Children take about 6 years to get ready for school in terms of developing the necessary skills like sitting, focussing, pencil grip and so on. I realised the hard way that feeding young children information too early is detrimental to their physical health and well being. Early start leads to fatigue and burn out. Learning is a lifelong process. Even the elderly people learn. What children under six need to do is play, run, get messy and explore.
  • Lack of regularity in eating and sleeping times and in the rhythms of the day. Even children under 5 are not getting their sleep needs met. It is now normal for children to go to bed anywhere between 10.30 to 12. I have seen children who can’t sleep before 1 am!! Children need to eat early and sleep early.
  • Pollution: all kinds of pollution. Air, water, food, noise, wifi radiation, electro-magnetic waves, you name it.
  • Excesses: there is excess of stimulation- noise, visuals, entertainment, material abundance, food, flavors, sugar, excess of everything. We don’t know where to draw a line and say this is enough. Over-stimulation makes children Hyperactive. Once the stimulants are removed, children calm down. They will not need shadow teachers or go for therapies if healthy practices are adopted right from the word go. we do not need to be entertained all the time. Sometimes it is important to do nothing!
  • Consumerism: businesses go to any extent to make people want to buy their product. It doesn’t matter how the product may affect the gullible people- their body image, their self esteem, their self worth. As long as the product sells, everything is OK.
  • Media boom: Media is everywhere…it constantly keeps telling us who we are, how to think, what to eat, what to wear and gives us information that they want us to have. We are at their mercy completely and we have created these ourselves.
  • Role reversal: Children being only children and the recipients of the abundant resources, they are no doubt the centre of our existence. However unfortunately, the children have been given the control and parents listen to children instead of it being the other way around. Experts say “be their friend” and this has been completely misunderstood. Children need parents who will set the limits for them and handle them with firmness instead of becoming putty at their hands. There is a simple reason for this. We are adults, hopefully with the experience and they are children with apparently no experience to take decisions and make judgments. We have taken up the role and responsibility of being parents and we are not here to relinquish control to the little ones who don’t have the experience to weigh what is good for them and what is not. It is difficult for us to see them cry. We need to learn that sometimes a ‘no’ expresses much more love and concern than a ‘yes’. This is especially true in parenting. Having said that it needs to be balanced with a good measure of love and presence to make it work!!

THE AWAKENING

We need not wait until things go to such a head that we cannot reverse it anymore. I’m not sure how much of it can be reversed even today, but as free thinking independent individuals, we still have our capacity to think for ourselves and make conscious choices wherever it is possible.

People are doing that…and they may be judged for it, but that does not stop anyone from breaking the mould, seeking an alternate way of life. They are awakening in their own unique ways.

People are seeking out alternative medical practices, alternative schools, home births, water births, saying no to vaccinations, going in for veganism and organic food, taking to farming, minimalism, slow food movements, supporting sustainable and humane businesses, breaking gender stereotypes, going for yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices and so on and so forth. People are finding their own individual path and have started believing in natural and holistic lifestyles.

People are truly awakening and are refusing to follow so called ‘normal’ currents.

WHAT CHILDREN NEED

Children need to grow up in calm, simple, uncluttered homes with less toys, with good healthy routines, minimum entertainment, lots of physical activity and maximum time out in nature. They need parents who are warm, loving, playful, in the here and now, who believe that less is more and slow is good and are conscious, ecologically aware and most importantly, trusting. Children who grow up in such homes have better stamina, better resistance to diseases, recover faster from illnesses, are much more calm, grounded, balanced and happy, there is more resilience and are able to bounce back sooner from situations.

Even a child with autism who is brought up in the above-mentioned manner may experience reduced aggression, hyperactivity, sensory issues and will be able to realize his true potential using the gifts that autism brings with it.

Our lifestyle has changed, but the archetypal human nature remains the same across time and space. We are still a product of nature. We are still made of the same elements that makes the rest of the natural world. The more we are in harmony with nature and its rhythms, the more we are in good health- physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Human evolution is not over yet. We are still evolving. The human being is now peaking in terms of intelligence. There’s much more to be achieved intellectually. But what lies beyond human intellect? What direction is our next step in evolution going to take?

It will be interesting to see….until then, let us arise, awake, ask questions and think as the conscious beings that we are! We may still not be perfect and yet to do things the way they need to be done but what is more important is that we are aware and conscious of our actions.

This can be our practical, everyday, living and individualized spirituality.

NIRUPAMA RAO

(Psychologist, Parent Counsellor),

Co Author: Parenting-The Art and Science of Nurturing ( with Dr Shekhar Seshadri, NIMHANS)

Contact: 9987653780, raonino@gmail.com

THE AUTISM STORY

Autism has always existed but we are feeling its presence more today than we ever did before. Autism has impacted not just its immediate family but it is changing the way the world does and looks at things…

It is making the humanity think about its choices. About the role each and everyone of us plays in bringing about the new wave of differently-abled children who are here to give us important messages. The obvious ones being about the impact of vaccines, GMO, electronic radiation, processed foods and so on; and on the other hand subtler, deeper and profound messages about the importance of going back home to Mother Nature, embracing the principle of unconditional love, about Neurodiversity, about becoming an inclusive society, about raising our own vibration to come up to theirs, about going beyond what is known and towards the immeasurable expansion of our very souls and actually feel the ONENESS- a state in which these children always exist!!

The rise in the incidence of Autism and the rise in spiritual and eco-consciousness is going hand in hand….. THE AUTISM STORY is a fairy tale-like account- my perspective of the probable connection between the two. AUTISM has a message for all of us….once that message reaches the critical mass, nature will change its course… Hope you read this little illustrated booklet….this book will either sow or nourish the seed of human collective consciousness.

You can find it in the link below. Friends overseas can inbox me and I will arrange to have copies shipped across!!

http://www.amazon.in/Autism-Story-First-2016/dp/9380733003/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1487861471&sr=8-2&keywords=nirupama+rao+books

Below are a few glimpses into the book!! Please do read it and and do leave a comment on the amazon page!! Friends who have already read it, kindly do drop a comment!!

book 3.png

“Man was becoming invincible. He was intelligent. He was becoming a powerful creator himself. He created electricity that turned the days and nights upside down. He created advances in medicine that turned life and death upside down. He created machines that shrunk space and time.
With technology advancing, they did not even need a God!! Man had never experienced such abundance ever before. What man didn’t know was that he was being watched.”

book 1.png

“Up in that spiritual realm that these souls inhabited, they did not have physical
bodies. They were neither male nor female but were both. They were entities of energy that floated around sans gravity that belonged only to the earthly realm.
They communicated with each other in the thought plane. Spoken language
did not exist there. They were all made up of high vibrational energy and
were connected to each other with a grid, a network so that when something
affected one, they would all feel the impact. It was a beautiful world of eternal sunshine, colours unseen on earth, peace, joy and happy coexistence.”

book.png

ECO and EGO

I’d like to borrow the image below to share my thoughts. For me the picture on the left represents autism. The picture on the right represents neurotypical.

Autism, no ego. NT, has ego (in this context, self or individuality).

Autism, exists in unity with all creation. NT experiences duality.

Autism is oneness- no boundaries. NT experiences separation.

Autism is affected by what happens to the ECO- the universe, to the earth, to the plants, animals and other people around them. Hence the sensitivities. NT exploits the earth to feed the EGO- the self.

EGO (the lower ego) is the cause of all the war, strife, poverty, terrorism and all the troubles in the world.

When we exploit the earth, we are not only hurting our new, sensitive children but also ourselves. The children feel it and we don’t. At least not immediately. Because the reality is that although we feel separate, we are not. We are as part of the ECO as the children are. But we don’t feel as such. So when we hurt anything outside of us, we are hurting ourselves.

It’s like the hand thinking that the leg is separate from it and hurts it for some reason. The leg hurts but the whole being feels the pain.

We only realize this on hindsight.

So the fact is that the picture on the right is our NT reality too and the one on the right is our illusion.

When we understand how we are all connected to the ECO, we learn to nurture the ECO and not the EGO. If we can get into the world of our children with autism, we can feel we’re part of the ECO. No duality, no separation, just oneness.

When we heal and nurture the earth, we heal and nurture our children and in turn ourselves.

Let’s heal the earth and be one with each other. That is the message of Autism for me.

Can we consciously dissolve our EGO to become a part of the ECO?

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