August 13, 2014

Chard rolls

August 13, 2014
A recent hypothesis put forward by Dr. Chris Lowry, who is a neuroscientist in Bristol University, suggests that a strain of harmless bacteria (Mycobacterium vaccae) in the soil may trigger the release of serotonin which regulates our feelings of well-being. To inhale this naturally occurring antidepressant while repotting herbs in the balcony, weeding out dandelions in the garden, raking leaves in the backyard and hiking in the woods is an exciting idea, and makes more sense than popping Prozac in the mouth.

At the same time, the theory sadly reveals the degree to which we have alienated from our roots and the rest of the creation. When a scientist speculates that it might make kids more joyful and smarter if we introduced outdoor facilities in school environments where they would be exposed to nonpathogenic organisms, I can’t help but being sarcastic. Really? Any cute little piglet could teach us a lesson about the comfort of playing in dirt. Happy as a pig, they say.
Unhappiness is a serious problem in our society and it would be inappropriate to write about it maliciously – especially today, while the headlines talk about the suicide of a loved entertainer who professionally mastered comedy, but privately battled with alcohol and drug abuse, and depression. Tragically, such a conflict of character and position is more common than we dare to think, and reminds us that happiness is not a situation but an experience.

Our mind incessantly chases after pleasure and attempts to eradicate discomfort through the senses, but the soul – the real self who animates the body, and as whom we remain even after the body ceases to be – is of different energy and, thus, unimpressed by any amount of material perfection. Just like a fish cannot thrive out of water, whether it lies in a crystal bowl or on a bed of sand, the self cannot access transcendental bliss – which is the natural state of the soul – until we start developing our consciousness.
Having spent a good part of the summer in the garden, I agree that being in contact with earth and other natural elements contributes to a peace of mind – and there may even be a connection between the scent of compost and our serotonin levels – but as a spiritual person, I refuse to reduce my capacity for fulfillment to a mere biochemical reaction. Isn’t that exactly what so many have unsuccessfully tried to do by using marijuana, amphetamines, and psychedelics?

We want an easy way out from suffering but are reluctant to accept any alternative that requires adjusting our perception, values or way of living – even when it is free and available for everyone. It would be interesting to know how many of us would rather puff, inject or swallow Mycobacterium vaccae in a laboratory than, on a regular basis, pull down the socks, step aside from the paved streets and wander beyond the blocks of concrete where our children could climb trees and explore what is under a rock.

Perhaps we fear the nature – inside and outside of us – because it unveils of what a great biological, psychological, spiritual and devotional symbiosis we are a part of. We have worked so hard to disconnect and unlearn who we really are!
Gardening is great because it displays all aspects and stages of life within a short season and one has to be really stubborn not to sympathize with the relationships and events involved. Watching a seed grow into a sprout and mature plant that gifts a vegetable or fruit is bonding and rewarding.

It’s not even the harvest that makes horticulture purposeful but the sense of belonging it offers. Getting to know our extended family, in which various kinds of winds, raindrops, sunrays, mineral particles and organic matter share their special talents and wisdom is fun; it may not directly make us self-realized but it helps us to act thoughtfully, considerately, caringly and compassionately. Then, when we carry a basketful of spinach, carrots and herbs to home and cook them for the pleasure of those we love and want to interact affectionately with, we are a step closer to lasting happiness. There will never be a vaccination - Mycobacterium vaccae or anything else – that will supersede a balanced lifestyle and conscious endeavor to evolve as a spirit soul!
Since June we have eaten mainly what our garden has produced: radishes, lettuce, kohlrabi, turnips, spinach, chard, kale, beetroots, carrots, zucchini, beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs. A few days ago I dug up some of the potatoes. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, winter squash, peppers and chili are still developing. These colorful fellows are a real boon! They are so pure and tasty that I don’t want to complicate them with anything else but olive oil and simple spices.
Unfortunately I have lost the paper on which I had scribbled the recipe while making the chard rolls last week. I will give the ingredients here and you will have to figure out the rest if you want to make them. Take the concept and perfect it according to your taste!
Thank you.


  1. T h a n k YOU dear Laksmi! For taking the time to prepare & share such a mindful, thought provoking, informative post accompanied with beautiful pictures - as always! I believe with all my heart, soul, mind & spirit in learning to experience moments of deep, sincere happiness in life. They leave an imprint on our personalities & form our daily lives. Kindest of regards all the way, Iro

    1. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment, Iro! I'm struggling to put down any thoughts recently and seem to get nowhere with writing --- it means a lot to me that you were able to understand and find something purposeful in this text.
      I hope you are having a good late summer and experiencing happiness!

  2. Laksmi sucha a toughtfull writing and a beautiful images as always.
    I agree with you about gardeninig. It is much more than collecting the harvest.
    Culitivating plants teach you so much : to be humble and patient, to depend on the seson, to work hard, to appreciate Mother Nauture, to live more simple life. This art of being close to the nature and cultivating your own food has been forgoten novadays. It is such a shame.
    I'm thinking about you -My friend.
    love Cin

    1. Ciao, Cin :-)! Isn’t it nice that more and more of us are taking interest in growing their own food? This summer I saw humble sidewalk gardens all around Helsinki. Kindergarten kids and some other groups of people had planted zucchinis, tomatoes, herbs and flowers in pots with a sign that said “please snap a bunch of rosemary or a few marigolds on your way home but leave the rest of the plants for your friends and neighbors.” I thought it was a brilliant gesture and a tiny step towards a progressive thinking.

      I’m thinking of you, too, and hope you are well and satisfied.

  3. VIva la garden for so many reasons. Wishing you an extended time in your garden and thank you for sharing these delicious recipes. Happy Gardening.

  4. Beautifully and thoughtfully written. I agree with everything you've said here. I never feel more contented than when I feel in touch with nature. It seems to put everything into perspective somehow. Thank you for a lovely post.

  5. Such beautifully written. You have tackled such a touchy subject with so much grace! I love your altar..

  6. "We have worked so had to disconnect and unlearn who we really are." True enough! Thank you for your beautiful writing today and sharing your wisdom.

  7. Such a fun way to use chard! These rolls are gorgeous!

  8. When Robin passed away, I was jarred because I was one of those people who had depression. I did not take any medicine to get me better but in time, I found that meditation and exercise made me feel better. A heart of thankfulness is difficult when you are plague with the disease. There were times that I just sat down and let the quiteness of my faith hug me into wholeness.I know this is a long time battle and I am just feel blessed that I found my faith to comfort me.

    1. Dear Shobelyn,

      Thank you for your comment. Depression is a very complex subject and there are many resources, including allopathic medicine and therapy, to reduce the suffering. I’m glad to hear meditation and exercise have helped you.

      Depression is an imbalance of the subtle material body – the mental self – but it is not aloof from the gross body and how we engage our senses in the world. The two are intertwined. We act according to the way we perceive, feel and desire. The way we act, on the other hand, affects our perception, and how we feel and desire. If it becomes a too vicious cycle, we won’t be able to change it without help.

      According to the Vedic view, the natural disposition of the mind is in goodness, sattva-guna. In a normal state, our character is peaceful, happy and loving, and we like to maintain a lifestyle and activities that support wholesome personal growth and well-being. Developing interest in spiritual subjects and higher dimensions of life automatically arises in a sattvik mind.

      The material energy includes also lower modes of nature – passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas) – that are necessary for the full cycle of creation, sustenance and destruction, happening constantly in and around us. Without the influence of passion and ignorance, there wouldn’t be any action and rest. We would just be an un-bodied mind – a ghost – unable to share our feeling, and actualize our plans and desires through the senses. Sattva manifests as the mind, rajas as the intelligence and tamas as the gross body. In a healthy condition the three are in harmony and we are able to function in a positive and progressive manner. Unfortunately, the modes show negative traits as soon as we become overly attached to the qualities they represent. Passion, which enables us to get out of the bed and perform our duties, makes us selfish, insensitive, greedy, dictatorial and ambitious to the point of exhaustion when we excessively associate and identify with it by pursuing a career, acquiring possessions, and even eating too spicy foods. When passion supersedes sattva and dominate the mind, we become anxious, dissatisfied and frustrated, which will – if we won’t correct it – gradually aggravate and turn into passivity, hopelessness, and even madness – the tendencies of ignorance. Material life means walking on a trapeze, tirelessly balancing the influences of sattva, rajas and tamas. It is a very mechanical reality and there is no question of being “free”. The only choice we have is the perception whether our identity, relationships and goal is material or spiritual.

      The pure self is observing this drama like a bird in a cage; the soul is of different energy and transcendental to the fluctuation of happiness and distress, but we don’t realize it until we take interests in internal wisdom and consciousness. Until we revive our constitutional nature, we are more or less affected by lust, greed, envy, anger and depression.

      I wish you strength and determination in developing your faith, and hope you will discover your blissful self. You are not alone. There are millions of people who are already cultivating the lifestyle of goodness and qualities like knowledge, cleanliness, truthfulness, gratefulness and introspection that support the quest of self-realization. In fact, those of us who chew the chewed and try to find fulfillment separately from the source of energy are but a small minority of total existence.

  9. HI Lakshmi,

    have been following you for a little while, but felt compelled to leave a comment today. Since becoming a mother this idea of 'returning to the soil' has been on my mind constantly. How can I teach my child to appreciate, honor and protect where we come from and where we will return to when TV, video games and all sorts are so prominent and easy. By sharing as much time with him outdoors and guess what, its there where he is happiest!
    As a big city girl it is only recently that I have started dabbling in gardening and producing my own food. It is utterly exciting. I'm a novice and keen to learn from pros like you :)
    thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures

    1. Dear Kimberly,

      Thank you for sharing your concerns. You are right; the mankind has lost a balance between pursuing technological and economical advancement, and being connected with nature, including our own – the real self that is divine – and other beings. It is a subject of perception, and viewing our position, relationships and function in a greater universal context, than a matter of environment. Whether we live in a city or countryside – whether we are materially accomplished or simple – it remains important how we view life, and what our core values are, because that determines to what intensity we experience happiness or unhappiness. The greatest misfortune of a modern man is that we believe blindly that we will “become” happy because of something that occurs outside of us, usually in the future, when we will be on the top of the food chain, wealthy, well-situated, famous, beautiful, or even moral and righteous. This thirst for an improved situation, and acquiring forms and things, prevents us from being in now which is the only time, place and circumstance we can deeply experience fulfillment. We have put all our hopes in a wrong basket, and forgotten that by default every single living entity has a capacity to derive pleasure from a spiritual source and energies through consciousness – right now. This kind of subtle technologies and methods we have totally disconnected from.

      I see gardening and producing our own food to any extent as a promising trend because it will bring us to contemplate who we are, where we come from and where are heading at, to the degree we are receptive. Land is a good teacher and provides a lifestyle – even if we are just minimally interacting with it – that supports evolving as a wholesome person and an invaluable part of a bigger picture. Many people are able to figure things out intellectually but most of us need to engage our senses in a way that helps us come to beneficial conclusions. Digging dirt in fresh air is as good start as any! Happy gardening!

  10. I'm discovering your blog and I love it !

    Direct in my fav <3

  11. Dear Lakshmi,
    As a fallen and wannabe Vaisnavi, I have great respect for your blog and continued spiritual insights :) Your photography is amazing!
    I visited some time ago and you mentioned you were working on a cookbook. I hope that is coming along nicely.
    Anyway, I nominated you for a Liebster award.
    It might be something you have already received since you have a very beautiful blog. Sending warm wishes and hoping for the blessings of little blue boy who wears a peacock feather!

  12. Dear Vaishnavi!
    Thanks for the kind words and nomination. Unfortunately I’m so busy at the moment and won’t have time to respond appropriately. Thanks again, and have a nice day!

  13. FoodGeekGrazeMay 31, 2015

    i really like the way you arrange leaves in your images. brilliant~

  14. Well this is so good to have windows 10 font size is changeable.