Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cahokia Mounds, the City of the Sun

Monks Mound from Afar
I recently visited the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois; and, although I'd been aware there were once mound-builders in the Americas, I had no idea how colossal these mounds really are. Cahokia was THE major city of the native Mississippian culture, which stretched all the way from Michigan down to Louisiana. There were many smaller mound communities, but Cahokia was what we might think of as the "capital city." It was the perfect place: at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and their many tributaries, so there was plenty of fishing and game nearby in the woodlands, and there was lots of land available to grow corn, or maize--so much so, in fact, that they were able to store surplus grain for the winter months and for times of drought or a scanty harvest. It's estimated that at the zenith of the culture, there were as many people at Cahokia as 20,000, which may not sound like much today, but this was around 1000 CE, so Cahokia was actually larger than London, England, at the time. It was truly a City of the Sun.

But I think the thing that struck me the most, while walking the grounds, was how similar to the ancient Egyptians this culture was, at least under Pharoah Ahkenaten, who rejected all the gods of the Egyptian pantheon and worshiped only the Aten, or sun disk, not itself as a god but as the symbol of the Divine Presence. Otherwise, the various versions of the Sun God named RA were always highly esteemed. And as we know, the Egyptians built pyramids. Kings or people of high standing were buried with grave goods. And the Pharoah was seen as the son of the gods Osiris and Isis, the son named Horus. Pharoah was considered the literal incarnation of Horus. Finally, that the Egyptians understood the heavens and the solstices and equinoxes is well known. Many of the Temples were sun temples, always facing east, to the light, and Abu Simbel's Temple of Ramses the Great fabulously shows this when, twice a year, the sun, precisely on 60 days before and 60 days after the solstices, rises, its rays entering the temple and lighting up the inner sanctuary by shining directly upon the statues of the gods inhabiting that room, one of whom is Ramses II himself.

Flat-topped Mound
Well, the Cahokians didn't have stone to build pyramids in the way the Egyptians and Incas and Mayans did, so they used what was available: dirt. With dirt they built mounds of various types, but most were round (or domed), which were often burial sites; others were flat-topped, used for building temples or other administrative buildings upon, or even the house of an important person; and some were wedge shaped, the purpose of which is yet to be determined, but archaeologists and historians surmise they were boundary markers of some kind.

First flight up stairs for Monks Mound
By far the most impressive mound is the tiered flat-topped mound named Monks Mound, which originally had four levels (or platforms, much like a step pyramid), and the chief of all the Cahokians had his house on top of this earthen pyramid. You think dirt, big deal. Well, it was a big deal: it took a LOT of work to build these! They dug up the earth and the workers would carry 50-pound basketfuls of earth to the mound and pile it on. Not so bad at the beginning, but as the mound grew larger, this was back-breaking work. They also had to figure out systems of draining to prevent the mounds from collapsing (partially successful) or turning into mudslides. Consider building a ten-story pile of dirt with four different platforms, each one smaller than the other, which is what Monks Mound is, and that the base circumference of this mound is actually larger than that of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan near Mexico City. Now consider that at least 120 mounds have been found at Cahokia alone, and you can begin to appreciate the amount of work that went into constructing this city.
Second flight of stairs leading up Monks Mound


The Cahokians worshiped the Sun God as a symbol of the Divine Presence, and the chief was considered the son of, or brother to, the Sun God. This chief ruled over all: Cahokia, the nearby mound communities (St. Louis itself was built over some 29 mounds and East St. Louis over 40), and all the mound communities up and down the Mississippi and nearby--a vast territory. They traded with each other and with other Indian communities as far away as Florida, and they highly valued seashells for ornaments. From the north they traded for copper and bronze. Cahokia itself was much like a modern city today: there was the chief, and under him the various elders of clans, who also had elevated homes (but never higher than the chief's), and the hunters and gatherers and farmers and then people who specialized in various tasks, such as priests and artisans. Cahokia was a thriving center of trade.

The inner city of Cahokia contained a grand court that was surrounded by a wooden palisade that was two miles long. Within were the temples and homes of the important personages and also a court for the sport of chunkey. It involved throwing or rolling a stone "puck" and then the players would throw their spears at the ground at the place they guessed the puck would come to a stop. Apparently this was a serious sport to many, and gambling was common; and some burials have been uncovered with chunkeys buried with the body. This land of the grand court had all been completely leveled to be perfectly flat, as well.

St. Louis from top of Monks Mound. At ten stories, it's higher than you might think!


Woodhenge

The fact that the Cahokians understood the heavens and the movements of the sun can be seen in their construction of a circle of wooden poles with a center pole in what is now called "the American Woodhenge." It's like Stonehenge, only with poles of red cedar. Certain poles were marked with two stripes of white paint and one with one stripe that aligned with Monks Mound, and from the center pole the two striped poles marked the solstices and equinoxes. Hence they knew when it was time to plant and time to sow. The center pole also worked much like a sun dial, casting a shadow that indicated the time of day.

A better look at part of the circle itself

The only thing the Cahokians didn't have was writing--at least, not as far as we know. It could be that stories were just passed down through oral tradition, but as vast as it all was, surely some sort of record-keeping was done. We just haven't found it yet; or, it's staring us straight in the face and nobody has recognized it yet. But no matter how you slice it, the Cahokians were an impressive people. After Hernando de Soto arrived in Central America, conquering its peoples, and then moved on to North America, cutting a grand swath of destruction from Florida all across the Southern and Midwestern states and finally over to the Mississippi, Cahokia is where his army was stopped. Arrows and spears aren't that effective against guns and armored men on horseback, but the sheer organization and doggedness of this people was enough to defeat de Soto's army, and the army made haste to get away, building boats that sent them packing south down the Mississippi to the Gulf. The Cahokian (or Mississippian) people harassed them from the shores the entire way. And this was after the Cahokians had passed their zenith and had entered the period of decline.

No one really knows for sure why the culture ultimately failed. The Mayans, archaeologists say, eventually failed because of the massive deforestation of the lands surrounding their cities and the overcultivation of the land. There was no more food to be had. Something similar may be at play here, along with a change in the climate. In any case, Cahokia was abandoned some time between 1200-1400 CE, although some small related communities survived for a time, such as the Illini.

And then came the white settlers. Some Trappist monks who had been expelled from France settled at Cahokia, taking up residence on one of the flat-topped mounds, and they used Monks Mound for terraced farming (hence the name Monks Mound).

There is a 15-minute video HERE that gives much more detail about the site. By all means if you're in the St. Louis area, it's worth a visit as it is only about a 20-minute drive away. There's also a museum and theater and Interpretive Center with a gift shop with Indian-made items, and I picked up some of the decorative arrow points dug out of Mound 72. (That Mound, which contained burials, and some of them appear to be people who were human sacrifices, is another whole story in itself.) For sure the entire complex at Cahokia has not been excavated, for excavation is also destructive, so archaeologists are picking their sites carefully--because, of course, the entire site is sacred. Eventually the park wants to buy up the property surrounding the site (there are some houses and even a trailer park nearby) and expand the site to its original measurements. But it's already vast and takes several hours to walk through, going at a nice, slow pace to read everything on the various markers.

So if your picture of American Indians is limited to the Last of the Mohicans or to Sioux or Apache wars with cowboys and US cavalry, learning more about this civilization is eye-opening to say the least.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!


             
 A short snippet from the first draft of my book Yeshua, the Master: The Undiscovered Gospel of Joseph (his nephew):
 . . . . . . . .
Mary described it thus: “At the beginning, I did not realize it was our Master. And he bade me stay back and not touch him. He appeared in the shape of a man but also as a great light. He said to me, ‘Seek me not here, Mary, for here you will not find me.’”
            She saw no spirit. She saw no fully embodied man, of flesh.  She saw light, light shaped like a man.
            Yeshua said, “Go, tell the others I live. And tell them I will see them in Galilee.”

© Luck 2014
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Happy Easter to those who celebrate this momentous occasion.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fiat Lux!





Gorgeous.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

People of the Books!


"In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy! Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, Master of the Day of Judgment. It is You we worship; it is You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path: the path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and who have not gone astray."

We believe in the One God, called Yahweh, or Jehovah, or Allah. We differ only regarding whom we accept as Prophets. As long as we understand there is only one One Divine Creator, can we not put asides our differences as being of no
matter and see ourselves as the brothers and sisters that we are? For all acts of the One God are acts of mercy, and God challenges us to treat all others as we ourselves would wish to be treated.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Is There a God? Why, Yes. Yes, There Is

Of course, what I call "God" is not necessarily what anybody else calls "God." God, for me, is the Eternal Divine Consciousness, an infinite creator who has nothing but Love for all things. It is not a being. God is an abstraction, a presence. I can't pin it down any better than that.

The religions differ in the outward, material articulation of God. Some see God as a genuine being or person, kind of like Santa Claus in the heavens keeping track of who is naughty or nice. If you're bad, you'll die and go to Hell. If you're good, you'll die and go to Heaven. This view I do not embrace. But most religions, if they aren't mystical by their very nature (I would put Buddhism here, for example), do have mystical traditions in which God is perceived with more complexity; so, for example, the Muslim Allah has the Sufis, the Jewish YHWH has the Kabbalists, the Christian three-personed God, Jehovah, has its assortment of mystics. Shuffle me into the latter category, because for me Jesus is the greatest of the Earth Masters. But at the end of the day, I'd say that all of us worship the same Divine Presence. Even if you don't believe in God, it doesn't matter. You're still part of the creation and God loves you and God isn't sending anybody to hell.

The only hell is the one we make for ourselves. Having free will, humanity constantly creates and recreates hell over and over. THIS is hell: living out of attunement with God.

You either followed that, or you didn't.

How did I get to this system of beliefs? You've got me there. I can't say. It's partially intuitive, it's partially reading others' words and finding them resonating with me, it's partially reading others' words or hearing sermons and finding them definitely NOT resonating with me, and then it's personal experience. When it comes to personal experience, that is between God and me. I can only tell you about it and you can decide "wow, that's cool," or "wow, you're crazy." I'm sure there are even some out there who would say "wow, Satan has ahold of you."

But just as I wouldn't even think of wanting to pass laws that restrict your right to happiness and freedom because things you do may not agree with my religious views, I sure would appreciate it if you would grant me the same respect. If no one is being hurt, then I don't think it's my business: likewise, I don't think it's yours. Our government is not a theocracy.

I will tell you about two things, both personal experience. Take it or leave it.

Remember Saul of Tarsus? The guy that was persecuting early followers of Jesus until bam! Something happened to him on the road to Damascus? This Saul (later known as Saint Paul, whom I actually think was a misguided although well-intentioned man) saw a great blinding light and heard a voice that identified itself as Jesus, and Saul converted. Well, nothing like that has happened to me, and I don't happen to believe the End of the World is imminent (like, arriving any second), so I feel no need to proselytize to save souls. And yet, I do very much believe the Divine Presence finally made itself known in my life in a way that I would see it and could not deny it.

Experience One: Six or seven years ago, I was blind drunk. No one else was home and I was sitting up in bed, drinking water, trying hard to not pass out and to sober up some before I went to sleep, because I was desperately afraid I would get sick if I did pass out, and I'd choke on my own vomit. (Yes, I was very sick.) Well, I passed out anyway. Then I heard a loud voice, clear as a bell, saying my name close to my ear: "JOYCE!" I woke up but no one was there. Trust me, I was too drunk to have been dreaming. Your mind cannot dream when you're that drunk. Something woke me up on purpose, and I stayed awake about another hour and then went on to sleep. But meh. I wrote it off as one of those weird things.

Experience Two: Almost five years ago, I was again drunk and in a total blackout. I vaguely recall speaking with a friend on the phone. About what, no clue. I think I'd been crying and miserable because that's kind of how it was towards the end of my drinking days--me sick and tired of being sick and tired and slave to a substance. In the morning I woke up with a massive hangover and not remembering a thing except for ONE thing: I'd decided to go to rehab. Apparently I'd had an entire conversation with Chelle about it when she got home from work, and she was amazed I remembered it. I didn't. All I could remember was that I'd made up my mind to go to rehab. But meh. Maybe it's just another one of those weird things.

Except that, after I got sober, miracle after miracle, or let's just call them more odd coincidences, started happening. I began meeting certain people, reading certain things, seemingly random things that wound up imbued with meaning, kept happening. I found myself stopping believing in coincidences and instead accepting Jung's synchronicity: meaningful coincidences, except that they are so abundant and connected that they really can't be coincidences. I began meditating. Let me say this: prayer is talking. Meditating is listening.

Do you know the cacophony of voices out there who are willing to talk your ear off, if only you're willing to listen? I'm speaking metaphorically; I don't hear voices. Well, not much anyway. I usually see images or see words spelled out in front of me or am guided intuitively or via emotions. Sometimes I'll get placed into a scene in which I'm allowed to live something out. Of more than this, I will not say, because frankly: any rational-minded person will say I'm just imagining things; so, to "get it," you kind of have to experience it for yourself.

The being we know as Jesus is still very much alive, and he talks to me all the time. Different beings (call them angels, call them spirit guides, whatever) come and go all the time. I have two steady ones; I guess they are protective beings of a sort. We have free will, so they can't really intervene, but they are more than willing to offer guidance if I ask. Often they'll tell me I'm asking the wrong question. And, apparently, they will shout "JOYCE!" at me if I'm on the verge of killing myself by accident. (I'm just making fun of myself.) God loves us and there is a plan for each of us, but it's up to each of us to carry out our plan. And if we don't, God loves us anyway. One thing I can say for sure: it was not God's plan for me to spend the rest of my life, or any part of my life, drinking myself into oblivion. But even if I had done so, it's all good--because I would have come back and tried again. Reincarnation? It's real. Just remember a few past lives, remember who you are and have been, and you realize why you're on the path you're on, and seriously? Even in the depths of your darkest despair, you can still be joyful and still laugh at our follies and derive great pleasure from the absurdity of human existence.  One of the most hilarious things, once you remember that you've lived as both males and females, is the nutty importance we attach to our biology. Your sex organs are not YOU. YOU are infinitely more complex than that.

SO: be like Jesus, see him as Prophet or God (whatever), fight for social justice, be compassionate to all, forgive everybody, evolve and become a better soul. And one day, quantum mechanics and string theory and other scientific discoveries will let us get a better handle on this stuff and a way to talk about it without sounding crazy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Woot! I'm Baaaack! Oh noes!



Yes! That's right! I'm done with the first full draft of my book and am handing it off to some people to read and edit while I shop it to an agent, so this means I get to return to blogging and driving everybody crazy with my randomness.

Actually, I'm surprised at how quickly this book came out of me, but then again I've been stewing over the subject for a while, and I guess I already had a lot "mentally written" and filed somewhere in my own head. At this point, I alternate between thinking it's a plate of poo salad and a plate of pure awesome. It's probably somewhere in between the two extremes and will need a little reworking once I get some distance from it.

I'm also hoping a good agent and publishing house editor can help me put some spit and polish on it, but if I don't have any luck in that department, I can always go the self-publishing route. I'll cross that bridge if I reach it.

Well, enough about this. It's good to get a little time to recharge my batteries before returning to the classroom in the fall, and today I just started a new painting, and those on Facebook have seen that I have continued goofing around with my guitars.

It's about time for Derby Fever to hit as well. I did do a futures bet on California Chrome before his stellar performance in the San Felipe. We'll see how he does in the Santa Anita Derby. Chelle likes Constitution, but after the Florida Derby, she's thinking he may not perform well in the Kentucky Derby itself. Too many horses, and he was pretty rank at the beginning of that race. Well, we'll see. When they're this young, so many things can happen in a mere five weeks. But it would be fun to see Art and Steve Sherman at the Kentucky Derby, of all places. I mean, they co-owned O Firefly with us. (Even if she was the filly from hell. I guess she's busy being a mommy now.)

But I'm still trying to get my racing jones back. Zenyatta's retirement sort of took the air out of me. I loved that big girl so much that it's hard to get excited about any other horse. And then the NY Times continues its push to smear horse racing as a sport (are they on PETA's payroll?) For Pete's sake, why pick Steve Asmussen's barn to go "undercover" in? He gets dinged for drug violations almost as much as Dutrow. Why not pick a random trainer who is more representative of the entire sport and go undercover working for him or her? Yes, there is a nasty underside to horse racing. But for everyone who mistreats an animal, or for every owner who insists a trainer race an animal that isn't ready or is sore or hurt, there are ten more who love their horses very much and will go to the barn and feed them carrots and wouldn't think of running their horse into the ground and will see to it their horses are well cared for when they retire.

But enough about that.

Well, I'm off now to go practice the fingerpicking to the Eagle's "Seven Bridges Road." It's only a three-chord song, but there are a lot of fast runs of hammer-ons and pull-offs. Dunno if I'll be able to pull this one off by this Friday for my Facebook Serenade (Facebook howl?) or not.

It's good to be back.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dang, These Aren't Bad At All



I'm not one to normally shill for a product (though I have occasionally recommended a movie or a book). But now that I'm going low carb again, I have been researching various protein bars, shakes, and the like.

Let me first say that NOTHING replaces actual food. You know, the real stuff you buy and cook for yourself: veggies, eggs, chicken, fish, etc. But if you are in a pinch and need an alternative (or if you're doing 5 small meals a day like I am), the occasional shake or bar is a good way to get in a meal without overdoing it on the calories. I'd say to go easy on the shakes and bars because most contain whey and/or casein, or basically, milk protein. And dairy is inflammatory. But there are low carb non-dairy alternatives for shakes, such as rice protein. As for bars . . . well, that's where things get complicated.

The truth is, most protein bars are just glorified candy hidden as something good for you. They're loaded with sugar, and the protein is usually not of the best quality (e.g, hydrolyzed gelatin counts as a protein, and there is no nutritional value to this stuff). Low carb bars are generally low carb only because the sugar has been replaced with a sugar alcohol such as maltitol. If you've ever eaten "sugar free" candies sweetened with maltitol, you know the problem with these. Hello, Mr. Toilet. Let me sit here and hang out with you all day.

I used to eat Atkins bars way back when and even up until recently until I had a good, long look at the label. They used to taste like chocolate covered sawdust. Then the flavor improved and more fiber was added. But the most recent formula for my favorite bar, the Chocolate Peanut Butter bar, is a disaster. They've, whoever "they" are, have added a peanut butter layer to make the bar even more palatable, but in so doing they've added more sugar alcohols than I care to consume (like, 11gms of pure fart). Seriously, you eat one of those things and within fifteen minutes to a half hour, your stomach starts gurgling. No thanks.

So, here comes my shameless promotion of Quest Bars. Once out of the wrapper, they kind of look like the original Power Bars, which were like biting into a rock and didn't taste much better, but looks can be deceiving. These actually are soft and chewy to the bite and taste good. They are high in protein (20 gms of the the real stuff, whey and milk protein and no hidden hydrolyzed gelatin) and high in fiber (17 gms), are low-carb (only one gm of sugar), the only other carbs coming from the fiber in nuts, AND they don't sweeten the bars with sugar alcohols. You can buy bars with either sucralose (Splenda) or stevia, depending on your preference. There are tons of flavors and I got a sampler box first before ordering more. I've encountered nothing bad tasting yet.  Plus the calorie count is 170 (compare to Atkins' 240). Look, the bars are also gluten free and they don't bloat you. Some bodybuilders use them when on a cut, and these men and women of superb physiques abhor bloat. I doubt they eat them three days out from a contest when they want to drop serious water, but if you want a structured, fairly nutritious snack or small meal, here you go.

A caveat: apparently Quest Nutrition is being sued by somebody who claims the fiber and calorie counts on the bars are incorrect (not as much fiber as claimed, more calories than claimed). For a low carber, yeah, this doesn't matter, even if it's true. The company claims it is not, that the lawsuit is frivolous, and is fighting the charge as its own data shows otherwise. (Stay tuned, though, because a protein bar in which I can pronounce everything on the label seems almost too good to be true.)

Another thing some may not like about these bars is the amount of fat (6gm, or 9% of your daily value for fat), so if you're really fat-phobic, these may not be the bars for you. You can just go buy the high carb/sugar bars with low fat, or maybe eat a piece of fruit. But my cavewoman metabolism doesn't like high carbs. But again, if you're a low carber, fat doesn't matter. As Dr. Atkins rightly pointed out (I love that he's finally been vindicated), fat doesn't make you fat. Carbs make you fat. And sitting on your butt too much. (I did squats today, by the way. Hope I'm not too sore tomorrow.) Besides, in comparison to Atkins bars, 6gms is nothing (Atkins bars are 14gms a serving).

I will close by saying again that NOTHING replaces real food, so use shakes and especially bars in moderation. But sometimes they're good to have on hand in a pinch.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Diet/Detox Everyone Keeps Asking Me About

BEFORE
OK, so many people on Facebook have asked me now how I managed to drop 10-15 pounds (I can't give the exact number since I didn't weigh myself beforehand because I didn't want to cry) in a mere two weeks without exercise, that I've finally decided to just blog it.

Really, all I did was swipe Dr. Oz's Rapid Weight Loss Plan and tweak it a little for my own metabolism. From past experience dieting, I know that my body hates carbohydrates and stores every last single one as fat unless I'm doing some serious training. And even then I had to limit the carbs. Unfortunately, years ago, I was pretty fit and lean and then I fell into a big margarita and stayed there slurping away for about three years and put a lot of weight right back on. Then I got sober and was focused on staying sober. So I didn't pay much attention to my diet for four and a half years. Finally I went to put on a pair of pants about a month after Christmas and realized.... omg, camel toe. WTF, those pants fit last year. 

So, I was motivated by that and finally disgusted enough with myself to act. I think for any kind of life/habit change (quitting smoking, quitting drinking, quitting eating things that make you sick), you just have to reach a point that you're sick and tired of being sick and tired. And a quick disclaimer: I'm no hater of people of size. To me, heavy women are just as beautiful as skinny women, and every size in between. Big, beautiful, bold thick women have curves and boobs. Skinny women meh, unless they carry muscle in which case I like to see them flex. Ha! And nobody likes bones stabbing and bruising them. (Well, I take that back. Some enjoy that tremendously: just not me.) But at the end of the day, at age 51, I can say with utter sincerity that what TRULY matters is the spirit residing in the body, not the body that houses the spirit.

Look, for me, losing some of this fat is a health issue. My cholesterol is over 200, not scarily so, but when heart disease and diabetes run in your family, as it does in mine, when you reach your 50s, one starts feeling her mortality. And my dad died at 56; one brother at 51; another at 53; and my last remaining sibling, who is now 53 himself, has already had a stroke and has Type II diabetes and needs a pacemaker. This is not for me. 'Nuff said.

Here is the diet with my tweaks, along with notes at the end about how I felt throughout. Your mileage may vary; everybody's body and metabolism are little different. I will say upfront that it was only until the last couple of days that I actually felt good on this diet. I was still fairly unenergetic in mid-afternoons.

As stated, this is basically my tweaking of the Dr. Oz 14-day rapid fat loss plan:

 For the plan to work, you’ve got to get rid of the foods that are keeping you fat. This is the hardest part. This two week jump start diet has 5 types of food that need to be eliminated to lose the weight and get your body back in balance.

1. Eliminate wheat (gluten): This is one food that you need to completely eliminate from this two-week diet. It is one of the most inflammatory foods that humans eat, so get rid of it.

2. Eliminate artificial sweeteners: These actually are proven to increase your waist by 70%. They need to go for this diet. Some argue that stevia is a leaf and doesn't count as an artificial sweetener because it's natural, but I didn't allow ANY type of sweetener.

3. Eliminate sugar and alcohol: Sugar is just not a food that does any good for you. It does more harm to our body than anything else. Alcohol is out because it can cause you to overindulge and it's also loaded with unneeded carbs, sugars, and calories, all with very little nutritional value.

4. Eliminate coffee: Coffee by itself is actually healthy, but it’s the sugar and cream we add to it that are not good for you. You can have all the green tea you want instead. Me, I can't function without coffee. So, I allowed myself one cup black in the morning. And I drank unsweetened iced jasmine green tea during the day, along with lots of water to flush the toxins out.

5. Eliminate dairy: Dairy products are inflammatory foods and to lose weight you need to get rid of the foods that cause inflammation. Important note: lactose-free and dairy-free are two different things. Anything that is dairy-free is lactose free, but lactose-free products do contain dairy. So don't be fooled by labels.

The Two-Week Plan:

I started off each morning with a cup of black coffee and an ounce of apple cider vinegar (um, not mixed together.)

Breakfast smoothie recipe: Mix 1 cup Almond Milk (unsweetened!), 1/2 cup frozen berries, 1/2 banana, 1 tablespoon rice protein, 2 tablespoon flax seeds in a blender and drink. It is important to add the flax seeds last.

Stay well hydrated during the day. LOTS of water and tea. Pee. Pee. Pee. All day.

On this diet during the day you get to eat your choice of the following:

6 ounces of lean protein like chicken, fish or turkey
Good fats that come from avocados or Olive Oil, pickles and nuts
1/2 cup of brown rice (there's a smidgen of gluten here, so organic is better so as to only get a trace amount and I, because of my metabolism, cut this to 1/4th cup per day and had it at lunch)
6 ounce container of unsweetened, unflavored Greek Yogurt (this is high in protein and low in dairy)

Eat all of the low glycemic veggies that you want (no fruit other than your morning half banana; they are loaded with natural sugars). These include: Artichokes, Asparagus, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Squash, Snap peas, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Bamboo shoots, Bean sprouts, Celery, Cucumber, Daikon, Eggplant, Leeks, Lentils, Beans, Greens, Okra, Onions, Peppers, Radishes, Rutabaga, Swiss Chard, Zucchini, Salad greens, Water chestnuts, Watercress

I did not eat lentils or beans because there are carbs there, despite the high fiber. I mostly stuck to salad with a protein or the Greek yogurt, or a veggie side dish with the protein or Greek yogurt. A lot of these veggies are stir-fryable, so I made veggie stir-fry with a mix of the veggies I like, using olive oil for frying. The only raw veggies I ate were celery and cucumber chopped to snack on with a handful of mixed nuts for whenever I got hungry. You have to go easy on the nuts, though, because they pack a lot of calories.

Some of the folks who are doing this diet suggested taking butternut squash and cutting them into French fries and cooking them in olive oil to make them crunchy.

Supplements: Take a probiotic supplement every morning during the two week diet. Also take a half of multivitamin in the morning and half in the afternoon.

Detox bath: At the end of your day, every day, soak in a detox bath with 2 cups Epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda. And maybe put on some deodorant again before you go to bed. The first morning after, I woke up smelling positively toxic in my pits, no kidding. And, depending on how bad your diet has been, you can expect a candida die-off, which will make you headachy and your joints achy. The bath helps.

Day one was easy because I was motivated. Days two and three were harder. By day four, I was noticing extreme fatigue, headache, and achy joints. This lasted pretty much until about day nine. You just have to buck up and take it--I'd remind myself, "You did it to yourself, so suck it up." The last four days were not so bad, although as I said, I did feel a decided lack of energy by mid-afternoon.

Also, by the end, I noticed my palate had changed. Vegetables started to look good to me and taste fabulous. Yesterday I cracked open a Diet Pepsi, one of which I used to drink daily, and after just two swallows, I pitched it. It tasted like chemicals to me.

AFTER (actually Day 12)
What now? Well, I'm sticking with no gluten but adding back in a little dairy to my diet in the form of whey protein. No sugar, but coconut sugar in moderation and stevia for a sweetener. Otherwise, I'm just sticking with low carb most days but will have a complex carb such as brown rice or a sweet potato if I start to feel draggy. I get one "cheat" meal a week; this helps fool your body into thinking you're not starving it, and you get to enjoy a little pizza or Chinese or whatnot in moderation. And, I'm returning to my treadmill, weight bench, and Power Blocks. Maybe some yoga. The ultimate goal is to get down to a size 10 or 12 and maintain.  This would put my weight anywhere between 150-160 because I actually do still carry a fair amount of muscle from my bodybuilding days. In fact, I actually have uncovered my biceps. I knew my guns were still under there somewhere.

Good luck! I hope this plan works for you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

OK, Interpret This Dream

I was just cleaning out my inbox and found this email that I sent to myself about two months ago. It was about a dream I'd had, and I wanted to get it down before I forgot it. It went like this:

"A group of human beings had been captured and we were being held within a city in a huge factory where we were kept under close surveillance as we were forced to do work for our "masters." There were cameras and large flat screen monitors everywhere, even in the bathrooms. Very Big Brotherish.
We were all chipped, at first with bracelets that were not removable, but if you were smart, you'd be able to find a place out of sight of a camera and with a quick click of something sharp, dig the chip out of the bracelet or just cut it so it wouldn't work. Problem was, this would give you only the freedom to have your own thoughts and communicate with others who had also damaged their chips for a short while until they realized you'd disappeared from their radar, and they would rechip you.
Eventually people just gave up except for a small group of us, who would steadfastly ruin our chips whenever we could and in the short times available to us try plotting a way out, but we got caught over and over and were separated, rechipped, moved to new living quarters, etc.
I was one of the worst of the offenders and finally they just chipped me in my arm in a way I just couldn't dig it out. I was growing morose and desperate. I looked out the window and saw a man working in a garden. I crashed through the window with another brother and my brother (we called ourselves brothers and sisters, those who rebelled). Alarms were going off and he lifted a hatchet from the gardener's work kit and chopped off the lower part of his arm. "Do it," he said to me, so I clenched my teeth and laid my arm on a table and he chopped off the bottom part of my arm.
We began sprinting away.
I woke up.
And the first thought that popped into my head was: "This is a metaphor for the Resurrection of Christ."

Now, reading this, something in the back of my brain tells me the concluding statement makes sense. But as yet I'm unable to articulate it. I think it has to do with freedom for humanity, but the connection is still fuzzy. Thoughts?

Have a Peek at Some of the Major Players

THE DISCIPLES

James, the brother of Yeshua
Jude, the brother of Yeshua, who is called Thomas or Didymus, the twin
Philip*
Simon, called Peter or Cephas, “the rock”*
Simon Peter’s brother Andrew*
Nathanael, whose parents were of that land called Nubia*
Judas Iscariot, the treasurer, son of a wealthy Jerusalem merchant, the betrayer
James, son of Zebedee, called Thaddeus, “my heart”
John, son of Zebedee, brother of James and called “the beloved”
Matthew, the tax collector
Simon, the ex-Sicarii called “the zealot”
Bartholomew, the freed Roman slave
Mary of Magdala, sister of Philip and who replaced Judas Iscariot

 *originally followers of John the Baptizer

First draft is halfway done.

© Joyce Luck 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Beginning of the Book

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PROLOGUE
(from Pella)
My name is Joseph, the youngest son of Jude, who was the son of Joseph and Mary and brother to Yeshua. My family—grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, all of us—were of the twenty and one hundred and have been, for generations, Nazorean Essenes from Galilee. We Essenes are a community the Sadducees and Pharisees have always seen as in some manner heretical, for we do welcome Gentiles among us and we interpret some of the Law of Moses differently; most of us worship ‘El, but others worship Brahma or Ahura Mazda or Serapis or Isis or whatever name they choose to give the Divine Being, depending on the land they are from. To us it is all the same: ‘El is ‘El, or ‘Elohim or YHWH: God. And Yahweh is within and without. My uncle Yeshua knew this and tried in his ministry to awaken others to this basic truth but suffered on the cross for his troubles. No matter. He lives on, both without in the next world, and within, inside the spirits and hearts of us all, for we are all connected to this great Master.
I think Yeshua would be astonished by the many sects and new beliefs that have risen in the forty-five years since his death, in Judea, Samaria, Galilee, across the Roman Empire, even down into Egypt and India and far across the Mediterranean Sea.  He would weep bitterly, as I still do, over the death of his brother James and, most horribly, for the way the priests condemned, stoned to death, then threw the aged James off the Temple Mount. He had refused to denounce his brother’s teachings and had offended them by criticizing them for not sharing their wealth. Then my own father, Yeshua’s brother Jude, also called Thomas Didymus, who so resembled Yeshua himself, died just a few years ago in India, being speared.  The only one left of his brothers is Simon, who replaced James as head of the Jerusalem Church but is considered so aged as to be harmless. However, since they are of the same Davidic line as Yeshua, and much younger, I fear for the two oldest sons of my brother Zoher. The present Roman emperor, Vespasian, was only too happy five years ago to personally lead his soldiers into Jerusalem and destroy that city and the Temple.  His men have not persecuted believers in Yeshua in the way that evil man, the Emperor Nero, did, but we lay low in this land. I fear the next Emperor of Rome, or the next, or the one following, may attempt to destroy us all. Men with power often dispense quickly with anyone who may possibly threaten it, as we saw with the terrible paranoia of Herod the Great.
It could have just as easily been I who was called forth, since I have no sons, but my uncle Simon, as Yeshua’s youngest brother, was the best choice to replace his brother James as the second Bishop of Jerusalem, the mother Church.  Hence, I stay at Pella, where our family did acquire a small plot of land and built a simple house during our brief sojourn there when Palestine erupted into full-fledged rebellion against Rome, even though most of us have returned now to Jerusalem and stay near Mt. Zion.  My daughters care for me and preach the gospel, and my sons-in-law farm the land.  As I said, teachings about Yeshua have taken many twists and turns since his death. Now some are saying Yeshua was the incarnation of God, which metaphorically speaking is certainly true, but that is true of all of us—yet some are holding him up as God himself.  Others say after Yeshua died on the cross, he rose on the third day and later ascended into heaven like Enoch—but not as an archangel as did Enoch, that scribe of the angels, but as God’s literal Son. There are other disagreements as well, over things Yeshua said and did, and things the disciples are said to have done, or were taught in secret, and books and letters beginning to be written and passed about, some of which are partially true and some of which are not even remotely so.  I cannot help but think these disagreements and rumors, and rumors of rumors, won’t do a thing to help spread the Word and the Way but will make us look only confused. Then some who hear receive the worse of distortions. There are pagans who actually believe we eat the flesh and drink the blood of children when we remember our Lord and Master. I think of Yeshua--this kind, gentle man whom I barely remember except for a time he tousled my hair and kissed my cheek. He looked intently at me with his soft eyes and told me, “One day, my Nephew, you will set down my story as it is.”
I grow old now, approaching sixty years, and I finally understand, looking at the chaos of the world around me and perceiving the tremendous suffering, what Yeshua meant by that. The Kingdom of God did not arrive, and we had all anticipated it would come sooner, within a generation of Yeshua’s death. So some sign or prophecy was misunderstood by us—or maybe, as so often happens, the prophecy will make sense once it is fulfilled. In the meantime, no one to my knowledge has written down a full account of Yeshua’s life and teachings, so I feel I must before the teachings are lost.
I am blessed, truly, to have been schooled at the Mount Carmel school, and like any good Essene--albeit today the Jewish followers of Yeshua are called Ebionites, or "the poor men"-- I can speak, read and write, namely some Greek, Aramaic, and even some Hebrew, that dying language or at the very least that language which has become of sacrilegious lip, and I know our teachings—though probably not as well as I should. I did indeed farm the land and tend the animals, but I always loved delicate work with my hands and chose cloth- and garment-making early in life, so I didn’t throw myself into my studies as assiduously as others. I was more interested in the art of spinning flax or wool for our robes, keeping a few sheep for this purpose, and later I learned how to make various dyes to sell colored textiles and mats on occasion in the forums in the Roman cities. I was even at Qumran, as are most Essene males at some point, in my twenties for a short period about two decades before the Romans scattered that community.  That was when I thought I would never marry. But, of course, I did, falling in love with a widow who has now preceded me in transition—but here I am, jumping ahead of myself.
My great work, it turns out, is not to weave, nor to spin, nor to war, nor to copy scrolls, but to compose a new one. My great work and service to all humanity is to tell the true and simple story of my uncle, Yeshua, our Savior, the man becoming known to the world as Jesus the Christ.

© Joyce Luck 2014. Please, no sharing without my express written permission.