Panax ginseng, the King of Tonics

The meditation for today, the fourth day of Kwanzaa, is Ujamaa — Cooperative Economics: To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

In meditation on today’s theme, I look back once again to my experience at Black Bear commune where our goal was to become as self-sufficient as possible through pooling our talents and resources. We found that through a combination of gathering, growing and raising our own food, and utilizing simple resources found or developed on the land, the cost to support and maintain a person was only $80 a year. No one felt deprived and nearly every evening there would be some form of communal singing and dancing or the opportunity to go off to some quiet place to read.

This did not mean that there were no challenges or problems. In fact there were many, much of them the result of our own ignorance and naivety concerning matters that other more successful tribal societies, through trial and error and with no alternative to pack up and leave (as we individually eventually did), learned to avoid. Lacking any agreed upon or enforceable principles and rules, we had no means to control who came down the long switchback dirt roads, how long they might stay, or when they might leave. This made for a more or less continuous state of instability.

In retrospect, my Black Bear experience ultimately showed that one need not run off and join a commune to experience the benefits of ujamaa. What it takes is vision and will to change. Perhaps it starts with inviting a few like-minded people to a friendly discussion about community. This may include family, friends or neighbors. What resources are they willing to share — a seldom used piece of equipment, a portion of land to make a collective garden, a plan for collective buying or exchange of services, perhaps?

On a slightly larger scale, cooperative economics means developing small businesses and enterprises to fulfill the needs of one’s immediate family, friends and community and whenever possible to employ those who are most able and dedicated to work and further develop themselves within those businesses and enterprises.

Even without the exceptional challenges of living in a wilderness commune like Black Bear, some of the steps toward cooperative economics I describe above may not only seem daunting and inconvenient, but downright counterintuitive to some. But take a moment to contrast this with the ensuing financial crisis of our times where people are losing their personal and collective autonomy to self-perpetuating corporate greed.

The root of selfish hoarding and greed is fear and insecurity. This in turn impedes the free flow and availability of energy, which in economics equates to money. This has an adverse effect on all of society, which includes the economies of the entire world.

Society as a whole always suffers when its economy is solely based on “winners and losers,” which allows an increasingly disproportionate small number to advance at the expense of the larger majority. This type of cold, unbridled capitalism leads to exploitation, persecution, poverty, crime, war and terrorism. People with no meaningful way within the law to oppose oppression eventually feel justified in resorting to acts of terrorism and violence.

As we learned in part from yesterday’s meditation on collective work and responsibility, one always has a choice. Why would you choose to support an economy like the one I’ve just described where there exists a much more compassionate and intelligent option?

No society is without its problems and challenges. The point of this day’s meditation is only to show that through cooperation and sharing it is possible to expand the limited number of loaves and fishes to attend to the basic needs of many.

Cooperative Economics: All You Need Is Love by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Love Is All You Need

Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.

Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.

Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game

It’s easy.

There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made.

No one you can save that can’t be saved.

Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time

It’s easy.

All you need is love, all you need is love,

All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.

All you need is love, all you need is love,

All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known.

Nothing you can see that isn’t shown.

Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.

It’s easy.

All you need is love, all you need is love,

All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

All you need is love (all together now)

All you need is love (everybody)

All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

— Lennon/McCartney, Magical Mystery Tour, 1968

The lyrics of this song are so out there that it requires a certain level of letting go in order to embrace its meaning.

To put it simply, all is dependent on the power and intention of love to allow anything that is worthwhile to occur. We needn’t delude ourselves that love somehow boils down to any overt act, but we should always strive to allow it to be the spirit behind all our exchanges with each other, including our business activities. I think if we operate from the place that “I gain when you gain” (perhaps using this as a basis for meditation), we have the essence of today’s Kwanzaa theme, Ujamaa/cooperative economics.

astragalusHerbs for Ujamaa: Ginseng and Astragalus

Two herbs come to mind as I contemplate what it takes to invoke the powers necessary for “cooperative economics:” ginseng and astragalus.

Ginseng is the major herb used not simply to stimulate and therefore exhaust energy (as does coffee and other stimulants), but it actually builds and increases energy by increasing cellular mitochondria and the creation of ATP, the physiological basis of physical life energy.

There are two major types of ginseng: American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) and Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng). Both are powerful energy-building tonics. American ginseng has a somewhat cooler, less stimulating effect, while Chinese and Korean ginsengs are warmer and more stimulating. Forget about the popular sodas and caffeinated energy drinks that claim to have ginseng in them. Usually it is present in quantities insufficient to have any value, and is of poor quality at that. Unlike the true energy-building properties of ginseng, the effect of these drinks is based on stimulants such as caffeine which draws from our energy reserves, and when abused can lead to adrenal exhaustion.

Planetary Herbals has several products that include ginseng, including pure ginseng tablets. Personally I make it a point to take two of these each morning. This is not a full therapeutic dose, but is enough to gently build and maintain our daily energy needs. For those complaining of chronic low energy, I recommend taking two tablets three times daily with warm water to help assimilation.

Astragalus is another herb used as an energy-building tonic with the additional virtue of increasing the protective energy of the body against pathogenic corruption. Thus, astragalus symbolizes our ability to channel the power of the four elements of nature to outwardly manifest our immediate needs as well as our highest dreams and goals. The Chinese include astragalus as the major herb in a formula called Jade Screen, which protects against catching colds, flus and other diseases.

Together, these two herbs’ healing and spiritual properties symbolize the energy, trust, focus and protection needed to build a cooperative economy.

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