The One Thing: Where The Dance Begins and The Magic Starts to Happen

January 14, 2021

I am often asked what one thing would I recommend to others who are starting out on a healthier path. For me, health and well-being is holistic, or “whole-listic,” meaning the body mind and soul cannot be separated into parts but treated as a whole. For those of you that have been following 3 Sources for a while, you’ll know that my approach is centred around a three-pillared Mind Body Nutrition framework. However, the more I thought about “the one thing,” the more I started to see a single thread that connected these pillars. Quite simply, this is our connection to nature, and in particular, with the seasons. Because when we are connected to nature, we live in-sync with the natural cycles and rhythms, with our food, with ourselves. Mother Nature is our ultimate teacher and we can learn so many lessons about how to live by the pattern of the seasons. Learning how to flow in and out of them is much like a beautiful dance. It’s about our experience of learning to live alongside nature, returning to a way that we used to live many years ago, and discovering how to do this in a modern context.

Finding connection

I have a good life. I am so lucky. I appreciate traditions – like shopping at the local fresh produce markets, sharing mealtimes, and nourishing myself and my family. After all, these are the experiences that make up life. These traditions and experiences, when done mindfully, are the key components of life – and the happiest moments of life. When we have connection with what we are eating each day, in each meal; when we make the meals from the produce that we buy from local farmers or from what we are able to grow; when we share the things we love, and the things other people love; when we share meals and celebrate them and each other, every experience becomes special. It’s just a much more fulfilling way to live, a much deeper kind of happiness. Returning to nature, to our very essence and roots, we can learn lessons that connect us to our food and what it really means to eat a natural, simple, healthy diet. It’s about observing, growing, gathering, nurturing, seeking and eating with the seasons. And it’s about experiencing the whole process from start to finish – even if only once – by growing a pot of herbs or a jar of micro-sprouts from seed – that connects us with the farmers and local growers who do it every day. There is a reason why this lifestyle and way of eating feels different, feels so fulfilling. It’s because it is in us. That it’s innate. It’s what our ancestors did.

Our roots

When we lived in England, my husband and I took over an overgrown allotment so we could start to grow our own vegetables, salad, fruit, flowers and herbs. My husband created raised beds from reclaimed wood, my brother gave us his old potting shed, and we wheeled water up and down the lane to water our tender produce season after season. We discovered a shared passion for food, and both growing it and eating it, was palpable. We dug, weeded, and pruned side by side. He planted the fruit bushes, I planted the salad, flowers and herbs, and we both planted the vegetables.

I will never forget the first time I made strawberry jam. I hand-picked the fruit, washed and de-stalked each sun-ripened berry and macerated them. It was the best strawberry jam that we’d had ever tasted – at least to us – and the very beginnings of my seasonal fruit preserves business “With Her Hands.” We kept bees to help pollinate our fruit and flowers and to sweeten the preserves. We learned about permaculture and growing biodynamically with the seasons. We wanted to learn it all by experiencing it ourselves. The vegetables were stronger, the flowers and herbs grew better, and the flowers grew better with the vegetables. Our tiny “farm” was in balance, like nature. And so it’s the same with the food that we grow or buy, week-in, week-out. There is just something indescribable about experiencing food in this way. And once we had, there was no going back.

The feeling of experiencing and understanding where everything comes from quickly influenced every facet of our lives, enticing us to reduce waste, learn lost foraging skills, and get to know the people who produced our food and even our clothes. Our subsequent move to France years later, felt totally right and intuitive as we connected to the many local farmers and growers in our region. And whilst there is still a little ache in our hearts every time we see a little potager carefully tended to between the many orchards and vineyards surrounding our tiny hilltop village, we continue to hand-gather our food from the local farmers markets who work so hard to keep their traditions alive and feed our communities.

“We need to experience our food again, as we did before in the past. Experiencing our food has changed our lives, and I know it can change your life too.”

When we buy food this way, taste it, get to know our farmers, and experience our food a little more intimately, it brings with it happiness and a deep connection to ourselves, our environment and the people in our community. We need to experience our food again, as we did before in the past. Experiencing our food has changed our lives, and I know it can change your life too. The truth is that in our modern busy lives we are slowly being separated from our food one meal at a time. In the past, our food was either grown by us or by our neighbours. Then it was grown 10 miles away. Then it became available packaged in parcels in small local stores. Then came the convenience of the supermarkets. And finally, the ultimate demise for our health and well-being: pre-packaged processed meals and fast food.

Whilst it may seem that this has all kind of sneaked up on us, we can commit to make a change. Taking a more mindful approach to the way we shop and eat can be applied to our modern world. And I see it as the future of food. I believe this is the most mindful, sustainable, balanced and nourishing way to eat and live. This is what our bodies know. This is what they have known for thousands of years. When we take a stand for our health and well-being, we make choices to eat well, and to live well. For me, my work and my life have become one, it feels complete; always being guided by the hand of Mother Nature and the changing seasons, like a perfectly joined circle.

My aim is to make it achievable for you. To resonate with you, wherever you are in the world. Because the reality is, it starts and ends with you. Food matters. Lifestyle matters. And only you have the power to change the way you live and the course that your journey to health and wellness will take. Nobody cares more about your health than you. Make this your mantra this year and prepare to nourish using seasonal, locally produced food as your medicine. It will gift you back in return with profound happiness and well-being.

Becoming curious: observe

In order to dance with nature we need to observe the progression of the seasons through the year. To live and flow with the seasons means to observe the constant changes on your environment and to thrive off what nature provides. You can apply these principles no matter where you live. I believe in living seasonally, but what does that actually mean? It means that you are living alongside nature harmoniously. Nature is intelligent, far above and beyond our ability to understand it. We can’t control it or change it. As it flows, we can choose to flow with it. When we begin to reconnect to nature we begin to observe and respond to it. It’s like a dance. You begin to understand the true seasons, day by day, month by month, year by year. This is the first step to gathering, nurturing, seeking, nourishing, and living more optimally. Because when you begin to dance with nature, everything becomes easier. Your body, health, happiness, the environment, and the way you live all just feel more natural and more balanced. It flows, and it makes sense.

Yet, the lesson of following the patterns of nature can in itself present the biggest challenge. It requires us to slow down enough to observe what is present within ourselves and within nature, moment by moment. It means above all else, being present. Committing to a daily mindfulness, breath work, or grounding practice can help us to do this, but it’s also worth remembering that connecting to nature is something that our bodies just knows how to do. It’s instinctive. It’s intuitive, and we need to learn to trust that again.

Living Seasonally

When you live with and observe the seasons, there is a certain beautiful feeling triggered at each and every stage – smells, patterns and memories of the year before triggers a certain knowing and anticipation about what is about to happen next. For example, one of my favourite times is when the first peaches show up at the markets. They signify the first, true taste of summer; the air is hot and dry, the cicadas are loud, and the days are long. And equally, I love the anticipation of the first frost, where the days are rapidly shortening, and the winter greens and root vegetables are abundant, as we prepare to retreat inwards for winter and await the new beginning in spring. Nature tells us what to do and how to eat. You may not be able to buy locally grown peaches where you live, but there will be other things unique to your environment through the changing seasons. To notice these changes we need to interact with whats around us becoming curious observers every day, as well as learning to recognise how those things affect how we feel and how we interact with others.

A GOOD PLACE TO START

A way to start to observe nature and its changing seasons is to get outside each day and become aware of what’s around you, using all five senses to discover natures (often) hidden gifts. Grounding is especially helpful, and so beneficial for the body and mind – just 15-20 minutes sitting under a tree with your bare feet touching the earth is enough to connect and regulate your body.

Grow alongside nature

Whilst I don’t believe everyone should be a farmer (unless of course you want to be) I do believe greater connection happens when we grow something, no matter how small. Growing things is one of the most satisfying and grounding activities there is. It reminds us that we can actually feed ourselves, and that in itself is a wonderful realisation to experience. Growing allows us to slow down, to return to a more simpler life, even just for a few minutes, and helps us connect to our food again. Such a connection changes the way we see our food, the way we shop, eat, cook, and live. As I described earlier, it is the connection to all of the experiences that lead up to – and run so much deeper than – the eating.

A GOOD PLACE TO START

When we moved to Provence, I was itching to grow something very soon after we moved into our 13th century village home. To our delight, our small tiered garden already had a fig tree, pomegranate tree, and an olive tree, but it had no real space to grow any vegetables. I collected old terracotta pots from local brocantes and started potting up herbs that I knew would grow well in the climate – that I could use in my cooking and in herbal self-care preparations. If you don’t have a garden, a windowsill is usually large enough to hold a window box or a couple of pots. Growing micro-sprouts and micro-greens at home is another great place to start, and provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. I wrote a guide to sprouting at home here.

Seek your nourishment

The ability to access any type of food from anywhere at any time is a modern phenomenon. Our current system of global trade has changed the way we eat (and live). We can now consume foods from faraway easily and often, and this means our environment and our bodies are way out of balance. With this is mind, now more than ever, we need to eat seasonally. It’s time to consider how to consciously seek out where we source our foods, as this contributes greatly to our health and well-being. If much of our relationship with food is “long-distance” it goes without saying that it also becomes all too easy to become detached from the produce we eat and our environment. Because the produce we eat is actually connected to a place, and connects to the health of our bodies and to the health of its local environment.

Environmental factors aside, eating foods that have travelled from afar have lost much of their nutritional profile and nourishment. If something is not in season regionally to you, then as much as is possible, why not wait until it is? All kinds of beautiful things happen when you live and eat in line with your natural environment. When you eat what is around you, a deeper connection is formed and a part of you wakes up. You become part of your environment, and it becomes a part of you. And you feel better. You feel happier. Eating locally, with the seasons, is what our bodies know, so it feels like coming home. There are of course special “faraway” foods that I, and you, will choose to savour, but in the main our focus should be on what we can source locally if we are wishing to live as optimally as possible.

On top of this, by supporting produce that is farmed well and responsibly sourced, we are increasing their demand and therefore encouraging better farming practices and supporting our local communities and growers. For too long in our modern world it has been seen to be progressive to be able to get anything from anywhere and at anytime. It isn’t. Our bodies and nature just can’t sustain it. To eat seasonally and regionally, as we used to, is and will always be the best way to support our bodies, our environment and each other. Our modern, fast-paced lifestyle and our growing need to have everything we want at our fingertips isn’t serving our innate need to eat and live seasonally, our happiness, the health of our bodies and minds, or the health of our environment. If we can begin to reconnect to nature and take lessons from the rhythms of the seasons and apply them to our daily lives with awareness and mindfulness, we will not only enjoy the deep nourishment it brings to our bodies, but we, and the planet, will also be much healthier.

A GOOD PLACE TO START

When sourcing fresh produce, ask two questions: “Is it grown locally?” And, “is it farmed well, in the sunshine, in a natural way, free of chemicals?” Try to find a local farmers market that you can easily get to every week. Take time to get to know the growers and the seasonal produce. If something you are used to isn’t in season, replace it with something else that is. Mother Nature knows what your body needs each season. The hard work is already done. Plants offer us an abundance of nutrients, and for this reason I believe that our diets should be composed of mostly plants. Be open and curious to trying new flavours and textures. Ask the growers how they like to cook a particular vegetable – you may be surprised with what you discover. If you can’t get to a local market, then sign up for a local organic box scheme – another way to get in touch with the seasons – but nothing beats the real connection. The main lesson here is to observe your local environment and trust your own observations and your own intuition. This is where it all begins – this is the first step to living with nature and the seasons, and fully experiencing and connecting to your food.

Gather from the wild

To gather food from the wild is to connect with a different, more intensely deep part of our genetics. It focuses our minds. it exposes us to the earth’s incredible abundance. And it fixates every molecule of our bodies in the absolute time-and-place seasonality of things. There is a very special feeling that comes with identifying and foraging wild foods: the textures and flavours are so different to cultivated foods. The wild thyme we pick from the cedar forest near our home tastes of the forest, and if we’re lucky, some wild mushrooms will be growing very close by.* Gathering from the wild satisfies a feeling that is so innate and a new found joy can come from learning what is safe and how to use these beautiful foods.

A GOOD PLACE TO START

Start slow, learn how to identify and wildcraft responsibly and go from there. Learn what is abundant around you and find yourself a local mentor who can accompany you, or find a resource such as this one.

Wild plums, blackberries and other wild fruits are often easily identifiable and safe foods to forage. As are wild greens and edible (and nutritious) weeds such as dandelion leaves, nettles, and purslane. Be sure to pick from areas you know are not sprayed with chemicals, such as those growing close to pavements.

*Always go with a specialist guide if you are new to foraging mushrooms as some are deadly poisonous and can look quite similar to those that are harmless if you don’t know what to look for.

Eat naturally, and simply

My food philosophy is to eat a natural, regional diet, 90% plants, mindfully sourced and prepared simply. Our everyday eating at home consists of food made for sharing and celebrating every day: year-round staples combined with fresh ingredients sourced locally; and the many simple meal elevators that bring it all together; a couple of jars of our favourite nutrient-rich sauces; a jar of something fermenting in the atelier sink; or a batch of homemade broth ready to go. To me, this is what food is about. It’s the natural diet of our ancestors; it is all the things you have read about so far in this article. It is about beautiful fresh produce that has been grown, gathered and nurtured with the seasons. It is about nutrient-rich foods and great experiences. And this is what our bodies are designed for: to flow in and out of the seasons, to connect with nature, bringing the two into balance.

A natural, mostly plant-based diet is one that works with what nature gives you. It means that you should eat a diverse mix of plants, pulses, and grains. Becoming a natural eater in this way allows us to observe seasonal abundances, which, like the rest of nature, we respond to. It is a way of eating that is seasonal and full of whole food ingredients. It is full of variety and sustainable, and with each season that passes, we are gifted in return with whole body wellness.

Eating this way – having a natural, mostly plant-based diet full of whole food ingredients has supported me in my own healing journey and has made me happier, healthier, and more balanced than ever before. Nutrients come together better than science can adequately explain. When we eat as our ancestors did, when food is both produced well and prepared well, it naturally provides us with complete nutrition, and brings our bodies back into balance, and back to nature at the same time. When our diet works with nature, each component comes together to give our bodies everything it needs to be nourished and healthy. Well-sourced whole food ingredients are full of nutrients that are in balance with each other, which helps us to efficiently absorb them. Fermentation and naturally occurring good bacteria allow your gut (and immune system) to stay healthy, and good fats keep your nervous system and hormones balanced. As the seasons move around you, and your diet balances itself naturally, a symbiotic relationship develops and this is where the dance begins and the magic starts to happen.

Preparing food simply and mindfully does not need to take up lots of time in the kitchen, though I believe that once you start to experience the benefits of living this way, you will enjoy nothing more than pottering in the kitchen as it will no longer feel like a chore.

A PLACE TO START

To ensure that our food is as nutrient rich as it can be, we prepare our whole food ingredients in a simple way and transform them into the most nutrient-rich ways possible. The best place to start is to use this simple framework that I recommend to all my one-to-one clients when first starting out, and the one we still use at home to create simple week-day meals. My plant-powered pantry staples guide contains a checklist of the foods I keep in my own kitchen and these nutrient-rich sauces are your secret weapon to bringing everything together, making every meal taste even more delicious. For those of you that want to take it a step further, this tracker will help you to stay focused on my three pillars approach to optimal eating and living. These guides are the foundation for so much of what we eat and how we live.

The one thing, the connection of ourselves to nature and the seasons is a lifestyle. It’s the pursuit of raising our awareness on every level. This the tenet we live by, the touchstone that guides us, bringing truth and clarity to our daily choices. Honour the rhythms of nature. Live by the seasons. Learn the lessons they have to offer you. And, above all, support yourself through daily, monthly and seasonal shifts. Connect to them, and embrace where you are.

***

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” – Henry David Thoreau

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