When a plant has little water, its roots have to reach down deep in the soil to find water below. If the plant is at an angle to receive little sunlight, the leaves reach up and bend toward the sun. In short, if little is given, the plant has to work to get its survival needs met. If everything is given, it doesn’t do much to sustain itself. It doesn’t need to. It isn’t under physical stress.

A plant typically needs to reach for both water and sun on cloudy days, which you could say is its form or “exercise”. If it stretches itself for essential nutrients, it gets stronger and interestingly, provides more flavor. They become stressed but they overcome the challenge. They release more chemicals—nutrients for us—,such as polyphenols, that provide more nutrition to those who eat stressed fruits.The opposite is also true. If water and sun are abundant, less exercise, less stress, less flavor. Less strength, durability, resilience and, probably, longevity.

That’s why Harvard’s Dr. David Sinclair as do many others at this point, recommends eating “stressed vegetables”.

Biomimicry at its best

Is it the same with humans? I don’t know if we taste better when stressed, but I do know that when we deal with certain kinds of stress we become stronger, more adaptable and resilient: “that which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger”.

This leads directly into the idea that when children are raised in abundance, they are much less likely to be adaptable, resilient or strong, unless they choose to be so based on any number of other variables and influences. So goes a plant, bio-mimetically, so goes the human.

Typically, they become what we commonly refer to as “spoiled”, perhaps not unlike spoiled vegetables or fruit with minimal nutrition. Too much water and sun. I’m making light of it for a moment, but it’s a serious problem that can become pathological. These children do not value money the same as those raised without it because it has been—and probably will be—always there for them. To continue the metaphor, they think that it probably “grows on trees”. There has always been a cushion, a feather bed, and not a time of having to sleep on a hard, cold, floor.

If life is always easy, how will they relate to hardship or to those with serious survival challenges? Are these the same youth, now in college, who need “safe zones” because points of view with which they disagree “are too painful” to hear? Is this what our society has come to? A society that takes pride in the 1st Amendment and the free flow of speech and yet hides from it?

Balancing stress in plants & humans

It may sound funny that a stress management consultant such as myself would be encouraging people to experience more stress and be extolling its benefits. But such is the case! There is potentially too much or too little stress and how we perceive stress makes all the difference in the world. Yes, it’s largely a matter of perception first, then adaptation, relaxation and resilience.

In Chinese medicine, we speak of excess and deficiency, and neither is good, but seeking a balance between them is. When we balance the levels and types of stress, it makes all the difference between a healthy and unhealthy life, including eating stress-rich plants!

Where’s the contrast?

If one’s lifestyle is always comfortable, there is no chance to learn to deal with hardship. It is normal to live in a comfort zone and not venturing out, per the principle of inertia. Only when people challenge themselves are courage and character built. If we have generations born into wealth, with parents providing all of the “creature comforts” the child may request at a whim, a world of make-believe is created. There tends to be little sense of the suffering of others as there is no frame of reference outside of one’s own narrow experience of reality.

In short, we learn by contrast. While perhaps, theoretically, we want the sun to shine all the time, if it doesn’t rain and get cool, we’ll be in trouble. Nothing is ever ‘all one way’, but always double-sided, by Nature’s design. Affluence appears to be so attractive and has exceptional benefits when used with wisdom, but without its opposite, it just isn’t fully appreciated.

As a song from the Caribbean on mothers says “No one thinks of water until the well runs dry”.

Having money doesn’t mean having things, but building things in service

There’s a funny quirk in the minds of people that is distorted further within our materialistically-oriented society, and that is that “to have money means to have things”. Having money from the point of view of the pathologically affluent means, in our out-of-balance culture, to own possessions such as designer jeans, luxury cars, jewelry, houses and boats.


I say that it means no such thing. As Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha was so allured by material wealth at one point in his development, so too, a touch further down the road, he realized that, in itself, how empty such a pursuit was. This is an expression of the confusion of a consumer-based society that cares more about consumption and things than about servicing those who are suffering and in need.

Money allows acquisition of things that would not otherwise be available, ok, however, that is but one sliver of what “having money” can become when in compassionate and capable hands.

The use of money is so much vaster than anything to do with just creature comforts or opulent displays of wealth, so much so, that those ideas look minute in comparison to the projects that could be funded to help the hungry to grow food, build a livable home, dig wells and create community structures that serve those who live there. Or massively reducing the carbon footprint or restoring life to the dead zones in our oceans.

Of course one should have the things one needs and fancies. We should have a sense of economic security, each a very good thing. Again, we are faced with the perennial principle of “excess and deficiency”.

Money “buys” us time to engage in actions in the world that are meaningful as well as time for non-action and just being. It “buys” time for people to be resourceful and creative as to how to invest time and money into projects that help the world be at greater peace, harmony and balance for the hungry to eat, for the unhoused to have shelter, to help others get trained for a livelihood. It confers time to nurture people’s curiosity about the world-at-large outwardly and inwardly.

The issue here is not about having money or being prosperous or affluent. It is about how prosperity and affluence are being used.

Balancing the energy of money

The irony is that the aggregation of money has become one of the central values, themes, and memes and, for many, a top priority in life. Having access to money is very useful and allows for many good and brilliant, life-serving activities to take place. In this society, one is at a loss without it. While it doesn’t generate energy in itself, it does represent a form of life-force.

Of course, it’s just a piece of paper, a coin or an entry on a spreadsheet, so it itself is lifeless; but, in the right hands and for the right purposes, its usefulness can come alive. It’s the people’s activities with it what generates true value from it, not the thing itself. As with life-force itself. People trained to do-without-be-without would have learned the skills of managing with little. In the case that that came to be, they would be equipped, both physically and mentally. They would have already been “exercised and stretched”.

When one lives close to Earth, there is less probability of falling. When one is flying off into the ethers in a world of abstraction and falls, it comes with quite a thud or a meltdown. Ask Icarus.

Amassing money: the greatest show on Earth, or is it?

The irony is that so many people are taught that amassing money is one of the great achievements in life, and many people then set out to make money—which is fine and good—,but is it in balance with the rest of the vast, life-affirming elements of life that most deeply enrich us? Rarely on the deathbed is one heard to say: “Darn, if only I had closed that last deal!” They typically say “I wish I had spent more time with my loved ones…” When one is closer to death, one’s deeper, more authentic values tend to surface.

Many others pursue money at the expense of people and the planet, which has completely disrupted the life cycle of both. People’s health and well-being have been harmed and the ecosystem has had to adapt to the imbalanced excesses of human activity, it too being a living intelligence that can be harmed.

Normalizing the abnormal

With exceptions, much of our economy is based on extraction, destruction and lying. Almost every business one points to presents a great cost to human life and to the planet, yet they are considered simply and off-handedly as “business-as-usual”.

Few things are more dangerous to humans and the planet than “business-as-usual”. This includes building nuclear bombs and weapons of mass destruction, poisoning almost everything that goes into our bodies, polluting the air, water and soil all day, every day, incessantly across the world and extracting million year-old liquids from the ground which operate our motors and toxify our air and lungs. Men in suits go to work every day, making deals that add to the destruction of life on planet Earth and then go home to their wives and children in the suburbs after having wreaked such havoc. It leads to childhood labor in foreign lands and immigrant children here because it’s cheap labor.

It leads to massive exploitation of undeveloped country’s natural resources because mega-corporations own the equipment and the know-how to extract, recover and market them. Everyone, in one way or another, becomes enslaved to corporations and corporate-run governments. This is one of the tragedies and travesties of contemporary life: we think and we are told that we are free but there is an invisible net over our minds, bodies and speech.

This is where the brainwash is so deceptive: it looks normal, because it has been normalized, a world-view by which we have all been programmed and conditioned from birth to accept an epigenetic reality, but the moral atrocities in the U.S. and across the world which coincide with daily living is anything but normal.

We are swimming in a sea of destruction, a death spiral, and call it life. It has become the air we breathe, so we have little objectivity by which to view it.

Until we do.

While we stand outside the problem, we gain some distance and perspective. Yet, we are also still part of it. We are all part of it to varying degrees, as much as some of us comment on it and do what we can to change it, make the paradigm better or walk away from it in order to live what we feel are far better options. Though we loudly pronounce “Not in our name”, the powers that be commit atrocities with our tax dollars throughout the world in our name.

People doing good, & the birth of the benefit corporation

There are brilliant, here-to-serve people and companies all over the planet, heart-centered C- corporations, B-corporations, churches, temples, mosques, foundations, NGOs and nonprofits being of extraordinary service on all levels of society. This is vitally important to remember, as these are our hope-generating life rafts.

But the ratio between the good and the destructive is seriously out of balance. So seriously, in fact, all systems, ecological and human, for so many reasons, are hanging in the balance. While it has something to do with a quantitative count, it is really more a qualitative matter. Cellular biologist, Dr. Bruce Lipton, and many other scientists say that we are already in the 6th Extinction.

Money, money, money

From this point of view, there is life-force and power that can be generated from having affluence. I think it’s naïve to think that the root of all evil is money. How it is used, not used and mis-used can be a root of evil. Money is an action, a life-force, not a piece of paper or a decimal plus zeroes on a spreadsheet.

Entrepreneurship from the heart

When business is an expression of care for people and the planet, it pays dividends which include money but pays much more. In the world of social impact, we call this “multiple bottom lines”. One feels joy by “doing good”. Getting paid for it completes an energy exchange so all can survive. The joy one experiences on the faces of those you’ve served is priceless. This is Capitalism at its best: in service to people and planet, occurring before yet including profit.

When Atlas Shrugged, according to Ayn Rand, a dog-eat-dog world was created. When Capitalism Unshrugged, according to Mitchell Rabin, we created a Capitalism designed to provide love and prosperity to all.