Friday, October 29, 2010

Hunting Harmony

It's been ten days since my last post.  In the world of the Internet, I'm sure that's a lifetime.  I've been inside a self-created "circle of safety",  experimenting with recipes, cooking, posting pictures of the results, and corresponding with experienced vegans.  It feels good there.  While I've been enjoying the transition "inside", the issue plaguing me has been my life "outside" of the circle.  I made the decision long ago not to respond to "artificial deadlines" so, I chose not  to post until I could grasp exactly what has been nagging me.  Sometimes the best way to analyze a situation is to stand still.  I thought about Day 45 - the Six Week Point.   It was such a glorious day.  I spent quite some time that day chatting on-line with a new found vegan friend.  I found her to be such a wonderful, positive spirit filled with great suggestions, advice, and support. Soon after I started to snuggle in to the embrace of the vegan community,  I encountered a negative, questioning being. I was hit with judgment, as if I had done something wrong.  As if I weren't normal.

Ground chick pea (veggie tuna) sandwich & tofu salad
Vegan or Normal?
I bound my tongue until I could write without absorbing or passing this energy. I thought, "Wow! If I had been eating something that most people eat like a sandwich or a salad, this person would have ever raised an eyebrow".  Now that I'm announced vegan, all of the sudden, it's some sort of an abomination.  I wondered, "Is it possible to co-exist? Where is the understanding?  Can't we all just get along?"  Thus, for the past ten days, I have been on the hunt for harmony.


One thing that stuck out during my conversation was the suggestion my friend made:  to check out the website The Kind Life by vegan,  Alicia Silverstone.  I remember watching the actress promote her book, "The Kind Diet" on a talk show just last year.  I gave it little attention.  At that time, of course, I was still consuming meat on a regular basis.  Today, as I perused  the website, reviews, and personal testimony of how the elimination of meat changed her life, I thought with a different perspective with feelings I gained from other side of the imaginary line ... the line which exists between those who consume meat and those who do not.  There seemed to be a annoying tolerating attitude of omnivores towards vegans.  Having been one myself, I can attest to it.  I was guilty.  Lack of information and ignorance lead to assumption and judgment.  I thought of vegan as a just a diet choice, extreme vegetarianism, and did not realize the link to animal rights and the environment.  I politely "tolerated" vegans, never once realizing that there is emotion and feeling behind the choice, that it is a lifestyle, that vegans also tolerate meat eaters.

Where's the Beef?

I've lost count of how many times I've been asked in just six short weeks "Where do you get your protein?" Vegans get protein from the same place as meat-eaters do:  from amino acids.  The difference is the source of the acids.  Meat also has fat and hormones meant for the sustainability of the animal...not man.  I couldn't help but laugh at the irony, judgment, and contradiction the last time I faced this question.  The person could not grasp the idea of not eating meat.  As she asked me this question, she proceeded to tell me how I needed meat for protein all the while she was devouring a greasy, fast food meal of fried beef, cheese, and fried potatoes.  Even when I ate meat, I did not eat such an unhealthy concoction.  It was like garbage to me. After getting over my initial feeling of anger and resentment, I exhibited tolerance, realizing I had no beef with this woman.  I showed the compassion she failed to show me.  It was the lack of knowledge or worse, reliance of limited knowledge that causes people to say or do the things they do.  We all make decisions and judgment based on "what we think we know".  I decided to find a way to exist in the midst.


Harmony:  Sandwich made by my non-vegan husband
Yellow squash, zucchini, mushroom, tomato, onion
When we are hurt, we often seek refuge with those who are able to provide comfort because they share our point of reference.  These people become our cheerleaders.  While that is good, the opportunity for growth can become limited for true challenge comes from the diversity outside of your comfort zone.  We must learn to live amongst those who are not like us. This can be global or as minute as your own home.  When I made the decision to become vegan, I informed my family who have remained omnivore. My husband has increased his vegetable intake and has contributed to some of the veggie recipe ideas.
We have however, both excluded each other for some meals as I am no longer joining him for a big hunk of meat on the grill in the same manner he is not first in line to eat some of my vegetarian inspirations.  This exclusion doesn't mean we can't live together in harmony.  Our home is still happy, we still love each other, we continue to prepare meals together, and we still sit down to eat dinner together.  We now exist in two different worlds, side by side.  It doesn't always pan out perfectly, but it is harmonious. 

No one can change the whole world in one swoop but each of us can work to affect harmony within our small piece of it.  If we all did just that, then with each of our pieces linking together, with cohesiveness, the hunt would be over.

"Become the change you seek in the world" ~ Gandhi

Yoga:  Anahata or the Heart Chakra meditation for internal harmony and emotion

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

After turning the corner of my "impatience episode", of last week, I realized that every thing has its peaks and valleys.   In the midst of the valley, with cleansing breath, I recited, "This too shall pass", knowing that I will be blessed with the path forward.  As I thought, I reminded myself of other things that have passed since I began this initiative:  toxins (via adult acne), lethargy, negativity, and gas.

Yes, I said gas.  

I was happy to see my skin clearing. I had experienced a few breakouts since starting this process but didn't become alarmed because as you cleanse, any toxins in your body will release through whatever avenue available.   In some instances, it will be your skin. As you continue however, your skin clears.  This lasted only in the initial week or so.  I was more excited about feeling physically energized in the mornings.  Always an early riser, I still felt the need of caffeine to get me going.  Since the elimination of meat, I realized that I have more energy upon waking and no longer desire coffee.  Despite spending time in the "valley", I'm feeling quite positive.  There is beauty in the valley - it's all how you look at it.    

Being in the Valley can be beautiful.

The one thing that not expected was flatulence.  It's an embarrassing subject.  After speaking about it with an associate, she made an interesting point,  "You are probably a little bloated and have gas build up because of what you've been eating."  Light bulb moment!  Of course!  The main staples of my diet have been cabbage and beans.  We all remember snickering at the rhyme we said as kids, "Beans, beans, the more you eat, the more you fart!"
It was the reason we did not want to eat beans.  Now that we're adults, have any of us heard the rest of the poem?  It's a revelation:

"Beans, beans, the more you eat, the more you fart.  
The more you fart, the better you feel.  
So, beans, beans with every meal!"

Although I had not gained any weight, my belly was a little extended.  I started doing yoga abdominal massages and stretches which helped and got things going however, the situation would soon return. I decided to check into it.  According to Nexium Research, flatulence occurs when the bacteria in the large intestine break down undigested food passed from the small intestine, it produces hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane gases, which are then released...which translates - it's a natural bodily function.  Foods which produce gas in some may not effect others in the same manner.  The lesson? Learn your body and make adjustment accordingly. 

Just let it go!

Not to be offensive, but pun is intended.  I realized that some of the very foods I have come to enjoy are causing more nature than I care for:
  • Broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots
  • Apricots, raisins, bananas, prunes, pears, peaches, artichokes
  • Cauliflower, radishes, turnips, rutabaga
  • Eggplant, mushrooms, garlic, onions
  • Bran, nuts, seeds (fennel, sunflower, poppy)
  • Cabbage, celery, cucumbers
  • Legumes - dried beans and peas, baked beans, soy beans, lima beans
  • Potatoes, corn, noodles and wheat

WOW!  This is exactly what I've been eating this past month.  But, as far as I know, the vegans I have been face to face with haven't been uncontrollably letting loose around me.  How to "let it go" without giving it up? There must be an answer. I found out that suddenly increasing your fiber intake is the culprit.  That is exactly what I've done.  EUREKA! I discovered that to counter gas, the answer is not a complex concoction or recipe.   
Reduce flatulence:  Increase water;
add fresh peppermint or ginger

It is very simple:  water (guilty!)

Increase hydration - add fresh peppermint or ginger
Eat smaller portions per setting
Eat slowly

As I sit here drinking a glass of water, I realize that as I work my way out of the valley, the intricacies within my body will slowly mesh and will work its way out.  As you pass, you release that which you do not need. Nothing stays in the same exact position forever.  The doldrums that gripped me will also eventually subside in the same manner as the euphoria.  That it is okay to let go, and by doing so, I will find comfort in neutrality and equilibrium - perfect way to prepare for the next up and down ride.

Favorite dish of the day:  Black beans, brown rice, with tomato sauce and red pepper flakes
Exercise: 30 minutes
Yoga: tree pose - grounded yet sways freely; passing in the wind; going with the flow...letting go.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Practicing Patience

After standing still on Day 21, I celebrated on Day 24 by having fun in the kitchen coming up with dishes and trying new things. I was so inspired and caught up in the euphoria of it all. As the week wore on, I started doubting my ability to continue to create. I did not want to share my experience. Steadfast and easily not eating meat, I wanted to just absorb "why" I was no longer feeling happy about it. I needed to come to terms with it and determine "how" to move forward. It is always a simple three part process:

  1. Yoga - Uddhiyana Bandha which is a cleansing sequence. It helps remove any blockages and helps detoxification.
  2. Drink water - a very good friend once told me that water is "brain food" and the essential ingredient you need when it's time to think.
  3. Get a mirror - look at yourself and tell the truth.

After yoga, water, and the truth, I realized exactly what my problem was. The same old demon that challenges me from time to time: IMPATIENCE. I wanted it all and I wanted it now.


I've always been task-driven. This "gift" has provided both positive and negative consequences for me. Positively, it has enabled me to handle many things at the same time, get things done and to make things happen. I can walk and chew gum at the same time. These powerful tools were necessary during my years as a Project Manager. I was the "go-to" girl if you needed objectives delivered successfully, on-time, and within budget. In a results-based, corporate environment, there is little room for patience; you have to make quick, snap decisions, plan strategically, and insure a return of investment. I've honed this quite well after repetitiously performing tasks in "an efficient and timely manner".

Negatively, this gift also developed in an aggressive, assertive, impatient demeanor. I'll take the time right now to apologize to those of you whom I "cut-off" mid sentence to get my point across (so NOT intentional!) It caused me to develop a seemingly insatiable drive to seek out more and more challenging projects. I did it all and did it well. The more I took on, however, the more impatient I became. Get it done, get it done now, get it done fast. Never once did I think about slowing down.

The Need to Change

Fortunately, I managed to realize that I was gaining more through the negative aspects of this "gift" than the positive components. So, with the support of my family, I walked away from corporate life. That was seven years ago. (I'll tell the rest of that story another time.) Fast forward to today. Somehow, impatience keeps rearing its ugly head. With the history of my patience or lack thereof peering over my shoulder like a bad conscience, I realized that I need to do something I really haven't done before - practice patience. I need to change. With all of this behavioral change, the dissection and modification of each component is also crucial for success. Let's start with the definition:
pa·tience  noun  (pr.) \ˈpā-shən(t)s\
the habit of being patient;
having the capacity, will or ability to wait without complaint; steadiness;
endurance or perseverance in the performance of a task;
tolerance; understanding

Wow. That sounds like the definition of yoga and the way to cook beans. So, that's what I did, grateful for the revelation. I thought about how long it takes to make beans correctly.

Takin' It Slow

Traditional cooking is not fast. It is slow. It teaches patience. For some of the tastier meals, the longer it cooks, the better it is. I thought about the process to cook beans. Before you can use them for inclusion in any recipe, you must first:
-wash and drain them
-soak overnight
-wash and drain again
-bring to a slow boil over a medium flame
-reduce heat, simmer 1&1/2hr to 2 hours
-let cool
-ready to inclusion into a meal

So, at the one month point, on eve of Day 30, I looked in the mirror at myself to embrace that I am only at the beginning, to accept that it's okay to take it slow and to "practice patience". I went into the kitchen and just made beans: garbanzo beans, white beans, red beans, black beans, one hour at a time.

Yoga: 1 hour

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back to Basics

I made it.  If you'll remember,  at the beginning of this process, I stated that it takes 21 days to modify a behavior.  It's not my adage, it's a widely recognized tool used by coaches, counselors, and trainers.  It was something I learned during time management training with Franklin Covey some 15 years ago.  I've never forgotten it.    Today is testament that it works.  My behavior has been modified.  My thought processes and how I discern information have changed also.  Everything in my "circle" is now relative to a vegan lifestyle.

Day 21 - Instead of rejoicing on this "D" day, I decided to meditate (OM), stand still, and absorb the gifts of this transformation.  Om, in Hindu is a sacred sound.  Part of Yoga Practice is to recite the mantra Om.  It is said that "all activities which start with the utterance of OM do not fail to bear fruit" and  that:
The essence of all beings is the earth.
The essence of the earth is water.
The essence of water is the plant.
The essence of the plant is man.
With that in mind, as I meditated OM, I realized that in this short time, just 21 days, I have found my essence.  I have:
  • altered my outlook on how I view my body, my mind, and my spirit- I now literally take for granted the cliches "you are what you eat" and "your body is your temple" 
  • graciously accepted the support of kind strangers who have outreached to me, many without provocation, in ways not thought possible
  • felt blessed with recipes and food choices that have come in abundance
  • the ability and am ready to proceed, realizing that it is not as hard as it seems
  • been grateful for the opportunity to expand my horizons
  • stopped beating myself up for setbacks and accept them as a "moment to learn"
Remembering the KISS as referenced last week, I decided to go back to a few simple meals to solidify my footing.  I sat quietly and thought about how times were as little as 100 years ago, before the convenience of "supermarkets", all families didn't have the "luxury of  meats" to eat, especially during the cold, winter months. I thought of the stories my mother told me about her days growing up on a farm.  She told me that meat was scarce during the winter.  Her large family of twelve often supplemented the lack of meat with the very things vegans eat today:  grain-based cereals, whole grain breads, nuts, berries, thick vegetable-based soups and stews.  It sustained them and gave the family the strength they needed to garner for the upcoming spring planting season.  These meals were simple but hearty and provided a healthy, nutritious diet.  Om Shanti! (which means all peace).  Sometimes, when you are quiet, still, and peaceful, wonderful things happen.  The humble posture I took for day 21 was rewarded with remembering wonderful recipes from my mother and grandmother.

Just Like Grandmother Used to Make

On the farm in the 1930's, my mother told us that her family didn't have a refrigerator or freezer to store and keep their food.  After the harvest came "canning time".  The women would gather the vegetables, put them in jars with air tight lids and place the jars in a huge pot covered with water to cook/boil the veggies (in jar) and to "seal" the lid. After the jars cooled, they could be stored for months, perhaps even years in a dark, cool place.  Mom said that the fruits and vegetables would taste great and as fresh as first picked.  They made wonderful meals from the foods they had "canned".  As a child, I remember eating my grandmother's "stewed tomatoes" and how the cobbler made with those homemade canned sweet peaches melted in your mouth.  Inspired, I spent the rest of day 21 experimenting with one of my grandmother's recipes:
Back to Basics:  Grandmother's Stewed tomatoes over Hominy
  • Stewed tomatoes, green peas, & corn, over ground hominy (grits)

In the weeks to come, as the winter creeps in, I'll honor the memory of my mother and grandmother by recreating some of their recipes which compliment a vegan palate.

When you reflect, you also renew, revive, and rejuvenate. Reflection always places you right where you need to be at a particular place and time.   Sometimes, it takes you in a new direction where you are inspired to create amazing new things.   Other times, it reminds you where you came from, grounds you, and takes you back to basics.