Monday, February 28, 2011

Sad vs Glad?

I recently experienced a death which reminded me of my mother who passed away nine months ago and that of my father, six years ago.  It seems like eons since I lost them because I put it out of my mind.  This recent occurrence, however, brought everything back into painful focus.  It forces me to admit that my parents died of sadness.  Not sad in the traditional sense as my parents were two of the most wonderful, loving, chipper people I know...but sad in the food sense.  My parents fell prey to S.A.D. which stands for the Standard American Diet.


According to renowned pediatrician, Dr. William Sears, the standard american diet has everything that lead to just about any illness as it is:
  • High in animal fats
  • High in unhealthy fats: saturated, hydrogenated
  • Low in fiber
  • High in processed foods
  • Low in complex carbohydrates
  • Low in plant-based foods
Dr. Sears goes on to state that "the striking fact is that cultures that eat the reverse of SAD have lower incidence of disease and that the United States has spent more money on cancer research than any other country in the world yet the American diet contributes to the very diseases we are spending money to prevent".

Unfortunately, years of poor choices led to diet selections that ultimately claimed the quality and quantity of the lives of my parents.  I am now witnessing second and third generation family members beginning to suffer.  This history puts me at high risk diabetes, COPD(Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease),  heart failure, hypertension, cancer and stroke.  High risk if I choose it.  As much as it pains me to say, I must declare and speak this truth, "I am not my parent's daughter".  In order to leave a different health legacy for my children, I must lead by example, teach them, and show them a life away from sadness.  I choose not to be sad.  I choose to be glad.  I choose to educate, eat and change the quality of my life and that of those who choose to join me.

Be Happy....Be Glad

I've coined my own acronym.  I've chosen to be GLAD by consuming a plant based diet:

Growing   Living   Alternative   Diet

I pondered whether to use the word "amazing" or "alternative".  Although it really is amazing, the word "alternative"  seems better suited because it emphasizes the conscious choice it takes to reject sadness.  Most people do not wake up every morning ready to be sad.  I believe people genuinely want to be happy...they just don't know how.

Education is key.  Each of us must be willing to re-educate ourselves in order to redefine our definition of food in order to be glad.   For educational sources, look to those who have successfully done it!  One favorite example is Phillip McCluskey, a motivational speaker, author, and owner of, who changed his life from SAD to GLAD raw foods diet, losing 215 pounds improving both the quality and quantity of his life by just starting with simple education.  He now teaches and has several books to help educate others.  Another source is to just look at the vegan pyramid versus the sad one.  The side by side visual alone is a simple education in and of itself.  Just follow the pictures:

Finally, just ask.  Our pride, arrogance, or ignorance sometimes prohibit us from seeking assistance or guidance.  Get a coach or mentor!  I recently had the pleasure of meeting one brave soul, Angela who made the decision last week to let go of her sadness and embrace a lifestyle change to improve the quality of her life.  She sought out the help of a friend who is guiding her through her first juice fast and will help coach her to a life away from disease.  I applaud and admire her courage and strength.  All she did was ask.

Today, I thank my parents.  They sacrificed, worked hard, and gave me a wonderful, loving life. I am appreciative of their life lessons as they taught me all that they knew and for that, I am a better person.  In their deaths, they continue to teach as they have also taught me what not to do - that the choices I personally make will determine the quality of my life. Think and make your choice - will your life from this point on be  happy or sad?

Yoga:  Lotus Pose
The lotus pose is the most common posture people visualize when someone asks them to think of yoga.  It is also the pose used to calm the body prior to meditation.  Most practices begin or end with the lotus pose.

The purpose of the pose is to bring union of mind, body, and soul for it helps maintain proper posture, spinal alignment, and facilitate deep meditative breathing.

Considered one of the most sacred symbols, the lotus flower grows in muddy water and rises to the surface each day with beauty.  It represents honor, health, and long life. 


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Common Senses

When I left the corporate world, I stumbled into a new profession as headmistress of a Montessori school.  It was a wonderful experience.  I was very familiar with the Montessori methodologies as my children were educated in this manner.  My husband and I selected Montessori because we loved the idea that our children would  go to school in a calming, non-competitive environment where they could learn kinesthetically - using all of their senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing.  I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to "give back" as our children flourished and did very well.  Thinking back over my years at the school, I thought, "Wow! this experience is no different".  Light bulb moment!  Use common sense!  This experience of learning new ways to prepare food would be easy if I used a sensorial-based approach in the same manner the Montessori method teaches young children:  practical hands-on material that focus on the use of your senses to stimulate and awaken.

A Tommy Moment

In 1969, the great rock band, The WHO, released the rock opera, "Tommy" about a mute, deaf, and blind young man who becomes a leader influencing millions..  One of my favorite songs from the opera is (hear/play:) "Listening to You"©1969.   Tommy silently pleads "see me, touch me, feel me, heal me".  He finally gets attention, by using the only senses he has left: to touch and to feel, ultimately becoming brilliant influencing millions:  
"Following you  I climb the mountain, ...On you I see the glory, 
From you I get opinions, From you I get the story."
~ excerpt from "Listening to You

Some days in this journey are harder than others.  Some days I wake up energized, excited to try new recipes and tastes, while other days I feel defeated.  The difference is always the same:  motivation or lack thereof.  There was nothing palpable to encourage my way.  Have you ever felt this way?  If so, you like I, need a "Tommy" moment.  Something that will allow you to use your senses commonly, to enable you to climb your mountain and to see your glory.

Palpable Reminders

palpable coffee pot replacement
Realizing the need for common sense, and determined to make things physical, and tangible.  I purchased a basket and made a pact with myself to keep it stocked with fruits.  I placed this basket on my kitchen countertop in the same location where my coffee pot used to be (since becoming vegan, I have no taste nor use for it any longer).  Now, each time I enter the kitchen, I  can see, smell, touch or even taste the fruit.  The  physical being of the fruit reminds me to stay on track. It inspires me to be creative, to "get the story", to inquire, "seek opinion" and advice from others which then leads to success - "the glory of climbing the mountain" - a personal Tommy moment.   My initial success was to use the fruits and a few leftover greens to make this Simple Citrus Salad after I thought I needed to go to the market on a snowy day.  It became my sunshine as the sight of the fruit sparked a little ingenuity:

Tommy moment: unexpected sunshine on a snowy day
Simple Citrus Salad
Green Apple
Navel Orange
Grate cabbage and carrots (slaw style).  Peel and dice orange and apple. Mix ingredients.  Squeeze fresh lemon over the top.

The salad was very delicious.  The smell and taste of the lemon cleansed the palate allowing the combination of  tangy apples and sweet, juicy oranges to supply an explosion of fruity flavor. The roughness of the carrots and the cabbage provided the right texture against the softness of the fruit.

When you make things elementary, it's much easier to stay motivated and to learn.  Create your own tangible, sensorial,  kinesthetic, practical reminders that will awaken or heal you and bring you to your senses.

Yoga:   Third Eye (to feel and to see)
In Yoga, it is said that meditation gives you peace of mind, calmness, and a sense of well being. There are several types and methods of mediation each focusing on a different energy center of the body, one of which is the sixth chakra, the point on the forehead just above and between the eyebrows.  This location is called the Third Eye or Mind's Eye.  When the eyes are closed, this point is considered the seat of "concealed wisdom". It allows you to see and to feel, enabling you to retain energy and strengthen concentration.

To awaken, hear, see and feel your inner wisdom, using your third eye:
  • Sit cross legged (lotus pose-if not possible, sit comfortably on chair or bed)  
  • Keep your spine straight
  • Close your eyes
  • Inhale and exhale deeply three times
  • Concentrate on the middle of your forehead around the area which is a few centimeters above the middle of your eyes.
  • Keep your eyes closed and draw both of your eyes towards this center point of third eye (just look upwards with your eyes closed focusing on the point between your eyes).  
  • Once you have achieved this state of stillness, you will feel as if you can see your thoughts...just like a screen appearing before you.      (source:
Om Shanti (all peace)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I live in a small town.  One square mile to be exact.  Founded a little over 300 years ago, it’s scattered with historic homes and buildings.  We even have a tree that dates back to the late 1600’s. There are only a few thousand residents.  Aside from three franchises (a convenient mart, donut shop, and discount store), there are no big box flagship stores or shopping centers.  We don’t even have a commercial supermarket or hospital.  While all of these things are very close by in neighboring townships, there are none in my town.  The main street is peppered with small merchants and it has a open market filled with produce and seasonal plants from local farmers.  I love my town.  It is quaint.  I thought I knew my town well but alas, I do not .  Last week, as I walked down the main thoroughfare,  a street  I must have walked down a thousand times, I decided to stop into a shop that I had never been in.   I needed nutritional yeast.  I did not feel like traveling the usual 5-6 miles outside of my neighborhood to purchase at my usual vegetarian shop.  I walked in to what I thought was a “vitamin store” hoping to find the yeast.  My expectation was low.   When I walked in, I was immediately greeted by the proprietor who kindly introduced himself.  As I looked around, my jaw dropped. This was not a vitamin store at all.  It was a vegan lover’s delight!  I realized I was in the middle of a serendipitous moment.

Serendipity -  the act of finding something valuable or delightful 
when you are not looking for it; a happy accident; an extremely pleasant and 
unexpected surprise that was not planned but happened for the good.

The store had everything a vegan could ever need or want : organic grains, beans, seeds and raw nuts; spices sold by the weight; hemp protein; tempeh; agave nectar; nut and rice milks; organic cacao; chia fruit bars; a freezer filled with vegan desserts; salad dressings; raw vinegars; natural soaps, shampoos, and body oils. In the rear was a full library of resource materials and as if that weren’t enough, the store holds free vegetarian cooking class once a month and weekly a devotional/meditation .   Flabbergasted, I must have spent an hour in there talking with the owner and other patrons before finally purchasing everything but the nutritional yeast!

After I left, I could not help but think that the pleasant surprise of discovering that this “not  a vitamin store” in my own town, walking distance from my house, was  demonstrative of my vegan trek thus far.  At every turn, I’ve been surprised with good fortune.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Feb 3rd  marked the start of the Chinese New Year.  There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac which represent  a 12-year cycle used for dating the years.  Every year is assigned an animal name or "sign" according to a repeating cycle.  Therefore, every twelve years the same animal name or "sign" would reappear.  The animal in circulation at the time of your birth is the one which represents you.  You will experience your year at ages 12, 24, 36, etc.  This year is the “Year of the Rabbit”  which to my good fortune, is also the animal of the year in which I was born.  It is my year.  How appropriate that my “year” would also be the one in which I will celebrate both six months and my first anniversary of living vegan.  There are many complementing traits attributed to people born under the Rabbit, one of which is that they are generally “lucky”.  Wow.  Another pleasant surprise and confirmation that I am moving forward in accordance to my path.  The Chinese do not wish each other “Happy New Year” as we Westeners do.   Instead, they wish blessings of prosperity to their fellow man.  In Cantonese, this greeting is written as "Gong Xi Fa Cai".  With this in mind, I realize that I must honor and be true to my rabbit.

“Be not afraid of greatness”  “To thine ownself be true”

Two great quotes from the William Shakespeare.  What wisdom and advice!  We are taught  as children to be modest in our decorum, and to be humble in our nature.  But we always managed to shout out, "Hey,  I'm great, Look what I can do!!!"  As adults, sometimes, we somehow loose the fight and take modesty a little too much to heart .  We do not follow our own paths.  We become afraid to take a leap of faith because we fear our own success.  While we know the difference between shouting our greatness and arrogant pride,  we fear being falsely labeled as a braggart.  This leads to unhappiness because we are not
Don't be afraid, remember your youth
  Acknowledge your greatness! Your truth will follow
following our truths.   Each step we take should be towards our own greatness, a step which elevates us from one level to another. 

Take the time to get to know yourself.  Realize your strengths and weaknesses.  Use one to help the other.   Celebrate and reward yourself when you stumble upon a “happy accident”.  As you continuously repeat this process, you will begin to learn what you should and shouldn’t do, and you will feel empowered, less afraid to go out to venture into new territories, to experience new greatness – to walk down streets you have always walked down to discover a new truth and wonderful place filled with goodies  just for you.

As I continue this journey, what I feared is slowly dissolving.  I am no longer intimated by seemingly difficult recipes, nutritional balance, or lack of support.   I am discovering greatness in numbers, an abundance of food choices, and a growing of number of vegan support.  I feel empowered to create new recipes, experiment with different foods, reach out for help, and "think" much "larger" than I did before.  It feels simple because for me, it is truth.

Celebrate the Rabbit this year.  According to one website, in Chinese tradition, regardless of which year you were born, the Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves.  It is a time for negotiation.  Don’t try to force issues because if you do, you will ultimately fail.   My wish for you this year is:

Accept what is great.  Live your life to the fullest! 
May you give love, feel love, and be loved.  
May you be prosperous, experience the blissful joy of serendipitous,
  pleasant surprises and remember to savor each and every day. 
 May you be great and true.

Yoga:  Sasagasana (Rabbit Pose)  and Sat Nam (universal unchanging self truth)

Sasangasana:  Rabbit Pose
In yoga, the rabbit pose or Sasangasana aids digestion (another pleasant surprise!).  It improves thyroid function, helps sinus problems, and chronic tonsillitis. The Rabbit stretches the spine as you bend forward, bringing all the weight to the crown of the head permitting the nervous system to receive proper nutrition while maintaining flexibility, mobility and elasticity of the spine, arms, shoulders and back muscles.

At the end of your practice, recite the mantra Sat Nam three times.  To do so is to acknowledge that truth is your identity - to be true to yourself.  Sat Nam means unchanging, universal self truth.