Monday, November 28, 2011

Being Vegan

I celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends.  It is a traditional American holiday filled with foods that I no longer eat that no longer have the same focus for me.  In the past, it meant gorging on unhealthy foods that made you feel lethargic afterwards and to be grateful to eat it among family and friends.  It was something I thought (along with millions of others) an event that actually seemed quite fun.  As I evolve, I realize that the meaning of this holiday has changed.  Now...for me... it is no longer fun to eat something that will not help in the grand scale of things.  Now...for be grateful is something that needs to be addressed per diem, not just on the last Thursday in November.  Now...for is a responsibility to eat kindly every is just part of being vegan.

First Raw Thanksgiving

1st Raw Thanksgiving
Marking the milestone as one year Raw approaches
Everyone around me had the traditional  animal by-product based meal.  It was something I did not wish to partake in.  As their meal was prepared, I worked, excitedly, to create my own raw meal.  My first raw meal at a table filled with just the opposite in both palate and guests.  As I put my dishes together, I rejoiced that I did not have to prepare myself mentally to be defensive for I was fortunate to be in the midst of those I love and who love me.   There was no judgment in the room.  The focus was on the ambiance and spending time together.  Afterwards, a wonderful thing happened.  One of the guests came up to me and began to ask questions regarding how to get started on a vegan path of their own.  Exuberant  and happy to assist,  I immediately gave him taste samples.  He was surprised at how "tasty" they were and that the food was "uncooked".  I gave him a bag of raw goodies to take home with a heart-felt promise to help him transition.  I am proud of the decision he has made for his health and quality of life.  My meal appealed to him and sparked inspiration.  For this, I am thankful.  I had carefully thought out the meal, wishing for an opportunity to speak about live foods, not realizing that this small wish would come true before the night ended.  This meal was special for me, it symbolized my gratitude as I look forward to next month in which I will celebrate, marking one year since converting to raw, live foods.  I was happy to express how my life has changed, and overjoyed to share my appreciation:

Yellow Squash Noodles with Cashew Cheese Sauce
Grate squash with a noodle maker or spiral vegetable slicer
Soak 2 cups raw cashews for 4 hrs, drain, puree in blender.  Add garlic and lemon juice to taste
Garnish with slithers of red pepper

Mushrooms Stuffed with Chopped Kale and Tomatoes
Core Mushrooms, stuff with chopped kale and diced tomatoes

Savory Corn Cakes
    Adapted from the recipe by Michael Lloyd-Billington, 
Yogi, raw chef, fitness instructor, and owner of Alternative Personal Training: 

                                4 c. sweet corn
                                1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
                                6 shittake mushrooms, finely chopped
                                2 shallots, finely minded
                                Juice of 1 lemon
                                1 t powdered rosemary * (adapted - substituted with sage; taste preference)
                                2 c. raw cashews, processed to light meal * (adapted -  I chopped cashews and added to mixture)
                                1 T olive oil * (adapted - omitted from my version)
                                Cracked black pepper & salt to taste * (adapted - omitted from my version)

Whisk lemon juice, oil & seasoning.  Pulse corn very, very lightly in food processor -- literally just 2 quick pulses--then fold in chopped ingredients & dressing.  Add just enough cashew meal to very lightly bind.  
Form into cakes & then very lightly dust with a little more meal.

Pureed Sweet Potatoes
Yes, you can eat raw sweet potatoes!

Banana Pudding
Puree 2 bananas, sprinkle with cinnamon

Wow.  It turned out to be a wonderful holiday.  It had changed yet stayed the same.  I enjoyed a wonderful meal with wonderful people.  As the day ended, one of the guests remarked that I looked different.  Hmm, I didn't think I looked different other than the obvious weight loss. As I thought about it though, I guess my look had changed, especially to those who haven't seen me in a while. Since my transition, my hair has grown, my nails are strong, my skin is clear, my smile is wide and my heart is happy - all because...I Am Vegan. I wondered...did I "look" vegan?

Faces of Vegan Project

What does being vegan look like? Lisa Viger,  photographer, vegan artist, chef, and author of the blog "Raw on $10 a Day (or Less!)"  who describes her work as "art : food : life" asked herself this very same thing.   She asked vegans to engage in her "Faces of Vegan Project" in which she set out to answer the question.  I, along with several friends, eagerly volunteered to participate and was honored to be included in the resulting video that was appropriately released on Thanksgiving Day:

What does being vegan look like? Vegans look like me and you, the man next door, the woman upstairs, the child playing in the yard outside.  There isn't a formula of what a vegan should look like as we all are walking through divergent points along our paths.  The passion though, is congruent - does this mean that vegans look "different" from those not vegan and the "same" as other vegans?  It's possible - perhaps that is what my guest sensed in me...the difference in my spirit and in the being of who I am now from that which I used to be.  I can not tell you what being vegan looks like. It is up to you to decide.  I can, however,  tell you what it being vegan feels like.   If these feelings flow from within the body and demonstrate themselves physically on outside, then I guess that what being vegan looks like is .....happy, beautiful, and free.  With that, as I reflected on the day, I wasn't far off tradition after all.  I had much to be grateful for - to Michael for sharing his recipe; to Lisa for putting together the video project; to the many people who have inspired and changed my life this past year; for enjoying a meal with family and friends; for the opportunity to rejoice in the prospect of helping someone transition; to being able to say openly, "I am proud, I am different, I am ... Vegan".

Yoga: Anjaneysana -
 Crescent or Low Lunge 

Anjaneysana, which strengthens balance, back, and legs, is practiced to stimulate the diaphragm and open the heart.  It's expansion and reach is also an expression of praise, abundance, joy and gratitude.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hearts and Souls

Last  week, I witnessed tremendous outreach from two individuals, each unbeknownst to the other, who, despite personal loss, sought to inspire, give and encourage, basking in a bright light of positiveness under circumstances that would have caused others to sulk in sorrow.  Although their happenings were different, each individual, chose not to ask for embrace, but to give it instead.  It is humbling and astonishing to see such courage and strength in action.  Prevalent in each is a quiet, peaceful patience and a generosity that comes from deep within...with a pure love from their hearts and souls.

A Cup of Soul Tea™

I wondered what enabled these two beings to act in the manner in which they did.  The answer came to me after I attended a yoga practice in honor of the launching of the e-book, "A Cup of Soul Tea".  The book is a personal evolutionary journey of "transformation from unfulfillment to fulfillment".   My friend, Jen McGown, the author and yogi,  led us in a mindful movement of Anahata, to honor and open our heart chakra.  The practice was intimate, quiet, solemn, focusing on self reflection and meditation.  Afterwards, in a dimmed room illuminated by soft candlelight, we shared in gratitude over a cup of herbal tea.  Although no one was required to, the five of us spoke in whispers.  The ambiance seemed to calm our souls and dictate a peacefulness.  How apropos.  Anahata symbolizes awareness of love, selflessness, and devotion.  The spiritual lesson of Anahata is forgiveness, unconditional love, letting go, and compassion.  When we suffer loss, our heart chakra is wounded and we take it personally.  I was taught that as you move through Anahata postures, it helps to silently recite "blessings, thankfulness, and love" as you forgive those who have caused you pain as well as those whom you have hurt.  This mindful movement opens, cleanses, and heals the heart.  The key to moving forward is loving, in spite of, without malice.  When you are able to do this, you have learned to open your heart.  It takes an incredible faith to love with selflessness - to give while in the midst of pain;  yet,  it is this very thing that fosters rejuvenation.

"Stay true to the song in your heart, while inspiring all those around to a life of abundant gratitude" - Jen McGown

Cha No Yu

In Japan, the tea ceremony, called Cha No Yu,  is a very reverent event.  It is conducted through self refinement with focus on harmony, purity, respect, and serenity.  It, like Jen's ceremony, it conducted with no more than five guests. The objective is to cleanse and clear the heart, creating patience which is the pathway to the soul .

"In your patience, possess ye your soul" - Luke 21:19

What I love about enjoying a cup of tea is the preparation.  To make tea properly takes time.  Time teaches intentional and respectful patience. The practice of Cha No Yu is a lengthy one. It requires patience.  Patience, according to it's definition, is:  to endure calmly when faced with difficulties.   Eighteenth century writer,  Bishop George Horne, states that "patience is the teacher of humility and forgiveness,  cherishes love, strengthens the spirit, subdues pride and extinguishes envy...patience is the preserver of peace".

A Lesson in Patience

Making tea properly, teaches this lesson. When we think of making tea, most of us think of a hot cup with aromatic tendrils wafting up into the air. It is a lovely thought.  To make any tea however, requires a calm, poised endurance.  This summer, I made sun tea.  I love the flavor and natural warmth of the tea from the hot summer sun.  It was a lesson in acceptance of time as I had to wait for the tea set and the flavor to become imbued by the fruit.  The hours it took to make the strong, flavorful tea was worth the wait.  My patience was rewarded by naturalness of the deep fruity taste.  This past week, my friend Chris, did just that.  He has a love that is so deep, so true and that it has filled his heart, overflowing to others with quiet equanimity.  When he experienced a heart-felt pain and injury to his ability to love, instead of closing up to languish in self pity and hurt, he stood still, wide open in the bright light of the sun...deciding to wait patiently for the natural warmth and the reward of a full harmonious flavor.  While he stands for that which he knows will someday return in one form or another, he shines intensely with positive energy, giving and helping others with words of inspiration, motivation, wisdom and even a little humor instead.  He does not know if or when his reward will come - he is not seeking it.  He is prepared to wait, without expectation, possessing clear heart and soul knowing that if it is for him, it shall be.  He exists with a calmness being insistent on not harboring any negativity or any anger at the source of his pain. He encourages all around him to follow his love from afar is better than not loving at all and to appreciate reception and fulfillment of the experience itself.   I have renamed him a "sweet angel" and am honored to receive his message and to be in his presence as a friend.

"I know it ain't easy giving up your heart"  
Adele, One and Only©2011


The lesson I learned this past week is that while it may seem difficult to give up your heart, you will achieve healing in time through acts of selflessness.  You will be strengthened.  We all have experienced deep loss, hurt, injury and pain. When we reflect upon it, we somehow fail to realize that we do not remain in the place where it occurred whether we've addressed it or not.  While we wait, time still moves and moves us with it.  No one stays in one place in exactly the same point.  We will move - how we move and in which direction we go depends on the strength of our souls, the openness of our hearts and the lessons learned during the quiet period we felt time slow down.  Growth is moving forward while you stand in your patience.  Through generosity, you will gain this openness and vitality. The soul is strengthened when the heart is selfless.  Wear your heart openly and share your soul freely.   It shall empower you.


Yoga: - The Color Green

Each chaka is represented by a color.  The Anahata chakra is represented by the color green.  The symbolism meaning of the color green is self control, renewal, soothing, and relaxation.

As we departed practice, dear Jen gave each of us a gratitude love token.  I have placed mine within a green cloth to remember the day...a little heart filled with a little tea... as a reminder to celebrate the openness of our hearts and the largeness of our souls.

Om Shanti.