Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eating Raw: A Very Surprising Revelation

It's funny how some things wind up being so different than you thought they'd be. I've just had a major eye-opening experience that really caught me by surprise. July 10th, 2011 was the first day of the Rawsome Yoga Retreat that I organized and on that day, I started eating only "raw" foods. My diet was already pretty clean. I've been mostly free of dairy, glutens, sweeteners other than Stevia (occasional agave or honey) for many years. Because of this I really thought it would be no big deal transitioning into an only "raw" diet. But I was very wrong. The first 3 days were torture. I felt terrible and I was HUNGRY all the time. I was craving protein like crazy and always felt unsatisfied. I usually start my day with 2 eggs and then eat a fair amount of fish or chicken protein daily and I was really missing it. I was also in kinda of a bad mood and very irritable. We were doing yoga over 3.5 hours each day and meditating morning and evenings, but still, I wasn't feeling too good.

We were eating high quality raw cuisine made from nut and flax based recipes with highly spiced vegetables in imitation of popular everyday foods. Like raw pizzas, enchiladas, meatloafs etc. all made from raw nuts, fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and dehydrated fruits and veggies. After about the 4 day I started to feel a lot better and by the end of the week I felt great. Plus I was craving more and more plain and simple fresh veggies and fruits. Immediately after the Raw Retreat I had to go to Hollywood, CA for a week of recording with vocalist Snatam Kaur. I decided to try and keep up the raw diet while traveling there and even though it was a little challenging I managed to do it without too much effort. I made daily trips to the healthfood store to stock up on some prepared raw type foods and had lots of avocados and Kombucha handy. Also, I felt good about augmenting my diet with some sashimi or sushi when I felt I needed it.

To make a long story shorter, I've been on this "raw" diet now for almost 2 months and it seems that the longer I do it, the easier and more natural it feels. To be clear, it's really about 90 - 95% raw because I do make exceptions with some fish proteins when I feel I need it. I'm not trying to prove anything or make any kind of statement. I'm just exploring, trying to find out what REALLY works for my body. And at this point I'm amazed at what is working AND what isn't working.

I'm a Type O Positive blood type and was pretty convinced that if I didn't start out my day with solid protein I'd feel unbalanced the whole rest of the day. For the last 10 years or more I've been eating 2 eggs every morning for breakfast. But even with doing this I've always had blood sugar problems. If I didn't eat immediately when I was hungry and if I didn't get plenty of protein I'd have some pretty major blood sugar swings and crash pretty heavily at times. About 3 weeks into my "raw" diet I was feeling pretty good and thinking about slowly transitioning into a more "normal" diet. So one morning I had 2 eggs for breakfast to see how it felt. To my surprise I felt terrible after eating the eggs! My body definitely didn't like it. I was REALLY surprised! I went back to totally raw for a week or so and then tried the eggs again. Same thing. My body was definitely telling me to stay away from eggs so I continued with my raw diet.

A week later I was at a restaurant and ordered a salad and the when the salad came it had little crumbles of goat cheese on it. I was hungry and thought I'd eat the goat cheese cause, after all, it wasn't cow cheese so it was much easier to digest and I've really enjoyed goat cheese in the past and thought it would be fine. WRONG!!! My body crashed energetically big time right afterwards. Everything in the salad was raw so it had to be the goat cheese. Again, I was really surprised. A few weeks later I picked up a veggie wrap from Whole Foods and instead of the usual accompanying soy sauce there was this peanut sauce that came with it. I thought I'd try it for something different. WRONG again! My body hated it. I had no idea that my body was reactive to eggs, goat cheese AND peanuts! And just a few days days ago I made an amazing looking raw salad. It was so beautiful that I took pictures of it and posted it on Facebook. I added some King Crab legs to the salad, thinking I was giving my self a little treat. I thought it would be fine because my body reacted very favorably to the raw tuna sashimi and other sushi I had tried. However after eating the salad I started to sweat profusely and my energy and clarity totally crashed. I realized, unfortunately, that my body does not like crab meat. BUT . . . the beauty in this is that my body is clean and clear enough to tell me very specifically what it likes and doesn't like because it's not being overwhelmed and burdened by processing a ton of foods that are more challenging to integrate.

At this point my food choices are extremely intuitive and often surprising to me. I start off my day with some green tea and whatever calls me. Sometimes some cucumber or avocado, sometimes an apple or a few strawberries and occasionally some kind of smoothie or raw protein shake. I often get in some good exercise in the mornings like yoga or swimming or just some long walks and for lunch I'm usually ready for something more substantial and often with some added protein like some raw fish. I was at the grocery store one afternoon and the salmon totally caught my eye and I wondered if my body was needing some of the essential Omega 3 fatty acids that salmon has so abundantly. I cooked it for lunch (not crazy about raw salmon) and I felt GREAT afterwards. After I had the salmon my body absorbed whatever it was needing from it and I wasn't drawn to eat salmon again until a couple weeks or later.

The most exciting thing about eating like this is that I really feel like I can tune into my body's needs and address them easily and directly. And once my body's needs are addressed there is balance. When I was eating a more "normal" diet I'd find that I ate the same kinds of things all the time as a habit. Two eggs in the morning, the same snacks throughout the day, rotating around the same entrees for lunch and dinner. But I often had that "never quite satisfied" feeling. Now that my body has had time to clean out, my cravings and patterns have ended as well. Finally I can hear what my body is asking for very clearly. And it's such a pleasure to give it what it needs. I'm satisfied most of the time. I don't crave anything consistently. I don't crave sweets or unnecessary carbs and I don't have ANY blood sugar swings AT ALL. I can get up in the morning and have a half a cucumber or avocado or apple (or nothing) and some green tea and go work-out for a while and do some errands etc. and if I can't get to lunch till the early or middle afternoon then I'm just pretty hungry. But I'm NOT crashing or "crazy hungry" and feeling desperate. It's a much smoother more balanced ride.

One of the best things about this diet, besides feeling extremely tuned into my body's needs, is that it is so very simple. I don't crave complicated raw cuisine that imitates "regular" good. I'm completely happy with the basics. I started to really enjoy eating a single vegetable or fruit for a meal or snack. I just found out (after doing it for a while) that this is called eating "mono meals". "Mono Meals" are when you eat just one type of food at a time as a meal and then wait at least a couple hours before eating something else. The advantages to this are (1) your body can digest your mono meal with greater ease and efficiency, (2) It's very clear if your body is reacting positively or negatively to the food you just ate, and (3) your body can give you a clear signal of when you've had enough of that particular food and it's specific vitamins and nutrients and you simply stop eating it. As simple as this may sound it is actually very profound. With the complexity of the food industry today and how much stress we place on our bodies to digest highly processed, modified and often toxic foods, it's no surprise that there's been such a major increase in cancers, auto- immune diseases and relatively recent developmental disorders such as Autism. The physical AND mental/emotional clarity derived from eating healthy raw foods and mono meals is very real, tangible, liberating and healing.

Just in case you're interested here's a list of what foods I'm currently enjoying pretty regularly (in no specific order):


Red Onion
Red Peppers
Yellow Peppers
Blue Berries
Apple Bananas
Pine Nuts
Almond Butter
Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds
Peppermint leaves

Plus occasionally (once or twice over the last two months) I've had some slightly cooked green beans and beets, a salmon fillet and even had a little bit of humus. And as I already mentioned, I occasional enjoy some raw fish or sushi. There are also some great raw trail-mixes and granolas available using only raw sprouted grains and seeds with some raw cacao or raw cacao nibs and goji berries, mulberries and golden berries. Yum!!!!

Anyway, I wanted to share all this with you just because it has been so eye-opening to me and has really changed my life. I don't know how long I will do this for and don't really have a plan or agenda. I only hope to keep using my intuition to be able to provide my body with what it needs to stay healthy and balanced and I hope to become even more conscious of my relationship with my body and all that Mother Earth has to offer to heal it and give it balance.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to have learned everything I've learned recently and hope that you've benefited in some way from reading this. It's really been wonderful to simplify my diet and get closer to really understanding my body and to lose a little weight as well. But mostly, I find that eating this way has also brought me closer to my essential Self and made it more possible for me to be present in the moment in a clearer and cleaner way. Because I'm using less energy to process challenging foods and have been giving my body cleaner more vibrant fuel, my world and perception is cleaner and more vibrant as well. My mind is clearer. I feel more open and present emotionally. And I've got tons of energy. And that's VERY cool!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life IS a miracle!

We hear the term "miracle" used in a variety of contexts, mostly religious, spiritual or new thought. We often think of "miracles" as the "impossible" or the "unbelievable" or extremely "unlikely". But I believe and know, that when one is truly present, when we are free of (or can see between the cracks of) the layers of protection and numbness that's accumulated since we were children, that miracles exist all day, every day, and that true perception includes the awareness and experience of the miraculous with every breath, and every step, in every moment.

In the last year or two something unexpected has happened to me. A change in my awareness, in the way that I perceive and experience my life has been consistently and sometimes not so subtly unfolding. Most of it is based on (and seems to get amplified in) my experience of the Natural World or Nature. I just read today that Eckhart Tolle often says that "nature is a portal to presence". I couldn't agree more!!! I feel like I'm learning to experience life, my environment, nature, with an added "sense" that I haven't had before. A sense that has more to do with being in intimate relationship with the larger natural world and Universe. It sometimes feels like a kind of "download" from a greater reality. A download that can't really be perceived by the mind, but instead experienced by my entire being in way that my mind isn't capable of comprehending. It's like a full body, full sensory state of being that includes my mind but is centered in my heart or my soul. The experience is not linear or dualistic, and it's not thought driven or rationally explainable.

What I'm trying to convey cannot be created by the mind and cannot take place while the mind is operating in a "thinking" and "reasoning" capacity. So being able to calm or bypass the mind is a valuable tool. Meditation and Nature can help with this a great deal. I'm not new to this path. For several decades I've been exploring various tools, resources and practices to clear my self of old "baggage", connect to my essential self and get "present". Nature is a living, thriving energy with "no mind", purely essence and expression of presence. And when I'm in nature, especially some place that I love, it's easier for me sense to what degree I am being present and then use my mind (and heart and body) to help me evaluate and release what is keeping me from being more fully present. I KNOW what it feels like to be fully present in nature, therefore I can tell when I'm not. And when I'm not, there's always some thought, feeling, obstacle, unclarity, blocked emotion, limiting thought, perception or fear, that is keeping me from a full experience of the present moment.

I've always had a strong bond and appreciation for nature's beauty, peace and healing powers. But these new experiences are so much more than this. It's as if a veil of numbness or blindness is being lifted and I'm becoming more aware of how amazing and unexplainable "existence" is. My initial openings seemed to be connected to the sun and clouds. I literally felt called to the sunsets, to go to the oceans edge and gaze at the sun quietly with my full attention. At first it was surprising. I'd be driving and look over at the sunset and then I'd look again, and there it was, the sun was "calling" me. I felt like it was actually "seeing" me. There was mutual recognition (as crazy as that may sound). It totally felt like it was reaching out to me, giving me energy and nurturance and even imparting some kind of non-linear, non-mind information. Then the clouds started to seem so much more rich and full and "present" as well. I could perceive and experience their form and mass in a total way, like I was having a physical experience in my body of the clouds size, density and movement. They started to become "alive" and again, like the sun . . . communicative in a way that I had never experienced before. In placing my full attention on all the layers of clouds in the sky and watch their movements in various directions at once and dissolving and manifesting I felt like I was learning something unexplainable. Like I was resetting my perception to include all directions at once with multiple layers and depth, comparing it to linear and dualistic perception is like watching black & white television rather than looking out at real life. I started going to the beach about a half hour before the sunset. My excitement began to build. I realized that sometimes it took me a while to let go of my more limited reality and experience the larger, "real" world I had just discovered. So, I started heading to the beach about an hour or more before the sunset, then started lingering longer afterwards into the dark night sky and stars and moon. Then I started doing it in the mornings as well. I wake up between 4:30 and 5:30 everyday and prepare for my morning encounter with the miraculous. Now I spend 2 - 3 hours a day sitting at the oceans edge, sometimes in meditation and sometimes just being present with all that I see and feel.

Obviously you don't need to live near the ocean to do this. Just to be somewhere in nature that makes you feel good and connected will do. The stronger the integrity and presence of nature the easier it is to connect. The Natural World is the most true and essential manifestation of life. From a place of presence in your being you will experience it as a miracle. From a present place within you feel the wind against your skin, or the ocean rising and falling, the earth or sand beneath your feet and the life giving energy of the sun (from 93 million miles away), all completely different elements unifying together to create "life". It IS absolutely amazing. When you become truly present everything becomes a miracle. Life is an amazing experience of movement and stillness and color and sound and form and space in a way that is truly beyond comprehension. Our breath, our hearts beating, our awareness of self and others . . . all feel miraculous when experienced free of all the thoughts, distractions, resistances and attachments. I know, it's one thing to read about it and think about, but to "drop into" the experience with your self is totally and completely awe-inspiring and life altering.

I found that my expectations and desire for this experience were actually in the way of my having one. That there was no way to "create" the experience myself or control it in any way. The only thing that would help was to be present in as deep a way possible with my Self. To really "be" with my Self. Sometimes I'd have to release the stress I was holding by acknowledging to myself that I was holding it and letting myself feel it and dissolve it. Sometimes, I'd have to be aware that my mind was just "running" me with thoughts and ideas. Good thoughts, bad thoughts, whatever. "I" was too identified with my thoughts, my day, my interpretation of people and events. Even after removing layers and layers of "stuff" I'd have to surrender to the experience of what "is". Full surrender into the moment unconditionally without any expectation or desire. Not an easy task sometimes. Sometimes I'd sit there for two hours and just "drop-in" the last 10 minutes. Sometimes not at all. And sometimes I'd be able to let go and really show up almost immediately. Certainly years of practice of various forms of self discovery and emotional processing help to work with and dissolve layers of thought or feeling that is old and keeps me from being in the moment. AND I really think that there has been a major shift in what's available to us these last few years. I really feel that the present experience of the Universe or God is more accessible, tangible and present than ever before. I've heard it said that what was once available only to a select few is now available and WILL be experienced by everyone. Or . . . perhaps I'm just losing my mind? I love the phrase about losing your mind and coming to your senses. Or references to "unreasonable happiness". It touches upon the unexplainable brilliance of the present moment.

We are raised in this culture to experience life with our minds. To make comparisons and judgements and think in a linear, logical and dualistic fashion. We learned to separate, categorize, isolate and protect. I think it's essential that we grow beyond that old paradigm of reasoning. I think it's a paradigm that isn't useful any more. Victorian concepts of society, psychology and value are only a couple hundred years old. We barely discovered electricity a few seconds ago and for some reason we think we know about life and existence. It's what we think we know that keeps us from being in the present moment. We think that because we can name "water" and know a few things about it that it is something that we understand. Or gravity, or even the seed of life. Just because we can manipulate things we try and take credit for creating them. When you look at the world, the solar system, the sun, planets moving through space with clear eyes, with eyes of innocence and presence, then none of it makes sense. It's all beautiful wonderment. None of the things that we take for granted every day of our lives makes any real sense at all. But we accept it (or live in denial of the fact that it doesn't really make sense) and go about trying to do things that we CAN control and that do make sense. But for me, I think that "unknowing" is where it's at. Maybe that's just because I'm an artist, but I don't think so. I think we can all benefit from asking ourselves . . . what do we really know?

Here we are in bodies that last for a duration of many decades that grow from a small cell into full adults. We live on a large ball that we perceive as flat that is turning at about a 1,000 miles per hour while moving through space at over 67,000 miles per hour revolving around a sun that is also moving at over a half million miles per hour around the Milky Way Galaxy which takes over 200 million years to accomplish. But we don't really perceive any of this. We drive in our cars, go to work, movies, think about our careers and relationships, what's for dinner, etc. We think it's all important stuff. And we think we know a lot about life and living etc. What I find helps me to get present is to think about the larger picture. To think about and practice true perception and awareness of what "reality" really is. What truly exists in this moment. And as a musician I am always listening. I'm listening to the sound of the moment. The voice of life that pulsates and cries out in creative presence every second. We are alive and live in this unexplainable manifestation of the creative expression of the Universe (of God). We are a manifestation of the creative expression of the Universe (of God). There's nothing casual, normal, rational or understandable about it. Really . . . . there isn't.

Yes, life IS a miracle.