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Archive for November, 2009

Raw Chef Panel Q2: The Raw Journey

Q. How long have you been raw? What percentage raw were you in the beginning of your raw journey? If you were 100%, how long did that last? What percentage are you now? And, finally, if you do eat cooked foods, what cooked foods do you eat?

A. I have lived a raw food lifestyle since 2004. I have been interested in nutrition my entire life. I grew up loving to cook and spending time in the kitchen. Creating recipes and wooing guests with my cuisine has been my greatest passion in life. Working with food is like a working meditation. It is my solace, my love, an expression of my inner beauty, my artistic self, my true being. I love food, and more importantly, I love food that heals and nurtures the body not only on a physically level but on a deep soul level. Raw foods do that.

In 2004, I was visiting my sister, Tanith, in Portland, Oregon for a weekend, and while in her home, I found a cookbook. It was Rawsome by Brigitte Mars. I had never before heard of a raw food diet. When I picked up this book, I was immediately entranced by its content. It promised a new way of eating that offered amazing health and beauty benefits. Being that I am the type to devour any nutritional book or cookbook I can get my hands on, I spent the rest of that weekend in Portland gobbling up every word on every page. I was instantly hooked. When I returned home, I sought out every book I could find on the topic. I started with Juliano’s book, Raw: The Uncook Book: New Vegetarian Food for Life and dove right in. I was immediately discouraged by the complexity of the recipes. Transitioning from a cooked food diet, I craved heavy meals. The vibrant pictures and recipes in his book allured me, but I realized that if I wanted something as simple as a sandwich that it would take several days to make it. The grains had to be soaked and sprouted for a few days, mixed into a batter and dehydrated for two or so more days to make the bread alone. My growling stomach and my impatience sent me right to the grocer for raw nuts, seeds, nut butters and dried fruit. These items were filling and easy to attain. At the end of my first week raw, I could proudly protest that I was indeed 100% raw, but I felt toxic. I could withstand this way of eating for about two weeks before I would delve back into my tried and true cooked foods.

One weekend while visiting Mendocino, California, I stumbled across Living Light Culinary Art Institute in Fort Bragg. They were advertising the first annual Vibrant Living  Expo. I was amazed at this find. I bought tickets for the entire event and immersed myself fully into all the information and enthusiasm offered by the inspirational speakers and vendors. It was there that I saw Victoria Boutenko speak for the first time. Her philosophy on the importance of greens changed my life. I realized that I was missing green leafy vegetables in my diet. This was the golden key to my success. I went right home and invested in a VitaMix, a high powered blender equipped to purify the tough fibers of sturdy leaves like kale and collard greens. Adding green smoothies and large kale salads into my diet balanced me, allotting me energy and happiness on a level I had yet to experience with any cooked food diet. Once I discovered that raw foods were then vitalizing and sustainable for me, I enrolled in Living Light. I trained as a raw food chef. This was what I had been waiting for all my life. I was able to finally integrate my love of the culinary arts with nutrition. I fell in love with raw foods.

Before I could professionally endorse this radical diet, I wanted to know, first hand, what raw foods truly had to offer. There is an enormous amount of testimonial on the internet, claiming impeccable health, age defying and mood enhancing results. I had to follow this diet 100% and discover it for myself. I decided to commit and follow a strict raw food diet for three months. I kept a daily journal during the entire experience. I even had my blood work done before and after the three month period to scientifically see my physical results. I was curious.

Those three months were amazing. I discovered what all raw foodies had already known. I needed far less sleep. My sleep requirement went from 8-10 hours a night to only 4-6 hours. I had more energy than I ever had in my life. This was great, because it meant that those extra waking hours were productive. I wasn’t just sitting around, lounging in front of the television late into the night. I was getting things done and happily so. I was highly motivated. My mood increased considerably. I would often laugh for no reason or break into a happy dance while drinking my morning green juice. I felt clean, pure, wild and awake. My stress level decreased. I felt more connected to everything around me. I felt more whole and apart of the bigger picture. I believe this is why stress could no longer exist within my psyche. How could it? Usually, the things that stress one don’t even exist. They are fears and negative anticipations. They are small compared to what truly exists in this world, physically and spiritually. I could clearly see my place within the fabric of my earthly existence. I play a small yet significant role. I am interwoven with everything else, matter and energy. How could I feel stress over a man-conceived situation or materialism? I simply couldn’t any longer. I was blissful. I was also exceedingly healthy. I have never had a strong physical constitution, but that winter I didn’t get sick once. I shared space with clients and loved ones who suffered from common colds and flues, yet I never once fell ill. I felt super human. I loved the way I felt. I also loved the way I smelled. I lost my body odor and the need for deodorants. My body became sweet and pure. By month three, my third eye opened. I began to have physic notions. I could sense things would happen before they did. Small synchronicities would occur that would cause pause; I was amazed by my increased “knowing.” I was raw and awake.

I faced challenges. My social life got in the way of me staying 100% raw after the three month commitment came to a close. I found I had anxiety about dinners or lunches out with friends. In the beginning, I would isolate myself, becoming antisocial. However, after the three months ended, I succumbed to social invitation and began to incorporate cooked foods back into my diet. Sadly, once I did this, all those amazing benefits I mentioned above dissipated. I swung back and forth from being 100% raw to being a naughty cooked foodie. Being the perfectionist that I was caused me to struggle, for I turned myself into a gastronomic yoyo. In retrospect, I realize that had I just allowed myself to eat cooked foods once and a while, I would have handled transitioning into a raw diet far better than I did. I was unforgiving with myself; I was strict and inflexible. I was an all-or-nothing kinda girl, so I was either 100% on or I was very off.

Now my attitude around food is much healthier. I choose to eat 100% raw when I can, which is the majority of the time; I love the way it makes me feel on every level. If there are times I need to eat cooked foods, I do. I no longer beat myself up about it. I no longer feel shame, failure or anxiety around my food choices. Left to my own accord, I am a 100% raw foodie. When I am in a traditional social situation, when I am with family or if I am in a restaurant, I eat cooked foods. I savor my choices; however, I do pay the price for the experience after the fact. Cooked foods are simply not as clean as raw foods, so I often wake the next morning with puffy, watery eyes, dry skin and a runny nose, feeling dehydrated, sluggish with low energy. One could ask why I put myself through all that for a single cooked meal; however, just as I am with the nut-laden raw desserts I occasionally order, I am highly conscious of my food choices. Waking up once and a while feeling unwell is far healthier for me emotionally and spiritually then suffering from anxiety over my social life or from closing myself off from my family and friends in an effort to obsessively encapsulate myself in a rigid raw lifestyle. The latter is far more difficult for me to overcome.

When I do eat cooked foods, I keep it clean and, for the most part, vegan. I will, infrequently, have a little cheese, but, in all honesty, I am not interested in supporting the inhumane and irresponsible dairy industry. In addition, the dairy itself congests me dearly. I always feel terrible, experiencing cold-like symptoms after eating it. I will also eat fish occasionally, but the energy I feel from eating a once-living being causes ill-ease within me. I do ingest negative energy when I eat dead seafood. I am aware of this. I am reporting now that I eat a little fish, but I know this will change. My diet is an evolution. I see myself moving away from seafood completely at some point. It could be as soon as tomorrow or it could be months from now. It is unknown how my palate and my heart will change. My diet evolves in direct proportion to my spiritual work. The higher my consciousness, the lower on the food chain I wish to eat. I am sensitive to the energies of life. I eat no other meats of any kind. I simply respect animals and birds far too much to do this. The longer I am raw, the more sensitive I am to all living beings. The more I develop spiritually and the more Reiki I practice, the cleaner my diet becomes. This is an effortless and natural progression. My physical and spiritual self is intertwined; there is no denying this, no separating it. As I continue on my raw path, I spiral into higher levels of consciousness.

Clean, whole, vegan foods transform the body into a conduit for higher energy. Meat and dairy products not only numb the body from spirit, but they support a destructive and cruel industry. At this point in my life, I chose to eat for my health and my spiritual elevation. The only cooked foods that I truly enjoy are steamed vegetables, which I can handle with no ill-affects. I can eat root vegetables like yams and winter squash as well as steamed green vegetables like artichoke, broccoli and asparagus. I will also, occasionally, eat miso soup or a light pasta. I eat these foods sparingly, and I always eat mindfully. Raw foods are my absolute preference, for they naturally enlighten my body and my soul on more levels than I am even aware. They are brilliant. And, I am brilliant when I eat them.

I honor life; I honor Mother Earth, and I honor myself through my food choices. Eating raw vegan foods, I thrive.

Happy All Hallows Day

I love fall. I don’t know if it’s because my birthday lands on the autumn equinox, appointing me the autumn ambassador, but I simply love fall. Come October, Sonoma County is graced with wispy, low, early morning fog, headless horseman weather. Through the feathered haze, one can see orange globes, the jewels of the pumpkin patches, dotted across the earth, waiting to be plucked and carved. Clear, blue skies adorn the afternoons, crisply kissing my cheeks. I am reminded winter is around the corner, for the temperature sinks, inspiring me to cuddle up, seeking warmth. The trees shimmer in amber, gold and crimson. They shutter, and it snows dried leaves, littering lawns and streets. Fireplaces are filled; wood is lit, infusing night air with a forest spice. I inhale the nostalgia. The promise of the nearing holidays sooth my soul on a primitive level. I am still that child that loves to dress up for Hallows Eve. I want to be thrilled, chilled and tempted by mystery and sweet treats.

Halloween crept up and rested on a Saturday this year. I spent the day puttering around the house, allowing my domestic whims and the day’s hours to sweep me into early evening.

There is something so pure about a woman who toils in the home, polishing and primping her sanctuary, her nest. She is considered plain to the metropolitan eye. No make-up, hair pulled back, barefoot, wearing jeans and a thin t-shirt, she is dressed perfectly for the occasion. If she finds her work fulfilling, as I do, she glows. She is beautiful in her simplicity, hiding nothing, fanning her true colors like a rainbow across the sky. Her spirit is expansive, and her home fills with her heart. Anyone who walks in will feel it, smell it and be nurtured by it. This was me on Hallows Eve before my witching hour.

Before Picture on Hallow's Eve

Before Picture on Hallow’s Eve

This is me on any given homey afternoon. But, Saturday, October 31, was no ordinary afternoon. Knowing I would go out to see what haunts the holiday had in store, I began my meticulous transformation. I love dressing up, impersonating a fantasy. This year I pieced my costume together partly from my own closet and partly from my Halloween costume collection. I was unsure the outcome; but, I was sure if I followed my soul’s desires, I would create a look that I would find enchanting. I was inspired by a black Parisian gown, my new bindi and a recent interest to decorate myself in henna. The result- I evolved into a French fortune teller named Madame Crystal.

Madame Crystal

Madame Crystal

The evening was visited by many characters. Tricksters and players wandered the darkness, giggling, admiring and delighting. I, myself, sunk deep into the night. The hours clicked by without notice. Before I realized, 3am snuck up and nipped at my ankles. It was time to wash off the evening energies, the thick, black eyeliner and crawl snuggly between my sheets. This little pumpkin head needed to rest.

7am rolled by and parked its carriage next to my bed, waiting to carry me away from slumber. I awoke, thinking how grateful I am that I am RAW. I imagined most of the witches and goblins of Hallows Eve arose to sugar or alcohol induced headaches and sleep filled eyes, but not I. I popped up and met All Saints Day as it greeted me in return with that early morning, low lingering fog I adore. The morning was quiet, for many of the city’s inhabitants were sleeping off the witchy spells of the preceding night. I rolled out of bed and up to my laptop, checking my email first thing. I received a message from We Like it Raw. In it was a link to a Youtube video of Tim Van Orden and Courtney Pool. I watched the 3 minute video titled Spirulina Salad with Courtney Pool. I was immediately motivated to spend my morning gobbling up greens, staining my teeth in an emerald brilliance. How ghoulish, I thought as I chuckled to myself, knowing that I would be one of the few in town who would awake on the morning after Halloween craving sprouts and algae.

The early hours ticked on. I never did get to that salad; though, it is on my list of recipes to make this week. Instead, I filled my morning with errands that kept me out of the kitchen. By 10am, hunger tugged at my stomach. My green salad craving needed attention, calling me into action. Remembering that Café Gratitude opens at 10am on Sundays, I pointed my car towards Healdsburg.

There is something so wonderful about having delicious raw foods made for me. Often, I am the one creating such dishes. When I have the opportunity to relish in such wholesome culinary offerings, I do so with pure graciousness and love. I ordered an entrée called, “I am Fulfilled,” a large salad chock full of greens, sprouts, tomato, cucumber, carrots, beets and avocado, tossed in a creamy, raw, vegan caesar dressing and garnished with a flax cracker.

I am Fulfilled

I am Fulfilled

I felt so at peace while I dined. I gave thanks for my life and the treasures within it. I blessed the season. I blessed the day, World Vegan Day. I blessed my food, and I blessed myself as I slowly ate. I giggled to myself as I enjoyed my abundant salad, thinking it was an odd breakfast choice for the average person. It was a breakfast of champions, a breakfast of raw girls like me. And, what do raw girls like me do after nibbling up a robust salad? Well, they order dessert, of course!

raw cacao hazelnut pie

raw cacao hazelnut pie

Featured here is Café Gratitude’s raw cacao hazelnut pie. It was divine. I can happily report, I have embraced autumn and the first festive holiday of the season without a single piece of commercial candy. Fresh raw desserts are my treat of choice. I sat in the restaurant, delighting in the raw chocolate goodness, grateful for its availability. Pure bliss was gobbed on the end of my fork; and as I slipped each bite of the rich chocolate between my lips, I could think of little more than how wonderful is life.

I love fall and everything it represents.

Cherish your life. Everything is a gift. Treasure it all. Honor your inner child. Play. Love. Celebrate.

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