reshaping the ordinary

dance artist, jivamukti yogini, raw foodie, doula and lover, traveling to perform, create and share my light with the world.

find your sangha, no hang-over necessary!

people often speak of falling off the wagon that shameful act of doing what you said you would not do (or conversely, not doing what you said you would do).  as yogi’s this line gets a bit blurry.  does success lie in doing all of your practices, all of the time, sitting in a cave alone? we set out with a lot of practices and protocols and if we fail to meet these self imposed expectations, then what?

despite popular belief yogis are not aiming towards monastic life of rule following and route living.  yogis are aiming for Enlightenment, for Samadhi, for our sādhanā (the wagon we hitch ourselves to) to lead us towards satchidananda—existence (sat), knowledge (chit) but really mostly bliss (ananda).

yesterday i was able to sit in on a lecture touching on the Bhagavad Gita with Pranotthan Yoga Teacher Devarshi. he asked the question, what are you afraid of. the responses were varied;

losing my job, being perceived as other than i am, my children being abused. . .

to each reply he posed a question;

why is that scary?

this question was most often met with a blank expression;

it just is, i don’t know, it’s a feeling, how can i answer that, because it is. . .

finally an answer emerged that everyone could agree with;

because i am not in control.

are daily practices just a way to feel in “control”? personally speaking, if i go a day or two without practicing (for me this is referring to mostly yoga asana, meditation and ballet) or if i eat cooked foods outside of my ordinary realm of eating, falling “off the wagon” i feel it in my body and mostly my mind. it is my thoughts that are most affected, almost as though there is something blocking my vision. my thoughts are muddled, i get headaches, feel lethargic and bothered.  my practices of being appreciative  and of helping others in every moment of Enlightenment, become more and more difficult. this feeling lasts for quite some time, much longer than the action that created this reaction.  according to Newton, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, falling off the wagon, is no different.

i’ve grown to think of straying from the path as a helpful tool in bringing an awareness and deeper understanding of WHY i have chosen this particular wagon to take down the path with me. when i stick to the practices i have found positive for me, i feel unbounded energy, joy and insight.  if you make your life your sādhanā (conscious spiritual practice working towards the awakening of cosmic consciousness). if you don’t stray from the path every once in a while you forget the potency of the path.

but there is a better way to be reminded! without the side affects of falling off the wagon.  the best way i have found, across the board to remember why i’m doing what i’m doing is by surrounding myself with like minded individuals!

to surround ourselves with like minded individuals, we don’t actually need to be in physical proximity. as mentioned in my previous blog what do you consume? the online groups, the movies we watch, even the blogs and books we read create our satsang, our community. if you need a good nudge along your path i recommend Simple Recipes for Joy more than just a cookbook, this book serves as an expression of how compassionate spiritual activism can be put to practical use. in the book Sharon Gannon shares insight on personal practice and walking the path of Enlightenment through compassion for all beings.

The most courageous act any of us can do at this time is to dare to care about others—other animals, the Earth, and all beings. To be more other-centered than self-centered is the first step to happiness. Choosing vegan ingredients and cooking them yourself with a pure intention will not only help you create tasty meals but will help you start your own radical movement of peaceful, joyful coexistence with all of life.

Sharon Gannon, adapted from the book, Simple Recipes for Joy, September 2014kindness

to note, when you pre-order the book, Sharon will generously include additional classes and teachings, all aimed to re-hitch that knot keeping you and your wagon happily connected!

when surrounded with others, i work towards bringing their existence towards knowledge and bliss (satchitananda), eventually, but inevitably this brings me closer as well.  one way i have created this satsang in my life is through the Vegan Power Hour, both an online presence and a group that meets weekly to eat together and discuss ethical vegetarianism, health and lifestyle. in hosting this group, i am submerged in questions from all sorts of perspectives. i invite you to join the discussion, from near or far. find ways to stay devoted, but take your practices (even the rigorous ones) less seriously. let them take themselves seriously! the fairies and the bees know, the only way to fly is to take yourself lightly. in the simple act of taking the time to talk about these issues, i find myself completely dedicated and inspired. find your sangha, no hang-over necessary!

 

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genetic identification

Chandogya Upanishad taught tat twam asi meaning, you are that.

you are what?

we are comprised of so many things:

  • you are your thoughts.
  • you are a result of your decisions.
  • you are the summation of your actions.
  • you are a mashup of all the souls you have ever encountered.

or

  • you are what you eat.

and clearly from my last posts we eat so much more than just food!

in the words of Ralph Waldo Emersoni cannot remember the books i’ve read any more than the meals i have eaten; even so, they have made me.

but even with that in due consideration, why do we eat what we eat?

as a child correct answers at school were rewarded with tootsie pops and hard candies. birthdays and other milestone events go hand in hand with cake. holidays are associated with rich heavy meals as the cornerstone to creating a “special” occasion. in this way we reinforce the perceived value and comfort of these foods. we entertain ourselves with food when we’re bored, we compromise quality of our food sources, of our lives, to accommodate the clutter of overbooked events and overstimulating iScreens, losing track of the circadian rhythms to fall into the Standard American Diet (SAD) and lifestyle. sinve i’ve gone raw, i actually had someone beg me to eat a doughnut at their birthday celebration saying please, eat it for me, its my birthday. what has happened that food, deeply processed foods, are such an integral part of our cultural climate. i did a google search of comfort food . . . check out the results. how are these items contributing to obesity, pollution, global warming, deforestation etc etc comforting to us?

we have to consider what consumption we were raised with, tv shows, living environment, lifestyle and of course tv dinners and happy meals that actually reward you with a toy for the way you are eating.  and in looking at what consumption we grew up with, this begs the question, how much of it is genetics. we can work to resolve karma’s, and change our diet, our actions. but is there a certain amount that is hard wired in us?

 please take a minute to check this video out, it is heartwarming, and difficult, but such a great reminder of how this plagues our society. Standard American Diet.

my mother was just with me for a few days visiting. there is so much of myself that i see when i gaze upon her. so much of her voice that i hear in my own opinions and views. and beneath that, so much of her personality in how i organically react in different situations.

at around the same time, my mother and my second aunt (her cousin), were told they had all the pre-diabetic signs and needed to do a major overhaul regarding both food and exercise habits or they would be getting progressively more and more ill. my aunts reaction was oh, diet and exercise works for some people, but not me. my mother, with similar news reacted the opposite way; drastically changing what she ate, did, and how she lived.

my mother went on a sugar free, nearly grain free, heavy on the turmeric simple foods diet. her intake is quite different from my own choice of raw fruits and veggies. but holds many similar tenants and facets, and the similarity lies in our approach. yet despite the changes, there are things she is up against inherently, just from the pool gene she was given.  the same pool i was then born into. even after 16 months of nearly completely pure raw living, tendencies are slow to go.

i’ve found that patience and time are the key for any changes. as my guru Sharon Padmaji Gannon teaches, joyfully sit with something again and again. each time will bring fresh perspective, give in to the repetition and through this again and again, a gain is made. slowly, but inevitably, i am finding even the seemingly “hard wired” patterns in myself can change, be they sugar addictions, trigger responses or thought patters we change over time like the shape of an iceberg. for now, i work towards steadiness and joy for all sentient beings.

through repetition, magic is forced to arise.

Sharon Gannon

a glimpse

so to answer the question what do you eat, as i discussed in my last post, i can’t just talk about food, what we eat is who we surround ourselves with, what we read, what we watch on TV. so, to answer this question, i’ll share a glimpse at a day in the life.

beginning with the breath, a clean slate, a clear dance floor.

each day is not ideal, some days it’s more of a gravitational battle to get out of bed, some days i work 8am-7:30pm and just can not manage to fit in all of my self care practices. yet some days kundalini is high and all is smooth. here is a glimpse at a pretty typical day, this was my day yesterday .

6:27 my alarm sounds “good morning starshine” i snake around in my bed, slowly easing my systems back in to this plane of reality, sliding out of the bed and thinking through my internal gratitude list. actively reminding myself of all that i have to be grateful for and silently giving thanks. it’s not always so smooth, but always meaningful.

my first contact to the earth has been heavy these days, like a sloth, i suprise myself with the weight, as through most of the day i am airy, and i reach over for the coconut oil.

my first protocol of the morning is oil pulling. i started pulling over a year ago, and do it pretty much every day. i use coconut oil, as i understand it has all the benefits of sesame but also antiseptic qualities. and i pull for 20 minutes, usually while getting dressed, organized and ready for the day. this often includes performing the Jivamukti Magic Ten, using eft to decide what to wear, and always always, putting on my selfic piece from Damanhur the blue mascara and pikake oil that i have been wearing since my early childhood years. after that i brush my teeth, scrape my tongue.

as an aside, i never thought of the word protocol until i began listening to extreme health radio, which is often informative, if frustrating, they host amazing guest speakers and implant innovative ideas. protocol is such a funny word and an interesting way for me to consider the activities in my life. i’ve found placing value on activities helps, organizing and setting aside time for everything i want to fit in.

your life is as valuable as you make it.

7:02 i head to practice. i try to get some movement in prior to breaking my fast {breakfast is meant to be just that, breaking a fast, which is why i try not to eat after 8pm.} my days are so varied so i’ll go with today, i did a ballet practice. living in community i do not have access to many technique classes, but i keep myself on point {en pointe} with at least barre if not more as often as possible. at omega there is a studio in the woods called hillhouse it is perfection. derelict and moldy, but loved, spacious and with windows overlooking the woods, this building tops my gratitude list every time.

8:15 romp through the forest to breakfast. most days i eat a green shake for breakfast. my shakes tend to overwhelm the average smoothie drinker, with inspiration from the wisdom of David Wolfe‘s “live it” philosophy i tend to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. i  harvest as many  usually i’ll eat outside with good company. today it was a darling devoted yogi friend and student. because i eat mostly raw whole foods, i don’t need as much time to digest, and after eating am pretty much ready to go for the next activity. today i walked with my friend for a while, he had a stuffed nose and we got him organized with a neti pot so he could practice jala neti.

10:00 lakeside yoga practice. following the 14 points of Jivamukti often with a podcast or recorded class from Padmaji Sharon Gannon and David Life. often followed by good conversation down by the lake. today it was with my darling fleeting fairy friend the guard of lives. practice is transcendental for me.

12:00 teach. one of my co-workers arranged a weekly lunchtime yoga dojo a 60 minute time for practice in the middle of the day. it was an honor to be asked to share in the dojo and i taught the Jivamukti Spiritual Warrior class

A brisk, guided, led vinyasa class. The class offers a well-rounded practice as a set sequence that includes a warm-up, the setting of an elevated intention, chanting, surya namaskar, standing asanas, twists, balances, backward bending, forward bending and inversions, as well as meditation and relaxation, designed to be completed in one hour.

13:00 lunch. today a green salad. followed by fruit. i’m finding as a raw vegan that fruit is my mainstay, particularly grapefruits and bananas. nuts, and seeds, are great in moderation. but i’m finding too much reliance on those foods leaves me feeling less than happy.

14:00 arrive at work. i am working at the Omega Institute in upstate New York at the Wellness Center.  i am a reservationist or party planner and my job requires sitting at the desk ready for walk in and phone in guests.  mostly this is a solo job, but points of connection are everywhere. in my shift i find time for decompressing with co-workers, allowing angry or triggering customers to act as teachers and tools for self study, strengthening my communication and listening skills. i am forever grateful that my current role at Omega also affords me time to work on personal study (i’m learning sanskrit, deepening my knowledge of holistic nutrition, developing class curriculum and organizing classes/events as well as writing, reading, and generally organizing the goings on of this rawesome and busy life. 

at some point in my shift there is a dinner break, meal breaks on shift are short, too short for me as i take so much time for food preparation, but recently i have been making banana ice cream for dinner and eating it with field greens creating a sort of raw vegan ice-cream wrap.  i’ll write more about this delicious nutritious meal option at a later date.

20:30 get off work. munch on a grapefruit and, as i’ve miraculously managed to fit in my dance, yoga and meditation practice in for the day the night is free to spend with friends, depending on the day of the week, different events; kirtan on thursdays, reiki sessions wednesdays.  today it was the full moon gathering at COSM Alex Grey and Allyson Grey’s art church. with live art being created inside along with the entire house exhibit of Alex and Allyson’s work.  dancefloors and dj’s a huge bonfire and various tents and spaces for yoga, fire spinning, cuddles, and recreating. as a dancer, i just want to dance and find the environment of young adults expanding their consciousness to be the perfect venue. bouncing from friend to friend, deep discussion to joyful dance, this is the perfect end to a beautiful day.

as the sober representative of the group, munching on an apple i drove 14 of my dear friends home (in a 15 passenger van) and was in bed by 3:30am, all to repeat step 1 at 6:27.

so, in sum, today i ate; a green shake, a banana, 2 apples, a green salad, 2 grapefruits and banana-ice-cream. but really i ate in so much more.

living in sweet abundant bliss (which often requires rigorous work, but if the goal is lofty, we must be willing to work hard to get there).

what do you consume?

almost daily it seems people ask me what i eat as a raw vegan.

generally, they are referring of course to food, and as an vegan activist, environmentalist and holistic health coach i am driven to answer those questions, to communicate all that is possible and inspire positive change.

so i set out to create this blog assuming a day in the life of a raw vegan . . . would be the focal point for my first post. yet i found, in trying to put it in to words, what i consume on a daily basis that it consists of so much more than just my super foods, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds. writing this out proved to be a bigger task than i imagined.

what i consume is so much more than just food.

in Jivamukti Yoga the month of july has been focused on Sex, Death, Sleep, Love, Magic and Pratyahara. the term pratyahara is composed of two Sanskrit words, prati and ahara. prati here translates as against and ahara literally means food, but this term for food in Sanskrit this can be taken to mean anything we take in to ourselves from the outside.

i love this view on food being all that we take in. i had the opportunity to sit with Daniel Rechtschaffen last night, and he pointed out that education is often seen as cramming knowledge in. but the fascinating component, is pulling out what is already inside.

looking “in-to-it” or intuit

combined the term pratyahara is usually translated as “withdrawal from the senses,” allowing space for internal knowledge to emerge. by quieting, or controlling the senses, energy, actions and mind we are able to achieve a heightened state of health. what we eat, is all that we surround ourselves with, through those we interact with, our environmental situations, the music we listen to, the tv we watch, even through what we read create impressions on our being.

ancient Indian practices of Ayurveda recognize that the inappropriate use of the senses as one of the main causes of disease. all mental disease is connected with the intake of unwholesome impressions. turning inwards, therefore is an important first step in treating all mental disorders. similarly it is very helpful in treating nervous system disorders, particularly those that arise through hyperactivity. most of the time we overly express our emotions, which loses tremendous energy. Pratyahara teaches us to hold our energy within and not disperse it unnecessarily. this conserved energy can be drawn upon for creative, spiritual or healing purposes as needed and can provide the extra power to do the things that are really important to us.

physical disease mainly arises from taking in unwholesome food. Pratyahara affords us control of the senses so that we do not crave wrong food. when the senses are controlled, everything is controlled and no wrong or artificial cravings can arise. through proper use of the senses as one of the most important factors in right living and disease prevention.

while focusing on nourishing my body, i recognize i must also nourish my mind and soul. my daily consumption is a deep and full practice that begins upon awaking. each moment leaves imprints and my aim, in the “food” i eat and the situations i place myself in all aim (not to say they all succeed) towards my happiness and freedom, which leads to the happiness and freedom of those around you and eventually but inevitably leads to the happiness and freedom for all.