Monday, November 29, 2010

Raw Food and the Afterlife - Does Heaven Exist?

Clients always ask me about the various nuances of raw food - should I eat this? should I soak that? etc.  Ninety nine percent of the time my answer is "Look at nature and see what it does".  Nature answers a multitude of questions. Humans are the only species that have lost touch with the instinctual nature of our existence.  Wild life doesn't question what and when to eat.  It intuitively selects the correct foods at the correct times.  Wild life (including plants) seem to also except the various stages of life without question.

I've never been a particularly religious person as my free spirited Sagittarius nature makes it very difficult for me to work within the constraints of any one dogma.  Instead I find an appreciation for the ideologies of many different "religious figures".  I recently saw an author, David Kessler, being interviewed by Soledad O'Brien about his new book Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms.  Mr. Kessler has spent a lifetime working in hospice and other critical care/end of life settings.  He began to notice some very distinctive patterns of experiences people have when "crossing over".  Kessler reached out to other doctors and nurses working in these settings and began to compile accounts of their experiences with these patients.  The similarities are amazing yielding three clearly defined events which seem to universally occur in the days and moments leading up to death regardless of religion (or lack there of), ethnicity, age, location, income, status, or whether they were on medications or not. Universally people experienced visions of previously passed loved one coming to get them, the need to pack or prepared for a trip, and illusions of entering joyous crowded rooms. Stories from people who almost crossed were also captured. The accounts relayed in the book are interesting, touching, and comforting.  An added point, no one reported accounts of people seeing fiery pits or demons (this isn't discussed in the book but was asked by Soledad during the interview).  Like other medical phenomenons, many doctors are reluctant to give acknowledgement or give credence to these occurrences and those who came forward in the book indicated that this is medicines "dirty little secret".  It commonly occurs but no one wants to provide true recognition for fear of being labeled a "crazy doctor". What is happening cannot be scientifically proven so it is dismissed. The bottom line is that it we need to reframe how we think of birth and death.  Birth is not the definitive beginning and death is not the definitive end.  It appears that when we die we are just ending our chapter here and moving on to the next phase of "life" where we will continue our journey with the people we love.  One other interesting note, for people who saw a religious figure at the end of their "earth journey", the deity was always the one symbolized by their personal religion.  By giving credibility to what is going on, family could be better informed on what is happening and how to help their loved ones make the leap to the next phase. What happens most often is family members argue with a patient telling them that they can't go on a trip or that they are not really "seeing something".  The accounts relayed in which the family members understood these three "death commonalities" were interesting. For these people they were able to almost participate with the patient in these events and even experience a level of joy and their family member moved on to the next phase.

So, how does this relate to Raw Food?  As I indicated earlier, I look to nature to answer many of life's big questions.  Everything in nature is in a constant state of "birth", "death", and "renewal".  Nature seems to accept this process without question.  Composting is a great example. Although apples are not human they are definitely living, made up of cellular materials, and have a life cycle.  At the "end" of an apples life it biodegrades, re-enters the Earth (or energy force), and returns. The apple does not cease to be after it "dies".  In fact, this regeneration process is vital to the continued existence of everything.  All cellular and living matter undergoes this same processes.  At the core of everything, humans are cellular and living matter so why would our experience be anything different?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Costa Rica - Tips and Treasures

Our View
Hola!  I've been out of the blogging space for a bit as I was giving thanks and celebrating life in Costa Rica.  What a beautiful country.  This was my second trip to this eco-conscious, splendid gem in Central America.  As always, Costa Rica has left me breathless and taught me some wonderful life lessons.  As many of my readers know, I am constantly in a tug-of-war with my life's balance between what I do for a living and what I hold true as my core beliefs.  Visiting Costa Rica not only provided me with a relaxing vacation but a time to reflect on what is important and where my future should be.  Who wouldn't be able to find clarity and focus when this was the view every evening? More on my developing future in coming blogs...........How's that for a cliff hanger?
As I mentioned, Costa Rica is a special place so I wanted to take this blog and dedicate it to some of the wonderful business and people that you may be interested in should you decide to visit. The eco consciousness of the country is remarkable - recycling bins are common at bus stops and other areas of the cities where you would normally just see a trash can. The beaches are clean, the air is fresh, and their is a true respect for nature that can be felt by the locals.

I like to stay in the Guanacaste area on the Pacific side of the country.  We stay in Playa Hermosa which is a great little beach town offering good scuba diving but my future ventures will definitely settle further south into the Nicoya peninsula.  We travelled by car over many miles on unpaved roads down what would be equivalent to California's Pacific Coast Highway.  In between dodging cows, horses, and holes we were treated to unbelievable views of the Pacific Ocean.

As I grew up on the west coast I have
Nature, Pure, Untouched
seen the Pacific is all her glory from many great vantage points but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw in Costa Rica - unspoiled, uncrowded, natural, and pristine.

Urban Eclectic

We travelled down to Tamarindo. Tamarindo is a surfer, tourist town.  For travellers who don't want to be too remote, Tamarindo offers great restaurants, surf camps, and tons of shopping. In fact I came across a wonderful jewelry artist named Tricia.   A Los Angeles transplant, she creates really unique pieces that are one of a kind.  You can check out her stuff at   I wanted to buy everything in her store!

I was right at home with all the Californians in Tamarindo.  We had some great Cali-Rican food at Eat at Joe's.  Joe is a real guy who runs Witch's Rock Surf Camp. A common theme among the transplanted people I met all over Costa Rica, Joe came down to Costa Rica ten years ago, fell in love with it and move down from Cali.  They have the only surf camp in Tamarindo with accommodations on the beach.  I knew I was suppose to "Eat at Joes" when I saw that "parking was reserved for Chargers fans"!

We continued our drive from Tamarindo to Nosara to visit my friend Joy, her hunny Marco, and their beautiful new baby girl.  I met Joy when she was hosting a yoga/raw food retreat.  Her company, Inward Bound, is dedicated to providing retreats focusing on yoga, food, and awareness.  Whether you are looking for yoga, yoga/surf, yoga/surf/raw, raw cleanse, or any other combination of retreat look no further than Inward Bound.  Joy, true to her name, is a joyful yoga instructor and a wealth of knowledge in terms of nutrition, raw and otherwise.  Once you attend one of her retreats you will be spoiled for all others!!!  Joy has a wonderful way of sharing her gifts through yoga. It's hard to describe but she has such a calming and welcoming nature that is contagious. You'll feel like your are doing yoga and learning about raw food with friends rather than feeling the structure of a typical retreat.  When passing through Costa Rica also be sure to check out The Yoga House which Joy is involved in.  And, if you are looking to improve your espanol definitely check Nosara Spanish Institute run by our friend Marco.  Believe me, after visiting the Nosara area you will want to move so you'll need to know your Spanish!

Don't let anyone find out that the surf is off the chain in Playa Guiones!
Playa Guiones is one of the most gorgeous beaches and villages in the Nosara area. I hesitate to even advertise how great it is because I never want it to become crowded!!  A true raw paradise I was overwhelmed at the amount of raw offering in the area.  As we drove through, people were walking around with their yoga mats and sipping juice.  The whole village looked like a self contained retreat center!  One really cool place we ate at was The Harmony Hotel.  What a sacred space - from the restaurant to the gardens this place exhumed the definition of peacefulness. They offer more than just a hotel room. The boast a full menu of healing services including spa, massage, yoga, and more in an eco-friendly environment.

Heather conquering Rio Colorado
For adventure, we took part in white water kayaking on the Rio Colorado.  This was our second trip on the river and both times we use the outfitters through Haciendda Guachipeli.  There are amazing views all up and down the river.  It's hard to paddle because the scenery is so great you just want to look around!  The scuba diving is best if you are an experienced diver and can go out to some of the "rougher" seas to witness the whale sharks and the manta rays (who have a wing span of 20 feet!!).  My oldest daughter was diving with us so we chose shallower reef dives as this was her first big ocean dive experience.  Still beautiful we saw moray eels, eagle rays, tropical fish, lobsters, sea urchins, and lots of needle fish!

As our Costa Rica adventure came to an end we were sad to be leaving this incredible place and already formulating our plans to return and possibly buy a home there so we can go back whenever we need the renewing and healing power that CR offers. Pura Vida!

Heather diving at Los Meadows

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Veganism hits the elite!!

Heavy hitting politicians, movie types, and rock stars are finally getting on board with the wonderful world of veganism.  With Bill Clinton's recent CNN appearance and now a hard hitting article in Bloomberg Business Weekly, veganism is well on the way to mainstream acceptance.

The real question is what this translates into in terms of policy change.  Hopefully this will create political awareness around unethical, earth rapers such as Monsanto.  Below is a list of some of the fines Monsanto has had to pay in the past which are nothing compared to the price we are all going to pay in the future for their unscrupulous activities.
  • As recently as 2005, the Justice Department ordered Monsanto to pay a $1.5 million fine for bribing Indonesian officials in order to get its Bollgard cotton seeds approved without having to prove their environmental safety.
  • Monsanto's biggest individual fine to date was a $100 million settlement to the family of Wilbur Jack Skeen in 1986. The company was found to be negligent in exposing Mr. Skeen, a worker in the companies Texas plant, to benzene. The exposure eventually led to his death from leukemia.
  • Monsanto was one of the companies named in a $180 million suit for Vietnam War vets exposed to “Agent Orange”. Monsanto manufactured the herbicide from 1965 to 1969.
    The settlement did not include the 400,000 disabilities and deaths that the population of Vietnam suffered from the toxic herbicide.
  • In 1995, Monsanto was forced to pay a Texas Waste Management company $41.1 million for hazardous waste concerns.
  • In 1996, New York's Attorney General hit the company with a $50,000 fine for false advertising of its flagship pesticide Roundup. Claims in question included “Remember that environmentally friendly Roundup herbicide is biodegradable. It won't build up in the soil so you can use Roundup with confidence along customers' driveways, sidewalks and fences... ”
Additionally, will change come to our school lunch programs?  With the "high profilers" now recognizing the importance of a vegan and whole foods diet I hope that this translates into real change for our children.  These are stats from 2000 but still relevant:
  • 18.2% = The percentage of schools where nutrition specific staff worked with physical education staff on nutrition activities.
  • 2.1% of elementary schools, 6.7% of middle schools, and 24.0% of high schools  = Schools who sell deep-fried foods at lunch.
  • 22.8 minutes = The average time all kids in this country are given to eat lunch.
  • 32.7% of elementary schools, 71.3% of middle schools, and 89.4% of high schools = Schools who offer vending machines or a school store, canteen, or snack bar where students can purchase foods or beverages.
  • 30% = Schools who rarely, if ever offer a vegetable that’s NOT a potato.
  • 26.1% = Amount of school districts that prohibit using food as a reward.
  • 38.9% = School districts and states that DO prohibit junk food sold during breakfast and lunch.
  • 5.5% = States and districts that prohibit offering junk food at concession stands.
  • 18.9% = States and districts that prohibit offering junk food at school stores, canteens, or snack bars.
  • 11.8% states 57.1% districts = Amount of schools that are required to provide elementary schools students with regularly scheduled recess.
  • 6.6% = Amount of school districts requiring that schools make fruits or vegetables available to students whenever food was offered or sold.
  • 18.4% of states + 17.0% of districts = States and districts that require schools to offer healthful beverages such as bottled water or low-fat milk, whenever beverages were offered or sold.
  • 38.8% = Number of districts that require that schools implement food safety practices school wide.
  • 75.8% = Amount of districts that allow advertising for candy, fast food restaurants, or soft drinks on school property.
  • 11.7% of elementary schools, 19.0% of middle schools, and 23.5% of high schools = Amount of schools who offer fast foods from companies such as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, or Subway. This frankly could be worse, but fast food doesn’t belong in schools at all IMO.
  • 76.8% = Amount of high schools with access to soda pop or sugar-based fruit drinks in vending machines or elsewhere in the school.
So why all the hype lately?  The Bloomberg article offers these reasons, "It affords them the opportunity to control their own health with the same manic id with which they control everything else. Wynn says his new diet has allowed him to get off Lipitor. Clinton's diet made him a fashion darling at his daughter's wedding this summer. "It's probably a good thing in a CEO," says Freston about veganism. "At least they won't be toppling over like those McDonald's CEOs."   Whatever the reasons, only good can come of this!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Soup Weather

We are finally getting fall weather in the Carolina's.  It's during this time of year I feel my "raw resolve" being most tested.  Once there is crispness in the air I begin craving warm, earthy soups.  I made this Corn Soup - not exactly earthy, but yummy!!! -  at a recent seminar that I was teaching and it was a big hit.  I chose it for a demo due to it's simplicity and universal appeal.  As most of you know, if you leave your high speed blender running for a minute or two it will warm your soup. Just watch so that it doesn't heat up into the "kill zone" at around 118 degrees.  Enjoy!!

Corn Soup
2 servings

2 cups corn kernels
1 cup nut milk
1 tablespoons olive oil
3 green onions, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
cayenne, salt and pepper to taste

In a blender, blend half of the corn, nut milk and olive oil until smooth - keep it blending if you want to heat it up a bit. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse a few times to incorporate (you'll want it to remain "chunky").  Enjoy!