Aaaand I’m back!!!

Day 16 of my 30-day LightLiving simplifying-minimizing-decluttering challenge!

Lots of good stuff, clarity, new plans!


Today’s Five Releases:

1. Makeup brush

2. White Buddha tank

3. Green Ganesh tank

4. Basket I made

5. Vibrams with a hole in the soles

 

Keeps:

1. Red Buddha tank

2. Patagonia Geode necklace

(Going to focus more on the letting go as I’m planning to start traveling again – watch the video!)

Happy LightLiving!

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Just in case you don’t already know this, Satan exists.

And its current name is Monsanto.

I’m now in a place (emotionally and spiritually) where I can hear/read about Monsanto without having a nervous breakdown (as I did in January 2011, though I probably didn’t mention it to you as it was a small one).

Why am I talking about this depressing topic? Well, the ElephantJournal article “Monsanto: The Most Evil Company in the Universe” showed up in my twitter feed today.

And you know what? I was ready. I was ready to face it. I feel strong enough in myself at this moment that I knew I wouldn’t start crying or get utterly depressed. I was ready to shift on this topic.

Though I’ve tried to avoid it the past year or two, I was actually thinking about Monsanto around the time of my birthday last month. I am doing Creative Life Coaching sessions with Lakshmi (she’s amazing) and she mentioned that the topics that upset us most can show us where our passions lie, and hence the direction to move in in our lives – our purpose for being here on the planet on this go-’round.

I wrote the word “Monsanto” in my notes; at the end of our session I copy/pasted/Skyped my responses to her questions and exercises and sent them back to her.

Lakshmi lives in Portugal; much of Portugal is GMO-Free, and Lakshmi hadn’t heard of the corporation Monsanto.

So when she saw the word she thought I was talking about the Portuguese town of Monsanto – which I, on the other hand, had never heard of, but had seen a photo of once.

Here’s some crazy synchronicity:

This town Monsanto in Portugal is pretty much THE COOLEST PLACE I HAVE EVER SEEN.

 

Monsanto, Portugal

IT’S BUILD INTO/WITH BOULDERS!

!!!!!!!! HOW COOL IS THIS???

You don’t even understand. Aside from living in a tree house (see my post on how I Want To Live In a Tree Boat House – yes I made it up), living in boulders is pretty much my wet dream. I’ve loved rocks since I can remember,  I grew up bouldering in Southern California, and I have spent hours clamoring over and sprawled across boulders. I don’t really understand why, but I love boulders big time.

So when I saw how this heavy word, THE most upsetting word in the human language (for me anyways) could be shifted in an instant to something so unbelievably cool that I hadn’t even known had existed –

This gave me hope.

Hope that I could overcome the rage/fury/terror that would come up when I heard or saw the word Monsanto.

Because now I know a secret. That yes, Monsanto is a horrible evil life-threatening monster that is overrunning the globe and polluting nature with man’s hubristic fiddling (and the results of man’s hubristic fiddlings are never good; the Greeks knew that).

But now I know that when I think of Monsanto the horror, I can ALSO think of Monsanto the Magical. Monsanto the Magical Boulder Town, which I will someday visit, I sweartogod, if not possibly live.

I can’t wait to go. It’s like combining two of my favorite things, boulders and rooftops!!!

 

Anyways, what do we do when faced with the satanic behemoth monster that is called Monsanto, the one that helped make the nuclear bomb and agent orange and DMT and bovine growth hormone?

Here’s what we do:

1. We educate ourselves as to what vendors sell/products are made using Genetically Modified Organisms and we consciously choose to stop “feeding” them with our money energy (I’m sorry to tell you that Whole Foods surrendered to Monsanto back in 2011, hence my breakdown).
2. We learn to grow our own food.
3. We create local and independent seed banks to protect and share naturally-occurring heirloom seeds.
4. And we enjoy the f#@% out of our delicious, local, organic food.

 

And then, we all go visit Portugal.

I want to be Oliver Sacks.

January 26, 2013

“He reached into the pocket of his sports jacket and produced a Japanese fan – the first of several startling objects to emerge from there, so that I came to think of the coat as having magic pockets.”

It wasn’t that line from a Wired article that made me want to be Oliver Sacks. Well, like Oliver Sacks, really.

It’s that today I had the sudden impulse to begin simplifying and planing all of my food consumption. Like, scheduling exactly what I will eat and at what time. And as I was typing this schedule up, I remembered the quirky neurologist who eats the same thing. Every day. And has, for many years. 1/2 a gallon of soy milk, prune juice, sardines, tabbouleh, 7 apples, 7 oranges – “I am very greedy and impulsive, so I have to have a rule.” Strangely, though I listened to this story a few years ago, I actually had 7 apples, 7 pears on my newly organized weekly shopping list. (Just to clarify, I will not be eating sardines and prune juice).

Oliver says he never gets bored with his daily food – he claims he “enjoys it with equal relish every time.” Additionally, each day he goes to a nearby chocolate store and gets exactly one dollar’s worth of broken 72% chocolate. 

He has been doing this for years. Once he accidentally got 22 pounds of kidneys rather than 2 pounds; too shy to point it out, he took the 22 pounds of “palpitating kidneys” home, and ended up eating kidneys for 10 days straight, before vomiting uncontrollably and never eating kidneys again.

To listen to the fascinating Oliver Sacks clip on Radiolab – one of my favorite podcasts of all time – click here. (It’s a clip from episode about Choice, when a lot is too much).

Have you ever heard that Einstein would wear the same clothes so as not to use up precious mental energy on the mundane and unimportant decision of what to wear? Well, Oliver has similar motivations. 

Making choices is draining, and scientist have found that too many choices actually make us MORE unhappy than too few choices.

I notice that I’ve generally heard about men doing this kind of thing – perhaps it’s a form of mild Autism… the founder of Facebook wears the same clothing every day too. And Steve Jobs did, before he exited the planet.

So, here’s what I’m going to try eating for this week:

6am: Hot water + lemon

8am: 1 apple + 3 dates + 10 almonds + 1 spoon chwanprash

10:30am: Matè

1pm: Kitcharee (½ cup mung, ½ cup basmati) with squash & carrots

3:30: 1 apple or pear + 3 dates or figs

6:30pm: Leftover kitcharee + asparagus

I haven’t done a challenge (or a cleanse) in a long time. We’ll see how it goes!

 

To read the Wired interview from whence the opening sentence about the fan and magical coat was taken, click here

“Every time you appreciate something; every time you praise something; every time you feel good about something, you are telling the Universe: “MORE OF THIS, PLEASE!” You need never make another verbal statement of this intent and, if you are mostly in a state of appreciation, all good things will flow to you.”
– Esther Abraham-Hicks*

This crisp blue-sky autumn morning, as I walked down the Italian country road I live on, headed towards the Temple of Light for the Thursday morning purification ceremony, I listened to Radiolab’s newest podcast about how you can change your DNA by being grateful and feeling good.

The story was actually about what happens when rats lick their babies, but it all come around to the fact that feeling good => releases serotonin in your body => changes the epigenome of your DNA and REMOVES proteins that block the healthy expression of your genes and behaviors… Feeling good changes your DNA for the better, and Appreciation and Gratitude are the most effective ways to feel good.

I hope on this Thanksgiving day, wherever you are in the world, you spend some time in appreciation and gratitude, and that you’re feeling good. Sending love!

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”
– Meister Eckhart*

The Temple of Light at Ananda Assisi, Fall 2012

*quotes from the fabulous www.TheDailyLove.com

Leaving Patagonia

June 5, 2012

I’m sitting at a café in Zapala, Argentina, en route to Buenos Aires, listening to a sometimes cheesy nonstop 80s mix that changes approximately every 45 seconds. Everybody Wants to Rule the World, one of my all-time favorite songs ever, was just mixed into MJ’s The Way you Make Me Feel, a song Ginny and I used to dance to at the ranch.

It’s strange being back in a place with sidewalks.

Patagonia, Argentina

The town of El Huecú. No sidewalks.

I’m feeling a little anxious. Partly because of this town, partly because I’m in transition, and partly because I asked a woman working at the bus station if there was somewhere I could leave my two bags so I didn’t have to drag them around town with me during my 6 hour wait between bus rides. She directed me to a red booth. A guy let me in to put my bags in a side room and then turned to the next customer. I stood in the doorway – Nada mas? – No name? No ticket? Nope. Nada mas. Ok. Ok, Mister Señor, I am going to trust you and leave everything I own with you – my entire winter and summer wardrobes, all of my journals and jewelry-making supplies, all of my Vibrams and underwear, all my books and the geodes I found in the mountains, my yoga mat, my meditation cushion. I guess I’ve got all I really need in the backpack on my back – my iPod, my Macbook, my toiletries, my sleeping bag, a pen and journal and my kindle…

The Gibelli's

On the way to the Gibelli’s ranch.

Current 80s mix song: Roxanne

Why is it so hard to pack less shit? Do I have that little faith in my ability to be comfortable and happy, to adapt and survive in any situation? I’ve got this deep fear, this anxiety about not having enough… I’ve been trying to change that programming for as long as I remember, being a child of packrats (or “collectors”); I keep letting go, letting go, letting go, but I still don’t feel like I’ve got much less than I used to.

IMG_1042

Free as a bird.

It’s a Tuesday morning, 10:30am on the dot. People are lined up outside the banks as they often are in Argentina, about 20 deep. Driving into this small town on the Cono Sur bus, I saw spray painted on a wall: “Guns and Fuckin’ Roses.” Now that’s a fan. On the way to this café I passed by a clothing store with a cute jacket in the window. I haven’t seen a clothing store in two months. I haven’t had that temptation, that thought – Do I want to buy that?

IMG_2134

It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing when you’re branding cattle.

The simplicity of country life. It is so profound – no stores. No advertising. Hardly any people. No traffic, aside from the occasional herds of cows and goats that block the dirt roads and stare at you dumbly. No restaurants or cafés.

The Gibelli's

This is where I learned to drive stick. Put the clutch in when cows appear!

Current 80s mix song: Danger Zone

That was one of the things I loved about Burning Man – for a week, you didn’t have to think about money. Your brain didn’t have to go through its automatic, silent, constant calculations – do I want to buy that? How much would that cost? How much money do I have with me? What’s my checking balance? Do I want to spend $4 on a cup of coffee right now? I would look cute in that jacket. I wish my skin looked as good as that girl on the poster. Maybe I need to buy a new facial scrub.

Patagonia April 2012

“Shopping” for patio flagstones.

Current 80s mix song: What I Like About You

When you’re in nature, you’re not calculating. You’re not comparing. You’re not processing the million bits of information that come at you when you’re in a city.

Patagonia April 2012

Air doesn’t get any fresher than this.

In the countryside, you’re admiring the clouds. You’re breathing clean, fresh, pure air. You’re seeing the colors of the leaves turning from fall to winter, the branches reddening. Your fingernails are never clean for more than 20 minutes after a shower, because nothing’s paved and dirt and dust are a part of your environment that cannot be separated, conquered and divided, or controlled.

Patagonia April 2012

Fall colors at the Chacra.

Current 80s mix song: Can’t Touch This

It’s peaceful. I had a profound sense of contentment, of peace while I was at Ginny’s ranch in El Huecú.

Patagonia, Argentina

My view from the house every day. I love this mountain!

My skin is incredibly clear and soft right now. Is it because I’ve hardly been drinking any coffee? No milk (aside from powdered) or cheese, no eating out at restaurants, no pizza, no ice cream? The lack of air pollutants? Lack of stress? All the maté I’ve been drinking/ I can’t remember the last time my skin was this clear.

Patagonia, Argentina

Typical Saturday lunch: goat asado and tortas fritas.

I’m having a cup of coffee. It’s not very good. But the sugar packet has a cute drawing of a mountain, sun, waterfall, river, and some kind of hoofed animal – it looks like an Impala, maybe, with horns. Do they have those here?! It does say Patagonia on the bottom…

I stopped at a kiosk on the way here to get money for my cell phone, and a few bars of chocolate for the bus ride. They had about 30 different kinds of high-quality chocolate bar, a more impressive display than I’ve come across even in Buenos Aires. In El Huecú, you only had 2 or 3 kinds of quality chocolate to choose from.

Patagonia, Argentina

They scream like children when they die. Rest in peace, goats.

Current 80s mix song: Material Girl

This café I’m writing in is half full. People are rushing by outside. I’ve seen a two women with unusual headdresses, perhaps some kind of folk dress. There is a lot of noise. I haven’t heard this much noise in two months. In El Huecu, the only noises were dogs barking, roosters crowing, the occasional truck, wood cutter and turkey gobble. Horses whinnying for hay, birds chirping madly or the strangely indigenous loro parrots shrieking by the hosteleria.

Patagonia April 2012

Mountain shrouded in mist.

Current 80s mix song: She Bop

About 24 hours from now I’ll be back in one of the densest cities on the planet. I am not looking forward to the polluted air or the noise of traffic. I am looking forward to acro-yoga classes and getting a delicious fresh-baked medialuna, and for the adventures to come.

IMG_1044

Adios, nos vemos!

Goodbye, Patagonia! I loved you. Two months flew by and were over sooner than I expected. Thank you for your space and silence and fresh air. I know you were responsible for the beginning of a new chapter in my life, I’m almost certain I’ll be back to see you again.

Patagonia April 2012

Sunrise hike.

Current 80s mix song: Groove Is In The Heart (I know, technically 90s, but damn I love this song)

This is your brain on sugar. Street art in Buenos Aires.

I know I’ve done a horrible job at sharing Argentina with you via this blog. Not to mention my road trip across the US last summer. I was reviewing some photos and video last night, and there are some beautiful ones. Perhaps someday when I’m bored and have absolutely nothing to do, I will finally disinter those photos and videos for you. But considering the infinitude of interestingness on the interwebs, and immediate access to practically every book known to man on my Kindle, I’m not sure if that’s realistic.

Anyways, as far as Argentina goes at least, I’d like to make it up to you by directing you to my friend’s blog, Go!Dream!Live! No wait, it’s Dream!Go!Live! Which, when delivered to my inbox, I always read as “dreamg olive”. She does what I aspire to do – consistently shares her experience and photos of life in Buenos Aires.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have been writing, lots, every day. I just haven’t been converting any of that into bloggage. I think I just need to get back into the habit of posting, and the only way I’ve successfully made habits for myself is by doing Challenges. But I’ve been focusing on the No Sugar Challenge. One at a time.

So! The No Sugar Challenge!!! On March 13th, in two days, I will have officially and successfully completed 30 days of No Sugar. This is, by a long shot, the longest I have ever gone without eating refined sugar.

What did this lack of sugar do? (And coffee – I didn’t really drink coffee at this time either, as they pretty much go together for me – I can drink coffee black, but here in Buenos Aires coffee means medialunas or cookies, and those were definitely out).

-Skin: My skin cleared up. The acne and little bumps I get, especially on my forehead, have pretty much gone away, and my psoriasis is less red. However, I did up my dairy intake exponentially while not eating sugar, so I continue to have a few pimples around my jawline and my psoriasis didn’t fully clear.

-Energy: I started waking up earlier. 5:30am most days. I love getting up early, and I love not feeling groggy. That could be as much from stopping coffee as from stopping sugar. This past week I’ve been feeling exceptionally exhausted, but I think that’s mostly due to the intensity of the Vipassana course I did last week, and a lot of emotional processing I’ve been doing. And, probably, my body trying to digest all the cheese.

-Weight: I lost a little weight, but not much, due to the large quantities of cheese and  organic yogurt (sugar-free) that I’ve been eating. And steak, and pizza…  I met a wonderful Dutch girl at Vipassana and during her four days in Buenos Aires I HAD to take her to all the best food spots. Of course. And, um, I bought a beautiful book called Pizzerias de Buenos Aires…

Oh and near the end of the month I also found that amazing raw sugar-free chocolate at Buenos Aires Verde, and a few days ago discovered sugar-free helado at Juaja, my favorite of which is the lemon ginger. YUM!

-Clarity/Mood: I have a lot more clarity when I’m not eating sugar – clarity as to what I want in life, what really makes me happy, insights into myself and others. Last time I gave up alcohol/sugar for a few weeks, a series of events occurred that led to me leaving Los Angeles and moving to Argentina. And this time, a series of events occurred that led to me making plans to move to Patagonia. Anyways there’s increasing research about the drug-like negative effects of sugar on your mood and body, and things react differently with different people. I definitely have a negative reaction to sugar. I’m aware of this. It doesn’t mean I won’t be eating sugar on March 13th – I will! – but I hope that sugar (like alcohol) will become an increasingly rare addition to my diet.

I love not eating sugar. I also love eating sugar. So, that’s that.

And aside from the dairy and sugar-free treats, 70% of my diet this month has been fruits and veggies, so that’s awesome. I’m quite proud that I went a whole month without caving to medialunas or the apple crumble and dulce de leche they had the last day of Vipassana, or the other things that tempted me every day of the last month.

As I was saying at the beginning, my apologies for not having shared more of my journey with you up to this point. I’ll be posting some photos and maybe a video tour of my current home here in BA, and hopefully filling you in on some of the best eateries and cafes (like the very photogenic Bardepan). My 33rd birthday is next week and a friend is flying down from San Francisco; we’ll be revisiting all of my favorite things about BA before heading down to Patagonia.

Love and light and cheese!

 

Sugar + Honey + Frank

February 19, 2012

I’ve been refined sugar-free for six days now!

I’m feeling happier. I think there are two reasons: 1. Sugar causes mood swings and 2. I’m not hating on myself for sugar binging or not acting in integrity with what I want to be: healthy.

The cravings haven’t been too bad. I did eat a lot of dried fruit and nuts the first few days, and I’m eating more dairy than I usually do (which is barely any). But I’m ok with that!

Yesterday I bought some freshly-made organic yogurt and honey from the El Galpon Farmer’s Market in the Chacarita neighborhood of Buenos Aires (the only place I know of where you can get organic stuff in BA…). The yogurt comes in a big beautiful bottle and was delish with the super-dark grainy honey:

Argentine Yogurt and Honey, fresh from the farm.

Yes, honey’s technically a sugar but, unlike refined sugar, honey’s not toxic to your system, doesn’t cause dramatic blood sugar spikes (it may actually IMPROVE blood sugar control)  and has an insane number of health benefits: it’s anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral. You can use it to help heal burns and wounds, you can use it on your face to clear up acne (which I do occassionally). It can help with sore throats, allergies, even weight loss! As I’m reading more about honey the list is getting way too long (athletic performance, free radicals, cholesterol, immune system, anti-cancer…jeez!) so for more info check it here and here and here. (I’m pretty sure all of these are from raw honey, not the honey you by in a regular store, which is probably counterfeit honey from China.*)

Unfortunately, according to one of those honey sites, the answer to the question “How much honey can I eat every day?” is NOT “Eat as much as you can.” Damn.

Even the Bible mentions honey, according to the editors of Wikipedia. Funny honey quote:

“While Jonathan was passing through the woods during the war against the Philistines, he found honey dripping on the ground; he plunged his spear into it, and ate enough to restore his lost strength. He was, however, sentenced to death because he ate honey on a day of abstinence”.

D’oh!!!

 

So, this next part has nothing to do with sugar or honey, but… Well, actually, it does, in a roundabout way.

I was reading The Daily Love and came across this awesome blog by Mollie Angelhearthttp://thedailylove.com/always-come-back-to-love/

Some of my favorite bits:

“All those paths lead to one answer “we are all one and our only job is to be unconditional love and remember”.

It’s all in the remembering… From broken and alone to whole and complete and part of the whole that is The Uni-verse…

I am broken when I forget and whole and complete when I remember.”

Mollie’s bio led me to google the documentary she produced, May I be Frank, a documentary “exploring the transformations possible through healthy eating and positive thinking”:

Which looks AMAZING.

So, to tie this all together – I’m pretty sure Frank was eating way too much sugar. I haven’t seen the entire movie yet, so maybe honey even played a roll in his transformation.

I think we’d all do a little better with less sugar, more honey!

 

*If you are getting your honey from Walmart, Target, Cost Plus, Sam’s Club, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, CVS, or individual packets from Smucker’s, McDonalds or KFC, there is a 70-100% chance that it’s not actually honey, as defined by the food industry (containing pollen), and could be watered down with high fructose corn syrup. Trader Joe’s honey, thank goodness, is legit.

30-Day No Sugar Challenge

February 13, 2012

Photo by Lauri Andler from Wiki

 

I am addicted to sugar. I never felt truly addicted to smoking or alcohol or drugs – none of which I put in my body anymore – but sugar still kicks my ass. Anyone who’s followed my blog these last few years has read about my trails and tribulations with sugar many, many times.

I am also allergic to sugar. It makes my system acidic, causing inflammation, which makes me break out (little tiny pimples all over my face) and contributes to flare-ups of psoriasis. I’ve had psoriasis consistently for almost two years now.

I’ve given up sugar a few times in the past, but never made it longer than a few weeks. I tried again at the beginning of 2012, but after 6 days (during which I felt amazing) I caved and went back to my cycle of sugar binging.

So this time, I’ve decided to place a wager. I’ve bet my friend China Brooks that I can go 30 days without eating refined sugar, starting today. She also is going sugar-free, and if either of us give into temptation during the 30 days, we have to Paypal the other $25. I don’t generally make bets but I’m pretty sure I’m too proud and stubborn to lose one. 😉

Many people are unaware of the truth about sugar – how addictive it is, how toxic it is, and how prevalent it is in processed foods. I’ve experienced the physical, emotional and spiritual gains that come with giving it up. I’ll be exploring these over the next 30 days as I share my experiences and struggles and, hopefully, win my bet.

 

 

Guess where it is?

I’m surprise it wasn’t in India… but the next most logical spot: San Francisco.

Photo by Bay Cities News

I remember how delighted I was to see a sign for a “Meditation Room” in the Albuquerque airport; a yoga room is even better! I’ve been tempted to do yoga in airports before, especially with all the traveling I’ve done in the last year, but I never managed to summon up the cojones to do a downward dog in the passenger waiting area.

Photo by Bay Cities News

How did this happen? The director of SFO has been practicing yoga for 18 years, and after hearing someone make an offhand remark that they had everything but a place to do yoga, he made it happen.

And, it’s free to use! They even provide mats.

The world is a-changin’!!! I look forward to the day when it’s normal for everyone to meditate and do yoga, just like everyone brushes their teeth and showers.

LAX has gotta be next.

Official Yoga Pictogram - Photo by Bay Cities News

 

*Thanks to Mariana for sending me the article!

Why Meditate? And How?

January 24, 2012

 

A few years ago, I started meditating.

At first it was for 5 minutes at a time. It was hard. It was uncomfortable. It wasn’t enjoyable. My mind blabbered, my knees hurt.

Over the past few years, after numerous classes and stopping and starting again, I’ve built up to a practice of two hours a day – one hour in the morning and one in the evening (that’s on my good days; I don’t always hit the two hour mark).

I’ve experienced the positive effects in my life – less stress, less anxiety, a better feel for my emotions and my body, more awareness of the ways I’m crazy and destructive, a better memory, a stronger ability to savor and appreciate life.

In the society we’ve created, with its pressures and multitasking and addictions and smartphones and ADHD, meditation is the single most important thing a person can do for their well-being, happiness, serenity and sanity.

And more and more, there are scientific studies backing up the physiological benefits. Finally, science is starting to figure out why the spiritually-minded have been espousing meditation for centuries.

Check out the science here.

If you can’t find meditation classes near you (google around), you can begin with these free guided meditations, starting with the 5 minute one:

http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22

But I’d really recommend classes. It gets you more comfortable with the practice, and doing it with other people is more motivating than struggling to sit there on your own.

Funny how terrifying just sitting there, breathing, can be…

Burning Man, 2010