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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

 

My Annual Review: 2011

December 31, 2011

It’s the last day of 2011. Can you believe 2012 is here?

I wonder what it’ll be like to look back on 2012 in one year…

At the end of 2010, I looked back at the year by doing the Annual Review found on Chris Guillebleu’s website (here).  It gives you a format for getting uber-clear on what did and didn’t work for you, and what direction you want head in in the coming year.

Here’s a recap of some of the things I did in 2011:

I gave up alcohol and caffeine for 10 weeks straight.

I went for various amounts of time without sugar or processed food.

I simplified my life and let go of a lot of physical clutter and my storage space.

I got rid of about 70% of my possessions.

I moved to Argentina.

I got certified as a yoga instructor.

I started writing lyrics.

I completed the 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat.

I paid off my $10,000 car loan and two credit cards.

I fulfilled a life-long dream of driving cross-country.

I accomplished my goal of being car-free and living somewhere I can rely on public transportation.

I sang in front of people (one of my biggest fears).

I started learning Spanish again.

I started a company.

I learned more about my fears and blocks.

I started healing my inner child.

I meditated every day and went from 15 minutes per day to about an hour.

I did yoga almost every day.

I started being more honest with authority figures (ie bosses).

I said no more often.

I followed my intuition with incredible results.

I took more emotional risks.

I didn’t have any casual sex.

For the first year since 1999, there wasn’t a single morning that I woke up with holes in my memory from drinking too much the night before.

I went to Winter Music Conference and danced sober.

I practiced the harmonica.

I cried in front of more of my friends.

I asked for help more.

I started sailing again.

I went hiking almost every weekend in LA.

I made and sold a number of jewelry pieces.

I bought myself a Mac and learned how to use it.

I attended the Sages and Scientists Symposium, and got into the $2,000 event for free.

I made a number of new close friends.

I was vegetarian/vegan for stretches of time.

I posted a bunch of blogs on Lunasealife and Amicamore.com.

I learned how to use iMovie and GarageBand.

I went to Canada.

I got a hug from Amma.

I CouchSurfed for the first time.

I learned how to navigate subways and buses alone.

I read a bunch of books (20+).

I started drawing and painting again and have been commissioned to illustrate a children’s book.

I met a spiritual teacher.

I had a bunch of powerful realization/aha moments.

I did some of the most challenging personal work of my life.

The crazy thing is, even looking at this list, I don’t feel like I “accomplished” all that much this year. It’s an endless mindf#$%, isn’t it?? No matter how much you do – er, how much *I* do – I still haven’t gotten to that place where I completely feel proud of myself, like I’m doing my best. I understand that I made progress in 2011, but I suppose there’s always farther to go, more expansion, higher heights to reach, a truer you to live as.  In 2012 I’d like to continue with all the good stuff I’ve been doing and to step it up even more. I’d like to cut out a few more things that I know for a fact don’t contribute to my living as my best self, things like sugar, alcohol, procrastination and wasting time online.

That being said, I obviously still need to work on self love and acceptance, and making a practice of appreciating all the stuff I HAVE done.

Expression and Authenticity were my focuses for 2011. Self Love, Acceptance and Consistency will be my focuses for 2012. More consistency, more clarity, more focus!

I’ve been reading a lot of Carlos Castaneda quotes these past few days; I’ll leave you with a bunch of relevant ones. Here’s to following a path with heart in 2012 and creating another amazing year!

When a man embarks on the paths of knowledge, he becomes aware, in a gradual manner, that ordinary life has been forever left behind; that knowledge is indeed a frightening affair; that the means of the ordinary world are no longer a buffer for him; and that he must adopt a new way of life if he is going to survive. The first thing he ought to do, at that point, is to want to become a warrior. The frightening nature of knowledge leaves one no alternative but to become a warrior.

We choose only once. We choose either to be warriors or to be ordinary men. A second choice does not exist. Not on this earth.

In his day-to-day life a warrior chooses to follow the path with heart. It is the consistent choice of the path with heart which makes a warrior different from the average man. He knows that a path has heart when he is one with it, when he experiences a great peace and pleasure traversing its length. The things a warrior selects to make his shields are the items of a path with heart. You must surround yourself with the items of a path with heart and you must refuse the rest.

Only as a warrior can one survive the path of knowledge, because the art of a warrior is to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.

Everybody has enough personal power for something.  The trick for the warrior is to pull his personal power away from his weaknesses to his warrior’s purpose.

Impeccability is nothing else but the proper use of energy.

Impeccability begins with a single act that has to be deliberate, precise and sustained.  If that act is repeated long enough, one acquires a sense of unbending intent, which can be applied to anything else.  If that is accomplished the road is clear.  One thing will lead to another until the warrior realizes his full potential.

A warrior seeks to act rather than talk. A warrior lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting.

Think of your death now. It is at arm’s length. It may tap you any moment, so really you have no time for crappy thoughts and moods. None of us have time for that. The only thing that counts is action, acting instead of talking.

People hardly ever realize that we can cut anything from our lives, any time, just like that. For example, smoking and drinking are nothing. Nothing at all if we want to drop them. Only one thing is indispensable for anything we do; the spirit. One can’t do without the spirit.

What makes us unhappy is to want. Yet if we would learn to cut our wants to nothing, the smallest thing we’d get would be a true gift.

A warrior must cultivate the feeling that he has everything needed for the extravagant journey that is his life. What counts for a warrior is being alive. Life in itself is sufficient, self-explanatory and complete. Therefore, one may say without being presumptuous that the experience of experiences is being alive.

 A warrior’s love is the world. He embraces this enormous earth. The earth knows that he loves it and it bestows on him its care. That’s why his life is filled to the brim and his state, wherever he’ll be, will be plentiful. He roams on the paths of his love and, wherever he is, he is complete.
If we don’t learn how to travel along the avenues of awareness, we will come to such a state of frustration and despair that humanity will end up destroying itself. Our options are the way of the warrior, or extinction.
-Carlos Casteneda/Don Juan

Buenos Aires Observations

November 15, 2011

The jacarandas are blooming here – spurts of vibrant purple; squishy flowers blanketing the sidewalks. Makes me feel at home, like I’m back in LA. A strange LA.

The school uniform for some children is a white knee-length coat. This makes them look like little mad scientists.

When you order a cup of coffee, it comes with a shot of sparkling water and a little cookie (or some kind of candy, candied orange peel, or chocolate). It’s like snack time.

A young fit-looking dog walker passed by the window of my favorite cafe. She had 14 dogs leashed to her. Big dogs – Burmese Mountain Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Black Labs. A moving mass of fur.

Whenever you leave an apartment building here, you have to have a key to unlock the front doors to get out. Seems dangerous to me.

Walking along residential streets you often come across small booths with windows, about the size of a porta potty. Homeowners on the block hire guards to man these booths and watch over their property. The guards just sit in the booths all day. But at night, the booths are empty…

Breakfast here is coffee and bread – normally a couple of medialunas, mini croissants. Or a combo: today my combo breakfast came with a selection of muffin, pastry, and toast. I had a banana muffin, a chocolate croissant, and two slices of perfectly toasted freshly baked bread, with sour tangy cream cheese and some kind of fruit preserve that I can’t quite make out – passionfruit? It almost tastes like sweet sun-dried tomatoes…

The Argentine diet seems to consist of meat, pastries, and dulce de leche. Yet only 18% are obese, and 50% are overweight – much less than in the US. Is it smaller portions? Periodic skipping of meals? More walking and use of public transportation?

You can sit in a cafe for hours without being bothered, or talked to, or looked at, by a waiter. For them to come over, you must flag them down. Which can be nice, or can be annoying, depending on how much of a hurry you’re in.

The typical breakfast - coffee and medialunas and a shot of water - at Cafe Tortoni, which opened 158 years ago (!).

On my first foray out into the city alone, I took the subway from Colegiales to Palermo and stumbled across the most adorable bookstore/cafe I have ever seen. Books filled wooden shelves and stretched from floor to high ceiling:

Books books books!

Encircled by the rows and rows of books is a partially covered/partially sunny little café with black and white tile floors, walls of all colors, rustic wooden tables and chairs, and free wifi. I’m currently typing this post up right here:

Colors and sunlight!

Since moving to Buenos Aires I’ve discovered (to my delight) that it’s a city of many bookshops, or ‘librerías’. The majority of them are quaintly independent, and many have cafés inside where you can peruse a book while sipping tea or Italian-quality espresso and munching chocolate croissants.

The lovely librería pictured here is called Libros del Pasaje, on Thames 1762 in Palermo Soho.

Stop by! You’ll find me firmly ensconced at a table, either tapping away on my Mac or reading one of my current books – “The Indie Band Survival Guide” or “La Vida Es Acción” by Krishnamurti or “Free Play: La Improvisación en La Vida y en El Arte” by Stephen Nachmanovitch.

Or, perhaps, reading this children’s book about Curious Little Bitches:

Potential title of my future autobiography?

 

 

I Confess!!!

February 17, 2011

I’ve fallen off the wagon.

Or rather, I’ve swan dived off the wagon, face first, mouth open, into a kiddie pool filled with liquid dark chocolate. And cashews. And caramel. And peanut butter. And cheesecake.

Allow me to ‘splain.

Since January 1st of 2011, I have been going through a cleansing process to break old habits of eating. Not the lemon-water-cayenne-pepper type of cleanse, but a whole/natural/unprocessed/organic foods type of cleanse. I’ve  been eating mostly fruits and veggies from Farmer’s Markets, supplemented by hemp milk and dried lentils from Trader Joe’s. Little to no refined sugar, processed foods, dairy, red meat, and absolutely no caffeine or alcohol (except for a cup of decaf coffee – it was gross, even though it was Intelligensia – and a splash of wine out of a a roommate’s 2-week-old bottle that I put in some soup I was making for dinner guests).

I could count on one hand the number of times over the past 40 days that I’d eaten refined sugar.

Until Friday.

It started with a free lunch. The VP at our company owed me lunch – I forget why – so I opted for Tender Greens in Culver City. Tender Greens is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. I’m not sure if it’s the mashed potatoes or the price point or the fact that the produce and meat is sourced from a farm in Oxnard, but I just love me some TGs.

They also have some of the best desserts in LA.

So that’s when the slide began.

I got a cookie. A delicious oatmeal cookie with chocolate chips and pistachios. Pistachios!!! The cookie was huge, round, perfectly crispy on the outside. Amazing.

That’s it! I thought. Not another grain of refined sugar for at LEAST a week!

But then… then the next afternoon I found myself in front of a table of Nicobello chocolates on a sidewalk on Abbot Kinney. Free samples – FREE SAMPLES – of some of the most – ok, THE most – delicious, vegan, organic, fair trade, locally-made, antioxidant-packed, all-the-right-marketing-words “HEALTHY” truffles I’ve ever tasted. PUMPKIN CHAI truffles, Blueberry Almond truffles, Ginger Green Tea truffles, Walnut Flaxseed truffles, Sunflower Banana Butter truffles, Pure Cocoa Bliss truffles…

Fuck me.

I bought a sampler, with one of each flavor. I systematically destroyed the six truffles over a 30 minute time span – as I strolled down the street, as I perused an art gallery, as I drove home with the top down in the sunshine.

Oh yeah – I also polished off a (small) bag of their Maple Nut Munch, with 72% dark chocolate, Maple Pecans & a touch of sea salt.

That’s it! I thought. SERIOUSLY this time, not another grain of refined sugar for at least another week!!!

The next day I ate super healthy – fruit, veggies, leek & sweet potato soup.

But then… then my roommate’s friends came over to have a Grammys party.

With pizza.

And a huge glossy fruit tart from Whole Foods.

I hadn’t had pizza in about 50 days at this point, and I hadn’t had more than a few tastes of cheese on the occasional salad.  I caved.

I don’t feel like I ate THAT many slices of pizza, but I was in pain for about an hour and a half afterwards. I’m guessing it was my stomach trying to figure out how to digest the huge globes of low-quality (and probably hormone-laden) cheese I was gulping down. Then there was the fruit tart with the sandy buttery crust that I love so much.

I may have had two slices of the fruit tart.

Monday I think I actually made it through the day without sugar. Tuesday, however, I had another slice of the leftover fruit tart (it was a friend’s birthday!), and then I actually dug into giant box of Lemon & Raspberry Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake that’s been in our freezer for a few weeks (I did not eat the whole thing. Thank god).

Today was the doozy – I went to Trader Joe’s, and my willpower buckled completely and I bought myself two kinds of chocolate – Soft Peanut Brittle, which is rather like a less dense Butterfinger, and Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels, which are actually a bit too chewy for me. That didn’t stop me from eating a few handfuls of each before dinner tonight (I did also give away 1/2 of the Peanut Brittle to the parking attendant as I left the garage – I like to brighten the attendant’s day).

So, that’s where I am. I am utterly failing at the No Refined Sugar part of my challenge.

But you know what? That’s ok. Along with my discipline challenges, I am also practicing self-acceptance and self-kindness. I could beat up on myself, be mad at myself, be disappointed, but instead, I’m going to let myself eat chocolate for a bit. When I’m ready to stop again, I trust that I’ll stop.

I also realized today the main reason behind why I have been binging like this – my period is a week late. No baby scares here, unless it’s the immaculate conception of the second coming of Christ. Actually, I’m certain it’s because I had some female friends spend the weekend at my place the week before last, and at least one was on the rag. My body syncs up with pretty much any woman’s cycle if I spend more than a few hours with her – I once didn’t get my period for two months when my closest female friend (and neighbor) got pregnant.

So, I’m fighting against the power of biology and whacked-out hormones. Additionally, I’ve noticed that my body tends to go into binge mode anyways if I lose any weight, which I have what with all the fruits and veggies I’ve been eating. It’s a bit annoying, but I can’t blame my body for trying to protect me from what it apparently interprets as risk of imminent death.

I’ll take these chocolates I bought from Trader Joe’s with me to work tomorrow to divvy up amongst coworkers. Hopefully I’ll be able to go hiking this weekend. Maybe I’ll try doing some eating meditations when I’m tempted to bing again.

And most importantly, I hope my hormones even out soon. If they don’t, I may need to invest in a larger pair of jeans.

 

How to Create Energy

February 5, 2011

A friend asked me the other day what I do to get so much energy.

There are probably 100 factors but here are a few I feel I have control over right now:

1. Eating Clean

I’m 36 days into my Clean Eating Challenge. I’ve dropped intoxicants (alcohol, caffeine) and severely limited refined sugars, processed foods (including bread), dairy, and meat (when I do eat meat, it’s chicken). I really feel like my body needs less sleep now – I’m guessing less recovery time from the stress you create in your body by eating foods your body isn’t made to process. My skin is so much softer and clearer. My memory is better – I realized recently that I now remember people’s names after hearing them one time (that one’s pretty strange), and I find I can remember everything without having to write it down (I’ve started shopping without grocery lists). My sense of smell is sharper. I have fewer emotional lows. My psoriasis is fading. The pea-sized subcutaneous cyst that I’ve had on my neck for a few years is almost entirely gone (when I put the paste my Ayurvedic doctor gave me on it it shrinks, but I have to keep that up or it returns).

What I AM eating is foods from Farmer’s Markets. I no longer shop at Whole Foods due to their policies on Genetically Modified Organisms and Monsanto, and I’ve been to Trader Joe’s about 3 times this year. I’ve started to get to know my Farmer’s Market vendors in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and Culver City, and they’ve started cutting me deals! Last weekend I made my Leek, Sweet Potato and Pear soup, with Ginger Asparagus Quinoa with a Carrot Ginger sauce on top of that.  I’m also eating a lot of Bolani (available at both the CC and BH markets). Bolani is my new favorite thing – it’s like a quesadilla made with super-thin naan-like tortillas, and instead of cheese it’s stuffed with lentils or pumpkin or spinach or potato (the first two are my favorites). When I need a sugar fix, I eat fresh melt-in-your-mouth dates. If you have a sweet tooth and you’ve never had fresh dates, you need to try them.

2. Meditating

Last year I meditated about 6 days a week; on the 1st of 2011 I made a 100% commitment to daily meditation, and intend to keep that for the rest of my life. Some days it’s 15 minutes, and some days it’s an hour. Some days it’s in my room, some days it’s on my porch, some days it’s on the beach. Like eating clean is clearing out my body, I feel like meditating is clearing out my mind.  Science is proving that meditating is exactly like working out. Your brain is a muscle, but instead of physical strength you’re building focus and clarity. Ideas flowing to me.

3. Exercising

I do yoga two days a week; I run a few days a week as training for a 1/2 marathon I intend to complete in May; I try to talk a walk every day either during lunch or after dinner, and I try to hike on the weekends. We all know that, paradoxically, exercise energizes you.

4. Saying No

In 2011 I’ve been practicing saying No to energy drains. Energy drains like intoxicants  and refined sugar and sub-optimal foods, but also energy drains like people, or like doing things I don’t REALLY want to do. I’m simply being honest with people – everyone – including my boss. If I don’t want to do something, I tell them. If I’m not available to talk to them on the phone about their problems, I tell them. I make it clear that it’s not personal and my saying no is not a reflection of how much I do or don’t value them as a person or as a friend; but I’m just getting more real. It’s so refreshing, and I’m finding out that it works better for everyone.

5. Doing what I love

I wake up crazy early because I’m EXCITED to get up!!! I want to meditate and write and create! I want to read empowering and inspirational quotes on Twitter! I want to come up with ideas and work on co-creative projects with people I love working with! That could be #6: co-creative projects. I am working on awesome, fun, inspiring projects, (outside of my day job) with about 6 different partners right now. These are projects I’m doing just because I WANT TO, but working with another person keeps me moving forward when, if I were trying to do it by myself, I might give up. I’m hoping that eventually I will be able to support myself I know that soon I will be able to support myself doing things I love with people I love. That’s my #1 goal. Create my perfect day, every day. And with these small steps, create my ideal life.

So,  this is where I think I’m getting all this energy. Join me?

 

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

– Alexander Graham Bell

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.”

– Tony Robbins

[quotes shared by the awesome Mastin Kipp at TheDailyLove.com ]

After my No Complaining Challenge post, a friend posed this question:

My question to Michelle is, with these challenges, how do you make it through them? I have to give up two things I know my body is totally addicted to, Caffeine and sugar, for my health. I’m seeing a neurologist to try to spare myself of migraines. My doctor ordered a special diet to see if perhaps they are food allergies. There is practically nothing I can or am allowed to eat.

I would love some kind of tip, in how you look at your cravings when you get them, and keep yourself on track with your goal…

Thanks doll!

I had so much to say that I split the response into THREE parts! Thanks for inspiring me!

Click here to read Part I; and here to read Part II. Here’s a summary:

First, it gets easier over time!

Second, reframing the situation by rewording my statements helped a lot.

Third, your body is not “totally addicted” to those things.

Fourth, I’ve realized that my cravings are distractions/addictions.

Fifth, really sit down and figure out the big WHY behind your choice to change your habits.

Sixth, shop at Farmer’s Markets.

Part III:

Seventh, find things that support your unconventional, healthy way of living. I’ve found more friends that value their health and eat clean, for various reasons – ethics, gluten allergies, diary allergies, etc. We love roasting up veggies and drinking tea together. Additionally, I don’t expose myself to much conventional media like TV, the news, or gossip/beauty magazines. I feel like all of those things take away time and energy that can be directed towards changing the only thing that I can change – me. Instead I’ve sought out intelligent, inspirational writers and podcasts to help keep me on my path of unusually healthy living.

Ralph Waldo Emerson says: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Consider this diet as an experiment in seeing how good you can feel!

I know you have the power to do this. I’ve felt you channel energy.Your body is just out of balance. You’re having such a strong reaction because you are sensitive. Maybe that means you have to do things differently than normal people. But that also means you can live a BETTER life than those who are not forced to challenge themselves.

Once you start following a diet that balances your body, you are going to feel healthier, happier, more balanced, whole, glowing than ANYONE who can go get a cup of coffee every morning, and a cupcake every night. It might seem like they are happier on the surface, but underneath their bodies are operating at less than peak.

You’ll find that a different or limited diet isn’t as bad as our society makes it out to be.

And lastlythink of how your experience and example will help and inspire others. You’re a healer for a reason. Maybe your nieces will follow your example and be inspired to lead happier, healthier lives!

Much love!

After my No Complaining Challenge post, a friend posed this question:

My question to Michelle is, with these challenges, how do you make it through them? I have to give up two things I know my body is totally addicted to, Caffeine and sugar, for my health. I’m seeing a neurologist to try to spare myself of migraines. My doctor ordered a special diet to see if perhaps they are food allergies. There is practically nothing I can or am allowed to eat.

I would love some kind of tip, in how you look at your cravings when you get them, and keep yourself on track with your goal…

Thanks doll!

I had so much to say that I split the response into THREE parts! Thanks for inspiring me!

Click here to read Part I; here’s the summary:

First, it gets easier over time!

Second, reframing the situation by rewording my statements helped a lot.

Third, your body is not “totally addicted” to those things.

 

Part II:

Fourth, I’ve realized that my cravings are distractions/addictions. They show up because I’m looking for something outside of myself to make myself feel better.

Honestly, I think meditation has helped me to control these impulses, and to put more of a gap between their urgency and my ability to make a conscious choice. I know meditation can be daunting; I knew for years that I should be doing it, but it wasn’t until I started taking classes with Cathy Heller and at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center that I felt comfortable forming my own practice.

A friend of mine quit smoking with the mantra: ‘I am not an addict.’ You’re not An Addict. You’re a healthy person. You have control over your choices. What would a healthy person do? They wouldn’t eat something that was going to make them feel horrible afterwards.

Fifth, really sit down and figure out the big WHY behind your choice to change your habits. That’s going to be your main motivation. When I decided I wanted to give up certain foods so my psoriasis would go away, it made the moment-to-moment choices so much easier. Would I rather have clear skin, or would I rather have a cup of coffee?
The side effects become a secondary motivation. Seeing and EXPERIENCING how much better I look and feel when I’m eating healthy adds more motivation, and it starts snowballing. When I gave up intoxicants and crap food I felt healthier, happier, clearer, more energetic, vibrant, and alive. I stopped having mood swings and sad days, even when it was PMS time. By week three random people were complimenting me – even people who had no idea that I was on the cleanse: “Your skin looks great!” “You look radiant!” “You’re glowing!” My acne started going away; my psoriasis cleared up; my wrinkles started to fade (I’m serious – the furrow lines between my brows go away; they’re already practically gone and I’m on day 14 of my current cleanse).

From what I’ve observed in my own body, sugar/caffeine/alcohol seem to dehydrate my skin in a way that I can’t combat, no matter how much water I drink. Or maybe it’s just a subtle poisoning of my cells, I don’t know. Tangentially, there’s a doctor named David Servan-Schreiber who got brain cancer; he says sugar and processed food directly feed cancer. Check out this video.

Sixth, shop at Farmer’s Markets. This has made a huge difference in what I eat. The LA Times has an amazing interactive database that shows you all the Farmer’s Markets in Southern California. I did a one-month challenge with a friend last year during which we only bought food (produce) from Farmer’s Markets (even Trader Joe’s apples are shipped in from New Zealand!!!). Fresh fruits and vegetables simply taste better than what you’re going to find at a conventional store, and there’s more variety – one apple guy that I go to has 10 different kinds of apples that I’ve never heard of. Like Winesap. I learned to taste differences in apple flavors like I can taste the different notes in a wine. If there’s stuff I’ve never seen or cooked before – like sunroot, for example – I ask the vendor what I do with it. Some of them get really excited to share their knowledge. It makes healthy eating more fun and playful, more of a game. Also, by not shopping at conventional grocery stores, I don’t have to be tempted by or reminded of all the crap foods – cookies, ice cream, frozen foods, candy, dairy, etc – that I used to eat.

More to come in Part III!

“People tend to think of breakthroughs in medicine as a new drug, a laser, or a high-tech surgical procedure. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lifestyle. What we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke cigarettes, how much exercise we get, and the quality of our relationships and support can be as powerful as drugs and surgery. And they often are.”
– Dean Ornish, M.D.

 

After my No Complaining Challenge post, a friend posed this question:

My question to Michelle is, with these challenges, how do you make it through them? I have to give up two things I know my body is totally addicted to, Caffeine and sugar, for my health. I’m seeing a neurologist to try to spare myself of migraines. My doctor ordered a special diet to see if perhaps they are food allergies. There is practically nothing I can or am allowed to eat.

I would love some kind of tip, in how you look at your cravings when you get them, and keep yourself on track with your goal…

Thanks doll!

I had so much to say that I’m splitting the response into THREE parts! Thanks for inspiring me!

Part I:
Here’s what I’ve learned via my experience with Challenges and giving things up:

First, it gets easier over time! Take baby steps. Like anything, take it day by day. When I thought I had to give up cheese FOREVER, it was too much. My ego said “THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!” and I didn’t even try to go one day without cheese. But when you break it down to the moment – Can you not put cheese in your mouth at this moment? How about this moment? How about now? – the answer is always going to be “yes.” In every moment you can make a choice that aligns with your goals, priorities and health. And if you slip up, no big deal; just go back to trying again.

I was looking back at my blog from last May, when I first tried giving everything up for a month. It was much harder than it is now. I still had “cheat” days, though honestly, it’s easier to take away the choice and just commit 100%.

Second, reframing the situation by rewording my statements helped a lot. Instead of thinking “I can’t have this, or this, or this,” I thought about what I could have that I enjoy – apples, or sweet potatoes or whatever – and make up positive affirmations around them. Apples make my skin vibrant and radiant! Sweet potatoes taste amazing with cinnamon and give me energy without making me feel bloated! Also instead of saying to people “I can’t eat that,” I’m trying to say “I don’t want that.” Or just, “No thanks.” I don’t have to let everyone know that I’m not eating this or that or the other every time I’m presented with a food choice. It’s my decision; I don’t need sympathy. I’m not a victim.

Third, your body is not “totally addicted” to those things. It’s gotten used to the sub-optimal state that it’s been functioning at. There was a recent study on caffeine that showed that it doesn’t really make you MORE alert – it just counteracts the feelings of withdrawal from the previous day’s caffeine.

It’s my opinion that all the “bad”/addictive things that we eat and do just keep us at zero when we’re eating/doing them; and take us down to a negative when we’re not getting them (withdrawals). We know intuitively that those things are “bad” for us because what we truly want is to be in the positive; not stuck at zero or in the negative.

So you’re always at a zero or negative point when you’ve got those things in your system. If you stop drinking coffee for a few days (and sit with the discomfort, really experience it so you FEEL what the caffeine withdrawal does to your body) the negative affects of the caffeine would lose their effect, and then you’d have more real, pure, healthy energy, and end up in the positive state. And then you don’t even need the coffee anymore (or want it, since you’ve experienced how bad it’ll make you feel in the long run). Our egos/society say that having coffee is going to make you feel energetic and focused; but after drinking coffee for years, I realized I only felt that way (if at all) for a few minutes, and then after that I would actually feel anxious for an hour or two. I’ve found if I’m more present to the entire experience, I can feel what’s best for/true for me.

Also, if you’re into Abraham-Hicks, they say it only takes 3 days for your cells to return to normal (positive) functioning after the shock (poisoning) of any addictive substance. Here’s a discussion.

I hope my experience can help you on your journey to health!
The discussion continues in Part II and Part III!

“Nothing is impossible, we just don’t know how to do it yet.” – L.L. Cudmore