Vegan Diet or No Vegan Diet?

I have tried many diets over the years in search of something that would put me on the right direction towards a healthy lifestyle. Going vegan was something I heard of for the first time over 10 years ago and I had absolutely no intention of participating. I was and am still a meat-lover, and considered the debate on whether veganism was even a reasonable lifestyle. However, I’ve just decided to go vegan/vegetarian recently and I have felt better in the last two weeks than I have a in a long time.

The argument between meat-eaters and vegans is on whether or not eating animal-based products is a healthy choice and/or a compassionate one. It is apparent that humans, like other meat-eaters on our shared planet, are built with the ability to digest meat products as we have for the last few thousand years or so. Meat tends to be packed with proteins necessary for our health and partaking in meat does not exactly equate to lack of compassion for other living beings. We are inevitably born into a food chain, the great Circle of Life in which all living beings rely on each other for food and other resources for survival. For this reason, I do not find it fair to judge anyone who eats meat as it is in our nature to do so; however, if we can find adequate nutrients in plants, shouldn’t we take that route instead?

This is, of course, the side of vegans and vegetarians who have made their choice for the purpose of compassion. This position should, also, not be shunned. I made the choice to become vegan/vegetarian because I finally listened to my body when I’d consume meat and dairy on a regular basis. My taste buds thanked me but my brain and my digestive system did not. I am now in the process of learning new and exciting ways to cook meals at home and to meal prep for work. I feel lighter, more energetic and aware of what my body actually needs opposed to what it is craving. My choice was also influenced by my spirituality and desire to be more compassionate towards animals. However, when I feel like the vegan diet may not be supplying me with enough (which could be due to the lack of knowledge of all my options), I may turn to a vegetarian dish to remain properly nourished. I am also willing to admit that if I had no reasonable alternatives in front of me, I would choose meat over deprivation for the sake of my health. There would be some hardcore vegans our there who would detest my flexibility but that’s why I took the time to make sure I had a handle on the “why” for making my choice.

Indeed, there is a right and a not-so-great way to carry out either decision. If one is a meat-eater and gives no thought to the life or lives given for the meal, there is something to be assessed. On the same token, if one is vegan just to keep up with the Jones’ and ridicules the meat-eater without regard to the individual’s personal journey, there is something to be assessed. There are also things to be aware of in either decision. The over-consumption of meat (especially red and/or low quality) can put any person at risk for a number of illnesses and disorders. Likewise, the vegan should be mindful of their intake of soy which should be limited and what ever nutrients what may require supplement due to their lack of animal product consumption. Whichever side anyone takes, it would do us all well to diminish or perhaps even abolish judgement on the other as we all have our “whys” and what is right for you may not be right for someone else. Namaste.

 

Creating a Yoga Flow: Part One

Although now a highly ridiculed phrase, I’m on my “New Year New Me” game. Truthfully, every day is a good time to start enhancing ourselves and setting goals towards our ideal life. However, there’s something special about this season that seems to motivate us. Each year is like a new chapter in our lives in which we get to start fresh with new goals. Unfortunately, many of us tend to fall off the wagon within a few months, weeks, even days. Some find it scoff-worthy; you may even come across comical memes about it online. I think it’s unfair to judge the lot who strive for change even though many of us run into regular life obstacles which, frankly, don’t care about our timelines. On the other hand, some of us simply get bored or overwhelmed with all the goals we’ve set in front of us. I’m certainly guilty myself. So, for 2018, I’m taking a new approach to reaching goals by encompassing them into my yoga practice.

On January 1st, I will begin building a Vinyasa flow that will grow every week. For those new to yoga, Vinyasa is a yoga practice that uses a continuous movement from one pose to another opposed to holding a single pose for an extended period of time – although these methods can be somewhat combined. I’m beginning with 3 asanas and will add a different pose every week accompanied by meditation and a written journal in which I will explain my practice of the 8 Limbs. I will also post a video of the flow on Instagram for visual feedback. The goal is to track my progress throughout the year to see how much I improve mentally, physically and spiritually by the end of 2018. Weekly additions will hopefully ward off boredom and because I choose my own poses and because I am only adding one a week, I will reframe from getting too overwhelmed.

The initial three poses are downward dog, child’s pose and frog pose. Feel free to join me in this challenge and share your progress on social media also. Remember that yoga is more than just poses and physical fitness; it’s a lifestyle! However, it is what you make it and the possibilities are endless. Happy New Year! Namaste.

Inherited Proclivities

I’m my father’s daughter. At least that’s what my mother would remind me of when we’d get into spats during my teenage years. She’d say I was like members of his side of the family in fact. The last time I recall ever seeing my father, I was seven years old. It was Christmas and he was enjoying his new family when my half-sister decided to bring me along for a visit to his home. Before that, I hadn’t seen him in years and the only thing that stood out about that reunion was that he called me by my full name like a greeting in a Jane Austen novel. He died when I was about eleven years old and other than my half-sister, I have no connection with my father’s side of the family. Needless to say, with memories like these, you can imagine the self-evaluation that commenced when my mother would say I behaved like these people I didn’t really know. I supposed it could have been out of anger and bias. After all, she had no qualms about reminding of how “the fruit don’t fall too far from the tree” when she’d approve of my behavior. However, I couldn’t help but feel like there was truth to all of it.

In Psychology, it is argued that we are born with tabula rasa or a blank slate on which we develop our personalities out of experience. The other side of that argument is innatism, meaning people are born with personality traits inherited from the genes passed on by parents. The truth is that brain development is hard to predict and measure considering the evidence of both sides. I’ve certainly witnessed people who quite obviously take after their elders in every way while others could almost pass for being adopted. Even more complex examples would be those who take after ancestors but are altered by experience. So it bears the question: Where is the line drawn?

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In my experience, like many fatherless daughters, I went looking for love in the all the wrong ways often finding myself in a vicious cycle of poor choices and abandonment. I found myself blaming his desertion for my lack of direction and self-esteem. I wondered if he suffered from a troubled past that led him to make his poor choices or if it was innate somehow. The questions I’d never get to ask him crippled me and, to add insult to injury, I later found out things about my parent’s love story that suggests I’m even more like my mother than I realized. To my surprise, my self-assured mother was also looking for love in all the wrong ways when she stumbled across my father. She was a daddy’s girl and my Papa, a good man but had his vices, struggled with alcohol which eventually led to my grandparent’s divorce and somewhat of an absence in my mother’s life. I imagine this had an effect on who she became. I sometimes hate to admit it, but I guess the fruit doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

From science, experience, and observation I have developed my own theory. I think there is an aspect of us that begins with a blank slate which is our innocence; our untainted sense of optimism and imagination. We will be influenced in the best ways and the worst. No one’s slate remains clean for we could not grow if it did. Naturally, with experience filtered by influence and a touch of ancestry, we will form a sense of Self and become who we are, an ever-changing state determined by choices. Because of choice, we continued to become. I do not think about the past as I once did and I did not envision my future as I do now. With this in mind, I am assured that while I share my parent’s proclivities and am a product of my environment, I am also whoever I choose to be. Namaste.

Episode

She sits as the onset rises

Welling up in her loins like a flood until it rolls down her eyes like the leaves of a willow

Memories invade with definitions at a loss

She scoffs at her outpour 

No consolation to be had. No one to say “sorry”

No words could undo the damage but it will pass

For now.

{This is a poem dedicated to those who battle depression, like myself, and cannot always find the words to explain the experience as it is happening. It is often more complex than this. However, this is a depiction of my usual experience when I find myself on that slippery slope.}

What “Yogi Life” Really Means

Yoga is all the rave these days. You probably have friends on social media striking poses with foreign names and calling themselves living the yogi life. Maybe, you’re one of them. However, do you really know what it means to be a yogi? If you think it only requires you to be athletic, limber and to give up meat most of the time, the answer is more than likely “no”. Yoga is much more than a fun way to get fit, it is truly a lifestyle.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, a sage by the name of Patanjali compiled a group of verses known as the Yoga Sutra. These verses became the foundation for true yoga practice. The text contains the guidelines of the Eightfold Path or ashtanga which literally translates to “eight limbs” in English. Each limb is a piece of wisdom aimed at developing one’s mental capacity and physical ability with the goal of achieving spiritual oneness. These limbs are 1. Yama, 2. Niyama, 3. Asana, 4. Pranayama, 5. Pratyahara, 6. Dharana, 7. Dhyana, and 8. Samadhi. Each limb is distinct in its purpose but collectively prepares the practitioner to reach one end goal.

Yama, the first limb, is summed up best with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you want done unto you. It is about how we move in the world and how we treat the other living beings around us. Yama is composed of five distinct parts with more specific guidelines regarding non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-covetousness. The second limb, Niyama, is about self-discipline and spiritual practices. It establishes the importance of meditation and is also split into five small principles regarding cleanliness, contentment, spiritual austerity, the study of sacred scripture and surrendering to God.

The third limb, asana, is the most popular part of the yoga practice. Asana is Sanskrit for pose or posture and is about more than just one’s physical ability and agility. The practice of asanas is to build concentration and consistency necessary for following the other limbs and eventually achieving advanced levels of meditation. The fourth limb, Pranayama, which translates to life force extension is about the breath. It emphasizes the importance of breath in meditation and how it connects the mind, body, and spirit. Some even believe that breath mastery could truly extend the days of one’s life.

Pratyahara, the fifth limb, is another common practice among people of faith although under a different name. Followers of Abrahamic religions often refer to it as fasting. This is the limb that challenges us to give up external distractions and habits that do not necessarily serve us, for example, unhealthy foods or excessive television. Pratyahara directly prepares us for limb six which is Dharana or concentration. With the absence of external distractions, one can better notice the internal distractions and prepare to eliminate them. This is done in the immersion of silence to perfecting the ability to focus on a single point for an extended period of time which is also necessary for meditation.

The seventh limb is all about reaching full awareness with a still mind. This is deep meditation and called Dhyana. It is distinct from the sixth limb, Dharana, which is about focusing on one particular point where as Dhyana is about focusing on everything simultaneously with great clarity and calm. This is considered a very high level of consciousness and very difficult to achieve but certainly possible. Even more complicated to achieve is samadhi, the eighth and final limb. At this level, the yogi is able to meditate with high consciousness in such a way that she becomes one with all things, even the Universe itself. A remarkable sense of peace is attained and the practitioner transcends what we understand as the physical world.

As you can see, of the eight limbs, only one is dedicated to the strength and flexibility of the body. If you are overlooking the remaining 7 limbs, chances are you are merely exercising and not practicing yoga as each pose or movement should be accompanied by an inward purpose or lesson. Let this not discourage you as yoga is for absolutely everyone. If anything, this should encourage anyone who has begun the physical aspect of the practice and those considering it. Acknowledging and implementing all the pieces of a yoga practice will only enhance not just the physical body but the spiritual being. Namaste.

The Power of Feminine Energy

Girls don’t get along. At least that’s what we’re taught by television shows and Worldstar videos. It seems like an age-old understanding that women are either excessively docile or argumentative. We supposedly have the tendency to be combative with other women and if we have not clashed with another yet, we will. In my experience, women can be possessive and even competitive but not necessarily in an unhealthy way. In the best situations, there is no competition at all, but genuine connection and empowerment.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the birthday event of one of my massage therapy school classmates. She turned 30 and wanted to celebrate by surrounding herself with a group of strong and positive women who would send her off into a new decade with love and pieces of wisdom. I admit, as an introvert and a bit of a tomboy, I was nervous but excited about the possibilities for how this event would play out. To my surprise, I was comfortable upon arrival and it lasted throughout the evening. The energy remained bright and welcoming and I got to know a few of the ladies more personally. I even shared a bit of myself in a way I would usually feel too awkward to. I didn’t want the night to end but the good vibes even carried over to the next morning. I woke up in great spirits after getting some of the best sleep of the year. Soon after waking, I had somewhat of an epiphany about the importance of feminine energy.

Femininity has, sadly, been misrepresented and misunderstood by Western society. Our culture is highly patriarchal which has had long-lasting repercussions for both men and women. Women have been forced to compete for male attention since we outnumber them approximately 4 to 1. We’ve been forced to transcend stereotypes of being lesser and to learn how to function amidst sexual predation which has, in many cases, made us more defensive. However, in spite of the odds, women are continuing to rise up more and more to change how we are viewed by the world and by each other.

Women are spectacular beings! So much so that our drama between each other can create  millions of dollars for television networks. On the flip side, we can incubate life, raise and nurture families. We can even begin movements that can change the awareness, and sometimes even the hearts, of men. We are necessary for creation and balance. Even though our demands for respect and understanding are often met with backlash, such is the case with any young movement, we have still managed to rise above it. Imagine if every woman fully embraced her feminine power, how great the impact would it be on those around her. Collectively, we could literally change the world. Namaste!

What Does It Mean to Vibrate Higher?

Western society, lately, has begun to embrace a few ethereal philosophies. This shift has lead to the common use of a few terms that perhaps some of us aren’t quite hip to or lack clarity on. In browsing the web, yoga studios or underground media, you might have come across the phrase, “vibrate higher”. You might not have understood it but felt it resonated with you or maybe you thought nothing of it at all. In actuality, this term is grounded in science but is essentially what spirituality is all about.

In the current phase of scientific discovery, it is believed that atoms are the simplest form of all matter. These atoms bond together to create molecules which are the smallest unit of a chemical compound. The most commonly known example of a chemical compound is water which is formed by the binding of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom. It is understood that molecules are in constant translational and rotational motion, meaning that even objects that appear solid are actually always moving. This is referred to as molecular vibration. In 1905, German physicist Albert Einstein presented his Theory of Relativity with the formula: E = mc2 (“m” standing for mass, “c” for light, and “E” for energy). It explains that all matter, or mass, can be converted into energy and vice versa. Energy exists on vibratory levels of low to high frequency and its characteristics, such as whether it’s visible, heat-generating, high-pitched, etc., are determined by where it falls on that scale.

Human beings are special in that we are aware of these concepts and have the ability to alter our energy, and thereby our vibrations, by the choices we make. The same way we decide which radio frequency to tune in to for our favorite music or talk shows, we have control over what we tune into on an energetic level when interacting with our surroundings. Those who consider themselves mediums or psychics who are able to communicate with the spirit realm are tuned into higher frequencies that allow them to be in touch with realities that others are not. The same would be the case for animal whisperers and prophets. According to what we know about physics, technically, all humans are capable of such skills. To some degree, most of us notice it when we get an odd feeling that something is about to happen just before it does or when we get “bad vibes” from people we just met. Some people are born with one or more of these special abilities already developed while the rest us would require much practice due to existing on such low vibrations for so long.

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Unfortunately, due to the state of Western society, we face a lot of obstacles when it comes to raising our vibrations. We are exposed to unclean and synthesized foods, we live hectically with little room for genuine spirituality, we are convinced that money and the possession of things are what make us important and that particular sizes and shapes define our beauty. This bombardment of falsehood keeps us rolling on the hamster wheel of pomp and circumstance leading us to put all our focus on things that, in essence, matter not in the grand scheme. This might explain the growing epidemic of psychological and physical dis-eases and civil unrest amongst communities. Depression, chronic pains, segregation, and hatred are all symptoms of living on lower vibrations. While it is no easy task, the simple solution to all of this is to start with the self.

Author and movie producer Darryl Anka once said, ““Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” With this in consideration, you can manifest a better world by starting with yourself. There are a few depictions out there about how this works, one of which is a Coke commercial broadcasted a while back. It shows how small acts of kindness can have a huge impact. When we are kind, courageous, loving and generous, even in unpleasant situations, you not only do yourself a service by being your best self for your own well-being but you become an example and an inspiration for others to do the same as they go one about their lives. These are the small changes that can alter a society over time. Remember, in spite of an atoms microscopic nature, its interactions with other atoms create significant happenings every day from the formulation of the water you drink to life itself.

The next time you hear the phrase, “vibrate higher”, I hope it takes on a deeper meaning for you. Keep in mind that you are a countless amount of atoms that came together to make a countless number of ever-moving molecules. Those molecules came equipped with different levels of consciousness or vibrations that you are free to explore. I hope you consider to explore the higher planes and encourage those around you to consider it as well. When you start to operate on higher planes of consciousness, you ultimately take part in changing the world for the better. Namaste!