January 2nd is my favorite day of the year. I mean, I don’t want to get all scroogey about it, but personally, I find all the buy-the-perfect-present pressure a little much. I have a hard time keeping the kitchen clean, let alone organizing an orgasmic cadeau for every special person in my life. Forget wrapping them well… and cards? I’m lucky if I have a sharpie lying around to scribble "ox jess" on each one. Add to that the pressure of delivering on time, and I’m bordering on a cardiac event. It’s only around 5:30 p.m. on December 24th that I fill with Christmas cheer and actually get into the vibe of the season.
My younger sister Catherine, who juggles two kids under four, a husband, a household and writes a column three times a week for The Toronto Star (check her out)… she LOVES Christmas!! Has half her presents bought by mid-October! Cracks open cookbooks and bakes newfangled cookies!!! You know what Catherine did on her year of Canadian maternity leave? The second leave, when she had TWO kids to cart around? Oh, START A FARMER’S MARKET!! Oy. When I try to run my "but it’s my birthday the day after Christmas!" excuse past her when comparing our polar opposite attitudes toward the season, I get no sympathy from her. She was born on my sixth birthday!
So there’s yin and yang in a nutshell. Vive la difference. I did manage to get things in the mail for her kids, and I’m so glad I did. And on the day itself, we could all just relax and enjoy the spirit of community and the lovely beginning of the post-solstice boomerang.
I’m still cleaning up the kitchen, but it’s early January, and this is how I like life. Simple. Less pressure. Just each one of us being ourselves in our own little rhythms. Dirty kitchens. Clean kitchens. High drama. Low drama. No biggie. Just nature doing its thing through all of us.
Because every day is precious. And every person in our lives. And every meal can build us up, or tear us down. And extending our vibes out into the world is a daily practice. Forget presents! Practice presence.
Happy New Year
To tell the truth, my life is already half-vacation. As a self-employed person, I pretty much make my own rules, and as a hypnotherapist, I have a tendency to go DEEP into relaxation, especially at work! But this semi-retirement has a flipside; while my regular life might seem relaxed to many, I don’t really know how to take vacations. I think I feel a little guilty about living a cushy life, so I don’t know how to unplug completely. The iphone is always at the ready, emails flying and my on/off button is rarely entirely off. So it was with great pleasure that I invited a friend from New York out to California to take HIS vacation, thinking I might pick up a thing or two about diving into the vacay.
My friend Hiram, had never been to California. He’s been many, many other places in the world, but never here. I looked forward to watching his pupils dilate and his jaw drop open as he took in some of the many gifts this state has to offer. After a tofu turkey Thanksgiving (if you plan to make one for xmas, click here for recipe) dinner, we headed to Big Sur, a hefty chunk of real estate where the Santa Lucia mountains decide to rear their heads along the Pacific coast. Among its bon bons of eye candy are images like this: and this: and oh yeah, this:
but forget the lousy aesthetics; the best part of Big Sur? No Cellphone service!!!
Being a bit of a researcher, Hiram found us a place to stay called Treebones where groovy meets sunset, all wrapped up in a yurt. You heard me: a this: . Sort of half-tent, half-teepee, a yurt is completely round and well, the feeling inside is… groovy. There’s even a big skylight at the top, through which you can see the treetops and at night the moon shone through so brightly well, it was almost rude, frankly. THE MOON NEEDS TO TAKE A VACATION! First with the tides… then with the menstrual cycle… OY! But it wasn’t just the moon that interfered with urban rhythms… it was the crash of the tide and the annoyingly cute elephant seals playing in the middle of the night… Whatever!
Treebones, in all its grooviosity, served ridiculous, organic, fresh-from-their-garden meals that looked like this: and offered COMPLETELY overrated sunsets from this porch: . If that wasn’t bad enough, Treebones had the bad taste to offer a hot tub in which Hiram’s and my relationship sank to new lows: . After just ten minutes in this torturous contraption, Hiram was rendered speechless: . I couldn’t blame him. Vacations are clearly awful and I’m not surprised I have avoided them for so long.
P.S. A practical tip: Many people ask me about how to stay macro while traveling. In the past, I brought a whole mini macro kitchen on the road with me. It was a knapsack-like bag I packed with small amounts of a few grains, beans, sea vegetables, dried fruit, salt, kuzu, ume plums, miso and just about every seasoning and condiment I could think up. That way, I just had to find veggies to round it all out. These days, I’m a little more chill, but I do adhere to 2 basic rules: No white sugar and no dairy (and I don’t even worry about red meat or chicken–they’ve been off the radar too long). These two "foods" have a tendency to bring a vacation to a grinding halt, either with mood swings or stomach cramps. They also set up cravings for more of the same. I find that it’s possible to get beans (or fish), vegetables, fruit and some kind of complex carb anywhere I go. When craving sweets, I find something made with maple syrup, agave, or I give it a pass. Even convenience stores have little gems like sunflower seeds and apple juice. Did you know that Fritos (yes, Fritos by Frito-Lay) are made of corn, corn oil and salt? No preservatives or flavorings or chemical additives of any kind!! Sure, they’re GMO and deep fried, but life is life and I might have them twice a year in a pinch. If you’re dealing with a serious health condition, take the mini macro kitchen and take your practice very seriously. If you just want to enjoy life and not arrive home with a food hangover, stay away from the big baddies and have a great time. Oh yeah, and chew well. That makes all the difference in the world.
I spent this past weekend in Santa Barbara, California, at the annual Health Classic. It’s a gathering of West Coast macrobiotic teachers and personalities sharing their knowledge and strengthening their practices.
Of course, it made me want to barf . Well, at first. You see, I always find stepping back into the fold an ego-threatening experience. I resist with all the hardness of self until, after a couple of hours, something just melts (thank goodness) and, as I hear other people discussing the weird ideas that swim around in my head all day, I warm happily in the lap of the tribe . It was great.
Some of the teachers there were: David and Cindy Briscoe of Macrobiotics America. He wrote a great book about his recovery called A Personal Peace. Mina Dobic , who recovered from cancer many years ago and details it in her book, My Beautiful Life . Others in attendance were Susan Kreiger, who practices The Feldenkrais method in New York City and Dr. Lawrence Kushi , son of Michio and Aveline, a totally genuis science dude and overall wonderful guy carrying on the dream of One Peaceful World.
Most moving for me was a class taught by Sanae Suzuki and her husband, Eric Lechasseur.
I met Sanae 15 years ago at a Kushi Summer Conference, after she had healed herself of ovarian cancer using the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle. She went on to live a beautiful and abundant life until, 3 days before 9/11, she was in a horrible car accident which put her in a coma for many weeks. Although she missed a global tragedy, she was stuck in her own. The doctors thought she wouldn’t survive, let alone ever walk. But eventually Sanae awoke, to a completely new world, on every single level.
Eric cooked for her, day in and day out. Eventually, Sanae began to walk. Now not only does she walk, she gives consultations, teaches classes, and writes books.
This week her book, Love, Sanae , came out. It is a beautiful labor of love, filled with everything anyone would ever want to know about healing themselves. I cannot recommend it enough as a Christmas gift to yourself or someone you love. Because she’s done it herself, she offers not only practical advice, but inspiration and hope. Check it out at their website.
By the way, Eric–an unbelievable chef who has cooked for Madonna, Sting and Tobey Maguire–is no slouch in the book department either, with one on mouth-watering desserts and one covering seasonal cooking that he wrote with Sanae. They include exquisite full-cover photography on almost every page… so they are a little more expensive than other cookbooks. But worth absolutely every penny.
So, my niece finally called. She took her time, busting a hole in the amniotic sac first, and giving us almost a full day to assemble ourselves before kicking off some contractions. All in all, it was a safe, healthy, un-medicated birth which brought my newest niece into the world. Yay!
But even the easiest birth is unbelievably intense. From the outside observer’s point of view, it looks like a commuter train entering and exiting a crowded station at rush-hour, again and again… back and forth… only this time the station is the female body.
My sister wanted me at the birth because I teach HypnoBirthing, a set of techniques that help the mom-to-be remain as relaxed as possible, while keeping her head in the right place. By taking her deeper and deeper into relaxation–during and between contractions–my sister avoided tensing up and wasting energy. When the body is so relaxed, the birthing muscles work more efficiently and there is less discomfort. By relaxing her mind, she could focus on the task at hand, instead of panicking. And by keeping her mind on a somewhat short hypnotic leash, it remained her friend. You see, we don’t tend to remember sensations as much as we remember what our mind thought about those sensations. "Holy crap!" "This sucks" and "Get me out of here" aren’t exactly helpful thoughts, no matter what we’re doing. Keep the mind focused, calm and pleasantly occupied, and the physical experience just comes and goes beneath it. Comes and goes. Ask the body to go into profound relaxation after periods of intensity, and it will drop all tension (and potential trauma) happily. Even when extreme sensations occurred, my sister would dip herself in the river of relaxation right afterwards, letting everything drop, and she landed in the moment–clean and present–one more time.
So we dipped into the river of relaxation again and again, for about 9 hours, and little Ava ended up in my sister’s arms. I would post a picture of her, but I think it’s weird for a 2-week old to go public. Call me old school.
Another birth occurred this week. The Kind Diet, which I co-wrote with Alicia Silverstone, arrived on bookshelves across America. It’s great for anyone who has wanted to dip their toes into veganism or macrobiotics and has felt intimidated… it even contains a diet plan called "Flirting". The book is full of strong, scientifically-backed arguments against the Nasty foods (meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods) not only based on the damage they do to the human body, but in the ways they impact the planet. The recipes are FABULOUS and the photographs really, really beautiful. I’m extremely proud to be a part of this project. Check it out.
So I’m in Toronto, on Baby Watch. This means that I have bought a throw-away cell phone, like a drug dealer, only because AT&T has cut such a lousy deal with Canada on the iphone that it is STEWPID to do otherwise. That’s probably why the drug dealers buy them too!
Anyway, I’ve got this phone, and I’m waiting for my youngest sister to call me, a little breathless, to say "it’s time!" Meanwhile, I’m just hanging out, trying to eat well, sleep well, and stay amused.
Babies are funny. Everyone wants to predict which sex they will be, when they are going to arrive… how the labor’s going to go… and those little Dickens’ just WON’T BEHAVE. Then, when they arrive, they have the gall to just scream their heads off and poop their pants… for like MONTHS!
Personally, I think that babies are putting out a very real vibration long before they come. They actually arrange a constellation of support on "the outside" before making their big break. I experienced this once in Portland, Maine when, on a Friday evening at about 6 p.m., I lay down for a little snooze and awoke–a mere three hours later–thinking "I’m such a freakin’ loser, sleeping away a Friday night".
On the heels of this positive affirmation, the phone rang: "We’re at Mercy hospital…she’s in labor… can you come over?" And I realized, right then, that the baby had put out the signals, got her ducks in a row, had me prepare appropriately (rest) and pulled her team together as needed.
And I really believe that. It may sound "woo woo waa waa" but what’s the difference between that and "knowing" that the ringing phone is your brother on the line? Or having a feeling something’s going to happen and it does? We are always functioning on a deep, wordless, vibrational level and that’s where the real story is being written. Let your intuition be your guide. Listen carefully and do its bidding.
So I’ve got the phone on, and my intuition sharpened, waiting for the baby to call.
Okay, this is my last post about the CHEW-A-THON, I promise. But I just want to enumerate some of the lessons I got from the experience, and encourage others to post their own.
First of all, I learned that it’s REALLY HARD to chew every mouthful 100 times. Not because it’s physically hard, but because whenever there is another human in front of me, my body tenses slightly out of a desire to connect, and it becomes more difficult to achieve the relaxation and saliva for thorough mastication.
That being said, because I committed to the best of my ability, I did chew most of the time. Which amounted to much, much more chewing than I do in my regular life. I felt: completely in the moment, drama-free, and after a few days, very light in my body. Chewing actually gave me a real appetite for the next thing going on in my life. It propelled me forward, and left little or no resistance. I really, really liked that. I felt my feelings deeply and was tapped in to my creative source for the first time in a while. I felt good physical energy, had unwavering attention and just started to really "chew" on the rest of life. That was cool. It made me want to go on Dancing with the Stars!!
Others reported that the experiment really changed their awareness of food. Not knowing how powerful just a simple bowl of food is, and how much energy can be taken from it, they were amazed when lunch became a torpedo. And of course, there were reports of less farting and easier pooing. Always a blessing.
I’ve come away with a renewed respect for chewing. Isn’t it funny that the simplest things in life are the most powerful, and they never seem to change? We slap our foreheads and say: I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER WHEN I GET ENOUGH SLEEP!! or YOGA IS THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING! or CHEWING MAKES ME STUPID HAPPY!!
And it does. Please re-read the latest blog posts about chewing; I know I will. They include the history, the science behind it, the benefits and the chewing video. Please read Lino Stanchich’s book, The Power Eating Program, for more inspiration. And here’s a tip I think will help us all: Wolf the first 1/3, enjoy the second 1/3 and chew the third 1/3. If we eat every meal like this, we will get the benefits of chewing all-year round without becoming monks. It also works nicely with your digestive enzymes. Don’t wait for the next CHEW-A-THON to begin.
Thanks to all of your who chewed during the CHEW-A-THON. And even to those who just thought about it. Go forth and masticate!
P.S. Just wanted to add that I didn’t blog the last two days of the CHEW-A-THON because, upon arriving in Toronto, my hard drive decided to die. Second hard drive in two years. Between screaming and yelling and chewing and crying tears of joy when I heard that it’s still under warranty, I couldn’t write. Computer was in the shop getting a re-hab and Canada doesn’t have the internet yet!! 🙂
P.P.S. Canadian readers: don’t get mad. It’s a joke. Come out of the igloo and laugh a little!
P.P.P.S. That was a joke too. Maybe if you stopped eating all that maple syrup, you’d understand!
P.P.P.P.S. Okay, another joke, but admittedly really bad. I’m Canadian, so I’m allowed to make jokes about Canada. Even bad ones. xoxo
Dear Hip Chicks and Chucks,
Well, well, well. Our parents complained we never closed our mouths while we ate… the world keeps yelling ‘SWALLOW!!’ … and even deep within our own beings came the little voice that said "this is gross"…
AND YET WE DID IT.
I just want to officially thank and congratulate all the chewers who did their best to get to 30, 50 or even 100 chews per mouthful last week, during the Annual International Celebrity Charity CHEW-A-THON. People in Austria, Italy, America and even Prince Edward Island who masticated without shame! Individuals who put swallowing aside for a brief moment to experience the meaning of "gnashing of teeth".
You are all heroes.
More on what we learned… tomorrow. My battery’s running out.
Weird day. Thought I would be on a plane by noon, but in a moment of “sometimes abundance sucks” took my WRONG passport. You see, I am a Canerican… both Canuck and Yank, and I guess I just pulled my Canadian passport off the shelf this morning. No biggie, you say, Canadians are still welcome most places, and that’s true except that I let my maple passport expire in the last few years.
When I realize this screw-up at the Air Canada desk at LAX, I curse. I know exactly what this means. There’s no talking my way out of this one, no “can I use my license?” because the rules changed a few years back and the rules are the rules are the rules and I—as a half Canadian—should know that.
It meant a pretty big hassle, and because I’ve been chewing for the last few days, I was totally present for the hassle. I was present for the tears I shed in my car driving back home. Tears that cleaned me out of deeper, older stuff than I’d gathered just today. But I was also present for the denoument, the passing of chaos, and the wonderful nap I took at my apartment after three hours of stress.
I’m at the airport again, only this time I’ve made it past check-in. I’m $200 poorer, but I had a great day. I took myself to the beach, where every single sensation, from the sand rolling beneath my feet as I walked, to the salty water in my mouth, to the ridiculously strong push of a wave all… took me. I was theirs. It was beautiful. I went to dinner with a friend, where I chewed while he talked, and vice versa.
And now I’m flying to Toronto, to make it a truly International Chew-a-thon. And considering the Toronto film festival is going on right now, who knows how many celebs I’ll get signed up for the Big Chew?
P.S. Just discovered that the CHEW-A-THON is making the news!!
I felt so balanced in my body today–like I was ten years old or something. I was walking on a path outside my house, and it’s got little bits of gravel strewn on it. Without thinking, my feet stepped only on the gravel free bits. There were no "ouch!"es or "s*#&"s because me feet had Supreme intelligence.
Then in the Chew Chat Room, someone mentioned that they were experiencing less gas. Which makes perfect sense. You see, of the half liter of gas you pass each day (and if you think you don’t fart, you’re doing it at night), most of it is swallowed air! That’s right, from wolfing down food, chewing gum, and even talking, we swallow air and some of it get trapped… way down there.
By chewing thoroughly, not only is there less air in the mouth, but we chomp the heck out of the bits of air in the food! When it is swallowed as well-chewed liquid, food produces much less gas. Yes, even beans. The CHEW-A-THON is proving it!
So who’s gonna make the T-Shirt "CHEW MORE, FART LESS" or maybe "MY CHEWING MIGHT BE ANNOYING YOU BUT AT LEAST I’M NOT FARTING" or, the classic: "I’M WITH CHEWPID"
Omigod. I’m so funny I have to go to bed.
CHEW ON COMRADES!
So, hanging out in the Chew Chat Room this morning, I chatted with some people from the Czech Republic. Later on in the day, Canadians and Americans alike celebrated the benefits of the Big Chew. It was wonderful.
I felt today like I was completely in my body, and therefore in my feelings. Moment after moment, life just happened through me. No biggie. No drama. Just being. Truth be told, I am very acquainted with the little dramas that my mind creates and, at certain moments, I missed them. Clear consciousness, when not enjoyed, can be a little… boring?! But that’s cool. Moments cascade into moments and everything changes.
Then I cheated. At a party… veggie chips get passed… THOSE DAMN VEGGIE CHIPS! And I was, frankly, too embarrassed to stop and chew mid-conversation, as in: "Yeah, I’ve lived in L.A. for, like… (chew one hundred times)… a year now!" It just wasn’t going to happen.
But I’m back on the wagon.
By the way, I learned a couple of great things to today. First, there’s a group on Facebook for macrobiotic parents! Second, a woman named Sarah logged into the chat room from Prince Edward Island, Canada (home of Anne of Green Gables) and she runs a great website called Macromom.ca. Although in Canada, it’s probably pronounced Macro Mum! Check them out!
Off to bed,