Greetings from lovely Jacksonville, Florida. I just had the honor of being the Keynote Speaker for The Florida Times Union 2008 Eve Awards honoring a group of remarkable women making a difference in the world through Education, Volunteer Services and Employment. My speech was titled "From Illness to Activist" and I was shocked at the number of people who were open to it and grateful. There must have been over 700 folks in the room listening to me gab about my canSer tale and how happy I am to be vegan! But no matter how many times I do this I still start to sweat as the chicken comes out and I sweetly start my story.
But I digress. As you have all heard by now, Oprah is one week into a three-week vegan cleanse, inspired by Kathy Freston's book Quantum Wellness. I just finished the book last night in my hotel room and I must say it is wonderful. It's a great basic (yet well documented) tool filled with solid education about the optimum diet and lifestyle for total health.
I especially like how Kathy suggests approaching the cleanse (transition, transition - how many times have we chatted about that?).
Check out what Lady Oprah's cuttin' out:
* All animal products
For many of you who would like to cleanse but don't want to try a juice fast this is a great way to go. 3 weeks without any of the stuffy mucus stuff can change your life, transform your health, and open your eyes to how good you CAN feel. Seems like a huge task at first but with each passing day you'll notice a new kind of sustainable energy (after the detox symptoms pass that is. DOH!). Of course, don't forget to make juice not war baby!
Inspired by Kathy's book, I'm gearing up for another cleanse myself. The last time I fasted was in May with the CSL Cleansing Group. With all this travel and business I have fallen into the bread wagon. Ok, let me be honest, I have been DIVING into the bread wagon. Oh, so hard to control when the first doughy slice passes my lips. YUM! Who doesn't love tons of bread? Well, my thighs for one, my candida for two, my energy level for three, and my digestion for four!
Traveling makes it more complicated when salads come in the shape of jello molds! What is THAT sir? It's definitely challenging to keeping up healthy eating on the road. If I do anything in this life I will master the art of the kitchen nap sack! I bring my powders and supplements, lots of water, some almonds/pumpkin seeds, a few raw snack bars, my tea and stevia and almond milk. I tend to rely on fruit which I don't do when I'm on my home routine. Natalia Rose (who will be guest blogging for me in July!) has some great tips for travel in her book The Raw Food Detox Diet. She teaches you that it is possible to find what you need on almost any menu if you get creative.
As I mentioned in my speech today, we are the drivers, rather than the passengers on the road to personal and global health. Books like Kathy's remind us to ask questions and speak up for our needs, to make daily choices to nourish our bodies while taking into consideration beautiful mama earth. Mama is pleading with us to be conscious consumers, to support each other, and to push the limits, boundaries and comfort zones of what we will tolerate in these difficult times.
More than half of all Americans die of heart disease or cancer and two thirds are over weight.
As stewards of the environment we no can longer sit back and watch as our trees, rivers, land, oceans and fellow creatures disappear at shocking levels.
Clearly there is both an inner and outer global warming taking place. The difference between Illness and wellness is reflected in the spelling – “I” Illness – “We” Wellness. The part always equals the whole and the ripple effect should never be underestimated.
Yeah Kathy Freston! Yeah Oprah! Yeah Jacksonville!
To read all about Oprah's 3-week vegan cleanse and join the discussion, go to:
Any one else reading the book? If so, what do you think? Any one else up for a cleanse or are you cleansing now? Tell moi! Ok, off to the airport...
Peace and awareness,
PS. Here's a quote from a recent article by Freston. "Since there has been a lot of talk about the cleanse portion of my new book, I thought I might emphasize that one key component of the cleanse is eating consciously. Sitting down to eat is an elemental part of every day, and what we choose to put on our plate has repercussions not only for our physical well being, but also for our spiritual well being. Conscious eating means simply this: remaining awake and aware of how food gets to our plate -- and then choosing what we eat according to our values."
Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I am so excited to spread the news about an amazing benefit event happening in NYC on Friday, June 6th. My very first Zen teacher (and idol) Roshi Joan Halifax will be teaching her Death and Dying workshop at Urban Zen. Donna Karan and The Village Zendo will be hosting this event with all proceeds going to the Zendo (another spectacular place). Don't let the name of the workshop freak you out folks. It's REVOLUTIONARY. And not just for those of us experiencing adversity - no, no, if you have a pounding, breaking, passionate heartbeat (and some money to give to a good cause) well then you should truck on over and experience the magic! This LIFE class is for every soul that struts the planet and desires to overcome their obstacles of fear in order to soar. Roshi's workshop on Death and Dying will engage Eastern and Western psychology, philosophy, and contemplative practices from many spiritual traditions. In her DYNAMIC style, Roshi Joan will offer wisdom and teachings that are ideal for medical professionals, social workers, clergy, community activists, and spiritual seekers.
Studying with Roshi was one of the richest experiences of my life. She is a true gift. Rest assured that she will invite us to dive deep (to the core actually) and heal.
Below is a portion of what I wrote in Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips about Upaya and my experience with Roshi in 2003 - the summer I was diagnosed.
"Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is a beautiful Zen monastery called Upaya. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ve experienced those annoying five minutes at the end when you’re forced to inhale “let” and exhale “go.” For me those last minutes were always torture. But when I ran across Upaya, I had a sneaking feeling that the silence within its walls would provide me the opportunity to discover what was inside me.
The woman who founded the monastery, Roshi Joan Halifax, had an electric way about her. I’d never seen such a dazzling female monk before. She had penetrating blue eyes and a shaved head. She looked like a cool cancer survivor, only she wore robes and knew everything there was to know about the Buddha.
I went to a few of her meditation and dharma talks, and though my back felt like it needed the attention of a team of chiropractors after sitting so long, I became hooked. Not only did I need to keep coming to the monastery, I needed to move in.
As I wandered aimlessly around town on the morning of my monastery move, I heard a faint, eerie whimper. It was a goose-bump-producing sound that seemed to be following me around. Wait, I thought, that sound is coming from me. I was letting out tiny yelps of pain. Not now, please Kris, hold it together. It was 2:45, time to go! My eyes welled up as I drove up the mountain. Would I be able to say hello without bursting into tears? What would living in a Zen Buddhist monastery be like?
When I arrived, a nice woman who worked in the office showed me to my tiny (yet tasteful) spiritual cell. I dumped all my leopard luggage in the middle of the floor and wept. I cried until I was exhausted. Then I stared at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity. Now what? Nightly meditation in the temple! Oh, what a treat. As I sat on the cushion counting my breath, the waves of emotion continued to flow. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so exposed. All my gunk was pouring out of me and there was no place to hide. It was embarrassing, and yet it felt good to release the weight I’d been carrying.
Après meditation, it was time for din din with the monks. Bread and soup. I was thankful for it. Until, out of nowhere, the crying started again. Stop! Stop! I begged myself to stop but my tear ducts were on autopilot and there was no way to override the system. I dreaded the thought of being the new freak who had come to the monastery to sort out her problems, but that’s exactly who I was. Thankfully the conversation at the dinner table was light. The monks had watched Margaret Cho’s Notorious C.H.O. video and were gabbing about how it was better than Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. I was grateful for the un-Zen-like chatter. I had a feeling that they had seen these uncomfortable emotional episodes before and didn’t want to make me feel awkward.
That night a pack of coyotes sang under my window and I slept like a baby. The next morning everything seemed better. As the weeks went by I blossomed.
Monastery living was the opposite of the busy, hectic life I was used to. Each day at Upaya included three hour-long meditations, as well as work practices like chopping carrots, sweeping, gardening—anything that needed to be done to maintain the place. In exchange for my help and commitment, I received a room and three simple vegetarian meals (three hots and a buddha-ful cot!). Weekly intensives ranged from calligraphy to yoga and of course plenty of meditation. I loved all the classes, except one. The title alone totally gave me the creeps. It was called Being with Dying, and I vowed to make myself scarce for the roll call. Fat chance!
Just when I had learned all the correct bows and zendo etiquette (like only the head abbot gets to enter from the back of the temple), Roshi Joan Halifax asked to see me . . . privately. Gulp. This was big. In fact, it had an official name, Dokasan. The protocol was very complicated. You had to bow, prostrate (three to four times, I never remembered), and chat. Then do the whole thing in reverse order and leave. Once I had finished making a fool of myself and dishonoring the tradition, I told Roshi that the Being with Dying workshop wigged me out. It made me worry that I’d manifest my death, and since I believed that worrying was praying for what you don’t want, I didn’t want to take that workshop! She laughed and promised me that it wouldn’t be morbid and that if at any time I wanted to leave, I could. Translation: Get your ass to class, I’m watching you!"
In my book I went on to write about how transformative this workshop was for me. Quite simply, it changed my life. It also changed my mind about how I was going to live this delicious life. In a word, FULLY. This workshop wasn’t about dying, it was about exploring all the emotional sandpaper that was making living so raw and scratchy.
OH, and guess who else will be there teaching yoga? Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman!
For the schedule, tix price, additional speakers etc...Check out the PDF posted on the Crazy Sexy Life forum.
Peace and deep zen bows,
Monday, May 26, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Hello Cherry Blossoms!
Crazy Sexy Guest blogger Terri Cole coming at ya! Have a fantastic holiday loves. Take it away T....
"At the start of a holiday weekend it’s a perfect “time” to reflect on our relationship to time and what affect it has on our lives (as Kris would say, talk about a potential acid bath!!) The fast pace of the American lifestyle today is a well-known fact, as is the profound effect nonstop hurrying has on your health. Think about the way you go through your daily activities. Do you allot plenty of time to get them all done? Do you do them with ease and enjoy what you are doing? When you are driving somewhere do you see the trees or the architecture around you? Do you appreciate the sun or the clouds? OR do you rush through the task feeling totally stressed and like there is NEVER enough time? Are you somewhere in between?
One important question to decode the time crunch mystery is; What is your personal relationship to time? Are you always late? Always early? Which are really different sides of the same coin, as they both cause STRESS. Do you see time as your enemy? As something that happens TO you? That you have no control over? Or do you concur with Mick Jagger and feel that tiii-ah- iiiime is on your side? (Let’s be honest time is catchin’ up with ole Mick-put some real pants on would ya?) So how is our relationship to time determined? A plethora of psychological and environmental factors combine to create your specific time dynamic. The good news is that none of that matters if you really want to change it. Awareness is the first step. Desire for a different experience is the next.
Part of what we are exploring here is MINDFULNESS. That is clear moment-to-moment awareness of what is actually happening. When we are thinking about what’s next, we are robbed of the moment we are currently in. Living in the future, immediate or long term can be a trap for inaction. Eckart Tole, THE POWER OF NOW author would have a field day here. There are so many clichéd sayings about time waiting for no man/woman that I could write nothing else and fill this entire blog with them…but I will share my time transformation tale instead.
In January 2007 I saw the documentary film, THE SECRET for the first time. While watching the film I had a shocking epiphany about my relationship to time. I was always proud about NEVER being late to anything. I had very little tolerance for tardiness from anyone in my life. I left restaurants, fought with people, and self-righteously judged latecomers. My friends fell into two categories, the ones I could count on and the flaky ones (AKA time challenged). I rushed everywhere…all the time…even when there was no good reason. The act of constantly hurrying is physically stressful. For me, rushing made me short tempered with people. NYC tourists walking slow in Time Square could send me into a tizzy of anger and negativity. The sweeping generalizations would start and the rest of my day could be colored. I never thought about this dynamic until that night. The amount of self-induced stress I was creating was embarrassing once I realized what was happening. For all those years I thought time was happening to me. Only to realize it was all, quite literally, in my mind.
The first thing I did with my newfound knowledge was to pledge: No rushing anywhere, anymore. When I did that, my world changed. I started affirming everyday that I had exactly the right amount of time I need. My husband Vic would remind me in a loving way when I forgot. Our dynamic changed completely around time. My typical, you are going to make me late rant ended. We used to be polarized. I would expect him to make me late and he would not disappoint. We have a great friendship and a great marriage and yet things would really turn acrimonious around this issue. Removing that dynamic from our lives has been a blessing. (Who says you can’t teach 2 old dogs new tricks ☺).
Another major change that happened for me was my ability and desire to BE HERE NOW. No matter what is happening I want to be here to experience it, mind and body. My weekly time in NYC has become a joyous adventure. I stop for tea, made time for a Bikram Yoga class or just leisurely people watch from a café in the village. The main shift internally is near elimination of a boatload of daily stress. I consciously choose not to stress about time even if Amtrak is going to make me late. The world will not end. I will not spontaneously combust into flames.
How can you figure out your relationship to time? Start by honestly assessing how you behave in time related situations. Then ask the people in your life. Does your relationship to time cause you any stress at all? Are you present in your life most of the time? Some of the time? Not much of the time? When you are driving are you hypnotized or are you seeing the landscape or the cityscape? Once you have figured out your time style or dysfunction as it may be, journal about how it makes your feel. Recall instances where it has created a problem in a relationship or a work situation etc. Now think about how you want to be. Make a list of bold statements in the present tense…and then change your mind about time. I did. You can.
I would love to hear how you do and what epiphanies you experience.
Love love love,
Your CRAZY SEXY LIFE COACH
PS check out a cool website all about the benefits slowing down www.SlowDownNow.org where multi-tasking is considered a “moral weakness” (all in fun but you get the point)."
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Wow, it's Monday AGAIN, how did that happen?
It's no fair that the weekend is only 2 days long! Who was in charge of that decision? As history goes, depending who you talk to, I suppose it was God. Perhaps she should have taken into consideration that fun barely has a chance to shake its tail feather in that stingy time frame. Just when our groove gets juicy funky it's time to go back to the grind. What if fun was serious business, non-negotiable? How would mandatory skipping and frolicking truly transform our lives? Were you ever taught to make time in order to accomplish nothing but a smile?
Imagine how uplifting our lives would be if we decided to take fun really seriously, like it was something our doctors prescribed, something we could not avoid or sacrifice. When we're working on regaining our health life can get pretty heavy and very complicated. Let's face it, life is BUSY, add an illness to the mix and it gets TWICE as busy (especially if you wisely choose to incorporate natural therapies). Levity, optimism, downtime - all reminders that there is joy on the other side of worry. And guess what, FUN is alkaline! Yes indeed, as Beth reminded us in her wonderful post, balance (especially pH balance) comes from more than food. In fact, we can eat a perfect raw, vegan, alkaline, organic, localvorian diet and still be acidic due to STRESS. What a way to sabotage the smoothie. Ya work your ass off to get well but ya get sicker cause life sucks and all the play grounds have "do not enter signs" hanging from chains. No thanks!
On Saturday I was faced with a choice, finish my three articles that are due today or go have some fun. All the work was dumped on me at the last minute. Why should I clock in a 7 day work week yet again? My inner kid threw a spaz and immediately tossed a big phat writers block that clonked me in the head and sent me into the sunshine. If you notice, I've been trying to take my own advise over these last several months. Why should I boss everyone else around and then be a total hypocrite in my own house. So not sexy.
Time for a grand ole time! Now my grand ole time may seem a little domestically boring but considering that I'm rarely home for any long period, spending time outside or working on my nest makes me happy.
Here's how it started.
Someone else making my morning juice! HA, no clean up, OH YEAH!
A 2 hour hike up my favorite mountain with my hubby carrying the heavy stuff.
Next stop the FLEA MARKET! One man's trash is definitely another man's treasure. I stopped myself from buying more land fill but oh how fun to browse.
Speaking of landfill, off to the dump to recycle. Yes, the dump, I LOVE IT THERE. I especially love the sign that say "No Picking" it sounds naughty and itchy and that makes me laugh.
OK, now for the major wow, TARGET. Finally, some new outdoor furniture purchase during their semi annual sale. I love my new chairs! Cozy, easy to clean, elegant shit. I do feel bad that they come from China and I have total eco-guilt about that but screw it. I guess since I'm a veg head I sometimes allow myself more carbon wiggle room. Lame but true.
SO there you have it. Nothing revolutionary to speak of other than a fabulously fun and alkaline weekend. Oh, we watched "Knocked Up" on Netflix too.
Laughing through Judd Apatow movies is definitely alkaline!
Peace and FUN,
PS. What's your idea of a grand ole weekend and when was the last time you had one?
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Ok, Campers, here we go… really, this is one of the foundations upon which the Crazy Sexy Life is built. Because not only does what you put into your body influence your pH, but so do your thoughts and emotions. Which is why Kris’ blog “Marianne Monday” is such an important reminder that we must nurture all the components of the lifestyle – because absolutely everything we expose ourselves to impacts our internal environment, meaning our pH. We talk about this a lot, but what’s the big deal already?? Well, let’s see what we can learn.
pH is a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration, [H+] in solution. Neutral is 7.0. A pH lower than 7.0 is acidic, anything higher than 7.0 is basic or alkaline. The body ideally likes a slightly basic environment at a pH of 7.365. Our bodies are designed around the concept of homeostasis – that neutral, groovy set point where everything is a-okay. The body keeps things at this “zen” space by intricate interactions of charged molecules, balancing one another out for optimum function. Every bodily function, from breathing to pooping, is regulated this way. The body will wreck havoc trying to maintain or regain homeostasis – in this case, a pH of 7.365.
So what affects the pH of my body, you may ask?? Well, everything! Foods like meat, dairy, highly refined or processed products (you remember our chat on sugar, right?) all drive your pH down… recall our definition: a drop in pH means an increase in acidity. Negative emotions and stress result in hormonal cascades that indirectly raise acidity. Lack of exercise, depleted enzyme stores, and environmental stressors all have a deleterious impact as well. Throw in a few cocktails and any prescription medication you are on and we are talking acid cesspool.
Big deal? Why is acidity such a buzzkill for our bodies?? Well, in part, we saw a hint of the explanation from our friend Otto Warburg. His discoveries on the anaerobic metabolism of cancer cells (acidic environment) – which are increasingly the direction medical cancer research is headed in – gave us our first initial peek at the impact of pH.
Basically, healthy cells like a nice oxygen-rich environment. This allows the body to maintain that gorgeous, slightly alkaline pH of 7.365. Cell functions are not impaired in any way by compromises in structure, enzyme activity, mucus sludge, hormone function or toxin build up.
Now take that same environment and drop the pH below 7.0 – make it acidic. This alters the metabolic functioning of all cells. Remember the delicate balance we talked about, if you tip the scale even a little bit in one direction, the body will scramble to try to get back to its zen state of pH 7.365. And considering, in blood, it takes 20 times as much base to neutralize acid, we are talking an enormous amount of stress and chaos for the body. The focus shifts away from normal metabolic functions to trying to procure enough base to bind up acid. It is much easier for the body to maintain a proper pH than to restore it.
The body uses various minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium respectively to bind to acids to create a neutral substance that can be excreted. If your diet is not replenishing these mineral stores, the body starts mining them from other sources, like bone, muscle, and organ tissues. The body will steal these minerals from anywhere and everywhere it has to in order to balance the pH. Can you see where this is going?? LACK. DEFICIENCY. NOT ENOUGH.
Eventually, if YOU don’t break the cycle somewhere, your body won’t be able to keep up with the demand for substances to neutralize acid. If acid builds up too high, in order to survive, the body will start dumping acid out of the bloodstream into tissues. The cleaning system of the body, the lymphatic system, will then try to neutralize the acidity and dispose of the waste. Well, the lymph system’s mechanism for cleaning – oy vey! – is shuttling substances BACK into the blood circulation.
If your head is spinning, it’s because your body is going around this psycho killer carousel trying to regulate pH.
But what does all this really mean for you?? Well, when that delicate pH balance is tipped in the acidic direction, the wide-sweeping effects it has on metabolism may manifest in a variety of ways: infection, inflammation, constitutional symptoms, allergies etc. etc. etc. Not to mention the fact that bugs – bacteria, yeast, fungi – LOVE acidic environments. They thrive in the acid bath. An alkaline environment, on the other hand, is not so conducive for them to run amok. Are you aware that many common infections are caused by bugs that are part of our normal flora? What?? Yup, we carry them with us, some actually help us maintain that zen homeostasis. So if we aren’t “catching” these bugs from the outside, why do we get sick??
Many who believe in the power of raw, green foods, the benefits of exercise, meditation and creativity, myself included, will tell you illness is because the internal environment was somehow disrupted. This disruption allowed an increased acidity, which creates a toxic shift in the behavior of these microorganisms. We don’t “catch” all illnesses (some, yes, of course). Through our lifestyle choices, we have the power to create or destroy an internal milieu that either keeps everyone coexisting beautifully or allows potential problem makers to prosper.
The gorgeous part of all this, we can affect change on that internal environment. We can, through our choices, allow our bodies to remain at that fantastic, zen, homeostatic set point of alkalinity, pH 7.365. It’s all about the Crazy Sexy Lifestyle, Baby! You can use pH strips to get an idea of your internal pH – urine is the closest idea of what is going on in your blood. Saliva is too variable. Remember, delicate balance, 7.365 is where it’s at! There are areas of the body that need a bit more acidity to function properly. However, unfortunately for us, disruption in our systems tends to veer towards the acidic side. It is very difficult to become too alkaline through nutrition. So guzzle your green juices, eat your veggies and don’t worry about going overboard.
I am willing to bet that as you start clearing out the stress, finding your daily spiritual practice, keep shakin’ that ass, start drinking green juice, 80% of your plate is green veggies, use whole food supplements… and track your pH, you will have all the proof in the nondairy nut-based pudding you need. You will likely correlate times of sickness or feeling poorly with your pH testing. Keep a journal, track it, and please, let us know the results!!!
Big, BASIC (alkaline) hugs,
Monday, May 12, 2008
Good morning lovely Lima beans!
Finally after so much travel I am back at my magical home in hippieville Woodstock! And although it's tempting to dive in and catch up on all the work I have to do, I once again awaken to the fact that the most important work is on the inside - between my right and left ears, to be exact...
I was reminded of this AH HA after spending this past Saturday with my amazing friend and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson. Her new book, "The Age of Miracles: Embracing The New Midlife" was the subject of her lecture, and although I learned a lot about how I would like to age, it was so relevant to my life NOW. Of all the powerful words that fell from her God-touched tongue, the most dynamic tool for my own RIGHT-NOW growth came in the form of a straight forward question: Do you have a DAILY spiritual practice? "Uhhh, wellll, sometimes-ish, but you see lately it's been tough! I mean, there's the travel, work, emails, and juicing takes time..." SHUT UP KRIS (I said this - she didn't). The truthful answer is a whopping NO.
I've been to Marianne's lectures before, I've read her books, she's even pressed me on this question in person at tea or over dinner. And every time I Shuck and Jive and then walk away making new promises to myself that work for a little while, but then never really take root. Why? Is it too ouchy to commit? Do I think I'm all that and a bag of pita chips and don't need it? OR am I too dang lazy!?!? Do you have a DAILY spiritual practice? Deep sigh.....
When I break it down it's simple. All my suffering comes from the fact that my primary relationship - which is my relationship to the divine - is off. When this relationship is solid there is no illusion of separation. There is no struggle no matter what the struggle is. My mind determines my reality. I change it in order to salvage it, and therefore my thoughts are clear. How good does it feel to sit in meditation and empty your head, even for just a few moments? How about journaling, exercise, reading spiritual scripture, praying, or listening to uplifting lectures on CD? These daily practices are as important, if not more important, than any other commitment in our lives.
One of the many remarkable things about Marianne is that no matter what question comes at her, she is able to break it down and bring it back to God. At the heart of the answer lies our own commitment to the path. Ego driven selfishness, poor-me victimization, spinning wheels, bitterness, loneliness, rage, etc. - when these negative feelings are allowed to metastasize, they eventually mutiny, take over your ship, and you find yourself no longer the captain of your destiny.
Makes perfect sense to me. So how do I make sure I don't negotiate away the time it takes to string together the pearls on the spiritual necklace? Just do it. As Jon Kabat Zinn says, "get your ass on the pillow!"
In our little CSL community we constantly chat about cleansing our bodies in order to boost our immunity and live our best lives, no matter what the circumstance. Marianne reminds us that we must also detox our distorted belief systems in order to truly experience happiness. Topical solutions just won't do, our problems are systemic. She says that we can't cover our darkness with pink paint and call it light! Many of the mistakes made in my life have come from moving too fast. The speed by which my turbine cranks comes from a deep fear of quiet, and ultimately, inadequacy. UGH!!!!!
When stuff is uncomfortable it is so much easier to keep it at arms length, and yet our arms get so frickin' tired. Arms length makes it more difficult. The Course in Miracles says that we find the rest we seek not from sleeping, but from waking. OH YEAH! Isn't that what we're trying to do with our diets? Wake up to the health and abundance available in every bite? Same thing with the meal that is our spiritual path.
As I continue to define the CSL Lifestyle for myself (I start writing "Crazy Sexy Life" the book in October), I am reminded that it is a spiritual diet first and foremost. It is a path of compassion and of service. Each of us transitions to health from a different starting point. We must have patience with ourselves, but we can't let that be an excuse for not doing our best. Again, the more clear you are spiritually, the more you'll trust your instincts. Nothing good comes easy; it takes work. Although diet is the seat of the chair, the four legs are equally important. Mind, body, spirit, and the more I think about it, the fourth leg is the DAILY PRACTICE. When any of these pillars are wobbly we feel unsettled, insecure, and off balance. I am grateful to wonderful teachers like Marianne who are dedicated to helping us remember this.
Off to take a walk and pray.
Peace and hallelujah!
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
It is with great sadness that I say good-bye to the woman who helped me make peace with my own journey with cancer, Oni Faida Lampley. She was a sage, a teacher, a veteran of overcoming hardship and a deeply spiritual truth teller.
On April 28th, our gorgeous, dynamic, charming, brilliant, powerful warrior Oni left her body and became our angel. She was surrounded by love and light, friends and family, music, and prayer as she went peacefully and gracefully into the light.
For those of you who have seen Crazy Sexy Cancer, Oni is the brilliant (and hilarious) playwright we profiled towards the end of the film. I spent many nights watching her interviews in the hopes that her wisdom would take seed and help me to heal. Well, it did. Oni is responsible for some of my greatest personal breakthroughs. There is nothing to be thankful to cancer for and yet there are so many blessings, a paradox that I am still unraveling. If it wasn’t for my diagnosis I would never have met such a remarkable woman. So in the end, thank you cancer for bringing Oni into my life. Her creativity and passion reminded me that the only way to save my spirit was to nurture my artist and tell my story. Watching her tour de force made me pray for half the talent pouring from her heart and pen.
Oni's greatest wish was that her two brilliant and beautiful boys, Oluwadamilola and Adebayo would be able to go to college and bloom in their own ways.
If you are in a position to make a contribution to the boys' Scholarship Fund, your donation will help them pursue their dreams. No amount is too small. With the combined force of our incredible community we can give them an amazing running start as they carry on the legacy of Oni Faida Lampley.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Hi cherished tomatoes!
The posse gathering was down right magical. We met, ate DIVINE raw chow, hugged, shared massive knowledge, chatted about where we're going in the future with our wonderful company, introduced our AMAZING and ever growing team (Beth Villandry, Director of Development and Corinne Bowen Program and Development Manager - look out, these revolution mamas are going to ROCK YOUR WORLD). We gave away awesome prezzies (thank you sexy Sarma for the fantstic Pure Food & Wine goodie bag, and deep bow to the angel folks at Nutiva, E3 Live, Gnosis Chocolate and Vanessa Barg, Get Fresh Magazine and of course Breville - we gave away a juicer! Yeah, alkalinity!) Oh, oh, oh, we also passed out our new bracelets "Crazy Sexy Life - Make Juice Not War! Sooo cool, soooo fun and available for all very soon. Gotta spread the message and the love-ola. Jumping the cyber barrier was so surreal! New faces and long time pals from the old blog days all showed (Hi Sandra Joseph!) Also, a big SPECIAL thanks to Amy & Michelle (our new york team leaders) for making this day happen. Amy's invites, and awesome graphic magic survey was the creative glue that propelled us to a new level. THANK YOU!
Oh, guess who else graced us? Philip of lovingraw.com and Giveittomeraw.com. If you haven't read his story, run don't walk. Philip just finished his 100 day juice fast/feast on Friday and will be blogging for us later this week. WOW WOW WOW! Ps. The Raw Chocolate Rave on Friday was delish. Thanks Dhrumil (the dynamo founder of Giveittomeraw and Welikeitraw), you are the ultimate conduit, maker of change, and spiritual playah!
Needless to say, the New York flagship posse is a bright, bright gem so naturally we're already planning our next event. Can you say yoga studio anyone? Besides these wonderful meet-ups, team CSL is planning a host of other programs to grace your life with vibrance, knowledge and spiritual health. Keep your peepers peeled. More details to come soon.
It's so exciting to be back in New York for a week. Tonight I will be MC-ing the Sarcoma Foundation of America's annual gala fundraiser and on Thursday I will be the Keynote speaker at the Harvard Club for the Dana Farber gala. I'm honored beyond belief!
Hope and pray that you all have a wonderful GREEN day.
If you're in town for the next meet up, please come! I can't wait to squeeze you like a lemon. :) xox :) xoxo!
Peace and JOY HOLY JOY,
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Let's dance about yesterday's MAJOR advancement for our furry friends! Check it out:
"The prestigious Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production just concluded its 2.5-year study of American animal agriculture with unanimous findings from its 15 members. The panel concluded that factory farms pose unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and animal welfare. It also issued a series of recommendations, including a phase-out of battery cages, gestation crates, veal crates, foie gras, and tail-docking of dairy cows, along with inclusion of poultry under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act."
So what does all this have to do with my wonderful pal Dan? Take it away compassion rock star, activist extraordinaire and one heck of a dynamic CanSer chap...
"As an ex-control freak and a new-found believer in the “things happen for a reason” school of thought, it seems absolutely fitting that my fiancé Katie and I happened to meet Kris and Brian while vacationing in Costa Rica.
Quickly let me catch you all up to speed: we were all staying in the same yoga/nature retreat, so when we initially met we all spent the first few days engaging in basic small talk and abbreviated biographies. Then, after a few days, I became interested in finding out more about Brian’s film background, as in an earlier life I had been a film major in San Francisco. This is when they dropped their bombshell and Katie and I found out exactly how Brian and Kris met- and exactly the type of project that the two of them had worked on together. More simply put, this is when I learned all about “Crazy Sexy Cancer.” Although it’s never pleasant to learn of someone’s struggle with cancer, my shock of our shared experience came upon me in an odd sense of relief, the relief of finding others who fully understand my struggle- my own bombshell, that I constantly feel the need to hide until the optimal moment for bombardment: I too am a cancer survivor.
Four years ago, while I was living in New York City, working for the New York Yankees, in what I considered at that time to be “my dream job,” I began to feel sick. I was 24 years old at the time, and up until that point I had been totally healthy (well, healthy as far as sickness, but to be honest, my lifestyle was not necessarily the healthiest example out there). The symptoms included physical things like headaches, fatigue and night-sweats, while also having crazy psychological changes like depression and as WebMd puts it “feeling of doom.” But through it all, I figured that I was just tired and maybe I had been going out and partying a little bit too often. Never in a million years did I expect anything was really the matter with me.
And then I started to get constipated. I mean really constipated. I would go two or three weeks without any major bowel movement. I began relying heavily on laxatives to get even a semblance of relief. Finally, it became so unbearable that I had to actually go and see a doctor. I had been to Africa a few months before the heavy constipation had really started so I kept rationalizing the problem to be a result of some acquired parasite or form of bacteria. It turns out that the reason why I was unable go to the bathroom was because my spleen had enlarged about five times its normal size. And the reason why it was five times its normal size was because it was being flooded with white blood cells that it was rather unsuccessfully trying to filter out. I had about 100 times the amount of white blood cells that I should have had, in addition to severe anemia. This answered the headaches and fatigue, but why was I anemic? The answer, the doctors told me, is that I have leukemia.
When he uttered that word, honestly, all I could think of was that it was some kind of bald-headed kid’s disease. I didn’t have any idea exactly what it was. So when I asked naively to put it in layman’s terms, that’s when he let me know plainly that leukemia is cancer. And in turn, that’s when the whole world collapsed to a tiny speck about the size of a pin-hole.
Fortunately, the type of leukemia that I was diagnosed with: chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is the kind of leukemia you wanted to get if you ever were actually crazy enough to want to get leukemia. Without going too much in-depth, getting CML before you turn 66 is an extremely rare occurrence, and less than 10% of all reported cases of CML are from patients under 25 years old. Regardless, I think as we’ve seen with Kris, and probably many of your own experiences, when it comes to cancer, or survival for that matter, the last thing you ever want to do is lean on statistics. The reason why odds are never 100% either in favor or against a particular outcome is that there are always exceptions to nearly everything: sometimes you are a positive exception and sometimes you are not. So I took it on myself (and family and friends) to beat this, but in order to do so, I had to recalibrate a life that was kinda spinning out of control.
The next year was filled with doctors and hospitals and blood tests and giant needles digging into my hip bone, extracting marrow, and chemotherapy and pain and loneliness and exhaustion. It’s the details of the story that are far too massive to sum up in this blog. But on that note, this is why I think all of us can find inspiration and strength from Kris and Brian’s film. It is virtually the story that we have all gone through but rarely are able to observe from an outside perspective. However after a successful bone-marrow transplant (actually stem cells from my brother, Dave) and another year living a basically hermetically sealed existence, I was free to carry on as before. At least that was the intended plan. But after that re-awakening, something in me had changed. I had gone through so much- the highs and lows, the pain and the relief, and through it I had come out differently on the other side.
I could no longer just assimilate back into the same life as before. I now understood suffering, I felt what it was like to be totally vulnerable and without any control over my own fate. To me, nothing seemed stupider than to ignore all of this insight and escape back into the fairytale world of peanuts and cracker jacks- where life is separated into spring training and fall classics. During my recovery, Katie and I adopted a golden retriever named Sam from the local Humane Society. What now seems like a totally lopsided exchange for a warm bed and dry food, in return he offered a salve for my heart. He became instrumental in my recovery, as I was on medical imposed exile for the first few years of recovery. I have always liked animals, but it wasn’t until really getting to know Sam that I understood what that really means.
A little over a year ago, I had a dream in that Sam was standing in a kill chute at a slaughterhouse. He couldn’t know that on the other side of the swinging doors his body would be sliced and diced and turned into hamburger, but regardless, he desperately wanted to escape, and was powerless to do so. His eyes were screaming to be heard but he made no sound. It chilled me all the way down to my newly replaced bone-marrow because in some ways I could fully relate to that feeling. When my body was literally in the process of killing me, when I had no idea that I was weeks away from massive heart failure or stroke from the massive buildup of blood cells, my body was silently screaming at me to “get the hell out of here!”
That’s when I connected it all to a quote by the Nobel Prize winning philosopher Albert Schweitzer: “Think occasionally of the suffering from which you spare yourself the sight.” I began to think of such tiny little connections such as: If I punch Sam, it will hurt him, if I kiss Sam, it will feel good to him. Then I thought of all the times as a kid when I had heard that “a pig is smarter than a dog.” Well, to me Sam was pretty amazingly smart. Sure, he isn’t solving advanced calculus equations or writing a dissertation on Gertrude Stein, but he is aware of himself, like me, and my struggle to survive cancer at all costs is identical to his interest in self-preservation. Even more importantly, however, is that he has the ability to suffer just as I do.
That is when the light bulb went off. The feeling that I had awakened after all these years, is compassion. In my estimation, this is an emotion that everyone is born with, but more often than not, for any number of reasons, this instinct is shamed, ignored, and eventually forgotten. We live in a society where the number one priority is to take care of your own best interests. But now that I had received a new lease on life, I wanted to do it totally different. I had the unique opportunity to start over, and at the foundation of this rebirth is compassion.
In fact, I don’t know what made my heart smile more, when Brian told me that Kris is a cancer survivor or when he told me Kris was a vegan. I have been vegan now for a year and it has been the most rewarding decision that I have ever made. Every single morning, I wake up and my heart feels joyous, I know that I am truly living my ethics. In addition, about 4 months ago I was hired by the Humane Society of the United States, and now work full-time in spreading the message of compassion.
I’m sure by now, most of you have read or seen footage from the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. in Chino, California. For those that have no idea what I’m talking about, you can visit www.humanesociety.org and on the homepage there are links to both the story and the undercover video that a Humane Society undercover investigator shot over a few weeks at the slaughter facility.
What is most shocking, is that the HSUS randomly selected this facility with no prior knowledge or information on their treatment of cattle. Hallmark/Westland isn’t particularly egregious, nor is it particularly negligent. The sickening reality, is that with almost total certainty, whichever of the thousands upon thousands of CAFOs (factory farms), feedlots or slaughter facilities, that currently operate throughout the United States of America and are governed by the USDA, the resulting footage would look nearly identical.
To me, what makes it worse, is that these particular cows did not get to spend the first 18 months of their fated existence on pasture land- free to essentially be a cow, like most cattle raised for beef, before being shipped off to the high-density feedlot to be fattened up on an unnatural diet of corn. No, these are dairy cattle- animals that are impregnated against their will, only to have their babies taken away from them within days of birth, and re-impregnated again and again.
You see, cows are mammals, like us, and mammals can only produce milk after gestation. When I fist discovered this, I was a bit shocked: cows don’t magically make milk- milk is made for their own babies, and if they aren’t new mothers than they don’t lactate.
Not to get too off topic, but let’s focus on their babies for a sec- the females are taken to ’replenish’ the herd, while nearly every single male calf or veal calf (roughly half) are taken from their mothers, days from birth, tied up inside a tiny box- so small they can not even turn around or lay down comfortably, and fed an iron deficient diet for the few awful weeks that they will exist on this planet.
Now back to the mother- after a constant cycle of birthing and milking (about 5 times the amount a calf would naturally nurse), these cows are considered “spent” and no longer serve as cost-effective milk-producing machines. Their bodies and hormones are so cached from giving and giving and giving that there becomes only one more possible way to exploit these beleaguered animals for more money: send them to slaughter.
And this is where Hallmark/Westland comes in to play. How do you get a thousand pound animal, broken and ruined, to walk willingly down a kill chute? I know myself, as a cancer survivor who was exposed to massive doses of Cytoxin and Busulfan, whose bone marrow was completely destroyed by this poison, and spent weeks without any trace of an immune system, that I would not just give up and walk down the kill chute to my death. And why should we believe that these cows are any different?
The commercial egg industry is no better, often times even worse. Female laying hens are locked tiny wire cages in darkened sheds, stacked one on top of another by the thousands. Each hen is given less than 67 sq. inches or about 2/3 a sheet of paper to live their entire, wretched lives. And about 5 to 8 birds are crammed inside every cage. The “unlucky” birds on the bottom of the cage stacks are defecated on for their entire lives as well. If there is a wane in productivity, these birds are “force molted” or starved for a week of two, until their body is tricked into laying more eggs. The toll is so great on their bodies, as so much calcium is lost that they often break their legs and wings from the cramped, wire cages.
Like veal calves, the “unproductive” male chicks have a similarly brutal fate. They are sorted out and then either left to suffocate, stacked several thousands deep in trash dumpsters or for a quick disposal, they are fed into a wood-chipper while fully conscious.
I understand that this is all very gruesome, shocking, and extremely graphic, but unfortunately this is the outcome of our food procurement system that has so far been completely tolerant of institutionalized cruelty. Slowly things are beginning to change, the citizens of Florida, Arizona, have passed successful ballot initiatives to ban gestation crates on pregnant sows and confinement crates for veal calves. Oregon and now Colorado have passed successful legislative bans on the same practices, without even relying on citizen-led initiatives. And California residents have currently gathered enough signatures to add to the November elections legislation to address gestation crates, veal crates, and battery cages for egg-laying hens (for the first time in US history). And now, with all the attention the USDA has faced from the Chino slaughterhouse, there may be even more legislation written in favor of farm animals.
But even more importantly, this doesn’t have to be decided by rules or regulations. By the very act of reducing a living, feeling, sentient being into a mere unit of production- whether it be as an egg-laying machine, a flesh-giving machine, or a milk-producing machine- these beings are forced to endure suffering and desolation that none of us could even begin to comprehend. Instead, we can pull from Albert Schweitzer and take a moment to reflect and relate to their suffering. Suffering that is more different in degree than in kind to what we as cancer survivors have faced.
As Kris has shown you, through her neighbors at Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, if given a chance these animals such as Olivia want to live. They want to live because that is what life does. When all was said and done, this is exactly the same primal source that I utilized when I was knee-deep in my own struggle.
I hope that one day the world can go from A to Z, and Z is a place that institutionalized cruelties are a thing of the past, I do, however, realize that it is a huge step to just get to B. And that alone gives me cause and purpose to wake up and take action. Because I know that with all my effort, and the effort of like-minded survivors, the world can’t possibly be worse off, and we just might reach our goal."
Peace & Freedom for all,