Forging My Way Forward

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For several years now, a random assortment of people have told me, usually out of the blue, that they believe my role in this world is that of a healer – something about my disposition, they have said. The enneagram labeled me as type 2: The Giver, and Carol S. Pearson’s archetype test categorized me as, first and foremost, The Caregiver. I will never forget the day a customer of mine came through my line and after finishing her shopping, looked me deep in the eyes and said to me: “You have an incredibly healing energy. I hope you make good use of it.” I had never seen her before, and I have yet to see her again.

While deep down I agreed with them, knowing that my deepest yearning has always been to help others, to give of myself, to spend my life doing something heart-centered, I had a deep insecurity about being associated with such a powerful word – healer. Yet once I took the time to understand the true meaning of the word, my world opened and something magical happened: I found my purpose. You see, a healer is simply someone who facilitates healing in another. A healer does not heal the other person. They simply play the role of a catalyst – they provide the right emotional environment, the right tools, and the right guidance one needs to heal. The mind-spirit-body has a natural, self-healing capacity and simply needs a little coaxing, a little push, a safe and loving environment in which to explore one’s inner and outer pain.

I am excited to share that in February of 2014, I will begin a 9 month intensive course in Nutritional Therapy, and by the end of it will be certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. What does a NTP do exactly? Aid people in healing themselves with unprocessed, whole foods. I have spent the last three years of my life tirelessly researching in my spare time, the medicinal value of food. It all started with my being diagnosed with six cavities, which prompted my own healing journey, and my foray into the healing world of food. That led me to Weston Price, which led me to holistic medicine, which led me to Natasha McBride, who is currently leading me to feeling the best I have felt in years.

But as I mention in the “About” section of this blog, healing isn’t only about proper diet. it’s also about emotional healing, and deep inner work. When I finish this course and move on to open my own practice, I will integrate this inner work with the nutritional therapy, by providing my clients with techniques that have worked for me.

What is so very exciting to me about this path is that I get to create a career out of my own healing journey. Whether this career path had opened up to me or not, I would still be on my quest to wellness and consciousness. Now I get to marry my biggest passions, with my life’s work. To say that I am excited is an understatement. I am also grateful, hopeful, and blessed. For I am finding that the more I open myself to the universe, the more abundance comes my way.

I want to extend a big thank you to my dear mother for giving me the gift of the NTP course, and a big thank you to my father, for giving me the resources to pursue my inner work. I have been blessed with such abundance and generosity of late, and I have Abraham Hick’s Law of Attraction to thank for that!

Be well!

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Why I Eat Meat

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This topic has been on my mind ever since I reintroduced meat into my diet last year, after being vegetarian for 5 years. It was not an easy decision to make at all. While my body was telling me to eat meat, my mind was asking me how I could revert to such a selfish, violent, ecologically toxic diet. There was a massive battle that went on inside of me for months, resulting in me ultimately starting to eat meat again, but not without guilt, shame and confusion. Only in the last few months have I made the conscious effort to inquire into my beliefs about my meat eating, and only then was I able to fully vindicate myself, and accept whole-heartedly my choice to be an omnivore.

The vegetarian versus omnivore question has become a heated debate in the last decade, resulting in both sides being made to feel ashamed of their choices. The point of this post is not to defend my choice to eat meat, nor is it to convince vegetarians to start eating meat. It is not to praise one diet and condemn another. It is to ask you to go inward with a very important question, the question that I believe is at the root of the whole Omnivore versus Vegetarian/Vegan debate, and many many other conflicts:

Can we ever truly know what is best for another being?

From what I understand, there are two main arguments vegetarians and vegans use to explain their choice to abstain from eating meat and/or animal products.

The first is ahimsa, and the second is the seemingly destructive effect livestock has on the planet.

Ahimsa

Ahimsa is defined as:

The belief in the sacredness of all living creatures and urging the avoidance of harm and violence.

Many people use ahimsa to condemn the killing of animals for human sustenance. They argue that killing animals is unnecessary violence seeing as our bodies do not need animal protein and animal products. I fully respect this belief and have a lot of compassion for this argument. I too do not ever want to cause undue harm to another being. But as someone who has been studying nutrition and wellness for three years now, and as someone who lived without meat for 5 years and suffered big health consequences, I am convinced that I (read “I”, not “we” or “you”) am not able to be healthy and to properly care for my body without meat. And by not allowing myself this critical nourishing food, I am in effect harming and inflicting violence on my own body.

I think we can all agree that our bodies are sacred. They are these incredibly complex vessels of grace that give us the gift of life. Without our bodies, we cease to exist in the material world. To be spiritual is to recognize the sacredness of our bodies and to give our bodies the nourishment they need in order for us to fulfill our highest potential. Have we not all experienced the foggy brain, nausea and extreme exhaustion that comes from binge drinking and staying up all night? Without the proper rest, diet and reverence, our bodies become a breeding ground for disease, and these diseases weaken us, ultimately holding us back from awakening to the kind and compassionate being that resides within each of us.

The ahimsa argument is used by vegetarians to condemn meat eaters as being un-spiritual, uncaring, and lacking compassion. If one truly believes that the human body can get all its nutritional requirements from plants, then perhaps vegetarians have a point. But if you believe, as I do, that the human body needs the specific nutrients that only animals protein and products can give us, to be healthy, then it becomes clear that to be spiritual and caring and compassionate is to give our bodies the meat it needs to thrive, just like the cat who unapologetically fulfills his carnivorous needs. Since this topic of what our bodies really need to be healthy might always be a source of contention, perhaps it is better to turn our attention towards an expanded definition of ahimsa.

To be spiritual means to avoid harm and violence not just with regards to what we kill or don’t kill, but also with regards to how we behave, and speak, and think. It means to be accepting of others’ choices, especially when they contradict ours. It means to give others a non-judgmental space to make their own decisions and the space to decide what is best for them. It means to hold others in a space of love and acceptance in which they can make these decisions, free of judgement and emotional persecution.

For can we ever really know what is best for another person? You might think that you do, but take a moment to sit quietly and really ask yourself: can you absolutely know for sure what is best for another person? Get quiet. Go deep with this one.

Now ask yourself, when you believe you know what is best for someone else, and they contradict your belief – how do you feel, behave, act towards this person? I find that my heart closes and I feel tense and angry, and I make the other person wrong, both mentally and verbally. I feel the need to tell them how wrong they are. I feel hurt and disappointed by their supposed lack of clarity. I am unkind towards them and lack compassion.

Now ask yourself – who would you be without the thought “they should/shouldn’t eat meat”? I find that I would be kinder, my heart would be open, I would be more peaceful, and more loving towards this person. I would be able to have them over for supper without getting tense, or feeling judgmental. I would be able to see them for the spiritual being that they are, regardless of their decision to eat or abstain from eating meat.

So now, would you rather be right, or be in relationship and be kind and compassionate, and keep your heart open? The fact of the matter is that diet is a deeply personal decision and everyone should have the space to decide what they choose to ingest without the fear of emotional persecution.

Bad for the Planet

The other big argument vegetarians and vegans use to condemn meat eating is the effect that livestock has on the planet. I have attached an article below that addresses this very important issue, that is incredibly well researched and well written. Here again, there is no way of knowing who is right and who is wrong. All there is, are two sides of the argument. Keep your mind open. Entertain the possibility that both have valid points. Ask yourself again – would I rather be right, or kind?

Grass-Fed Beef Can Solve Global Warming

How Grass-Fed Cows Could Save the Planet

So now, since we can agree that we both care for the planet, and agree that neither desires to cause undue harm to another being, then one question remains – who is right and who is wrong? And this, my friends, is the most dangerous question of all. This is the question that causes us to fall from grace and become angry, embittered beings that spend their time trying to impose their beliefs and choices onto others. It is this question that makes us fanatical. That forces us to forfeit our compassion in exchange for our righteousness.

The fact of the matter is, we might never find out who is right, and what does it really matter? In the meantime, what we can do, is respect our own dietary choices, and respect the dietary choices of others. For violence exists in many different forms, including in the form of judgement, blame, and righteousness. When we become so fanatical about our beliefs, we become objects of violence. We point our fingers at others, and make them feel unworthy of respect, and ashamed. We close our hearts off to the very qualities that lie at the gates of our salvation: compassion, empathy, and kindness.

Thank you for letting me eat my (happy pastured non-gmo organic from the farm down the road) meat in peace.

*Disclaimer*
When I recommend, in any of my posts, using meat and animal products to heal oneself, please understand that I NEVER in any way support the purchase of conventional feed-lot tortured meat, milk, butter etc. Not only are these animals fed a toxic diet of gmo grain and antibiotics, but I strongly believe that to ingest tortured meat is to ingest violence, and I will take no part in this. The only animal products I ever advocate eating are ones that come from small organic local farms whose farmers you know, and hopefully whose animals you have met, and whose animals are pastured and treated with the respect and care they deserve. When I eat out, unless I know and approve of the farm the meat is coming from, I eat vegetarian. If I didn’t have access to the amazing pastured meats I eat from the incredible farm down the road from me, I would be vegetarian. So please, don’t ever use my words and recommendations as justification for buying tortured animal products – not only is there zero health benefit, but you are also continuing to perpetrate one of the most violent industries alive today.

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Don’t Take It Personally

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Before getting into Byron Katie’s work, I used to take things so personally. I used to constantly worry about why someone didn’t smile back at me, or didn’t return my email, or why they looked at me a certain way, or spoke to me in a certain tone. I think we can all agree that constantly trying to analyze other people’s behavior, and tying this behavior to our self-worth is absolutely exhausting. Not only is it a waste of time, but it drains us of our vital life energy. Of one thing I am sure: taking things personally is an indication, a wake up call, if you will, that we are looking to others for validation and approval.

When we are imbued with self-love and confidence, we don’t let other people’s opinions of us affect how we feel about ourselves. Instead, we have a deep understanding that how others feel about us is all part of the story they have in their minds about who we are. And the truth is, this story has much more to say about how they feel about themselves, then about us.

There are so many reasons to stop taking things personally. Here are a few.

It hurts you
Taking things personally hurts you. It makes you feel insecure, anxious, and it puts you at the mercy of other people’s thoughts and moods. What an awful way to go through life! I know, I’ve spent the majority of my life there. By taking things personally you are putting your self-worth, and power into another’s hands – you are ultimately saying: ‘I care more about what you think about me than what I know about myself.’

It hurts them
Taking things personally hurts them. When someone speaks ill of you, or says something unkind to you – they are expressing their pain. Happy people don’t act unkindly, or speak ill of others, or try and put others down. By taking things personally, you are in effect, blocking yourself from responding to this person’s pain from a place of love and empathy. Instead of your energy going towards loving this person more deeply, and extending this love out to them, your energy goes towards becoming defensive and protecting yourself. This usually results in a power struggle in which both people try to prove they are right. The fact of the matter is, there is no right or wrong. There are only opinions, and opinions are a reflection of the person doling out the opinion’s inner world. Angry people with a lack of self-love tend to be the most judgmental or others. Ever notice that when you are in a brilliant mood, all you care to do is spread the joy? Smile? Laugh? Hug and be affectionate with others? Remember this when someone attacks you next time. More than likely they are feeling wounded about something that has nothing to do with you, and what they really need is a friend who can hold them in a place of love while they sort through their feelings, rather than a friend who will take things personally and perpetuate their pain.

You can’t control their thoughts
When we fall into this habit of taking things personally, we also fall into the habit of people pleasing. We think, I want everyone to love me, so I must do all I can to make that happen. We think, if I become the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful person out there, no one will ever attack me and be unkind to me! We start overextending ourselves, trying to please those around us, not out of the kindness of our hearts, but out of the deep well of insecurity that resides in our hearts. This too becomes absolutely exhausting and only moves us further away from freedom. The truth is that no matter how kind and generous and loving we become, people will continue to attack us and try to put us down. Why? Because it has nothing to do with us. They are on their own journey, and as long as their inner world is chaotic and filled with the darkness of unexplored wounds, they will continue to project this deep unhappiness onto others.

It’s not about you
No matter how much you want to believe that it’s about you, the fact of the matter is that it has absolutely nothing to do with you. When someone comes at you with an accusation or criticism, chances are they are feeling deeply insecure about themselves, and looking to blame that insecurity on someone else. Pointing their finger at someone else is far easier than going inwards and dealing with the root of their insecurity – most likely a childhood wound.

That said, when someone does criticize you, if you are interested in taking your growth to the next level, try and find the ways in which that person is right about you. If they accuse you of being selfish, try and find times in your life when you have been selfish and recognize these times. This is a hugely empowering exercise, and when you can look into the accuser’s eyes and say: ‘Yes, yes I see how I am selfish. Thank you for pointing that out to me’ you will completely disarm them, and create a space for forgiveness and communion to occur. When you begin to see yourself for the imperfect being that you are, and when you begin to accept the parts of you that you are most ashamed of (such as the part of you that is selfish), you take a giant step towards freedom, and wholeness. Moreover, once you have acknowledged your selfishness, it won’t matter if someone else calls you selfish, because you will know they are right and not have to waste time getting offended!

Extends to compliments too
This advice of not taking things personally also extends to compliments. Being wooed by compliments is just the other extreme of this behavior. When we don’t have inner strength and love, and are constantly looking to others for validation, compliments from others affects us like a drug. Soon after hearing the compliment, we are overcome with joy and feelings of self-love. Within hours, sometimes even minutes, the drug wears out and we are back to feeling unloved and insecure. Out of desperation, we devise extensive strategies to feel the high again, mostly involving people pleasing – we figure if we dole out the compliments to others, some of these people will return the favor, and soon we will be back in our temporary euphoric bubble. This exhausting search for love and approval outside of ourselves only serves to keep us on an emotional roller coaster that never seems to end. It sucks up all our vitality, and we are left living life as a zombie – tired, unhappy, anxious, and hopeless.

Another way of being
I’m happy to share that it doesn’t have to be this way. Grab and pen and piece of paper, write down a stressful thought you are having in this moment, and do Byron Katie’s four questions. Now turn it around. Feel better? Do it on your next stressful thought, and now the next, and now the next. Feel even better? The good news is that it’s that simple, and works! And the minute you start taking responsibility for your happiness, and start inquiring into all the thoughts that keep you asleep and seeking other people’s love and approval, the sooner you’ll stop taking everything so personally. The sooner you’ll taste the sweet taste of freedom. The healthier your relationships will become. The more productive you will become. The more open your heart will become.

There are so many rewards for turning your attention inwards. The work is not always easy, but the happiness that awaits you on the other side sure is worth it.

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Loving What Is

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A review of Loving What Is by Byron Katie

I was given Loving What Is by a friend two months before I ended up reading it. I think it’s true to say that when we are feeling good and happy, there is little to no incentive to read books about self-growth. Well, last December I hit a big low in my life, and in my emotional desperation I picked up Loving What Is, only to be pleasantly surprised by the transformation it unleashed in my life.

Before Byron Katie, I had been struggling with my inner work for years. I knew intellectually what waking up meant, and I was well versed in *why* we suffer, and what needed to happen in order to stop suffering. But what eluded me was exactly *how* I was suppose to get to this magical place of self-love and happiness. Byron Katie, single-handedly, gave me the tools I needed to finally start questioning all the thoughts that had been holding me hostage for so many years. The Work is by far the most practical approach I have yet to find, towards awakening to the deep well of love that resides within each one of us. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in taking a giant leap out of the darkness and into the light.

Unlike many self-help books, Loving What Is is not just a book you read, it’s a book you DO. You sit down and you write your stressful thoughts out and then you take the time to question them one by one, using the four questions, and before you know it, you feel lighter than you’ve felt in years. How do I know it works? Because at one of the lowest points in my life, I spent an entire month filling up a whole book with my stressful thoughts and inquired into all of them, and there are no words that can properly express the transformation I underwent. And the evidence lies in my relationships, most of which went from being sources of tension, to

Katie’s premise is that the cause of our suffering is our attachment to thoughts that aren’t true for us. Throughout a single day, billions of thoughts pass through our minds, the majority being stressful thoughts, and the majority of the time, if not 100% of the time, we believe these thoughts to be true, without questioning their validity – without holding them up against reality.

After reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, I see many similarities between his and Katie’s work. While Ruiz implores us to stop making assumptions, Katie takes us deeper, urging us to question these very assumptions as a way of releasing them. Katie devised four simple questions to help us question these very assumptions – these very thoughts holding our happiness hostage.

The Four Questions
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you feel, act, behave when you believe this thought?
4. Who would you be without this thought? In other words, If you couldn’t believe this thought, how would you feel, behave, act towards yourself and others?

And lastly, once all these questioned have been answered and meditated upon, you do the turnaround. The turnaround might just be the most powerful part of the work, because it is the part where you take the stressful thought you have written about someone else and see if it is as true or truer when it applies to you. This turnaround forces you to turn the problem back at you, and see your part in it. For example, if the original thought was:
“Jack is selfish”

The possible turnarounds are:
“Jack is not selfish”
“I am selfish”

It is important for you to find 3 legitimate reasons why each turnaround is as true or truer than the original stressful thought. For example:

“Jack is not selfish”
– Jack always shares his food with me, no matter how hungry he is.
– Jack always stops to give money to any homeless person he comes across.
– Jack gave his nephew his most prized Star Wars collectible figure because he knew it would make his nephew happy.

But it is the “I am selfish” turnaround that really takes you deep, as it forces you to go inward and find instances in your life when you have been selfish. And let’s be honest now – who hasn’t at one point or another been selfish? This is the power of the turnaround. When you do it enough times, you find that all the qualities you hate and find frustrating and offensive in others, are qualities you have in yourself. Have you never lied? Never been late? Never cheated (on a diet, relationship, test, you name it)? Never been arrogant? Lazy? Condescending? Annoying? A victim? Dishonest? Unkind? Judgmental?

From all my time doing the work, I found that I had at some point in my life, been all of these things and more. Was realizing this super depressing? No, quite the opposite, it was empowering. It made me come face to face with my own humanity, and with the common humanity I share with all those around me. It humbled me. It forced me to see that we are no different, you and I. This discovery gave me a lot of compassion for those people who had previously upset me. Moreover, it became so clear that it is the repressed parts of our identities that we end up projecting onto others, and then faulting them for. The more repressed the quality, the more often we find that this very quality bugs us in others.

“Nothing outside you can ever give you what you’re looking for”
One of Katie’s main points, an argument that is found in the sacred texts of all major faiths, is that nothing outside of us can ever give us what we are looking for. Sure, that car can get you to work, and that gourmet meal can satisfy your physical hunger, and that movie can temporarily distract you from your pain. Perhaps getting married and having a child will satisfy a strong biological desire. But nothing outside of you will ever quench the deep thirst that lives inside of you – the thirst for unconditional love that only you can give yourself.

We spend our entire lives with our arms reaching out – for love, for approval, for acknowledgment, for praise. We are constantly trying to fill the void we feel inside by reaching outside of ourselves. We look to our parents, our friends, our jobs, our spouses, the world around us, to make us happy, to make us feel worthy and loved. But the more we reach out, the further we separate us from ourselves, thereby increasing our loneliness and separation. To fully understand that no one can make you happy but you, is to stop this outward movement of your energy. Only YOU are responsible for your happiness. That statement can be a huge game changer, especially in intimate relationships. Once you stop depending on your partner to make you happy, or blaming them for your negative feelings, real change comes about, accompanied by a strong sense of empowerment.

Arguing with reality hurts
One of Katie’s main points is that the reason the majority of our thoughts are stressful is because they argue with reality. Almost all of the thoughts that pass through our minds are untrue. They are simply assumptions that we label as truth, that then cause us to suffer. It’s often difficult to see how these stressful thoughts are untrue, because we have been attaching to them for so many years, and have become absolutely convinced that they are true. This is where The Work comes in. Please note, it is incredibly important to write down your answers to the four questions. Why? Because our egos are so incredibly obstinate and powerful that within seconds they can bring us back to believing in the illusion. This is why writing it all down is so powerful. At some point, when you have done The Work long enough, the questions become embedded in your mind and you begin to inquire into your thoughts before they have a chance to take hold and cause you stress. This is the power of The Work and the power of repetition that Ruiz talks about in The Four Agreements.

My business, your business and God’s business
Another framework Katie presents us with, within which we can question our thoughts is the ‘whose business are you in?’ framework. So often we make other people’s business our business. Whenever we think someone should or shouldn’t do what they’re doing, or be a certain way, or not be a certain way, we are living our life in their business, which separates us from our own selves, and causes us to feel the loneliness of this separation. Can we ever really know what is right for another person? Let us think about this question through Ruiz’s domestication lens. There are always multiple layers going on here. As children, we each underwent a unique process of domestication. The parents, siblings and teachers that played a part in my domestication, didn’t necessarily carry the same wounds as the parents, siblings and teachers that played a part in your domestication. Moreover, even if we did suffer the same emotional wound as children, what are the chances we internalized this wound in the exact same way? Let’s take my background as an example. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, to a French/Italian father and Indian mother, and later Canadian step-father. I lived a very materially comfortable life. My parents divorced when I was nine which resulted in an 18 year estrangement from my father. I attended a French school for the first 12 years of my life, then a British one for two years, and then finally and American high school for four years. I attended a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. Without even getting into a description of my personality, and my relationships with my parents and sister, you might already be beginning to understand how complex and unique each of our lives are. Due to my unique upbringing, I see the world in a uniquely Oriana way and no one else will ever be able to see the world in this Oriana way. I hope this example served to reinforce the idea that we can never know what is best for someone else.

What I love most about The Work, is that the more you investigate your stressful thoughts, the closer you get to uncovering what Ruiz calls “our list of agreements that we acquiesced to as children.” After writing down enough stressful thoughts, you begin to see a pattern emerge. You begin to notice that you can lump together a group of thoughts that all pertain to one stressful belief you’ve been holding onto for years. Some examples of major beliefs/agreements are:
– I am unworthy of love
– Men/Women are untrustworthy
– I am incapable of…
– The world owes me…

Once these major beliefs are uncovered, we can do the work on them, and suddenly a truckload of stressful thoughts all related to this one belief, disappear at once! This is the work of ‘undoing’ our domestication, and unleashing the loving force that we are underneath all these restrictive beliefs.

It seems to me that every new book that lands in my lap gives me yet another missing piece to the puzzle in my quest for happiness. As Katie loves to say:

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If we look at every difficult moment in our lives as an opportunity for growth, much of our fear melts away. This one realization nips all negativity in the butt. And the best part about The Work is that it *works*. I have never done The Work and not felt immensely better afterwards. And why do I always feel better? Because I’ve taken the time to inquire into, and see through the thought that was causing me pain. It’s that deep and that simple – just like Bo’s book. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper.

In the end, this is the goal:

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For it is then that you will have internalized the fact that absolutely no one can hurt you. Only you can hurt you. And once you understand that – freedom awaits you!

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The Four Agreements

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A review of Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements

A little over a year ago, my friend Megan recommended I read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. At the time I was in the middle of reading all of Byron Katie’s books and it simply wasn’t time for me to pick this one up. But I am excited to share that I finally did read Ruiz’s book and loved it. Megan had told me that this book was responsible for changing the way she viewed and interacted both with herself and the world, and I now understand why.

The book’s main premise is that as children, we slowly undergo a process of “domestication” by our parents, our caretakers, our schools, churches, society etc. When we enter the world as babies, we bring into the world the open, loving, trusting, explorative nature of our real selves – but as we get older, through this process of domestication, this freedom to be ourselves is gradually taken from us by agreements that are imposed upon us by those around us, and by society. These agreements transform our world from one of joy and love, into one dredged in fear and negativity. Ruiz makes the point that no matter how good our parents are, and no matter how hard they try to give us happy fulfilling childhoods, their own domestication during their youth will inevitably cloud their treatment of us, because this domestication is the lens through which they view and experience the world. For example, if your father was told he was unworthy of love as a child, he will most likely grow up holding on tightly to this agreement he made with his father, and as a result this agreement will effect all of his future relationships. Most likely he will unwittingly pass this message on to his own children, in one form or another.

Throughout the book, Ruiz refers to the domesticated world we live in as “hell” by virtue of it having all the characteristics of, well, hell. It is a world run by fear, anger, and hostility. And what caused the world to become hell? A vicious cycle of adults, one after the other, perpetuating the hell by not asking questions and waking up to their true being – their inner child that stands for freedom, joy, truth, and above all, love. He says that we are stuck in this never-ending struggle for happiness, but never succeed because we seem to be blind to the very things keeping us unhappy: the long list of agreements we acquiesced to as children.

Ruiz says the first step to achieving any sort of spiritual freedom – the first step to happiness, is to simply acknowledge that these agreements exist. To become aware of the inner workings of our unhappiness is the first step to freedom. As young children we were full of life and joy, lived in the moment and trusted everyone we came into contact with. Accepting and giving love was easy. Love was who we were. As we gradually got older, we were told to stop being so loud, to stop singing, we were told that we were stupid, ugly, irresponsible, selfish, etc. We were deprived of physical affection, of loving touch, deprived of kind supportive words, deprived of acts of unconditional love. All this negativity slowly chipped away at our natural confidence and love of ourselves, and before we knew it we had turned into fearful, self-loathing victims of a world run by ‘black magicians,’ a term Ruiz uses to describe those asleep whose life mission is to keep everyone they come into contact with asleep too. Asleep to what? To their true nature – to truth, to love, to integrity. To being awake and alive, and to living one’s life out of love instead of out of fear.

Being asleep and domesticated has become such a habit to our species, that to break out of this habit and wake up to our inner freedom, and inner child requires great strength and willpower. When everyone we come into contact with is unhappy and subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) trying to keep us as unhappy as they are (misery does indeed love company), it takes incredible courage and strength of heart to go against the grain and start living with integrity. But what is the reward of attempting such a difficult path? Happiness. Joy. Truth. Ease of being. And what is the cost of not attempting this path? Continuing to suffer and live in fear and perhaps one day dying without ever having experienced the joy of unconditional conscious love.

So where does one begin this journey to freedom? Ruiz states that there are four agreements that, if made and truly committed to, are so powerful they can undo a number of the debilitating agreements we made as children. These four agreements are:

– Be impeccable with your word
– Don’t take anything personally
– Don’t make assumptions
– Always do your best

Be impeccable with your word

The first agreement was the most interesting and enlightening to me because it brought to light just how careless we are with our words. Ruiz makes the point that we are the only species afforded the gift of speech. As such, our words carry such immense power – the power to heal, love, and share truths, or the power to hurt, divide, and abuse. He speaks not only of the words we speak to others, and about others, but also the words we speak to ourselves: our thoughts about ourselves. Ruiz says: “The word is not just a sound or written symbol. The word is a force; it is the power you have to communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life.”

Ruiz makes the point that everything that comes out of our mouthes is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Those who have a severe lack of self-love tend to be the most critical and destructive with their words. They subconsciously use their words to punish those around them for the pain they feel inside. When one is happy and feels loved, one has no need to harm others and create pain. A happy person knows only how to love and accept love, much like the child of their past.

Ruiz makes the point that one of the greatest signs of how careless we have become with our words is how prevalent gossip has become. Our lives are filled with gossip. Our relationships are made of gossip. We are so quick to speak ill of others, to judge them, to hurt them, to bring them down. We even do this to those we claim to love. We have been so domesticated into this sleepy world that we know no other way to be. We get bored, so we pick up the phone to gossip about a friend, just to pass time and entertain ourselves. We feel insecure and angry at ourselves, so we use our words to hurt another being, secretly hoping that they might share in our misery, and we won’t feel so lonely anymore. We openly discuss another’s faults while completely overlooking our own. We attack each other about our choice in lifestyle, choice in mate, choice in dress, choice in food, without taking the time to look inward at our own destructive choices. We have become so used to living “outwardly” and reaching outside of ourselves for love and validation, that we have lost touch with our “within.” Our truth. Our inner compass. The deep well of love that resides in each one of us.

To be impeccable with your word, means to take responsibility for what you say and write, and to take responsibility for how these words affect the world around you. To be impeccable with your word means to not use your word against yourself. Ruiz says “Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If you make an agreement with yourself to be impeccable with your word, just with that intention, the truth will manifest through you and clean all the emotional poison that exists within you.” But, he warns, making this agreement will be hard because “we have learned to lie as a habit of communication with others and more importantly with ourselves.” Instead of using our words to support, love, appreciate others and ourselves, we most often use our words to “curse, to blame, to find guilty, to destroy.”

As Ruiz says – “the word is pure magic – the most powerful gift we have as humans – and we use it against ourselves. We plan revenge. We create chaos with the word. We use the word to create hate between different races, between different people, between families, between nations. Misuse of the word is how we keep each other down and keep each other in a state of fear and doubt.”

The other point Ruiz makes is that when we fail to be impeccable with our word, we become a breeding ground for others’ opinions of us and for gossip. When we make a commitment to being impeccable with our word, we are standing up for virtue, truth and love. By bringing all of this into our awareness, we are less likely to be poisoned by others’ negativity and “black magic.” For example, if I make it a point to be impeccable with my word, and one of my coworkers comes up to me to gossip and speak ill of another coworker, I will be able to speak from my own truth and not take part in this blatant misuse of my energy. I will have the strength of heart to not take part in this act of gossip, and instead stay true to the loving being that I am. It takes a massive strength of heart to explicitly tell others that you will not take part in the verbal abuse of another person. Yet this is the kind of act that strengthens the heart, and increases our self-love, and as a result, our love for others. To act from a place of integrity and truth is to allow ourselves the experience of being our real selves, and to begin really living. Living in this kind of truth is where true joy emanates from, for no one can feel joy when partaking in the gossip and putting down of another being.

Don’t take anything personally

The next agreement is to not take anything personally. From my own experience I know how difficult this one is. How often do we take the words and actions of others personally? How often do we feel hurt and upset when someone we love treats us less than lovingly, or attacks us? As Ruiz so successfully expresses, to take things personally is to be incredibly selfish for it means to make everything about you. The truth is that nothing anyone else ever says or does is ever about you. That might be a tough concept to understand. Byron Katie also makes this point well. We are all living through the lens our own unique domestication, our own unique set of subconscious agreements, that we use to make sense of the world around us. Ruiz makes the point that even compliments given to us by others have nothing to do with us. Sure we may indeed have a pretty dress on, but the person who told you your dress was pretty was most likely acting out of their own unconscious motives, be it seeking love, approval, or validation. Oftentimes when we are feeling insecure, we will shower those around us with compliments in the hope of that love coming back to us and making us feel loved and approved of in return. It is like a hidden agreement we have with our friends- I’ll shower you with compliments, if you shower me back with compliments, and that way we can both continue enabling each other to avoid the pain we feel deep down from our lack of self-love. Sound familiar?

“What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.” When someone insults you or puts you down, or thinks ill of you, it is because that person is really thinking ill of themself. It’s a pretty big concept to wrap your head around but this is one of the most freeing once you do understand. And all you have to do is observe yourself for a day to experience this. Next time you feel the need to give someone a compliment or to put someone down, or gossip about someone, or judge them in your head, ask yourself: what am I feeling right now? Threatened? Insecure? Lonely? Unloved? Am I seeking approval? Trying to fit in? Am I seeking love? We have become so accustomed to enabling each other in our state of un-love, that we don’t even notice how often we do this anymore. It has just become our default way of being. What about when someone comes to us with gossip? Do we sit back and remain agreeable out of fear of not being liked or approved of? Out of fear of creating ripples in the pool of unconsciousness we are all drowning in?

The fact of the matter is, we take everything so personally because we have lost our self-confidence. We don’t believe we are good and pure anymore, so we don’t bother standing up for ourselves and those around us, in the name of truth and love. These four agreements help us back onto this path to self-love by unleashing the immense power of intention. When you create an intention to live with more integrity, and to use your words for truth and love, and to stop looking to others for love and approval, the universe somehow gathers all its powers to help you on your quest. This doesn’t mean you won’t be faced with obstacles every second of every day, but what it means is that truth and love will be on your side, cheering you on all the way back home. All the way back to the loving being that you have always been.

Ruiz reminds us that “you are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.” No one can hurt you. Only you can hurt yourself. Understanding this gives you the freedom to ask for what you need without fear, and the freedom to say yes, or to say no, without guilt or self-judgement. Reading this particular chapter made me realize how imprisoned we all are by our quest for love and approval outside of ourselves. It’s a never ending dance of trying to be someone we are not, all in the name of gaining something we already had the whole time. Stop the dance!

Don’t Make Assumptions

The third agreement is to stop making assumptions, which is again tied into our need for approval and love. Our insecurity about ourselves, forces us to constantly be making assumptions about other people’s motives. When I first got to college, being the smiley person that I am, I was incredibly taken aback by the lack of smiles that were reciprocated to me. My first two weeks were incredibly challenging as I made the assumption that everyone around me must hate me because no one would smile back at me! How ridiculous an assumption, but doesn’t that sound familiar? How often do we allow how others behave to dictate how we feel about ourselves? Why didn’t they return my email? Why won’t they call me back? Why are they late? Why didn’t they invite me to their party? Why did they not wish me a happy birthday?

Instead of asking direct questions and finding out the truth, we automatically make assumptions that allow us to explain these behaviors, such as – he must not like me, he must not care, she must have been offended by my email, etc. When you make these kinds of assumptions, what you are doing is actually drawing up from deep inside of you all your insecurities about yourself. You are projecting your own feelings about yourself, onto this innocent person who for whatever reason, happened to not return your call. We make assumptions like these because we don’t feel secure in who we are, we don’t feel confident. We are constantly looking over our shoulder, waiting for the next rejection or reason to feel unworthy. And why would we feel worthy? When we constantly use our words so carelessly, and constantly hand our feelings of self-worth to those around us, why wouldn’t we feel awful all the time?

I challenge you to spend a day becoming aware of all the assumptions you make, even about things as seemingly trivial as the weather. How often do these assumptions sabotage your self-worth? We seem to be so good at pointing out when someone else hurts us, but what about all the times we hurt ourselves via these assumptions? “She didn’t waive back at me when I waived at her. She must not like me.” Punch. “I didn’t get an A on that paper, which must mean I’m not a great writer after all.” Punch. And the punching goes on all day long everyday.

One big assumption most of us make daily, especially with regards to our relationships, is that everyone sees life the way we do: “We assume others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse…And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us, as we do ourselves.” The truth is, we are our own harshest critics, and have already rejected ourselves.

Always Do Your Best

This last agreement ties all the others together. It really all comes back to the power of intention. When we make an explicit commitment to self-growth, we unleash this incredible forward momentum in our lives, and are overtaken by an incredible feeling of being fully alive. It’s almost like someone’s been holding our head underwater for so long trying to drown us and we suddenly get loose and surge out of the water, taking in a massive gulp of air – oh the release! The freedom! We feel invigorated and relieved to have been given another chance at life.

The only catch to this agreement is that you must understand that your best will fluctuate depending on your moods, situations, and health condition. It is important to be loving towards ourselves when we slip and forget to do our best. The intention and sincere effort is all that matters here. Bad habits and wounds don’t heal overnight. But as Ruiz says, “everything you have learned, you have learned by repetition. Action is what makes the difference.” He goes on to say that “if you do your best always, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation. Practice makes the master.” When you do your best, every action is born out of love for yourself, and as a result, “every action then becomes a ritual in which you are honoring God.” For what better way is there to honor God, than to live fully, out of one’s heart?

Eventually, the hope is that “every thought becomes a communion with God, and you live a dream without judgements, victimization, and free of the need to gossip and abuse yourself.”

Lastly, Ruiz warns us not to fall into the trap of blaming our parents for our domestication. Becoming domesticated is an inevitable part of the human journey- in fact, it’s what creates the entire journey and gives our lives purpose – our purpose being to reawaken to the God we are inside. Only when we begin questioning all the subconscious agreements we made as children, can we begin to taste the sweet taste of freedom.

I recommend this book to anyone thirsty for some good old fashioned truth.

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Healing Foods Guidelines

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There is nothing more frightening than to begin experiencing unfamiliar disease symptoms that your conventional doctor is having a hard time understanding, and is therefore unable to give you a proper diagnosis for. Especially when these symptoms are a combination of neurological and physical issues. Autoimmune diseases have become so prevalent and are some of the hardest to pinpoint because the symptom checklist is so long and varies from person to person. They are also some of the most fear-inducing as they can creep along for years with few symptoms while wrecking complete havoc within our bodies, only to leave us in a state of emergency when symptoms begin to spontaneously appear and our health begins to decline at an alarmingly fast rate. My monthly migraines also bring me a certain amount of fear. What caused me to start getting migraines 7 years ago? Why do I get them twice a month, on the dot? Migraines are another illness that are so poorly understood, and as a result, have no “cure”. The migraine sufferers I know, tend to simply pop pills, and ingest high amounts of caffeine in a desperate attempt to make the pain go away, but usually with little success.

So what are we to do? Sit back and wait for our doctors to solve our problems for us? Allow them to pump our bodies with toxic chemicals hoping that these chemicals will get rid of said disease?

With all the frightening statistics presently coming out about how ineffective the medical industry is at healing our sick, it may be time for us to make a big shift with regards to how we view our health. Perhaps it is time we empower ourselves by taking our health and wellness into our own hands. You may be wondering how? How could we possibly be able to take better care of ourselves and better heal ourselves than doctors with medical degrees? Therein lies the faulty thinking.

One of the reasons we have become such a sick society, rampant with disease is that we have lost touch with our bodies. Not only do we not afford our bodies the nutrients it requires to keep us healthy, but we have also stopped listening to its innate wisdom. When we find ourselves gassy and bloated after dinner, we don’t stop and ask ourselves why? Was there something in that meal that doesn’t agree with me, and why? Instead, we reach for the tums and go on with our evening, only to then continue to include the offender in our next meal.

Gas, bloating, skin rashes, acne, under eye circles, cavities, headaches, migraines, itchy skin, dandruff, cellulite, back pain, arthritis – these are just a few of our bodies’ alarm signals that something is wrong – signals that are trying tell us that our bodies have lost their internal balance, and it is time to start paying attention to what we are feeding ourselves, and what toxins we are exposing ourselves to. Why wait until the cancer diagnosis? We have become so accustomed to pressing the “snooze” button on our internal wellness alarm and reaching for the first pill that will get rid of the symptoms, that we have forgotten that while our bodies are incredibly complex, with the right resources – they are quite easy to understand.

The good news is that our bodies have an incredible ability to heal themselves and below, I will provide you with a few guidelines you can use if you choose to begin your healing journey with a nourishing diet.

My interest in these topics started three years ago when I was told by my dentist that I had 5 cavities. I went home that day completely confused about how I could be following what is considered these days to be an incredibly healthy diet, only to still find out I had cavities, and that many! They were my very first cavities.

Upon doing a lot of research, I finally discovered Weston Price, and his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. He was the second person, after Hippocrates, to make the connection between diet and health. I truly recommend you buying the book and reading it as it is completely eye opening, and the facts are undeniable. It is the result of 10 years of traveling around the world, taking detailed notes and investigating an incredibly diverse sample of populations.

After reading this book, I gave up my vegetarian diet in favor of pasture raised meats, and within weeks my teeth had started healing naturally. I didn’t have the money to afford the fillings at the time, and after doing all my research, and reading Ramiel Nagel’s book Cure Tooth Decay (silly title but the best book on the subject), I was convinced that the best thing I could do for myself was to try and remineralize my teeth myself. Two years later, I am ecstatic to share: no more cavities!

While I started feeling better than I had in years after re-introducing healthy protein into my diet, cutting out all soy, cutting out processed foods, cutting out sugar, and introducing fermented foods into my diet, many of my health issues persisted. I still have two migraines a month, I still have really painful monthly cramps, and I still have cellulite, which is trapped toxins your body packs away because it is unable to deal with it due to an immense toxic load.

Upon doing even more research, I came upon Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book, GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Reading her explanation of the connection between poor health and gut bacteria made so much sense I haven’t looked back. I finally understood why despite having changed my diet so dramatically, I was still not seeing the results I was hoping to see. You see, the average human body has been so assaulted by antibiotics, toxins, and processed foods, that it suffers from leaky gut, which means that our guts are so devoid of healthy gut bacteria, it has zero capabilities to absorb any of the nutrients from our diets. I also learned that 90% of our immune system resides in our gut, which really sheds light on why an unhealthy gut precedes all illness.

Millions of people have been healed from all sorts of diseases by following Natasha’s GAPS protocol, which is very similar to the paleo diet, but puts a much larger emphasis on meat broths, as our ultimate weapon in regaining our health. All disease originates with poor nutrition. Genetic predispositions do exist, but they are simply a result of multiple generations of poor diet. Unhealthy guts are passed on from mother to child.

I’m not going to comment on vegetarian versus non- vegetarian diet only because it is a very personal choice. In her book, Natasha does a great job of explaining the effect of both diets on healing. That said, only you can know what is right for you.

What I will say is this: when I recommend, in any of my posts, using meat and animal products to heal oneself, please understand that I NEVER in any way support the purchase of conventional feed-lot tortured meat, milk, butter etc. Not only are these animals fed a toxic diet of gmo grain and antibiotics, but I strongly believe that to ingest tortured meat is to ingest violence, and I will take no part in this. The only animal products I ever advocate eating are ones that come from small organic local farms whose farmers you know, and hopefully whose animals you have met, and whose animals are pastured and treated with the respect and care they deserve. When I eat out, unless I know and approve of the farm the meat is coming from, I eat vegetarian. If I didn’t have access to the amazing pastured meats I eat from the incredible farm down the road from me, I would be vegetarian. So please, don’t ever use my words and recommendations as justification for buying tortured animal products – not only is there zero health benefit, but you are also continuing to perpetrate one of the most violent industries alive today.

For those of you living in the triangle area of North Carolina, here is the farm I get my animal products from: New Pasture Farm. I highly recommend them. It took me a long time to find a farm I could truly stand behind and I can say in pure conscience that these people cut absolutely no corners and are not in it for the money. Their commitment really comes through in the quality of their products and their affordable prices. What a blessing that farmers like these exist!

Below you will find a list of both healing foods to include in your diet, and of toxic foods to avoid at all costs. This list was created from three years of research and personal testing on my own body. That said, never follow anything I or anyone else says blindly. Read about it, then try it and see if it works for you.

Bone Broth
If you were to only incorporate one of these healing foods into your diet, let it be bone broths. Bone broths are quite possibly the most healing food that exist. Filled with nutrients, minerals, bone broth will heal your gut, heal your joints, give you more energy, heal your cavities, make your skin and hair glow, thicken your hair, and boost your immune system like nothing else. It is the stuff that dreams are made of. Dreams of health and vigor that is. Please note that bone broths are only a superfood if they are homemade with pastured grass fed organic happy bones. It is important to remember that store bought broths are filled with MSG (hiding under the names: chicken/beef flavor, yeast, yeast extract, natural flavors) and therefore do not have any of the above health benefits. Thankfully, bone broths are incredibly easy to make, and while they do need to be left to simmer for many hours, the preparation only takes a mere 5-15 minutes. One big batch can easily last a week and can be used as the base for a myriad of meals.

Relevant article:

How to Make Bone Broth

Bone Broth for Health Building

Supplements
Supplements are a tricky issue. The mere fact that supplements exist nowadays is a clear sign of how poor our diets have become. Humans like all other beings were meant to derive all their bodies’ needs from their food. But because of the influx of all the fake and processed foods now so readily available, nutrient dense foods have become a rarity, forcing us to need supplements to ensure our bodies are getting their required nutrients. What no one is telling you thou, is that most supplements are made of a synthetic version of the real thing, instead of being derived from a real food source. Because of this, our bodies are unable to identify said synthetic supplement and instead of using it, our bodies end up peeing it out. A good example of this is Vitamin C which I explain in detail below. The best way to ensure your body is getting the minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients it needs, is by eating whole nutrient dense foods. That said, our bodies have become so starved of essential nutrients for so many years that as you begin your healing journey, supplements may be necessary to help kickstart the process while you get your nourishing diet together. If this is the case then I recommend Radiant Life as all of their vitamins and supplements are derived from organic whole foods rather than being synthetic substitutes our bodies do not recognize.

Relevant article:

Toxins Hidden in Vitamin Supplements

Energy Bars and Protein Shakes
As someone who loves to eat good food, I’ve never understood the appeal of energy bars and protein shakes. They have always tasted strangely chemically to me, and have always left me dissatisfied. That said, in today’s world, the Meal Replacer industry has become a multi-million dollar machine, and I believe that this too is evidence of how far we have separated ourselves from nature, and our roots.

Relevant Article:

The Problem with Protein Powders

Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another one of nature’s wonder foods. But there is a catch – it has to be raw, unpasteurized, with the “mother” intact. We use Braggs’ ACV because it is of such high quality and available at our local coop. A lot of people incorporate it into their diet by adding to a hot cup of water with a little honey, and drinking it as tea. Others take a shot of it followed by a chaser of some sort. Just remember to only ingest ACV on a full stomach or else you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Below you will find a couple articles listing all the health benefits of ACV.

Relevant article:
http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/health-benefits-apple-cider-vinegar

http://www.eatingbirdfood.com/2012/02/health-benefits-of-apple-cider-vinegar-acv/

Eggs
Eggs are a miracle food. Safe within the confines of its tough exterior lies nature’s perfect food. Just like our society’s aversion to fat, people have become terrified of cholesterol, and I still see so many people avoid egg yolks at all cost. The sad truth is that when people deprive themselves of the yolk, they are depriving themselves of the majority of the egg’s nutritional content, of its healing powers. Egg yolks are filled with powerful enzymes, essential amino acids, fatty acids and minerals. P.S. if you are paying less than 5 dollars for a dozen eggs then you can be assured that those eggs did not come from happy chickens. The only exception is if they were from a friend who cut you a deal from the goodness of his/her heart.

Relevant article:

How to Buy Eggs

http://www.farmtoforkmeat.com/Talking-Chicken-and-Eggs_b_2.html

Sugar
Not all sugar is created equal, which is the most important fact to remember about sugar. Since their introduction in 2008, Monsanto’s GMO beets now make up almost 95% of the beet sugar market. I quote Sarah Pope from her blog, The Healthy Home Economist: “The bottom line is that any product you buy that says “sugar” or “sucrose” is almost certainly at least partially if not completely GMO beet sugar unless it is certified organic or labeled as 100% cane sugar.”
So why is this a big deal? Why care if our sugar is GMO or not? Let me quote Sarah Pope again:
“Besides the completely unknown effects of consuming GMOs which have never been adequately tested, the activist organization Citizens for Health reports that GMO sugar beets in the food supply are of particular concern because the sugar is extracted from the beet’s root rather than the part of the plant growing above the ground with the result being more glyphosate pesticide residues in the sugar.
Another problem is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to increase the allowable levels of glyphosate on sugar beet roots, seemingly ad infinitum as superweed resistance continues to grow.
Inexplicably, the EPA continues to allow ever higher levels of glyphosate on GMO crops despite the release of a study showing that glyphosate inhibits the growth of beneficial gut bacteria in humans and leads to the overgrowth of pathogenic intestinal bacteria resulting in a slow, insidious increase in systemic inflammation over months and years.”
Ok, so now you know to be incredibly careful of your sugar source. But since this blog is all about healing, I am going to have to mention that even wholesome real organic pure sugar sources, such as raw local honey and maple syrup, are not going to be particularly helpful to you if you are trying to heal your gut.
To a healthy balanced body, these sugars, are fantastically nutrient dense foods. That said, what presently makes sugar so toxic is the state of our health. Find me a person with an undamaged healthy balanced body who was reared by a mother with a pristine gut and immune system, and who has been fed only nutrient dense foods his/her whole life. It simply doesn’t exist anymore, safe for those still living outside the confines of modernization, which we have equated with civilization. When our bodies are sickly, sugar is in fact the enemy and the easiest way to explain this is using the example of cancer. Numerous studies have come out on the effect of sugar on tumors, namely that sugar feeds tumors. Holistic doctors are quick to recommend their cancer patients avoid sugar at all costs, including “innocent” sugars from fruit. In a sickly body, sugar produces inflammation, feeds tumors, feeds candida, and degenerates ones health rapidly. As news of the toxicity of sugar has spread, sugar substitutes have popped up, the most recent one being xylitol. If naturally derived sugars like maple syrup and honey have adverse effects on our sickly bodies, then how on earth can one expect artificially derived sugars to be good for us? This train of thought always stumps me leaving me completely bewildered. If you are looking for a sweetener to use in moderation, then pick between raw unfiltered local honey, organic all-natural maple syrup (the real stuff that costs a lot), blackstrap molasses, or stevia (but only the fresh or dried herb, not the processed varieties found in most stores). Lastly, a note on honey: news has recently spread of the big honey deceit. Apparently the majority of jars labeled “honey” being sold in grocery stores contain a bare minimum of real honey, and are pumped with high fructose syrup as “filler”. Shocking? Absolutely. But knowing what our food industry has become, not really. See article below to learn more about the big honey deceit. Not even honey labeled as organic is immune to this phenomenon.

Relevant Book:

Sugar Blues

Relevant Article:

Natural Sodas Made with GMO Sugars Scams Consumers

Understanding the World of Sweets

Cutting through the Hype and Deception of Sugar

Fat Fat Fat
Whoever started perpetuating the myth that fat is evil and needs to be avoided at all costs was either senile, had an unkind ulterior motive, or was plain ignorant. Either way, one of the greatest nutritional tragedies of our time is how afraid we have all become of fat. So afraid that we stuff our grocery carts, fridges and cabinets with low-fat and fat-free items that ultimately end up contributing to our continued ill health and/or weight gain. The truth is that our cell membranes, cell organelles, and hormones are all made of fat. When you dramatically reduce your fat intake, you are asking for health problems because you are depriving your body of the very building blocks it needs to heal itself. Unfortunately fat is one of the most poorly reported on subjects, so when reading up about fat, it is important to trust your source. Below you will find articles on fat that explain in detail, exactly why fat is so vital to our health, and why the best thing you can do if you are trying to lose weight is incorporate fat into your diet – not reduce it. There is one catch though. The fat has to be a “good” fat. To understand the difference between good and bad fats, see the section below.

Relevant article:

Know Your Fats

The Skinny on Fats

Meat
Wen we buy our meat, we tend to associate quality of meat with the image we have of the store we are buying it from. We think, I am buying my meat from Whole Foods, so it must be organic and ethical meat. Think again. While these meats tend to be labeled organic and/or grass-fed, they are incredibly deceiving with regards to what they don’t mention. There are just so many ways for farmers to cut corners, but by smart labeling, and using key words, such as “grass-fed” they are easily able to con you into thinking that their meat is in fact, pure.

For those of you who do include animal products in their diet, I am sharing with you a couple emails I recently received from Niti Bali, owner of Farm to Fork Meat, written in conjunction with Cindy Rover, owner of New Pasture Farm. If you eat meat, these are must-reads. Moreover if you are interested in reading about a woman and organization really making a difference, please click on her site:

Farm to Fork Meat

The following is credited to Niti Bali of Farm to Fork Meat:

“ALL GRASS FED BEEF IS NOT EQUAL.

KNOW YOUR FACTS.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR GRASS FED BEEF FARMER.

Is it 100% grass fed?

Is it 100% grass finished?

Is it 100% grain free?

Is it 100% pharmaceutical free? (antibiotics, growth hormones, dewormers)

Ask about their deworming protocol.

Ask about parasite management.

Ask about the LIVE grass ~ did you know that grass can be GMO?

What species of grass make up their pastures (salad bar)? Are they getting nutrition? To what standard?

How healthy is the grass?

How do they feed the grass?

Ask about soil health. Did you know that the soil delivers the nutrition?

Are there live microbes and bugs under the soil or has it been sterilized by petrochemical fertilizers?

If the soil has been sterilized there is minimal nutrition in the grass therefore starving your beeves of nutrition, and therefore starving YOU of nutrient dense beef.

What are they putting on the grass?

Fertilizers using chicken feces from factory farm houses include high concentrations of arsenic & antibiotics from the chicken feed which is fed to the grass, which feed the beeves, which FEED YOU.

Pharmaceutical fertilizers kill the microbes in the soil which means EVERYTHING in the soil is dead including worms and other bugs which feed the grass, which feed the beeves, which FEED YOU.

Did you know that the production of fertilizer for feed crops can emit 41 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year?

Are their pastures sprayed with government subsidized sludge fertilizer which is distributed for free and applied to the pasture for the farmer for FREE by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Quality and permitted by NC State law following EPA guidelines?

*Farmers are not told of the myriad toxic substances and pathogens found in sewage sludge (such as chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs, meth amphetamines and other street drugs, viruses, bacteria, etc.) and your beef is eating it and so are you!

Ask about the supplemental, stored grass (hay). Did you know that alfalfa grass is GMO?

Did they buy the hay or grow the hay?

If they bought the hay, please return to the top of the board and ask those questions again about the hay.

*Did you know that alfalfa is the main species of grass made into hay that is fed to milk cows which is transferred into the milk which means you are drinking round up? This occurs in most cases where the farmer states the milk cows are 100% grass fed.

Why do you think ORGANIC CHICKEN is SAFE and sustainable?

Organic chicken is neither safe nor sustainable.

In fact it is as toxic as its conventional counterpart.

· Did you know that organic chicken is still raised in a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation)?

· Did you know that organic chicken is raised in houses and never sees the light of day?

· Did you know that organic chicken is riddled with disease from the stress of never getting sunshine or clean air?

· Did you know that when you put animals in houses you are also putting their feces and urine in that house?

· Do you know what it feels like to breathe in a house filled with ammonia from 20 thousand birds?

· Did you know that although the organic chicken may NOT have been given antibiotics or artificial growth hormones the stress hormones their bodies are filled with are enough to make their meat toxic for human consumption?

· Did you know that organic chickens are fed arsenic?

· Did you know that arsenic is a heavy metal that will help you SLOWLY get sick and die?

· Did you know that chickens, just like human beings, are NOT VEGETARIANS?

· Did you know that when an omnivore is forced to be a vegetarian that their health is compromised as well as their fertility?

· Did you know that when organic chickens go to the slaughter house they are in kidney, liver and renal failure?

· Did you know that conventional chicken is given antibiotics, artificial growth stimulants and GMO feed so that when you eat out anywhere the chicken is the worst quality meat you can offer your children?

· Did you know that organic chickens are also eating SOY feed?

· Did you know that SOY is a hormone disruptor and a tumor grower?

· Did you know that organic does not mean SOY FREE?

· Did you know when you eat animals that eat GMO feed that the Round Up in that feed ends up in the meat tissues and is passed on to you and your children’s tissue?

· Did you know that turkeys are also raised in the same way as chicken in houses?

· Did you know that raising turkeys in houses is even worse on those animals since they are BIGGER and more fragile?

· Did you know that turkey bacon, ground turkey, turkey burgers, turkey dogs, turkey ANYTHING from CAFOs are absolutely one of the most unsustainable non-nutritive protein choices you can make?

· WHO CARES about nitrates when the animal is so toxic already? Just eat high foraged poultry!

· WHO CARES how the animal is killed or butchered or how many times it was dipped in bleach or irradiated to kill bacteria when its entire life was so toxic? Eat high foraged soy & GMO free poultry.

· WHO CARES about the ingredients in turkey dogs or chicken sausages when they are raised in houses and never see the light of day so they are depleted of all nourishment and so toxic from the stress of their pathetic lives trapped in houses? Eat GMO & soy free high foraged hogs or mob grazed beef!

· Eat healthy, happy, thriving birds that forage on bugs and other non-vegetarian fare while they bask in sunshine with clean water and air with GMO FREE feed in their feed troughs. Take responsibility for providing high quality, nutrient dense food which is medicine for your family.”

Salt
The salt you use is vitally important. Salt is incredibly nourishing if it still contains all its minerals. The best on the market right now is Celtic Sea Salt.

Relevant article:

Choosing Healthy Salt

Low Salt Diets are Deadly

Spices
Unless your spices and herbs are organic, they have been irradiated, which not only strips them of their nutrients, but also makes them carcinogenic.

Relevant article:

Non-irradiated Spices

Fruit Juices
If you are going to drink fruit juices, make sure they are fresh squeezed at home because almost all store bought juices have been pasteurized which destroys all the nutrients, and they ate not required by the FDA to disclose any added sugar. They can still label their product 100% natural and no sugar added, as long as the sugar they are adding is fructose, which people think is ok because it is derived from fruit.

Relevant article:

A Better Way to Drink your OJ

Fruit Juice Sugars

Vegetarian Meat Substitutes
Stay away from all vegetarian meat substitutes as they all contain a ridiculous amount of MSG. Just read the label to see for yourself. Meat substitutes are a very processed food. If you are craving a veggie burger, make a homemade one with real food ingredients!

Relevant article:

Veggie Burgers and MSG

Think Twice Before Buying this Type of Burger

Hidden MSG
MSG is being printed under a variety of misleading labels these days: yeast, yeast extract, autolized yeast extract and natural flavors are all an indication that MSG is present. Always check labels before buying anything. Better yet, don’t buy or eat foods that are so processed they require labels. The following foods tend to always have hidden MSG: bouillon cubes, store-bought broth or stock, all meat-substitutes, frozen pizzas, frozen dinners and flavored chips and crackers.

Relevant Article:

Sneaky names for MSG

Hidden sources of MSG

Vitamin C
One of the most useful supplements you can take to strengthen your immune system is Vitamin C, but be careful, most Vitamin C supplements are made of ascorbic acid, which is a synthetic Vitamin C that our bodies don’t recognize. The best source for any supplement is one that uses real foods to create it, and the only company I know that does this is Radiant Life, an incredibly company worth supporting. We use their Vitamin C.

Relevant website:

Radiant Life Catalog

Relevant article:

Is your vitamin C the real deal?

Fermented Drinks
Fermented drinks are an easy way to give your body a healthy dose of probiotics. Choose from a long list of options, such as Kombucha, beet kvass, milk kefir, and water kefir. In our home, we start our day off with a homemade raw milk kefir smoothie that includes coconut oil, bananas, berries, diatomaceous earth, and vitamin C (from Radiant Life).

Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is incredibly nutritious but it is an unstable oil, so never heat it, or cook with it. See articles on healthy fats below.

Fats
Know your fats, as they will become your bestest friend on your journey toward wellness. Good fats: pastured butter, ghee, lard, tallow, extra virgin coconut oil, sesame oil, extra virgin olive oil.

Relevant article:

Why I eat plenty of butter

Relevant book:

For the most comprehensive resource on fats, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this short book – it is an absolute goldmine: Get your fats straight

Cereal
Stay away from all store-bought cereals, even the all natural ones. Store-bought cereals are incredibly processed, and the majority are made from GMO grain.

Relevant article:

Boxed breakfast cereal is toxic

Dairy
Ever wonder why dairy allergies have grown rampant? We were never meant to ingest pasteurized dairy products. Stay away from all pasteurized dairy unless it is fermented, like yogurt or sour cream. Dairy is incredibly nourishing, but only organic raw pastured dairy. When people/websites/USDA try and convince you that raw milk is dangerous, please remember that pasteurization is a multi-billion dollar industry so it is in the government’s interest to push the benefits of pasteurization.

Relevant article:

Powerpoint presentation on real milk

Fresh unprocessed real whole milk

Key documents on raw milk

TVP
Stay away from TVP. It is not only the most processed food ever made, but it is also filled with ridiculous amounts of heavy metals, even if organic, and has absolutely zero nutrients.

Relevant article:

All about TVP

What to know before you eat TVP

A word about cost – if you do decide to go the real food route, you will find that this food comes at a higher cost. You may think you cannot afford it, and the reality is, you may not be able to. But it is important to remember that this kind of food is so healing that when you look at the costs, you must take into account all the money you regularly put towards health insurance, doctor visits, rounds of antibiotics, over the counter cough syrup, ibuprofen, vitamins, emergen-C, anti-histamines, etc. What is the monthly cost of your sickly health? When you buy real food, you are not only buying food, you are buying medicine. You are also paying higher prices for products from happy respected and loved animals, so you are buying with a clean conscience, which I personally find priceless.

One of the best parts about eating a real foods diet, is that you indirectly end up supporting the right people – the farmers working hard to protect our planet and food system, the farmers treating their animals with love, instead of the corporations wreaking havoc on our lives and bodies. By choosing to eat a nutrient dense diet, you are indirectly voting for just healthy world with your hard-earned dollars.

I tend to spend a large amount of my paycheck on my food, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not only do I see it as a long-term investment in my health, I also see it as an act of self-love which is very empowering. It doesn’t hurt that I am a huge gourmet and cook, and love to regale myself with delicious meals made from scratch in my own kitchen. I suppose that might be the French in me coming out…or even perhaps my Indian roots. Either way, one thing I am sure of is that I love good food, and there is no more delectable food than Real food.

I think that’s a good place to end this ridiculously long post!
Much love to all of you.

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