Saturday, May 6, 2017

Adventures and The Tree of Life

I've arrived back to Utah. After a long journey in Brazil. I was there for 7 months, exploring different possibilities. Friends and I were looking at lands to purchase in order to create possibly a retreat center-- where we would create our own essential oils, medicinals and food, a place for healing and reconnecting. I met many who were interested in a more sustainable lifestyle and at different stages of creating this a reality. Ultimately I ran into visa issues and decided to come back home.

I was hired on to the Tree of Life as a vegan chef instructor. I was feeling so excited and optimistic about the opportunity to work for a retreat center that has been functioning for so many years, I felt I had a lot to learn, especially if one day I wanted to start my own.

However, shortly after arriving, things weren't jiving as well as I thought. There were some misunderstandings about my living accommodations and travel accommodations. Which required some last minute figuring out. I also walked into some heavy drama as I entered the dorms. Basically some severely unhappy paying customers. Added to my own issues with checking in and understanding the situation, I was about to turn around and go home.

Obviously I didn't want to give up so quickly. I arrived on Saturday from Utah, a 15 hour drive. And I had come with all of my stuff, thinking I would be there for 1-2 years!

Monday was my first day of work. Which was okay, but I noticed that the day dragged on. Two hours felt like 8. This was not a good sign. I also realized that I don't work well with so many confinements, everything had to be done a certain way, walking around the table a certain way to pick up condiments, when setting things up, chopping, etc. This is also okay, whatever, something to get used to. Then major drama happened back in Utah, where I had to take the afternoon off to sort things out.

Tuesday rolled around. Again, similar patterns, also I enjoyed the food, but I could feel that I was missing carbs. At the Tree of Life, they get their calories primarily from nuts and seeds. This is okay, but by Monday I was having immense challenges with this, my stomach was severely upset, and by Tuesday I was hardly eating because I didn't want to be in pain all day, but I have a fast metabolism, and I get a little crazy if I don't eat. I also hadn't been sleeping well. On top of the energetic strictness and the hostility of the apprentices who paid 10,000 dollars... or at least some of them who were beyond unhappy with the program and taking it out on me. I really had nothing to do with any of it.. but it doesn't feel good to be walking into a space where many of the participants aren't thrilled about what they are doing. It means something is off. And if something is that off, that I can't even keep my own cool... then I am not adding to what they have.. I'm only spiraling down with it.

I was thankful that I was given some sweet potatoes but it took some haggling to get to that point, I was told to have more coconut oil and avocados.. which I felt was not helpful as I was not used to giving my body so much fat.

And ultimately, I'm not sure so much fat is really good for us???

I guess I didn't assume that everyone there gets most of their calories from fat, I had thought that the tree of life had more flexibility than that.

Between seriously unhappy participants taking it out on me, and learning more about some of the questionable things being done there..  I couldn't deal with this place anymore. I didn't need to be there, I could go back to Utah and sort things out. I told another apprentice who noticed I was a bit off. Luck would have it, she was really helpful and offered me her car to go to town to get what I needed or to help me out anyway.

I took her car, and took the afternoon off to sort myself out.

The strangest thing was, as soon as I left the cafe, I felt my instability suddenly vanished. I felt fine. I also had a long meditation about going back home and creating a sustainable space in Utah.

So I decided to quit. I let everyone know. This was a bit crazy even for me, feeling I had just come, but I couldn't deny this immense buildup of ungroundedness, that only eased when accepting a different course for myself. Of course I have not mentioned everything that went wrong. I realize that this place has a large staff and they are doing their best to support everyone, but in this process the energy feels to be largely about making money. That much effort is done to get as much out of people as possible. I feel this is not fair. I also became aware of the excessive amounts of supplements that are subscribed in the name of 'depleted soils', one individual was prescribed 1000 dollars worth for 1 month only!!! It would be impossible to know the reactions of all of those supplements together, in addition to there are no regulations on supplements, in addition to the 'depleted' soils blanket theory is a load of crap. As a soil scientist, I have personally witnessed how varied all soils are, and even on the same property, there can sometimes be little consistency. However if the soils are taken care of, there will be no severe nutritional deficiencies in the foods. Yet at the tree of life, they did grow their sprouts and greens but nothing else. The way they talk about the place that it is some perfect all god and holy place and that Gabriel Cousens is enlightened. And if people leave from there, 'they just aren't ready yet'. I felt a lack of sincerity in some of the rituals to be honest. I felt a suppression of the feminine spirit there. Everything was severely hierarchical and male driven. I felt people were being taken advantage of, and the task was too big for me alone to try and reverse.

I feel bad giving such negative feedback on a place where I know they have done a lot of good in many ways. For how long it's been around is a show for that. For how many people they have been able to help with this model- escape some of the challenges in modern medicine. However I also have some major doubts about how they are doing this now. Their sevas are worked into the ground and are required to go to all of the 'spiritual' seminars in the evening.

Personally it feels almost like a level of 'spiritual' bullying. It's like spirituality being completely westernized -- by putting them into controlled boxes. This is not how we enjoy life, this in my opinion is not how we open up to our full potential. We open up by giving ourselves rest in a chaotic world, by allowing people to connect with their own inner truths and hearts, and allowing them to come into themselves. By allowing more chances for people to share and bring their gifts.

Sure staying in a place like this will probably make people wake up, by waking up to how miserable life can be in a place so controlled. The people who are leaving are typically the ones bursting at the seams to get out.

And in some ways it's perfect like that, because if this was a perfect place, no one would ever want to leave, and the whole point of this place is that they want people to leave so that we will have 'awake' people everywhere. So in this goal, they succeeded. I definitely wanted out as soon as I came. I realized that what I know about nutrition is quite a lot, I already know how to heal with nutrition and actually I think modest to low levels of fat and maybe none in some cases is best. I believe in cooked foods (especially if produced on site or locally), in some ways I feel it's a bit more sustainable than shipping fresh foods long distances. I believe in minimal supplementation -- Vitamin B12, maybe vit D, but our bodies are beautiful and everything can be gotten from the earth! I don't really believe in massive supplementation. Ask some of the longest living people what helped them live long... you know what it is?? Usually happiness! Sure eating more veggies certainly helps, but people who live long generally have a good outlook on life.

Controlling life, controlling what we eat... can make us miserable, contracting our spirits. We need freedom, we need heart living.

I must say I did meet a lot of incredible people there, I managed to borrow a car from one apprentice to drive all the way home. I also managed to become really good friends with another and perhaps we will be doing some EM work together, which has massive potential for cleaning water and soils.

And now I am back in Utah, and starting up my families garden-- permaculture style :) actually maybe Esther style. Since my practices at this point are a healthy combination of many different things I have learned along the way. I won't be tilling but digging holes and planting individually, I'm not sure let's see how it goes, I bought loads of seeds the other day.

And since last year my car was totaled, I'll be learning to get around by bicycle here shortly. I live 30 minutes from town by car!! So it's a bit of a distance, but It's important, I want to become more and more earth friendly.

I've also been putting together curriculum for meditation retreats.

I've gotten into something called orchid essences, which use the energy from flowers for a variety of spiritual symptoms. I would like to work this into the meditation, have lots of time in nature and have the most amazing organic fresh food available, in addition to yoga. So I will be organizing my first one here shortly perhaps next month.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Reducing waste

Happy New Year! Feliz novo ano! 

I'm mostly posting on my To Brazil blog, however few posts will still make it to this page when they feel relevant enough of the general theme of a more sustainable life. 

It’s the start of a new world. A new life. I feel motivated and inspired to really change my life. 
My biggest dream in the world is to see a more sustainable planet. And in order to do that, I realize that it has to start within. Yes I'm still working on sustainable projects here in Brazil, very initial stages and I'll be elaborating more on them with time. For now I'll keep you up to date with my progress in becoming waste free and more sustainable. 

For the last few months, I've been really thinking a lot about it, but in the last week I've been making progress with daily sustainable goal setting, which has been amazing. 

I've also garnered a lot of inspiration from the book "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert. 
Basically just putting 100% into your passions and not expecting anything in return, because you love them. And not getting pulled down when things don't always go your way, because that is also life, and what matters is your dedication and nothing else. Your passion also doesn't owe you anything, it doesn't owe you rewards of any kind, monetary, success or anything, it's there to just be there, so we can enjoy this experience on earth, knowing that we lived it with full heart. 

I've started creating goals for myself every evening for the following day, of course I've been learning portuguese so they have involved that, they have involved step by step processes of starting my personal projects and carrying them through, also involving personal health -- so whether it's healthy food prep or exercise, meditation and then also daily journaling at the end of the day to track my progress and prepare for the next day. This has really fueled my motivation in a beautiful way, helping me keep on track with my work and my goals. 

In the past few months, I have stopped using shampoo from plastic containers -- I use bar soap now for everything. I have started making my own toothpaste -- my latest recipe is 1/4 cup of coconut oil 10 drops of organic mint oil, 3 drops of tea tree oil and 2-3 tbsp of baking soda. It seems to work great. However I think for best results also couple it with oil pulling and flossing using -- smartfloss -- I use smartfloss because it is amazing and can absorb essential oils. I realize smartfloss comes in a plastic container but one of my goals is to contact the company if they can sell the product with the plastic/ create a petition for them to sell the product without the plastic container-- or some kind of recycling/reusing program for the container. 

In the past few days, I've also started using water instead of toilet paper. This is no big deal for many other countries, in particular india where I've spent a significant amount of time, yet for other countries, this is unfortunately a new and bizarre concept, with bathrooms not set up for using water. So I bring with me a small bag with a small bottle of water and cloth so I can be prepared, the water for the washing and the cloth for drying. As I write this, I realize that this makes it much easier for women in the west to go toilet paper free as they often carry bags that can accommodate this, for men perhaps its more difficult. But a good start is start in the home. When traveling people usually have to bring some sort of back bag or bag anyway, even men. So anyway. All is possible! Lets save our trees!! 

The other thing is, I travel a lot. I'm not even sure what I can call my home and what isn't anymore.. because wherever I am has suddenly become home.. because I feel like a total vagabond. But anyway. Previously I would only compost in compost friendly homes. Yet now, I am finding ways to compost in homes that aren't set up for it. I recently stayed in an apartment where there were only potted plants. So what I did was make a veggie scrap smoothie and poured it onto the plants -- in particular the plants that were having pest issues. Who knows maybe it can help :) This way the scraps break down much easier and assimilate into soil faster. Helping the plant. 

I've also started to reconsider while shopping and avoiding things that come in plastic, this has meant that sometimes I buy conventional foods over organic foods because they don't come in plastic. However this is a lose lose situation. My heart can't figure out what is better.. conventional foods with agrotoxins.. or organic foods wrapped in material that doesn't decompose. Eeek. Best is to grow my own food... or work harder seeking out organic plastic free foods. Unfortunately I have yet to find in Brazil organic plastic free grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits.. etc. I will have to meet farmers and see what is possible. I have a friend starting a company where he will sell organic produce straight to consumers.. I feel there is an opportunity here, to sell bulk organic foods... but time will tell. Else some kind of movement, petitions, contacting farmers.. may also work. 

Also, a huge part of waste free living in my opinion is reducing our ecological footprint overall. Plant based eating/ eating more plants can help with this. Check out my other blog here, for recipes and ideas :)