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My Adventures in Hawaii, January 2017: Beaches

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I just came back from the most epic 2 week trip on the Big Island, Hawaii Island and wanted to share the beautiful locations we explored!

Beautiful Banyan Trees in Hilo!

We came out for a wedding, and decided to make it a longer trip to enjoy the island. I will list my favorite spots with a few pics and details of what we loved!

You can follow this baby wild boar on Instagram @boaris_humphrey_mcgee

BEACHES WE VISITED ON HAWAII, REVIEWED

Kiholo Bay, near Kona, HI

This beach had tons of coral and huge chunks of black lava. There are supposedly goats and petroglyphs, but it was our first stop so we didn’t stay long. The black sand was coarse but this beach was charming and beautiful! Not very many people on this beach at all, and awesome camping spots right on the shore.

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Flamingo Pose, the real name of this pose is Wind Relieving Pose

 

The contrast of black and white was very cool

Makalawena Beach, near Puako, Kona side, HI

To get to this beautiful, famed white sand beach, which came recommended from two locals, you have to drive about 7 minutes over some extremely rugged lava road. Potholes and bouncing around everywhere, but we did it easily in our rented, POS local Toyota Corolla! It was worth the drive to get to this peaceful beach. This is where I stumbled upon my second sea turtle!! It actually scared me, suddenly I realized I wasn’t standing next to lava, it was this sea turtle’s back!

The road to paradise is bumpy…an analogy for life.
Makalawena pronounced “Maka-La-Veh-nah”
Makalawena has lots of nice private alcoves between palm trees, very romantic spot!
The sand at Makalawenp has the look and texture of sesame seeds!

Richardson Ocean Park, Hilo, HI

Richardson beach is a beautiful spot that I saw my very first sea turtle. They are supposedly often spotted here. It is a very rocky shore, lots of people snorkeling but it was a little chilly the day we went so we just sunbathed and did some mellow snorkeling in the surf. This beach has a lot of scenic beauty, was pretty packed, but great mellow vibe with lots of beautiful palm trees. The sand was black with flecks of green, pretty coarse but a beautiful spot worth visiting!

 

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, near Waimea, HI

This beach was very busy in the parking lot but the huge open soft sandy beach was well worth it. Mellow waves, super soft flour-like sand, this beach is paradise for doing yoga!

This beach parking lot was packed and the beach was pretty full, but the mellow waves and soft sand were worth it.
The sand was soft as flour at Hapuna Beach!

Kehena Beach, Pahoa, HI

This beach was one of our favorites, we came twice! There were many nude free spirits, (clothing optional beach) a super friendly vibe like we were all at a party, but with naked babies. We loved it. We saw a pod of dolphins doing flips for us offshore, was very cool! I hear people have drowned on this beach, the undertow was pretty intense but we loved this beach. A super short easy climb down some lava to get here, anyone could do it with a hand to steady them.

Hippie Haven at the clothing optional Kehena Beach
The coconut that fell from the cliff and tried to kill my man!
The vibe at Kehena was friendly all-age partying, families, couples, beach bums all peacefully enjoying.

Sacred Sands Beach near Kona, HI

The undertow at this beach was no joke! Knocking over adults and kids!
Pretty packed beach because it’s in a downtown area right off of a main road.

Two Step (Snorkeling Spot)

My first real open ocean snorkeling!

Papakolea Green Sand Beach

This beach was a total adventure. For $15 a person, you can get a ride from the locals to this beach, which is one of two green sand beaches in the United States. The hike there is long, hot, dusty, difficult to navigate, unshaded and takes over an hour, so we decided to take the 4 wheel drive ride with the locals. They all had fucked up dinged trucks in the parking lot, offering rides to willing locals. We stood in the back of the truck and held on as this local teenager in a huge Dodge Ram got us there climbing over the terrain! This was a cool experience worth it for the ride. The beach was beautiful and unique, but the ride there and the remoteness made it pretty cool. The only thing that sucked is you choose how long you’re gonna stay and you ride back with the driver that brought you, since you pay  round-trip, so we left after 40 minutes and I was like Nooo! The water was warm with big strong waves, this is a very cool beach.

The olive green sand is ground down crystal formed on the lava rock called Olivine. Subtle color but very cool!
The famous Green Sand Beach

Next post: Vegan Food I found on the Big Island!

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My ABC Book: Creation and progress update

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So if you’ve met me in the past two years, you’ve heard me talking about this book that I’m writing about Napa. While writing this book, I’ve become a yoga teacher and changed my career, and now work for myself. This is a dream of mine that I wished for so hard, and I am grateful every day to now have the time to buckle down and finish this thing. I’m so excited about the illustrations and the whole idea, so this post is to share just what the hell I have going on over here in my studio!

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The Old Bale Grist Mill in Calistoga is one of my favorite places in the world.

The book is called Napa’s Treasures, an ABC book, and it’s about parks, nature, and local treasures such as the Old Faithful Geyser of California in Calistoga, and the legend of the Rebobs up Partrick’s Road.

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The dock at Kennedy park. Follow my Instagram @jaynesartaddiction to see more frequent art posts!

 

Rather than focusing on the businesses and wineries in Napa, my focus is on the natural beauty of the land, and cheap or free places to take children to appreciate this unique part of the world, for more than just a great place to cover in grapes for profit. I hope this book will inspire more people to explore the natural beauty of Napa and be inspired to help preserve it for future generations to enjoy.

 

IMG_3265Since one of my biggest motivators for writing this book is ecological conservation and saving trees/forests/parks, 10% of the proceeds of this book will go to the Napa Land Trust.

 

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I have 8 pages left and worked for 10 hours on this the other day! I’m  aiming to be done by mid-November, wish me luck! Once I get a final copy made and in my hand, I will put up a pre-order listing in my Etsy store. To stay informed of my progress, subscribe to my blog below! Thanks so much, friends, for your support!

 

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Diary of a Book Nerd: September 2016 Book Reviews

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This has been an emotionally challenging month of books. One of the most difficult things about learning is the pain and discomfort it brings. I can’t read these books aloud to others, and yet as I’m reading them, they are changing my viewpoint, expanding my knowledge and becoming the filter from which I see the world. I’m taking a break from books about animal rights, it’s entirely too depressing and is taking a toll on my relationships.  You can expect more business- oriented books in the future, I can’t stay on this animal rights trajectory and remain the positive, happy, kind person that I have usually been. This subject rips out your beating heart. Without the ability to stop the world’s eating habits, I’ve changed and the whole world stays the same, I learn to keep my mouth shut and my heart bleeds through my eyes. I digress. I highly recommend an equal balance in book subjects so you can avoid depression and despair.

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The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

This book is notoriously gruesome, but it is renowned as being one of the first accounts to expose the intimate practices of the burgeoning meat-packing industry and incite public attention to the dire need for change in early 1900’s Chicago. Not only is this book tragic and horrifying, (bet you really want to read it now!) but it illustrates a whole culture of deception and degradation toward immigrant workers in this industry at that time. The endlessly painful details of the struggling, desperate lives of these immigrants (who went through so much to get here in an attempt to better their lives) gave me a sickening perspective of just how lucky I am to live a life of cleanliness, health and dignity.

This book is not one to read on a beach when you’re trying to enjoy yourself. I read this book to gain a first person perspective of this industry’s  beginnings and to better understand all aspects of the animal agriculture industry’s practices. I devote myself to these studies so that I can be a more knowledgable and consequently, a more effective animal rights activist. In the process, I learned that the moral degradation and abuse is not limited to the animals in this industry.

I am glad I read this book, for a number of reasons, even though I can’t really say I recommend it, because it’s straight up, a huge downer. I am grateful for this perspective anyway,  simply because I now understand references made to this book, I have a better idea of how life worked for immigrants in that area during that time period, and it helped shift my infrequent bouts of self-pity for things I desire in life to immense gratitude for my health and the well being of my family. The innumerable blessings in my life became vivid and blaring every time I let my eyes wander up from the pages of this book. Mr. Upton Sinclair painfully conveys exactly the amount of insurmountable pain and incessant suffering a human can handle before they simply give in to the pressure. I couldn’t hang, I’d probably kill myself. Not sure if this review is helping anyone desire to read this book, now that I’ve reread what I’ve written. Haha, You’ve been warned!

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Roald Dahl is an oddball but he is the Man.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

I know, everyone has seen the classic movie with Gene Wilder, and perhaps less people have seen the strange new version with Johnny Depp. Being a huge fan of Roald Dahl’s work, I had to read this book. I’ve been reading chapter books with my son, so this story was a fun and silly nightly read. There were plenty of illustrations by the quirky and awesome Quentin Blake, and a few deviations from the movies, which I enjoyed better than the movie adaptations.

In the book, Charlie doesn’t do anything wrong, he is an appreciative boy and it is out of his character to drink the Fizzy Lifting Drink and have to burp his way down. Charlie wouldn’t dare do that! Also, in the newer adaptation of the movie, in the end, Willy Wonka says he can have the factory only if he leaves his family behind. What a creep! Who would do that to a little boy? I would tell that perv Wonka to GTF Outta my tiny destroyed house if I heard him asking my son to make the choice. What a dick! I was also disgusted with the irreverent way he smashed his glass elevator into the house with zero regard for Charlie’s family.

In the book, Willy Wonka still smashes into the house, but at least he lets his whole family move into the factory with them after destroying everything they own. He’s still a creep and a megalomaniac, but at least he isn’t a complete demon in the book. I liked it alright, but honestly, the songs are super long and boring, and I had no idea how to sing them pleasantly, so reading this book out loud became a chore every time an Oompa Loompa song came around, which was often for awhile there when the kids start dropping off.

I think you’re maybe better off just watching the 1971 original and doing your best to forget about this strange, psychedelic story, with more than it’s share of disturbing darkness, so you don’t have any haunting dreams. Anyone with half a brain can sense that Wonka is not to be trusted, the guy is clearly off his rocker.

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The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

Finally, a book that I can tell everyone to read! This book is motivating, inspirational, and a serious catalyst for change. I think it’s safe to call this book a Life Changer.

The principals in this book are simple and profound. Basically he is saying this: Every decision you make in your life is either helping  you or hurting you. There are no neutral decisions. Every tiny discipline you implement into your life on a daily basis compounds day after day, until your success is inevitable. Duh, right? Do the work and the work will get done. The way this guy illustrates his points over and over, clearly and in different ways, it really drills into your head what you need to do to succeed in ANYTHING in life.

This book makes you realize that everyone always has a choice, that most people fail, and what will set you apart is consistent habits, daily. You either do or you don’t. You’re getting closer, or further away. It’s so motivating because it becomes painfully clear how correct he is and how obvious his truths are. This book is the reason I’m making this blog happen right MEOW! I’m either a blogger, or Not a blogger anymore. I exercise daily or I used to exercise. Ouch. I’m gonna buy everyone this book for Christmas because it’s like, the key to success. If you keep going, every day, without fail, toward your goal, success is inevitable. If you lose momentum and give up, failure is inevitable. My Dad gave me this book, and for so long it sat on my shelf. Little did I know this gem would be the fire I desperately needed right now! Awesome book, Dad.

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Imperative reading, but the truth hurts.

Diet For A New America by John Robbins

This book is completely eye-opening. John Robbins is the son of Baskin Robbins fame, set to inherit his place in ice cream royalty when life gave him other plans. After watching his family members suffer from ill health after a lifetime of an abundance of ice cream, John became a vegan as an act of rebellion against his family and the complacent, prevalent social acceptance of these products of violence and their unhealthy qualities. He has written numerous books that have sold millions of copies printed in many languages and has won more than a handful of humanitarian awards for his widespread work as a proponent of removing meat and dairy from the American diet to prolong the life of Americans.

John’s work in this book is so thorough and exhaustive, yet it is his kind tone and bite-sized anecdotal stories that makes this book difficult to put down. The information is so alarming and absolutely the opposite of what we have all been told in school for generations. He provides extensive evidence and references for all of his information and basically, once you read this book, your conscience will not allow you to look at meat and dairy without reeling over the amount of suffering and long reaching negative affects the production and consumption of these products has on the world and ALL of it’s inhabitants.

I finished reading this book and proceeded to drive all of my closest friends and family away because I couldn’t stand to keep this information to myself, while every single person around me casually eats dairy, thinking that is gives us calcium and strong bones. Meanwhile, I now understand explicitly that the overconsumption of protein negates the ability for calcium to be used by the body, causing phosporus to be leached from the bones, thereby causing osteoporosis. Isn’t that insanity?! We’ve been told milk gives us strong bones, and yet in innumerable, extensive studies, the countries that have the HIGHEST incidences of osteoporosis are exactly those that also have the highest consumption of dairy products.

A study on Atherosclerosis (the hardening and thickening of the arterial walls that pump blood to the heart and brain due to overconsumption of cholesterol) found that the consumption of three or more eggs a week is associated with a significant increase in artery-clogging plaque buildup, which is a strong predictor of stroke, heart attack, and death.

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The meat, dairy and egg industries pay millions to negate these studies and confuse the public, successfully, thanks to lobbyists in the government that suppress this information while continually spreading misinformation on a massive scale.

 

I could go on and on, but I’ve caused more than enough problems in my own life for speaking too candidly about the millions of reasons to avoid these foods. All I can do is highly, highly recommend you put your feelings aside, and allow yourself to open your eyes to a new reality that isn’t funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the very industry that stands to gain billions of dollars from the children and adults indoctrinated daily in our school systems and through our prevalent, invasive media, into believing animal products are a crucial part of a healthy diet.eb5b2a51b935b16d95ad08e19de8530d

This book is a loaded bomb of so many truths, it blew up my former belief system and left me shocked and angry. I felt a little hopeless, despite John’s solid positive statements at the end of every chapter about how it could be different if people were able to make a change. This book was written in 1987 and I still only know one vegan person in real life, in 2016, a full 29 years later, so yeah. It left me feeling pretty much completely hopeless. Informed, loaded with information that makes people angry, resentful of me, uncomfortable. The more I learn, the more I learn about all of the lies prevalent in our society. The disturbing part is, you would think people would want to know the truth. They don’t. If you’re one of the few who appreciates truth, I recommend this book absolutely.  It’s the most thorough and convincing book I’ve read, loaded with disturbing but imperative, hidden information.  If you aren’t ready to make a change, you will not like what you learn from this book. If you’re ready to step out of our society of purposeful ignorance, this book is a loving, compassionate, yet stinging splash of ice water on the face.

Sorry my books this month are so heavy! It’s no wonder I’ve been so down lately. The truth hurts. I don’t have time for fluffy entertainment. I seek the truth to better myself, make informed decisions, and to expand my knowledge daily so I can be aware of the full range of effects I am having on the lives of others on this cluster-fuck of a planet. I wish you joyful, informative reading, even if the subject matter isn’t always sunshine and roses. My goal is to reduce suffering, and to properly do so, I must bravely face injustice and take responsibility for my actions and their ripples across the pond.

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This next month though, I’m reading a higher ratio of happier books. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

To read last month’s book reviews, click HERE!

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The Constant Vegan Struggle

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I ate meat for most of my life and happily enjoyed pork ribs at every opportunity. That is, until I finally chose to actually look into how it is produced. I can’t help but constantly look at people and wonder, Have you ever actually watched a pig or cow being slaughtered? Have you read about the standard practices of overcrowding, regular abuse, degradation and tools used for mutilation? Are you Honestly aware of  the entire process, or do you allow yourself relief through deceitful labels such as “Organic, cage free”, and “certified humane?”

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It is the most difficult thing in the world for me to hold my tongue (so people won’t label me as a preachy vegan) while I eat my chips and salsa and attempt to enjoy a bbq party. I want people to like me. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. People smile and laugh, petting their dogs, sharing pictures of their cats, while eating hamburgers and macaroni and cheese. Meanwhile, 3,000 baby animals every second are having their limbs hacked off while they are still alive with open eyes, their skin pulled off while their spinal cord is still intact, watching their own skin hang around their face as they hang by their one remaining limb, dying eventually in the process. I can see it in my mind’s eye as people chew on ribs.

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I told myself for years that fish don’t have feelings, only to discover that they can feel pain, stress, and they enjoy gentle touch from each other during courtship, just like us.

In order to produce cheese, female cows are artificially inseminated with a steel rod in a confinement device called a “rape rack.” When the baby is born, he is taken away to a feedlot or raised briefly in confinement and kept purposefully anemic until he is killed for veal. If she is female, she will be raised for a lifetime of annual rape, pregnancy, birth and baby kidnapping, all the while being suckled harshly by machines to the point of painful, bloody mastitis, which leaks pus and blood into her milk. Each time her baby is taken away, she bellows endlessly and follows the truck with her baby in it, streaming tears. It is the ultimate female exploitation.

All of the people I love pay for this service, but I don’t expect them to change just because I did. What I hope is that if people really love animals, they’ll educate themselves thoroughly on what they’re supporting. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. Meat and dairy are known  leading cause of inflammation leading to cancer and heart disease.

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It’s so easy to not support the production and sale of body parts and secretions, once you figure out some staple meals.

Hear me please when I say, I DO NOT JUDGE ANYONE, seriously. I have an intense, regular meditation practice. and anytime my mind judges, I’m immediately aware and I think of how that person is simply an aspect of human consciousness, and that particular one struck a cord within me. “What do I need to look at within myself now that I’ve observed this aversion my ego has to this personality?” These are my thought patterns. My spiritual practices include MUCH self reflection, and quick judgment is a great indicator that I need to meditate more to reconnect to my higher self. I need a solid, ongoing connection to the part of my consciousness that recognizes my individuality as equal to, and not more important than, other personality types.

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How can I expect everyone to have researched this as diligently as I have, right when I did? All I ask is that my friends educate themselves with an open mind. I don’t want this to be a debate, it’s just, living in this world, with people all around me, feeling no guilt while feeding their kids hot dogs and worshipping their puppies, wearing leather shoes and mink eyelashes…it is difficult to not feel sadness and loss of hope.

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Everyone tells me they love animals, without actually changing the habits of supporting animal agriculture and it’s inexplicably horrible exploitation of the vulnerable. Every single person I love continues to support the abhorrent, violent, outrageous practices humans are blindly supporting, just to not have to confront ignorance and make an inconvenient change. I want to be liked, loved, included, not alienated, so I avoid the subject as much as possible. How may I be a voice for the voiceless when I barely have the courage to make a post? All I can see when I see hamburgers is the wide eyes and foaming mouth, shaking with vibrating death from the slice of a blade to the neck, of a perfect baby cow. Why is it so difficult to entice people who love animals to stop paying for them to be tortured and murdered? I know why. Habit, Tradition, Convenience, Indoctrination, Taste. This is why I am devoting myself to writing and dropping out of social society. No one wants to hear what I have to say, no one wants to feel bad, no one wants to be made uncomfortable. No one wants to change.

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Diary of a Book Nerd: August Book Reviews! 2016

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When I was a kid, I was an obsessed, avid reader. I was constantly reading in any spare moment, hiding in the bottom portion of the towel closet with a light and blanket. I read one Goosebumps book per night, so happy being left alone to read. Reading was my first true love, it was a way to step into another person’s shoes and learn a new perspective. My entire life, next to my bed there has been a sprawling pile of library books.

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Life went on, and when I was given an iPad in 2010, I started reading on the internet. One day I suddenly realized I hadn’t read a real book in almost a year! That was incredibly disturbing. Reading books was WHO I AM, or so I thought. If I don’t read books anymore, Who have I become?! I didn’t like it at all. I picked up a few books, but would wonder what my Facebook was up to and ended up being distracted. It was so disturbing to realize I had a full-on addiction to this iPad and would look at it even when I didn’t want to! (This was before I had a smartphone!)

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by @coolhandken on Instagram! This guy is a sign-making, lettering inspiration!

I decided this had to stop. I needed to cut my addiction to the screen and get some paper books in my hands. I needed something riveting! I needed a book to sweep me off my feet.

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In today’s world, the internet is fucking INCREDIBLY distracting. My phone shows me notifications that sit there red and waiting for attention. When I found out that there were almost as many e-books being sold as paper books, I cried. What if the movie “The Book Of Eli” came true, and people stopped reading books, stopped printing books?! Learning that fact disturbed me. If even I, whom my mother called “Reading Mouse”, no longer read books, what hope was there for the future of paper books?! I made a decision, and started purposefully putting my phone away and on silent and forced myself to read something easy and fluffy to break my electronics habit. Thank God it worked! I read Dead Until Dark, the first of the Southern Vampire Mysteries (The True Blood Series.) and that was silly and easy to get into. I was hooked on reading again! The moment I finished, I started my next book. I vowed to stay with it, and have been consistent about always having something to read, something I’m reading currently, something to read next!

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One of the most frustrating things is when I discovered how much I forget about a book after I’ve read it. Books become my world while I’m reading it. I think about the time period and hardships the characters go through for days and weeks as I get through a book. Then months later, I can’t remember the character’s name! So I decided to go full-on book nerd and start writing summaries of the books I’ve read in a notebook so I can read it and remember details. All it takes is some key details and I’ll remember the rest.

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This blog post was borne of my desire to share the awesome books I read, and to keep others inspired to keep reading real paper books! There is nothing better for me than having an exciting book to get back to while waiting in line at the DMV, while waiting for friend’s to show up for lunch dates, while waiting for my students to arrive for classes. The more I read, the more my perspective is widened, the more  knowledge I gain, the better I can make informed, conscious decisions about the impact I’m making in this world. I hope this post inspires you to keep reading! Ignorance is a choice!

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HALF BROKE HORSES by Jeannette Walls

My grandma recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad I finally read it! It is the a true story of a woman named Lily Casey, who is the author’s grandmother. The story is told from Lily’s perspective growing up homesteading and breaking horses on her family’s ranch. She began training horses at just five years old, and through her experiences she illustrates the hardships that made her into a badass woman. Lily had no tolerance for laziness or excuses. I completely fell in love with her character. Considering throughout the book we are reminded of how little rights women had at that time, Lily Casey still managed to live an unorthodox life as a poker-playing, wild-horse-wrangling, truth-telling, unmarried teacher. One of my favorite aspects of this book was getting the perspective of a woman in the early 1900’s, as cars were introduced and starting to proliferate, and planes were beginning to be prevalent in the sky.

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This is a plane I drew for Trader Joe’s!

My favorite thing about this book is reading about a strong woman character in a time when being a strong woman was NOT socially accepted. She was smart and a complete survivor. She created opportunities for herself and impressed me with her work ethic and strength! I highly recommend this educational and inspiring read. It also helped me to gain a new appreciation for my tiny house with walls and insulation, learning about how life is in a dugout in Texas (rattlesnakes falling from the ceiling! Moles coming through the walls, goat hooves falling through the roof!) I also loved learning about lifestyle differences such as never washing jeans, EVER. Ranchers would wear the same jeans every day without washing them until they got an oily sheen, which was a strangely desirable quality, such as aged bourbon. Can you imagine what it would feel like to work hard every day on a ranch in the same filthy jeans?! It makes me shudder to imagine the smell. I loved this book, and flew through it in four days!

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The Traveler’s Guide to the Astral Plane by Steve Richards

The Traveler’s Guide to the Astral Plane wasn’t my favorite book. It was interesting and a quick read, but had too many anecdotal stories rather than practices to get you there, for my taste. I feel that the stories felt too fantastic to wrap my head around, and every person’s perspective and take on the astral plane is so unique, it’s hard to find common ground from which to deduce anything specific. Without personal experience of astral projection (despite countless attempts and focus!! Bah!) it was hard to take this book very seriously.  I wish they had instead focused on techniques for how to get there and what to do in unique situations encountered on the astral plane.  My FAVORITE BOOK on the Out of Body Experience, the first book that piqued my interest in Astral Projection, is called:

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Out of Body Adventures: 30 days to the Most Exciting Experience of Your Life by Rick Stack

This book gives you numerous clear, comprehensive techniques to achieve an out of body experience. I found this book at the Friends of the Library sale, and it started me on my whole Astral projection journey!! I had read a young adult book in my early 20’s about astral projection called “Stranger with My Face” by Lois Duncan, and it scared the shit out of me. It was fiction so I thought it was just that- fiction. Reading this book by Rick Stack was a revelation when I learned that one, astral projection is real, and two, that we do it every night when we sleep, and three, that it is safe and completely natural! Of all the books I’ve read on this subject, this is the best. I’ve read it over and over and over. It is like a guide giving you different exercises to prepare yourself for Astral Projection. This book is mind-blowing!

The Children’s Guide To Astral Projection by J.A. Homes

This book is pictured above with The Traveler’s Guide to the Astral Plane by Steve Richards. ^

 I adore this book. It was a complete revelation in the way that it explains energy, vibrations, and the power of attention SO well, in a unique way. This book is mysterious and has the most trippy illustrations that perfectly convey the mixed-up, dreamy quality of the astral plane. It also gives you two different exercises to attempt, which I always appreciate! Fascinating, SUPER fast easy read. I read this book ravenously in like twelve minutes. The illustrations are a little strange, and it might be considered a tiny bit creepy to the completely uninitiated, but with an open mind and a basis of understanding of the dream world and different states of consciousness, this book explains this esoteric topic in a very accessible way for all ages. I’m stoked this book exists and that my sister got it for me for my birthday! She knows me so well. 

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The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

I picked up this book at a Little Free Library at a campground, solely because the cover illustration was neato and caught my attention. I wanted a fluffy fun read to get me going again on some fun fiction (Too many yoga and spirituality books make me in the mood for riveting fiction!) I wanted a book that would keep me reading. This book did the job! It is meant for Harry Potter-age kids, but it was thick and smart enough to hold my attention for days! It’s a story of four smart orphan children who are enticed to form a spy team to infiltrate an evil lord’s university, where he is creating technology to steal people’s memories and enslave them with subconscious message programming. It was clever, unique, exciting, unexpected, and a very fun read!

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The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

This inspiring and famous book is totally worth a read. I adore Timothy’s attitude and creative way of thinking. He makes excellent points, explaining how much time we spend on things that actually don’t matter, such as business meetings that could have been an email. I love how he makes his own rules, sets his own boundaries, and sets a precedent where HE is in control of his time and doesn’t succumb to societal pressures to be always available. He has such a good point! We have all become such slaves to our e-communication, and in this book he explains that if you train people who know you to understand how YOU communicate, you exempt yourself from guilt trips and social pressures that stem from not creating boundaries. I adore this mindset. He does not accept that we need to work hard to make money, and instead explains the incredibly innovative concept of outsourcing your work and creating systems that generate income without your regular involvement. I’m all about Tim’s way of thinking and living! He is no-nonsense, and so incredibly efficient, I was so inspired by this book! It’s a quick and easy read with an easy-to-read format, rather than just straight text, he has it broken down into bullets, paragraphs, Q and A’s, and different fonts break up the text visually, making it easier to swallow and more impactful. Can’t recommend this book more, it opens your mind to the opportunities technology has afforded us to NOT trade our time for money anymore. So awesome!

I’ll be making more book reviews, but this is it for now! Happy reading friends!

 

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Teaching Meditation to People in Recovery

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Using meditation in my daily life has become a life-changing practice. When I meditate in the morning for over 20 minutes, my movements are smoother and more graceful, I think more slowly, I speak more deliberately, and I feel completely calm. I have had numerous profound experiences through meditation that have revolutionized by world perspective from subconsciously subjective,  to objective. This realization of a source of inner love, higher-self insight, and life-permeating peace has brought with it tremendous, strongly desired upheaval to my former existence feeling stagnant at a comfortable full-time job.  The more I meditated, the more I understood that with faith, all is possible and opportunities spring forth from the ether when I think positively and believe.

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One of the most profound manifestations I have humbly cultivated recently is the opportunity to teach meditation to a recovery group. Teaching meditation twice a week has led to the most exciting journey of diving even deeper into my personal meditation practice. My normal habit of reading about meditation in countless books, blogs, and getting lost for hours on Youtube watching videos on spiritual practices, scrawling notes into my Meditation Journal, has suddenly become my work! I have a blast teaching that class! Every day, I walk in there with my candles, speaker, and notebook full of fresh notes, with a twinkle in my eye because I’m so excited to share ancient secrets with an open-minded, rapt audience.

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The most exciting thing about teaching meditation for me right now, is this particular group of people. They have been through a lot and live there for months on a highly scheduled road to recovery.  I love their collective humble desire to better themselves. I love that they trust me enough to share with me the expansive range of extraordinary experiences they’ve survived. I greatly appreciate their respect and genuinely inquisitive attention during class. The experience I’ve had teaching meditation to this group has enriched my life tremendously in a short time. I’ve compiled so much fascinating information while planning these classes twice a week. So many people I meet daily tell me their mind races, that they can’t meditate. My whole goal and purpose in life now is to help everyone understand that they can meditate, with practice, like anything! My goal is to help people find their peace so that they can feel this joy and viscerally experience a deeper understanding of life as we know it. I need to share with everyone that this inner source of peace that hides under our thinking mind, is available to absolutely everyone!

Whenever I find websites that share teaser information only to entice you to sign up for their monthly access, it frustrates me. I completely respect this business model and have nothing against it, however sometimes I just want to read some articles without creating a password or deciding to make a financial investment. Therefore, I decided to present all of my meditation classes on the internet for free because FREEDOM!!! People should not have to pay to learn to meditate! All wisdom ye seeketh, doth lie within! Or something. I digress.  Wishing you glorious group meditations!

Meditation Class #1: INTRODUCTION TO MEDITATION

Preface of Class/ Lecture:

Most of the time, our minds are on autopilot. Meditation is a tool we can use to wake ourselves from this automatic, unthinking habit of mindlessness, to a more alert, clear-headed and broad perspective. We cannot just tell the mind to shut off, or to transcend itself, so we have to trick our mind by giving it something to focus upon. To focus the mind allows it to rest. Our mind’s purpose and function is to think, and it cannot turn itself off. Meditation Practice hones your ability to cease the constant stream of thinking. By stilling the body, and focusing on relaxing, breathing, and just existing, you begin to tune into a different frequency, and connect to an inner source of energy. A consistent meditation practice is extremely effective at decreasing depressive tendencies and alleviating anxiety.  It helps one to come to an understanding of the ever-changing nature of life, and with that deeper understanding, one experiences lessened distress from outer circumstances. When you learn to calm your mind, life becomes less overwhelming.

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Meditation is simple, secular, scientifically validated exercise for  your brain.

The whole practice is simple:

(Write this on board in front of class)

Sit and breathe.

Notice when your mind wanders.

Become aware of it and bring your attention back to your breath.

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Each time you do this, it is like a bicep curl that makes your mind stronger. It is a radical act to meditate. You lift the fog off of your perception by removing the underlying droning narrative, the projected daydreams and nagging fantasies shrouding your view. When you learn to break the lifetime habit of thought projections and mental rumination, you find yourself bringing your attention back into the current moment. When you aren’t speculating about the future or dredging up the past in your mind, you find yourself in the present, able to think more clearly without preoccupation, and act in a more efficient way.  Regular meditation practice reduces stress, emotional volatility, and irrationality. Anyone who is dedicated to this practice earnestly is embarking on a shift in perspective, in which you are able to transcend the experience you are having on Earth, in this life, as this person, in this body, so that you can experience a more broad, objective, altered state of consciousness.

Stretches: 5 minutes side bends grabbing wrists, standing slight backbend with hands on lower back, mountain pose and neck stretches ear to shoulder, chin to chest, forward fold, clasped hands behind back, shoulder rolls.

First Meditation: 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation, using the hands to keep focus.

With hands gently palms up in your lap, and feet directly below knees in your chair, find a comfortable but erect posture in which your spine is stacked upright. This allows for the best flow of energy through the energetic channel in the spine. With every inhale, focus on the sensation of the in-breath as you let your fingers expand to an open palm, representing the expansion of the lungs with the inhale. With each exhale, let the fingers curl in as a representation of contraction of the lungs as the breath is released. In this way, the body and breath work together, bringing your attention and energy into alignment. This is a technique I learned from the Dalai Lama himself on Youtube!

After the meditation, ask them for feedback, thoughts, feelings about the meditation practice experience.

Closing lecture for that practice: Prana is the sanskrit word for Life Force Energy. With every breath, we are kept alive. Breath is life itself. Working with the breath allows you to voluntarily manage your conscious alive internal spiritual being. Breath awareness is a doorway to higher functions of the spiritual body. Humans take around 10-15 breaths minute, and 21,000 breaths per day! Each inhalation is nourishing new energy, each exhalation cleanses and carries away wastes. The practice of mindful breathing is a practice in gratitude for our great involuntary processes. Your nervous system is able to relax with breath that flows from inhalation to exhalation.

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Benefits of Meditation: 

  • reduces stress
  • reduces stray negative thoughts.
  • builds your prefrontal cortex, the front part of your brain which is responsible for controlling impulses and self-discipline
  • Sharper thinking
  • Improves your performance by having a clear-minded substrate to begin with
  • Brain health: Reduces your risk of degenerative brain diseases. The health of your brain is improved, the more you use it, just like a muscle. When you’re training your brain, you reduce memory loss and make the brain stronger.
  • Makes you happy without external stimulation!

 

 

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Pranayama: Prana means “life force.” Ayama means “to extend or draw out.” Together they mean breath control. Breath control calms the mind and helps develop sensitivity in the mind, making you aware of more subtle sensations within the body. The more you practice meditation, the easier it will be to drop into a meditative state. Pranayama helps you to achieve that state by consciously manipulating your breath to bring the body to the desired relaxed, meditative state.

Practice: This particular breathing technique is called “Sama Vritti” or “Equal Breathing.” The goal of equal breathing is to keep the exhales and inhales the same length, cultivating a steady, flowing breath with allows for stillness and contemplation. On the inhales, internally count to 4, on the exhales, internally count to 4. Do this practice for 3 minutes to start, then let your breath relax into a more natural pace.

Closing Statement:  Like exercise, the benefits of meditation are best experienced with a daily practice. Try to make a commitment to yourself to do mindful breathing for 5 minutes right when you wake up, and about another 5 minutes a few hours before you fall asleep for the night. Keeping a journal of your meditation practice is a great tool to keep you on track. Document the amount of time spent, visions, sensations, the kind of meditation you practiced, how you sat, and it will help increase motivation to see where your meditation journey leads! I wish you happy meditating!

 

Read my Beginner’s Guide to Meditation post here!

 

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Raw Vegan Wrap-Up

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When I first began this challenge, I knew it would be crazy hard to maintain over the entire summer. I also felt completely determined to finish out the whole 108 days! What kind of willpower do I have if I can’t complete the whole challenge?!

Mango and Jicama Slaw with avocado!!
Mango and Jicama Slaw with avocado!!

I went to The Maker Faire in San Mateo and that was inspiring and wonderful. The most difficult part for me was: they had all kinds of amazing vegan food!! Most remarkably: Vegan Chocolate Chip Ice cream Tacos dipped in chocolate! I mean, that’s insane. The whole time I have been vegan, it has been a challenge to find food on the go. Now, every week I’m discovering new vegan products everywhere! I felt so sad that I couldn’t have the Choco Taco. I felt utterly deprived and sad. My son had one and it was the most difficult task to NOT ask for a bite. I felt crazy desire craving!!

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Throughout the day, I ate all of the whole food snacks I had with me: 2 bananas, 2 apples, 5 dates and a Larabar. By the end of the day, after walking around the fair, we were all starving! There were no salad options at the food booths, it was all cooked food. Vegan options everywhere! Zero Raw Vegan options, understandably. After debating in my head about what to do, I decided to just STOP the Raw Vegan Obsession. It was becoming unhealthy, the amount of time and planning and thought and study and making food and packing food and wondering what I could eat.  I was starving and I had options for food that had zero animal products. I need to fuel my body with SOMEthing! So I decided to end the diet that day. I didn’t like the feeling of being obsessed with this subject of Food, which is absolutely what had happened.

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I began training shortly after as an Indoor Cycling Instructor. I still ate 90% raw and would only eat cooked vegan food as a last resort, and still with guilt.  Split Pea Soup and my thought was “Cooked food!” I didn’t like how I felt this way. So I decided to be done with the challenge entirely in my mind so I could enjoy food again and find a healthy life balance! I had begun working out for at least an hour a day, conditioning my body for teaching Indoor Cycling, and coming home and eating a humungous salad just didn’t always feel satisfying. For some reason, I love soup, and Tofu scrambles, and bean salads. I can’t have these foods as a raw vegan and that was super challenging in an aggravating way.

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Now I’ve found my balance to be much more satisfying. I did LOVE the amount of energy I felt raw, and I felt so light and my skin felt smooth, there is no describing the feeling of eating so cleanly. You’re constantly flushing out your bowels with 3 or more movements a day, not in an uncomfortable way, it just feels as if things are moving through. I’m SO glad I tried being raw and succeeded for 50 days because I now understand how greens make my body feel. Greens are key. They provide so many nutrients, protein, iron, vitamin C, and they move everything through your intestines. I now eat so much more greens and I shove like 4 cups into my morning smoothies. I also still drink a huge smoothie every morning! It is such a powerful energy boost, tastes fresh and cold and delicious and is packed with nutrients! I highly recommend trying Raw Vegan foods as much as possible, and seeing for yourself how you feel! I think if I had a raw chef, I’d be all good eating this way all the time. I don’t have a kitchen, so this diet is intense for me to upkeep. I learned so much in these 50 days! Especially about how much I love raw foods, and how much I’m emotionally attached to hot miso soup. 🙂 In the end, I always do what makes me happy!

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Surviving as Raw Vegan, Nay, THRIVING! 35 day Update.

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It’s been 35 days since I began eating raw vegan foods only, and it’s been quite a ride. In the beginning I was so excited, and as I got used to making my simple meals and enjoyed the initial boost of energy,  I felt like I could stay this way forever.

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The. Perfect. Avocado.

What I’ve found is that the greatest obstacle is my emotional connection to certain foods. Eating vegan is the only choice I have, I am staunchly connected to the ethical reasons. I happily and steadfastly believe in animal rights and abstaining from animal products and plan on staying this way forever. However, with this raw vegan challenge going on in my own little world, and I walk into a room with chips and salsa and popcorn on a table, my eyes cry out C’MON YOU CAN’T HAVE ONE CHIP?!?! It’s absolutely an addiction. Luckily my stubborn nature won’t allow me to go back on my decision to fulfill these 108 days, and my perspective shifts to the raw vegan rhetoric: Baked, fried, salty foods are empty calories and they do not satisfy your nutritional needs. Chips fill my stomach with dry processed corn and salt and does not promote dewey skin as chips are desiccated and absorb moisture. I think these thoughts and I move on and eat something bright, like tomatoes or an apple.

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I’ve now come to realize some of the biggest keys to sticking with eating this way, are these:

BE PREPARED.

If you don’t know in advance what your next two meals are, you will be leaving your hungry tummy and mind open to temptation, and when everyone around you is eating fat, warm, delicious-smelling burritos and you’re getting hungry realizing there is absolutely NOTHING raw vegan other than the radishes and limes at a Mexican restaurant that you can eat, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Actually, you could scoop guacamole with radish slices! If you’re into that. Maybe squeeze the lime on top and throw on some cilantro. Look at that, I’m getting inventive.

Marinated Mushroom Salad in a Jar!
Marinated Mushroom Salad in a Jar!

 

CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

Before I ate this way, I would think to myself, “Self, you’re hungry. What would you like to taste in your mouth?”

Veggie Burger, Fries and an IPA at Barley and Hops Tavern in Occidental: PRE RAW FOOD!
Veggie Burger, Fries and an IPA at Barley and Hops Tavern in Occidental: Vegan, pre-raw!

I have a new perspective now.  I’ve been learning that if I don’t get enough food, or certain nutrients get neglected, my body will respond with nausea and/or unpleasant digestive experiences. I’m much more aware now of WHY I’m eating what I’m eating. I eat fruit in the morning to boost my immune system, give me quickly releasing energy and endorphins. The beautiful appearance of a bowl of fruit or a bright smoothie loaded with greens, hemp and chia seeds, makes you feel good about yourself. The colors are cheerful, the taste is fruity and vibrant, tart and sweet, cold and icy, and it’s just crazy energizing! If I miss my morning smoothie, and just eat a single banana, I’m going to have a bad time. Not only am I going to feel tired, but I will also feel grumpy and my stomach will hurt, and everything just goes down from there. It’s about starting to look at food as FUEL that has a certain purpose.

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I need spinach and kale for protein and iron, bananas for potassium, blueberries for antioxidants and vitamin C, which is immune boosting and promotes supple skin. It’s like superfood alchemy, and I’ve found it to be DELICIOUS and empowering. It’s like downing that can of spinach that Popeye used to chug. I finish drinking my morning green juice and I feel like jumping straight into the air and running to my car. It’s not a jittery energy like caffeine, it feels different. It’s more like you have energy coursing through your blood, and your thoughts instantly make your body move without hesitation or laziness, you just feel juiced with real, genuine energy.

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Seed and Greens Crust Raw “Pizza” with a side salad from Lydia’s Organics. Not my favorite, I must admit, the crust was like alfalfa hay. I love the raw pizzette from Seed to Leaf Organics in Santa Rosa WAY better.

I finish eating a huge bowl of greens, spinach, cherry tomatoes, raw sunflower seeds and marinated mushrooms in delicious Nama Shoyu Unpasteurized Soy Sauce, and I can teach yoga a half an hour later without worrying about accidently  crop-dusting the room.

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Cucumber, kiwi, spinach, kale, chard, cacao nibs, bananas, frozen strawberries, lemon juice, apple, chia and hemp seeds!

I made my son a meal the other night: Chicken-less orange chicken, tomatoes, grapes, and a waffle with syrup. Now don’t you judge me, the waffle was an abnormal indulgence to celebrate his Little League game. Anyway my point is, I noticed the science chicken (that’s my name for fake chicken) was a light brown, with a baked flaky, dry texture. The waffle was also dry and brown. The tomatoes and grapes though, were beautiful and plump with smooth bright skins, and I realized my innate, intuitive attraction to the fruit, with nutrients and high water content. I saw the brown dry foods as dead foods. I realize this isn’t entirely true, that this viewpoint is extreme, but it helps me maintain my resolve to see food this way now, considering moisture level and nutritional content!

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This was my former treat to myself, an Acai Bowl from Nektar,  but alas, granola is not raw. Le SIGH, hence this being the visual representation of TEMPTATION.

TEMPTATION

I had Thai food for my anniversary dinner, as I had planned. It was delicious and incredible, at this place in Anchor Bay, California, along Highway 1 North of Jenner. I ate slowly and savored the comforting warmth of my first hot meal in 30 days, and sadly I got full so fast!!!

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This worried me because I was like, “Great, now I have leftovers but I need to go back to raw, but, but…..I can’t throw this away! I can’t not eat this…I’ll just have it later and consider the entire DAY today a cheat day from raw vegan to normal vegan, not a big deal, and TOMORROW I will go back to fully raw.”

Just like that, it was justified in my head! We went back to our rental treehouse and watched movies and ate chips and salsa, which I had missed so dearly. I tried not to overdo it but I could not stop eating tortilla chips. You’re familiar with the affliction of salty chip addiction, I’m sure. I got full and bloated but I was like NOM SALTY CRUNCHY CHIPS!!! Seriously I was on drugs, and this drug’s name was salty tortilla chips and mocajete salsa from Costco. I was very happy in my hedonism.

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My RV food mixed with Trevor’s chips and bread and pasta sauce! He’s been eating way more veggie foods, yay!!!!

Then I woke at 3 in the morning with my mouth salivating, feeling like I needed to throw up! Super lame.  So I got up and used the bathroom, breathed deeply, drank water and after a movement felt much better, a full HOUR later. That was such a bummer, realizing that when I’m eating so cleanly, anything different I eat, (like 2 pounds of chips and salsa and Pad Thai) is going to stir things up. That was unpleasant and reminded me of the overarching theme of this whole experiment: Eating raw vegan feels INCREDIBLE: ONLY when you’re doing it right. If you have a passive interest in nutrition and just want to try to be extreme and lose weight, you’re going to lose steam and blame the diet. What I’m realizing is, whole, raw plant foods are natural, incredible medicine and fuel. We eat food, our body converts it, and we live with the results. We eat dairy, we are giving our body nudges toward acidity, increasing our risk of cancer. The more we load our bodies with alkaline foods, plant foods, bright, watery, delicious fruits and vegetables, the more our skin, energy levels and bodies respond with vibrant good feelings of healthfulness.

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So I ate my Thai food, loved it, overindulged, got a bad middle-of-the-night tummy-ache, relieved myself, felt better, and the next day I was SO tempted to eat more chips. It’s like the salt was calling to me. I had a few more chips the day after my cheat day, and I was like “NO! Look at you! Now your resolve has a hole in it!!” So I knocked that shit off and did my whole cognitive dissonance thing where I convince my brain that cooked food lacks nutrients and until July 31st, when my 108 days of raw food are up, I don’t consider it food! This is how I maintain my resolve.

I'm trying to hold this casually in front of the flowers but it's heavy and my hand is straining ungracefully.
I’m trying to hold this casually in front of the flowers but it’s heavy and slippery and my hand is straining ungracefully.

TRAVELING WHILE RAW VEGAN

 

When we hit the road to go camping up Highway 1 last week, I planned for it extensively by bringing lots of bananas, kiwis, apples, almond butter, nuts, tomatoes, mushrooms, dates, dehydrated fruit bars, dehydrated nut bars, and lots of Spinach and greens. Luckily in Gualala there is a great store called Surf Market that was just as awesome as Whole Foods with the high quality vegan food available! I was so impressed with the amount of raw vegan food available our entire trip, even at a tiny supermarket convenience store in Anchor Bay. The world is changing, it’s so encouraging!

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SUGAR CRAVINGS

I have a late night date problem. The worst part is, they each have a pit, so I can count how many little reasons the scale hasn’t moved much past those initial 6 pounds lost. Normally when I’m on a mission to lose weight, I would be lifting weights and working out in Some capacity every day. Lately I’ve just been doing yoga and swimming and hitting group fitness classes 2-4 times a week, so there isn’t my solid concerted effort introduced just yet. When I’m truly set to lose weight, I arrange and plan and prioritize to work out every single day, even on my rest day, I do yin yoga. I’ve found that by planning to work out every day, if you miss a day (which happens sometimes no matter how well you plan!) you’ll still get at least 4-6 workouts that week.

Every night for a few days in a row, seven to nine little date seeds sat there on a plate, mocking me in their little pile at 11pm while I’m watching Koi Fresco Youtube videos.

I’m still sitting right at 130lbs!

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Which is totally fine! I just like to see how lean I can get in the summer and working out and body sculpting is fun stuff!

My goal weight, which I have achieved before with Boot camp, weight lifting, swimming and high-raw veganism, is 118lbs.

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Best shape of my life, 118 lbs in 2014

What I’m reminding myself, is that when I went to personal training school, they said it takes 6 weeks for your nervous system and metabolism to catch up and respond to the food and exercise stimuli you’re using to change your body. I’m reminding myself to be patient with myself, and everyday I put full effort into making better decisions about food, exercise, and getting enough sleep. Luckily, the dates self-regulate, so if I have too many, my body will respond with flatulence and more frequent movements, and I’ll know to back off.

STILL JUST BEGINNING!

This children's book about John Muir was incredible! He is my new current hero. Move over Richard Proenneke.
This children’s book about John Muir was incredible! He is my new current hero. Move over Richard Proenneke.

I’m getting used to eating this way, and I’m constantly researching new recipes to keep myself from getting bored. I find myself buying food for recipes almost every day, and it does get expensive if I overindulge in fancy dehydrated cookies and granola. Nuts are expensive too, and so is organic fruit, but luckily greens are cheap, and I’m moving toward getting a serious berry, tomato, and lettuce garden going on so I won’t have to buy food so much. Also, it’s really not much more expensive than eating the way I normally do, which makes me feel great and keeps my immune system hardy, which is more than worth it to me. People at my work get sick pretty often, and I haven’t gotten a cold in almost a year! I used to get sick more often, so I’ve found this to be remarkable proof.

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RAW VEGAN EDUCATION

Another reason I am motivated to complete 108 days of Raw Veganism is this: I want to do a yoga class/ raw vegan course at one of the gyms I work at, Core Values Health and Fitness in Napa. Would any of you guys be interested? After 108 days I feel I will have built up a foundation of compiled experience and passionate, excited, daily seeking of education, and could confidently share with others how they may transform their mental willpower, body, health and energy with these foods. This has been so much fun so far, and although I was temped for a few days there (Vegan Brunch is now being offered at a restaurant in Oakland called “Hella Vegan Eats“….GAH! I want to go!) I still feel incredible resolve.

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I want to see this through and really attain dramatic results to inspire others to explore their mental limits and test their body’s capability to feel amazing. Eating food that vibrates this high and bright makes you feel light and vibrant, and people use that very word often when describing my energy since this change. Sometimes I honestly have to remember to breathe often and focus on meditation to calm my bursting energy. I love feeling this way, and I’m sticking to it, even though it’s not easy! I believe it’s harder to live feeling tired and sick than it is to plan meals and have fun feeling young and energetic eating raw superfoods! If you have any questions, ask away, I’m happy to answer anything as best I can. I will make another update at 50 days!

Click here to read about how my first 30 days went if you haven’t already!

Click here for an educational and inspiring documentary about raw food!

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DIY: Super Easy No-Sew T-Shirt Bag

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This one is for all of my friends who say: “I’m not creative like you!” If you can use scissors, you’re halfway done with this project.  I was inspired by a bag that my kindred spirit friend Sarah gave me for Christmas. This bag is like magic, you keep putting things in it and it stretches to accommodate. I will demonstrate! Here is a huge stack of library books that weighs about 40 pounds.

I went a little crazy at the library. I'm sorry if this pic is sideways on your phone! I hate that.
I went a little crazy at the library. I’m sorry if this pic is sideways on your phone! I hate that.

Here is the magical Christmas T-shirt bag holding ALL of those books.

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There are even some huge Where’s Waldo Hardbacks in there! This thing is like Mary Poppins’ Bag.

My friend Sarah told me it was incredibly easy to make, but I checked out a couple Youtube videos just to make sure there wasn’t some fancy kind of knot I’m supposed to do. Turns out, no, there is no special knot. A child could make this!

STEP ONE:

Find a shirt to sacrifice.

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I love this shirt, but it is dark, thick and shapeless. Also, I’m a grown ass adult now, I need people to respect my authoritah, not giggle at my dolphin t-shirt.

STEP TWO: Chop off bottom seam.

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Pays to get some nice fabric scissors.

STEP THREE: Chop off arms.

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STEP FOUR: Fold in half lengthwise, cut off neckline. You could make a deeper neckline, and I will in the future. I made this cut this size so I would not have to chop into the artwork.IMG_0924

STEP FIVE:  Cut fringe into the bottom of the shirt. So on the internet this one chick said to cut strips “6 cm tall by 2 cm apart.” SO I took some creative liberty and measured with my eyes and made evenly spaced, uniform-ish cuts.

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Let’s make things easy here people

STEP SIX: If you want your bag to have funky fringe, leave your bag as is and start tying knots. If you’re not into the fringe look, (which I personally don’t love) you can turn your bag inside out. Starting on one side, tie the front to the back with double knots.

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This part is a bit time consuming, but altogether not that bad, considering this whole project takes like 20 minutes!

You’re done! You now have a strangely strong, magically capable, upcycled reusable bag!

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Hey look at that, near instant gratification!

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My Yoga Teacher Training Experience

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Kid Yogini Beginnings

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I really think it’s safe to say I’ve been doing yoga my whole life. All I would ever do after school was roll around on the carpet with my little sister, watching The Smurfs and doing yoga poses that I called “My Stretches.” I never wore jeans because I needed to wear stretchy pants so I could do “my stretches”. I often got in trouble with my mom in the parking lot of the grocery store for being barefoot and not having brought shoes.

Yoga Was Just Initially Just Stretching For Me.

I grew up, I went to high school, I gained weight eating rice crispy treats everyday for lunch. I was straight-up lazy.  I liked swimming and stretching, but didn’t do it often, and I didn’t like exerting energy.  After high school, I dated a guy who was into body building, and I got very into fitness and strength training. I lifted weights five days a week, and went to school for Personal Training Certification at The National Personal Training Institute of San Francisco. I did yoga as a supplement to my strength training to aid my flexibility and agility. I thought yoga people were silly with their talk of opening hearts and stuff, but it was soothing and nice to stretch. It was a challenge to slow down, and I didn’t like yoga classes that didn’t challenge me physically.

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I started practicing yoga regularly, initially just to complement my strength training. The focus on breathing and the slowness of it all annoyed me at times, especially if I never ended up breaking a sweat. What was with the chakras and mandalas and Tibetan flags and Hindu deities and hippy stuff? It was all a bit weird and beyond my understanding, but I loved the isometric challenge of holding the poses, and the deep stretches made my body feel amazing. Savasana at the end was a lovely treat. Concentrating on my breath, and not what I was doing after class, was the most challenging part of my yoga practice.

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Depression Strikes.

Life went on, and growing challenges faced me. I left my son’s father and spent a few long years seeking comfort in relationships, only to find unsure footing. I went through a deep period of depression, anxiety and emotional drowning. I dove into yoga as life therapy, and it started to change me. During certain poses, I would feel as though I was being wrung from my pain. It would pour out of my eyes, and my throat would tighten as I breathed deeply through the emotional pain and confusion. I was NOT a spiritual person, but had always been deeply emotional. Through time, dedication, and reflection, I began to find a greater depth in my yoga practice. My meditations at the end of class started to give me feelings of bliss and euphoria, as the peaceful mental silence I had been cultivating was bringing me immense joy. It was a welcome, joyous break from the constant mental chatter and agony of insecurity and feelings of being completely lost. Yoga was a place I could cry silently in an ambient room and heal myself.

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The Start of Yoga Teacher Training.

The years went on, and yoga became a huge part of my life. I enrolled for Yoga Teacher Certification Training in September of 2015. I knew the experience would be challenging, but more than anything, I expected it to be great fun. Yoga philosophy and practice all weekend every weekend for three months, although an intense time commitment, sounded completely dreamy. I had spent the summer camping, I was ready to buckle down and dedicate myself to the training.

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I’m Wary of Large Groups of Women.

Yoga Teacher Training began as complete fun. There were eight of us, and although I was excited to meet other yogis, I was also weary of spending this much time every week with the same eight women. I have had many experiences with groups of women that have made me wary of spending large amounts of time with that much female energy. I’m an empath and somewhat of an introvert. I avoid gossip and negative energy as much as possible. That being said, these women seemed cool, except a couple of them seemed to be a bit judgmental of others, so I took mental note. The funny thing is, as the weeks went on, all of us became close and bonded in different individual ways. As my spiritual practices were including much self-reflection, I realized my initial judgment of some of my classmates being judgmental was pretty hypocritical! As time went on and I found much in common with these loving and ambitious women, and came to genuinely love and appreciate every one individually.

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We began every Friday night with a practice, then would have a guest teacher showcase a certain aspect of yoga for the evening, from 6:30 to 9:30pm. The subject matter would be anything from Ayurveda, Anatomy, Alignment, The 8 Limbs of Yoga, Pranayama, all kinds of fascinating topics in the realm of all things yoga. Saturday and Sunday were spend learning pose alignment and teaching techniques. It was so fascinating, I couldn’t take enough notes!

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School Gets Hard.

Then came when we began round robin teaching each other. My joy turned to anxiety when I had the seemingly obvious realization that teaching yoga meant everyone listening and looking at ME. I have had an intense fear of public speaking that was unfortunately exacerbated by a traumatizing experience in college. Suddenly, my dear, beloved yoga had a sharp edge: in order to teach, you can’t hide in the back of the class. You can’t wear your hood and blend in. You have to be confident and LEAD. My anxiety grew to debilitating heights as my mind went blank each time it was my turn to teach.

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Anxiety Attack.

One day, our teacher told us that the following weekend would be all practice-teaching each other. Every day that week, I woke up with a pit in my stomach, knowing that teaching was days away. I would stand in the shower and breathe deeply, trying to calm myself. Finally the day came. I sat up on the edge of my bed, breathing deeply, and staring ahead of me, my chest heaving and my fists clenched. I felt intense energy in my hands, I kept wringing them and trying to breathe calmly while my entire body tensed and my heart raced. I started sobbing, and although I needed to take a shower and get ready, I couldn’t move. My mind knew what I needed to do, yet my body and emotions were having a breakdown, which made my mind have even more anxiety. I texted a classmate and let them know I was going to be late. When I arrived, they had waited for me, which was embarrassing. I was still hyperventilating and gritting my teeth, my body was resisting going to school with every last fiber of my being.

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Camaraderie.

My teacher calmed me and got me to come inside. With the other women being so calm and understanding, I broke down and sobbed, telling my story through gritted teeth and intense body shakes. I was so embarrassed, so mad at myself for showing such intense vulnerability. Everyone was incredibly sympathetic and kind. We did a grounding meditation, and broke off into pairs to practice teaching instead of teaching the whole group. I was so relieved to be shown such compassion. In the weeks to follow, each woman in our group had a breakdown for a different reason on a different day. Yoga brings out emotional baggage, and it was so comforting to know I wasn’t the only one walking through the fire. We were learning this together.

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Continued Struggle.

I wish I could say I got over myself and that the rest of the training went smoothly, but this fear of public speaking and leading was a deep hole and my walls were high and mighty. I cried and continued feeling stressed until I tweaked my neck and couldn’t move it from side to side for several days. I had to get through this without giving up. I sobbed for hours daily, I kept making mistakes and forgetting things. My body felt racked with fear and cortisol. I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t stop going. I didn’t know how to stop the shaking and crying and racing thoughts day and night. Meditation was nearly impossible, I would fidget and cry while my mind raced.

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You have a Choice: Fear or Love.

One night, I went on the internet and watched numerous yoga videos. I came to realize that I had two choices. One, let my fear debilitate me and continue living in this parasympathetic state until stress manifested itself into bodily illness. Or Two, face this fear and just pretend that I’m Kino McGregor. I went to school the next day, and when it was my turn, I pretended I was playing “yoga teacher”. I said all the things yoga teachers say in class. I got my head out of the way of what I knew in my heart, and just parroted all the yoga teachers’ cues that I had heard so many times practicing. After my turn, my classmates looked amazed and remarked that I seemed like a completely different person! I had turned a corner.

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Life Lessons:

I finally finished Yoga Teacher Training through perseverance and an intense amount of support from my friends and family.  I am so grateful for this experience, because I don’t have the best track record for finishing what I start. This is one of my worst traits, and it messes with my self-esteem. Pushing through my fear instead of avoiding it and actually finishing strong was a huge accomplishment for me, that went beyond the scope of just yoga. Finishing yoga teacher training is a milestone in my life that changed me. Growing can be painful and intense, and I’m so happy to know what I’m capable of and to be on the other side of fear. I’m also happy to have learned that I can be whoever I decide to be. That who I’ve always been, doesn’t need to be who I am, if it’s time to grow.

Do It.

If you’re considering yoga teacher training, I highly recommend you go for it. Only growth and positivity can come from the experience, no matter how difficult the challenges prove to be. I’m acutely aware now that all that happens is setting me up for an even better future. Meditation and yoga bring magic into my life. If you are passionately in love with yoga, and have a regular meditation practice,  I encourage you to dive in and do a teacher training! It will definitely change you, in the best ways.

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