Feather to Fire from Gregory Colbert on Vimeo.
I love art. I love film. I love the marriage of the two. Gregory Colbert's work has always been inspiring to me. I was lucky enough to be in the vicinity of one of his exhibits back in 2008 in Mexico City. It was beyond words. Many are already quite familiar with the above film as well as his photography. Since photography and film have been ignited passions of mine lately it is something I feel compelled to revisit.
"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
- Virginia Woolf
I always felt a bit strange when my father would take me to the out of the way, one store of it's kind, natural food store. It stood on the funky edge of town. Nothing like the flashy grocery stores that I was glamoured by, or like the Whole Foods ultra hippie-chic of today. No, here there were huge barrels of bulk foods, dusty shelves, teas, and dried herbs. I always remember the smell. It was strange. Yeah, it smelled natural, not antiseptic, which I thought was natural. Of course my father would always school me on the true ways of the world. How crazy our society had become. How detached we were from nature and our environment. How essential it was to have your own garden. The importance of composting! The relevance of recycling. Trees are our friends! Why isn't anything made in America anymore?!! At that time I thought he was a bit quirky, eccentric even. Now I know different. I can appreciate all that he was trying to teach me at the time, even though I didn't quite get it. However, on a deeper level what he instilled in me sunk in. A seed was planted. I just didn't know it at the time.
Fast forward. I went through a junk food rebellion, but it never really stuck. It never felt right. The bigger lesson is I went through a phase where food became a means to an end. Obviously, I learned the importance of eating healthy, but in reality it become just another concept or expectation I needed to fulfill. In that, I never really gave myself the freedom to connect consciously to my food. A problem. More or less, I was fitting myself into various diet labels. First, I became vegetarian to my mother's dismay. Then to low fat, the Zone, high protein/no carb, rawfood, living foods, raw food vegan, vegan, the list goes on and on. During those years I just couldn't help it, it was a phase of identification and experimentation. I thirsted on learning about nutrition and longevity.
Delving deeper into yoga practice I clearly felt the connection between the food I ate, and how it affected my practice on into day to day life. The gift of yoga; becoming in tune with bodily energies and cycles, call it body wisdom. Well, not so fast. Even though I was able to intuit my bodily rhythms at a higher level I was still using food as a means to an end. Meaning, asking myself questions such as, will it give me energy? Will it help make me look good? Is this yogic? AHIMSA!? Yes, it is true Ahimsa is important, but do we not also have Satya, as well? Truth. I still wasn't connecting to my food or to my truth. What was making me feel good? What was making me feel whole, sustained, nurtured, and nourished? Important questions. Questions that go much deeper than diet labels. Yes, I know the phrase, "you are what you eat." But, this isn't what I was driving at. It went even deeper. What was my relationship with the food I was consuming? The vital question. This is what I was missing all along. This is what my father always knew. Ironic. The essential element had always been right under my very nose, as clear as day, except I was as blind as a bat. It was my full circle moment.
At present, I feel uncomfortable with diet labels. I don't want what I eat to be my identity. Through the years I've seen it all. I've seen people preach veganism for the sake of nonviolence, who were quite frankly, not even all that nice. I've been around meat-eaters who have hearts of gold. I've seen the opposite. I mean, can we really eat our way to God? Does what we eat make us better human beings? Can we be arrogant and self-righteous about our diets and ideals? Obviously, I have many more questions than answers. Are there more health conscious ways of eating? Definitely YES. However, from what I've been exposed to there's much more to the story when it comes to diet and what is good for the planet, ultimately ourselves. The ways of mass agriculture have done massive harm to our natural environments, and we all know the horrors of factory farmed meats. Where's the balance? We've lost it.
Ultimately, I have and will go through my eating ups and downs, but truthfully, nourishing myself from the inside out has proved it's importance over the years versus trying to fulfill some exterior label or image. When it comes to diet I will never live in absolutes because this is still using the outside as a marker. The only Absolute is on the inside. If I connect here first then my choices on the outside become easy one's to make.
We tremble, thinking we're about to dissolve
into nonexistence, but nonexistence
fears even more that it might be given human form!
Loving God is the only pleasure. Other delights
turn bitter. What hurts the soul?
To live without tasting the water of its own essence.
People focus on death and this material earth.
They have doubts about soul water.
Those doubts can be reduced! Use night
to wake your clarity. Darkness and the living water
are lovers. Let them stay up together.
When merchants eat their meals
and sleep their dead sleep,
we night-thieves go to work.
- Rumi (Translated by Coleman Barks)
Adam & Theresa
The other great thing is they travel to Mysore every year, so if I am so inclined, I can pick their brains in regards to vegan/vegetarian cooking, and believe me, after eating their food my tastebuds approve. Heck, my tastebuds want to give them a standing ovation! For more information and cooking inspiration visit their highly informative blog at www.yogikitchen.com.
Also, on a important note, Adam is a highly regarded Authorized L2 Ashtanga yoga teacher out of London, Englad and offers annual retreats in Turkey. For more information visit his website at www.keenonyoga.co.uk.
Vegan Cheese with Cauliflower
Vegan Crème made with Cashews
In cooking class
That Atman alone, that state of simplest form of awareness alone, is worthy of seeing, hearing, contemplating, and realizing. - Upanishads
It's interesting, I've made a number of trips to Mysore, thankfully, and each time I come I feel extremely grateful. It isn't always easy to make the trip, but it always ends up being worth it. At the same time, I'm reminded on what is important in terms of coming here.
Reminiscent of preparing to make my first trip I was offered worthy guidance from a senior teacher, who will remain nameless. He told me don't get caught up in how many times you go or for how long, or for how many years, because often people use that as a marker to mean they have reached something higher and all that doesn't matter. What matters is right now. That doesn't takeaway from the experiences; the good times, the bad times, the pain and the breakthroughs. And with all that, it still goes back to the point we sit in in each moment in our practice.
Each time I come to Mysore it brings a different energy. I am always fascinated by this. A new layer. Something new to contemplate or develop. As I lean into discomfort on and off the mat new freedom is found. It's in these definitive moments that hold a world of value. Believe me, I don't always step into discomfort with grace. I have experienced aggravation, and unimaginable lows and I've learned it never really serves me to sweep these feelings under the rug no matter how uncomfortable they are. This is the fuel transformation is made of. All of it serves a purpose in the greater scheme of things.
Over the years with more conscious practice under my belt I realize the importance of not taking the whole process too seriously, and at the same time, I feel more inspired and devoted as ever. It has been a big step for me to laugh at my follies and internal weaknesses to then be able to pick up the pieces more joyfully, versus judging where I think I need to be in the moment. What does it mean to be a yogi or to tread this path? I often ask myself. Within my limited understanding, in my heart I feel it means being true to whatever arises, banishing the fear and judgement that may present itself from me and others. The search for validation on any level has always been paralyzing.
If I stay true to my heart space, even when the mind revolts, at least I've taken a leap worth jumping for.
“The willingness to forgive is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity. It is one of the great virtues to which we all should aspire. Imagine a world filled with individuals willing both to apologize and to accept an apology. Is there any problem that could not be solved among people who possessed the humility and largeness of spirit and soul to do either -- or both -- when needed?” ― Gordon B. Hinckley
Maturity doesn't always come with age. Age is just a number of how many years we have been on the planet and doesn't signify the quality and maturity of the soul. At least this has been my experience. What I find interesting is some of the most inspiring people I have met lately have been those much younger than me. I've been amazed at the insight and quality many young people bring to the table and luckily many have crossed my path. It's funny because it doesn't make me feel insecure, but it enlivens and reminds me that it's time to continue to broaden my scope. That's the beauty of some of the youth coming up today because they are revelling in possibility and connection. They get it and aren't nearly as afraid and fearful. Honestly it's a breath of fresh air and I welcome it and will continue to encourage them even as I steadily do my own internal work.
With the New Year, I'm reminded that the time lived doesn't matter. It is how we use the time we are given that matter. Yeah, I can practice Yoga everyday but it is in the application of practice in my life that carries the most weight. Years racked up are meaningless if I haven't made the definitive choices to allow transformation to happen.
Youth is definitely an energy. And in the same light, some of the most youthful people I know are much older than me. Curiosity and the willingness to learn keep this energy in motion and are not only the markers of the youthful but the wise.
Like it or not, we are coming into an age where labels, status symbols, and hierarchies are becoming obsolete. Associations are not the only thing that gets us anywhere. It is in the heart of our intentions and the truth we carry within ourselves that will be the fuel to drive us forward and upward.