New York City

On a tiny island with millions of people, I have come to find my home.  An intriguing place, Manhattan offers a world of possibility fueled with lightening fast speeds that can either elevate or destroy you.  Whether you’re searching for enlightenment or fists full of money, NYC can accomodate your progression.  At the same time, it can be your biggest hurdle.

In the epicenter of what many call the modern world, New York City stands as a platform for rapid movement.  Both literally and energetically, everything moves fast here.

Before I came to the East Coast, I was used to a life of open spaces, leisure, and sunshine.  In Los Angeles, life was a task that could be put off until tomorrow.  Procrastination and the settled nature of my ways was tolerated with tones of acceptance and relaxation.  If I missed a week of yoga or sat at home waiting for my next gig, I knew that I could always ‘pick it up’ tomorrow.

This mentality does not exist in New York. If you decide to wait around, life will not only pass you by, but it will beat you up.  The first week in my new abode gave great testament to this.  Low on energy, I spent a lethargic amount of my time in bed.  The move, the city, and other emotional dramas were keeping me unmotivated.  Since school hadn’t begun and I had a week to settle in, I decided to do it slowly.  And boy, was this the wrong thing to do.

I felt like I was going crazy! Energy was flying over my head at a thousand miles per hour.  Walking around on the street, I felt like one of those music videos where everyone is flying by while you’re stuck in slow motion.  I was on a different playing field, separated from the bustling life of everyone else.  My un-productivity was never more apparent and it literally repelled people away from me.  It was as if I existed in an alternate dimension.

Not only was I energetically segregated and ostracized, but things in my life started to collapse.  Money problems arose. Issues with school – a school I had yet to attend – came up.  Trouble with mediation and my yoga practices manifested.  Everything that I was usually able to sustain in Los Angeles was thrown into chaos in New York.  Something had to be done.

I began to break my sloth-like stride.  I got up in the mornings, I read books, I walked around and engaged in conversations, I meditated with fervor and practiced yoga with consistency.  I stopped being lazy and adopted an attitude of action.  Really, I just decided I was going to become a New Yorker.

I know this sounds like a cheesy New York City Council Ad, but what I am explaining is much deeper and probably applies to any place in the world.  Its just that in New York the energetic current was so overwhelming that I was unable to continue using my usual Los Angeles model of energy.

Once I adopted this new form of intense and compact energy, I saw a mergence of fields. It was as if all the puzzle pieces came together at once.  Instead taking an energetic beating, I was now riding the wave of NYC.  Once in motion, I was amazed at the ease and speed of which things came together.  Within a week I had an internship, job opportunities, success in school and a community of yogis to call my own.  Everything fell into place.

The zeal of a city such as New York is a thing to marvel at.  A man-made complex of whirlwind energies capable of rapid evolution and regression is based on the collective energy of motivation, directness, and action.  The megalopolis is a true testament to the collective power of humans.  Used in the correct way, it could propel our world into greater realms of evolution.

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Eating with your Hands

Although messy, eating with your hands is quite indulging.

As the semester comes to a close, I have been engulfed with my research on Indian culture and food.  Part of my research deals with food and intentionality, the spiritual and moral motives behind eating food.  Hindu culture is bountiful with all sorts of taboo and spiritual belief behind their food choices.  Between the bindings karma, dharma, and reincarnation, one might suppose eating in India has lost its pleasure.

This could not be more distant from the truth.  In India, and other southeast Asian cultures, eating with the fives senses has never been more pleasurable.  As a cook, I understand the need for all five senses in the kitchen, but as a gastronome, it is a fairly new concept.  It was explained to me like this: the experience of eating is captured by the essence of not just taste, but of smell, sight, sound, and touch.

The obvious three were easy.  When I eat I always taste my food.  I know that 80% of eating is done with the eyes—hence the emphasis put on presentation.  And who can ignore the heavenly scent of an aromatic dish?  However hearing and touching were a bit foreign.  I asked for clarification.

“Well sound is the sense used when you hear yourself enjoying the food, from what goes on in the mouth to the ensuing satisfactory commentary.  And touch is a sense Western civilization has completely sterilized with the use of metallic replicas of the much more organic and natural utensils called the hands.”

I was starting to understand this relationship in greater detail after last night’s dinner.  I had started with something simple: a slice of vegan blueberry cheesecake.  My first thought was where to begin.  I wasn’t sure of the proper technique so I decided to just dig in.  Shaped like the beak of an toucan, my four fingers opposed my thumb and scooped off a piece of cake.  I ushered the divine sweetness into my mouth and savored the warm feeling of fingers against my lips.

Not only was there an absence of metal feeling against my teeth, I did not taste it either.  This may seem minute, but try eating with your hands after you’ve used a metallic fork.  The difference is phenomenal.  Your taste buds have been denied their true extent of pleasure with the use of these four-inch eating tools.  A connectedness in pleasure is certainly gained when eating without utensils.

With that said, I by no means plan to toss my spoons and forks in the trash.  I am far too inexperienced in the art of eating with the hands to warrant such actions.  Messy and awkward, my blueberry cheesecake experience wouldn’t mesh well with the food society in NYC.  However, I have learned a valuable lesson: the essence of food is best experienced using all five senses.  This includes getting messy with the hands.

A Redneck Thanksgiving: Lessons in Universal Love

“Always thought the wide lens was for porno.”

I cringed inside.  This Thanksgiving dinner was already turning out to be a winner.  With profound remarks like these spewing out from the blue collar comedian sitting in the chair opposite me, I was sure this evening was going to be a long one.

I grabbed my plate and started looking for ways to make the seconds pass faster.  The usual give and take of polite dish passing ensued and I noticed the eclectic nature of our group.  Among the more southernly-inclined group was the family, which ranged in shades of red from a countryside basset-hound breeder to a Wall street veteran.  Comprised of an Indian, Argentine, and two West Virginia natives, the non-familial guests were here on business, networking their way into the financial sector.  And then there was me.

Between the endless stream of sexual innuendoes and grotesque hunting stories sat me.  Sore as an uncovered thumb in the dead of winter, I was throwing out silent judgements left and right.  In the midst of my egotistical attempts to separate myself from others, I came across very timely and fitting words.

Delivered in the form of an Americanized fortune cookie, the note read: “One should look long and carefully at oneself before one considers judging others.”  These wise words from Moliere – a name at the time I was completely oblivious to – penetrated my ego.  I was sitting here high on my self-proclaimed throne, drunk off the kool aid of my self-righteousness and ignoring the human in every person around me.  I was so afraid of them, that I had constructed walls to keep me safe.

Instantly, I tore away the bricks from my barriers and bent back the proverbial rebar.  I shed the walls of my fear and sat vulnerable and defenseless.  I was the best thing I could have done.  In doing this, I became a part of the experience.  Laughter, smiles, and surprisingly deep conversations ensued.  Hints of relationships began to form as we enjoyed each other’s company.

Our differences did not part, but they added to the wholeness and depth of our experience.  These social distinctions brought stories and narratives that added to not only conversations, but to our relations and expression.  To find in someone, as different from you as night is from day, an identical thread of genuine goodness is one of the most profound experiences a human being can have.  It was a blessing this Thanksgiving that I was able to find such universal love in a place so unsuspecting.

Although I began this holiday evening as unconscious as I could have been, through an awesome chain of events I was able to pull away with a divine lesson in the barriers to unconditional love.  Finding the common thread in all of us is easier than we think.  Letting go of fear-based judgements brings forth an undeniable reality of human equality.  On this level of existence, there is no limit to the love shared.  We are truly all one.

Enjoy the leftovers.

Jaisa Ann Vaisa Mann

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As is the food so is the thought.

At the foothills of the Himalayan mountains off the banks of the Ganges river, I heard these words and instantly fell in love.

The lush jungle and intense culture of Rishikesh paired well with the calm of ashram I was staying at.  A north Indian city, revered as the birthplace of yoga – can one even begin speculate to the origins of a such a universal truth? – was my home for the week as I came to celebrate the coming of a new age and to practice yoga with family.

A large part of our trip was learning about our physical bodies through their adaptation to food and culture.  Many got sick, stressed out, or drained of energy.  In an attempt to understand how to heal, I spoke with the woman in charge of our meals.  The first words she told me were Jaisa Ann Vaisa Mann.

In India, food is viewed through the lens of intentionality.  The intentions behind food usage depend on the person eating the food.  In the case at the ashram, food was prepared to heal physical imbalances from the stress of travel as well as aiding us in our yogic endeavors – often times up to 10 hours of practice a day.

Not only were specific foods chosen that would physiologically support certain outcomes, but energetic intention was imparted as well.  This is where most Western minds get lost.  In Ayurveda – the science of life – all food carries energy or prana.  This energetic life force can be altered through its existence.  It can be influenced by it surroundings during all stages of its life, even during the cooking process.

With this in mind, the food for the ashram was grown on fields that were blessed with positive intention for growth.  Throughout their life the food was given an intention to heal and spread positivity.  In the kitchen the food was handled in an environment free of stress, anger, and unnecessary urgency.  Those who handled the food meditated on their intentions before doing anything.

Although this seems like a foreign concept, is it really that far away from home?  Doesn’t food cooked with love taste better?  When was the last time someone prescribed chicken soup for the common cold? Don’t we say an apple a day keeps the doctor away?  Did you know that the act of giving a toast is to impart the drink with whatever you are toasting to – good health, celebration, long life, successful weddings.  It seems food and intentionality may not be such a new concept.  Taking the leap into other areas of intentionality, such as those exhibited at the ashram, might not then be so daunting.

Given the coming of the holidays, why not change the way you think and impart some good vibrations into your own food.