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


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.