10-Day Vipassana Silent Meditation in Joshua Tree, California

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It had only been two weeks since I came back from the Amazonian jungle.  My first week home was spent recovering from traveler’s diarrhea, and with only one week left, I had secretly hoped that I would book a commercial or modeling job to get out of going to this Vipassana retreat.  I was mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  Under the circumstances, the thought of meditating in absolute silence for 10 days without being allowed to read, write, exercise, do yoga, listen to music, use my phone, use the internet, take photos, take drugs, or drink alcohol was unappealing.  Thank goodness I didn’t let that scare me off because it was my most profound experience of 2013.

I didn’t know a single soul at this retreat so I was essentially surrounded by strangers with at least one thing in common:  We all wanted to practice Vipassana.  I thought that the silence would drive me to insanity but instead it was my sanctuary.  All of the societal pressures to engage in conversation and make eye contact were forbidden.  This was surprisingly refreshing and relaxing.  I savored every moment of it.

Here’s the daily schedule:

4:00 am Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break
12noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions
5:00-6:00 pm Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room–Lights out

The only required activities were the three daily group sits. Based on this schedule one could meditate anywhere from 3 to 11+ hours per day.  I averaged about five and a half hours.  I had experience in different styles of meditation, but I hadn’t seriously meditated in a long time.  Every time I tried to practice in the privacy of my room, I dozed off right away.  I made the most achievements with my meditation practice when I joined my fellow meditators in the group hall.

Now, scroll back up to the first photo in this post. Take a look at the left side of the picture.  See that strange thing hanging on the wall?  I started creating that on Day 5 of my silent meditation retreat.  That was the day I began acting a little bit kooky out of sheer boredom.  On the morning of Day 5 I felt a strong urge to break out of my monotonous routine.  At this point I was wearing my dark purple, fleece robe all the time.  I practically lived in that thing.  That morning I decided to style my hair into two braided pigtails using facial tissue as ribbons in the hopes that I would like Pocahontas, but instead I looked more like a mental patient. I was fascinated by the possibilities of tissue.  I had rummaged through everything in my toiletries bag looking for more art supplies. Bingo!  I  had found a pocket-sized sewing kit and an unusual number of hair ties.  I grabbed a beautiful, dead branch from outside.  This was the final outcome of my project:

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I experienced some of the most excruciating pain of my life while I was there.  I initially blamed the throbbing pain in my left shoulder-blade on a crappy bed I had slept on while I was in the Amazon.  To my surprise, I discovered that most of my misery was coming from my mind.  I only fed the fuel of my pain by blaming it on something outside myself.  It wasn’t until the second day that I was taught how to not only neutralize but eliminate my suffering.  It wasn’t easy.  I almost screamed in agony in a room of 60 meditators at one point.  As I developed my practice for eliminating my physical pain, I went through waves of  burning discomfort and solace. By Day 6, I had considerably reduced my pain and by Day 10, I was pain-free.

I had heard of cases where people experienced such anger that they wanted to kill their teacher.  I even knew of one person who had to leave a Vipassana retreat early, because she had a mental breakdown.  And then I met a woman who had been going to retreats consistently  three times a year for nine years.  She spoke to me with the enthusiasm of an excited child on Christmas morning.  Another friend couldn’t put into words how much Vipassana had changed his life for the better.  My experience was a positive one.  This has been by far the most effective form of meditation I have ever practiced.  Vipassana not only brought harmony and equanimity into my life it also uprooted some of my suffering.  It did all of this without any religious ties or blind faith because it is based on logic, reason, and science.

My journey will look, feel, and ultimately be very different from yours should you decide to experience it for yourself, and I recommend that you do.  It isn’t about comparing, judging, or trying to make your experience look a certain way; it is about being present, non-judgmental, compassionate, and patient.   It has been one of the most profound and dare I say enlightening experiences I have ever had.

Can you believe that Vipassana retreats operate on a donation-only basis?  Believe it.  Meals, lodging, accommodations, and teachings are all free.  Donations should be based on your means and volition.  10-Day Courses run all year round and fill up quickly, so try to sign up several months in advance.

To learn more about Vipassana meditation visit their website:  http://www.dhamma.org/

To learn more about the Southern California Vipassana Center in Joshua Tree visit their website:  http://www.vaddhana.dhamma.org/

Team Cracker Barrel: The Ultimate Abo Experience with Cody Lundin

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Photos by Dean Bradshaw www.deanbradshaw.com

Smooth, fist-sized stones work very well as a toilet paper substitute.  I would know because I had to wipe my ass with stones for nine days.  Avoid the jagged stones or learn the hard way.  If you use rocks smaller than your fist you may get poo on your hand.  Take off your underwear and pants completely before pooping in the desert.  You may accidentally get crap on your clothes and that’s just embarrassing.  Not that I would know.  I’m just sayin’.

This was one of my first lessons in my primitive living skills course.  My instructors:  Mark Dorsten, Director of Field Operations & Logistics at Aboriginal Living Skills School, and Cody Lundin, Founder & Main Instructor of Aboriginal Living Skills School, and star of the Discovery Channel TV show, Dual Survival.  The other tribe members:  10 men.  I was the only woman.  Most of them were from the South.  Several of them had a military background or a military mentality at the very least.  I was raised by a single father in the Marine Corp so I felt right at home.  What I wasn’t prepared for was all the farting.

In late September 2013 my husband, Dean, and I drove to Prescott, Arizona to partake in a primitive living skills course called The Ultimate Abo.  No cell phones; no electronic devices allowed.  We spent the first six days making all of the things we would need to survive the last three days of the course.  We made bow drill sets, which we would used to make our own fire.  We used hot embers to make bowls; cottonwood to carve spoons; notched willow branches and parachute cord to construct our packframes.  We cut, dried, and tied cattail together to make mattress pads.  We spent an entire day weaving several feet of jute which we would later use as straps for our packframe, and for some of us, a canteen strap as well.  We cleaned and carved gourds to make our own canteen complete with cork.  We learned how to process the inner fibers of branches to make cordage which would serve multiple purposes including the making of a dead-fall trap.  We were expected to hunt, gather, and forage for our own food on the last three days.  We ate cattail, dandelion greens, parasitic oak; and went clamming and grass hopper hunting.  With the help of another tribe member, I caught and ate a mouse!

One of the most important things I learned was how to properly hold and use a knife.  It’s incredible how much pleasure one can derive from making things using only a knife and some branches.  My biggest victory was making fire.  I was just about to give up because everyone else in my group had successfully made fire with their bow drill sets and tinder bundles.  I struggled.  I found it near impossible to use my bow drill set, because I wasn’t strong enough to get my spindle spinning…or so I thought.  It wasn’t until the fifth day when one of the other tribe members noticed that my cordage was tied rather tight on my bow.  He adjusted the tension and I gave it another go.  Booyah!  I was creating smoke in less than a minute and soon after that I had a fat ember in my tinder bundle.  I carefully and steadily blew until I had a flame.  I was so overwhelmed with happiness that I started to shake and cry, and as a result I blew out my flame.  Quickly, I regained my focus and produced another flame.  I had made fire.

This was my favorite trip of the year.  It helped me achieve my goals of being more self-sufficient and independent.  The camaraderie of our tribe, even if only for 9 days, was so nourishing.  We were a team.  We depended on each other to work and function as one unit.  We had to share in all of the responsibilities from fetching water to cooking meals to gathering firewood.  We all had different strengths and weaknesses so every one of us was a valuable asset to the group.  This experience brought my husband and I closer together, because it brought out the very best in us.

At night, around the campfire we didn’t talk about personal stories, hopes, dreams, or goals.  We talked about food.  The Southerners of our group started talking about Cracker Barrel and it didn’t stop until well after the trip was over.  If we had turned it into a drinking game and took a swig every time someone said the name Cracker Barrel we would all be dead from alcohol poisoning.  But thankfully, we did not.  And on the evening of the ninth day, our tribe went to the local Cracker Barrel and ordered every breakfast item, buttery biscuits, and Chicken n’ Dumplins.

Sign up for the course here:  http://www.codylundin.com

Learn about Cody’s show:  http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/dual-survival

Watch the first two seasons on Netflix:  http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Dual_Survival/70211488?locale=en-US&noredir=true

Vegans beware.  Dead mouse photo included.

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Mind Games on Mount Whitney

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Mt. WhitneyApparently, one-third of the people who attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Whitney fail.  On August 21, 2013, my friend, Charles, and I learned first hand why so many do not complete this hike.  We woke up at 12:30 AM to the light of the full moon and were at the trailhead by 1:30 AM.  The first four hours flew by. Then the rain came followed by lightning and the sound of an angry whip cracking in the sky.  Charles forgot to bring a raincoat so we made a poncho out of a slightly used trash bag.   Mother Nature’s unexpected surprise stunned us into a kind of stupor.  We asked other hikers what they were going to do.  They decided to wait it out for a while and see if the rain would let up.  With wet clothes and dampened spirits, we found partial shelter under a large rock.   That’s when the mind games began.

For 45 minutes we shivered and weighed out our options.  The temptation to turn around and get a comfortable hotel room and hot food was so strong.  We rationalized our decision to go back with the unpredictability of the weather.  Still, a small voice inside me said, “What if the weather gets better?”  By this point Charles was ready to call it quits.  Then the little voice inside me grew stronger.  Could I really give up that easily after the many months of training, time, and energy I had spent preparing for this hike?  The little voice spoke up.  “We have to try,” I said gently to my friend.  The rain began to let up and the clouds appeared to be moving away from us.  I took that opportunity to coax my friend to walk a little further.  “We have to try,” I kept on saying.   And so we did.

We passed by several hikers who decided to give up.  Every person had a different excuse.

“My hands are too cold.”

“The wind is freezing.”

“I’ve got bad knees.”

“My back hurts.”

“I’m tired.”

“I’m wet from the rain.”

“The lightning scares me.”

“I’ll try again tomorrow.”

“I’m a wimp.”

Lightning is certainly not something to mess around with, but we paid excruciatingly close attention to any weather changes.  We were prepared to turn around if absolutely necessary.  Each excuse we heard made us question our decision to move forward but we trudged on.  We had to try.

Physically, we had many factors working against us.  I had a bad case of diarrhea during the entire hike from drinking too much coconut water the night before.  I hiked 10 miles the day before in Mammoth as a “warm-up” hike.  I only got 1.5 hours of sleep the night before.  I was without water for four miles of the hike.  I underestimated the freezing temperatures near the top of the mountain and couldn’t feel my hands for an hour.  These were not my finest moments but the worst was still to come.  The last mile to the summit was the most brutal.  We must have looked like zombies because our bodies were jelly.  Our limbs hung lifelessly as we dragged ourselves to the finish line.  We had reached the top.   Miraculously, I started feeling stronger and more focused almost instantaneously. That’s when I realized just how much of this hike was psychological.  Our time at the top was short-lived because we were soon being pelleted by hail bullets.  I tried catching the flavorless Dippin’ Dots in my mouth.  After 18 grueling hours of hiking we could finally cross Mt. Whitney off our list.

Climbing Mt. Whitney was a mind game.  My patience, will, and determination were all challenged multiple times.  The occasional marmot siting was a welcomed distraction.  All the odds were against us yet we made it.  Despite everything I am so glad I did it.  I realized that day that I can do anything I set my mind to.  The possibilities truly are endless.

For basic information on Mt. Whitney visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Whitney

For permit information visit:  www.recreation.gov

Getting closer to the top.

Getting closer to the top.

I decided to look down.  It was the first and so far the only time I was scared of heights.

I decided to look down. It was the first, and so far, the only time I’ve been afraid of heights.

Mt.Whitney Photos

This is when it started hailing.  This is when it started hailing.

Book Review: “Lying” by Sam Harris

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LyingbySamHarris

I’m starting 2014 lie-free.  That is, I’m committed to avoiding unnecessary stress created by the utterance of lies big and small.  That includes abstaining from telling seemingly harmless “white” lies.

This is a short (under 100 pages) and simple read appropriate for everyone, because most of us are plagued with the decision to lie or tell the truth in uncomfortable situations when they arise.

Do I tell my wife that I’ve cheated on her?  What do I say when my child asks me if Santa Claus is real?  Do I tell my mother who suffers from dementia that her husband died 15 years ago?  Do I answer truthfully when my overweight girl friend ask me if she looks fat in that dress?  Do I tell psychopaths the truth?  These are just a few of the questions Mr. Harris answers.

Lying has given me fresh insight into matters that I grapple with currently. It has reinforced a lot of what I already knew, which has helped strengthen and solidify my beliefs.  That, in turn, has made it easier for my actions to reflect my true values.  My internal conflict is slowly but surely extinguishing.  Telling the truth, hopefully with tact, is a crucial part of my happiness and personal well-being. Rarely is it prudent to lie.  Mr. Harris elaborates on this regarding abnormal situations.  My beliefs and the overall message of the book are in sync:  Lying, in general, has a greater chance of causing more harm than good.  Being honest creates healthier relationships with others by establishing and maintaining trust.  Sounds easy, right?  But how many of us can say that we are honest all the time?

Mr. Harris leaves us with these three questions to consider:

How would your relationships change if you resolved never to lie again?

What truths about yourself might suddenly come into view?

What kind of person would you become?

I purchased my book here:  http://www.amazon.com/Lying-Sam-Harris/dp/1940051002/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0

Do You Really Want to Be a Model? Part I

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Personal Shoot

Personal Shoot – You can take a photo anywhere but it won’t necessarily be good.  However, I recommend you explore all of your options.  Having the willingness to learn what looks good and what does not is part of the process.

You don’t really want to be a model, do you?  What you’re really trying to tell me is that you want some cute, professional photos of yourself, right?  And who doesn’t?  The vain side of me does, too.  No judgement, but let’s be upfront about this so I know how to best answer your question.

If indeed you sincerely want to become a professional model a lot of time, energy, and effort is required on your part.  Sometimes a bit of money as well.  I can only speak for myself and tell you that when I decided to start modeling in 2009 I didn’t even know where to begin and I had no idea how much effort and work would be involved.  It took me one year to land my first paying gig which surprisingly was also my biggest paying job to date.

It is an unpredictable industry that is rife with exploitation.  I’ve dealt with creepy photographers who wanted more than just photos, e.g. One “photographer” tried to kiss me on the mouth – yuck!; I’ve had to be extremely diligent to the point of aggressive in order to receive products and payments that were promised to me (Get everything you are promised in writing!), and I’ve had to work with a lot of people with negative attitudes and fake personas.

It’s the modeling industry.  What did you expect?  I wasn’t completely naive going into this profession but nothing could have prepared me for the bullshit I would encounter.  You’ve really got to want this in order to make some real money from it.  I worked with amateur and unprofessional photographers that either found me or I found them on ModelMayhem.com.  This was a way for me to get some practice in front of the camera and somewhat professional photos without having to fork over any money.

I had to sift through all the creepy invites I initially received when signing up with ModelMayhem.com to find the photographers who actually had some talent and seemed to be decent human beings.  A non-creeper will allow you to bring a friend, family member, or significant other to the photo shoot so that you feel safe and comfortable.  If they do not allow this, then don’t go.  The risk is not worth it and there are plenty of other photographers out there.

If you are lucky enough to have a friend or know someone who would be willing to take photos of you then that would be a good opportunity to practice posing, facial expressions, and to gain some comfort and confidence in front of the camera.

Practice, practice, practice.  Practice in front of the mirror at home.  Get inspiration from photos you see on the web or in magazines.  Pay attention to what types of clothing flatter your body.  Also consider color palettes that compliment your skin tone, hair, and eye color.

There are so many details that go into making a beautiful photo.  I can’t stress enough how great styling, make-up, and hair are so important.  Working with amazing photographers obviously helps tremendously, too.  In the beginning you may not have that luxury but I have found that there are some pretty good photographers on ModelMayhem.com that I have worked with before for trade.

TFP means Time For Prints or Time For Photos.  That means there is no exchange of money.  You will most likely be given a Model Release to sign, which means you are waiving your rights to any of the photos taken on that date with that photographer.  In exchange, the photographer will email or mail you photos (usually edited/Photoshopped) for you to use in your book (portfolio).  This is a fantastic arrangement for those who are just starting out.  Of course, you could also pay someone or some company to do headshots for you.  It just depends on how much money you are willing to spend.  Some of my first photos are really good and I didn’t pay a penny for them.

After I did about 20 photo shoots with various photographers I felt that I had a strong portfolio to show.  I also gained a lot of experience and learned a lot about the industry.  I took my very best photos from each one of the shoots and created a book to present to modeling agencies and clients.  My book is a black leather folio that holds 48 8×10 photos in transparent, protective sleeves.

Clients and agencies want to see a variety of poses and looks.  They want close-up headshots, full length body shots, side profiles, 3/4 shots, and 1/2 body poses; They want a good mix of everything.  I have photos with various hairstyles, emotions, make-up styles, indoor shots, outdoor shots, solid backgrounds, landscape backgrounds, location shots, black & white, color photos, action or movement shots, and photos that make me look like certain ethnicities.  Versatility is key.

FYI, modeling is not as glamorous as y’all think.  When I first heard that I would be lucky if I could model for Target or Kmart I thought, “Hell no, that’s beneath me.”  Well, in reality it’s super difficult to make real money as a model and it’s the car, electronic, pharmaceutical, alcohol, cigarette, diet pill, phone, and clothing companies that offer real paychecks.  It took me some time to grasp the reality that I am not a super model and that I’m totally happy with that.  Print modeling is highly competitive but becoming a super model is like winning the lottery – the genetic jackpot.  Unless you are Gisele Bündchen you will most likely make more money as a print model anyway.

I’ve modeled for companies like Sony, Chevrolet, Apple, Boeing, Chandon, and PrAna just to name a few.  These are typical companies you would model for as a print model.  Half of the time I get booked as a “young mom” which doesn’t necessarily make me happy but makes me grateful for the opportunity nonetheless.  This is the reality of the modeling business.

As I said before it took me a year to get my first paying gig.  If you have the time and passion to build a portfolio, then great.  Know that it is very difficult to just become a model overnight unless, of course, you are super tall, skinny, have flawless skin, and are naturally beautiful in which case you would most likely make it as a super model as opposed to a print model.  The modeling industry is a bit more forgiving, but it is highly competitive and not for the faint of heart.  Be prepared to be judged and criticized and not always politely.  This industry requires a thick skin and determination.

I will say that if you decide this is what you want the rewards can also be amazing.  The money can be nice but the self-confidence gained can be priceless.  My eye contact with others, comfort level with my body, and social skills have all improved.  I only work with companies that I am proud to represent which falls perfectly in line with my morals and values.  It takes time and determination to get to that place.  I’ve had to put in a lot more work than I initially thought to get to where I am.  And I only do this part-time.

So let me ask you again.  Do you really want to put in all the time, energy, and effort into becoming a professional model or would you rather find a way to get some cute or sexy photos of yourself that you didn’t just take yourself?  If you answered, “Yes, I want to be a model and I’m willing to put in my due diligence,” then fantastic.  What you’ve read so far is just a teeny tiny taste of what to expect when you’re starting out.

I’ll go into the process of getting accepted by a reputable agency in future posts.  I’ll also talk about working independently as a freelance model.  If you answered, “I’m not necessarily in it for the money but I would like to try modeling to see what it’s like and hopefully get some amazing photos of myself,” then I say thank you for your honesty.  You can actually achieve this using many different methods:

  1. Reach out to your network of friends, family, and acquaintances to find out if anyone of them knows a good photographer.  Get their contact information and book a photo shoot or see if they are willing to do a TFP shoot.
  2. Sign up with ModelMayhem.com and get in touch with local photographers that way.  I’m sure there are other websites like ModelMayhem out there that you can find.  Google it.
  3. If you want to do a super sexy shoot then find a boudoir photographer in your area that you would like to shoot with and pay for a photo shoot.  Most of these photographers have package deals where you can pay to have your hair and make-up done.  They may even have “costumes” or sexy clothing for you to wear.  They will also help you with your posing.
  4. You can also search for local photographers online, view their portfolio, and contact them directly.

I started out by getting photography contacts from my friends and by using ModelMayhem.com.  The more people you let know that you are interested in doing modeling, whether it is for pay or not, the better your chances are that you’ll find someone who can help you achieve your goals.

Stay beautiful inside and out.

If you want to learn more about how I started modeling, check out this post:

http://theherbalninja.com/2012/07/11/ethnically-ambiguous-model/

Book Review: The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

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Michael Pollan Photo by Alia Malley, Beyoncé Photo owned by Beyoncé Knowles, http://www.beyonce.com

I would rather meet Michael Pollan than Beyoncé (and I really, really like Beyoncé!).  I’m a Clinical Nutritionist and a singer, and I happen to find Mr. Pollan a hell of a lot more fascinating.  I think in order to develop our singing, dancing, and other artistic capabilities we need to have a really strong and solid constitution.  My mantra is healthy body, healthy mind.  Living healthy can help us reach our highest potential.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a DENSE book.  When I say ‘dense’ I mean that it is chock-full of vital information.  You can’t read this book with half a mind.  You’ve got to be on your game – A clean, dry sponge ready to soak in the knowledge.  I had to prepare by having jasmine green tea before I picked it up.  At times it felt like I was reading a textbook and that’s OK, because I found the information to be so valuable.  I was determined to get through it.  I had several stretches where I let the cover collect a thin layer of dust, but it never left my bedside.  I have no shame in saying that it took me six months of on-again, off-again procrastination and force-fed reading to finish this sucker.  It reminded me a lot of being in school where sometimes the reading isn’t particularly fun or easy, but after it’s done I’ll be smarter (hopefully).

I initially thought that this book was going to promote a vegetarian diet, and explain why eating animals is unhealthy and bad.  Not at all.  In fact, I feel more comfortable eating meat now.  This quote in particular really impacted me.

“The farmer would point out to the vegan that even she has a “serious clash of interests” with other animals.  The grain that the vegan eats is harvested with a combine that shreds field mice, while the farmer’s tractor wheel crushes woodchucks in their burrows and his pesticides drop songbirds from the sky; after harvest whatever animals that would eat our crops we exterminate.  Killing animals is probably unavoidable no matter what we choose to eat.  If America was suddenly to adopt a strictly vegetarian diet, it isn’t at all clear that the total number of animals killed each year would necessarily decline, since to feed everyone animal pasture and rangeland would have to give way to more intensively cultivated row crops.  If our goal is to kill as few animals as possible people should probably try to eat the largest possible animal that can live on the least cultivated land:  grass-finished steaks for everyone.” p. 326

This book will raise your level of awareness.  It will get you thinking about your food differently because a lot of times in our culture, American culture, we eat our food mindlessly.  We eat while we’re driving our car.  We eat while we’re browsing the web.  We eat while we’re watching Ryan Gosling movies.  I’m not berating anyone for doing that.  I understand.  I’ve been there and I’m still there, but after reading this book I’ve definitely gained a new awareness of everything involved in the food that I choose to eat.  I feel like that’s super important.

“Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan

Here are more of my favorite quotes from the book to whet your appetite:

“We’ve come to think of “corn-fed” as some kind of old-fashioned virtue, which it may well be when you’re referring to Midwestern children, but feeding large quantities of corn to cows for the greater part of their lives is a practice neither particularly old nor virtuous…Yet this corn-fed meat is demonstrably less healthy for us, since it contains more saturated fat and less omega-3 fatty acids than the meat of animals fed grass.”  p. 75

“Three of every five Americans are overweight; one of every five is obese.” p. 102

“Researchers have found that people (and animals) presented with large portions will eat up to 30 percent more than they would otherwise.  Human appetite, it turns out, is surprisingly elastic, which makes excellent evolutionary sense:  It behooved our hunter-gatherer ancestors to feast whenever the opportunity presented itself, allowing them to build up reserves of fat against future famine.  Obesity researchers call this trait the “thrifty gene.”  And while the gene represents a useful adaptation in an environment of food scarcity and unpredictability, it’s a disaster in an environment of fast-food abundance, when the opportunity to feast presents itself 24/7.  Our bodies are storing reserves of fat against a famine that never comes.”  p. 106

“Perhaps the perfect meal is one that’s been fully paid for, that leaves no debt outstanding.  This is almost impossible ever to do, which is why I said there was nothing very realistic or applicable about this meal [a meal that consisted of only food that was foraged, hunted, and grown by the author and his friends].  But as a sometimes thing, as a kind of ritual, a meal that is eaten in full consciousness of what it took to make it is worth preparing every now and again, if only as a way to remind us of the true costs of the things we take for granted.” p. 410

Kale Soup Recipe (Skinny Soup)

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Ingredients for Kale Soup

Servings:  6 servings

Prep Time:   30 minutes

Total Time:  50 minutes

My brother-from-another-mother, Charles Thi, and I created this recipe.  We call it Kale Soup.  We’ve made it many, many times and have taste tested it to the point where I can confidently say we have reached perfection.  This recipe includes chicken broth and meat.  If you want to go strictly veggie then omit the chicken meat; increase the amount of mushrooms (for more girth and protein), and swap the chicken broth for either organic vegetable or mushroom broth.  This recipe is low in carbs and rich in protein and veggies – You’re going to have a really hard time getting fat from this soup!  I always feel light and happy after I eat it – not sluggish or bloated.  This soup is great when it’s chilly outside, or when you feel a bit under the weather.

What You Will Need

6 cups chicken broth (1 1/2 boxes of organic, free range chicken broth, 32 oz. box)

1 organic medium-sized yellow onion, chopped

2 organic medium-sized heirloom tomatoes, chopped

2 organic Yukon Gold OR 2 purple potatoes OR 1 large Russett potato, chopped

1 organic head of kale (de-stemmed), chopped or torn into small pieces by hand

2 organic carrots, chopped

1 package (3.5 oz) shitake mushrooms, sliced

2 cups chicken breast from rotisserie chicken (roughly ½ Sprouts brand rotisserie chicken), cubed or shredded

4 tablespoons nutritional yeast

3 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, ground

½ teaspoon cayenne, ground

1 large pot (3.5 qt. pot will hold all of the ingredients but a slightly larger pot will make it easier for stirring)

Directions

1.  Fill pot with chicken broth and heat on stove on low setting.  Place lid on pot.

2.  Wash and slice shiitake mushrooms and add to pot.  Cover with lid.

3.  Increase heat to low-medium setting so that the broth is at a slight boil.

3.  Wash and chop potatoes and carrots and add to pot.  Cover with lid.

4.  Continue preparing and adding ingredients to pot in this order: Onions, tomatoes, nutritional yeast, sea salt, ground pepper, cayenne, chicken meat, and kale.  I like to pull the green, leafy part from the thick stem of the kale and tear it up into pieces by hand.  Uncover soup.

5.  Let kale cook for 5 minutes or so and then test a piece of potato.  If it is soft, then the soup is ready.  If it is still a little hard, then continue to cook soup for an additional 5 minutes then taste potato again.

6.  Enjoy!  Eat as many bowls as you like – I will have 2 big bowls and feel completely guilt-free, because you’re filling up on water, lean protein, fiber rich mushrooms, and nutritious veggies.

Bon appétit!

Kale Soup