Build Your Tool Box: Be the Carpenter of Your Vision. Build that toolbox of experiences and skills. I went from being a fine artist (a print maker and serigraph artist) to a caterer and then to nutrition school. These couldn’t be more opposite in terms of the skills needed to excel at each subject but they all offered me experience in skill sets I still use today. In nutrition school I had to learn the intricacies of science. In art school, I learned how to be detail and attention oriented. And as a caterer, I flexed my ability to delegate and bring people together. In all of them I learned the importance of clear communication, organization, and the planning and preparation necessary to create a flow of productivity. Everything began to build upon the next, which wasn’t obvious during those different studies, but I continued to follow what felt true to me. I would think I was jumping from one thing to the next but really I was learning a number of different skills that would later inform my work; how to work with people, how to have compassion, and how to listen to one’s story and pick up on those hidden details that are informative to their capacity to heal.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Esther Cohen, M.S, R.D.
Esther is the author of the book, Alchemy of Nourishment: The Art, Science and Magic of Eating. She is a teacher and a healer serving her students as well as researching for improved healthcare outcomes for more than 35 years. Today, she has a worldwide following at https://AlchemyofNourishment.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Esther! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in the deep south in Atlanta, Ga. Our small house had magical woods in the backyard, which was my sanctuary. Alone in my backyard, my favorite game to play was “collecting plants and weeds”; making mud pies; and gathering all the necessary supplies that would be needed to feed and care for my community in the “cold hard winter that was sure to come.” My other childhood passion was being a “teacher”. These two pastimes were an expression of my essential nature, even as a young girl playing amongst the trees, untainted by external impressions and freely flowing in the fullest expression of my beingness.
Having grown up in the city, I found by seeking refuge in the natural world that I could experience the resonance of my wild nature and feel at home while exploring my imaginary, magical world. I spent as much time as possible outdoors; there I felt included, safe, and connected to my truest self.
Interacting with people in the populated city, even amongst family, was difficult for me as a child. I was extremely shy, always feeling like I was the odd person out.
I was constantly afflicted with sinus conditions, tonsillitis, and feelings of not belonging as a child and young adult. The first two conditions were treated with multiple doses of antibiotics, setting me up for future gut issues; while the latter was greatly ignored and became a driving force behind my apologetic, people-pleasing personality. Growing up during the civil rights movement in the deep south, the daughter of a Jewish-immigrant family, I was greatly impacted by the culture, environment, and the social climate. My father owned a pharmacy, soda fountain and everything-but-groceries store, in one of the roughest Black neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia. There, I felt at home but also aware of the fear and social prejudice in a visceral way by the daunting presence of the individuals against social equality. I had a desire to participate in the vibrancy I witnessed in the black community, while also knowing that I was an outsider. My longing to connect to community has informed my entire life, as well as plagued it by the inability to truly feel a part of the groups I have yearned to be accepted by. Today, as an adult, I recognize my white privilege and am on a journey to reconcile the experience I had as a white child of the South.
At the age of 14, I lost my father, with whom I was very close. This deep loss created a crippling restriction in my emotional and physical experience, furthering my core wound of separation and “differentness”. Relating to others, including friends and family, fed the weight of anxiety I carried with me all the time. I could feel that I desperately needed help, yet did not know how to find it. Therapy was not an option. I was in a dark hole, which ultimately sent me on a journey to heal myself.
Born with an innate gift to cook, as a little girl, I took the lead during sleepovers making pizzas, cookies, and flexing my foodie muscle. I longed for connection through food, which sent me on many culinary and dietary journeys that have yet to stop. At seventeen, I left home on a mission to heal my physical and emotional body and to discover my authentic voice. I was on a quest for greater understanding of the world within and around me. That exploration opened many doors and provided me with a toolbox of experiences to witness the world from a broad and multifaceted perspective. I experimented with numerous fad diets of the day, mostly out of disordered eating behaviors to lose weight, experiencing the knife edge of eating disordered issues. This search for deep nourishment led me to explore a variety of spiritual practices where I learned to deepen and trust my connection to the Divine rather than to rely on the dogma of others. Holding these two paradoxes of nourishment, that of restricting food while also enjoying food and my connection to the Divine, expanded my capacity to understand our human dilemma, that all of life holds a potential for nourishment and that everything is food for our being. From there, I progressed to study the art, science, and wisdom of traditional healing modalities; always seeking greater understanding of our human nature, how we heal, grow, and thrive.
My strong trust in the natural world informed my equally strong connection to spirit and the unseen world. I began to understand how our psychology informs our biology and to trust my intuitive knowing. This is my work and my gift: to nourish and care for the community; to not merely sustain life, rather to heal and enhance our human condition. Nature, as a teacher, taught me the most important lesson I could have learned — that we are fed and nourished by everything. So picking and choosing our emotional and mental nourishment is as important as the foods we choose to sustain our body.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
When I first began my career, after leaving a conscious community and running a whole foods catering company, I began the Nourishment Education Foundation (NEF), a 501(c)(3), to support the dissemination of nourishing wisdom, knowledge, and practices. NEF is a clearing house of information and education on nutrition, nourishment, and healing modalities to support cultural traditions and food diversity. I dreamt of supporting people to heal from illness and trauma while discovering what truly nourishes their mind, body, and spirit. I longed to serve as a bridge connecting science, natural medicine, and traditional therapies together to foster and support a sense of agency, clarity, and purpose while enriching people’s lives. For many years I taught nutrition and herbalism at several colleges, created and directed a three year comprehensive masters’ level program at The Seven Bowls School of Nutrition, Nourishment & Healing, and flourished in my one-on-one practice.
A couple years back, when the Flint water crisis became public knowledge, I felt a calling. I knew there was something to be done to detoxify the children in that small Michigan city, which was marginalized and underprivileged. Nutrient deficient diets on top of heavy metal poisoned city water set the community up for a lifetime of malnourishment and a diminished capacity for physical, emotional, and intellectual development. I felt (and still feel) it was our responsibility as a society to not just pay out money from lawsuits but offer rehabilitation and restorative justice. Through detoxification of the lead poisoning, while also supplying a foundation in nutritionally dense foods, we could have given the children of Flint a fighting chance to have physical, emotional and developmental health. Nutritionally encouraging a resilient immune system, healthy brain function, and emotional stability could have provided those children with the possibility to grow into their birth right of being full functioning, creative adults and citizens.
I took classes in public speaking, prepared to give a TedTalk to raise money and awareness, and worked day and night researching neurotoxins and their effects on brain development. I gathered a small team of helpers while figuring out a plan to make chelation detoxifiying smoothies to distribute throughout the community. These daily beverages were based on a detoxification program I have researched and developed over the past 15 years. I have guided hundreds of people through the Alchemy of Nourishment Art, Science, and Magic of Eating seasonal cleanse book and program. I think of myself as a bit of a detox queen now, which I never desired to be! I wanted to go in and support the children’s health and well being. Yet, I was extremely frustrated at what I experienced in terms of the government and public outreach to help ameliorate this problem. I went on my own to Flint, MI, armed with an excellent proposal, and went straight to the people that mattered: the doctor who was in charge of the whistle-blowing, the governor, the mayor, Head Start, city council, you name it, I went there. I knocked on every door to receive no answer and created tons of emails that received no response, leaving me to feel incredibly defeated. I remember going back to my hotel room in Flint and sobbing that my endeavor was hopeless. There was no way to get traction. I was fearful my efforts to effect a change in our society’s orientation towards marginalized communities was lost, instead it seemed we were headed towards a culture which favors litigation over rectification in the form of practical action.
And now here we sit, in the middle of COVID-19, and it’s clear that our marginalized communities are suffering much greater than those who are privileged to have access to clean water and good food.
Recently, I have discovered that Denver, CO, just a half-hour from my home, has their own heavy metal issue caused by aging pipes. This issue provides further clarity into this systemic problem we face in many metropolitan and socio-economically repressed areas across our country. Clean water is a basic human right yet we find it polluted in many communities who already eat a nutritionally compromised diet. The heavy metal pollution in the Denver city water supply is an incredible opportunity to take all that I learned in Flint and rekindle that passion to take the step forward with a new NEF project. The Community Supported Nourishment (CSN) Program will bring education, detoxification, and agency back to the populations of our great cities (where many residents ARE disenfranchised). Our mission is to foster health and wellness so that creativity, connection, and hope become a reality in the communities we serve. There shouldn’t be a separation between privileged vs. marginalized communities. Our mission is real nutritionally dense food, free of pesticides and additives creating health-agency for all.
So in the end, my takeaway is this, if you have a passion and desire to do something for the greater good, that no amount of “no” can take that away from you. Even your own “no” to yourself ultimately will dissolve away when you allow that passion to kindle the unique flame within you. This allows you to express the divine resource that you are meant to bring — your soul’s work.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve always had big visions. Ever since I was a little girl I had huge visions of what I wanted to create and how I wanted to serve humanity. After obtaining my master’s degree from Colorado State University in Human Nutrition, I worked with Native Americans, migrants, and women’s recovery and addictions; I often worked one-on-one with clients. However, I felt there was so much more that could have been in my education and I wanted to bring that vision of greater dimensionality of knowledge to others. I created the Seven Bowl School of Nutrition, Nourishment, and Healing which was a three-year masters’ level program that brought together the art, science, and magic of the healing arts. We had Chinese doctors, Western doctors, herbalists, and homeopaths coming together to share knowledge, explore the power of ritual, and learn how to communicate with one another from a place of truth.
I did all of this without a team to support me. I neglected to create a group of individuals who would not only be financial backing but also put their unique genius and ideas into fulfilling a vision; as a result, I ended up wearing every hat. I was the director, teacher, financier, counselor, problem solver, cook, and the faculty coordinator. And, therefore, I was the problem because I couldn’t do it all and I couldn’t do it all well. I ended up feeding my life-long and perpetual inner critic letting me know “I wasn’t good enough” to execute my plan. The school was successful for 12 years but because there was no cohort of directors it wasn’t sustainable.
I learned the invaluable necessity of collaboration and camaraderie and the essential role of feedback to actualize visions. I learned how valuable it is to have the support of a team that has your back and shares a similar hunger to create and execute a well-rounded manifestation of a common vision. My heart is full on this subject for as we speak; this shared vision and camaraderie is coming together with the Nourishment Education Foundation (NEF), impregnated with anticipation as we gestate the Community Supported Nourishment (CSN) Program which we yearn to implement across the nation for an increasing empowered and healthy population.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I love this question because it brings up the fact that I’ve had numerous teachers in my life, many of whom I learned from not because of their intended qualities/teachings, rather from what they did not do well and how they treated their students. What I did not learn from them was how to be compassionate, open, curious, and in conversation, because they taught from a dominant, ego-centered, superior place. Many of my mentors taught or led from a sense of perceived “power over” rather than encouraging independent inquiry and agency. They were not open to feedback nor the inclusion of others perspectives; teaching from a platform that held their views as the “right” perspective, rather than encouraging students to think for themselves, to speak their voices, and discover their own truths.
All of that changed when I met Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. He was the founder and Rabbi of the Jewish Renewal Community and held the World Wide Wisdom chair at Naropa University at the time of our meeting. A profoundly deep thinker and teacher, full of humility and understanding. I was his nutritionist and healer, given to him as a gift from one of his loved ones, to aid him through his battle with bladder cancer. As it turned out, he was the gift to me. It came at a very auspicious time in my life, after I had recently left from under the thumb of a spiritual community. He revitalized not only my connection to my heritage but to my spirit as well.
Having been raised Jewish in my upbringing, I left the faith for many reasons, one of which was the hypocrisy I felt which ultimately catapulted me into a search for new spirituality. Surprisingly, my new spiritual quest landed me in a “conscious” community which exhibited similar dysfunctions as the ones I had experienced in my early years with Judaism. The hypocritical paradox was the love of community I felt around spirituality while, at the same time, battling the hierarchical structure of these communities which, for me, dumbed down the spirit and experience of what it was to connect with the Divine.
My relationship with the Rabbi was deeply, deeply healing. He taught me the values of self forgiveness; the courage to stand in honesty, the practice of holding a compassionate, open mind for everyone we encounter, and how to acknowledge the diversity within people and honor their unique connection to what is sacred and holy. He did this all through his exemplary actions, kind words, and loving presence. Our one-on-one interactions were invaluable as I bore witness to his incredible allegorical stories, teachings, vast knowledge, and unconditional love. He was an extraordinary human being. It was one of the most valuable experiences of my life to have had the honor of working with him in such an intimate way. Rabbi Zalman taught me what it means to sit with someone of great wisdom who could impart knowledge and experience, not from a place of ego, but from a place of true humility and gratitude. We did not have a typical teacher-student dynamic, rather, he imparted how to be a teacher of the heart, to come from a place of compassion and love and to share my wisdom with all who were interested.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
My work is to educate and empower people to listen to their body and take back agency over their health and well-being. We live in this most incredible physiological, biological, neurological, subtle, electric, and sensual body; yet we still need to learn how to take care of it and optimize who we are in our fullest capacity. My desire is to share what it means to deeply nourish ourselves, stepping into our birthright of reawakening our instinctual and intuitive knowing. To support understanding that everything we take in has an impression upon our system; from the food we eat, to the way it’s metabolized, to the environments we sit in and what we choose to look at and surround ourselves with, whether it’s the mountains, or a newscast. How does that feel in our body? How does that support our immune system? I want people to have an intimate relationship with their body — exploring these concepts and feeling them in this incredible vehicle we have to explore this earth in. It’s about teaching us that we are both animals and divine.
I weave a colorful tapestry of the various cultural influences experienced into my work. I have delivered babies in Indonesia, sat with shamans in Belize, worked with ancient healers in Peru, and traveled the world to experience how different cultures live, eat, carry out their spiritual practices, and thrive in their communities. What I gathered from my travels was that the cultures richest in their practices and beliefs were those steeped in multidimensional connection to their being. An element of instinct and intuition was inherent in these cultures. Where are these values in our own culture? In a society where the practical is valued, we have diminished our innate knowing and body sensing of our experience. What I feel is needed in our country is agency over our own health and bodies. Too often it is challenging to understand what is happening around and within us, and to top it all off we have an expectation of inherent illness.
We have more stress in our lives than ever before, leading to increasing rates of depression, autoimmune disease, heart disease, and cancer. We are not healthy people. It is my dream to impact our health care, both personally and systemically, through educational and experiential modalities.
There is an art to knowing when we’re out of balance long before the effects of stress and lifestyle concretise into disease and dysfunction in our body. Recognizing when something doesn’t feel right, by listening to the messages of the body’s symptoms, allows all experiences (from how the food we eat affects our bellies to being able, to tap into when we are working too hard and need a break) to be sensed and utilized as a map towards healing. Furthermore, taking that break or not eating that food item, not because of a rule or “should” but rather as a choice, serves your highest capacity to deeply and actually nourish to thrive. In this way, we develop the ability to either digest our experiences or recognize when we need support. To fully embrace our human capacity is to be efficient in our energy usage to optimize health. We do this through the skill of body sensing as well as cleansing in rhythm with the seasons. Just as you would take your car in to get tuned-up every year, it is important to fine-tune our bodies so we work most effectively. It’s about learning who we are and how to thrive in our distinct nature.
Remembering our uniqueness in this one-size-fits-all culture reclaims agency over our well-being. This is why the cleanses I have led for the last 20 years are gentle and lifestyle-based; focusing on reestablishing the body’s rhythm, enhancing the body’s innate ability to detoxify, and encouraging the use of clean, whole foods. I teach the importance of knowing where our food comes from and how it’s been grown, handled, and loved, encouraging our hunter-gatherer nature back into our grocery shopping experience, and having discernment about the food that we’re nourishing our bodies with are the driving factors of lifestyle-based cleansing. From earth-to-table we can heal our healthcare system, culture, and climate thus creating a new paradigm in health which teaches us how to live well and be well rather than just fixing what’s broken.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I don’t know that I would call them tweaks because I think I’m kind of a quirky person. What I have learned is a result of the path my life took. So in a sense, aren’t we always creating tweaks to how we relate to our lives and experience?
I lived in a conscious cooperative community in my young adult life. This way of living taught me a great deal; I was the baker and the head woman in charge of our large food co-op and of the food that we sourced and fed our community with. I loved it. I spent hours making yogurts, granolas, and sprouted grain breads that we distributed among us as well as grocery stores in the Boulder area. I learned many skills, from honest clear communication to organization, all of which showed how living in cooperation and sharing responsibilities is a highly efficient and sustainable way to live. Heading up the co-op allowed me to orchestrate a network that connected me with all the parts from farm, to store, to table; a system that greatly depended on people working together. As a director I learned through trial and error what it took to create a positive flow in a cooperative network. This sentiment empowered my ability to tap into the efficiency that comes when people work together to accomplish a common goal. As a primary cook and creator of our recipes, I learned I could cook for 20 people with little extended effort rather than just cooking for two. It can be so inefficient to cook for a single family that I find myself nowadays having too much food and always wanting to share it with friends. Living cooperatively gives one the challenge and the opportunity to honor all the varied perspectives before choosing a path of operation. I believe the more we can support each other, share these lifestyle necessities, that we can become more efficient in ourselves and have greater energy for other creative projects.
At 17 when I left home, my life totally changed. I went from living in the big city of Atlanta, Georgia, where I rarely spent time in nature, to Boulder, Colorado. In Boulder, I had the good fortune of meeting a boy who introduced me to rock climbing, took me cross country skiing, and backpacking for weeks in the wilderness. I learned to run, feel the power and strength in my body, and fell in love with the natural world. I finally felt at home. This ignited my deep love of the wild. I remember camping out in a tent for the very first time feeling terrified, staying awake the entire night while listening to the coyotes howl. Other times, I was mesmerized by thousands of stars that comforted my nerves while hanging off of rock cliffs. All of this taught me I could live on the edge, risk my comfort zone, learn to trust my body, and feel really alive.
Exercise as a Lifestyle — Not a Goal
Moving to Colorado from the city was my introduction to exercise as a way of life, not on a gym schedule. I backpacked for weeks, rode my bike to get around town and over mountain passes, and learned to run trails as a way to clear my mind and feel the rhythm of my body. What truly nourished me was not just the physical movement but the integration of being in nature and having a sensual interaction with my environment. Feeling the wind on my back and my muscles carrying me along was so invigorating that when I tried to go to the gym I would be terribly bored. Being fit and feeling good was a result of my lifestyle, not a goal in and of itself.
I’ve always danced, ever since I was a little girl, and I did lots of dance classes throughout college. It was an excellent way for me to hone my coordination and connect with the fullness of my self-expression. As I’ve grown older, it has become more difficult to run the kinds of miles I used to so I rekindled dance with the 5Rhythms practice and ecstatic movement. I cultivated a deep love for being able to experience my emotional body while moving my physical body.
As a woman in my early 60’s, dance is a critical part of my life. I dance at least three to four times a week; it’s not only a way to move my energy but to connect to myself and nourish fluidity and agility in my strong body. Dance has been a continuation of my value of exercise, not as a chore but as a way of life. Movement is not separate from me, rather, I am moved by the experience of life. Looking at how we move through life is a way to keep our emotional and physical bodies fluid and healthy.
Body Sensing: Nourish with Your Gut (and Heart) NOT Your Mind
I’ve always been interested in foods and how they make me feel. As a teenager I had what I call “disordered eating,” where I tried all of the very popular diets in hopes to lose weight. I used myself as a guinea pig so I could feel what those eating patterns engendered on my physical and mental health. I’ve always been very curious about that experience. I was a vegetarian for eight years and one day realized that lifestyle wasn’t meeting my body’s needs. For all the ethical reasons I believed in, it really wasn’t serving my highest capacity to be full and energetic, I wasn’t feeling nourished. I was moody and hormonally imbalanced (experienced in PMS) and I knew that had to change. I opened myself up to the ability to add meat into my diet and experience how that felt. I felt nourished and strong; from that awareness I made the choice to incorporate animal protein into my eating habits.
What I call “body sensing” is the ability to step outside of a set of rules or ideals concerning diet and into an intuitive discovery on how what you eat actually feels inside. I offer this as a big tweak to everyone because we’re guided by what’s in the advertising world, which can promote diet as a means to becoming a card-carrying fundamentalist. As a nutrition therapist, I’m always amazed when my clients come in and tell me they’ve been reading about the keto diet or the paleo diet (or whatever new diet is out there) and they express they should try that. We do not eat with our brain, we eat with our gut (for fundamental nourishment) and our hearts (if we are needing a bit of comfort). While many of these diets have their benefits, I use them as therapeutic practices to be applied for a specific period of time. It’s so important to find out what works for you. How does it feel in your body? Not just immediately after a meal, but for hours after a meal and the next day. What kind of energy do you experience from what you’ve eaten? Get your psychology out of our biology. We do this through body-sensing and awareness of our somatic experience.
Alone Time: Sacred Respite for the Self
When I was a mother of two, I had just begun to create and direct a master’s level nutrition school, Seven Bowls School of Nutrition, Nourishment, and Healing. At the same time I enjoyed a full and thriving private practice. One of the things that saved my life was declaring time to be alone; getting myself out in nature, sitting in a room and doing an art project, listening to music, or simply musing with a cup of tea. All of these practices were (and are!) exceedingly valuable for me to keep my sanity. They became the subtle rituals of my life that keep me close to myself and evolved into a practice that permits me to show up as my best self. Without this, my full attention could be given to all of the obligations and responsibilities that I cared about.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Eighteen years ago I held the first Nourishment Awareness Week in Boulder, CO. In that week-long symposium with thought leaders in their fields talking about the full spectrum of nourishment. In 2015, NEF provided the framework for the work I wanted to do in Flint, MI, to negate the water crisis and detoxify marginalized communities, especially the children who hold our future.
Now I am launching my vision in Denver, CO with the goal of bringing it nationwide with the Community Supported Nourishment (CSN) Program. Our mission endeavors to collaboratively restore health and immunity in economically marginalized neighborhoods impacted by toxins in their drinking water, food, and environment. This program is built on the cornerstones of nourishment, education, and bringing back agency to our health care. Our are to detoxify the children and families of underprivileged communities and develop community connection. CSN will work to provide means, through food as medicine, to detoxify and aide the blood to clear heavy metals deposited by a compromised water systems found in inner cities and metropolitan areas, education through hands-on experience in the earth, permaculture, herbalism, health-related talks by practitioners, and agency by establishing community gardens and empowering communities with knowledge to thrive. By having mobile units that provide detoxification smoothies with fully-staffed learning centers we will be able to reach the greatest number of people.
We are launching this program in Denver because I recently found out the lead toxicity in the city is quite high and the metropolitan area is facing similar issues with its water supply as they faced in Flint, MI. In this time of COVID-19, now more than ever, we are coming to feel the value of our health and the detriment of our crippling health system. We are seeing our marginalized communities at greater risk of illness and morbidity because they do not have the foundational nutrition necessary to support a strong immune system. As we look at the crumbling social structures of sustainability we believe it is our duty to share resources with and support those who can greatly benefit from that knowledge. Not to impose our beliefs, but to share our resources because the wellness and thriving of all people, no matter their circumstances, is of service to our greater human community. Our neighbor’s nourishment is inherently wrapped in our personal nourishment. This is an opportunity for the current and future generations to design a better world. That is what I believe CSN will do — provide an outpost of resources to the economically and educationally marginalized communities of our metropolitan areas across the nation. The goal of CSN is to come out of this time of COVID-19 with a plan to step into our communities, giving more than a band aid — rather, access for a healthy body, a strong mind, and a full spirit. In this way we will uplift the possibility to thrive and create an even healthier and strong society for a better future for us all. That’s why this project is in the works. Nourishment on a cellular level, expressed through the individual, creates an impact upon the world.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Take Life Lightly & Work Seriously
Don’t get too overly focused on your self-importance or the identities you hold so that you become identified with how things “ought to be” or how “they are not working”; don’t get caught up in what this says or means about you as a person. By taking your work out into the world. you will be open to new possibilities and avenues when a particular path doesn’t work. Take yourself lightly so that you may laugh at your personality quirks, be less defensive, and access mistakes from a place of objectivity and curiosity. Putting aside the critical judgmental mind allows you to arrive at a place of, “Wow, I can learn something from this,” and perhaps do your work even better. Taking yourself lightly and your work seriously brings more capacity for joy in the process while finding humor in one’s uniqueness. It’s important to approach our life with curiosity and to be able to explore what unfolds with an open perspective and open heart so that we may find those hidden gems as our plans and dreams unfold. Laughter is one of the greatest strengtheners of the immune system — don’t forget that!
Trust YOUR Process
One’s life work is a process of unfolding, a learning over a lifetime. I can remember in my twenties that I was very anxious about what my life’s work was. I really wanted to step into my career and know “that was it,” to “perfect it,” and to be “successful.” What I found in my twenties and thirties (and forties) was my life’s work kept unfolding and changing and the more I was open and loose with my titles the more possibility I was able to call into my life. I went from being a fine artist, to being a caterer, to being a nutrition therapist, and then to an intuitive counselor and teacher. This wide web of experience cast doubt about where I was headed and what I was doing. However, with the wisdom of age I realize now they all built upon one another and infused the teachings from those experiences to be garnished as an expression of who I am and what I have to offer.
Have Patience — Stick to It
The third I would say is patience, and I am not a very patient person! If somebody had really helped me understand what patience is that would have woven so much more ease into my process. So often we want to know how things will turn out or what direction we are “meant” to go in. However, you can’t predetermine the way your life is going to unfold and how your path towards your expertise will develop. Having a great deal of patience and trust in your own knowing and intuition is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. Don’t allow the frustration of the unknown to make you think something is wrong. The frustration is born from the deep desire to manifest your great work and that takes time. Rushing the process will only leave you with a half-baked cake. The choices you make are really informed from your gut and they will offer you something that will be part of the toolbox you bring with you through life.
Build Your Tool Box: Be the Carpenter of Your Vision
Build that toolbox of experiences and skills. I went from being a fine artist (a print maker and serigraph artist) to a caterer and then to nutrition school. These couldn’t be more opposite in terms of the skills needed to excel at each subject but they all offered me experience in skill sets I still use today. In nutrition school I had to learn the intricacies of science. In art school, I learned how to be detail and attention oriented. And as a caterer, I flexed my ability to delegate and bring people together. In all of them I learned the importance of clear communication, organization, and the planning and preparation necessary to create a flow of productivity. Everything began to build upon the next, which wasn’t obvious during those different studies, but I continued to follow what felt true to me. I would think I was jumping from one thing to the next but really I was learning a number of different skills that would later inform my work; how to work with people, how to have compassion, and how to listen to one’s story and pick up on those hidden details that are informative to their capacity to heal.
You Are a Resource!
You are a well of wisdom and possibility! So much has been handed down through your ancestry and your developmental years. It takes time, experience, and falling down to tap into how you rise up again and again. These experiences, especially the failures, are what develops a sense of who you truly are and what you truly desire so you can step into the essence of your essential nature. I don’t believe we’re born with self-worth; I think it’s something we develop over time and we develop it by being successful, failing, and going beyond our edges. All are equally valuable and necessary to discover the unique resource that you are.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you and why?
The cause which feels closest to me is sustainability. I believe the notion of sustainability, and all that it represents, encompasses the others. Learning to live in reciprocity while having a synergistic relationship with the dynamism of the world around us teaches us we are all interdependent. When we are living a life in synergy with the environment the health of our mental well-being is a natural outcome because you feel good doing what you’re doing and being a part of the whole. Sustainability, mental health, environmental changes, and veganism are all one in the same because we’re changing not just the physical landscape but our internal environment, and earthly landscape. We’re changing the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the ground we sleep upon engendering health, well-being, and sustainability on the planet.
Veganism is a personal choice. In my belief, we’re here to choose the diet that most resonates with our individual needs as well as those of the planet. Diet, by definition, is a way of life and every species on this planet has a specific instinctual way of eating. Humans however have the capacity to choose and create their own means of nourishment. It is up to each of us to choose what best serves our physical needs and unique biology based on environmental location; being mindful of the sustainability of both. If we choose veganism, we must make sure our agricultural system isn’t depleting the earth through use of chemicals and damaging farm practices. As such, we must learn to live in a healthy, respectful, and symbiotic relationship with the animals we raise and the earth we care for.
Now that animals for food have been domesticated for over 10,000 years, we have an obligation to honor and tend to them as food sources. Treating our animals humanely, with respect and attention, so that has a sacred quality is paramount. In this way the food we eat is imbued with a high quality of energy. What’s most important is we change our relationship to animal husbandry and agriculture.
We must make the shift to grazing our animals in a way that adds nutrients back into the soil, creating a healthy microbiome of the earth and engaging in greater reciprocity in the cycles of our food chain. In the natural rhythms of less than 100 years ago, the buffaloes grazed the plains, stomping the grass seeds back into the soil, fertilizing the land with their waste, while moving frequently from pasture to pasture preventing erosion and soil depletion. This was the sacred cycle of reciprocity as displayed in the natural world. If we learn from these cycles we can replicate them in our modern day farming practices; we currently see this understanding used in permacultural applications. For example, one of the most sustainable diet staples of the Rocky Mountain foothills, where I live, is cloven-hoofed animals. I live on the edge of the great plains, where the buffaloes roam and the grasses are abundant. The ecosystem here is dependent on the animal’s weight upon the earth to propagate and flourish the rich grasses of the land. There is a way we can honor what our bodies need, if it is meat, and remain environmentally aware and sustainable. Know your farmers, make friends with your butcher, and limit meat intake to high-quality, local, grass-fed when you need it (hello body sensing!). It is important to have a dynamic relationship with the animal kingdom (wild and domestic) and to be in harmony with the seasons of the earth. The imperative nature of this way of living is how we can have a sustainable ecosystem. It’s a natural part of life to eat and be eaten and we are all food for something higher. What is most important here is really taking responsibility for that relationship; for the life we take and the life we grow.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!
Thank you for interviewing me.