Brian’s note: I began 10 sentences with targeted words, presented in boldface below, that serve as conversation starters and asked Julie to complete the thoughts in this condensed “interview.”
My vegan and raw food journey has little to do with food. The journey that I’m on is a journey ultimately of self-love. My journey of self-love, however, did begin with a realization regarding food.
When I was very young, I made the decision to stop eating meat because I realized that I was not receiving joy from eating it. A great sadness inside had started to grow, and I was unsure why. I had been eating meat only because I was told that I had to. I knew that this was a silly reason for doing anything, and since I did not enjoy it, I stopped. After I thought about my choice, I researched vegetarianism and found that I was not the only animal suffering. I became confident in my decision.
And observing my life so far, I’ve found that when I make decisions to first love and respect my self, my soul and my body, I am also serving others and participating in the reflection of love in its ultimate sense. When I choose to honor and absorb a fruit or vegetable peacefully within myself and it in its natural, whole-bodied form, it helps me to see and appreciate my self in an unaltered form. When I started by eating in this simple manner, it helped me to observe all aspects of my life and to see if I was living truthfully and being conscious in all of my choices.
The way I feel when I allow my body to express its true form by not shaving or cutting my hair, not wearing restrictive clothing that may prevent lymph flow or using any chemicals on my skin is confident! After a while, when I did the act of shaving, I started to feel sad. I felt like I was telling my body that it wasn’t beautiful enough the way it was and was unworthy to be loved in its natural form. I didn’t like this feeling, so I started experimenting by not doing these things, and I found that the love for myself started growing.
I enjoy eating when I am relaxed and not anxious. It may sound strange to some people, but now at 27 years old, I am just starting to enjoy eating and have had to retrain myself how to eat. In the past, I’ve either overindulged or restricted myself when it comes to meals for various reasons. When I decide to eat, I try to tune into myself and understand if I am doing it because of hunger or because I’m trying to deal with something emotional. I prepare for meals by breathing and relaxing and then sitting down in a quiet environment, preferably outdoors, where I am not distracted by people or electronics. I then do my best to eat slowly and experience every bite. This has helped me to improve my digestion immensely and to experience joy during and after eating.
The fruit that makes me feel the best is sweet, juicy fruit. Oranges, mangoes, papaya and watermelon are some of my favorites, which help me to feel satiated and hydrated, allowing my mind to feel clear and light.
Eating locally grown foods is important to me. Not only does it help me to be more connected physically and energetically with the climate and terrain I am surrounded by but helps to stay conscious of where the food is actually coming from and if it was gathered in a kind manner. For example, sometimes in the process of importation, fruit gatherers and the fruits themselves are exploited and abused. I would rather make do with what foods grow naturally around me, even if there wasn’t as much of a selection, than participate in a process that creates disharmony.
Getting in tune with nature is essential for my happiness and it is essentially just being in tune with myself. I don’t believe we must hike to a secluded forest to get in tune with nature. We are not separate from nature. Even though it sure helps to stay connected by living outdoors among the mountainsides and rivers and free of the distractions that are floating about in today’s society, we must always find a way to tune in wherever we are and to carry our true home within us. This is why I find meditation so important. Two simple ways that help me to stay connected throughout the day is using the bathroom outside or in a compost toilet and walking barefoot as much as I can.
Stretching and breathing consciously is essential to vital living. I try to start and end each day with these practices. Alternate nostril breathing is one of my favorite practices. If I have any anxiety or just feel the need to balance my brain, I find that this helps. At one point in my life, I was going to several yoga classes a week but was also working jobs that I didn’t enjoy, wasn’t getting enough sleep, wasn’t eating as healthfully as I could and was also taking several prescription and recreational drugs, which were very harmful to my mind and body.
I started to understand how good I felt when I was practicing yoga and how it differed from the life I was truly living. I felt very hypocritical and had a great desire to treat my body with the respect that it deserved; therefore, I made the decision to let go of all the aspects of my life that were not letting me experience love and joy within myself. Tuning into my body, especially in the morning, helps me to have patience throughout the day and helps me to translate and observe emotions.
With water, I like to drink as much as I can throughout the day. Before my yoga practice, I begin my day by sitting outside, gently drinking the amount of water that feels right. Hydration, for me, is very important. I’ve noticed that if I experience stress in any way, my body becomes dehydrated. With dehydration, my elimination process slows down and I feel lethargic. If I don’t have access to good, quality water, I try to get my water from as many juicy fruits that are available. Currently, I am living in the dry season of southern Mexico. Until we find a better method of filtering our rainwater, we will go to gather spring water from a nearby town. Sometimes, the amount of water as well as the quality of that water we have is limited, so we just have to make do with what we have and not stress over it.
I’m searching, ultimately, for self-realization. I believe that process begins by living a life where I can experience joy in all of my choices. Wherever I make my physical home, I aim for it to be as simple as possible, undisturbed by city life, without distractions and somewhere where I can be of service to myself and others in a true family environment. Every time I have patience with myself in its healing processes, new opportunities arise, and I find that my environment is evolving to the home I’ve always envisioned.
A practice of not being attached to situations, objects, people, emotions or ideas and learning to trust myself and my body has helped me transform a life that was once immersed in sadness to one where I feel a tangible and experiential connection to the source of all things.
As the great Sufi poet Rumi said, “That which is false troubles the heart, but Truth brings joyous tranquility.”
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