Archive for August, 2009

Interview with Daniel Aaron

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Bali-based yoga teacher trainer, astrologer, writer and raw food enthusiast Daniel Aaron. I normally offer a longer introduction, but his answers are so thoroughly intriguing that I’ll let Daniel’s words speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy this inside look as much as I did.

Daniel Aaron

Let’s set the scene. For those of us who’ve never been, please share a little bit about Bali. How and why did you come to live there? How’s the food?

A fine beginning – us writer types love setting scenes. Ironically enough, I myself knew little about Bali before moving there. I think most of us in the Western world would have trouble even picturing it, other than imagining it was exotic and different. In many ways – some subtle, some obvious – it is very different from the West.

Bali has been known as ‘the island of the Gods’. It’s a small, tropical island in the midst of 13,000 Indonesian islands, and the only Hindu populace in a sea of Islam. How I came to move here is one of those intriguing moments in life, where some greater wisdom points you in the direction of ‘where you’re supposed to go’ or ‘what you’re supposed to do’. The time had come in my life, around five years ago, when suddenly I found myself with an urge to sink roots. I’d been living a nomadic life – always moving from teacher to ashram to school… part of me had been on some mission to find the next experience or opportunity I felt would push me to expand and grow further.

Just before Bali, I’d been living in Hawaii, asking myself, asking my friends, seeking the next phase in my life, the perfect place to relocate to. I remember I was in the middle of a noni juice fast, and my friend Miracle Jay said ‘why don’t you go to Ubud’? It was a landmark moment for me – immediately I felt a tingle run from head to foot, and I knew my direction had been set.

As great as the travelling and seeking life had been, these ‘planted’ last five years have been fruitful. The Balinese people say, “We have no art, we simply do everything as beautifully as possible.” This piece of wisdom so accurately reflects the vibration and philosophy of their island, and much of my experience in Ubud, the Balinese village in which I live. Ubud itself is known as the cultural and creative heart of Bali, which, in turn, is often thought to be the heart of the planet.

It’s a sweet and powerful mix of cultures and times. In one day I meet rice farmers working the fields as they have for generations, tourists and pilgrims, expats from around the world. My daughter and I walk at sunrise and find ducks working the fields, a dozen varieties of orchids and return to drink coconut water. The community based, heart-centered people of Bali are compassionate and incredibly generous hosts to Westerners sharing the island – and even though the local culture and devotional religion is foreign to most visitors, one can’t help but be fascinated by the graceful, smiling nature and spirituality of the Balinese people.

Local cuisine tends toward simplicity, as the culture is centered around rice cultivation and consumption. Yet the rich spices for which Indonesia became famous, pervade the fusion cuisine that’s also become famous in recent years. At my house we include much of the pungent local goodness into our raw food delights, especially the amazing raw cacao (the root of all chocolate).

I love that you’re so diverse! Astrology, yoga, fiction, raw food … you obviously have many interests. So many people try to fit their gifts into one neat package. How did you begin to “find your path” and what gave you the courage to pursue multiple career trajectories at the same time?

For as long as I can remember I bucked the common advice of practicality (in some ways) by pursing what was most interesting to me regardless of whether it apparently led to a job, career or income. In college I earned degrees in philosophy, religion and English. Some years later, after life shook me up and set me onto a spiritual ‘path’ of growth and discovery, I became a ‘training’ junkie, reveling in the depth of learning that these new (to me) forms of education provided. ‘Trainings from Transformational Breathing to Yoga, raw foods to transpersonal psychology, writing to astrology (and many more), my life became a roving romp into a kind of learning that I previously hadn’t imagined.

Eventually all that training – whose initial draw had simply been as means to understand and develop myself – started making sense as means to assisting others; I realized I’d developed skills and insights that were helpful to others. Even the college degree started making sense as part of what had prepared me for the multi-faceted and blessed role of getting to help others discover new possibilities in themselves and the world. I feel incredibly lucky to spend my days, my life, passionately immersed in such a wide range of topics, continually growing and expanding, always bringing me variety, learning, satisfaction and gratification.

You have quite a list of well-known clients. What do you consider the key reasons someone would want to find a yoga instructor? What qualities should they look for in their search?

It’s an exciting time for those of us passionate about sharing yoga; the popularity of – and really the global need for – yoga keeps rising. Even in the last 15 years that I’ve been immersed in it, popularity of yoga has continued to exponentially rise – and I think this is a reflection of the shift of the global culture – that so many of us are beginning to wake up, to realize that the potential for us to truly experience the life we wish to create is so possible, so close. That who we REALLY are, what we are REALLY capable of, is actually far beyond what society has presented, to all of us, as normal. Most people find yoga as a way to either to move away from some sort of pain, or to move toward some form of enhanced living. People find yoga to relieve stress, get more flexible, because it’s become trendy… or find enlightenment. And often regardless of their initial interest, they find more and different components as their involvement continues to feed them.

It’s inspiring to be part of the yoga world these days – there are plenty of styles and teachers sharing all over the world. Part of what I offer in the spectrum of yoga, what’s important for me to share, is the holistic approach to practice, that ‘practicing yoga’ is really a life style that leads us to ever greater vibrancy.

This broad view of what yoga can be led me create a revolutionary yoga teacher training, and – luckily – to bring together an amazing team of people with whom we create many different events and resources, from 2-4 week trainings to retreats to workshops. We’re inspired to provide people opportunities and tools to be more radiantly alive.

We aim to create opportunities that emphasize this philosophy by bringing humor, challenge and spiritual insight into every yoga class as well as every event we produce.

What to look for in a yoga teacher? What a great question! It’s one we explore often. Probably the best advice I’d give someone looking for a teacher, is to find someone with whom you resonate. So that after taking a class, and spending time with them, you walk away feeling uplifted, inspired and energized.

I’m a fan of ‘whatever works.’ I highly recommend exploring many teachers, styles and methods, to continually find what works for you. And then periodically asking yourself again: ‘is this working?’ ‘What would be even better, be more effective, to lead me more and more in the direction I want to go in my life?’

On your website you share that you’ve “gone far beyond asana.” How has your personal practice grown with mantras, meditation and reading sacred scriptures?

I’m incredibly grateful for the rich opportunities I’ve had to study with and be around phenomenal teachers. From yoga asana (postures) to satsang (meetings) to nutrition gurus, many wise and generous beings have shared their wisdom and their experience with me. For years I lived at ‘consciousness centers,’ and dived into courses, teachers, knowledge and learning. I’ve loved combining time-honored scripture with modern psychology, all embedded within my own experiences and insights. I revel in finding the sacred in the ordinary, and the ordinary in the sacred. The yoga classes I lead might include a reading from the Vedas, hip-hop music, a joke I heard last week, a story from my own life. Again: whatever works. Whatever is authentic and uplifting to all of us.

What sort of Astrology services do you offer? For someone who has never explored this area, what benefits might he or she expect from a reading?

One client with whom I consulted, the director of a psychology clinic, summed it up well: “One session brought me a clarity in understanding myself that took me two years of weekly therapy to find.” What I love about astrology – and I’m a fan of many systems of self-understanding – is that it’s as complex, rich and individual as each of us. And it works. How and why it works may be debatable, yet the evidence is clear that it does.

My main interest and specialty with astrology is looking into people’s evolutionary path – meaning, exploring the biggest reason for them being here. Once we’re more clear on what our soul wants for our learning and growth in life, many of the other important and pressing matters – work, love, health – fall more easily into place. I love astrology’s natural complexity, its ability to illuminate so many different parts of ourselves and to help us balance, harmonize and optimize those components into ever more radiant lives.

Once I’ve looked into the most essential parts of someone’s astrological make-up, its then possible to delve deeper into cycles that indicate more of what’s happening now and in the future – less to predict it, more to simply become more aware of planetary ‘weather patterns’ that help us both take better advantage of opportunities, and avert the less desirable aspects of challenges. Astrology is also useful for better understanding relationships – why they exist and how to get the best out of them.

Raw food diets are so diverse, and some Eastern philosophies really emphasize cooking foods. As a yoga teacher and for you personally, what tips can you share for balancing raw foods and yoga?

I’m glad you asked this. In my years of working with people in the raw food world, I’ve seen many people succeed and some have more trouble with raw food. I’ve grown into the understanding that eating living foods can work beautifully for everyone, if we approach it intelligently and find what is right for us individually. This is one of the greatest teachings of many of the Eastern medical systems – in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda: that we are all unique, and have specific dietary (and lifestyle) needs that will keep us in balance and healthy. We can call it biochemical individuality.

Success on a living food diet – meaning that we feel great, healthy, rich in energy – as with any aspect of life requires us to experiment, to find out what really works for us. Whether one chooses a macrobiotic, vegeterian, pescatarian, or breatharian diet, no two people will be (nor would benefit from) eating the same way.

Confusion often comes in when principles devolve into dogma. Some people need the fire element more than others. Some have weaker or stronger digestive tendencies. Principles often get reduced when people don’t understand them and want someone to simply tell them what to do. Dogmatic thinking can turn wise Eastern nutritional wisdom into saying people need to eat cooked food. Yet a higher perspective on it shows us that we can work with those principles while still taking advantage of the benefits of living foods. For instance, I’m visiting upstate New York right now, and the weather just turned cold. Last night I felt a craving for cayenne pepper, and so I included some in my hot (warm) chocolate drink, which quickly brought my body an internal sense of warmth.

The wide variety of approaches to living foods these days is a result of 1. its increased popularity and 2. the fact that many people need different approaches. It works differently for different people. Many of the raw food leaders simply prescribe their way of eating, which will work perfectly for some and not so perfectly for others.
Pardon my repetition, and it does bear repeating – success comes from learning what works for us individually. Education helps. Experience is key.

What sort of retreats do you offer?

Every retreat – every event of any sort, actually, whether it’s a 1 hour yoga class or a 4 week training – is aimed at creating opportunities, experiences and education that helps people create more and more of the life they want. Of course most everyone wants more energy, vitality, health and excitement. We want to be fully alive, to experience our potential as vibrant beings.

Our retreats vary in length and intensity. They almost all include Vibrant Living Yoga classes. All of our residential retreats include gourmet, organic living foods. We like to be in amazing beautiful places, so often our retreats take advantage of that with excursions into the nature and culture of those places, whether in Bali or elsewhere. Because I love creating experiences for people together with great teachers and presenters, and because collobating is both more fun for us and creates powerful events, we include amazing people on our ‘faculty’ from all over the world. Yoga teachers, nutrition gurus, musicians, body workers and healers.
The more I respond to that question, the more grateful I become. It’s a truly divine life where I get to play with such phenomenal people in the creation of our maximum delight in life.

Please tell us a little about your novel.

It’s been an educational and growthful process to write this novel. I’m now in the midst of the 3rd draft of it and still don’t like to speak too much about it, lest I dilute some of the alchemical energy I prefer to focus on recreating and finishing it. However, a writer friend did encourage me to write a ‘teaser’ for it recently. Though teasers – the little blurbs found on the back of a book to get people to buy them – generally aren’t so appealing to the authors themselves, I will share it here:

Locked against his will in a psych ward, on the heels of spiritual awakening tainted by well-meaning if misunderstanding friends and health-care professionals, Samuel confronts the ghost of his paranoid schizophrenic sister 8 years after her suicide (and reads to her), tracing his mind’s plummet along-side a rise in heart and spirit, while healing and rewriting their family history backwards from the ward, and potentially forward to new world of freedom.

What’s next?

Wow. A delightful question that one. I love imagining and creating the future. And then seeing it unfold in myriad ways even better than my imaginations. I’m at a wildly exciting time in my life, right in the middle of some fantastic creative projects. Aside from the novel and our trainings and retreats, we’ve just launched a line of raw chocolates. After years of playing around with making chocolate for myself and my friends, the combination of how good it makes us feel and how much people love the taste inspired me to take it public. In parallel with that, another long time love – the alchemical blending of essential oils (and specifically for use in yoga) – just turned into a line of products that went public in this last year. Both of those new ventures will be leaping to their next phase of evolution soon and be available around the world (right now just in Bali).

As if that all weren’t more than enough, we’re excited to be building spaces to house all this and more. We’re creating both physical and virtual space right now. Before long those who come to see us in Bali will be able to do so at our retreat center, and those who would like to connect with us more without coming to Bali, will be able to do so through our Radiantly Alive membership community online. I’m so excited in that both of these spaces will give the opportunity to reach more of the people who are motivated to increase their vibrancy. I love the image of our Radiantly Alive family growing and expanding, each of us sparkling more radiance into the world.

Thanks, so much for sharing your wisdom and a slice of your life with us, Daniel!

If you’d like to read more about Daniel Aaron, please visit his website. And now for a little trivia in case you’re wondering how I encountered Mr. Aaron all the way in Bali: we were introduced online by the lovely Shazzie when she learned about my novel Schizandra and the Gates of Mu. Daniel’s daughter’s middle name is a variant of Schizandra! What a small, interconnected world …

interviewed by Laura Bruno, author of The Lazy Raw Foodist’s Guide and Schizandra and the Gates of Mu (the world’s first raw cacao-yoga-astrology-novel).

Blessings and Synchronicity!

Interview with Seed Restaurant’s Jerri Hastey

Jerri Hastey

Today we have an interview with the dynamic Jerri Hastey, owner of Santa Rosa’s 100% vegan, mostly raw Seed Restaurant — one of my personal favorites! I eat from “Seed on the Go,” their take-out side, at least once or twice per week. They have a friendly, highly accommodating staff, and their scrumptious food satisfies without feeling like you just binged on nuts. More importantly (at least for my creative writing purposes) they have a Chocolate Caramel Pie that will send you over the moon and back. I consider Seed one of the sparkliest gems of Sonoma County, and I’m so pleased to spread the word here.

Seed Chocolate Caramel Pie

How did you first get involved with raw foods and when did you know for sure this lifestyle was for you?

I have to credit my oldest daughter for introducing me to raw foods. I decided to try it for a couple of weeks to “detox”, but two weeks and 15 pounds later I felt too good to give it up! It took me 6 months to shed about 60 pounds total! The most amazing thing was that I didn’t have to starve myself. I actually ate whenever I was hungry, the only rule was it had to be raw and vegan. I’ve now adjusted to eating raw about 80% of the time, but I’m still 100% vegan!

Many people turn to a raw food diet, but not everyone takes the step of opening a raw food restaurant! What convinced you to take the leap?

I opened the restaurant because I was hungry! Seriously, I had toyed with the idea of a restaurant knowing this area needed one but lacked confidence. While catering this dinner in LA a businessman there was so excited about the food he offered to finance a restaurant for me! Even though I ended up using my own money to get started, his confidence gave me the confidence I needed to open seed.

Seed Zucchini Pasta

How has running a restaurant changed your own raw path?

Initially I just ate what was handy, but now having access to such a large pantry of fresh foods and seasonings makes kitchen time playtime – we have so much fun creating new dishes! The most challenging thing for me nowadays is remembering to sit down and eat. I know it sounds odd with so much lovely food around me, but running a successful restaurant keeps me so busy sometimes I just forget to stop.

What advice can you share for people wanting to follow a passion and turn it into a career?

Fear is a tricky thing. I almost didn’t open seed because I didn’t believe I would know how to run a restaurant and worried whether my food would be good enough. There were also those well-meaning friends with cautionary tales of how risky restaurants are – especially vegan ones. There were plenty of reasons for me NOT to do it. . . sound familiar? I guess the answer lies in one; defining your passion, two; pushing through the inevitable obstacles, and three; to KEEP PUSHING! (If you lack the energy or drive for step three you need to re-look at step one.)

As a (very) regular customer, I’ve noticed your food is lighter than many gourmet raw restaurants’ food. How do you manage to create such full flavors while keeping things light?

When you look through most raw recipe books you’ll find Nama Shoyu and Braggs Liquid Aminos as common ingredients. We use neither, as well as minimal salt. Fresh, organic ingredients are already flavor-packed and just need some creative combining to bring it all out. Think of creating a recipe like writing a symphony. First you define the emotion and then look for the right harmony and progression of flavors to bring it out.

Please share a bit about your box program. Where is it available and which people would benefit from which box?

We offer a weekly box, a weight-control box and seasonal holiday boxes. The weekly box is filled with a variety of dishes for those who want to eat raw but don’t always have the time to prepare it. The weight-control box is designed after my own experience with losing weight through eating raw with generally the same menu as the weekly box but with much larger portions, (so you have to supplement it less).

Most of the items in the boxes are freezable to keep things fresh. For holidays we offer gourmet meal boxes customized for the season so you can enjoy your holiday feast without the work! Boxes can be picked up at the restaurant, or shipped to just about anywhere in the world thanks to dry ice and speedy delivery.

Seed BBQ Burger

I hear you’re moving! What do you look forward to in your new location?

Our first location was great for getting started, but it’s really not big enough to sustain us. In addition to an upgraded ambiance with more seating, I am looking forward to expanding both our raw and cooked menu with weekly specials and adding some creative sake cocktails. Once moved I will also be working on getting our raw cheezcakes in stores, opening seed on the go in outlying areas and then finally writing that recipe book!

Sounds like you have a lot of exciting things coming up. How are you planning on doing it all?

You mean besides utilizing the super powers vested by those amazing live enzymes! I have a fabulous staff which makes things so much easier for me, but my original concept for seed was to include a working partner to balance out the responsibilities. Even though I’ve been approached several times so far it just hasn’t been the right person, but I’m a firm believer in things happening at the right time in the right way when you’re doing the right thing so. . .

Why Sonoma County?

Sonoma County is known throughout the world as a mecca of gourmet food and wine, but most restaurants here offer pasta as their vegan/vegetarian entrée choice. I saw a need for a quality restaurant for vegans. What really surprised me is that about 90% of seed’s repeat customers aren’t even vegetarian, much less vegan! Tomorrow they may eat their cheeseburger, but many are simply looking for healthier choices without having to compromise on taste.
It is encouraging to see more and more renowned chefs are beginning to create inspiring vegan dishes for their menus.

Any cookbooks in your future? Please feel free to share a recipe if you’d like.

I have two books that I’m working on. One is a general recipe book with raw food tips simply called The Seed, and the other is The Menopausal Vegan, (yes, based on my experiences!), which will include recipes as well.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with the chia seed. Such a versatile little gem packed with so much nutrition! Just mix one part chia seed with 5 parts water, stir a few times and in an hour you’re left with a gooey mixture. You can easily add this to salsa to upgrade your chips to a healthy snack! Adding chia to your day will supplement your energy dramatically!

Thanks so much, Jerri! I know lots of people are already looking forward to your new location. My heart stopped when I heard you were closing between Labor Day and October 27, but fear not: Seed on the Go stays open Wednesday thru Saturday that whole time.

Interviewed by Lazy Raw Foodist, Laura Bruno.

Writing, Writer’s Block & Editing

Traci Moore, my editor for Schizandra and the Gates of Mu just interviewed me for her website. We cover a bit about my writing process, along with how I knew when to hire an editor, and what inspired the Schizandra Series. If you know me primarily as a Medical Intuitive and Life Coach, my nerdy English major side might surprise and/or amuse you. Enjoy!

Fertility, Miscarriage & Special Needs Kids: Some Medical Intuitive Observations

I receive a fair number of inquiries from women who would love to have children but experience some sort of block en route: infertility, miscarriages, repeated complications in childbirth … . By the time they contact a Medical Intuitive, these women have already seen multiple doctors, midwives, doulas, and naturopaths, so my work with them tends to focus primarily on non-physical steps they can take to improve their chances. Of the women I’ve worked with, 100% have either gotten pregnant within two months and carried to term, or they have realized that they do not, in fact, want children at this time. They discovered that nature’s “no” had blessed them unawares. Recognizing that each instance holds its own unique factors and story, I thought I’d share some of the most common patterns I’ve noticed:

Oftentimes, the more aware and desirous of a child the would-be mother is, the more demanding the unborn child. Women who call me feel very frustrated,sad and angry, wondering why “everyone else” gets pregnant without hassle and why they, who live such “healthy and spiritual lives,” are “being punished” or at the very least “not rewarded” for their efforts. The more they try, the more depressed they get because it just doesn’t seem fair that people who pay little attention to diet, exercise and conscious awareness have little concern about fertility or miscarriages.

If this describes you, then my heart goes out to you. I have talked with enough women in this situation to understand how deeply the pain can cut. In order to grasp what’s going on, we need to pan back out of 3D reality for a bit. We also need to accept — at least for the moment — the idea that babies really do choose their parents.

Souls determine a rough outline for their lives before incarnating. Babies do not enter our world with a blank slate and zero conscious awareness. In many ways, they know more than we do because they have just arrived fresh from Source. They have goals, hopes and dreams, and parents offer some of the greatest influence on potential achievements in this lifetime.

When a pre-incarnate soul starts shopping around for parents, s/he makes an assessment of who can best offer the lessons or experiences s/he wants to have. Given that many souls come here to work through past life issues, the “easiest” life is often not the most efficient. Parents who work hard to get all their finances in order, finish therapy, take all the prenatal vitamins, internally cleanse, buy the dream home and paint the nursery ironically limit the number and kinds of souls that would choose them. (This is not a bad thing; it just bears mentioning.) Sometimes pain and struggle create the exact conditions needed for growth. If would-be parents create a too comfy life, then souls that believe they need work will look elsewhere.

If a soul has a specific contract with potential parents who’ve created an easier than necessary reception, then sometimes the soul will come in as a special needs child. Would-be parents usually pray and pray for a “healthy baby,” assuming that no child would choose to come in “different.” But this belief comes from a 3D world perspective. In the bigger picture, souls choose way more than we imagine. They don’t look for ease; they look for growth. In the twenty-first century, they also look for efficient growth. Maximum evolution for minimum time on this planet.

I’ve worked with a lot of special needs kids, and believe me, these kids are special. Whenever I do soul readings for them it becomes clear that they came here determined to blast through previous limitations. Their missing skills either encourage them to focus on the specific gifts they want to offer to the world and/or the strain of “disabilities” creates just the right conditions for soul healing. This healing usually extends beyond their own soul, at least to their family, often to the world. In any case, the special needs reflect conscious choices designed to move them most efficiently through whatever they came here to heal and achieve.

When I speak with would-be parents who fit the “highly conscious,” “reasonably healthy” profile, I always need to ask how they would feel if they birthed a special needs child. Many times, people don’t even want to think about it, but I find the question an important one. It’s like the pre-incarnate soul wants to know, “How fully will you accept me? To what degree will you support my process? If this is what it took for me to be with you and experience what I need to experience, would you stand by me?” A yes goes a long way in convincing these souls that they will have options. Potential parents willing to embrace the possibility of a special needs child also seem more likely to create the flexible environment needed for growth without the special needs. Other times, children who feel the “special needs” are important to their development will search until they find parents with huge hearts who can support and grow with them during these challenges.

People willing to accept with joy the challenges of a “disabled” child demonstrate an ability to view each soul as an individual with a full history and future. I’ve noticed that once potential parents reach this place of acceptance, they generate a lot of interest in the pre-incarnate world. They suddenly earn “cool” status and souls that previously considered them too rigid will reconsider coming into their lives, even as healthy babies. Incarnation is always a gamble, and souls will take calculated risks based on parents’ ability to adapt.

Our current, transitional times have interested many souls. Whatever will or will not happen in 2012, change pervades the Earthly atmosphere. Souls wanting to incarnate recognize that they may not have an infinite number of times to get things right. As a result, the more conscious souls have become pickier. Evolved souls naturally resonate with more conscious parents, but they won’t just give things a whirl and try again next time. With how fast things continue to change on this planet, they can no longer predict how “next time” might look. Many pre-incarnate souls view their next lifetime as potentially their last.

If you sensed you might be about to eat your last piece of pizza, or inhale your last breath, or view your last sunset, think of how you’d feel. How might you savor the experience? How might you opt out of some experiences you normally wouldn’t mind having? With whom would you want to spend your remaining time? What’s your “bucket list” — those things you want to make sure you do before you die?

Evolved souls coming in right now are asking themselves these questions with more urgency than usual. They’re not predicting the end of the world (and neither am I!), but they are acknowledging some big-time changes headed our way. In scanning potential parents, they like the idea of conscious ones open to Spirit, intuition and synchronicity. They would love to spend a lifetime with you. They just realize that they need to get serious about priorities. Potential parents who seem wishy-washy about egoless commitment to their kids’ spiritual and emotional growth have become higher risk. Whereas ten years ago, a gambling soul might have bet on them, now the soul’s behaving like the US Credit market, denying people whom they would have accepted at another time. Those souls who throw the dice by allowing conception to occur, carefully monitor the situation all the way to birth. If the parental situation starts to look less conducive to achieving that bucket list, the babies bail out early, sometimes via repeat miscarriages.

I worked with one woman who kept having miscarriages with the same soul. The issue turned out to be a past life one, and we worked extensively to heal the relationship with her unborn baby. Through this process, the woman experienced a major heart opening and felt a forgiveness, self-love and connection to Source, which she had never allowed herself to know before.

Shortly afterwards, she miscarried again. She called me, sobbing, wanting to know how this could happen. I tuned in, and the soul informed me that “he” had already worked out his entire reason for incarnating with this woman just during the past two months in her womb. Freed of the karmic sorrow associated with this would-be mom, he saw a chance to “skip a lifetime.” Last I heard, he had decided to incarnate in a small village in South America, where he could connect deeply with the Earth and her indigenous cultures.

The woman grieved, and I supported this, but I also told her that I sensed she would get pregnant very soon and carry to term this time with a different soul. After three miscarriages she found this difficult to believe, but she did, in fact, get pregnant without even trying. She carried to term with no complications and gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy over a year ago. Her karmic ties to that first soul had created a block preventing any other soul from coming through her until she healed that relationship. By forgiving each other, she and the little soul freed her womb to carry someone else to term.

Aside from past life work, what can hopeful parents do? Here’s a quick list of some of the most helpful shifts:

1) Minimize all refined flours and sugars. This sounds like a physical request, but it’s actually about vibration. The new babies want clarity, and nothing fogs things up so fast as white flour and white sugar. For people already avoiding these items, the souls may require you to step it up another notch from wherever you are. Many of the very old souls coming in now want to bring sweetness to the planet. They themselves are so “sweet” that their mothers tend to become more predisposed to gestational diabetes or other blood sugar issues during pregnancy. It’s a bit more complicated than I’m explaining here, but the upshot remains: minimize refined sweeteners and stop eating refined flour.

2) Seriously consider if you can accept your child as a conscious being who has a life path and goals beyond your intentions for him or her. Will you allow your child to be true to himself or herself? Or will you try to implant all of your values into your child? Can you view parenting from a place of balance where you have authority and knowledge, but where you can also learn a great deal from your child? Can you handle the possibility of your child being far more spiritually evolved and wise than you are? Would you try to squash associated gifts or welcome them?

Taking the time and courage to explore and answer these questions allows pre-incarnate souls to move you from the unknown pile into the known pile. Yes, your answers will result in many souls choosing other parents, but your answers will also help compatible souls to find you. If you don’t define your values, expectations and beliefs, then you may remain too high risk for today’s picky souls.

3) Start a meditation practice and invite awareness of any little beings who might want to come into your life. Allow yourself just to feel and observe. Listen. A quiet mind and an open heart create attractive reservoirs for evolved souls. They want parents who go deep.

4) Get creative! In the bigger scheme of things, it’s all energy, so the more creative projects in your life, the more creative energy flows through and around you. If you want to make a baby, then make a book, a scrapbook, paint a picture, form a sculpture. It doesn’t matter so much what you create; it’s more important that you feel creativity at work in your life. If you have fertility problems, then start new projects. If you have trouble carrying to term, then focus on finishing creative projects. When you do finish projects, display them proudly.

5) Be grateful. I know you might feel discouraged, but it doesn’t help you make a baby. In addition to supporting their own healing and dreams, souls want to create more beauty and fulfilment in your life. If circumstances haven’t resulted in a child, try to trust in a bigger plan at work. Sometimes “soul mate” children arrive through adoption. Sometimes they arrive when you stop trying. Sometimes they’re just waiting for another soul to feel ready to arrive as a twin.

The 3D world can look hopelessly unfair sometimes, but after thousands of intuitive readings, I promise you there’s more love and beauty around you than you imagine. You have more unseen support than you would dream. If your desire for a child hasn’t manifested yet, be grateful for the chance to open even more.


For a fictional take on some of these themes, you might also enjoy Schizandra and the Gates of Mu. (Schizandra’s grandmother is a midwife.)

Raw Foods Witch Reviews Schizandra and the Gates of Mu

Nathalie Lussier, aka “The Raw Foods Witch.” just made a cute video review of “Schizandra and the Gates of Mu.”

Thanks, Nathalie!

Reversing the Irreversible: A DVD Review

I’ve enjoyed reading and reviewing Boutenko family books for years, but this is the first DVD I’ve had the chance to watch. Filmed and directed by artist and 15-year-raw-foodist Valya Boutenko, this DVD contains “37 testimonials of people who improved their health naturally.”

[Review continued below this YouTube trailer. Please note that the sound on the DVD is much more balanced than on the YouTube video. You can clearly hear Valya above the music. 🙂 ]

I found this DVD refreshingly low-key despite the dramatic stories people shared. Water scenes separate the various sections, coupled with quiet reflections from Valya. In watching the river flow over and around the rocks, one can’t help but notice how clean and serene Valya herself is. This quiet film captures what many have come to recognize as “signature Valya” — bright, clear and powerful without being flashy. Her walks in the Oregon woods between scenes underscore how natural and simple raw foods can be, and it’s easy to understand why the Boutenko’s have influenced so many on their own healing journeys.

This DVD is a must-see for anyone suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, as it contains several stories of complete healing from this crippling and often “untreatable” disease. The cancer section also offers some stunning testimonials from people who opted out of chemotherapy and radiation and cured themselves with raw food and juice alone. Other cancer survivors mention the value of visualization in addition to dietary shifts.

Perhaps the most gripping testimonial comes from a woman who was given only six months to live — 12 if she agreed to chemo/radiation. She skipped both and changed her diet instead. At the time of filming, she continues to thrive six years past her diagnosis. She’s fifty-eight years old and runs mega-marathons, sometimes back-to-back! Another man completely cured himself of fibromyalgia: in four days.

Weight loss, mental clarity, recovery from depression, ADHD, MS, skin diseases: it’s all here. I loved the diversity of people interviewed: men, women, teenagers, seniors, different ethnicities and cultures. Whether from Pennsylvania, L.A., or British Columbia, most seemed to share two things in common: gratitude for their recovery, and huge, sparkly eyes! The degree of eye contact amazed me, and those interviewed obviously felt a nice connection with Valya as they shared their stories.

Well-known folks like Karen Knowler and Philip McCluskey share their stories. I hadn’t heard Karen’s before, and people who have come to love Philip as a speaker and inspiration will enjoy seeing him before he lost all 200 pounds. Hearing his pre-juice-feast interview gives extra appreciation for how far he has continued to explore and refine his journey and being.

This 57-minute film won the Green Apple Award at the 2008 Raw Lifestyle Film Festival in West Hollywood. Watching it will leave you inspired and feeling like you’ve just attended your own potluck with a lot of generous souls who’ve lost the lives they knew only to find and cultivate more beautiful ones than they ever imagined for themselves. Reversing the Irreversible definitely has a heavy raw food slant, but I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys inspirational tales of triumph and love.

Reviewed by Laura Bruno, author of The Lazy Raw Foodist’s Guide.

5 Things I Love Right Now

When I love something, I really love it in that moment! Here’s what I’ve been loving lately:

1) Seed Restaurant in Santa Rosa, CA. Readers of this blog know I love Cafe Gratitude, but not everyone knows how much I love this little gem in the heart of Sonoma County. Seed serves up 100% vegan and a mostly raw menu 6 days per week, including a Sunday Brunch, which I have yet to try.

Seed BBQ Burger

Photo by Shana Dean

I’ll be interviewing chef/owner Jerri Hastey very soon for this blog because I just love how she’s fostered a real sense of community and homespun charm in the restaurant and (my favorite) Seed On the Go. I must confess that I order so often, they actually recognize my voice whenever I call. For a quick “BBQ Cheez Burger,” “Toona Sandwich” or “Arame Salad,” you really can’t beat Seed, and I love meeting friends or colleagues there for some business, fun and raw chocolate caramel pie, which brings me to number …

2) Cacao. I have an on-again-off-again relationship with this little pod of bliss. Contrary to impressions gleaned from reading Schizandra and the Gates of Mu I do not actually live on cacao and cacao alone. Frauke is a character, and while I did, ahem, research cacao extensively in preparation for her cacao addiction in book 1, I don’t really spend my days dreaming of giant cacao pods. In fact, if I’m not in writing mode, I can’t even stand cacao. It just doesn’t agree with me. However, I am back in fiction writing mode again after a brief hiatus, and so my cacao consumption has resurged — sometimes (gasp!) with the decadent addition of kombucha. If you want to know how I cranked out three books in one year, this potent combo had at least a partial role.

Is cacao the healthiest, purest of raw foods? Nope (although it does have a ton of antioxidants and a lot of iron and magnesium). Will it burn out my adrenals? Yeah, it does seem to do that if I’m not channeling some massive creative energy along with the cacao. I find this pretty common, actually, since cacao is a spiritual food. If used simply as candy it eventually stops working or worse, turns around and bites you. When used intentionally and in vibrational harmony, though? Mmmm, for me, it’s bliss … which brings me to number …

3) Kundalini Yoga. I love this stuff! If you think of yoga as stationary or slow, kundalini yoga will blow those preconceptions right out of your downward dog. Also known as the Raj or King of Yogas, kundalini yoga is where it all began. All the current schools of yoga originated from asanas (postures), exercises, mudras (yoga for the hands) and mantras (chants) found in kundalini yoga. Folks, this stuff works fast. So fast, in fact, that you can easily abuse it or cause the energy to rise too quickly.

I myself have been known to engage in a wee bit too much kundalini yoga. Even a few minutes raises the vibration into such a state of bliss that I find myself wanting to do kundalini yoga multiple times per day, sometimes for hours. I’m known as “The Lazy Raw Foodist” for a reason, so this is not typical behavior with regard to exercise. I just love the bliss factor. I also love that kundalini yoga works so fast to manifest intentions. It’s both active and highly meditative.

An example: I am currently nursing a sore wrist that arose from, um, too much kundalini yoga. Way too many hand flaps and liver maneuvers. My body was super-toned and my brain felt incredible until my right wrist said, “OK, you need to take a break.” When I said, “No way, I’m having too much fun here,” my wrist responded with “Fine, here’s some tendonitis. It is time to take a break.”

For awhile, I could barely type and this might have seemed like a negative situation considering I had set as my intention the faster creation of book 2 (Schizandra and the Peruvian Jaguar). I’ve overdone kundalini yoga enough in the past to know that the benefits continue to reveal themselves even beyond the classes, though, and sure enough, my intention manifested very fast. The forced computer break caused me to reevaluate how much time I spend answering emails. Turns out my “justified” time away freed up about 12 hours per week I was spending on emails. 12 hours of writing time that now gets funneled back into the creation of book 2.

Additionally, the forced time away from the computer allowed me to realize that I had been barking up the wrong tree with the time frame and plot for book 2. A few potent meditation sessions and a conversation with my friend Tim (who helped inspire the character Tom Brown in the Schizandra Series) led to a very speedy download of exactly what I’d sensed was missing. I visited my acupuncturist with whom I always have fascinating discussions, and my wrist felt good to go just at the moment I had the proper focus to continue. I really sense that this kundalini “gluttony” triggered exactly what I needed to bring my visions into reality — shaking out any blocks and blissfully moving me to the next level. In the absense of the physical exercises, I’ve returned to my old bliss standby, number …

4) Krishna Das. I talk about sacred chants a lot, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Suffice to say that I never tire of “Door of Faith.” I am also one of those odd birds who actually did memorize the entire 42-verse Hanuman Chaleesa from “Flow of Grace,” partly because I wanted to, and mostly because I’ve listened to it so many times that my mind now sings along.

Some people do not like the intense maleness of Krishna Das’ voice. Personally, I find it grounding. A few minutes of any album pulls me immediately into my heart. If my brain feels overloaded, zapped by fluorescent lights or spastically mental, I can pop in “Door of Faith” and feel all that energy tumble into my heart and expand with the very first Om … all of which brings me to number …

5) Everyone and Everything. That’s right, I am feeling the love for everyone and everything. I always do, but lately that love has felt both more refined and more intense. I feel such gratitude for all my clients, my husband, my friends, family (both blood relatives and soul mates), and for this vast universe that moves in, around and through us.

I love helping people dance their cosmic dance and bring that down into 3D steps — joyful twists & leaps & turns like a mazurka. I love my job! I love that so many people have joined in their intentions to manifest a film version of Schizandra and the Gates of Mu. I love that more and more people realize how much we can each accomplish when we recognize ourselves as part of a bigger whole … and also as the whole itself. I love that all mystics speak the same language, and I love that we are moving to a world of greater connection, more immediacy, and a chance to vibrate as one conscious living, breathing universe.

And I love Twitter. I work from home and until I joined Twitter I never realized how much I missed those little small talk moments at the water cooler or the quick hello on the way to the bathroom or to a meeting. For me, Twitter has provided that social snippet during long days of writing, or a welcome lightness between intense sessions.

So, yeah, I’m feelin’ the love … and before anyone rolls their eyes and asks just how much cacao I’ve actually had today:

Yes, I ate at Seed with Shana Dean. And yes, I ate a chocolate caramel pie, and yes, it was total bliss. But I was already feeling this way anyway. I’m sending lots of love to everyone and everything. As Joni Mitchell sings, “We are stardust. / We are golden / And we’ve got to get ourselves / Back to the garden.” It’s really happening, folks! Peace.

“Fasten Your Seat Belts” … Reader Views Reviews Schizandra

Schizandra and the Gates of Mu
Laura Bruno
International Renaissance Press (2009)
ISBN 9780615301334

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (8/09)

There are books that should come with a warning label. If I think of some of the books I’ve read recently, there was definitely at least one that should have had an “Attention! Might put you to sleep!” sticker. “Handle with care! Incendiary!” would have been the right one for another recently read book. “Schizandra and the Gates of Mu” by Laura Bruno should come with a brightly colored label saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seat belts…”

The story of a 13-year-old named Schizandra starts with a bang. She’s recently orphaned and has to move to Sedona, where her grandmother lives. On a seemingly ordinary school day she faints during a biology class and enters a coma-like state. And so the wild ride begins. While they are trying to take her out of Sedona, it seems that Sedona does not want to let her go. Two helicopters malfunction, and so does an ambulance. It looks as if Schizandra is meant to stay. An incredible cast of wonderfully colorful characters gathers around Schizandra, all trying to help her wake up, since the future of the entire human race depends on that — her grandmother, the midwife; twin maiden aunts, whose chosen profession is reflexology; a handsome, brave and intuitive pilot; a Navajo, speaking of curses; a Japanese-Native American schoolboy. While they are trying to bring her back, Schizandra is in a different world, meeting and encountering some really vibrant creatures — shape-shifting strange frogs, drinking chocolate and munching on cocoa pods; talking crystals; a healer rabbit; a yellow, dancing hummingbird. And there’s talk about all kinds of extraordinary matters — Lemuria, also known as Mu; evolution of human race; people as portals; the true meaning of 2012. The list is never ending…

I’ve enormously enjoyed this book. The characters were unique, quirky and likeable. The dialogue was fresh, fluid and captivating. The storyline was compelling and moved at a fast, yet not frenetic pace. The subjects discussed in the book were diverse, and several made me interested in learning more about them, particularly the “end of the world” according to the Mayan calendar and the true meaning of it.

Mystical, magical and totally enchanting, this story opened up a world that I was not ready to leave behind yet. I am truly looking forward to the sequel, and hoping there will be several of those coming out shortly. I highly recommend “Schizandra and the Gates of Mu” to readers of all ages who are interested in true mysteries, New Age, astrology, fantasy worlds and prophesies, as well as to anybody who simply enjoys a well-written story. Laura Bruno will not disappoint you.

7101 Hwy 71W#200
Austin, Texas 78735

The Many Faces of Vegan

VAY-gun, veggin’, veg*n, VEE-gin: no matter how people say it, there’s more variety than they think. Most long term vegans swear they eat a wider selection of food than they did prior to excluding animal products. Often mystifying cashiers with my produce items, I can personally confirm this experience! As vegans, we’ve all heard the question, “But, what do you eat?” usually followed by one or more of the following: “Rabbit food?” “You must be one of those health nuts” “Where do you get your protein?” “Are you one of those spray-painting animal rights activists?” “Seriously, what do you eat?” The answer depends on whom they ask. Vegan diets and lifestyles reach as far and wide as the individuals embracing them, with every combination imaginable. You’ll find below some of the most common faces of vegan.

The Animal Lover: Who doesn’t love animals? I’d venture to say that at least 80% of all vegans hold compassion for non-human friends as the major reason for eschewing meat, dairy, fish, eggs, honey and leather. Somewhere along the way they asked, “If I wouldn’t eat my dog, then how can I eat or wear a pig?” Or cow? Or goose? They stopped drawing a line between “their” pet and other creatures. They realized that they love all animals and they invited this love into all aspects of life. They might adopt stray kitties, rescue animals from the pound, volunteer at Farm Sanctuary, become veterinarians, or find deep connections with animals in the wild. Famous animal lovers include: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Jennifer McCann (The Vegan Lunchbox).

Animal Rights Activists: These people love animals, but they demonstrate that love through more aggressive, public action. They write letters to editors and representatives, picket restaurants that buy factory farmed animals, and expose pharmaceutical companies that engage in torturous animal testing. Some activists risk imprisonment for illegally infiltrating labs and farms, so they can film shocking footage later distributed by groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Others use celebrity status to garner attention. (Alicia Silverstone’s sexy vegetarian video for Texas had the whole country talking.) And yes, some activists do spray red paint on fur coats in order to remind wearers of unnecessary bloodshed in the name of fashion. Famous animal rights activists include: Alicia Silverstone, Pamela Anderson, Leonardo da Vinci, Pythagoras, Abraham Lincoln, and George Bernard Shaw.

Environmentalists: The term tree-hugger isn’t so far off: economists estimate that one extra acre of trees survives each year when someone embraces a vegan diet. “Food grown directly for human consumption occupies 60 million acres. Food grown to feed livestock occupies 1.2 billion acres.” “It takes 16 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat. Yet 16 people can be fed on the grain it takes to produce that pound of meat. Growing that amount of grain requires only 250 gallons of water. Countries such as Ethiopia and some Central American countries use their farmland to supply the United States with cheap burgers instead of growing healthful grain foods for their own starving people. Every 2 seconds, a child starves to death somewhere in the world” (Robertson, Robin. Vegan Planet, The Harvard Common Press: 2003, p. 98). These and other statistics urge conservationists to follow a strict vegetarian diet. The most famous environmentalist vegan is John Robbins, author of Diet for a Small America.

The Health Nut: OK, some stereotypes offer a tiny whole grain of truth! This group loves how vegan food makes them look and/or feel. Nutritionally, they recognize the superiority of plant protein, and they get all the protein they need, thank you very much. They might follow a particular diet like Raw Foods or Macrobiotics (featured later), or they might just veganize whatever trendy diet hits the mainstream. I’ve actually read food diaries from vegan South Beach-ers, and I’ve seen smoothie directions to stay in the vegan “Zone.” Think strong. Think energetic. Think beautiful. Think extra special ordering. Famous health nuts include: Robert Cheeke (a.k.a. “the world’s most recognized vegan body builder”), Marie Oser (VegTV), Woody Harrelson, and Tracy Bingham (Baywatch).

Hipster Vegans: These folks are cool. They have that certain something that screams for attention—”in your face” like activists, but in a scene-stealing kind of way. The punk community features a lot of hipster vegans, as does Hollywood. Just because these chaps and gals got style, don’t mean they ain’t serious. They just know how to push the envelope in creative ways, wearing hairstyles or tattoos that demand a conversation, T-shirts emblazoned with “Beef: It’s what’s rotting in your colon,” creating lasting artwork or screenplays, or hosting a “Fashion with Compassion” lingerie show. In the hipster hall of fame: The Vegan Vixens, Pink, and of course, Herbivore Magazine’s “coolest vegan alive,” Sarah Kramer.

Junk Food Vegans: Fruit Loops, Jolly Ranchers and Kool-Aid are vegan! So are Frito’s, Sweet Tarts, and Duncan Hine’s California Walnut Brownie mix. Keebler Vienna Fingers, Crisco, and Cocoa Puffs: yep, all vegan. Hey, folks, the saying “I don’t love animals. I just really hate vegetables!” is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. No hall of shame here: animals appreciate your effort, but a little kale won’t kill you. Honest.

Macrobiotics: Made popular in the 1970’s by Michio Kushi, macrobiotics draws upon ancient principles regarding the “yin” (expansive) or “yang” (contracting) energy of foods. The word “macrobiotic” means “big life”—the idea of creating a full, radiant life by balancing extremes. Whole grains, especially brown rice, play a starring role in the macrobiotic diet because they rest near the middle of a yin-yang continuum. Other must-haves include sea vegetables, umeboshi plums, miso soup, greens, tempeh and vegetables. Considered an extremely strict diet, macrobiotics does allow room for occasional “cheating.” Some macrobiotic followers eat a little meat, fish, dairy or refined sugar, but the overall diet focuses on unprocessed, low-glycemic vegan foods with balanced energies and tastes. Gwyneth Paltrow and Christina Pirello are two macrobiotic celebrities.

Raw Fooders: Sometimes considered the strictest vegan expression, a Raw Foods Diet isn’t always vegan. (Some followers consume raw fish, dairy, meat and eggs. Those who eat vegan + bee products are sometimes called “beegans.”) For the most part, though, Raw Fooders eat raw, sprouted, fermented and/or dehydrated plant-based foods. Proponents cite living enzymes and lack of the toxins produced by 105 degree-plus cooking as the secret to raw foods’ healing power. Superfoods like raw cacao, spirulina, wheat grass juice, maca and goji berries find their way into smoothies, raw cakes, and dehydrated treats. Famous followers like David Wolfe, Shazzie, Jason Mraz and the Boutenko’s (a.k.a. Raw Family) report vastly increased energy, cure of diseases, clearer thinking, weight loss and a fountain of youth effect. Although most vegans consume some raw food, Raw Fooders generally receive 80-100% of their calories from uncooked foods.

Spiritually Motivated Vegans: Following “a vegetarian diet for spiritual reasons,” conjures images of Eastern traditions like Buddhism or Hinduism, with their emphasis on purity of mind, body, and spirit. Indeed, the first mock meats were created in Buddhist kitchens to support monks who had vowed ahimsa (non-harm) yet missed former diets of meat and fish. But other religions support veganism, too. A growing number of Christians interpret the phrase “Stewards of the Earth” as a call to environmental responsibility and non-cruelty to all of Earth’s creatures. Salt Lake City offers a surprisingly vegan dining scene due to the many Mormons (Church of Latter Day Saints) believing no one ate meat in Eden. I know Jews who honor the original humane intent of kosher laws by celebrating Seder with a “Passover Yam.” Healers, “psychics,” and yoga and meditation instructors often find enhanced clarity by adopting a cleaner and more compassionate vegan lifestyle. Spiritually motivated vegans include David Life and Sharon Gannon (founders of Jivamukti Yoga School) and Erin Pavlina.

So, with all this diversity, what exactly does vegan mean? At the first Vegan Society Meeting on November 1, 1944, South Yorkshire’s Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” and observed it was “the beginning and end of vegetarian.” If you write a paragraph, keeping the initial and final letters of each word and scrambling everything in between, readers can still understand the message. Ancient Greeks referred to this phenomenon as the “alpha and omega,” meaning the beginning and the end: that which makes sense of everything in between. Veganism takes vegetarianism to its fullest conclusion. It says:

If we want to show compassion for animals, then let’s avoid all forms of animal cruelty—including factory farms, animal testing, animal skinning and commercial bee hives. If we want lower cholesterol, then let’s eat a cholesterol-free diet. If eating lower on the food chain can save this planet, then let’s follow a completely plant-based diet. The many faces of vegan offer hope for a future in which we can all smile.

Laura Bruno is the author of the first vegan/raw food novel, as well as The Lazy Raw Foodist’s Guide.

“Tingles from Head to Toes”

“It is not very often that I read a book that literally gives me tingles from head to toes and captures me with deep, inner truths and enlightenment. Schizandra and the Gates of Mu, by Laura Bruno is a rare gem of a novel, taking the reader through a journey of self discovery and infinite potential. …”

You can read Cassandra Margraf’s full review here.