Monday, November 26, 2007

Back in Houston

Well, I'm finally getting around to posting again. It's harder to have spare time when you are living with someone else rather than by yourself. But this is where I am right now, back at my mom's house. The ride from Chicago to Houston was unbearably long but blessedly uneventful. I was keeping everyone's encouragements and good wishes in mind during the drive home. Thanks for all the positive energy!

It feels so natural to be back here, because I know the streets and the shopping centers by heart. Only a few things have changed: a new CVS put up on a formerly vacant corner, an old Wendy's demolished and replaced by one more bank (how many friggin' banks do we need?). It feels comfortable and familiar. The Texan accents seem a little funny after 2 years in Chicago, but they still sound like home to me.

I've been to Whole Foods several times now and have scoped out the raw food options there. I knew there would be no raw foods section like in Chicago, and I was right. However, one of the two stores in my area carries the sun-dried tomatoes I like, along with cacao nibs, gogi berries, and raw agave nectar, although these items are scattered throughout the store. Most amazingly, they have Nama Shoyu! I've hesitated to use that stuff, but now, desperation has impelled me to try it, since I can no longer rely on a Karyn's or Cousin's or Chicago Diner being available in my area to supply me with gourmet raw foods. I went to the library today and picked up the two raw cookbooks available at my nearest branch: the books by Juliano and Charlie Trotter. Juliano's looks promising, although I need to stock up the kitchen a bit more to make any of his recipes.

I've tried the one place in town that has prepared raw food: it is a small health food store in a sketchy part of town. It is not open past 6 pm (good call), and the storefront has bars across the windows and doors. My mom and I kind of looked at each other skeptically before we went in. I'd say it was worth the trip though. They had a case full of 8-10 different raw salads, such as a nut pate, broccoli salad, several kale salads, and more. I got a heaping of three different salads for $7, which was a great deal. I'll definitely go back. Still, a bit disappointing compared to what I was used to in Chicago. No raw lasagna or rawviolis or cheeseburgers! Oh well. I had it good, a little too good, in Chicago.

So here I am. I haven't been 100%, but I've been close. I had a green smoothie with mom this morning, and she liked it. Last night I made us a wilted kale salad with a creamy avocado dressing, and she liked that too. So far she's been pleasantly surprised. She won't go all raw like me, but she'll eat whatever I make her. So, I've got motivation to try some recipes and get creative.

There is a raw potluck in Austin in two weeks, and I had already been planning on a camping trip with mom out to that area, so I'm hoping to go over to the potluck while I'm there. I'm super excited about that, as the Austin potlucks have good attendance every month, with around 50 or so people. I'd love to move to Austin if I could find work and housing there. That would be so awesome. For now, I have no idea what I'm going to do. I really need to start manifesting! But, I'm here and all is well. I am very thankful. Yes, very thankful.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'm moving home!



Well, as I alluded to in my earlier video message, I have hit a wall, financially and otherwise. Last night I was crying and feeling like something was terribly wrong, like I was out of place in the world. Then, I knew I had to move back home with my mom in Houston, at least for a while. I called my mom, and she was completely happy for me to come back home. She actually has just been diagnosed with borderline osteoperosis and is not doing too well physically; she is also eating poorly because she doesn't have any energy to cook for herself and is trying to do a vegan diet without any help (I got her onto being vegan a couple months ago, which was a blessing b/c her cholesterol dropped from 210 to 160!). I'm going to try to help her eat more raw and help her out around the house as well. I know the raw food scene is less developed in Houston than in Chicago, but maybe that will be a good thing. Maybe I can be of service there. Beyond that, who knows what I'll do. Right now I'm trying to sell my stuff, pack my car, and hit the road in a couple days to be home by Thanksgiving. I'm just happy to know that this community will be here, no matter where I go. I'll keep you posted! Wish me a safe trip!

Rachel

Friday, November 16, 2007

Embracing the path

I was re-reading some of the comments people have left, and I just wanted to say something. I really appreciate every encouraging word you guys have written to me. Since going raw, I have felt incredibly alienated at times, in spite of the great joy and zest for life that raw food has given me overall. Walking around the city with all its McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts (drive thru!), seeing everyone with their Starbucks in hand, knowing that there are only a couple restaurants in Chicago where I can get more than a salad and a small area of Whole Foods other than the produce section where I can buy food--it makes me feel like a stranger in a strange land. I feel unwelcome in my own culture. Granted, I've always felt different, because I've always been a very sensitive and intelligent and introspective person, and this tends to alienate you from a lot of folks. But this is a whole new level of alienation. Sometimes I wonder: why did I choose this path? Am I just a glutton for punishment? But truly, I know that this path chose me. I don't get to choose who I am, any more than I get to choose being a woman or an American or a child of two sensitive parents who brought me into this world to be something great. It chose me, and all I can do is say yes and embrace the path that is calling me home.

Rachel

Massage those greens!


My lunch today: wilted kale salad. Yum.

Time for something a bit less weighty than my last video post. Whew, that was intense! And no, I haven't figured out what to do yet. Keep sending positive thoughts!

Anyway, the past couple days I've been experimenting with my eating. I realized that eating rich foods such as dehydrated, nut-heavy dishes makes you want to eat more of them, almost like an addiction. The recording I made a few days ago discussed the feeling of primal hunger, but I think what I was feeling at that moment wasn't true hunger but a craving. And of course, the deeper spiritual hunger and need for connection was there as well; that is always present and perhaps what I really meant when referring to "primal hunger."

So, I've read a bit about this phenomenon of overeating, and I have a few conclusions: 1. Overeating may be a sign of mineral deficiency and eating nutrient-poor foods. 2. It can be an expression of some spiritual need for connection and belonging. 3. Overeating may be triggered by foods that are unnaturally sweet or concentrated, thus creating an addiction-like craving. 4. Most provacative/intriguing: overeating may just be a natural human behavior, since our bodies evolved in an environment of feast and famine. Perhaps the routine of eating throughout the day only triggers overeating by priming the body to think it is in a feast period and to eat as much as it can.

So, a multi-pronged approach to the above hypotheses would be: 1. Eat nutrient-dense foods and get lots of minerals. 2. Have more fun and love and spiritual nourishment in your life! 3. Decrease consumption of rich, addictive foods. 4. Balance periods of fasting and feasting more evenly--for me, this means less feasting and more fasting, and the most logical way to increase the amount of fasting is to extend the nighttime fast by not eating a few hours before bed and/or after waking. One approach would be, if you sleep for 8 hours, then don't eat for 2 hours after waking and 2 hours before bed, roughly--this means 12 hours or half of every day fasting.

I haven't been doing that to the letter, but I have been trying to hold off on eating for a couple hours in the morning and before bedtime. One thing I noticed: in the mornings, I can go longer than I thought without getting hungry, and when I hold off on eating, I don't eat as much later. So maybe there's something to it! Of course, I don't want to be too strict or draconian (or anti-fun) here. Perhaps the most important of all of these is the point on having more fun and love in your life. That is something worth cultivating!

Anyway, these ideas are all quite embryonic; I'm just experimenting, and I'm always open to feedback. On another note, something I recently discovered: massaged/wilted greens! Rather than just eat them straight in a salad, you massage and squeeze them with your hands (and a little oil and sea salt, or the salad dressing) to get them wilted. It means less chewing, easier digestion. And...it's fun! Who doesn't like to play with their food? I love discovering simple sensory pleasures like that. It seems my body has just come alive since being on raw foods. How amazing.

Rachel

Thursday, November 15, 2007

For Just One Day

I just have to post this. I feel great love for all of you. Thank you!

video

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thinking Out Loud

Okay, as anticipated in my previous post, here is a little thinking-out-loud I did earlier in the day while feeling somewhat inspired and energized. It's a reflection upon the Abraham-Hicks writings I've been studying lately. I got pretty intense towards the end there. But it's just a thought process, just an attempt to wrestle with some different ideas, meaning it's totally open to change. And knowing me, change it will!

Now, here is a second recording I made a little later in the afternoon. This one is more specific to raw food; I talk about struggling with overeating and hunger. And in true Rachel fashion, I wax philosophical about the deeper meaning of hunger. I want to write on this in more depth, but for now, the audio gives some of my ideas on the subject. Oh, and there is a little error: in the middle I am talking about how cooked food makes you feel very full, and then I switch to talking about raw food as a constrast, but I accidentally say "cooked food" again. Whoops.

I just want to add the general caveat that I am in the early stages of raw food, with only 2 months under my belt here. So I am still struggling and transitioning, and that shows in my writings and ideas. But like I said in my initial post, I don't want to wait until I have it "together" to start putting myself out there. I want to expose myself in all my humanity, because I think the struggle can be a beautiful thing. Besides, I'm just too excited about this stuff to keep it to myself any longer!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A little writing

I made some audio recordings today, but I can't figure out an easy way to put them up here. I'll try to figure that out; if anyone has any suggestions, let me know. I've really appreciated the positive comments so far, by the way. It's so good to feel connected, to know that other people out there understand.

I'm in a very inconsistent place. Some moments I feel excited and optimistic, other times I feel confused and uncertain. I think I have an idea of what to do--I want to start writing. But about what? I feel scattered. My energy comes and goes.

Let me share something I wrote in my journal on Sunday. I was sitting at Whole Foods, eating a package of Raweos and drinking a Kombucha (my usual). I was feeling a bit wistful, reflective. And then, in the reflection on the glass window in front of me, I was able to see the guy behind me making pizza at the pizza counter:

"I'm watching this guy make a pizza here. He slowly stretched the dough out, draping it over his fists and slowly rotating it around and around as it stretched out thinner and thinner. I was suddenly struck by the poignancy of it--him laboring on this futile little task. All for a paycheck. I wonder if he likes doing it, or if he finds it a chore. It could be sensuous and joyful or tedious and boring, depending on his perspective. Is that the message here--we should just change our perspectives and enjoy life as much as we can? I guess that would be the positive-thinking approach. But I was feeling something different. I was feeling bittersweet, feeling a sense of awe and sadness at the human condition, our perseverance in the face of struggle. We're always working, striving, toiling to exist. We cling to existance with all we have. We fight for existance. Why? Something inside us drives us to do it, to survive. Every cell in our bodies is a little machine, working to keep going. Every fiber of our being seems programmed to keep alive, to push ahead no matter what. It's amazing. It doesn't always make sense, but you have to stand in awe of it nonetheless."

To reflect on that reflection, I think it could be viewed as either depressing and fatalistic or beautiful and poignant. Either life is meaningless or life is beautiful. I used to believe the latter, in my post-spiritual intellectual angst phase, until raw foods and spirituality woke me up a bit. Now, I see life as beautiful and absurd at the same time. Wow, how great it is to feel these things.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Juicin' it up

So, as I alluded to before, I have picked up a bit of a cold. It started to emerge on Friday morning, and I'm pretty sure I picked it up from one of my coworkers. To clarify, I'm not a natural hygenist--I believe bacteria and viruses are real, and getting sick is not always just "detoxing." Of course, one could say that it is this very belief in viruses that causes me to succumb to them. Hmm, I can't really respond to that argument.

So I have this cold thing. It's really not so bad. In an effort to aid my body's efforts to remove it, I decided to juice it up today. I started with a glass of water with a dose of these chlorophyll drops I bought at Whole Foods on sale yesterday. Chlorophyll is supposed to be good for you--from what I've read, there are anti-cancer benefits, as well as detoxification and oxygenation of your blood or something like that. So I had a glass of water with those drops in it, and it came out looking like this:

It tasted a bit grassy, I'll admit, so I added a splash of fresh grapefruit juice and all was well.

Then, since I'm at home having a "sick day" today, I had all the time in the world to do some juicing (I have a Champion juicer), so I juiced up one granny smith apple and a bunch of collard greens, maybe 6 medium-sized leaves. It was pretty intense, a higher greens-to-fruit ratio than I'm used to. But intense is key here, since I'm healing.

A few hours later, I decided to go back in for round two and ran 2 granny smith apples through the juicer and added 1 tsp spirulina. It got super dark-green (see pic below) but tasted pretty good. I love fresh granny smith apple juice--that combo of sweet and tart is the best ever. I remember when I did my first (and so far only) 3-day juice fast a month ago, the first thing I tried was equal parts granny and fuji apples, and it was a revelation. It was the most delicious apple juice I'd ever had. We're so used to that pasteurized juice we grew up on, that the real thing is just so amazing.

Anyway, I'm feeling quite energetic right now. I'll be teaching my GRE class tonight, and right now, I'm feeling up to it. Cheers!


Rachel

A confession, then moving on

I must start with a confession. I ate a cooked food meal on Friday night. I'm doing fine now, except for a cold I've developed. But I want to just document my experience here (I'm supposed to be raw and real here, right?) and emphasize the raw food goodness I have gleaned from this incident.


The evidence

So I was feeling a bit depressed after a demoralizing day at my new job. No need to get into that--let's just say I realized working there is not a good fit for me. I'm not actually getting to do what I want there, which is talk to people about raw food. I am not into giving ladies spa treatments. So, I think I'm going to have to find another avenue for spreading the raw food message.

But back to what happened. Well, I was just down. Worried about my finances. Feeling unappreciated, alone. Not in touch with my higher self, obviously. So I said, what the hell, why not make myself feel a little worse and eat some cooked food? I got off the bus and wandered around in my neighborhood. First, I found a place that had lotto tickets and bought a couple. Now why did I think that would be a good idea? I've never even done that before. And I said to the universe or whatever--if I don't win, I'm going to get some Thai food. Of course, I didn't win. So I stoically marched over to the Thai restaurant down the street and ordered my usual curry.

I raced home with it and proceeded to down it. But here's the funny thing. It didn't taste that good to me. First of all, it felt weird to have something hot in my mouth and going down my throat. It felt too hot, even though I know it had cooled down on my walk home and was a perfectly normal cooked-food temperature. Aside from that, it just seemed bland and mushy. Now this was a spicy red curry, so I know it wasn't bland. But, it was just...uninspiring. The vegetables were soft and bland, and the tofu was decidedly plasticky-tasting. Tofu has always seemed like a franken-food to me, and now my taste buds confirmed it.

So, I ate this thing and proceeded to feel way too full and kind of zoned out. Now looking back, it's silly that I did it. But I'm not upset about it. It is what it is. I am where I am.

What I like about this experience is that it confirmed for me how superior raw foods are. They just taste more vibrant, more piquant. They don't smell as much, though...hmm, maybe that's what it is with cooked foods: all the flavor goes into the smell. Cooked food really is quite smelly, don't you think? That was one of the things I noticed early on. It started to repulse me. For example, the other day, I was on the train, and this guy opened up some kind of beef sandwich. And I swear to god, it just smelled like dog food to me; I had to cover my nose! Smells really get me these days. But my point is, cooked food has less flavor and more smelliness. So maybe the smelliness tricks you into thinking it tastes good, while really it is quite bland.

I don't know; I'm not going to analyze cooked food too much, because I just don't need to dwell on it. It's not my bag anymore. But I'm glad I tried that food the other night, dipped my toe into that other world for just a moment. Because it reaffirmed to me that I'm on the right path. This way of eating is so much more sensual and delightful and life-giving.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Here goes, one more raw food blog...


You know what, it's time to just do this. Stop waiting for a moment of brilliance or deep insight or even having my shit together. I want to start putting myself out there, getting plugged into something greater. Yes, that means exposing myself a little. So the title "Rachel Raw" seems appropriate here in more than one sense.

But the primary reference to raw here is that of my diet. I've been doing a raw food diet since the beginning of September 2007, so over 2 months now. I've been pretty close to 100% raw that whole time, although some of the store-bought "raw" products I've been eating are questionable such as Blessing's Raweos (are the cashews in there really raw?), and some of the food at restaurants such as Karyn's may have some iffy ingredients (Nama Shoyu, etc.) as well. But I've pretty much embraced the raw diet all the way; I've just taken to it whole-heartedly. David Wolfe inspired me in the Sunfood Diet Success System when he said that in going 99% raw he reaped 99% of the benefits but in going 100% raw he reaped 1,000% of the benefits. Whatever that means; it sounded good to me.

Before I became raw, I was vegan for a month and a half, and before that, vegetarian for a few weeks. It's been a rapid progression; one thing just kept leading to another as I began reading online about vegan and raw diets. The original impetus for this whole journey was the person I dated back in April-May 2007 who was a vegetarian and an inspiration to me in many ways. He reawakened me to a more spiritual worldview, one that I had explored as a religious studies major in college (Rice '04) but then abandoned when I began studying social science and evolutionary theory in grad school (U. Chicago '07). This person's openness to spirituality and his vegetarian philosophy deeply appealed to my inner idealist, and over a period of months, I began to evolve towards those ideals. Still, my studies of human evolution remain integral to my worldview today, and I am struggling to juggle the scientific perspective with a more intuitive and spiritual approach to life. As a result, I'm in a major transition right now.

The raw food diet has been a huge part of my transformation. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started! Even if people had warned me, I don't think I would have fully understood them until I experienced it. Matt Monarch's book Raw Spirit is a good description of the changes you experience on a raw diet, and I really related to it when I read it about one month into the diet. Quite simply, this diet makes you wake up. It forces you to be real, to be true and authentic and not numb yourself to the beauty and pain of life any longer.

Not long into the diet (literally within one week), I started feeling this change inside me. It was as if the layer of insulation I used to carry around myself had been stripped away. My senses of smell and taste were more sensitive, and I just felt more. This was not necessarily good. My job, which had been less-than-satisfying for quite some time, suddenly seemed unbearable. I was a research assistant on a clinical trial testing a pharmaceutical drug for smoking cessation. Sounds cool, but really it was just a glorified office job with the added loveliness of working in a hospital, handing out pills and nicotine patches every day, and pipetting urine into test tubes (oh yeah). How could I work in this soul-stifling atmosphere now that I was purifying my body with raw foods? I just couldn't; every fiber of my being said no.

So, after a few weeks of under-performing and feeling depressed in the job, I had a meeting with my boss, told her I was unhappy and wanted to move on, and we mutually agreed it would be best for me to go. So, 3 weeks into raw food and I had quit my job. Great. Nobody told me that would happen! I was happy to be free but freaked out at the same time. What now? This is a question I still haven't figured out.

Throughout this time, I've experienced the various highs and lows of raw foodism. There have been the moments of inexplicable joy, wonder at the beauty of nature, random tears upon watching a mother and her baby (and wanting babies myself--oh dear!). And of course, there have been the physical improvements--a little weight loss, skin clearing up, improved sensory experience, increased energy and vitality. Nothing sensational, but I didn't have any major health problems before, thankfully. But, on the down side, there has been the overeating, randomly and ferociously rearing its ugly head and resulting in a good amount of guilt (and gassiness, haha). Well, supposedly, the overeating gets better as you become a more seasoned raw foodie--I'm waiting.

So, here I am. I haven't figured out what to do job-wise. I like writing, and I've started journaling more, but I have too many thoughts and not enough discipline to write them all down. Then there's the ever-increasing urge to become a mom and raise a wonderful raw family on some nice piece of land with a garden and fruit trees and...hello, I am single and live in Chicago. Oh well. For now, I've continued my part-time job teaching GRE test prep and also started working part-time at a raw food restaurant and health spa here, which pretty much involves answering the phone and giving rich ladies spa treatments. We will see how long that lasts.

I have so much to say about my experiences and feelings on this journey, and I also really want to get connected to the raw food community on a deeper level. That is why I'm starting this blog. But I don't want this to be just about raw foods. I want it to be about life, about the awakening to a richer, fuller life experience that I am experiencing because of raw foods. We'll see how this goes. Thanks for reading.

Rachel