Revolution

Most people like food. Pretty much everyone I know eats on a daily basis. So you would think that people would be more interested in their food, specifically what they’re eating, how it was produced and where it comes from. But clearly people are not that interested because the situation with food is clearly out of control. It’s pretty obvious by what’s on the grocery store shelves; most people happily spend their money on processed and genetically modified foods without giving it a second thought.  The problem is immense and dangerous and out of control. This quote from John Robbins, author, activist and humanitarian sums it up.

Our food chain is in crisis. Big agribusiness has made profits more important than your health- more important than the environment-more important than your right to know how your food is produced.

To me this is beyond disturbing. Because I cannot for the life of me understand how or why this happened. And I really can’t even begin to wrap my head around the idea of how to fix it. Except we must. We must fix it and soon because our very existence depends upon it being fixed. This is the stuff that only a revolution will fix so we must, all of us, become revolutionaries. We must revolt against the status quo of factory farmed, genetically modified, cruelly raised, earth destroying and chemically altered food that most of us consume on a daily basis. How do we do this? We make choices that support change by refusing to give our money to companies that put profits above what’s right. Read my husband Mike Spencer’s blog to learn the power of a boycott.

taroOn a recent visit to Kauai we had the great fortune to visit a lo’i kalo (taro farm) run by Kaina Makua and his nonprofit Kumano i ke Ala. It’s so remote that to get there you either have to walk across a swinging bridge or drive your truck across the river- there’s no road that crosses the river to the property. But it’s beautiful, peaceful and sustainable. It’s also free from genetic modification. We spoke with Kaina for some time about his vision to grow taro on a small scale and to provide unpasteurized poi and other taro products through their partner business Aloha Āina Poi Co. He spoke of his dreams and his hard work and the community he is building there. He told us that the water from the river near his farm is being diverted and that the river is flowing less and less over time.

This taro farm is a reminder of the roots of Hawaii; a place that was, not so long ago, free from contamination. The Hawaiian people had one of the most sustainable food systems ever developed, the ahupua’a. The water was channeled from the mountain to the taro fields. It would then drain to the fish pond and out to sea leaving in its path food for everyone. Then the colonizers came and diverted the water for sugarcane and greed and began the process of stripping the people not only of their water and land, but of their culture and dignity as well. It is the same story told too many times in too many different settings. I’m sure you’ve heard the story before. If not in the context of the Hawaiian people, then certainly in the context of Native Americans or Mauri or Aboriginal or indigenous people everywhere. The story always ends the same… greed wins and everyone else loses.

Now we have a chance to write a new story. We can do this by being mindful of who and what we support with our dollar. We can buy food from small farms with big missions like Kaina’s. We can grow our own food. We can tell our friends and families to do the same. We can make a difference in the small things we do each day because the small things done by the many will be greater than the big things done by the few. We can be like David, who with his tiny stone, defeated the giant. We can and we must. Our entire existence and the existence of our future generations depend upon it.

As we stood in the lo’i kalo speaking with Kaina that day about why he was growing his taro there in that remote and beautiful place I was reminded of this quote I had read some time ago…

In our society growing food yourself has become the most radical of acts. It is truly the only effective protest. One that can-and will-overturn the corporate powers that be. By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world. We change ourselves.(author unknown)

I pulled up the quote on my phone and gave it to Kaina to read. He was thoughtful for a moment and said, “I don’t know about all that activism stuff… I just like to grow food.”

 

Support Kaina’s mission by shopping at Aloha Aina Poi Co (website for the nonprofit Kumano i ke Ala is being developed and will be available soon).

lo'i 2
My husband Mike (far left) standing next to Kaina with the crew of taro lovers.

Inner Peace

I’ve recently added meditation to my daily routine. I’m not gonna lie. ..That shit is hard. I’m told it gets easier, but I have to say that every time I sit down and start to quiet my mind, all these thoughts about how much crap I need to get done start to bubble up and stress me out. Or else I fall asleep. So ya. I need to keep working on it.

I know these thoughts are coming up because of my false beliefs and fears. Most likely something I have stuck in my head is I need to do everything myself. In fact I know that thought is stuck in there. And I need to get it out. Because really, it’s impossible to do everything yourself. Having been a single mom for 16 years, I pretty much had to do everything. By myself. At least that’s what I thought at the time and so I continued to perpetuate that thinking (and still perpetuate it and let it stress me out). But I’m ready to give up that thinking. Right here. Right now. Because it’s untrue. And it is limiting.

My mantra for today is I am a magnet for miracles. Real miracles are shifts in our thinking that free us from our past fear-based thinking and turn us towards love and abundance. It’s not always easy, just like forgiving isn’t easy, but it’s possible if the desire and intent are there. The first step is being aware of your thoughts because thoughts are fucking sneaky. They creep in there and become so habitual that you feel as if you can’t control them. That’s called anxiety. And it sucks.

But the truth is that the only thing that you can control is your own thinking. And that is awesome news because when you control how you look at things, you control your perception and that means that you control your reality. So today begin your journey towards inner peace by realizing that whatever it is that is stressing you out, or making you feel less than awesome, is something that you can change just by changing your own mind. Set that intention and work until you achieve it. That’s the key though. You can’t just set your intention and then go watch TV. You have to work to achieve it. You have to sit through those meditations and consciously work on changing your negative thinking patterns. You need to rid yourself of toxic people and emotions. You need to do whatever it is that you need to do: ask for help, pray, read a book, say a mantra, use some essential oils or crystals, whatever resonates within you to do. I’m not saying it’s easy. But if you truly want it, you will be willing to put in the work and it will happen. Today we can all be magnets for miracles.

Now get to work.

Aloha pumehana

unicat.png
Yes you are Unicat. Yes you are.

Forgiveness

img_3972

On the path to  self love and inner peace there are many road blocks. The biggest one for many people is forgiveness. There is a mistaken belief that forgiving someone means that what they did was ok. But forgiveness is more about yourself than it is about the other person. It means that, regardless of what someone did to you (or what you did that you need to forgive yourself for), YOU are ok. You are who you have always been; who you always will be. It is connecting with your soul and realizing that, despite whatever horrors you may have endured, you are whole and you are at peace.

I am finding myself fascinated with many things about the Hawaiian culture. While I am only beginning my studies, I am already enamored with the wisdom and simplicity of the spiritual teachings. It is like finding pieces to a puzzle that you’ve been trying to put together your entire life. Let’s take forgiveness as an example…

In Hawaiian, the term hala is used to describe an act of wrong doing committed by or against another. Moke Kupihea, in his book The Cry of the Huna says,

A hala was an act that bound the wrongdoer to the person against whom the wrong was committed. It was said that, on the one hand, wrongdoers are bound by the fault they have committed and, on the other hand, those who have been wronged hold the cord that binds the wrongdoer. One, it was said, is the debtor, the other, the person or persons indebted to. The hala, then, is the debt that lies between them. It was the belief of the people of old that if those who hold the invisible cord do not desire to relax it but continue to bear the wrong in mind, or in its active state of wrongfulness, then they are said to “hold fast the fault,” ho’o hala hala.

He then goes on to describe how a wrong can spread generationally and “can travel into future generations of a family, a people or even a nation if such is the vastness of the fault.” This can only make people dissatisfied and prone to violence. It is as if they are strangling on the cord of the hala.

It is impossible to be at peace and to hold a grudge at the same time. No matter how vast are the wrongs committed against you, to hold onto them means to continue to suffer. To feel that you need to wait until someone apologizes or offers reparations is to basically put your own wellbeing on hold. If you’re hoping for reparations, you can still have that after forgiveness has occurred. In fact, it is more likely that the person who wronged you will offer up reparations if you come to them from a place of forgiveness and peace than of accusation and blame. No need to wait. The time for forgiveness is today because, let’s face it… shit happens. Bad, unthinkable, horrific shit sometimes, sadly happens. To everyone. But it doesn’t need to cause endless suffering.

I know you’re probably saying to yourself right now, “She doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know how crazy hateful my childhood was. She doesn’t know about how my step dad sexually abused me for years… ” Or maybe your saying, “Ya, but you don’t know the horrible things I’ve done in my life. I’ve done and said unspeakable things.” You’re right. I don’t know what happened in your past. But I know what happened in mine and believe me, it was pretty fucked up. So fucked up in fact that I had to go to hypnotherapy because I had repressed the worst of the fuckedupness (yes I just made that word up). So if I can learn how to forgive that crazy ass shit, then you can too. Because to not forgive it, is to have your life permanently tainted by it forever.

Now I’m in no way saying that forgiveness is easy. It is hard as hell. But it is possible. For me, it helps to be in a calm, meditative state. I am a big fan of using essential oils to help uplift my emotions so I apply that shit all over (I’m not even kidding right now). Be sure to use the highest quality oils (I use Young Living) or else you’re not doing yourself any favors. Next I envision the person who wronged me standing in front of me. I imagine telling that person what he or she did that hurt me and how it affected me. I then say to that person, “I forgive you. I release you. And I set you free. You are free and I am free.” I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I have to do this repeatedly. Whenever I feel anger or thoughts about whatever negative thing happened bubbling up, I just repeat this process.

You, today, right now, have the opportunity to free yourself from whatever perceived wrongs (no matter how horrific) happened in your past. I guarantee you that you can do it and that you are going to feel so much lighter for having let go of that horrendous burden. Forgiveness needs to take place in the present so that healing can occur in the future. What are you waiting for?

Aloha nui loa

img_4931
Dogs always forgive themselves.

Yoga. Love. Mana.

One of the most difficult things about moving to a new place is finding friends. When you’ve spent your entire life living within a 30 mile radius, you have a lot of people around you that you’ve built relationships with. Sometimes we forget how much energy it takes to build and maintain relationships. We take our friends for granted.

I’ve only been living in Hawaii for a few months now. And I’ve found two friends. Well really one friend because the other is really my husband’s friend (they did their PhD program together). But I’m working on it. I’ve been pushing myself to do things that I would normally never do; go to random classes in the park, sign up to learn hula, ask a random person who I met at a charity event if she would like to hang out sometime (that’s how I got my one friend)… And it’s working. Slowly my friend stash is increasing. We’re starting to build relationships with some of the people we’ve met through yoga. We see them and they know our names, know that Mike’s mom has been in the hospital. They ask how she’s doing. The beginning stages of friendship.

Someone who I know will continue to become a friend is our yoga instructor Jonathon. He’s just beginning his yoga business but is already an amazing teacher. He’s Native Hawaiian and is embracing his culture along with yoga. The Hawaiian people are very spiritual. They believe in the interconnectedness of people, the Āina (earth) and ke Akua (God). This flows perfectly with yoga. He calls his business “Yoga Love Mana.”

img_4762
The view during our yoga class

Jonathan holds his class at 10:30 Wednesday mornings in Kapiolani Park near the bandstand, right between the duck ponds. He begins by encouraging his students to pay attention to the sounds around us: the birds chirping and splashing, the waves of Waikiki crashing, the wind blowing… and even the sounds of technology which infiltrate the sounds of nature on a regular basis.  He then does a chant in the Hawaiian language. Even though I don’t understand all the words I know that they speak of aloha and the spiritual energy (mana) that all things have within them. It is very grounding.

The Young Living Sacred Frankincence oil that I’ve dropped into the palms of everyone there helps to center us and to focus our mind on growing; stretching our bodies and our minds to become stronger and more in tune with ourselves and with the universe. Jonathan leads us in our practice for about 90 minutes. He challenges us to try new things. To keep trying. To try again. He reminds us to reconnect with the intention that we set at the beginning of the class. My intention is always that myself and my business will be used to serve the people here. Somehow I know that this will be. It gives me peace.

We finish the physical work in shavasana. Jonathan puts a dab of Young Living Lavender oil on our foreheads as we pay attention to rest. The smell begins to awaken our senses. To bring us back to the present. To bring us outside of ourselves and back into the world around us. The class ends as all yoga classes end with Namaste; “The light in me acknowledges the light in you.” If only each person lived their life with this greeting in the forefront of their mind; recognizing that we are all connected: āina, people, animals, God… how different would our world be?

Jonathan is coming to our home for dinner this evening. We will share food and talk story. And we all will have found another friend.

 

Papaya Time!

If I was living in Michigan right now I’d be getting apples, pears and pumpkins at the farmer’s market. Because that’s what I’ve done my whole life. Until this year. When you’ve lived with four seasons your whole existence you don’t even realize how life sort of revolves around the seasons.  I have to say that it’s a little strange going into the credit union and seeing it decorated for Halloween when it’s 82 degrees outside. It’s pretty much never 82 degrees in October in Detroit. And there are never papayas at the farmers markets there… never. In October in Michigan you go to the cider mill and drink apple cider and eat cinnamon donuts. You buy apples and pears and pumpkins. That’s just what you do.

But apples and pears don’t grow well in Hawaii. You can certainly find them, but they’ve traveled long distances and Mike and I are making a commitment to buy and eat local as much as possible.  I’ve been getting to know the local fruits and experimenting with ways to use them. Mike and I found some beautifully ripe papayas, which he loves (and grew up eating) so we bought one. I wanted to surprise Mike with a papaya concoction so I made little yogurt boats out of it. They were so delicious I thought I’d share the recipe here…

img_7759

I’m still working on my Photoshop skills so this picture isn’t as great as the real thing. But, trust me, it was yumsicles!

Papaya Yogurt Boats

1 papaya, halved and seeds scooped out (make sure to get non GMO papayas…yuck!)

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon raw local honey

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

2 drops Young Living lime vitality essential oil

1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

Cut a small slice off the back side of each papaya half so they lay flat on the plate. Mix together yogurt, honey, lime juice, lime essential oil and half the lime zest. Spoon yogurt mixture into the hallows of the papaya halves. Top with remaining lime zest and pecans.

Enjoy!

Farmer’s Market Day

I can’t imagine life without farmer’s markets. They are seriously one of life’s best things. I really feel that most people today are so disconnected from their food that they really don’t even realize how they are potentially poisoning themselves on a daily basis. This can be easily changed.

Sure, I get it. Convenience foods are, well they’re convenient. So much easier to go home after work and pop in a ready made dinner from Costco then pack yourself a Hot Pocket or Lean Cuisine for next day’s lunch than to slave over the stove making something from scratch. We are all tired and over-worked. We all need a break whenever we can get one. But what if it were just as easy to make something healthy from scratch as it is to buy something already prepared, or almost as easy? What if shopping at your local farm market could make a difference in ways you don’t even understand? Would you do it?

I’m going to give you 10 reasons right now to go visit your local farmer’s market and buy most, if not all, your food for the week. Feel free to comment below to let us know how it went. Go ahead and share the name and location of your local market. I would love to hear about it!

kakaako-market-sign

The Kaka’ako market is our favorite market on Oahu so far (we haven’t been to all of them yet).

10 Reasons to Shop at Your Local Farm Market

  1. You get to know who’s growing your food: It’s been my experience that farmers are super open about their products. They love sharing about their farms, how they grow or raise the food they sell and will even give you recipes or cooking tips for the things they sell. You also get to interact with the people who actually grow what you eat, thereby giving you a more intimate relationship with your food. Mike and I know many of the farmers at Eastern Market in Detroit by name. We are getting to know some of the farmers at the Kaka’ako Market  in Honolulu where we’re now shopping almost every Saturday. We love talking with them!
  2.  It’s less expensive: I don’t know if I need to expound on this one but, for the quality of the food you’re getting, you are paying less than what the product is worth. We bought radishes at the market this morning for $1 a bunch. The same radishes, grown on the same farm are for sale at Whole Foods for $4 a bunch. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw them! Go to the source… it’s typically less expensive.
  3. You know where your food is coming from: Here in Hawaii, 85% of the food is imported. 85%!! And this place has some of the most fertile soil and most optimum growing conditions in the world! It’s not that different on the mainland. Just look at the little stickers they put on top of the wax coating they put on the apples you buy… it will tell you in tiny little words where your apple came from.
  4. You are supporting someone’s small business: Listen, life is not always easy. And for some people, life is a lot harder than for others. Anyone who chooses farming as a career is not doing it to get rich. They are doing it because they care about the Earth, they care about people and they care about food. Do you think any of the the Big Ag companies give a flying fig about any of those things? Hell to the no they don’t!
  5. It tastes better: Just try it for yourself-do a side by side comparison. Buy a vegetable or piece of fruit from a farm market then compare it to one that you bought from some random grocery store. No brainer.
  6. It’s fun: Going to the farmer’s market is literally the highlight of my week. I get to talk with my farmer friends, plan menus on the fly based on what’s in season (yes they have seasonal fruits and veggies in Hawaii too), and sample all kinds of yummy stuff (for free). Plus I get a bit of fresh air and exercise in the process. What’s not to like?
  7. You get connected with your food: Interacting with the people who grow your food helps you to understand that there is more to nourishing your body than just popping something in the microwave. Your food comes from the earth. It is part of you.
  8. It can help educate your kids about food: When I was a teacher I would ask my student where they thought their food comes from. I can’t even tell you how many of them said, “The grocery store. ” or “Costco.” Seriously.
  9. It’s more humane: I’m talking about animal products here. It is absolutely sickening how food animals are treated in this country. While I’m not a vegetarian, I make a big effort to buy meat and other animal products (eggs, cheese, etc) from small farms or stores that carry humanely raised animal products. When an animal’s life is spent in misery and it dies in terror, it is going to be full of toxic energy. You are what you eat.

    mao-farm-stand
    Ma’o Farms is part of a nonprofit group that helps train youth in organic farming practices.
  10. It’s better for the earth– Small farms are much more invested in sustainable growing practices.  The owners are typically much more concerned with and connected to the land that on which they work. In addition, many farms have non profit components where they train youth in farming practices. Keep Growing Detroit ( The Grown in Detroit stand at Eastern Market is part of this) in the Detroit area and Ma’o Farms here in Hawaii both have big outreach programs that are making a difference in their communities.

I have to give a caveat… not all farm stands are created equal. Some of them are not actually farmers but importers or resellers. Get to know the people at your market. If they have stickers on the peaches that say, “Grown in Georgia” and you live in Illinois, you know they’re not local. Do your homework and use common sense. And eat local!

Amen ( I just felt I had to write that because I feel like I’m preaching at y’all…sorry if I was being preachy… I just really believe in this, you know?)