Nostos Algos

Today was an assault of memory.
Faces, places and days long past
showed up rapping at my door
tapping on my mind

peddling feelings of
nostalgia and dis-ease.

So I sit with them.

I want to run,
but I stay
and feel and know
and remember to forget.

Remember
that to err is glorious
and wise.

To forget is a luxury.

I take in their images,
but I give them no words in return.
Can I bore them with lack of conversation?
Some things don’t let you go,
and it makes me curious.

I wonder what I’ll do with the next hundred years.

How I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways: an Ode to Food

This post is long overdue.

Hello. My name is Kayla, and I’m a foodie. My love of food is not limited to gastronomical delights; it is not restricted to the boundaries and limitations of my senses. It is visceral – instinctual – and I’ve felt for some time now that it is also my future. Although I don’t know exactly how, it is in some way intertwined with my divine purpose.

It wasn’t always this way. I was a horribly picky eater as a child. I liked fried chicken, mac and cheese, and steak smothered in gravy and served over rice. Rice and gravy, a staple of any proper Cajun childhood, was my favorite. I also loved chocolate pop tarts. While it pains me to no end to have to admit it to you – I still love them. I once threw a tantrum in the dining room of Le Pavillon, a very elegant New Orleans hotel, demanding I be served fried chicken (sorry Mom). Actually now that I think about it my finickiness was really just an expression of my food and I’s deep and unyielding relationship. Even though today I eat pretty much any food nature can provide, and I’m willing to try pretty much any cultural delicacy I might be so blessed to encounter, I’ve managed to stay true to my beginnings. I am still horribly picky.

My unyielding finickiness isn’t directed toward particular foods, just a particular quality of food. These lesser gastronomical offerings, in my humble foodie opinion, are hardly food at all.

I don’t know when I started trying new things, venturing boldly into the vegetable world. I’m not sure when I got so brave or when I discovered that mushrooms are awesome. At some point I started trying new things, things I’d previously rejected. At some point something shifted and a whole new world became available for me to delight in. I’ve been passionately delighting ever since. My love isn’t limited to the plate. I was always drawn to the kitchen, even in those days of limited repertoire. The mac and cheese had to made, and I was going to know how to make it perfectly. That is, with a slight bit more milk that the box called for. I’ve even tried parlaying a couple of businesses out of my cooking skills, none of which to my dismay, did I find the least bit satisfying. So today, I eat and I cook and share the experience with my friends and my family every chance I get.

Recently another shift has occurred. My love for food is now, I am discovering, extending beyond the plate and the pot. My beloved and eternally generous love is in crisis. Someone has to defend it. Farmers, once a respected and honored lot, have largely disappeared. They are being replaced by food conglomerates, some of whom (like Monsanto) began their work developing chemical agents of war (like Agent Orange). They’ve been deceiving us ever since. They are nothing if not consistent. Monsanto has become the biggest target in the war to take back our food, but they aren’t the only enemy. You may (or may not) know that 80% of processed foods in your local supermarket contain ingredients which are genetically engineered, and these genetically engineered food-like commodities require heavier and heavier doses of pesticides and rapidly deplete the soil of the nutrients it is naturally designed to generate and regenerate. You might know that the majority of processed foods (fast food, food in boxes, but also the meat, dairy and eggs you consume) are largely made of corn and soy and other ingredients which are derived from the broken down components of corn and soy, and that that corn and soy in more instances than not is genetically engineered, or modified. If you’ve never heard of GMOs, you’d be well served to look it up. Since GMOs were approved our national instances of allergies, heart disease, cancer and diabetes, as well as autism and learning disabilities in children have all skyrocketed. Foods – plants and animals – grown in diverse ecosystems have proven themselves to be safe, nutritious and even medicinal. You might be surprised to learn that Monsanto  (who, by the way, not only sells the genetically engineered crops in your food, but also sells the pesticides they rely on – Roundup for example) and other companies are not required by the FDA to prove those organisms are safe or tell you when the food you buy contains them. You are an involuntary guinea pig.

You might not know the biological propensities, preferences and ecological benefits of pigs, cows and chickens. If did you  you might be horrified if you knew exactly how they are raised for our consumption in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), the environmental consequences of these practices, or that they are mostly fed GM (genetically modified) grains and corn. You might be surprised that no one has to tell you that most cattle, swine and chickens consumed in the United States never actually see grass much less a pasture. I’m not a vegetarian, but I love my food.

My food, whether it be animal, vegetable or mineral, deserves an existence worthy of being lived, whether or not I choose to consume it and whether or not it is cheap to attain. My food deserves to reach its evolutionary potential without the manipulations of man for sport or for profit. My food deserves to be diverse, and rich and nutritious, cultivated and nurtured by men who respect its life giving value. My food doesn’t deserve to be perverted and molested by Monsanto or Cargill or Tyson or any other food industry conglomerate.

My food deserves to be loved and respected from cradle to grave.

Genetically Modified foods have been banned in the European Union nations, Russia, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and others. In the United States, when you purchase organic foods, you can be assured that your food has been grown with the highest standard of care and environmental respect recognized by the United States government, the FDA and the USDA. Which, unfortunately isn’t saying much, but it’s something. If you really want to love your food, buy local. Support local farmers and ranchers, especially those who exercise practices of environmental sustainability and ecological diversity. Go to your local Farmer’s Market, talk to your local farmers, try the food they grow and encourage them to the highest standard.  Ask your favorite restaurants to source from local growers and suppliers. Ask where your food comes from.

Advocate for your food. You are what you eat, but you are also the food your food eats.

Currently there is a petition before the FDA and a bill before Congress that would require companies to state in the ingredients list of their products which ingredients are genetically modified. The passage of HR5335, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, would insure that you reserve the right to make an informed choice about which foods you feed yourself and your family.

You have a right to know.

Please consider taking a moment to visit the following links which provide quick and easy ways to tell the FDA and your Representative that you want to know what’s in your food:

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_24090.cfm

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_24458.cfm

Love your food, and value its life. We have co-evolved with the foods that sustain us. If we desert them now, they will almost surely return the disfavor.

In Honor and Love; a Brief Farewell

I don’t have a word for dying that matches how I feel about death. My Pawpaw died this week. He left this worldly life and his old body. He is free. He died in the company of his family at the end of a full and fruitful life, and as far as deaths go it is difficult to imagine one more beautiful than his. I hadn’t, before now, been present with anyone at the moment of their death. I stood beside his bed as his body took its last, struggling sip of breath, and I felt a feeling that I’ve felt many times before. I can only describe it as a wave of Grace, and I feel incredibly fortunate that it has become a familiar sensation in my experience. I stood there feeling as I imagine a harp string (or any instrument I guess) feels at the moment of its plucking when a wave of vibration issues from its center outward. I stood there, plucked by Grace, closed my eyes letting the wave of vibration flow through me, and I cried. It was an honor and a privilege to be there.

I don’t have a word for dying that matches how I feel about life. To me, to be embodied is the ultimate experience of love. For God so loved the world that he stepped into the body of a man so that he might truly know what it meant to be manifested. If we are all children of this life and of God, then we all, in each of our experiences, give to our creator the blissful knowledge of what it means to be alive. When we die to this embodiment, divine love returns the favor. We are free. Free of the suffering that is a part of this unenlightened, worldly existence. Free to return to the rapture and bliss that is pure being, pure love and boundless joy. We return to God and so, we return to everything that is manifested so that we, in divine bliss, may truly know the world.

I don’t think of Pawpaw as being above or below. I think of him as being in everything. He is more a part of me now than he could ever be while confined to the limits of his body, mind and human emotion. I imagine his spirit is delighting in this new state of being, experiencing everything for the first time, knowing intimately the connectivity of everything we see and the unlimited number of things we can’t. His being abides now in pure consciousness without pain or even a thought or sense of missing. He just is now, pure and glorious and divine. Its hard to feel despair knowing I will feel him again in every experience in which I willingly give in to the rapturous core of life. Its hard to be sad knowing that the gentle plucking of Grace I sometimes feel is his state always. Perhaps his energies, now dispersed and delighted, will someday soon coalesce into a new embodiment. Perhaps I’ll know him in earthly form again before I take my leave of this world. Perhaps he’ll wait for me, and we’ll go into our next life together, sharing a new and freshly manifested form. Whatever the truth, I am grateful. Grateful to him for all he contributed to my life and grateful for being present at his passing into a new dimension of experience. I think to celebrate life and not honor the beauty of death is unholy, for without both a life can not be complete.

In Honor of my Pawpaw, Ray Allen Trahan, January 16, 1932-November 29, 2011

Pawpaw Allen and Me, November 26, 2009

You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

One of my favorite instructions to give in a yoga class is, “Turn up the corners of your mouth.”

I had a revelation sometime last year that I wasn’t getting the most out of my greatest asset – my smile. I just didn’t smile at people, more specifically strangers, as often as I could. Passing someone in the store or the gym, exchanges with the clerk at the check out counter were all missed opportunities to smile. It’s not that I was unhappy or rude or shy; I just didn’t think about it. I had never really noticed before that moment that I wasn’t smiling. So, I immediately set out to smile at everyone – intentionally. The results were pretty awesome.

People often seemed a bit surprised to find me smiling at them, and they almost always smiled back. I liked to image they would go off into the world smiling intenionally too, just because they were reminded how good it felt. They say your brain doesn’t know the difference between a genuine laugh and a forced one. It responds the same way to both, and all of your cells benefit. You can change your whole state of mind (and being) just by laughing, even if nothing is funny. I think smiling is the same way, and most of us don’t realize when we aren’t smiling. We’re just caught up in the fluctuations of our thoughts, and opportunities pass unnoticed. The more I smiled at other people, the more I noticed how good it made me feel.

I just had one of those experiences a moment ago.  As I paid for my lunch and the cashier told me to have a nice day, I smiled. She, with a hint of surprise and delight, smiled back. I was already having a great day, but suddenly I felt lighter and my mood lifted to an even higher level of contentment. As my mind registered awareness, I immediately took a deep breath and checked in with the tone of my inner body (a practice I’ve been focusing on lately) to see what physical sensations I could pick up. There, in the very center of my chest, was a little vibration. The more I focused on it, the more it grew. Our mutual smiles had stimulated my heart chakra*, or at least made me more aware of it. That’s when I had a new realization: Our faces are super sensitive, super subtle translators of internal vibration. Not only do they translate and relay our own state of being, letting others know when we need help, they also hold the power to help us shift the vibration in others. Think about when someone you really know well is sad. You can see it written all over their face even if they’re trying to hide it. When you share a smile or mirror their painful expression you show them they aren’t alone. Suddenly they are connected; their sense of safety and security is strengthened. Likewise, if you laugh at someone who is in pain or your face reveals your contempt then you convey separatness. You enhance their feeling of insecurity with a simple look. Our faces are perhaps our most dynamic and subtle communicators. As an actor I know this well.

In that moment I shared a smile with the cashier I understood that smiles are clear, profound communicators of compassion and community. They carry a special vibration that has only one meaning: love. They are a direct clear, signal from our truest Self. Whether you are the giver or receiver, you feel it. You get the charge, the upliftment, the sense of security and connection. Notice it next time. When you smile at someone or someone smiles at you, notice how it feels in your body. Notice the affect viscerally. It’s amazing. Try it out, try intentionally smiling. I promise it’ll uplift you, and you’ll be surprised with the positive experiences that arise from it. Today, this is my mission: change the world one smile at a time. You can’t start a loveolution with a puss-face.

*anahata chakra – a.k.a heart chakra (or for our purposes: coeur); the vortex by which vibrations of love and compassion enter and exit the body; the first of the upper chakras and the central integration point within the human being.

Tiptoes: A Saturday Morning Soliloquy*

I tiptoe around my clean house. It’s so….clean. I whisper this to myself as I tiptoe. I don’t want to disturb even the tiniest grain of dust for fear that’ll it’ll have a party and bring all its friends and the house won’t be clean anymore. I’m attentive to every thing out of place, hedging my  bets against the clutter. I wipe…everything. I whisper this to myself as I wipe. How long can I keep this up? This spooky attention to the clean. It won’t stay this way; I won’t stay this way. I know myself. There is a day in my ever looming future when I’ll be running late and I’ll shake up the now invisible dust like a snow globe. One evening I’ll be too tired to fight against the constant pressure of the clutter to live. On day I’ll settle down and look around and think: this place is a mess. I don’t know where the boundary between now and then lies…lay?…lies… I don’t know where it is. Is it the morning I neglect to make the bed? or the day I leave my gym bag in the living room? Maybe it’s that moment I choose not to wipe down the sink after putting the dishes away. I feel it lurking, that moment. Waiting for me to drop the ball. Waiting for the opportunity to be born again. We dance together. It waits as I tiptoe.

*To be read aloud dramatically.

 

In Your Constancy, Set Me Free

Wise men say the only constant in the universe is change. It happens all around us:  the moon moves through its cycles, the seasons inevitably flow into each other, our bodies grow and widen, lovers leave, people die. Despite this constancy our relationship with change is fickle at best. We engage forever, and often without notice, in a love/hate relationship with it. On one hand we seek to maintain the status quo while on the other insisting that our bodies, circumstances and loved ones morph and conform to our ideal picture of life. We fear change for its unpredictability and we love it for its promise of better times and more happiness. If only other people and the Universe could get their timing together, we know everything would be perfect.

As souls in this human experience we spend a lot of time getting comfortable, dreaming of ways to be more comfortable and striving to maintain the comfort we have attained. We like to feel good with a minimum amount of effort. We are so preoccupied with this that we don’t notice it’s killing us. It keeps us bound to bad relationships and miserable jobs, makes us behave as if we are apathetic to our politics, we consume nutrition-less food loaded with contrived ingredients that make us sick, and we’ve earned the fine distinction of being the world’s number one consumer of anti-depressants and pain killers. All this because we want to keep a firm hold on the things we tell ourselves work. When forces beyond our control assert their dominance we become petulant, whining assholes, lamenting, “why me”, “how dare they”, all the while refusing to accept that there is anything – anything – remotely good about this god forsaken mess. In our hissy fit, we miss the inherent opportunity change brings. In our assertion that we know best, we miss the chance to know Grace.

I know because I spent years doing it – all of it.

Here is what I’ve discovered about change: it’s scary, uncomfortable, inconvenient and a royal pain in the ass. It’s also: awesome, the harbinger of incredible opportunity, and necessary. Nothing grand ever happened in my life that didn’t first start with a change. Whether that change was a risk that called me out of my comfort zone, some horrible truth that couldn’t be denied, another person’s choice that rocked my world, or the death of something that I needed more than anything to last forever. It has all been a marvelous opportunity.

As I think of all this I am also thinking of the late Steve Jobs. In his commencement address to the 2005 graduates of Stanford University he said,

“…for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

You can’t fear change and accomplish what he accomplished. You can’t truly be happy running from it or trying to deny its inevitability. It is constant and loaded with possibility. The only ingredient needed to reveal the magic is your perception.

One of my favorite ideas is that we die to be reborn. Every instance of change is a small death, a glorious transformation. We can deny it, refuse it, bitch about it, and rail against it, but it won’t stop coming. Wouldn’t it be better to just trust it? Wouldn’t we be happier to embrace it as opportunity, choose to look at the world with fresh eyes, and step willingly and enthusiastically into the flow of Grace, our source? Isn’t it only in stepping out and truly meeting Life that we are able to genuinely and freely live it? Change is too exhausting to fight, and frankly, trying to does one no good. I hope next time you’re faced with a change, whether it’s one you don’t expect or one that doesn’t live up to your expectations, that you take a moment. Take a moment and a deep breath. Close your eyes and say, “I want to know what I can’t yet see.” The divine forces of the Universe already know what you want to become. Change, no matter how trivial or profound, makes you prepared; it forces your hand. Embracing it is not always easy, but I believe that it’s far less frightening and inconvenient than we expect. This reminds me of another great quote. This one from Laurie Gerber, “Happiness lives on the other side of fear.” Words to live by.

Namaste

Self, meet Mind.

I stumbled on this beautiful commentary on the nature of the mind and our attachment to it. This is a fundamental teaching of yoga, so simple yet so difficult to integrate at times. I love how he describes mind as the “Names and Forms Department”. Learn more about Mooji here. Enjoy!