Tag Archives: Spirituality

How to go from Vegan-Curious to Full-Fledged Vegan

I was lucky; I was highly motivated to change my diet. I was getting older and my numbers (cholesterol, weight, blood pressure etc.) were getting worse. I made the change to vegetarian in one moment after a visit to the doctor, and then a couple of months later, after reading about eggs, milk, and cheese, decided to go vegan. It has been—well, not effortless, but an interesting, rewarding, and delightful journey.

So what if you want to take this step but don’t know where to start? Here are my suggestions.

  1. Find a vegan group. I found mine on meetup.com. We have gatherings twice a month where I learn new recipes, can ask questions, find new cookbooks, and find out a lot of information. (Thanks, J.J.!) People who are vegan-curious go to those meetings as well as those who have been vegan for 35+ years. They’ve got a lot of information to share, like “Where to get your protein?” The answer? Everywhere. Cows are vegan. Elephants are vegan. They seem to get enough protein.
  1. Educate yourself. Here are some films to find and watch: Forks over Knives; Cowspiracy; GMO OMG, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead and Dr. Greger’s three amazing videos from http://www.nutritionfacts.org: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day–Preventing Our Most Common Diseases, and From Table to Able–Combating Disabling Diseases with Food. Some of these are only about nutrition, and some are about environmental issues. None of these have footage of tortured animals, but they will change your idea about how meat, cheese, and dairy is produced, marketed, and delivered to the table. It ain’t pretty. Read The China Study, and The World Peace Diet.
  1. Buy a couple of vegan cookbooks. I have amassed a nice collection, but the one I seem to continually come back to is Vegan on the Cheap, because it has good recipes for vegan mayo, vegan sour cream, a delicious mushroom gravy, and all those basics that I threw out and didn’t want to replace with expensive ones in the grocery store, especially if I didn’t know whether or not I would like them. Vegan yogurt? I still haven’t tried it, but I do love vegan cheese—in small doses. Baking without eggs can be tricky, but The Joy of Vegan Baking has never failed me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  1. Know that you’re going to have some failures. Not every culinary experiment is a winner. Annotate your cookbooks. Make adjustments. Cross out the terrible ones.
  1. Make a journal. This is an entirely new way of eating for our household, and I didn’t want to get stuck making the same three things over and over again. So when I get a new vegan cookbook, I read it, and mark the things I want to make. I write those down in the back of my journal. Then when I make them, I put them in the front of my journal, along with a grade. Some things I’ll never make again; some things have become staples.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  1. Make a menu and a shopping list every week. I do this, and once the food is in the house, I only have to look at my menu and know what I’m going to cook for the evening. Sometimes these recipes have what seem like exotic ingredients, but once your pantry is stocked, you will be amazed at how little you spend on food every week. This week, for example, for two evening meals we’re eating leftovers from the freezer (love that Crockpot!), and for two other meals I only needed to buy a cabbage and some red bell peppers. I already have everything else. (Note: I have a soy milk maker, so I make our own soy milk and almond milk. (Thanks, Karen!) The appliance cost about $110, and I buy organic, non-GMO dried soybeans in 25-pound bags, so a quart of soymilk costs me about 25 cents.)
  1. Stock your kitchen with the basic appliances. I love my Crockpot, and have a couple of vegan Crockpot cookbooks. I was on this culinary journey for 18 months before I bit the bullet and bought a Vitamix and now I can’t imagine living without it. (Thanks, Jerry!) Soymilk maker. A rice cooker is mandatory, (Thanks, John and Mike!) as are good vegetable chopping implements, like quality knives and a mandolin.
  1. Take the time to look and appreciate at how beautiful your food has become. It has a variety of colors, textures, and flavors. Notice how you can actually feel the micronutrients energize your cells after a good meal with healthy food. Watch your numbers come down and know that you are reversing the heart disease that the Standard American Diet has created in your arteries.
  1. Don’t be afraid to go out to eat. I can always find something to eat. Most kitchens are happy to accommodate my requests. And when they do, I make an extra effort to thank them, and post reviews on Yelp and Happy Cow. Best is the great array of vegetarian and vegan restaurants that are popping up all over. People are becoming aware.
  1. If you don’t want to commit, don’t. Start with Meatless Mondays. But the more you know, the less meat and dairy you will consume. It’s not just a health thing, it’s an environmental thing, it’s an animal thing. And because of all that, it becomes a spiritual thing. But whatever you do, don’t stick your head in the sand. What we eat has significant consequences.
  2. Let me know how it goes. I’m interested.

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2014: My Year of Good Cheer

2014 marks the sixth year I have named my years. It provides an interesting focus for me throughout the year as I remind myself (via a post it note on my desktop) my name for the year and gives me something to live up to. To strive for.

2009 was The Year of Hesed (lovingkindness)

2010: The Year of the Tao

2011: The Year of Living Simply

2012: The Year of Forgiveness

2013: The Year of Living Sustainably

2014: The Year of Good Cheer

Have I achieved any goals with these years? I don’t set out any goals, per se, it is just a reminder of ways in which I can adjust my thinking.

In The Urantia Book (a spiritual endeavor that I have studied since the early 1970s), whenever Jesus encountered one of his disciples, the first words out of his mouth were: “Be of good cheer!” This is in the Bible, too, John 16:33.

Words to live by, those. What good does it do us to be critical, to add negative thought-energy into the world, to hate, hold resentments, argue, and live our lives in cynicism?

Why not be happy? Happiness is a choice. Only we can choose whether or not to be happy. No one on earth can make us happy if we do not want to be. Conversely, nobody can make us feel bad if happiness is our chosen state of being.

Only we can choose to put cynicism aside. Only we can choose to focus on the right side, the light side, the good side of things instead of the ugly. Only we can choose to see the successes in apparent failures, to view the future with excitement instead of dread, to banish depression and decide to be of good cheer.

I was privileged to deliver a sermon last summer, the topic of which was how we can change the world with our thoughts.

It starts with a single decision to lighten the world with positive thoughts, thoughts of happiness and gratitude and love and light. There are enough people who add the darkness to fabric of planetary thought with their thoughts of greed and anger and me-first-ness.

It is a mighty challenge to change the balance from dark to light, but we can do it, one day at a time, one person at a time, just by being of good cheer.

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Filed under Discipline, goals, Goodness, Joy, peace, Possibilities, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, The Urantia Book, Uncategorized, years

The Global Conspiracy

On the surface of the world right now there is war and violence and things seem dark.

But calmly and quietly, at the same time, something else is happening underground

An inner revolution is taking place and certain individuals are being called to a higher light. It is a silent revolution. From the inside out.

From the ground up.

This is a Global operation.

A Spiritual Conspiracy.  

There are sleeper cells in every nation on the planet.

You won’t see us on the T.V.

You won’t read about us in the newspaper.

You won’t hear about us on the radio.

We don’t seek any glory.

We don’t wear any uniform.

We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and styles.

Most of us work anonymously.

We are quietly working behind the scenes in every country and culture of the world.

Cities big and small, mountains and valleys, in farms and villages, tribes and remote islands.

You could pass by one of us on the streetand not even notice.

We go undercover.

We remain behind the scenes.

It is of no concern to us who takes the final credit, but simply that the work gets done.

Occasionally we spot each other in the street.

We give a quiet nod and continue on our way.

During the day many of us pretend we have normal jobs.

But behind the false storefront at night is where the real work takes a place.

Some call us the Conscious Army.

We are slowly creating a new world with the power of our minds and hearts.

We follow, with passion and joy.

Our orders come from the Central Spiritual Intelligence.

We are dropping soft, secret love bombs when no one is looking.

Poems ~ Hugs ~ Music ~ Photography ~ Movies ~ Kind words ~Smiles ~ Meditation and prayer ~ Dance ~ Social activism ~ Websites Blogs ~ Random acts of kindness…

We each express ourselves in our own unique ways with our own unique gifts and talents.

“Be the change you want to see in the world!”  That is the motto that fills our hearts.

We know it is the only way real transformation takes place. We know that quietly and humbly we have the power of all the oceans combined.

Our work is slow and meticulous. Like the formation of mountains, it is not even visible at first glance.

And yet with it entire tectonic plates shall be moved in the centuries to come.

Love is the new religion of the 21st century.

You don’t have to be a highly educated person, or have any exceptional knowledge to understand it.

It comes from the intelligence of the heart.

Embedded in the timeless evolutionary pulse of all human beings.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Nobody else can do it for you.

We are now recruiting.

Perhaps you will join us.

Or already have. All are welcome. 

The door is open.

                                           –author unknown

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Filed under connections, goals, Goodness, Possibilities, relationships, Social Consciousness, Spirituality

My thesis is now available

My Master’s thesis (Applied Theology),  “Spiritual Sustainability: A Personal and Social Imperative” is now available for download on the Kindle.

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I’m Outraged

Matthew Fox (the theologian, not the actor) said that while there is a time for calm meditation, there is also a time for action and that in his opinion, we were quickly approaching a time for moral outrage.

That time came for me yesterday when I turned on CNN and watched a Christian preacher bully a Muslim Imam, decrying Allah and trying to convert him to Christianity. Despite the Imam’s calm presence and suggestion that he only wanted to be good neighbors, The “Christian” was rude, argumentative and aggressive. I was appalled. And outraged.

“The fundamentalist Christian mind-set has hijacked the name Jesus and the term Christ and the word Christianity,” says Fox in his book A New Reformation. “Fundamentalism has become a religion unto itself…based on control, dominant and domineering patriarchy, on the notion that it is in the right while everyone else is wrong, that those who follow it will be saved while everyone else is damned. But what is the origin of this certainty?”

Really. What is the origin of that pervasive and despicable certainty?

The instigating incident, of course, was the Muslim community center proposed for six blocks from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. That controversy in itself is ridiculous. If not six blocks, then how about seven? Eight? The local officials have determined that the proposal is within the law, so that should have been the end of that. No national politician needed to weigh in, but once someone did, the firestorm ignited.

All those protestors need a little history lesson in why America became America. We have religious freedom here, and that is no small thing.

Matthew Fox writes: “Isn’t it time to stop trying to convert one another and start delving into one another’s spiritual riches?”

Riches are everywhere, but spiritual riches will not be had by resting on a static belief. True religion is dynamic, loving, active, and filled with truth, beauty and goodness. True religious living emulates the actions of a loving and merciful God, no matter what we call him.

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Aren’t We Lucky?

I grew up in a white, middle-class neighborhood. My dad had a good job; my mom was a homemaker, I have one brother and one sister, we had a dog and a cat, two cars and a house with a nice lawn. We went to the lake in the summer. 

All through my childhood, I was told how lucky I was. How privileged. How grateful I should be that I wasn’t born in a desolate, disease-ridden part of the world, to poor parents, starving, uneducated. And I was grateful. I still am grateful.

But that’s not enough any more. I have come to believe that The Powers That Be knew of my gifts and talents long before I was born and they put me into a privileged situation so that I wouldn’t have to scrape for food on a daily basis, but instead could be free to contemplate how best to utilize my gifts and talents to serve those less fortunate. 

I wish this had been the message given to me my whole life. I would have structured things differently, voted differently, allocated resources differently, written about different things, put my energies into different endeavors. I have come to believe that the celestial advisors are looking to me — and you — to see what we have done with the incredible opportunities we have been given. Do we use our intellect and our wealth for altruistic purposes? Or does it just fuel our greed? Are we miserly with our resources, or generous? Are we happy, joyous and free? Or bitchy and miserable to be around?

I look around and I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed. People who profess their faith are not acting accordingly. How can we let people starve? How can we let people die for lack of medicine, or mosquito netting over their beds? How can we recklessly squander our resources and then look to those who have marshalled their resources wisely to save us?

How can we send our young people off to war?

Really. We’re sending people off to war?

Shouldn’t we be a little further along than this?

I’m searching my soul today, considering what I can do to uplift the terribly sad state of our world. If I listen carefully, I’m certain I’ll hear a suggestion that I can accomplish today. One small person doing one small thing of faith, for the betterment of my spiritual brothers and sisters.  And if you do one small thing, too, that would double my efforts.

Eventually, we could have ten billion small people doing ten billion small things for each other. Every day. Don’t you think that would make a difference?

Let’s do it.

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Justice and Sustainability

An attorney friend not long ago asked me, “What is justice?”

Good question.

I had no answer for him, but the very next day, while doing research for a theology class, I read the answer. It came from Matthew Fox’s book A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity. In it, he says: “Sustainability is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable and what is unjust is not.” The flavor of that phrase resonates with me as truth.

Today, of course, I’m thinking about the heart-wrenching oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But I’m also thinking about poverty and social inequities. I’m thinking of the poor people in Haiti without shelter during the hurricane season as the Goldman Sachs people defend their million-dollar bonuses.

I’m thinking about Capitalism and how it is neither sustainable nor just, and wondering what will replace it. I’m thinking about our energy, taxation, health care policies all of which are neither sustainable nor just, and wondering what will replace them. In fact, what policies do we have in place that are sustainable and therefore just?

Few, if any.

Even the way we elect our officials is unsustainable and therefore unjust, but to ask them to effect real change in the electoral system is like asking a knife to cut its own handle. Therefore, it’s up to us.

This is the task that lies ahead for all of us–personally and individually–and as an election approaches, these are the questions we should be asking the candidates. Ask them to define sustainability. Ask them to define justice. Challenge every decision they make on our behalf to consider, as the Iroquois Nation does, the effects of their policies seven generations hence.

 In 1887, Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This has always been true, but these days it can no longer be hidden. Now that it has been exposed, let us hold our elected officials to a higher standard. 

Let’s not let them get away with any of this any longer. Our lives depend upon it.

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Too Busy

I’m too busy.

A variety of things have converged on my schedule for the last three weeks and for the next three. This six week period is the busiest time I can ever remember. This is when my training of “one day at a time” really comes in handy.

But really. What does “too busy” mean? Too busy to do what? To meditate? I make time for that. To appreciate my husband, my home, my health, my life? I make time for that. To work in the garden, to play with the dog, to buy groceries? I make time for all those things. To have lunch with my girlfriends? To read? To study? I make time for those things, too.

When I say I’m too busy, what that means is that I busy out my schedule just enough so that I don’t have time to do the things I find most distasteful or inconvenient. I don’t enjoy bookkeeping chores, so I put those off until it becomes a project, and then it looms larger and I would rather kill the beast than to have the bulging file folder stare at me a single minute longer. There are other things I don’t particularly enjoy, and my excuse is: “I’m too busy.” But that’s no excuse at all.

Except for right now, of course. Right now I really am too busy, but there is an end date to this crazy time, and I swear upon all that is holy in my life, that I will never let my schedule control me the way it has these few weeks. I don’t like what it does to my mental health, or my physical health. I tend to not exercise (low priority…). I make mistakes, and then I have to clean up after myself, adding more stress and using up more daylight.

I heard the other day that if you want to live in the material world, you have to speed up, and if you want to live in the spiritual world, you have to slow down.

A friend sent me a link to this fabulous timer. I’ve downloaded it to my desktop. It serves either as a timer or as a random reminder. Every morning I set it to go off randomly every 7 to 15 minutes, and when the gong sounds, I sit back, close my eyes, and take a moment for myself, to remember that I am a beloved child of God, no matter what. This helps slow me down and reminds me of what’s important.

Are you too busy? Or is that just a good excuse?

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Filed under peace, Possibilities, Spirituality, Stress, time

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interst me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals, or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can hear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day…and if you can source your life from its own presence. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the shore of a lake and shout to the silver of a full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you are, how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where, or what, or with whom, you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Native Elder, 5/94

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Back Amidst the Noise

Too much noise. Too much stuff.

That’s what I concluded after two days of silence.

It took a good four hours to still my chattering mind, but after a full day of silent meditation, reading, knitting, thinking, praying, I had a very interesting night, of not tossing and turning, but just gentle contemplation and quiet resting. A storm raged outside, so I was snug in my little lakeside cabin, feeling grateful and calm. Sometime, apparently, I fell asleep, because when I awoke, it was morning, and I felt calm and refreshed.

I took a long walk in the weird storm aftermath, and watched the turbulent surf. Then I came back to town, met Al at his jobsite and broke my silence with an “I love you.” Then we went to lunch and talked about how to bring more silence to our lives, and how to simplify so we have room for more quiet, more calm.

The more stuff we have, the harder we have to work to maintain it, insure it, worry about it… you get the idea. The less stuff, the more peace. Enough should be enough.  

I read three slim books. Inviting Silence, Stillness, and Listening Below the Noise. All were excellent. Inviting Silence reminded me that it’s difficult to hear the voice of God amidst the din; Stillness talked of enough being plenty, and too much is what makes us noisy; and Listening Below the Noise taught me that nothing is so important that it can’t be addressed the following day. In nine years, the author never missed a day of silence, which she takes on the first and third Monday of every month. Everything else can wait.

I have plenty of solitude in my life; I’ve long known how my soul needs solitude. But silence is new to me. No radio, no music, no talking… it was refreshing, and made time for good reflection. I had many things to ponder.  With a clear, calm mind, many of those decisions that have to be made are not really decisions at all, as the solutions are obvious.

Bottom line: I will make room for silence in my life on a daily basis. I don’t need to go on a retreat for it, I just need to make it a priority. And I will, because the gifts therein are worthwhile.

If you want to do a silent retreat, I suggest: 1. Have an intention. 2. Make a plan. 3. Bring activities. 4. Be open to whatever happens.

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