I have been a raw vegan for 9 years. Raw fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds make up my diet, with occasional soaked pulses and raw dehydrated crackers. Flowers sometimes, too!
Some come to the raw way of eating due to a life-threatening illness. Others hope to drop excess weight. For me, it was the Light. I wanted the Light. I wanted to live in the Light 24/7.
When I met Kyra in a lush Balinese retreat center in 2000, I immediately knew I wanted what she had. The whites of her eyes were white-white. Her skin was luminous. Under the thatched gazebo where Wayan taught morning yoga, Kyra didn't perspire a drop while the rest of us were dabbing at constant trickles of sweat in the humid heat. But I had a problem - it was unimaginable to let go of the Mexican food I had grown up on, let alone all the other Italian, Greek and Lebanese dishes I loved. I was not ready. I had been a vegetarian for over 20 years. I had long followed Fit For Life's fruit for breakfast and right food combining which introduced even better balance into my diet. I loved salads and occasionally enjoyed my dolmas, eggplant moussaka and green enchiladas, too.
In early 2003, I attended the 6-day Art of Living meditation course. Our teacher asked us to eat lightly and only fruits and vegetables uncooked or lightly steamed. We were to eliminate alcohol, caffeine, sugar, flour, soda drinks and anything fully cooked or deep fried. Over the week, the yoga asanas became easier to hold and I was progressively less fidgety in the long kriyas and meditations.
At the end, on day 6, we all had to go around and say how the week had been. I told everyone that I felt the best I had ever felt. But I asked myself, "Why would I probably go back to my former way of eating? Why would I not want to feel this good all the time? Why would I want to sabotage such a clear, lucid, light feeling? Was it a lack of spiritual self-confidence? Was the Light too bright? Did I not believe I was this spiritual essence and had to bring myself down by eating heavy foods and neglect the practices that would lighten me?"
Sure enough, over the next weeks, I went back to eating my salads with the frequent quesadillas or hummus. The heavier, clogged up feeling overtook the lightness of that impactful week-long course. The question persisted, "Why would I not want to feel that good ALL of the time?" I had felt absolutely amazing. And if it were a lack of spiritual self-confidence, what would need to be healed to know that I truly am the Light I felt all week long?
The question did not go away. 6 months later, I was in the Amazon jungle for 2 weeks. Because of the hot, sticky environs, I ate raw without calling it that. On the way out of the Amazon, I transited through Manaus for a night. I called room service and ordered cooked food without really thinking of it. Within minutes of eating it, I felt sick, heavy and polluted.
A month later I was given a brochure announcing Shazzie coming to Dubai from the UK to give a full day workshop on Raw Veganism. A month later, as I sat in her workshop at the swanky Fairmont Hotel, my whole being nodded as she extrapolated on the ins and outs of why live foods, with their enzymes still intact, are so vital for optimal health. Every theoretical explanation, every recipe sampled, I felt my being sigh relief, "Yes, Yes... this all makes sense and resonates deeply within." I felt the finger of God motioning to me, "Come on.... no more excuses. You know that this is the next step for you. It's time."
After the workshop I was grateful that my then husband and daughter were out with friends. I went home, threw myself on the bed and cried and cried for a good hour. I felt the fear that I would be even more 'different' than everyone else. I feared others would be hesitant to invite me for a meal or uncomfortable to eat their cooked food in front of me. I was not doing this so to be disconnected to the many friends and family in my life. Could it all co-exist?
The next day, I settled into this new commitment. It was a new day, a new era. Near sunset, I was at a set of traffic lights on Al Wasl Road and a large grove of tall pine trees caught my attention. All of a sudden, I felt them emanating a distinct energy. I felt their essence come into me. It was undoubtedly a peak experience moment. I understood in that moment that as of now, the buffer that heavier cooked food was, would no longer be there. It was clear that I would feel everything more directly. In order for me to let go of the buffer that the density of cooked food was for me, I had to be emotionally whole enough and strong enough to work with whatever would come my way without those former protections. I knew that up until two days before, I was not ready. Now I was.
As an early adolescent I discovered the balm and sedative food was to become for me over the next 15 years. Comfort eating was not a common term then, but its reality in my life sure was. Alcohol or prescription drugs did not do it for me. Food did. It soothed me, it accompanied me, it received me and would hold me in life's upsets. It took me many, many years to finally hit that grateful rock bottom and say No more! I want to recover from this once and for all. OA, therapy and healing all taught me to put the food down and feel the feelings, to learn to turn the angst and compulsion over to a Higher Power, who tickled me with the most outlandish synchronistic appearances.
It would take 14 years to anchor this practice of weathering the earthquakes and tsunamis of life with spiritual and emotional tools, feel the wide range of feelings and learn the truth that when someone is unkind to me, it is their pain, not the proof of my unlovability.
In that time, I lived in Paris and was introduced to Ramadan through dear Moroccan friends. One is to fast from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Often with two hours to go before breaking fast the weakness would really set in. To keep going until sunset, I was motivated to learn to 'eat' or take in 'God' or vital life force energy through breathing, praying and meditating, since food was not an option immediately. I grew to love observing Ramadan and would reach the end of this lunar month, not wanting it to end. I decided to observe it yearly as a non-Muslim. This practice had its influence on me to eventually go raw. I wanted that rarified state all the time that fasting for a month would give me. I also saw that I had learned to handle tough moments physically and emotionally with breathing and spiritual practices, instead of with the instant reflex to grab a bite to eat.
So when it was time to go raw, the benefits revealed themselves instantly. Over the first month, I had this persistent awareness of the amalgam fillings in my back teeth and felt the urgency to replace them immediately! Mentors on this path explained that the leaking of the fillings now were becoming glaringly evident and could no longer be dulled or masked. Overall my memory improved and my heightened intuition surprised me and those close to me. My healing sessions became more pointed and effective. My physical stamina and energy levels were at an all time high.
So, do I miss the lasagna and chili rellenos? No, not any more. I have learned to make raw alternatives when I really would like those flavors. Over time, as I increasingly feel more aware and sharp, the desire to eat heavy foods- even rich raw ones- gradually leaves. The occasional times I have an exceptional cooked dish or an elaborate raw substitute, I pay for it with a groggy next 2-3 days and eager to have that accustomed clarity back. Given it has been 9 years, the temptations are rare and the joy and exhilaration maintain the overall flow of this discipline.
What if you are attracted to the benefits but not ready to go 100% raw?
51% raw or more is the answer. When we eat at least 51% of raw food, we are replenishing our system with new enzymes. Cooking food kills off the enzymes. Enzymes are magical. They are life force in tangible form. They give us energy, they allow us to digest our food well and get the most out of it. They keep this fine machine of our body running smoothly.
What's next on this continuing evolving journey of my raw eating? I have been graced with more and more organic options in Dubai (Organic Foods & Cafe, RIPE, Market at Souk Al Bahar and the Marina, Spinneys and Choithrams). I would like the experience of growing my own organic food on fertile land and celebrate the joy of planting seeds, watching them grow and then preparing delicious meals with their harvest!
If you would like to read an article on my observing Ramadan, you may go to Articles.
Favorite sites on Raw Food: